28 September, 2007

Accent of a Mainuh

Inspired both by the realization that while I don't have a Maine accent, my speech features much idiosyncratic "Maine vocabulary", as well as by my ever-present fascination with linguistics, I've been reading up on the Maine accent a lot lately.

Among other things, I've found that one of my private theories about the origins of the accent is actually generally held in linguistic circles. This theory is one that I've expounded on at length to many people, but I'll summarize it again here: the dialectic traits of the Maine accent seem to draw more directly from features of colloquial British English. The primary similarity lies in the common predominance of "R-drop phonetics", although the ways the vowels surrounding these dropped "r"s are pronounced vary considerably between the two types of dialect.

Here's a neat article I found. Not the most scholarly article(in the sense that it doesn't talk a lot about rhotic tendencies in dialects, or nasal vowels, etc) but a good analysis and fun to read.

The Maine accent is nothing short of fascinating, if you ask me. It would also probably be a field day for someone studying linguistic origins in America, since every town seems to have very slight variations on the accent. In some of the more isolated areas, people came over from England back in the 1700s and have been fairly insulated against population ingress over the last 3 centuries, so their accent is almost closer to the proletarian British accents than to standard American.

This, of course, is mostly limited to very rural areas, and even in such places the accent is disappearing faster now than ever before, as more rural areas fall victim to sprawl and artists and such from away (another very Maine expression) take up residence and "dilute" the accent, if you will. The more standard "New England accent" or "Boston accent" is observable both in the city of Portland and in points south towards New Hampshire and Boston, though the majority of people, even those who grew up in this area like myself, speak basically the same as the news anchors on CNN.

Obviously, I can't really explain the mechanics of an accent via the internet. A good way to get in the frame of reference for trying imitate this accent, however, is to pronounce the word "mash" as most Americans would pronounce it, but imagine that you are actually referring to a marsh, that is, a piece of wet, swampy land, when you say it. Now, while you're in this mode, imagine your lobster boat has been grounded on the dock for repairs, and your 400 hp Evinrude outboard motor has just toppled out of the engine well and into the brine beneath. Now, contort your face ever so slightly and say "Well, hadn' counted on that now..." Some accents are easy to recreate (like the Brooklyn accent), but this one is near impossible to pin down.

There's also a store in Portland (where, of course, this accent is virtually nonexistent) called "Queen of Hats". The store sells hats. Do you get the joke yet? Well, I think saying downeast Mainers would pronounce "heart" the way more Americans would pronounce "hat" is a bit of a stretch. They would probably hit the "r", especially in places where the accent is bit more rhotic.

-From Everything2.com

27 September, 2007

Life is good...

Because books like "The Iliad" and "Shadows of Ecstasy" exist.

Homer is such a brilliant poet. I can hardly read certain chapters of "The Iliad" without getting caught up in the emotions of the world he depicts, foreign and even hostile as it is in comparison to ours. Isn't it perfectly absurd that I can both love AND hate Hektor, Achilleus, Odysseus and others? It's so easy to condemn them for their brutality: the apparent selfishness of their ends, the undeniable brutality of the means the utilize at times.

At the same time, there is something about their motives and misunderstandings and seeming helplessness before the gods which evokes a profound sympathy. It is a sympathy which can almost move me to admiration at times. The Achaians and Trojans are all mortal. Despite their godlikeness, there is still an insurmountable divide between the hero and the divine. The will of the gods and the decrees of fate can seem inescapable.

We know from the beginning of the book that Achilleus is fated to die in this war. We know that Troy will fall. We know that Sarpedon, the glorious son of Zeus, will be deliberately sacrificed by his father to achieve "higher ends". But the real heroes among mortals, despite their seeming weakness in the face of fate, don't just lie back and let their fate come to them. Agamemnon and many others lie back and blame their contentiousness or mistakes routinely on the "will of the gods". For the real heroes, this is not the only course, although the gods do have a role in things. Fate may be inescapable in the large scheme of things, but in the meantime, it can be met head on.

Sarpedon seems also to have some foreshadowing of his impending death - he meets it head on, however, saying effectively that although none of them is able to escape death, they can at least meet it with honour. Hektor will go out and fight for Troy even foreseeing its doom - he will even at times relapse into hope: perhaps this time, Troy's destruction might be forestalled. Achilleus is the best example of all. He, if any, has the opportunity to escape his fate. Rather, he has a "double fate": he could go home; he could die of old age, but live for all those years in obscurity. Through his anger and abandonment of the fight, this almost becomes his fate in fact. But with the death of Patroklos, he is awakened to a new sense of honour. This sense clearly indicates his duty to reenter the fight and the necessity of his acceptance of his alternate fate - the fate which will bring about his death in the war.

I don't have any clear ideas about the definite relationship between fate, the gods' wills and human choice. I guess that at the end of all this rambling my point is pretty simple. The heroism of these characters is, in my opinion, most clearly seen through their refusal to be caught in the dictatorship of fate. While no character is able to totally manipulate his own fate, while this fate is in some senses inescapable, the hero can to an extent determine how he will face this fate. Will he bow to it subserviently, or will he accept it boldly and with the truest manifestation of honour?

Hahaha... more questions! And they can't be conclusively answered! Gosh, do I love literature!

25 September, 2007

Not to sound totally illiterate...

Actually, I don't think I'll be writing for the newspaper anymore after all. I just got my second article published, looked it over, almost died at the horrendous-ness and inconsistencies of my writing as compared to my usual style, and then went to compare the published version to my original draft.

The editors killed it. The published version makes me look totally illiterate and un-schooled in the use of proper transitional sentences. Essentially, it makes me sound like a totally spastic person with the attention span of a gecko on caffeine.

The paragraphs jump about with no connection whatsoever, and my good grammar is sacrificed for the sake of space. Blech. The result is totally revolting. It's not a question of writer's hubris, or anything. I don't mind editing of a beneficial kind. I know jolly well that my writing needs editing often enough! But when aforesaid editing makes me come off as totally illiterate, I must object. So, I think that's enough of that, as much as I enjoy writing newspaper articles.... I don't want my reputation completely spoiled.

24 September, 2007

I just got it!

I feel disgustingly triumphant at the moment. I was randomly reading Shadows of Ecstasy by Charles Williams (in what was unequivocally my spare time) and a watershed of realizations about Dante's Divine Comedy hit me all of a sudden.

This was provoked by the single quote, "that strange identification of Beatrice with Theology". It's amazing how much an appropriate line, read at the right time, can clarify and enrich an entire work of literature. I had had some hazy comprehension of this interpretation back when I was first reading it, but the ramifications of this simple "identification" never seemed this clear before.

I don't remember enough about the epic to back up my general ideas with a profusion of specific examples. But I do remember what is probably the most widely-known fact about the poem, namely, Beatrice's and Virgil's respective roles as Dante's guides throughout the afterlife.

In the arduous journey through hell Dante's guide is Virgil - a virtuous pagan who can nonetheless not move out of the outer (non-punishing) circle of hell. Virgil, who has been guided only by human reason in his pursuit of virtue throughout life, can only take Dante so far. He can discover through reason the necessity of punishment for those who are wicked on earth. The justice of hell is comprehensible and clear to Virgil's mind, as is the punishment in Purgatory.

Mercy is not so apparently comprehensible. Theology - the study of God and His relation to the world - presupposes revelation, and it is this Theology in the form of Beatrice, that reveals to Dante the beauty of a mercy which cannot be understood by unaided reason. Beatrice must show Dante the intended relation of mankind to God, a relation that culminates in an intimacy with the perfection of the very virtue which Virgil so consistently sought.

This development could go far beyond this; I'm only barely scratching the surface here. I can't wait to re-read the Comedy for my literature class.

21 September, 2007


Like any good college student, I'm reading the Iliad for my first literature class. I'm getting far more out of it than I ever did at 14, and I'm genuinely enjoying it now. The poetry of Lattimore's translation is much easier to appreciate now, as are small details such as Hektor's laughter when playing with his son, Zeus' constant fear of Hera, etc. I also am beginning to see the story for what it says as well (although I stick to my opinion that you should read every book you are going to study at least once as a pure story before going ahead and tearing into it deeply). What strikes me most in this reading is the emphasis on the tension between immortality and mortality, between heroism and common destiny for death.

In the Iliad, one is heroic by winning glory, for the purposes of immortalizing one's name. There is a constant tension between immortality and mortality; the gods and the humans. Heroes can attain to a form of "godlikeness"; they can overawe other men and supersede standards set for "mere humans". They can even defy their mortality for a while with acts which bring glory. But they are mortal nonetheless, and cannot attain too far towards the status of the gods without becoming hubristic.

Book 5 of the epic brings up some interesting points along this line. At this point, the warrior Diomedes is coming into his own as a hero. Athene, towards the opening of the book, "takes the mist away from his eyes" so that he can distinguish between god and mortal, and not mistakenly fight a being too strong for him. Intriguingly enough, this image of mist in the eyes usually refers to those who are dying. When Athene removes the mist from the Diomedes' eyes, she is, I believe, removing some part of the shroud of mortality and giving the hero a glimpse into the realm of the gods.

With this power, Diomedes is not only able to avoid the gods when he needs to. At times, with Athene's approval, he even dares to face other gods in battle: he stabs Aphrodite, and wounds even the strong god of war, Ares. Yet Athene's help is crucial here.

When Aphrodite returns to Olympus with her wound, her mother comforts her with he dire prediction: "the heart of Tydeus' son knows nothing of how that man who fights the immortals lives for no long time." (5.407) It becomes clearer that only Athene's help keeps Diomedes' daring from becoming pure hubris when Apollo warns the hero away. "Take care, give back, son of Tydeus, and strive no longer / to make yourself like the gods in mind, since never the same is / the breed of gods, who are immortal, and men who walk groundling." (5.440)

Man's heroism can only go so far in likening him to the immortals. There is the hard fact of his mortality underlying all the glory, all the grandeur, and all the godlike appearance of a hero.

19 September, 2007


My article was published!!!

Not that it's a huge achievement or anything, but it feels pretty darn good to have something in print. Since the article was written in 15 minutes, it's not my best work. Nonetheless, it's serviceable. The printed edition includes a slight grammatical error which I'm pretty sure I didn't make - an "s" is left off the end of a word - but it's not overly noticeable.

Now I've been given an assignment to write an article on the University Library. This assignment is only too perfect, because - well - I happen to work there. Hehehehe. Not to mention the fact that if I work at one, I tend to research its history and methods of running obsessively.

15 September, 2007

Journalism - the fun side

So, this Friday marks the end of my second week here at the University. I'm getting much more oriented about the campus, and I've also started writing for the newspaper. Fun, fun! Well, very interesting, at least.

My first article turned out to be quite an adventure, and I'm still not sure if it's going to be published. I got the assignment two nights before the deadline, which was Thursday at 5:30 p.m. I was supposed to contact and interview some one (the newspaper couldn't give me his or her name even) and write an article about an icon class they were going to be leading. Well, I tried emailing the person, but my mail was returned, the server citing an invalid address. I tried calling him or her, but the number didn't work. SO... I very soon marched up to the Campus Ministry Office, whose website the newspaper got its information from. There I was relieved (in the sense that I was glad to discover that it wasn't my mistake) to find that the telephone number advertised was actually incorrect. I called the number, left a message, and then - "taken by a wild surmise" - tried emailing "adubois" instead of the "adubols" I had been trying to contact. Sure enough, the email went through. I suppose that down here they aren't used enough to French names to spell them correctly if they are even slightly illegible. And that - a transcription error - is exactly what must have occurred.

Despite my research, the article still almost did not get written. I tried my best to contact this elusive icon expert for much of the Wednesday and Thursday afternoons (classes in the morning, you know). I even went so far as to return to Campus Ministry for more information. They couldn't give me any, but directed me to the Art Village, where no one could help me either. I even tracked down an acquaintance of the person (I learned adubois' real identity in the meantime), but they could not give me any assistance either. Finally, as 5:15 drew near, I despaired of ever being able to finish the article, and emailed the newspaper accordingly. Then - wouldn't you know it? - literally 5 minutes before the 5:30 deadline, I got a phone call from the very person I had needed to interview all along. Jolly ho! I whipped out my ever-present notebook and pencil and began taking feverish notes while working out a rough outline for the article in my head.

I sent the finished article in 15 minutes past deadline. I'm not sure about you, but I consider that a pretty spiffy achievement. The fact that it did get in only just past deadline makes me doubtful as to whether or not it will be published. However, I'm glad to know that I finished the assignment regardless, and feel rather smug at having accomplished it against such great odds.

09 September, 2007


Literature is such a crazily awesome subject. I've only had one Lit. class so far here at the university, and that was more of an introduction and overview than an actual class. But I'm looking forward to beginning in earnest.

One of my reasons for loving literature so much was, until recently, more instinctively felt than verbalized. I always have found the fact that you can look at one book from a million points of view and still get something out of it to be perfectly exhilarating. During my meeting with my academic advisor the other day, my advisor (a philosophy professor who is really awesome, btw) showed me a way of describing what it is exactly that literature does.

It's a simple way of thinking about it, and one that has lain behind my education since kindergarten. Nonetheless, this is really my first experience thinking about the distinction between literature and other branches of learning in such clear terms. Philosophy, literature, and history are the three categories under which the rest of the academic disciplines appear. They each represent a different approach to the world and the exploration of reality. Philosophy concerns itself primarily with reason - so under that heading come the physical sciences, logic, math, politics, etc. History is a "looking -back" and judgment on the way philosophical and literary concepts have worked out in the past. Literature, however, is characterized by its introduction of the imagination into thinking.

This last item - literature is exploration of reality through the imagination - it's the obvious reason for the multiplicity of ways to look at a good book. The author must work imaginatively to write a good book. But the reader has just as much of a reason to exercise the imagination. With this, you can come to view the work from a perspective almost identical with that of the writer, or you can find another interpretation which ties into the general feel and theme of the book but is almost totally opposite to the former.

Being a good reader requires almost as much work as being a good writer, I am inclined to believe. I am quite aware that writing holds very distinct challenges, but if literature is the branch encompassing both reading and writing, both use essentially the same method to explore the world. Euphoria-inducing concept, isn't it?

04 September, 2007

Just noting...

I agree with goldbug.... that is an interesting article. Although I hadn't looked at the books from a philosophical enough point of view to find any shades of Gnostic thought, most of the rest of the article sum up my point of view completely.

Just another point: if people were to accuse Harry Potter of being occult for potentially inspiring kids to seek the wrong type of magic in the real world, they'd have to condemn the Lord of the Rings as well - look where "Dungeons and Dragons came from.

03 September, 2007

Judging Harry Potter

Here is a fabulous article that I found in the National Catholic Register on Harry Potter. In numerous discussions between Therese and myself, we came to the same conclusions on Rowling's work as Fr. Alfonso did.


"I didn’t intend to write a piece on Harry Potter. I thought it would have added more fuel onto the Potter hype machine.

I felt the urge to write this article, though, after reading Kathleen Donovan’s letter to the editor “The Devil and Harry Potter” (Aug. 19-25).

Mrs. Donovan was an avid reader of the Register until she found that Steven Greydanus’ critique of the fifth Potter movie Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix implied “that the Pope and the Vatican officials have not come down upon the witchcraft and occult themes in the books and films by Rowling.”

Mrs. Donovan quotes Father Gabriele Amorth, president of the International Association of Exorcists, as declaring: “Behind Harry Potter hides the signature of the king of darkness, the devil.”

Many good Christian thinkers share similar opinions. Among them we find Michael O’Brien, Susan Moore, Berit Kjos, Vivian Dudro, Gabriele Kuby, and Richard Abanes, author of Harry Potter and the Bible: The Menace Behind the Magick.

Other good Christian writers offer, instead, a Christian interpretation of the Potter saga, as you may read in the essays by Catherine and David Deavel, Robert Trexler, Alan Jacobs, Serge Tisseron, Pietro Citati and Massimo Introvigne, to name a few.

What to think about such a clash of opinions? Many Catholics, like Mrs. Donovan, are rightly concerned about children’s faith and formation. Is the devil somehow hiding in this best-selling story?

I read the whole Potter series, watched the first four films, and made a few comments on Rowling’s narrative in three Register articles (April and May 2003). I now intend to offer a few clarifications and distinctions that might help the reader form a better criterion for judging the Potter phenomenon and its predictable consequences.

Let us tackle four questions about the Potter books and films: (1) Is there any Vatican endorsement or disapproval of them? (2) Do we find in them some subtle Satanic presence? (3) Are the contents of the books compatible with our Christian faith? (4) Is it advisable to let children read and watch Harry Potter?

Any Vatican Position?

Headlines such as “Pope Approves Potter” (Toronto Star) littered the mainstream media after Msgr. Peter Fleetwood commented on the Harry Potter books at a Vatican press conference on the New Age in 2003.

But the Holy See takes no official position on fictional literature.
Offhand comments by Msgr. Fleetwood and members of the Roman Curia about Harry Potter are merely personal opinions.

In this category of personal opinions we should include Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s March 7, 2003, letter to Gabriele Kuby in response to her German book Harry Potter: Good or Evil?: “It is good that you enlighten people about Harry Potter,” he wrote, “because those are subtle seductions, which act unnoticed and by this deeply distort Christianity in the soul, before it can grow properly.”

Such an opinion is worth respect and consideration, but doesn’t bind Catholics to think in exactly the same way. Note how Cardinal Ratzinger presented his view in a private letter and not in a formal statement as a prefect of Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Devil’s Work?

For an accurate answer to the question, let’s make a double distinction. Let us first distinguish between the nature of Rowling’s works and their possible consequences.

Does the phenomenon bear a Satanic imprint?

Other exorcists do not see it in the way Father Amorth did.

“The books in themselves are not bad,” well-known exorcist Father José Antonio Fortea has been quoted saying. “They are merely literary fantasies in the manner of stories that have existed in Europe since the Middle Ages. I am neither in favor of condemning nor prohibiting them. To me, they are just unobjectionable stories.”

Most of the handful of exorcists who have aired their opinions in the media, including Father Fortea, show concern about the possible outcome rather than the nature of the fictional works. They warn the faithful about their potential to lead people into the occult and perhaps even to Satanism.

And here comes our second distinction.

It would be unfair to judge Rowling’s works exclusively on the basis of their references to witchcraft and the occult without taking literary symbolism into account. Exorcists are the most trustworthy experts we have on the occult — but not necessarily on literature. Harry Potter is a story, not a boy to be exorcised.

Some good Christian literary critics read Rowling’s esoteric references as a way to decry, not to promote, the occult.

“The Potter series is not about the occult or witchcraft but actually just the opposite,” explained Nancy Brown, author of the recent novel The Mystery of Harry Potter.

In his books The Hidden Key to Harry Potter and Looking for God in Harry Potter, John Granger tries to show that Rowling’s “themes, imagery, and engaging stories echo the Great Story” — the story of God who became man.

In The Gospel According to Harry Potter, Connie Neal presents counterarguments to the idea that the Potter books are about witchcraft. She also finds a lot of connections to Bible passages. John Killinger develops similar points in God, the Devil and Harry Potter.

Although I personally disagree with these authors’ main theses, they make a good point: References to the occult and the Satanic do not necessarily imply an attempt to lure people into the forbidden world, because the texts can be interpreted in different ways.

From the fact that millions of Potter readers and movie-watchers give no thought to Wicca, we may infer that Harry Potter is not, by nature, a devilish work and that it doesn’t necessarily lead people into the wrong practices.

Prudence should lead us to take various opinions, from exorcists and literary critics, into consideration.

Christian or Anti-Christian?

Our third question deals with the contents of the novels and movies. Let me propose a crucial distinction that I never find in the Potter debate — a distinction between values and philosophy in fiction.

By values, we may understand the virtues and moral teachings presented in a story.
Great values shine throughout the Potter saga and reach their climax in the seventh installment, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Let me mention some of them.

Harry’s mother’s love for her son and self-sacrifice saved the future hero from being killed by Lord Voldemort. In a like manner, Harry would later give himself up to save his friends. His heroic generosity plays the key role in the victory of good over evil.

Harry, Hermione and Ron are characterized by their perseverance in the fulfillment of their mission in the midst of overwhelming difficulties. They are also concerned about the lives of their enemies with no desire for revenge. Remorse is presented as a way of self-redemption. The unsound quest to master death is discouraged. High ideals are encouraged. Good family life is appealing.

These and many other values one may find in the series refresh the soul in the current suffocating environment of anti-values that are often exhibited in products of the entertainment industry. Such values can inspire people in their life.

Values are not to be confused with philosophy. By philosophy we mean the concept of God, man and the universe underlying a story plot fully developed as a worldview.

Children’s stories, such as Cinderella and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, do not presume to portray ideas about our world and the realm of transcendence. They are short and simple stories with moral lessons. Harry Potter, instead, encompasses an implicit but integrated philosophical view of reality.

Let’s take a brief look at it.

In Potter’s world, the divine is, in my opinion, pantheistic. The only transcendent reality that exists is (white) magic. A fictional story, of course, does not have to present the Christian truths nor the Christian God. The question is whether or not there is room for a Christian God in the story. In Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, God does not show up, yet he may fit in the background as the one who gave Gandalf certain powers and a new life. Gandalf did not get them by himself.
Not so with Harry Potter.

Once the magic reigns as the ultimate level of reality, a personal God cannot fit in. Magical powers form the highest aspiration.

A certain monistic dualism, characteristic of Gnostic thought, looms over the plot, too.
Lord Voldemort’s and Death Eaters’ dark arts derive from the corruption of white magic, very much as the “dark side of the force” came from the bad use of “the force” in the Star Wars series.

Consider now the concept of man implicit in J.K. Rowling’s narrative. Humans, called “muggles,” are divided into three categories: ordinary “muggles” with no magical power who disdain the magic world (the despicable Dursley family); “muggles” who fancy the magic world but cannot reach it (Hermione Granger’s parents); and the witches and wizards.

The ideal is, no doubt, to become a good witch or wizard. What’s the way? Train yourself to look into yourself to find the magical powers within you.

Good training requires masters who help make you aware of the magical (“divine”) forces in your spirit. These are the professors at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Albus Dumbledore, the school headmaster, is the main spiritual guide.

Year after year, through training and exercise, Harry Potter becomes ever more aware of his inner powers and can, thus, use more sophisticated spells and jinxes.

In the fourth installment, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, we read: “Harry had soon mastered the Impediment Curse, a spell to slow down and obstruct attackers; the Reductor Curse, which would enable him to blast solid objects out of his way; and the Four-Point Spell, a useful discovery of Hermione’s that would make his wand point due north, therefore enabling him to check whether he was going in the right direction within the maze.”

The Star Wars films follow a similar pattern.

There are humans and creatures who do not enjoy the use of “the force.” Only the Jedi, such as Luke Skywalker, who was trained by masters Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda, obtain a full control over “the force.”

In both cases, the role of the human body is downplayed, as if it were not an essential part of one’s own personhood. The spirit, where the realm of the magic or of “the force” dwells, is the inner true self. This view of man sounds Gnostic to me.

We come, finally, to the concept of the world. Harry Potter’s physical universe is not explicitly viewed as a prison for mankind created by evil demons, as it appears in classical Gnostic ideologies.

Yet it is portrayed as less “real” than the wizard world — the fantastic realm of powers whose gate can only be opened by the key of esoteric knowledge. Doesn’t the reader feel more “at home” at Hogwarts than in the boring material world of muggles?

To me, the fact that only witches and wizards are able to see the Platform Nine and Three-Quarters at King’s Cross station is meaningful. Those whose spirits are in the magic world can see “more” than ordinary people or muggles. They live in a spiritual (magical) dimension that frees them from the laws of the material world.

Is Potter Good for Kids?

Suppose that my interpretation of the Potter worldview is right. One should then appreciate and learn from Rowling’s values and leave aside her philosophy. Values can be uprooted from the soil they are grounded in and become inspiring lessons. You may enjoy the look and the fragrance of flowers even as you take them from the dirt in which they blossomed.
But whether a book or a movie is harmful to its audience depends as much upon the audience as upon the narrative.

“To the right reader, Harry Potter can be as harmless as Glinda the Good Witch or Cinderella’s fairy godmother,” says Steven Greydanus in his excellent essay Harry Potter vs. Gandalf. “For another young reader, he could be a stumbling block.”

Who are the “right” Potter readers?

I believe we will find them among well-formed Christians, those who do not feel the lure of the magic, and those who can distinguish — by themselves or by with help of their tutors — the Potter values from the Potter philosophy.

Who are the “wrong” readers?

Vulnerable or at-risk children may be those who do not have a particularly strong commitment to their faith, or show a troubling pattern of general interest in magic or in dark or grotesque imagery.

We have, in short, right and wrong audiences. While many kids will get inspired for the good with no negative effect, others may be affected for worse.

That’s why we should bear in mind the warnings of exorcists and other thinkers about children’s contact with the magic.

“Just like violence and pornography, kids are desensitized by exposure,” said Matthew Arnold, producer of the three-tape set The Trouble With Harry.

In the end, parents are the best-equipped judges to discern how suitable Rowling’s works might be for their children. They may also be their best guides to let them distinguish the wheat from the chaff.

In conclusion, I suggest considering the following four criteria as common ground for reasonable discussions.

First, the reading of Harry Potter is a debatable issue, not a matter of faith.

Second, nothing proves that Rowling’s fiction is a work of the devil or a path that necessarily leads to evil practices.

Third, a distinction can be made between the narrative’s values and philosophy. Consequently, we may be able to draw the good lessons from the story while remaining untouched by whatever may be wrong in it.

Fourth, decisions about the appropriateness of the Potter novels and movies for children can only be made on a case-by-case basis.

If we keep these criteria in mind, we may leave behind some bitter clashes and gain some profit from the Potter debate."

02 September, 2007

This is really different...

So, most of you probably know that I'm currently starting my first year at the University of Dallas.

This is a wildly crazy change, being down here and all that. I got my first hint of just how strange it would be when I stepped out of the airport at 11:30 at night only to get blasted with a mass of hot air. I've never known it to be this hot this late at night before, particularly not in August.

The campus is rather pretty in a strange way. The trees are intensely deciduous, and rather tropical looking.There are flowering shrubs everywhere. But outside the campus it's very big city-ish, and Irving is certainly not at all to my taste. Everything is so flat that the land looks like it has been ironed. The buildings are short and sprawling, not at all like the more vertical cities up north. There's pavement everywhere. From the airplane, it looks like one giant parking lot, occasionally punctuated by a neon sign or a chain restaurant or a strip mall. The highways are literally dozens of lanes wide in places.

My residence hall is pretty nice; it's air conditioned, which means a lot.

I've been running around a lot for orientation. This year's freshman class is the biggest in the history of the University - 423 students, I believe. So there's a lot of business and lines and behavior reminiscent of an anthill.