Archive for the ‘Literature and the Arts’ tag
Here are some fantastic images from a new children’s book titled, “You Are Stardust,” by Elin Kelsey:
I’m encouraged that there are children’s books being produced that actually embrace the truths of science on our origins. This book also has an online supplement that provides more details on why we are made from the stuff of stars.
Here is an eloquent and inspiring explanation from Neil de Grasse Tyson:
As if I needed more books that I may never get around to reading:
The literature anthology at the top and “Perspective on Culture” were in the free bin. The others were no more than $4 apiece. Thank you, McKay Used Books, CDs, Movies, & More, and of course, my obscure reading tastes.
We’ll still call this year’s friendly reading competition an “office” read-off, even though Blake and I are unfortunately not in the same office anymore since I changed jobs in February and moved to another state. In any case, I’m way behind so far this year after getting a little bogged down in “Madison and Jefferson,” the review of which you can read here.
I’m at 3,265 pages so far this year, which I think is a little behind this point last year. He’s way above that, so yeah, the situation on my end is a bit grim at this point. I’m trusting that he might get bogged down later this year, but if things progress as they are right now, I will get smoked.
Here are the books I’ve finished thus far in 2012:
- “Grant” by Jean Edward Smith, 628 pages, finished late January (minus 200 pages read in 2011)
- “The Killer Angels” by Michael Shaara, 374 pages, finished Feb. 12
- “General Lee’s Army: From Victory To Collapse” by Joseph Glatthaar, 475 pages
- “This Mighty Scourge” by James McPherson, 272 pages
- “State of Denial” by Bob Woodward, 491 pages, finished April 2
- “The Greatest Show On Earth” by Richard Dawkins, 437 pages, started late March, finished May 13
- “Madison and Jefferson” by Andrew Burstein and Nancy Isenberg, 644 pages, started May 16, finished July 21
- “From the Temple to the Castle” by Lee Morrissey, 144 pages, started May 13, finished July 22
Total: 3,265 pages as of July 23.
I’m a little behind on the page count from last year at this time, but I’m pretty confident that I can have a strong rest of the year. “Madison and Jefferson,” which was very good, but to me, it was a bit longer than it needed to be and kind of dragged me down. I’m excited about the books that I have in the works.
Several members of the 7th, including Abolt, said this story is not only important in American history, but also a story that must be passed on.
A comma is used to separate two independent clauses (clauses containing a subject and verb). The last part of the sentence would only be a complete sentence if it read: “history, but it also is a story that must be passed on.”
Meadows expressed his thanks to the hundreds of people involved in the project, and said a burden had been lifted off his shoulders as a result of the home, which has three bedrooms, three bathrooms and a wrap-around deck.
For this to be a complete (in italics), the clause should have read “project, and he said a burden had been lifted …”
The CEO duties will be assumed by John R. Ingram, chairman of the division of Nashville-based conglomerate Ingram Industries Inc. that provides books, music and media content to more than 35,000 retailers, libraries, schools and distribution partners.
This is an example, along with the comma splice issue, that Yagoda mentioned specifically. Here, a comma is required after “Inc.” because a comma was used before “chairman.” An argument could be made that the word “that” continues the phrase through until the end of the sentence, but introducing Ingram as the chairman of Ingram Industries Inc. still requires a comma in the middle of the sentence to set off the attribution. Or, to avoid the problem altogether, the paragraph could read:
The CEO duties will be assumed by John R. Ingram, chairman of the division of Nashville-based conglomerate Ingram Industries Inc. The company provides books, music and media content to more than 35,000 retailers, libraries, schools and distribution partners.
Writers (and readers, I guess) apparently don’t have the attention span to follow the sentence throughout its entire construction, so they sometimes forget where previously placed commas occurred. This is easy to track in your head as you reread or edit a story, but problems such as this crop up time and time again. And for people who care about the language, it’s a distraction. As a colleague has often said, “Journalists are the keepers of the language.” That’s not to suggest that I won’t have typos myself, but the will for perfection is there. This is apparently not the case with many who haphazardly throw in or leave out commas seemingly at random.
By the way, I’m a big fan of banning commas before the word “because” in almost every case, except in cases where a comma could avoid confusion or misreading. Why is that? Nearly all sentences with “because” in the middle are essential clauses, thus taking no comma. Sentence that begin with “because” do take commas.
Call me a punctuation Nazi all you like.
I loved this piece from Ben Yagoda about common comma errors. I don’t know what they are doing in journalism school, but they sure aren’t teaching punctuation. Apparently, they aren’t teaching it in high school or college in general. I find comma errors in various online and print newspaper articles all the time. The epidemic is so widespread that I bet I can go read any random article from The Tennessean (Nashville’s finest) and quickly identify an error.
I will now go read a random story and report back shortly.
Here is an intriguing look at the Book of Revelation that claims that the writer of the book, emphatically not John the Apostle, wasn’t writing about the end of the world, but rather about the collapse of the Roman empire, with Nero as the one stamped with the numerals 666.
I don’t know what John Milton’s personal interpretation of the Revelation might have been other than what he wrote in Paradise Lost, but it seems at least plausible to me that Milton, as ever, was onto something revolutionary.
In Paradise Lost, Satan, of course, is actually the Satan of religious lore, but Milton also established his character to symbolically represent Charles I, the king of England, and hell as the British monarch and empire at large. Students of British history well know, of course, that Milton was in favor of dethroning Charles I and supported republicanism, free speech and freedom of the press. In other words, he was well ahead of his time.
Again, I don’t know if a study has ever been undertaken, but what are the implications here if Milton, some 360 years ago, interpreted the Book of Revelation in the more modern sense, with the “end” coming not to the world, but to what was perceived as an evil, oppressive empire?
[Image credit: Illustration for John Milton’s “Paradise Lost“ by Gustave Doré, 1866.]
Since this stunning portrayal of Christopher Hitchens’ final days by friend, Ian McEwan, I have been waiting for the great contrarian’s final published essay to be released.
Here it is: The Reactionary. This will be available in the March 2012 edition of The Atlantic.
Word of warning: unless you are an expert on post-Victorian British literature (I certainly am not), you may want to research a little beforehand. Hitchens, though lucid as ever, even to the last and apparently napping a little in between paragraphs, seems splendidly incomprehensible in his book reviews unless one is generally familiar with the topic at hand.
OK, so I don’t have an exact page count for both of us — we both teetered out a little toward the end of the year — but in the office read-off between Blake and myself, we completed somewhere in the neighborhood of 7,500 pages apiece totaling 21 books each. Without further adieu, here are our towers side by side in the order with which we completed them (books on the bottom were read near the beginning of 2011):
My tower on the right is missing “Tried By War” by McPherson because a pal of ours is currently reading it. And to answer the most immediate question that may surface about this post: yes, judging from the rather dense material above, we’ve got problems.
In any case, here is my list for 2011:
- “Positivist Republic: Auguste Comte and the Reconstruction of American Liberalism, 1865-1920″ – Gillis Harp – 264
- “Letter to a Christian Nation” – Sam Harris (reread) – 114
- “John Brown, Abolitionist: The Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil Rights” – David S. Reynolds – 592
- “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho – 165
- “Middlemarch: A study of Provincial Life” by George Eliot – 794
- “1491″ – 403
- “Thomas Jefferson Vs. Religious Oppression” – 150
- “Night” by Elie Weisel – 120
- “1421: The Year China Discovered America” by Gaven Menzies – 491, finished in spring
- “From Sea to Shining Sea: From the War of 1812 to the Mexican War, the Saga of America’s Expansion” by Robert Leckie – 623, finished in late spring
- “The Religious Life of Thomas Jefferson” by Charles B. Sanford – 179, finished in summer
- “Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief” by James McPherson – 384, finished in summer
- “Slave Religion: The ‘Invisible Institution in the Antebellum South” by Albert Raboteau – 321, finished in summer
- “Lyndon Johnson and the Great Society” by John Andrew III – 199, finished in august
- “Union 1812: The Americans who Fought the Second War of Independence” by A.J. Langguth – 409, finished 9/7/11 = 5208
- “Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788″ by Pauline Maier – 489, finished 10/2/11 = 5697
- “The Federalist Papers” by Madison, Hamilton and Jay – 527, finished 10/30/11 = 6224
- “Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism” by Susan Jacoby – 370
- “The Theory of the Leisure Class” by Thorstein Veblen – 400 = 6994
- “Erewhon” by Samuel Butler – 260
- “The Anti-Federalists: Critics of the Constitution 1781-1788″ by Jackson Turner Main – 286 = 7540 (21 books)
I nominate “Ratification” as the de facto best book that I’ve read this year, with “From Sea to Shining Sea” coming in second and “Lyndon Johnson and the Great Society” at a close third. My personal favorite was “John Brown: Abolitionist,” and my proudest achievement this year would be, of course, “Middlemarch.” Shew. Looks like I’ll have to bring out the heavy guns this year to top that. Maybe some Edward Gibbon is in order.