paperback heaven

Cover of "Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Th...

Cover via Amazon

Donald Miller, on Powell’s Bookstore in Portland, “Powell’s is another church to me, a paperback kind of heaven” (Blue Like Jazz, 2003, p 88).

I think that goes for most bookstores out there, at least for me. What’s your heaven filled with?

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of quotes and cows

I’m still in the dissertation phase called “reading other people’s works all day and hoping one day you’ll produce original thoughts of your own”. Luckily, I love being able to legitimately dip into any book that strikes my fancy, and I like highlighting and taking notes.

That said, reading all day, every day, sometimes kills me. Which is why it’s good to come across sentences like these in (otherwise) serious academic works:

… the sacred is a cultural construct, a value conferred by the faithful. Crassly put, one person’s sacred cow is another person’s hamburger (69-70).

(Tom Mould, Still, the small voice: narrative, personal revelation, and the Mormon folk tradition (2011).)

Thanks, Mr. Mould, for both the reminder and the startling image to start off my day this morning.

quote van de dag

Uit een serie kleine interviews met jonge meisjes in de Volkskrant:

Er is geen beroep dat mannen beter kunnen dan vrouwen. Sommigen begrijpen dat nog niet, dus daarom is zo’n vrouwendag wel goed.

aldus Lisa Philippo, elf jaar, over de 100ste Internationale Vrouwendag.

Ik ben er helemaal mee eens.

“choose-your-own-anxiety-barbie”

Political Barbie (www.thetoyzone.com)

I leave you today with an analysis worth reading of why Americans as a people obsess about Supreme Court nominees. I don’t really follow politics* and I’m fairly mellow, so as long as the proposed presidential/supreme court/senate/congress/parliament candidate is fairly liberal (by that I mean isn’t looking to overturn Roe vs Wade or strip LGBT rights even further, for example) I just go with the flow. I figure that the people I voted for know what they’re doing and note the results…

which, according to this article, puts me in the not-anxious category of American voters. That’s good to know.

*and before you all start shouting at me that politics are part of my civic duty and that it’s irresponsible not to be in the know, I do know what is going on. I do vote  in an informed manner (in two countries no less! How’s that for civic responsibility?), I have an understanding how government works…I just can’t get passionate about it. Except for the 2008 elections. I was passionate enough about that to freeze my ass off on the cold, cold Mall on inauguration day. Which is pretty passionate, to think of it.

patriotic jabberwocky

istockphoto.com (notice how the kids are all carefully wearing different color shirts. Although I am missing the obligatory Asian kid in this photo)

NPR showed up on my Facebook feed with an interesting story about the pledge of allegiance. Like pretty much all American kids, I grew up reciting the pledge with my hand over my heart every morning at school. I don’t think we consciously saluted a flag or anything – although there probably was a flag somewhere in the classroom. In America, there usually is one everywhere you look. (As an aside, I make taking pictures of all the unusual places one can find flags a sport when I’m visiting the US.)

The article recounts how “pledge allegiance” is a hapax – meaning that it’s a phrase that only occurs in that one place (like “wardrobe malfunction”, another example).”Under God” is another such phenomenon – it was taken from the Gettysburg Address but it had its meaning changed slightly in the process. Actually, the meaning of the phrase isn’t at all clear – see the article for details.

What I found most interesting are the following paragraphs:

Really, the whole pledge is just one big hapax legomenon, a string of syllables that only comes to life in classrooms and school assemblies. But there’s a lesson for children in that: The attachment to flag and country is a unique bond that requires a special language of its own. In theory, the pledge could do most of the same work if we had children say it in Anglo-Saxon or Arapaho, or if we replaced it with the lyrics to “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.” They’re going to turn the words into jabberwocky anyway: “I led a pigeon to the flag,” “one Asian under guard.”

So do the words matter at all? Well, yes, in a way. Reciting the pledge doesn’t teach kids anything about the meanings of its words. But learning to speak American involves something more than that — it’s knowing how to incant them, too.

First, let me say that I too have made jabberwocky out of the pledge. “indivisible with justice for all” was an especially hard phrase, and I remember making “which” into “witch” for years. Second, and this is my main point, my years in the States did teach me how to speak American. Case in point, I remember being at a lacrosse game in Boston with my Dutch classmates a couple years ago. We all stood for the national anthem, and I remember standing there with my hand over my heart, appalled that my classmates talked through the anthem. I doubt I’d have the same reaction if it were the Dutch anthem being played.

I’m not very patriotic at all, but when I’m at a baseball game, or looking at Fourth of July fireworks, or experiencing some other kind of patriotic display while the anthem is sung, I have to confess to a swell of love and patriotic feeling. Even Disney World did it to me last year – the parade on Main Street was so American I had to blink back tears. The Netherlands never does that to me. When we sing the national anthem in church on the Sunday close to the Queen’s birthday, or when a member of the royal family dies, I feel  close to the community around me (one main reason I go to church). But singing any hymn, psalm, or worship song has the same effect. No, it’s something about the American context that provokes those patriotic feelings in me.

I think it’s clear: I speak American, all right.