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Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Glenn Reynolds:

OKAY, DAN O’BRIEN’S STOLEN HORSES MAY BE A GREAT BOOK, but listening to the summary in this NPR review I was struck by the litany of lefty/Oprah cliches: A town founded in an act of violence by white settlers (check! — they’re even cowboys!), a Native American (check!) who dies because he’s denied healthcare (check!) by a greedy hospital (check!) that’s defended by a Republican lawyer (check!) There’s even a plucky female journalist (check!) with a boyfriend who . . . . won’t commit! (check, and mate!) Really, can it get any better than this?

For all my green-eyed grumbling about the Insta-status, I have to admit that if I could write like this, I’d be blending puppies with impunity, too.

I’m rayther amazed to read an article like this at CNN:

If you’re the parent of a Christian teenager, Kenda Creasy Dean has this warning:

Your child is following a “mutant” form of Christianity, and you may be responsible.

Dean says more American teenagers are embracing what she calls “moralistic therapeutic deism.” Translation: It’s a watered-down faith that portrays God as a “divine therapist” whose chief goal is to boost people’s self-esteem.

Dean is a minister, a professor at Princeton Theological Seminary and the author of “Almost Christian,” a new book that argues that many parents and pastors are unwittingly passing on this self-serving strain of Christianity.

She says this “imposter” faith is one reason teenagers abandon churches.

“If this is the God they’re seeing in church, they are right to leave us in the dust,” Dean says. “Churches don’t give them enough to be passionate about.”

Read the rest.

I would probably argue that although many parents may “unwittingly” pass along this kind of Christianity-and-water, the mainline clergy know exactly what they’re doing.

Well, here we go again.  This week finds ol’ Robbo coaching at a softball camp for the younger players in the neighborhood, ahead of the “fall ball” season that starts some time in the near future (in which, thankfully, I have not been asked to manage although I’m sure I’ll wind up coaching).

We’ve got about 25 kids in the camp between the ages of 6 and 10, including my own 8 year old.  We split them into squads of four or five based on age and sex and send them through a circuit of drill stations.  Last evening found your host handling the grounder drill.  It was the first time I’ve tried coaching kids at any level other than that of my own gels, and it was a bit of a challenge to change wavelengths in such rapid order.  On the other hand, it also was amusing to flip from the “Ooooh, good job, sweetie!” line used on a bunch of near-infant girls to the “Let’s move it, gentlemen!” bark more appropriate to a gang of older boys.

I’m hoping that the coaching assignments get switched from day to day.  They were using a pitching machine to lob fly balls last evening and I couldn’t help glancing over in envy from time to time.  It looked like the coaches were having as much fun chucking the balls as the kids were catching them.

It’s the metaphysics of cutting grass.  Go on over and read.

I like the way this fellah thinks because I, too, tend to mentally free-wheel whilst whacking the thatch.  Indeed, if only it weren’t so awkward to hold a pen and pad (much less a notebook with wireless connection) while pushing the mower around, I’d probably have half a dozen blog posts out of each treatment.

I also like his attitude that striving for a perfectly manicured, perfectly maintained lawn free of all weeds and other contaminants is an anachronism left over from middle class status-seeking in the 50’s, since without massive payouts to a professional service that I couldn’t possibly afford, I’m simply unable to keep the jungle out of my own yard.  After some time of personal struggle, I’ve finally been able to reach peace of mind:  After its weekly trim, my plot is uniform and green and that’s good enough for me.

Speaking of such things, while we were on the road Saturday, going to spend the night out of town with my godparents, I got a somewhat panicky call from the kid who I hire in the summahs to help me out, informing me that my mower (a new-this-year Craftsman 6.75 torque, 21 inch Briggs & Stratton from Sears) had blown up.

I wonder what kind of stream-of-consciousness ideas that would have generated in the Robbo brain, had I been at the helm.

So the eldest gel starts seventh grade this morning.

In my particular neck of the woods, middle school lasts for two years, the seventh and eighth grades.  On the other hand, in my own yoot, Dwight David Eisenhower Junior High also encompassed sixth grade.  I understand from asking around that there is no clear consensus on whether sixth ought to be the first of the middle school or the last of the elementary years.

Personally, I think there’s much to be said for not starting middle school until seventh, primarily because it seems to me that it’s better for kids right on the cusp of adolescence to start easing into it in the relatively secure position of being at the top of the elementary food chain rayther than at the bottom of the more Hobbesian middle school one.

I went to a new tailor today to get some alterations in the Robbo suiting.  Mr. Kim is his name.

When I remarked that a pair of pants felt a bit snug in the waist, his immediate reply was, “Ah! One meal less  each day. No problem!”

I think I’m going to like Mr. Kim.

The port-swiller family attended a back-to-skewl BBQ at the eldest gel’s new seat of learning last evening, ahead of the beginning of the academic year next Monday.

It occurred to me as we mingled with the crowd and wandered about in the halls and classrooms, based on the rayther peculiar look I observed on Mrs. R’s face, that the true meaning and scope of “parochial school education” is suddenly hitting home.  God bless her for giving the okay, but I know it’s going to be a serious adjustment.

Of course, it’s also going to be an adjustment for the gel.  But I believe it’s going to be very beneficial, and in the end may lead to extremely gratifying results.  Indeed, I half hope, half fear that my young apprentice will become even more knowledgeable and powerful than me. (Not that this is a particularly high hurdle.  Indeed, I plan to follow along over her shoulder, as it were, as much for my own edification as for hers.  A few months of RCIA is all well and good, but it’s only the proverbial drop in the bucket.)

A week or two ago, the Mothe got a note out of the blue from a long-lost 1st cousin of my old father.   Apparently, she had been in charge of the “family archives” for many years, she doesn’t have any children and she had recently got thinking that it was time to hand the archives on to the next generation.

Well, I got a call today from this same woman, who I guess would be my first cousin, once removed.  (Apparently I met her once when I was about eight, but I have no recollection of it.)  It turns out that she lives less than an hour away from me.

It seems that my cousin is something of a genealogy fiend.  It also seems that she has a lot of historickal documents, including original letters, photos and what she believes is one of the very earliest Daguerreotypes, a portrait of my great, great, great grandfather, who I learn was a teacher and a staunch Abolitionist.  I mentioned that I knew something of my great, great grandfather’s service as an artillery officer in the Union army and she assured me she had plenty of Civil War era materials, too.  In fact, in her words she had the 19th Century -along with much of the 20th – completely locked down.  (Alas, no mention of IBM stock bought at a penny a share or anything along those lines.)

How seriously cool is that?

At any rate, the plan is for me to drive out some weekend and re-establish contact, at the same time relieving her of her historickal goodies.  (Note to Mothe: I will figure out a way to get copies of innerestink stuff distributed.  But I can’t help feeling a certain amount of glee that I’m getting my hooks into the originals.)

I chatted with my cousin for ten or fifteen minutes.  She seems quite pleasant, although I was a bit startled at how easily I could pick out certain family traits which seem to have come down from our common Scots Presbyterian forefathers.  In fact, she even made a passing reference to apples not falling far from the tree.

What she’s going to make of me when she realizes just how far I’ve managed to roll out of the shade, I don’t know, but it should be mighty interesting.

In getting ready to start 7th grade (yikes!), the eldest gel was assigned some summah reading off a list of selected authors and works.  Two of these in particular caught ol’ Robbo’s eye.

The first was Roald Dahl’s Going Solo.  Knowing absolutely nothing about Dahl apart from having read a few of his other books, my initial horrified thought was that this might be some kind of exploration of adolescent sexuality.  (Of course, upon reflecting that the gel is going off to parochial school, I realized that this was rayther unlikely.)   On doing a little follow-up research, I discovered that no, it really was about flying.  (I also discovered that Dahl was married to Patricia “I’m a Fightah” Neal, but that is beside the point.)  Anyhoo, it turns out the book is not just about flying, either, because damme if it doesn’t turn out that Dahl was a WWII fighter jock!   Cabbage crates coming over the briney, indeed!  When something like that drops into Robbo’s lap, do you think he’s going to let it get away without a struggle? No fear!

The other author to catch my eye was Jules Verne.  In fact, the book on the list is Around The World In Eighty Days.  In a moment of fuzzy-headedness, however, I accidentally bought the gel a copy of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea instead, a book I recall reading at about her age but of which I remember absolutely nothing.   Deciding to make an omlette out of these broken eggs, I intend to dip into it again.

I believe this is the very first time that a gel’s homework assignment has been a source of new reading ideas for ol’ Robbo.   Why do I feel it won’t be the last?

What on earth is going on with the publishing industry?

The paperback edition of the Memoirs of William T. Sherman put out by CreateSpace this year and recently finished by self contains literally dozens and dozens of typos.   Also, the font is too small and the margins almost nonexistent.

Then the paperback edition of Willa Cather’s Death Comes For The Archbishop put out last year by Cassia Press and which I have now started reading turns out to contain two words run together in almost every sentence, something I’m reasonably sure (or at least certainly hope) the author did not intend.

Both of these defects are driving me absolutely batty, particularly the latter, which is the visual equivalent of listening to a CD skip every couple of seconds.

Perhaps I may be rightly criticized for going with low-budget editions.  The cry flies round the clubs, “Robbo got what he paid for, the cheap Scot.”  But I had thought that even at low-budget publishing houses somebody actually, you know, reads and proofs the product before it hit the shelves.

I guess not.


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August 2010