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C-Notes, Part 1
Assorted thoughts in 100 words or less

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JULY 4, 2002:

Popular singers of "America the Beautiful"  add words that turn the refrain into a declarative sentence:  "America, America, you know God shed his grace on thee, yes he did!"

In reality, it's a prayer:  "May God shed his grace on thee."

The difference matters.  If God has already shed his grace on us, we can arrogantly claim that as his favored people, all our actions have God's blessing.  But if we admit we still need his grace, we are less self-righteous, more humble.

America, purple mountain majesties are not enough.  Thy good still needs to be crowned with brotherhood.


MAY 30, 2002:

What should be the relationship, if any, between the test scores of a public school's students and the amount of state funding for that school?

Conservatives would say direct:  good schools should be rewarded with more funds, so weak schools will have an incentive to try harder or go out of business.  It's the market principle.

Liberals would say inverse:  weak schools should get more funds because they need more help.

I would suggest that the money should go where it's most needed, regardless of test scores.


DECEMBER 25, 2001:

Your money is no good here is a sentence I've never heard in real life, only in movies.  It apparently means "because we like you, we aren't going to charge you; everything's on the house."

But it sounds more sinister to me.  In my imagination, I fear it means "because we don't like you, we spit on your money.  We refuse to serve you, no matter how much you give us.  Your cash, your credit card, the promise of your firstborn — no offer would be good enough to get you any service from us."

Am I paranoid?


SEPTEMBER 15, 2001:

Scholars discuss differences in versions of Shakespeare's plays, First Quarto versus Second Quarto versus First Folio.  In preparing this website, I've experienced what they're talking about.

For "The Sorcerer's Effects," I have my "foul papers" (a pencil draft in a notebook), my "fair papers" (a typed performance script), and even a recording of a performance.  All differ in details.  As folio editor, I can choose whichever version of a line that I now think works best.  I even trimmed a phrase for pacing and ditched the original title.

It's not Shakespeare, but I now understand more about Shakespearean editions.


DECEMBER 21, 2001:

If newscasters don't pay attention when they read their copy aloud, they can get the emphasis wrong.  David Brinkley used to underline the words that he needed to stress.  This is especially important in sports.

Copy might be intended this way: "The Bears beat the Browns 21-14 that year, then lost to Cleveland twenty-one to three in two thousand one."

From the lips of an inattentive reader, it could come out like this:  "The Bears beat the Browns 21-14 that year, then lost to Cleveland twenty-one to three in 2001."  The listener wouldn't get it.


1963 OR 1964:

The ancient philosophers said, "God created the heavens and the earth.  How else could it possibly have been?"

The 20th-century cosmogonists say, "The universe was created in a great explosion.  Of course, God was behind it all.  We can't really know what His purpose was — or is."

As we learn more, we become more uncertain of God's role, and of the future of this suicidal human race on Earth.  And we find that science is advancing beyond the human capacity to use the knowledge we have.

As it is said, "Heaven help us."


1965 OR 1966:

Eighty people were in the classroom for Physics I when the bell rang to end the class period.  The instructor finished up, "We assume that the total internal torque is zero.  —Bill Hedges, you're falling asleep just at the most important point of the lecture.  Just when you're about to leave."


MAY 30, 2002:

Elsewhere, I've distinguished between personal prayer, one-on-one between a person and God, and public prayer, ostensibly addressed to God but really meant to be heard by the people.  In a public prayer, "God, let us not forget" really means, "People, do not forget."

The corollary:  when fundamentalists argue for prayer in schools, they don't mean personal prayer.  There's no rule against that.  What they want is public prayer so they can pretend to talk to God but actually preach to the people, using so-called prayer to tout their beliefs and to proselytize others to their cause.


DECEMBER 25, 2001:

Corporations that make up names for themselves need to choose names with obvious pronunciations.

I think the first syllable of the media firm Viacom rhymes with "buy," but I've heard newscasters rhyme it with "bee."

And for a while there was a corporation called Allegis.  It apparently failed because nobody knew whether it was a takeoff on "allegiance" or "allegro," or perhaps "alleged."


MAY 7, 2002:

It's tough to get publicity in Los Angeles.

I used to travel with the WWF, whose presence for major events was front-page news in Toronto and most other cities.  But Wrestlemania VII, held March 24, 1991, in L.A., was not even mentioned in the Los Angeles Times.  They were more interested in speculation about that year's Oscars.

I also worked the 2002 NCAA men's volleyball final, held at Penn State.  One team was Hawaii; both Honolulu newspapers sent beat writers to cover the event.  The other team was Pepperdine, located in Malibu; not one Southern California reporter made the trip.


JUNE 4, 2002:

Evidently, everyone except me took a college course in psychology.  Terms like passive-aggressive or anal-retentive come up in conversation, but it's not obvious what they mean (especially the latter, derived from outdated Freudian theorizing).  And you can't find them in the dictionary!

I had to do some Internet digging to discover that passive-aggressive refers to "negative attitudes and passive resistance to demands for adequate performance," while anal-retentive describes "compulsive cleanliness or orderliness."

Wouldn't it be better to use non-technical terms like sullen and fussy?


JULY 4, 2002:

At age 7, I explained to my parakeet how lucky we were to live in Ohio.  Among the state's virtues:  its geographical shape resembles that of the entire nation.

My mother overheard and asked where I got that idea.  Well, had I not been taught that state highway route signs were shaped like Ohio?  U.S. route signs must be shaped like the U.S., therefore.  And note the similarity!

This was my first lesson on how reasoning from analogy can lead to mistaken conclusions.


JULY 26, 2002:

I subscribe to many periodicals and don't always manage to read them all.  Eventually, I have to clear the stacks off my tabletops.

But I can't bear to throw away an unread or partially read magazine.  So I file them in boxes, labeled by month.  I consciously delude myself that I will peruse the July box over the winter.

Next summer, when I need space in the July box, I'll take out the year-old magazines that have been sitting there untouched for twelve months and, without regrets, discard almost all of them.  I'm amazed this self-deception works so well.



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