Classics and Potboilers, and Penny dreadfuls

Tarzan of the Apes book coverImage via Wikipedia

I can't help contrasting two books I recently finished reading. One I read out loud to my ten year old and many home school moms would say it is a classic. The other I read myself and probably quicker than the one I read to my son. Most home school moms wouldn't recognize it and would be leery of letting their older children read it without some investigation.

At a certain level they were both great reads. The one has been made into many movies (and I think a TV series). It's the story of a child reared in the jungle by animals who eventually encounters a group of humans and saves them (multiple times) and falls in love with the girl in the group. He returns to civilization with one of the party and learns French and that he is the son of a well to do man and pursues the girl. Alas, she is already promised to another. He returns to the jungle.

The other is a play about a man who's brought home a war captive and her child. He's fallen in love with her and she will have none of him. He's also got a promised bride who loves him. Into the scene arrives another man demanding the death of the child (son of the enemy in the last great war) and who is also in love with the promised bride. Two die, one is insane, and the captive woman is ruling the country at the end of the play.

So which is which? Which the classic? Which the potboiling penny dreadful?

War, politics, and poular opinion

Benjamin Franklin Butler ( November 5 1818 &nd...Image via Wikipedia

Growing up in the South, I often heard lists comparing Northern and Southern assets at the beginning of the Civil War. One of the items on the pro-side for the South were military leaders.

As I've studied the Civil War this summer, I've realized that this isn't quite correct. Instead was most important early in the war for the South was a president who understood war and tactics and who was willing to do the correct thing militarily over the politics and popular opinion.

I learned for instance that the general I most think of when I think of the South, Robert E. Lee, was sent to South Carolina for perceived faults early in the war. Later, Davis brought him to Richmond to help him coordinate war materials and tactics. It was only later that Lee received command of the army of Northern Virginnia.

Eventually Lincoln became both savvy enough to understand military tactics and could overcome the unwillingness of his public to (or built his and the army's public capital to a point where they could) understand that sometimes victory came through slow protracted events and would not be accomplished by a head on engagement.

Even in the final year of the war, Lincoln still struggled with incompetent and yet politically connected generals.

The mythical better generals vanish as I contemplate how the same forces of politics and public perception were at work during the Civil War as in modern conflict.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

More Meaning

Study for the head of Leda, Leonardo, c.Image via Wikipedia

In looking over the reviews of the commentary by Ben Witherington on the book of Revelation. I noticed one reviewer complained that he never told which meaning the original readers and writer would have given an image in the book. I'm now about half way through his book and haven't found this to be a problem, but it does raise for me an important point about reading metaphoric literature of all kinds.

That's the fact that often an image can have more than one meaning and the author intended that multiple layer of meaning. It gives a piece much more depth to have this multi-level approach. To look for the one right meaning is to miss the point.

I can remember studying Yeats' "Leda and the Swan" and having a teacher walk me through those mutliple meanings that both overlapped and meshed together.

A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,
He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.

How can those terrified vague fingers push
The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?
And how can body, laid in that white rush,
But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?

A shudder in the loins engenders there
The broken wall, the burning roof and tower
And Agamemnon dead.
Being so caught up,
So mastered by the brute blood of the air,
Did she put on his knowledge with his power
Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?

This poem has at least four such levels, maybe more. Certainly Yeats contrived to have them there and to interlock them to allow the reader to get more than just the first reading of such a poem would give.

First, there's the basic story, Leda, a girl, is raped by a swan. To embellish that more and explain the lines about Agamemnon and the burning wall, we find the second layer, that of Greek mythology. The swan is Zeus and the children of this mating are Helen of Troy and her sister Clytemnestra, who marries and later kills Agamemnon.

But Yeats wasn't willing to stop there. He had is own view of history as a cycle of rising and falling events. For him the fall of Troy was the fall of Greek culture and signaled the rise of a later culture, Christanity. For him this moment is the beginning of modern history.1

Yet even all this doesn't quite explain that last lines, "Did she put on his knowledge with his power, Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?" Which takes us to yet a fourth level of meaning. That of the creative person who struggles to capture that one flash of creation that comes from a greater and higher force before that moment and that creativity are gone.2

This adds depth and meaning to the poem and to try to decide which of the four is right just wouldn't be, well, right.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

My Book Books

Sometime between the age of twelve and fourteen, I started writing down the books I read in a notebook. It's now about four decades since I started. Recently I started a new volume, number four. I thought I'd share the covers of each of these books.

This is the first book.

This is the second book.

This is the third book.

This is the fourth book. I have included both the spine and back cover since they are decorated as well as the front cover.

Dog Manners

Cover of Cover via Amazon

It is hard sometimes realizing that dogs don't really like everything that people do to them in a spirit of kindness and love. In McConnell's The Other End of the Leash, she includes some photos of people hugging dogs where the dogs don't look particularly happy.

She also shares two stories that make the point as well.

Imagine walking down the street and seeing someone whom you know and are happy to see. What do you do? Most of us call out his name, maybe wave to get his attention, and move directly toward him. It’s especially polite to look directly at his face as you get closer, walking straight toward him, looking right into his eyes and smiling. As you get close enough to touch, you might reach out your hand to shake his or wrap both arms around his chest in a warm hug. Perhaps you move your face directly to his and kiss his cheek. The ultimate in friendliness is to look deep into his eyes and kiss him directly on the mouth. Ummmm, so sweet and friendly. Not if you’re a dog, it’s not. That oh-so-polite primate approach is appallingly rude in canine society. You might as well urinate on a dog’s head. (pg. 14)

That’s the way Letterman greets Julia Roberts, and that’s the way we all greet people we really like. In dog society that would be a scene from a sci-fi horror movie. You just couldn’t be more rude to a dog unless you walked up and bit him. (pg. 18)
Since I've read this part of her book, I can't help but watch my dog closely to see when she is putting up with something that she isn't too happy about on her own. She's a good dog.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]


Dr. Martin Luther's Church Door - Wittgenstein 93Image by Mikey G Ottawa via Flickr

I've noted in other posts that sometimes the writings of person in a time period prove to be different or unexpected or less accurate than we would expect. My study of Luther's commentary on Galatians has given me many moments to think about this concept.

Critics of the Reformation often complain about the multitude of denominations it spawned. Certainly the Bible talks mostly of one church (although this is less starkly clear as we often read in the Bible of churches linked to the place they meet). So it gave me a moment of head scratching to read this from Luther on Galatians 5:15:

By these words Paul meaneth, that if the foundation, that is, faith in Christ be overthrown by false teachers, no peace or concord can remain in the Church, either in doctrine or life ; but there must needs be divers opinions and dissensions from time to time, both in doctrine and life, whereby it cometh to pass that one biteth and devoureth another, that is to say, one judgeth and condemneth another, until at length they be consumed. Hereof not only the Scripture, but also the examples of all times bear witness. When the church of Africa was perverted by the Manichees, by-and-by followed the Donatists, who also disagreeing among themselves were divided into three sects. And where is that Church to-day? At this day how many sects are springing up one after another? Thus when the unity of the spirit is broken, it is impossible that there should be any concord either in doctrine or life, but daily new errors arise without measure and without end. Paul therefore showeth how such discord may be avoided. Let every man do his duty in that state of life to which God hath called him.
I wondered what Luther was talking about. Was he looking forward and seeing that the Reformation he began was going to cause splits in the church? Was he already seeing many sects in his break away movement? My commentary has no annotations so I am left on my own to puzzle things out for myself. So I placed a post-it on the spot and continued on in my readings.

Some pages later I came to what I believe was Luther's meaning for this splitting that he describes.

Heresies, or sects, have always been in the Church, as we have said before. Notwithstanding the pope is an arch- heretic, and the head of all heretics; for he hath filled the world, as it were, with a huge flood of infinite sects and errors. What concord and unity was there in so great diversity of the monks, and various religious orders. No one sort of them, or sect, could agree with another; for they measured their holiness by the strictness of their rule. Hereof it cometh that the Carthusian will needs be counted holier than the Franciscan, and so likewise the rest. Wherefore there is no unity of spirit, nor concord of minds, but great discord in the papistical church. Contrariwise among the Christians, the word, faith, sacraments, service, Christ, God, heart, soul, mind, and understanding, are all one and common to all.

So unexpectedly (at least to me) he sees division and sects in the Roman Catholic Church of his own day. This is unexpected to my modern mind which looks back and sees the Roman Catholic Church prior to the Reformation as a monolith (well mostly). It is also unexpected to note that he sees it with so much diversity in it and not under one head. I also see the Roman Catholic Church of today as more orderly with a single head who rules all in his church. It seems Luther saw something else in his time.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Insubordination 4

Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount NelsonImage via Wikipedia

During the Battle of Copenhagen, Lord Nelson was told by a lieutenant that his commander had signaled him to withdraw from battle. He ignored it. He was blind in one eye, so he placed his spyglass to his good eye and said, "I really do not see the signal."1


The humble tomato: Fruit or Vegetable?Image by Ollie T. via Flickr

A system or set of terms or symbols especially in a particular science, discipline, or art. 1

The classification of items sometimes varies by the system being used to classify. I wrote a post that include a teacher who marked a child wrong for saying a tomato was a fruit. The problem in that story is that there are two system to classify a tomato.

The first system is that of science and the parts of a plant. In that system, a tomato is a fruit,. a carrot is a root, and broccoli is a flower. Each is a part of a plant.

I suspect the teacher wasn't thinking about that system when she marked the student wrong. Instead she was thinking of another system: food groups. She might have even taught a lesson on food groups. In that system the tomato wasn't a fruit instead it was a vegetable. While that system is less precise in its divisions, it was nevertheless a valid system. Most of us can divide the things I listed above as well as others by the same set of rules. Fruits are sweeter and have more simple sugars. Vegetables don't have a lot of sugars. Starches are plant parts that include more complex sugars. Finally, oils are extracts of plants that contain pure fat (and are the only category that can also include animal products). Unlike the plant part system this one has no clear dividing lines and some items are sorted differently depending on who's doing the sorting.

Children mostly grow up figuring out hundreds of these informal classification systems. Is a color green or blue? Is that a bird or an insect? What's the weather like? In many ways they are much more advanced scientists than us adults who don't have to sort all of life into categories because we have already excepted those divisions of life.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

How to Read 2

This is the third of a series of posts about this article.

Lastly Bauer includes some tips on how to go about thinking about and setting up a reading program. Most of them I agree with.

In large part, the project of classical education is an act of resistance against mainstream culture. It sends a message: “I don't care how fast I do this. I don't care how much of it I do. I don't care how many books I get through. I am not in search of immediate gratification and visible results." This pushes back against our society, which tells us that the faster we work, the more we do, the more we produce and accumulate and experience, the better we are.

I agree. I would add that sometimes it helps to take a break midway in a book. I find this to be especially true of long works of nonfiction. I even decide with some books when I will take a break. In one long history of a very minor technology that I am interested in, I took a break every 200 pages. The material was dense and I need to spend a few days reading a light weight novel. In my most recent book on the Civil War, I planned and took a break at the middle of the book.

One point I did not completely agree with is her suggestion to read in the morning. I've heard that advice a lot over my life, but it just doesn't work out for me. For me the morning before breakfast is a time to get things done. I read, gasp, at the end of the day when my children go to bed, but I admit I also manage to sneak in reading through out the day. I encourage you to find your own time and sneak some reading into those empty moments that happen all through most people's day.

Bauer also suggests reading genre's chronologically. I don't see the necessity in this. Certainly there is an evolution in literature's forms, but if you always wanted to read War and Peace, don't fell you must read 25 other novels before you begin it.

Blue ImpactImage by thefost via Flickr

One point I would suggest is to take some time deciding what level of reading you are at. If you've been reading light weight popular novels and books of encouragement then you may wish to not immediately leap into deep and dense works, but instead begin with some shorter less dense works of literature or more popularized books of nonfiction. Going from Stephen King to Plato might be an unwise choice. There are many easier works to begin with; Greek drama, in my opinion, is easy to read and enjoy.

And if one works stumps you, put it aside after a set number of pages (10 -25 percent is a good goal) and try something else. Whatever you do, don't pick something because it is a classic instead pick something you are interested in.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

How to Read 1

Although overall I love Susan Wise Bauer's "Stop Cleaning the Kitchen and Read," I admit to not much liking her advice on how to read.

I certainly agree with her that what happens to many moms who decide to read "a classic" is that they get a few pages in and get tired, bored, or confused by the book and give it up. That certainly has happened to me in the past and I don't personally know anyone who reads more books than I do (with the possible exception of my dad). So for a mom new to reading regularly the experience could be even more daunting.

Where I depart from Bauer is her recommendation to read a book in a three level process that, oddly, follows the same three levels of the classical curriculum she writes about. I would never had made it through a lot of books I've read if I had had to go three times. While I'm sure that the third time might make some things pop out that I did not catch the first time through, I'm equally sure that some of my first insights are also valid and important.

I also have some questions about the idea of a reading journal. I'll grant you that part of what this blog is about is that, but to have to write each day as I read would be another hindrance to my actual reading and learning.

I do think Bauer has a great idea about marking difficult passages and just moving on with whatever you are reading and then coming back at the end of the book or chapter to reread the difficult section or sections.

My way of taking "notes" is to keep a stack of post-it notes in the places I read. I keep the small 1 by 1.5 inch ones. There are also ones designed to flag reading points, you could get those as well. Whenever I read something I want to remember I put a note on it. I arrange the note so that only a tiny dog ear appears outside the page of the book.

The other thing I use the post-it notes for is to keep my on target with any end notes. I much prefer notes on the same page, but that's not something I get any control on. For books with end notes, I put a post it on the footnote page that is where I am currently reading, so when I have a note in the text I want to check on, I can quickly turn to that page.

In my experience with used books, I can't help but note that some folks use other systems, underlining and writing notes in the margin. These systems can work for you, too.

My feelings are not to get bogged down and doing something that makes it no longer a pleasurable experience (even if hard work). For some moms that may mean writing in a reading journal would add to their experience, but for me that would artificially add a level of frustration to the process.

Selling Ourselves Short 2

Woman readingImage by National Media Museum via Flickr

Susan Wise Bauer has written a wonderful article, "Stop Cleaning the Kitchen and Read a Book"; she encourages moms reading each day to learn more. This is what this blog is about. I am thankful that two years ago Marcia Sommerville challenged me (and all Tapestry of Grace moms) to read the Rhetoric (high school) level literature in her curriculum whether my children were at that level or not. I was fairly well read, but I still had holes and I've found that classics are better after 40 than at 16.

But in the last two years I've expanded Sommerville's definition and also spent time reading other topics that relate to what my children are studying. It's been an amazing experience.

Bauer's article includes some points most home schoolers would agree with, "As home schoolers, we rely too much on experts; this is true not just for home schoolers, but for the American culture at large." Almost all home schoolers I know would be quick to say that standard schooling is incorrect in it's reliance on experts to teach children. But many home schoolers rely on various insider experts in the homeschool world.

Prior to my switch to Tapestry of Grace I used a curriculum that included a guide to the series of books it used to teach American history. Over the years I had heard raves about this guide. I even bought a copy when I switched to Tapestry just in case. So when I finished reading my second books on the Civil War, I turned to that section of the guide. Only to be dumbfounded by the numerous factual errors and poor reasoning of the writer.

Bauer is clear in her article that it is exactly this that moms need to do:

In order to embark on the project of classical education— not just for our children, but also for ourselves—we have to rediscover a much older way of thinking.

In order to get educated, we do not have to go to graduate school. We have to read, take notes on what we read, and discuss ideas with our friends.

The first step in classical self-education is to turn away from the classroom and turn towards reading.

Interestingly for Bauer, she is often seen as an expert on history and literature and has written books for parents on history. But what she encourages is taking the next step to leave her behind and face the open road of learning on your own.

Not every mom will study the same topics, but as part of a network of moms they can become more knowledgeable than the experts they now rely on. Topics are often interrelated. My military history of the Civil War pointed forward to the failures of WWI generals to recognize the same facts of battle that the Civil War generals had already faced and learned.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Insubordination 3

John Bell HoodImage via Wikipedia

After the loss of Atlanta, Hood attempted to disrupt Sherman's communications (military talk for his supply line) and lure him back to Tennessee. Unfortunately for Hood, things went badly awry.

As his army retreated further south his men changed the words to the popular "Yellow Rose of Texas" to match their feelings about their commander:

So now I'm marching southward,
My heart is full of woe.
I'm going back to Georgia
To see my Uncle Joe.
You may talk about your Beauregard
and sing of General Lee
But the gallant Hood of Texas
Played hell in Tennessee. 1

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Insubordination 2

Abraham Lincoln, three-quarter length portrait...Image via Wikipedia

Bragg was not the only Civil War personality to have remarks address to him that might seem pretty insubordinate to our modern sensibilities. No less than Abraham Lincoln was told while visiting a fort under Confederate fire to, "Get down you Fool!" by a young captain, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. 1

There's even a historic marker at the site.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]


2nd third of 17th centuryImage via Wikipedia

One of the things I learned as an adults that sometimes there was pretty amazing stuff hidden in the footnotes. They function not only as a place to indicate where information and ideas comes from but as a place for the author to put points that aren't strictly on topic.

I first found this in a comprehensive American history book where the author included not only details that weren't in his text but often made wry remarks.

As I've read more books with extensive footnotes, I've learned this is pretty common. Often if you want to find the author's sense of humour on a point, you'll find it in the footnotes. Or if you want to find what other topics might relate to a point, again the footnotes.

Of course, students rarely get to learn this as textbooks don't footnote much or anything factually and instead only footnote things like definitions of words or dry facts that relate to the text itself.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Paraphrasing and Plagiarism

Deafblind American author, activist, and lectu...Image via Wikipedia

Thinking Mother has a nice post on plagiarism. I've been reading a book written to classroom teachers about handling plagiarism in the classroom. One of the things I noted in both the blog and the original article on plagiarism was the focus on blatant copying. This is something that is pretty easy to teach. Don't copy. Yes, even if you change a few words, it's still copying.

But there's no mention in either article of what I suspect is a much more common form of plagiarism. In fact one of the comments following the blog describes a writing program that trains students to paraphrase. I may be misreading the writer's intent, but it seems her point is that if students learn to paraphrase then they won't plagiarise. Unfortunately paraphrasing another writer's work without citing your source is plagiarism as well (see here, here, or here).

The difficulty is determining what information is common knowledge and not original to any author which won't need a citation. For instance a biography of Lincoln would likely not cite a source for his wife being Mary Todd Lincoln, but would cite a source describing their first meeting.

The Thinking Mom includes a great example of why this kind of citation is so important not just to avoid plagiarism, but also to prove your case:

To make matters worse for me as a student in fourth grade, when I wrote in my report that the tomato was both a fruit and a vegetable the teacher marked it wrong, chastised me in red ink saying that it was NOT a fruit and lowered my grade. 1

While I'm sure that a footnote wouldn't have made a difference for some readers, it's possible that a footnote for this fact might have convinced her teacher to check this point (although I'll be quick to admit I'm not sure a tomato being a fruit is really a fact that needs a source).

I've read academic books where a long list had every single item footnoted not with just one source but many.

I'm not sure I understood this point about footnotes until I began to seriously read academic writing frequently enough to be exposed to meticulous footnotes (and some pretty sad ones too).
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Total Depravity

Anyone familiar with Calvinism will recognize this as the first point of the "TULIP."

Martin Luther, German reformer, 1529Image via Wikipedia

In my study of history, I learned that Calvin and Luther agreed on many points and it wasn't until the century after Luther's death that Lutherans separated themselves from what would become Reformed Theology.

Witness this observation of Martin Luther in his commentary on Galatians, " Furthermore, we are all subject to the devil both in body and goods, and we be strangers in this world, whereof he is prince and god. Therefore the bread we eat, the liquids we drink, the garments we wear, yea, the air, and whatsoever we live by in the flesh, is under his dominion."
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]


Pig penImage by james_michael_hill via Flickr

As I read more works by original authors, I become aware that contemporary belief in a time when debate was more mannered and orderly is a myth. Take this little insult from Martin Luther's commentary on the Galatians, "So that these swine do think that righteousness is but a moral thing, only beholding the visor, or outward show of the work, and not the heart of him that doth the work: . . . ."
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]


Braxton BraggImage via Wikipedia

General Braxton Bragg was not well liked by his troops. During an invasion of Kentucky he was in part on a propaganda mission to sway sympathetic Kentuckians to join the Confederate Army. As such he had to have his troops be orderly and not forage for supplies (which Lee's men had been able to do in his two northern raids). When a soldier snuck into a yard and stole three apples, he court martialed that soldier and had him executed.
So it's not surprising that his men had little good to say of him.

Many southern armies were ill supplied with uniforms so at one time Bragg stopped a man to find out if he was in his army. The man, asked if he was part of Bragg's army and not recognizing Bragg, replied, "Bragg's army? Bragg's got no army. He shot half of them himself, up in Kentucky, and the other half got killed at Murfreesboro." (How the North Won, page 354)

Late in his tenure as a field general he became suspicious of reports about a Federal retreat and ask a soldier, "Do you know what a retreat looks like?" The soldier replied, "I ought to know, General, I've been with you during your whole campaign." (How the North Won, page 454)
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Hand in the air, delayed long, and naked in the snow

Stonewall JacksonImage by daveelmore via Flickr

Imagine for a moment a highly respected general. A man known for his serious demeanor and yet at the same time his quick tactical skill set. A man who was known for his piety.
So as you read about this man would you expect so many quirks and foibles from him as I’ve found.

So let’s begin with that hand which got shot twice during the war. Once in the first battle of Manassas and once in the wilderness which eventually led to his death. There were many opinions on why he held his hand up during battle, but he claimed that it was to establish balance in his body which he felt was out of equilibrium. Eventually he suffered a wound that leads to his death, once again in that hand.

Later during the seven days battle in Virginia he repeatedly delayed entering the battle and follow Lee’s plan to bottle up the union army. This happened not on just one day but several days running. It was thought he might have been in prayer.

Finally when the South had crushed the North at Marye’s Heights he proposed to pursue the North and charge them while they were demoralized and in retreat. Since it was night he proposed to Lee to strip naked so that they could recognize each other in the dark.

I suppose that some folk might think I’ve written this post to somehow redeem the men of my fine state who shot Stonewall Jackson by mistake during that battle in the wilderness.

Once again I find myself puzzled by action of military men that I can’t imagine modern military leaders taking.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Civil War Characters

Rufus King ( January 26 1814 – October 1...Image via Wikipedia

One of the things I’ve discovered in reading about the Civil War is how many unique personalities there were involved in the war. Many of these personalities were leaders: politicians, generals, and others. It’s also interesting to note in regards to that how small their world was and how much they knew of each other.

As I’ve read what they’ve said about themselves and others and their actions, I often find myself puzzling over whether similar modern leaders would do such things, would be so candid, would undermine rivals to the point of jeopardizing the war effort. I can’t imagine it, but maybe I just haven’t read enough about war.

Finally, I’ve also noticed that the regular army members were not as respectful of their leaders as we would expect regular army members to be today. I’ve already written about Nelly but there are many other instances where a general doesn’t seem to get the respectful demour I would expect in today’s army.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

No Shills

1930's Emerson RegalImage by The Rocketeer via Flickr

Shill: A shill is an associate of a person selling goods or services or a political group, who pretends no association to the seller/group and assumes the air of an enthusiastic customer. The intention of the shill is, using crowd psychology, to encourage others unaware of the set-up to purchase said goods or services or support the political group's ideological claims. Shills are often employed by confidence artists. The term plant is also used. 1

Recently I heard a piece on NPR about "mom bloggers" and "blog-ola" or "pay-ola." It appear NPR picked this up from a similar piece at Business Week. Since I'm a mom and a blogger I felt the need to write something.

I spent some time reading mom blog reactions to this. There are many. I also spent some time looking a mom blog hubs that include articles on product recommendations.

I've faced this in the homeschool world where many curriculum companies offer parents who use their product the ability to be a sales representative for them using the materials they already own. Anyone who is interested is given a special code that will give the parent/rep credit for a sale if one takes place. This can be done face to face, but it can also be included in links from posts, emails, and blogs to the website of the curriculum company. No one who is not familiar with such practices would know that clicking such a link might represent money in the pocket of the person who recommended the product or provided the link.

In a large email group I run, we have a rule that such affiliations must be disclosed and I've lobbied at forums I've been a member of to have such ethics standards in place as well.

One of the astounding things to me in reading through many blogs in the past week is how comfortable many people are with this idea. How little they feel it needs to be made clear what is going on. What ambiguous turns of phrase might be used to describe a product they received free from a company. Certainly caveat emptor must be the watch word of many places.

I'm sure many of the people who only post positive reviews would be quite upset to spend money on a product only to find out that it has many faults that weren't given in a review because the reviewer felt obliged to only publish a positive review. No doubt the reviewer feels they liked some aspects, but didn't feel it was right to give the negatives and they really weren't that important anyway.

The other interesting thing I noted was many bloggers pointed out that some magazines and newspaper also do this in their pages (in newspaper this occurs mostly in the pages aimed at women). They are correct, but does that mean that this new media of blogging is just going to follow the example of the old media without thought?

In case anyone is wondering: first, I'm not even sure anyone is reading my blog, I'm pretty sure that not enough readers exist for anyone to ever offer me blog-ola, but if offered I'm going to turn it down. If I ever get to be a book reviewer (the only product I can see anyone offering to give me to review), I'll let you know very clearly that I've been given a book. But for now I have my doubts about anyone offering me anything.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Book Review: Dog Traing Books

In my recent post on dog training, I promised I’d write another post about dog training books that I found to be helpful. I begin by repeating what I said there, I didn’t find any truly great dog training books until after my dog had gotten by her first puppy training topics (crate training and house training in particular). None of the books I’m going to review today are truly puppy oriented. You may wish to read Ian Dunbar’s Before and After Getting Your Puppy: The Positive Approach to Raising a Happy, Healthy, and Well-Behaved Dog. However, I do agree with reviewers who say that the book is way over top in terms of realistic time commitment you can make to training a puppy and gives no comfort that even if your puppy has a few accidents all will work out okay.

I have three books that I think will help a new dog owner to train their dog. I think it would be wise to read all three, but time and funds might interfere with that goal so I’ll try to give you some tips on which to use for certain situations.

The book I suggest you read to set up a training program and get you going in socializing your dog is The Power of Positive Dog Training by Pat Miller. Miller will give you both the theory behind what you are doing and very specific steps and a plan to use with your dog. She even provides charts in the back to help you set up and keep track of what you’re doing with your dog. She’ll give you specific steps to train certain behaviors and often gives two different ways to get at that behavior. She gives some of the common mistakes that dogs and trainers make while learning these new behaviors.

Next, on my list is a short book, Family Friendly Dog Training: A Six Week Program for You and Your Dog by Patricia B. McConnell and Aimee M. Moore. This is the book for the impatient owner who wants results and doesn’t really care to know a lot of theory. The book will walk you through six weeks of learning with your dog. It replicates a real life training class for you. The book does include some theory and philosophy but not as much as The Power of Positive Dog Training.

My wrap up suggestion is The Culture Clash: A Revolutionary New Way to Understanding the Relationship Between Humans and Domestic Dogs by Jean Donaldson. This books takes what you’ve learned in the previous two books and expands your knowledge and skill set. Ms. Donaldson sites studies of what successful trainers do compared to owners who are struggling. She spends time on the concept of shaping and she also talks about fading your reward program so this book is a great wrap up to a training program.

I hope that these books will help other new dog owners to train their dogs.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Obedience Wars

Clicker-training a dog.Image via Wikipedia

Last year when we went to a friend's house in the country and picked up our cute little Labrador puppy, I had no idea that I was about to enter a battlefield over how to train a dog.
I soon needed help.

Although Sunshine proved a quick study when it came to toilet training and learning some commands. She was not a quick study in stopping annoying behaviors. In at least two instances I had to change my behavior so that she wouldn't have the object that made her so annoying. In one instance, I put away an outside chair that she had decided was hers and she should be allowed to defend by nipping at me when I sat in it. I also gave up wearing long nightgowns and bathrobes for the summer since she spent an inordinate amount of time hanging on those robes by her teeth. I'm happy to say that a year later she a fairly well behaved dog who doesn't mess with me in my chair and ignores my nightgown.

But along the way there were some frustrating moments and there is at least one pet store, I'll never go to again because of how rude they clerk was in part over issues of how to stop such behavior. The clerk who claimed to also own Labs, told me no lab every had such issues and it must be my lack of "command" that was causing this problem. I've since learned that many Labs are overly mouthy. The good news is they don't bite, but they do like to put their mouths on things and can be annoying especially as pups.

I began my summer with a couple of books and I slowly accumulated a large stack mostly picked up at the used bookstore. It turns out there's a brisk trade in used dog obedience books.
I also began my summer by taping every episode of Caesar Millan's Dog Whisperer. I admit I had an enormous amount of frustration over trying to apply some of Caesar techniques. I tried the "shhhh" and touch the neck concept over and over with my puppy to no avail. I had one episode where Caesar shows the owner right where to touch, I played that ten second segment over and over, but never got it.

Fortunately, I had a friend involved in a dog training club that my vet also recommended so I signed up for puppy obedience classes which were okay and even better Obedience I classes in the fall. One of the best things about the classes were the long lists of books and articles they gave us in handouts. In those handouts, I found books by folks I hadn't found at the used bookstore. I began to think about a different approach, and as it turned out one that worked for me.

At about the same time, my kids and I began to watch a new Reality TV show, Greatest American Dog. One of the judges was dog trainer Victoria Stilwell. After taping a couple of her show's episodes, I discontinued watching Millan and started watching her. One of the biggest differences between the two shows was how easy it was to take something Stilwell did on her show and use it at home. I didn't need to rewind and rewind to take a technique and use it. Neither did I need to have my special "energy" to be right to use her techniques. I even found a post on her forums that says the same thing:

the thing that speaks to me the most is the fact that most of Stilwell's
techniques can be taken straight from the show and used in the viewers' home
that day. my family does this all the time, and I've seen numerous posts on this
forum about what we've learned.

alternately, Millan's show begins with a "do not try this at home" warning
that makes me think it's more entertainment than education, and bears an uncanny
resemblance to the kind of show with stunts done by professionals that, despite
all warnings, viewers emulate and hurt themselves and others. it's dangerous.

It turns out I was in the middle of a the dog training battle. For the last several decades behaviorists had slowly been winning the day using mostly rewards based training techniques. Most of those in the United States looked to a San Francisco man, Ian Dunbar, as their inspiration. Dunbar had introduced many new ways of viewing and training dogs. He had pioneered puppy classes just like the one I enrolled in with Sunshine. I eventually read his two books on puppies, but sadly it was too late for me to try the techniques used in them much with Sunshine who was already long past crate training, house breaking, or many of the things Dunbar suggests.

This new style of training was going well until Caesar Millan's rise to fame on the National Geographic channel. His rise gave the dog training world much angst. Many who act as gate keepers for that world feel his emphasis on pack leadership to be a return to the dark ages of dog training.

Claudia Kawczynska, editor of Bark magazine, is one of Dunbar's many fans. "It's
irritating to see Millan treated as the expert. Ian is an animal behaviorist
with decades of experience," she says, "He should be where Millan is."
Kawczynska likens the Millan cult of personality and popularity to the
anti-science, anti-academic sentiment she sees prevalent in American culture and
politics. "Millan lived on a farm, so what? He's good looking, but he's not
smart about dogs. It seems people don't want their experts to be educated." 1

I think some of the remarks directed at Millan are unfair. For instance, even brief viewing of his show, will show that Millan is quite good with dogs. The real question in my mind is his ability to transfer that skill to other people. In my experience, he was not able to transfer that knowledge to me in any workable form.

So what's workable? In later entries I'll do some brief reviews of the books that worked for me.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Book Review: St. John Chrysostom: Spiritual Gems from the Gospel of Matthew

St. John Chrysostom: Spiritual Gems from the Gospel of Matthew translated and edited by Robert Charles Hill.

This is the second book by John Chrysostom, I've used in my personal Bible studies this year. Compared to the first volume I used, I like this one much better.

Unlike the short Genesis series of sermons Chrysostom gave on Genesis, he preached a long (90 or more) series on the gospel of Matthew. Mr. Hill, the translator and editor, chose to exert various sections from this series.

In this way, the reader gets more commentary from Chrysostom on the passages on Matthew than they do in the previous volume I read. I also assume that Mr. Hill has chosen not to include any passages that are adverse to a more modern reading of the gospels.

It becomes clear that Chrysostom was a preacher who very much wanted to encourage his congregation to help the poor more than he felt they did. It also is clear that he sees his congregation as well to do with few monetary struggles. In this respect, Chrysostom resembles many modern ministers of the word.
It also is clear why he is known for his golden tongue. His passages are clear and easy to understand. They are about everyday life not theology (although sometimes a little of that slips in). No doubt, they were interesting and inspiring sermons to listen to.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Book Review: Eight Sermons on the Book of Genesis

St. John Chrysostom: Eight Sermons on the Book of Genesis edited and translated by Robert Charles Hill.

This year in my personal religious studies, I've been focusing on one book of the Bible with a book of commentaries. I've tried to vary what kind of commentary I've read and chose a mixture of Biblical books. For the letters of Paul to the Corinthians I chose a volume from a series that draws together ancient Christian writers and commentators.
Since I was aware I'd need more commentaries later in the year I kept an eye out for any one person that seemed interesting and insightful to me. John Chrysostom was such a commentator and I noticed that many of the remarks he made that I liked came from commentaries on Genesis. After some research I found a small collection of just eight homilies on Genesis. This review is in response to that collection.

This volume proved to be not quite what I was looking for. First, it turns out Chrysostom preached two different series on Genesis. This was a short eight sermon series given during lent. His other series went through the whole book and was much longer. I had seen such volumes in my search but had not been interested since those I turned up initially had a rather high price tag and even cheaper ones came in more than one volume, all with many more pages than I wanted to tackle. It would have been wiser to have chosen one of those. This series confines itself to the first three chapters of Genesis.

Chrysostom proves to a minister much like others I've encountered who seems to spend more time on other sections of the Bible or topics than the verses that his sermon is supposed to be centered on. Much of the thrust of these sermons is focused on charitable giving a worthy topic but not one that leaps to the mind when one reads the first three chapters of Genesis.

Chrysostom also reveals some of his ancient prejudices by excoriating Eve for her actions in the garden while going on to gloss over and dismiss the sins of the patriarchal fathers such as Noah. The commentator feels sure that there were no women in the audience for these sermons. He uses various clues to establish this, and he notes that with no women in the audience Chrysostom didn't have to face anyone over his remarks about Eve's deficiencies. While this maybe true it doesn't make the ancient father any more endearing for his prejudice just a bit more cowardly.
Chrysostom does also hit some interesting points that remind me very much of current themes in protestant churches today. He calls on his audience of men to go home and be able to expound the topic he has taught them in their homes. He calls on them to create a small church in the home. His target home is probably a bit larger than the one envisioned by those in the modern patriarchal movement with servants included but his ideas remind of theirs.

In all I can say I understand why Chrysostom was known as golden tongue. His sermons are clear and simple with no passages that are difficult to understand. It maybe this owes itself to Mr. Hill's translation, I'm afraid I don't know.

What Not To Do

LONDON - NOVEMBER 10:  Troy the Yellow Labrado...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

  1. Take the dog to the beach.
  2. Stay in a pet friendly home.
  3. Let the dog go upstairs to the bed rooms even though she doesn't do that at home.
  4. Let her sleep on the floor in your upstairs bed room even though she doesn't do that at home.

What's left to do:
  1. Drag an 85 pound Labrador down the wood stairs she's sure she can't go down when she wakes the next morning.
  2. Barricade the stairs.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]