Saturday, September 29, 2012

We Are Penn State


WE ARE PENN STATE. Our culture, as a whole, is one big, giant, Penn State. 

Penn State was deemed an institution in need of "culture change," and they spent a lot of money (6.5 Million) on the Freeh Report figuring out what that meant. The conclusion? Those in authority (i.e. Trustees, Paterno, and Spanier) took too little responsibility. Meanwhile, those who took responsibility were hindered because too much authority was granted to one man, Joe Paterno. And all this was made possible because the folks at Penn State loved football too much. Paterno ran free, and Sandusky under him, because in a place where football was king, Paterno was the King of kings.

I. The Place of The Place: The Culture of The Culture

That was the culture at Penn State; it is also the culture of The Culture. Penn State is a by-product of larger cultural trends. WE ARE PENN STATE. Our culture, as a whole, worships athletes and coaches. Our culture overlooks wild injustices for the sake of Saturday thrills. We grant political and even moral authority in the public arena to men whose primary achievements reside in the sports arena. Penn State is not some accursed plot of land in Pennsylvania -- it is our home, away from home. Penn Sate is not a foreign locale. Rather, as we were taught to sing as children, "This land is your land/ This land is my land/ From California, to the New York Islands."

Penn State got to this place by loving football more than justice. We, as a culture, got to this place by loving football more than justice; the road home involves loving justice more than anything: more than winning on Saturday; more than nabbing a Heisman; more than capturing a National Championship. More than anything. Right now, it's vogue to blame Joe Paterno. This may be just, but it's not justice. Justice involves taking the log out of our own eye. Justice involves blaming ourselves. "It takes a village" to nurture a child. It also takes a village to abuse one. The village which was the scene of Sandusky's crimes was not Penn State; it was America.

Sport fans are known to take credit for the victory of their team, "We won!" There's more truth to this than we realize. After all, without the fan, the team would have no resources (recruiting is expensive!), little team 'spirit,' and much less motivation. But, it's only right that we also take credit for our team's failings. That includes instances, like at Penn State, when those failings involve moral turpitude. Particular sins are always connected to a particular culture. The Culture permits and promotes certain virtues: "What is honored in a culture will flourish there (Plato),"  and excuses certain vices. What is honored in the culture of college football? in our culture as a whole? Winning on Saturdays, National Championships. Athletic Trophies. Bigger. Stronger. Faster. Virtue is victory. This causes us to excuse certain vices. That’s why there are so many recruiting violations and NCAA illegalities year after year after year after year. Why don't schools shape up? Why isn't their a culture change in college athletics? Why? Because there has yet to be a culture change in The Culture. The Culture still demands, "Just win baby." The athletic programs who lie, cheat, and bamboozle are not a separate culture; they are a culture within The Culture. They are acting on the values of that culture. This culture is OUR culture; this land is OUR land.

II. Media Culpa

Let's take a look into the sports world and see how the media is, at present, hindering the kind of cultural revolution that is needed to prevent future Sanduskys from striking. Let's take a look at the single most decorated sports scribe of this generation, Rick Reilly. Reilly is one of the more sentimental writers on the American scene; he may be the most sentimental of all. He celebrates the personal interest stories of athletes and coaches. His stories have a common theme: these are more than athletes or coaches; they are also humanitarians, 'real good guys.' Reilly has made a career by glorifying the virtues of athletes apart from athletics. This usually devolves into moralizing about how we can all be better people.  Reilly warms our hearts with good guy stories, and we dreamily gobble up this slick view of humanity. We want to love athletes apart from athletics because we already love athletics so much. We love because we love.

In a recent article, Reilly labeled Sandusky a coward. He expounded on his guilt, and judged it multiplied by the painful ordeal that witnesses had to undergo during his trial. This is the same Reilly tune: same girl, different dress. Still the incessant moralizing; still the focus on person apart from sport. Only, this time, the person did something real bad. Has Reilly ever stopped to ask, "How am I part of this?" Or, stopped to wonder if the instinct to glorify athletes is not just part of the problem, but the root the problem? the much bigger problem? 

What role did Reilly, and the media at large, play in the state of Penn State? What share of blame do they deserve for cultivating a culture of athlete worship? When the media is continually romanticizing athletes and coaches in giant front page print, is it no surprise that terrible crimes would fade in the margin. How about Reilly getting out there and doing a story on some really bad guys. We want the slick feel-good story. We don't want to face human depravity in our beloved world of sport. Well, we are not being realistic; we have fallen asleep -- we’ve been asleep long enough.  Sandusky surely is a coward, but it doesn't take much courage to say that now. It does, however, take courage to point out the those cowards running around in the sporting world right now. It does take courage to remove rose colored glasses right in the middle of the The Rose Bowl and point out, while the crowd of 100,000 boos, "These roses have thorns."

What was Robert Lipsyte said of Grantland Rice might well be said of many sports writers of our day: 

[T]he writer who likens a ballplayer to Hercules or Grendel's mother is displaying the ultimate contempt — the ballplayer no longer exists as a person or a performer, but as an object, a piece of matter to be used, in this case, for the furtherance of the sportswriter's career by pandering to the emotional titillation of the reader/fan. Rice populated the press boxes with lesser talents who insisted, like the old master, that they were just sunny fellows who loved kids' games and the jolly apes who played them.
Once upon a time, Penn State seemed to stand apart from the corrupt realm of college football. Penn State did things differently. They boasted high graduation rates, and a strict moral code. Like white knights, they wore white helmets. They donned simple uniforms, without names on the back, as a throwback to a less flashy and more self-less era of sport. Penn State was sports Americana: the Andy Griffith Show of college football. Every Saturday, they took us back to a time of simple morality and innocence. Penn State was, once upon a time, the beacon of integrity and moral uprightness in college athletics: the good guys. They stood apart from the rest: from schools like Miami where flashy individualism was prized and murky ethics indulged. Penn State was not only 'the good,' but the best. Then, with a collective sigh of horror, we realized, "The good guys are the bad guys." Yet, I doubt we have, as a culture, really considered the implications of this fall from grace. The implication is that we viewed Penn State all wrong all along. We were surprised that Penn State sinned because, somewhere along the way, we forgot that all are sinners. "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." We grew blind to the reality of the twisted human condition. The feel-good sentimentalism in the sports media didn't help our blindness.

In another article, Reilly, um, chides himself for buying into the hype surrounding Joe Paterno, "What a fool I was... What an idiot I was... What a stooge I was... What a sap I was... " Huh? This is sickly affectation. A pose. The real point is -- contrary to the words on the page -- "How wise I am... how holier... how high above it all." Note the past tense, and the far away voice, "I was..." Reilly is not condemning himself; he is condemning some guy who wrote puff articles about Joe Paterno a long, long time ago. He's not taking responsibility because he is even now writing the same kind of puff, and the same kind of sentimental feel-good 'sports is great 'aint it' shtick. Oddly, he's doing the opposite of taking responsibility throughout this article; he spends most of his words blasting Paterno. Is he really really pinky swear sorry for his crimes of deifying sportsmen? Does he actually think he has some culpability in the Sandusky crimes? If so, then it stands to reason he should make some form of restitution to victims. After all, he bellows, 

I hope Penn State loses civil suits until the walls of the accounting office cave in.

I wonder how he'd feel if someone brought a civil suit against him until the office of his accountant caved in. I wonder if he'd take the same hard line. I wonder. If his preening were more sincere, it might not come to a civil suit. He might file a sort of civil suit against himself and work to help the victims at Penn State. He might file a civil suit against himself and work to write more genuinely truthful articles.

In the same article, Reilly appoints himself judge and jury of Joe Paterno:

I tweeted that, yes, Paterno should be fired, but that he was, overall, "a good and decent man." I was wrong. Good and decent men don't do what Paterno did. Good and decent men protect kids, not rapists. 

Ah, but Mr. Reilly, isn't the point of your article that you contributed to the deification of Paterno? Do good and decent men protect men who don't protect kids? You not only protected such a man, you helped exalt him to a place where he needed no protection. It seems to me the distance between you and Paterno (and me, and we, and Paterno) is closer than you think. Sure, we want to distance ourselves from this scandal so that we can maintain our moral superiority. But it is just such an outlook which shows we have very little understanding of our moral position. Reilly blames Paterno; he blames himself for not blaming Paterno; then, with sleight of hand, condemns Paterno -- but not himself. The title of his article is, "The Sins of The Father." But who promoted Paterno as "Father." Jesus advised us not to call any man, "Father." The sins of the father? What about the sins of the sons? The sins of sports media? Reilly ends his denunciation of Paterno by passively aggressively calling him a monster and suggesting he deserved to go to prison, 

I was engaging in hagiography. So was that school. So was that town. It was dangerous. Turns out it builds monsters. Not all of them ended up in prison.

He doesn't seem to get that his hagiography was instrumental in laying the foundation of this dangerous town; his hagiography contributed to the formation of a monster. He's content to float along launching condemnation on Joe Paterno from his perch of moral excellence and self-rightness. Occasionally, he'll condescend to feel a 'lil guilt about the whole thing -- but this is not a real sense of moral responsibility. It's posturing. Posing. Preening. 

It is this sort of posturing we must be done with if we desire to address the real issue of Sandusky's crimes: they are OUR crimes. WE ARE PENN STATE. Penn State is not populated by mutants in a foreign country on an alien planet. It's populated by all of us; it is our home town, "This land is OUR land."

III. True Culture Change

What happened at Penn State is a cultural problem, and we as a culture are complicit in these crimes. Do we have the courage, not only to look at Paterno, Sandusky, and Spanier, but to look at ourselves? In what kind of culture are such crimes possible? A culture that worships the athlete. A culture that idolizes coaches. Perhaps Paterno had too much power. Who gave him that power? We did. You could name 50 other coaches in the NCAA who right now, at this very moment, have the same kind of power that Paterno had -- but we hardly  blink an eye. Things have changes at Penn Sate, but things haven't changed in the larger culture; that means the more things have seemed to change, the more they've stayed the same. Take a look at Nick Saban's statue at Alabama. Here's a statue for a relatively young man who is yet in the prime of his coaching career. He's literally a living legend. We have already bronzed him for eternity. Not too long ago, there was much debate: should Paterno's statue come down? I join the debate at an earlier stage. It should have never went up. 

Now is a time for justice, and for asking difficult questions about The Culture as a whole. 

*Parents, are we more excited when our child tells the truth under difficult circumstances, or scores a touchdown under difficult circumstances? Are we more thrilled by their performance in life, or their performance in sport?

*Who/what do we cheer and value in the public arena? Athletes? Athletics? Some athletes engage in the most grotesque behavior. But if they produce on the court/field, we are quick to forget about their moral failings. The cheering doesn't stop off the field if they keep producing on the field. What are our cheers really saying about our values?

*Is winning is everything? We have a perverse sense that winning is righteous. Actually, winning is not righteous. Losing may be the more righteous outcome if, for example, the loser refuses to cheat and the winner engages in foul play. 

*Consider the steroid era in baseball that produced the home run era. The media was ever so quiet. We the people of the United States of America were ever so amused. We ALL gasped as, one by one, balls flew into the night sky -- and NOW we are outraged? NOW? We are deriding the very men we once lauded as heroes for doing exactly what we cheered for them to do. We are threatening to keep these men out of the Hall of Fame. Where was this protest during the home run extravaganza of McGwire/Sosa? Or, the home run festival that was Barry Bonds? Now, the media is ever so loud in debating whether these men should enter; we as a culture are ever so loud in our condemnation. Our outrage is about 15 years late. As for the media -- how about this?  How about instituting a rule that only those media-ites who spoke out negatively DURING the home run party of the early 2000's have the privilege of writing negatively now, 10 years later, when the party has stopped. How about instituting a rule that only those Hall of Fame voters who denounced Mcgwire, Bonds, et. al. THEN can vote against them NOW. First stone, anyone? Anyone?

*One noble public figure in sport is Tim Tebow. Yet, he is derided by sports luminaries left and right. He is mocked mercilessly across blogs and even on Saturday Night Live. Why? What's with the impulse to attack goodness? 

*"Beware the military-industrial complex," Eisenhower warned – but what about the athletic-industrial complex that is NCAA sport? For that matter, what about the athletic-industrial complex that is the NFL, NBA, and MLB? We are complaining about poverty and health care – well, Minneapolis was just blackmailed into a mega-million dollar stadium. What if that money had been used for public health care? Makes ya think, don't it? Why wasn't that money used for public health care or to cure some social ill? Why? Cause -- this hurts -- we love football more than the poor. We love football more than anything. "The poor will always be with us," we say. Meanwhile, football only lasts for a few glorious months (every year).

Grievous crimes against children were committed at Penn State. They were committed on the watch of Joe Paterno and Graham Spanier, yes. Acknowledging as much is mandatory for addressing culture change at Penn State, and redressing wrongs of past victims. But these crimes happened -- not just on the watch of Penn State leaders -- they happened on OUR watch. Acknowledging as much is mandatory for addressing culture change in America. Mandatory, also, for sparing future victims. WE ARE PENN STATE. The moment we realize this will be the moment we begin the long, but sweet, path of repentance.
I, too, belong to the twentieth century, with a twentieth century skeptical mind and sensual disposition, with the strange mixture of crazy credulity in certain directions, as for instance in science and advertising (if you happen to cast an eye through the advertisements in your colour supplements you will see displayed there a credulity which would be the envy of every witch doctor in Africa) and equally crazy skepticism... That is our twentieth century plight. Let me then, in true twentieth-century style, begin with a negative proposition—what I consider to be the ineluctable unviability and absurdity of our present way of life... (we pursue our dreams) American style; 'grinding out our appetites,' as Shakespeare so elegantly put it, ever more desperately, with physical and even moral impunity, and spiritual desolation.

- Malcolm Muggeridge, "Another King."

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Forgiveness and Consequences

by CWK

Does forgiveness wipe away consequences? What is the relationship between forgiveness and consequences? I've been ruminating on this a good deal the last few years. Below is an email exchange I had with a wise pastor friend. My original email is in lower case, and his responses are in upper case. 


I have been musing on a difficult topic for the last few months, and have seen lots of situations in ministry where this needs to be clarified. The question is this: how do we differentiate between forgiveness and consequences... or should we? For example, if an Elder sins then the congregation might certainly forgive him, but a consequence of his sin may be that he loses his office.

There are some instances where forgiveness and consequences seem to overlap. If a woman cheats on her husband, he has a Biblical right to seek divorce. However, if he ‘forgave’ her completely, then part of this forgiveness would seem to include reconciling the marriage.


Then, there are some Biblical examples where someone is forgiven, but there are certain consequences they have to live with. David’s adultery and then murder did not mean that he never was forgiven. He is able to exclaim, "“Blessed is the man whose transgressions are not held against him... (Psalm 32).” Nathan told him plainly that his sin ‘was put away (2 Samuel 12).’ However, the ‘sword never departed from his house.’ This seems to be an example where the sins were forgiven, but at the same time the consequences (discipline? punishment?) were still in effect.


I have always been told in evangelical circles that forgiveness meant the abrogation (total cancellation) of consequences. Clearly this is not valid, as the example of David shows. However, some of the consequences of our sins are certainly annulled, aren’t they?


Here is my question: is it possible to completely untangle forgiveness and consequences, and to say that they are two separate spheres entirely? Or, is there a place of mysterious overlap? 


Here is the main thing I am struggling with: forgiveness (our sins being forgotten, atoned for, washed away, etc. seems to imply in its very definition the removal of consequences. If a sin is completely forgotten, then how can it continue to have bearing on the present?


Wasting Words

by CWK

Over the years this advice from William Strunk has haunted me, in the good way:

Strunk: “Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.”

Many expressions in common use are space wasters. They add nothing to sentences. Here's my list of the most common needless space wasters:


the question as to whether/ better: whether (or the question whether)

there is no doubt but that/ better: no doubt (or doubtless)

used for fuel purposes/ better: used for fuel

he is a man who/ better: he

in a hasty manner/ better: hastily

this is a subject which/ better: this subject

His story is a strange one/ better: His story is strange.

Note: the expression “the fact that” should be purged from every sentence.

owing to the fact that/ better to say: since (because)

in spite of the fact that/ better to say: though (although)

call your attention to the fact that: better to say: remind you (notify you)

I was unaware of the fact that/ better to say: I did not know

Who is, which was, and the like are often superfluous.

His brother, who is a member of the same firm

His brother, a member of the same firm

Trafalgar, which was Nelson's last battle

Trafalgar, Nelson's last battle

Saturday, September 22, 2012

In Defense Of Jonah Lehrer

by CWK

Jonah Lehrer is an insightful young writer. I was helped much by an NPR interview he did on creativity. He approaches the world with curiosity and a willingness to receive the surprising data of our wonderful universe.

His voice rose quickly and loudly, like a rocket. Then, for a couple of years, he was everywhere: the counter-intuitive and quirky scribe of a new generation. In the last month, his rocket has crash landed amid the rubble of a litany of literary crimes. Once the 'it' boy of the New York writer-guardians of culture, he's now been exiled to the scrap heap of also-ran plagiarizers. Just moments (in media time) after clicking with the 'click,' he was thrown out on his head for misquoting Bob Dylan. For his crimes of misquoting, plagiarism, and recycling articles, he's been excommunicated and denounced.

In short, Jonah Lehrer was hastily placed on trial, and found guilty of crimes against the written word. Then, summarily sentenced to literary execution. I ask that this preceeding be declared a mistrial. Formerly, Lehrer was a defendant with no defense: with no one to defend him. I intend to defend him; I intend to plea for a stay of execution.

My defense will, first, evaluate the literary world which is evaluating Lehrer. He may be guilty, but he didn't act alone. Second, based on our universal need for mercy, I'll ask for mercy

1. The Praise Of Literary Man 

A second ago, the literati loved Lehrer. He was on NPR, writing for The New Yorker, and making The New York Times bestseller list like every single day. That's a lot of capital N's, and counts for about as much capital as any writer can build in 2012. A second later, he's out in the cold. He's the Eagle's proverbial, "New Kid In Town." This sudden turn from being so hot to so not is a testimony -- not to the value of Lehrer's voice -- but to the total lack of value in 'the praise of man.' Spurgeon said the praise of man was not worth the paper it was written on. He hated the praise of the faddish masses. Why? Because such praise is, itself, a fad. It comes quickly, and goes more quickly; you could more easily catch a gust of wind in a net than hope to capture and hold on to the praise of man. Spurgeon was wise. If we are wise, we'll realize that, in the end, what is said for/against us matters not at all: what WE SAY AND DO matters all.

“I do the very best I can, I mean to keep going. If the end brings me out all right, then what is said against me won’t matter. If I’m wrong, ten angels swearing I was right won’t make a difference.”
Bits & Pieces, April 29, 1993, p. 15-16

-- Abraham Lincoln

2. The Culture Which Cultured Lehrer

The literati ought to take a long look at themselves. I'm concerned they are too busy looking, with scorn, upon Mr. Lehrer to realize that they are the one's who made him what he is. They are the mad doctors who produced what is, at least in their eyes, a Frankenstein. In order to ship more paper, they built him up to a young genius. In order to make themselves look smart, they testified to his smartness. In order to churn unceasing content for a 24 hour internet audience, they demanded more content. This demand for fast writing, like fast food (quick, hot, and fresh) is perhaps, more than anything, what encouraged Lehrer's miscues. 

Certainly, Lehrer went along with all this. He should not have. He should have stood up in the middle of the room and said, "Stop the presses! I don't have a word to say right now!" Still, I ask, "Was anyone else willing to stop the presses?" When you get a young hot author, there's a sea of voices begging him for one more book, one more article, one more blog post. Was there anyone, even one voice in that sea, that encouraged him to take a break? Did any of his 'handlers' handle him with care? Or, did they just see him as a product? Did they just see his work as a product? It's no surprise that a man who is viewed as a product would begin to see himself -- not first of all as a writer -- but, first of all, as a producer: a sort of content-farm. It's no surprise that such a man would mass produce pages poorly researched and insubstantially footnoted. Everyone blames Lehrer for pages chock full of misquotes and recycled content. But what about his editors? Was no one fact checking his work? Was no one asking about his sources? Was no one asking where he got his material? Obviously not. But why not? I submit they cared too little for integrity-based content; they cared too much more content. They got what they wanted.

3. The Sins Of The Self-Righteous

Remember when Jesus confronted a group of self-righteous culture watchers and beckoned them, "Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone?" He's still saying that. His words are still echoing into 2012. Seriously, are those who are deriding Lehrer so spotless? In the rough and tumble world of publishing, does anyone truly have clean hands? How many writers who've chided him have made similar mistakes? How many, maybe because they were pressed with time, mailed in an article with insubstantial footnoting, and then regretted it the next day? How many have mistakenly misquoted others? How many have knowing altered quotes, even if slightly, to make a point? Or, cast quotes in fuzzy frames for effect? For crying out loud, CNN, FOX NEWS, and MSNBC spend most of their time quoting, in misleading soundbites, the news makers of the day.

Also, is the response to Lehrer really appropriate? To slap his hand, and expect a public apology, is logical. But all this shouting from the rooftops and harsh criticism seems to me, well, harsh. Does he really deserve to lose his job, publishing contract, and reputation? It's as if everything he ever wrote was recycled plagiarism. He made mistakes, yes. But that shouldn't define him. Why can't these mistakes form the beginning of a new chapter -- a chapter with more maturity -- in his literary career. I guess the literati agree that, "there are no second acts in American lives." I hope they never need a second act. I find the outcry against Lehrer extreme; he has literally been given the death penalty for stealing. We don't give the death penalty for stealing in the USA -- at least, not to anyone but writers. We'd view any culture which handed out death penalties for stealing as barbaric and unjust. Well, Lehrer has been given, in many circles, the equivalent of a literary death penalty. 

4. Something Borrowed

Shakespeare is lauded as the master craftsmen of English. He is recognized as The Great One of the English tongue. As he should be. Did you know that The Great One has been accused of plagiarism and swiping plots? I don't think he's guilty of anything more than incorporating great stories into his own stories. That's not plagiarism; that's the mark of a great artist. Actually, we all borrow from the ideas of others, and we do it non-stop every day. Yes, there is a state line that should not be crossed between innocently borrowing and maliciously stealing from other's work. But none of us live across the country from that line; we live on the line. Many of our best ideas are the ideas of others; our best words are often quotes reformed in our 'own words.' Our best stories are the echoes of Homer, Plato, Aesop, Bunyan, Shakespeare, and Austen. Our best ideas were inherited, as a gift, from previous generations. Our best lines are borrowed. Usually, this borrowing takes place without malice or an intentional desire to steal. Regardless, we borrow all the time. This is a good reminder for anyone who lauds absolute originality, or would try and hold Lehrer to such a standard.

5. A Plea For Mercy
These times are so uncertain;There's a yearning undefined,And people filled with rage.We all need a little tendernessHow can love survive in such a graceless age?And the trust and self-assurance that lead to happiness,They're the very things we kill, I guess.Pride and competition cannot fill these empty armsAnd the work they put between us,You know it doesn't keep us warm
- The Heart of the Matter, Don Henley

I could make a plea for mercy based on the merits of Jonah Lehrer. Despite his flaws, he's young, and he'll surely mature. Despite his mistakes, he's a gifted writer with a future. I could make my plea based on Lehrer's merit. Instead, I'll make my plea for mercy based on the demerits of his critics. Lehrer is not the only one who needs mercy. We all need mercy, and the critics of Lehrer need it as much as him, and perhaps more (critics generally need MORE mercy). What writer, on the face of the globe, can honestly stand up today and say they don't need forgiveness for some of their words? Words written in anger? In a fast folly? Words ill-conceived? or, poorly executed? To those who are even now showing no mercy -- I hope you never need mercy. Even more, I hope you realize how much you also need mercy.


“Blessed are the merciful,” that is, those persons who do not take to heart any injuries that are done them, any insults, intended or unintended. A certain governor of Georgia, in Mr. Wesley’s day, said that he would have his servant on board his vessel flogged for drinking his wine. And when Mr. Wesley entreated that the man might be pardoned on that occasion, the governor said, “It is no use, Mr. Wesley, you know, Sir, I never forgive.” “Well, then, Sir,” said Mr. Wesley, “I hope you know that you will never be forgiven, or else I hope that you have never sinned.”

From Charles Spurgeon's sermon, The Fifth Beatitude.


What’s notable about what happened to Mr. Lehrer is what never happened to Mr. Dylan.
“Chronicles” mimicked a candid autobiography even as it broke every rule of fact-based writing, and he was rewarded with sterling reviews and a new six-book deal in 2011 at Simon & Schuster — also my publisher.
What’s the difference? Surely, part of it was that Mr. Lehrer was working in nonfiction rather than memoir, where scenes and dialogue are understood to be reconstructed from memory rather than from rigorous reporting. But even in memoir there are limits to how far reality can be stretched for the sake of the story, as James Frey, the author of “A Million Little Pieces,” learned.
Mr. Dylan got a longer leash with “Chronicles.” He filled it with knowing winks and nods to its unreliability, and anyone who didn’t know that he’d play around with his story hadn’t been paying attention. This was a man for whom the first pseudonym gave way to many more: Blind Boy Grunt, Tedham Porterhouse, Lucky and Jack Frost.
When Mr. Dylan arrived in Greenwich Village at 19, he talked all sorts of jive about where he had been and what he had done. He invented an entire persona, and fed it even to the paper of record, The New York Times.
For the past decade, a great debate has been boiling about the authenticity of Mr. Dylan’s work. The liner notes read, “All songs written by Bob Dylan,” but listeners were finding in the lyrics bits of Virgil and Ovid and Henry Rollins. They tended to take the appropriations in stride when it was confined to the records. But it made some people a bit more uncomfortable when a pair of sleuths — Scott Warmuth, a record collector and disc jockey, and Edward Cook, a scholar at the Catholic University of America — uncovered similar, seemingly systematic borrowings in “Chronicles.”

From David Kinney, "Freewheelin’: Bob Dylan, Jonah Lehrer and the Truth."

A Good Read(er)

by CWK

Here's a selection of quotes on how to read aloud for others. I'm indebted to Bryan Chapell's article, "The Incarnate Voice," for pointing out the quotes, and shaping my ideas on this subject.

So, what makes for a good reader? See the quotes below for the long answer. Here's the short answer: A good public reader is one who reads with comprehension in their own unique voice in way faithful to the author's voice.


"To read well is a rare accomplishment.  It is much more common to excel in singing or in public speaking.  Good preachers are numerous compared with good readers.  The requisites to good reading are several.  First, one must have great quickness of apprehension . . . ."

-- John A. Broadus, On the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons, rev. ed. Jesse B. Weatherspoon (Hodder and Stoughton, 1944), 360.

"The reader needs to understand that it is not he that is speaking, but the selection... 
"It is not the reader's task to alter or embellish the selection but rather to restrict himself to the content of the selection as it is actually expressed.”

-- Harold A. Brack, Effective Oral Interpretation for Religious Leaders (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1964), 16. 

They write, "The ideal of the interpreter should be to do what the writer would do if he were a competent speaker and could meet face to face in conversation those who are to read what he writes."

-- C. H. Woolbert and S.E. Nelson, The Art of Interpretive Speech (New York : F.S. Crofts, 1929), 19. 

It is not, indeed, desirable that in reading the Bible, for example, or anything which is not intended to appear as his [i.e., the reader's] own composition, he should deliver what are, avowedly, another's sentiments in the same style, as if they were such as arose in his own mind; but it is desirable that he should deliver them as if he were reporting another's sentiments, which were both fully understood, and felt in all their force by the reporter . . . .

-- Harold A. Brack, Effective Oral Interpretation for Religious Leaders (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1964), 16. 

Do not strive to impersonate the author . . . . As a reader you are an interpreter speaking the thoughts of the author and recreating his moods; but you speak as yourself, with your own identity, just as you sing music that some other person has composed ... Your interpretation of the passage may be different from that of someone else . . . .  You even have the privilege of interpreting the same material differently at different times . . . provided you do not distort the intended meaning of the author. 

-- Lantz

Check out the article that inspired this post:

Bryan Chapell, The Incarnate Voice: An Exhortation for Excellence in the Oral Reading of ScripturePresbyterion 14: 42-57 (1988).

More On Being Concise

‎"A poet knows he has achieved perfection not when there is

nothing left to add but when there is nothing left to take 

away." - Leonardo da Vinci

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Hunted Hunter

by CWK

Being one who for life yearns --
imagine the surprise in my eyes,
when at first I learned
that I was being hunted and stalked
like a senseless beast.
Imagine my alarm, my grief.
Everywhere I walked
cross-hairs were 'pon me trained,
in malice maintained,
with hardly a second of rest or relief.

I was hunted with prejudice extreme:
pondered like a faceless theme.
Regarded, a curiosity, unrare.
Hunted here, and there:
hunted everywhere.
I would not say that I was scared,
but I grew wary.
And I it behooved me
to become aware, very aware.

Being one who for life yearns --
I was startled when first I learned
that with every step and breath
I was hunted: hunted, by Death.

Hence, I've made a grave decision:
I will not recline with passive permission.
Being pursued by a Reaper Grim,
I will not sit and wait for him.
Being hunted, I will a hunter be,
and hunt him who hunts me.

Some men welcome the grave;
others demur to be saved.
Not I.
If I am hunted by death,
then death I will hunt in reply.
I will not go quietly into night;
I will not collapse at the last with rust.
I will chase my pursuer in the night,
and across the final dawn.
And he, or I, or both of us
will feel the steel of sword drawn.

I may, alas, a sporting repast, die.
Thence, come to final, fateful, demise.
I may fade like wet ink on a page.
-- but not before Death feels my rage.

Then, even when overtaken,
I will not be shaken.
Even then, I've not said my peace.
I will not lie forever in hallow ground;
I'll be back around.
At the resurrection of the righteous,
I will rise.
Death, you are strong, and grave, and grim,
-- but you cannot hold him
who holds me!
On that day, I will shout aloud:
"Death where is your victory!?
O, Death, be not proud."

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Resistance

by CWK

You walk by them in the street every day. You may work with them. You see them at the mall. You see them at the bookstore. You overhear them in coffee shops talking, and their voices blend with the chatter; albeit, there is a certain something in their voices. You may know one, and hardly know it. It doesn't take one to know one, but they have an uncanny knack of knowing each other. Yet, they don't stand out. More often, they stand in. They stand up. They carry, perhaps, slightly more conviction in their voice than most. And, should you engage them in conversation, you may find their views antiquated, but you will find their demeanor gracious.

Their social circles make little sense; sociologists find it near impossible to track them. In their circles, they have deep relationships and speak much of integrity; they are thick as thieves. Often, they are thick with thieves, though they deplore thievery. They seem to take in anyone. They'll just as soon cast their lot with the outcast as the in crowd.

Their political views are hard to describe; they are staunch believers in Republicanism; they sympathize with democracy. Yet, they disavow the political labels 'republican' and 'democrat.' They seem to have political views which transcend parties: which transcend partiality. They don't dress a certain way; they are not fashion forward. If anything, they are fashion backward. They don't have a certain accent. They come in all shapes and sizes, with multitudes of skin tones. They are hard to identify on external appearance alone; passing hard. They are hard to find, even harder to catch; almost impossible to keep in captivity -- and yet they seem to be everywhere. They seem to be slowly, but surely, multiplying. Regimes have tried to wipe them out by spilling their blood; their blood spilled has a strange effect. Their blood spilled is seed-like; once germinated with their words, weed-like. The more of them you kill, the more of them there are. The more they die, the more they seem to live.

Historically speaking, they are a conundrum wrapped in a blanket of fog. Some of their best known men were leaders of the scientific revolution. At present, however, they are persona non grata in many Western scientific academies. Yet, many of them fill important posts in the world of science still. They have produced many of the world's great philosophers; yet, if anything, their reputation resides just below fool. They have been derided as uneducated and backward across history. Still, there is this mystery: they have been the champions of education, and produced such men as have educated the world.

They are the resistance. They are the insurgency. They are the modern day underground. Call them what you will. They have been called many things, most nasty. At times, they are oxymoronic, almost contradictory: this is another reason why it is hard to spot them. They are counter-culture, but cultured; they care about art, and music, and beauty. They believe in justice, but liberally practice mercy. They detest Planned Parenthood, but their youth all plan to be parents; they have an uncommon value of motherhood. They distrust feminism, but laud femininity. Their men distrust men, in general, and especially themselves -- but they are always talking about manhood, and masculinity. Yet, they are not skeptical; they live by faith. Among them it has been reported that they even believe in marriage. Some, I'm told, stay married for years on end: 5, 10, even 15 (or more!) years. It is reported that among them they believe in marriage for life.

If there is one distinguishing characteristic among their kind, it is their terminology. You will notice they use out of print words such as 'patriarchy,' 'family,' 'generational,' 'courtship,' and 'grace.' But, they use the most used words less than most: the word love is especially sacred to them, and sometime whispered (pay attention for this) in hushed tones.

Call them revolutionaries; call them rebels. Call them the underground: the insurgency resurgent. Call them what you will; still, you never even called them by their name. They call themselves Christians.

Mind-Boggling Discrimination On Craigslist

by Ricardo Espanol Savage

If you would like to advertise a housing opening on Craigslist, get ready for bizarro discrimination. For would be housing ad's, Craigslist has this to say:
  • you can be fined more than $10,000 for each discriminatory ad, plus damages in court, plus loss of license if you are a professional
  • avoid phrases which could be interpreted as discriminating by race/color/origin (e.g. 'hispanic area'), religion (e.g. 'christian home'), age / familial status (e.g. 'no kids' or 'ideal for single/couple'), disability, or sexual orientation
  • the words you choose can cost you - get the facts and avoid being prosecuted under fair housing law
Are you scared after reading this? Shaking? Terrified? You shouldn't be, but there's no doubt, that's the perlocution. This is a fear tactic. You could be fined 10,000! Plus damages in court! Plus loss of professional license! Put your hands up 'cause, "the words you choose can cost you." So, let me get this right Mr. Craig List -- one errant ad upon thy site could ruin me for life? Is that what you are saying? 

My standard response to fear tactics is to have no fear. The words I choose can cost me, huh? Cost me what, exactly, pray tell? I can be fined? Does Craigslist have the authority to fine me 10 grand? Nope. "Avoid phrases..." Who says so? 

Ladies and Gentleman, I present to you a discriminatory ad aimed at, um, discrimination. Here is the catch 22 of the hyper PC world. You can't speak against discrimination without discriminating. Craigslist is, first of all, discriminating against people who discriminate. If they really thought any and all discrimination were deplorable they'd just skip this passive aggressive warning. Actually, I believe something more insidious is at work. I believe Craigslist is discriminating against people who don't share their worldview, and especially Christians. Why do they specifically state that a good example of discrimination would be the tagline, "christian home"? Did they just pull that out of a hat? Also, what's wrong with saying, "hispanic area"? What should one say if, for example, they lived in an hispanic area? Is it evil to live in an hispanic area? Is Craiglist against hispanics congregating in certain parts of town? Is Craigslist... dare I say it... racist? 

Go ahead and laugh cause that was a joke, but here's the heavy: this warning is incredibly, even if oddly, racist. For one, Craigslist is picking out (discriminating toward!!!) hispanics as an example of someone who would post a racist ad.  This is certainly an example of racism that comes from a lack of self-awareness -- but don't give Mr. Craig List a pass too quickly. All racism involves a lack of self awareness. All racism involves a sense that everyone is/should be LIKE ME. Racism is, ironically, a lack of discrimination concerning the differences between me/the world. In this case, Craigslist assumes that the whole world shares their postmodern values. Craigslist should do a little more discriminating if they want to avoid discrimination. 

Which brings us to a crucial truth: not all discrimination is bad. To discriminate involves, according to Mr. Webster,

"the quality or power

of finely distinguishing."

Discrimination is not, in itself, a bad thing. In much of life discrimination is mandatory for healthy living. You discriminate between rat poison and Cocoa Puffs. You discriminate between wise/foolish decisions. You discriminate between good/bad causes. You choose one career, not another. One wife, not another. If you are wise, you discriminate among potential friends. You certainly should discriminate between men/women when entering the world of courtship. You know what we call a man who enters freely, with no discrimination, into amorous relationships? Probably not. You know what we such a woman? Yeah, you know. 

And, when it comes to discrimination, you should most certainly discriminate between/among potential housemates. What else makes for happiness as much as your living companions? Ever had a bad roommate? The guy in college who stayed up all night blaring heavy metal and staring at you while you slept? What are you looking for in a potential housemate? Someone likeminded. Someone kind and considerate. Someone responsible. Someone who shares your values. If you are not looking for these things get ready for a slew of fights/misunderstandings/anxiety; get ready for MTV's Real World to invade your world. Discrimination is not, in itself, evil. It is good. Failure to grasp this is why Craigslist enters into strange hypocrisy. They don't get that some basic level of discrimination is necessary. Hence, they list this warning which is, in itself, filled with discrimination. 

In any case, I took offence to Craigslist's warning; I "interpreted it as discrimination." So, I went on over to HUD and filed a 903 complaint against Craigslist. It took about 5 minutes. 

This is what I wrote:

I wanted to list a housing opportunity on Craigslist. I am a Christian, and my religion specifically states that I am prohibited from entering into compromising relationships with non-Christians: "Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers." Craigslist discriminated against me by not allowing me to list an appropriate ad on their website. They also threatened to extort $10,000 from me, and warned, in a passive aggressive voice, "your words could cost you." They made empty threats about court costs and frightening legal ramifications. They do not have the power or authority to publish these threats. They also specifically discriminated against me as a Christian with the following: "avoid phrases which could be interpreted as discriminating by race/color/origin... religion (e.g. 'christian home'). Why am I singled out and discriminated against as a Christian. Why is my religion singled out as the example phrase of a bigot? 
Be careful, Craigslist. You should avoid phrases like "christian home," and "hispanic area." These could be interpreted as discriminating against race and religion. Watch out! You could be fined more than $10,000, not to mention a boat load of legal fees and court costs, and damages -- oh, not be me. HUD is the one who does all the fining and sheriffing in these parts.

Be careful Craigslist, as you have often said to me, and the world, "your words could cost you."

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Reading A-Loudly

"Few persons realize the great value of reading aloud. Many of the foremost English stylists devoted a certain period regularly to this practise. Cardinal Newman read aloud each day a chapter from Cicero as a means of developing his ear for sentence-rhythm. Rufus Choate, in order to increase his command of language, and to avoid sinking into mere empty fluency, read aloud daily, during a large part of his life, a page or more from some great English author. As a writer has said, "The practise of storing the mind with choice passages from the best prose writers and poets, and thus flavoring it with the essence of good literatures, is one which is commended both by the best teachers and by the example of some of the most celebrated orators, who have adopted it with signal success."

From -- Kleiser, Grenville (2011-03-24). Fifteen Thousand Useful Phrases A Practical Handbook Of Pertinent Expressions, Striking Similes, Literary, Commercial, Conversational, And Oratorical Terms (Kindle Locations 146-151). 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

New Songs -- Torn Wineskins

New songs flow from torn wineskins –
tonight my heart is torn again…
So here’s a song that begins
when all my world has come to ends.

— were you The One?
I thought and dreamed you were.
I hope, believed; it seemed you were.
Of you, I was unworthy; of us, determined
 – only of myself uncertain.
And then – the crash, the fall, the pain, and all;
and, all in all, there’s nothing left or certain.
And there’s no one left to call
– except the curtain.

This is loss without the gain; too small was I
to reach so high.
I reached for skies, with sighs, now vain;
Too false was I to tell a lie;
too hurt to even feel my pain.
Forgive me, when well met, I felt myself unwell.
I felt so weak; so unengaged; so very not myself.
My wings clipped; my heart caged,
I felt too tired to be enraged;
now all the world’s a play without a stage;
a heaven where no angels dwell;
a book without a word or page.