First written 8/13/16
Time to recalibrate on my reading. I just restarted Susan Pinker’s The Village Effect. It reviews the work on face-to-face contact. In language teaching, this has been one of my recurrent themes, that the brain processes input as intake with face-to-face contact. Some on a listserv objected, reminding me that blind people learn to speak. My skepticism makes me wonder if they are saying this to prod us all to look deeper into the connection between human contact and language acquisition or to just return to their power points automated to allow them to sit behind their computers and avoid contact with messy students.
I have also restarted Our Kids, a book about the unraveling of social cohesion in the country by a classmate of mine who takes his research team to our hometown of Port Clinton, Ohio. Recently I talked to my cousin, 10 years older than me at 84 (I’ll be 75 at the end of this month, just for purposes of perspective), who knows a lot more about the town than I do. It offers a perspective also, one from which to gauge better what Putnam, the author, is saying. It also provides readers of my blog an opportunity to judge just how much of small town America I really know, i.e. just how typical of small town America Port Clinton is and was. Putnam points out it is a true bell whether, being the county seat of the bell whether county in the bell whether state of Ohio. I did not know that.
I’ve just finished Obama’s two books on the provocation of someone who said he lays out his socialist plan for America in these books. No socialist plan. And how anyone could consider Obama a socialist is beyond me, except…………. it is the mindset of conservatives that if they don’t get everything they want, then they have nothing. It goes back, in my mind, to religion: there’s a song in the church my wife grew up in: 991/2 (%) Won’t Do, meaning it is all or nothing. So apparently, despite Obama’s two elections by wide margins at the hands of the American people, his installation of universal health care not only approved of by a majority of citizens but in line with every other advanced country, and his continuing high approval ratings simply are proof that the Communists have taken over and are running America. You cannot penetrate people who think (?) like that. The figures on low crime and low illegal immigration rates are made up by Communist agents in the government. It is all so simple.
Well, enough of politics, at least for the next five minutes. I bought a book on Urdu poetry that is a pillar of scholarship on the subject in English. Ralph Russell was a major scholar of Urdu among British scholars and was a life-long Communist – see? We Liberals recognize that some people are/were Communists, we’re not hiding the fact out of political correctness. I am very happy to have the book and have read the introduction by Annemarie Schimmel, the late dean of Indo-Islamic studies. Despite being the first non-Muslim and first woman to teach theology in the university in Ankara, she remained a devout Lutheran her whole life. I value the introduction b/c she sketched out nicely the difference between Eastern and Western values in mastering an art form: specifically in poetry, the Westerner values personal expression and innovation while the Easterner values mastery of the form as bequeathed by past master, adding his own touch in the most subtle ways. Fascinating to me to see someone so immersed in another culture as to be able to enlighten those of us in the Western tradition.
A quick mention that really belongs in my Personal Language Learning category: I discovered a book of readings in Urdu that will serve me much better than Barker’s Urdu Newspaper Reader b/c the font is much bigger and clearer, a major issue for me, and the readings are intrinsically interesting, a major impetus to keep me reading.
The Pinker book is proving very enlightening and provocative. The Urdu book is fantastic for me – right at my level so as to reinforce my language and yet introduce new words and some grammatical quirks of the language. Fun to read stories written by masters of the craft. And I’m in deep with the Akata Witch I mentioned earlier. Good day today – washed my wife’s giant car and will mop the floor; no exercise b/c I’ve been hitting it real hard and my poor little body needs a day to recuperate.
Update to current reading
First written 8/13/16