The Well-Educated Mind, by Susan Wise Bauer (W W Norton & Co, NY 2003)

The Well-Educated Mind reminds me of Mortimer Adler's How to Read a Book, only it's less intimidating. In a time when most people who can read, don't, and in which teachers are thrilled if their students read anything at all, no matter how worthless or even harmful, it's sobering to be reminded that—avid reader as I am—there is a world of reading far beyond the level of attention I bring to a book. My palate can distinquish between a white wine and a red, and can distinguish each from kerosene, but the sophisticated analysis of even a moderate expert is beyond by attainment. Susan Wise Bauer encourages me to believe it is not beyond my reach, however.

This may be what those annoying English teachers were trying so unsuccessfully to convey when they sucked all the fun out of a book by their analysis. If so, I missed the point altogether, because Bauer's approach—which incorporates historical, social, and literary context along with what amounts to a serious paying attention to what one reads—is both challenging and intriguing. In reality, I have to admit my list of books to read once, let alone three times with note-taking, is intimidating as it is. Still, I've already gained just by reading this book. (Once only, and even so not quite all of the extensive readings section before I had to return it to the library.)

Like The Well-Trained Mind, The Well-Educated Mind would be worthwhile for the extensive list (with summaries) of recommended reading alone. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, February 14, 2007 at 12:56 pm | Edit
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On Monday we attended the latest concert in the Orlando Philharmonic's Focus Series:  The Great Struass Dynasty.   I love that series because it features a smaller orchestra in a more intimate venue, the 300-seat Margeson Theatre. In our seats, we feel as if we could be part of the second violin section; that the sound is not well balanced there is more than made up for by the more direct experience.

This night we heard music from four members of Vienna's great Strauss dynasty:  Johann Sr., Johann Jr., Josef, and Eduard.  I'm embarrassed to say I've never cared much for their music, especially the waltzes, but this concert was great!  For one thing, the musicians appeared to be enjoying themselves, and it was impossible not to laugh at Carl Rendek's antics.  Imagine what such a fun-loving guy could do with such titles as Fireman's Polka, On Hunting, Chinese Galop, and ClearTrack Polka, all without detracting from the music, and you'll get the picture.  Is it true percussionists have more fun (even if they're not blond)?

However, that's not the most important of what made the concert so interesting to me.  The conductor was Andy Lane, and I'm sure he deserves most of the credit; whatever the reason, for the first time, Strauss waltzes made sense to me!  I can't explain it any further than that, but Janet, at least, will understand what I experienced.
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, February 7, 2007 at 11:03 am | Edit
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The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child.  Volume 3:  Early Modern Times, by Susan Wise Bauer (Peace Hill Press, Charles City, Virginia, 2004)

Once a homeschooler, always a homeschooler.  Sometimes I can't help checking out the curriculum explosion that has taken place since the younger days of our own home education experiences.  As one might expect, some is awful, some great, and much in between.

Based on this one sample, Susan Wise Bauer's history books are on the high end of in between.  In addition to the five-star praises, there are some harsh reviews on Amazon for the first volume of this series.  Some of them clearly have an axe to grind on issues that don't bother me; some I agree with but find minor (such as her overuse of exclamation points); others I think refer to faults that were largely corrected by the time she wrote the third volume. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, February 6, 2007 at 8:43 am | Edit
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Last night we heard the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra play Pierre Jalbert's deeply moving In Aeternum, which he wrote as a memorial to his niece who died at birth. Naturally, my thoughts were about Isaac as I listened, running a gamut of emotions, including anger during an intense part of the work with a heartbeat motif running through it—that brought back memories of the doctor who interrupted the family's last moments together to tell them Isaac's heart rate was slowing down.

I had the privilege of speaking briefly with Jalbert afterwards and was able to tell him (though not fully express) how much the music meant to me. You can hear an exerpt of In Aeternum here.

(Some readers of this blog will be interested to know that Jalbert is a native son of Manchester, New Hampshire!)

Having been set up by last night's experience, I was not prepared to handle this morning's news from the United Kingdom: The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecology is recommending active euthanasia for severely disabled newborns(More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, November 5, 2006 at 7:07 am | Edit
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Wild at Heart, by John Eldredge (Thomas Nelson, Nashville, Tennessee, 2001)
Captivating, by John and Stasi Eldredge (Thomas Nelson, Nashville, Tennessee, 2005)

When a good friend lent me Wild at Heart, it took a long time for me to steel myself to read it, for I expected it to make me angry. I've had more than my fill of books, especially from Christian authors, telling men to be authoritative and women to wear makeup and Saran Wrap.

After the first few pages, I was sure I was right, and I was going to hate the book. But I kept reading—something I'm not sure was true of many of those who wrote the negative reviews I read—and became convinced it's a worthwhile book. Oh, there's plenty I found exasperating, a lot I disagree with, and much that's expressed poorly, but Eldredge is asking important questions and has a few good answers. Although it deals with much more than just the church, the book is worth reading if only because it dares reveal church as a place where, all too often, the men are bored and the women are tired—and offers a remedy. Captivating attempts to do for women what Wild at Heart does for men. It is not as good, but still valuable.

(I wonder why it is almost all of my reviews these days seem to boil down to, "This book has some good things to say even though it requires a lot of work to get past the way in which they are presented.") (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, October 26, 2006 at 10:19 am | Edit
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This isn't a review of Tom Wolfe's I Am Charlotte Simmons. I haven't read the book, and am not sure I have the stomach to. But I found Steve Garber's review (thanks to Tom Grosh) and it's well worth reading. It's a little long, so whet your appetite with his conversation with two young women about the book.

One of them found the story of Charlotte's freshman year at college to be frighteningly realistic, while the other recalled plenty of on-campus exceptions to the sex-drug-and-alcohol party crowd: first and second generation Americans, goal-driven students intent on getting into graduate school, people immersed in their field of study, and communities of faith.

I don't know about the book, but the review is simultaneously horrifying and hopeful.
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, August 30, 2006 at 7:10 pm | Edit
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I like supporting small companies and local businesses, including local incarnations of chain stores. Browsing the nearby Borders, scanning the shelves, leafing through physcial books held in my own hands—this experience has a satisfaction that online shopping cannot match, and I know that if I buy all my books online, I risk losing the local experience forever.

Nonetheless, it appears I have unusual tastes in books, music, and other areas, because what is on display at the local store is too often not what I want, and what I want must be ordered. That's where I draw the line: if it must be ordered, I'll do it myself, thank you. That's when I'm especially thankful for and other online retailers. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, August 4, 2006 at 9:11 am | Edit
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I know I’m an independent sort of blogger. My need is to write, and I use the blog format because the LifeType software is so easy to use, is very flexible, and allows comments. The only reason I'm familiar at all with commercial places like LiveJournal, MySpace, and Blogger is that I have to venture into that territory to read some of my friends' blogs. So I'm really clueless about the whole blogging community thing, especially memes and tagging, which generally seem pretty silly to me.


However, a friend has this on her blog, and I like it, so I'm going to do it. I won't tag anyone, but I'd love to read your responses if you want to put them in a comment here, or on your own blog if you have one.

Note: I could answer every one of these points with "The Bible," except possibly #7 (though in some moods, who knows?), but that would be rather pointless, so I'm going to leave it out and consider other books. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, July 27, 2006 at 9:46 am | Edit
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I can't recommend the movie Lost in Translation to anyone I know. It's an R-rated film with an uninspiring story and scenes you'd rather not have in your mind. However, we watched it the other day and I enjoyed it very much, because it is set in Japan. It was fun to hear the crosswalk music (not Comin' Through the Rye, which you can hear in Swing Girls, but the tune for the other direction. I would never have noticed it in the movie if we hadn't been to Japan. It was also wonderful to be able to recognize some of the spoken Japanese words, though I was embarrassed by how much katakana I have forgotten.

Because the film is set mostly in Tokyo, it shows many of the parts of Japan I didn't care for, from the garish lights and colors to the pachinko parlors. But even those were reminders of our trip, and thus enjoyable.
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, July 25, 2006 at 8:56 pm | Edit
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If you live in the United States, you may never have a chance to see the movie, Swing Girls. It is presently unavailable in this country, and if you get it in Japan you need either a region-free DVD player or a good friend in the A-V business. But this is the movie to see for the best glimpse into Janet's life in Japan short of spending a very long time in an airplane. You'll see a school that looks very much like hers, from the physical layout to the students' uniforms to their voices and actions. Although the movie was filmed in a different area of Japan, the scenery is much the same. You'll even get to hear the crosswalk music, that famous old Japanese tune, Comin' Through the Rye. I loved the crosswalk music, though Porter thinks it would drive him crazy if he stayed in Japan very long. There's a different tune for crossing in the other direction, but I don't know what it is; it does sound a little more as if it might really be a Japanese song.

Swing Girls is not great art, but it's a fun story with no objectionable parts if your children can't read. If they can, be warned that the English subtitle translation of the Japanese contains a few four-letter words. Whether the Japanese itself was offensive, I don't know.
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, July 25, 2006 at 8:16 pm | Edit
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Home Education Magazine has a great article by Deborah Markus called Being a Cheerful Rebel. Sometimes being a nonconformist feels great, and sometimes it just feels lonely. Sometimes you love explaining your lifestyle choices to others, and sometimes you wish they'd just mind their own business. But ready or not, the questions will come, and Markus has some good suggestions for preparing to meet them. My favorite is

Don't Apologize: Stand strong. If you don't seem firmly convinced of the rightness of your course of action, why should anyone else? Especially someone who's never heard anything but conventional wisdom on the subject, all of which disagrees with you?

St. Peter knew something of the pressures of being outside the mainstream, and he had good advice, too:

Always be preparied to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence; and keep your conscience clear.
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, July 25, 2006 at 10:14 am | Edit
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The Visitation, by Frank Peretti (W Publishing Group, Nashville, Tennessee, 2003)

I believe it was Samuel Goldwyn who said, "If you want to send a message, use Western Union." He had a point. Great writers manage to convey many messages through their works, but people who start writing with a message in mind tend to write mediocre novels.

I find Frank Peretti's stories entertaining, and better than much so-called Christian fiction; certainly worlds better than the popular LaHaye/Jenkins Left Behind series. There's no doubt that his writing style and technique have improved considerably over the years, too. But Peretti always seems to have a particular axe to grind. One of his best books, Monster, still has specific points about evolution/creation and the perils of genetic engineering which he makes rather heavy-handedly. The Visitation suffers from the same problem, and more. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, July 13, 2006 at 10:47 am | Edit
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Okay, so the wider dissemination of lesser-known comic strips is not the greatest use of the Internet, but it's fun. I've featured Baldo before, but now they have an official Baldo website to include, and today's strip is worth broadcasting.

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, July 3, 2006 at 7:10 am | Edit
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We went to the Orlando Science Center last weekend. Because they had three new movies we hadn't seen, we didn't have much time for the exhibits, but that's okay since we know them all pretty well. However, they do have a new traveling exhibit called Invention at Play, at which we spent all the rest of our time, and which is one of the best new exhibits I've seen in a long time, at any science musuem. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, June 2, 2006 at 7:15 am | Edit
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Mere Discipleship: Radical Christianity in a Rebellious World, by Lee C. Camp (Brazos Press, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2003)

Because I believe Mere Discipleship to be an important book for Christians who are seeking more from their faith than "fire insurance," I want to deal with some of its problems first. There was enough that I found really annoying that I want to get some of it out of the way, so anyone who feels as I do will be encouraged to read past that and receive the good therein. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, June 1, 2006 at 10:22 am | Edit
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