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I’ve seen a couple of stories in the last day or two about this bed-time picture book, Go The F*** To Sleep, that has “gone viral,” as the kids like to say.

I can understand the popularity simply because there has never been a parent in the history of the planet who hasn’t had such thoughts from time to time.  On the other hand, has anyone noticed that the quality of the writing is really…….bad?  To wit:

“The cats nestle close to their kitten, the lambs that lay down with the sheep. You’re cozy and warm in your bed my dear. Please go the … to sleep.”

For one thing, there are at least three grammar problems just in this one line.  It’s “lie,” not “lay.”  Why the extraneous “that.”  And surely there ought to be a comma before “my dear.”

For another thing, shouldn’t it be one cat and multiple kittens, rayther than the other way about?

I’ve seen similar examples of this clumsiness quoted in some of the other articles.  Can the publisher not afford to put an editor on the project?

The local classickal station just got through running the Polovtsian Dances from Prince Igor by Alexander Borodin.  They’re a fairly regular part of the rotation and always set ol’ Robbo’s foot tapping.  This is because of the fact that, although they are well outside my normal musickal taste,  I have a soft spot for musick which conjurs up images of such far-flung places as the Steppes, the Caucasus and the sands of Araby that cuts right across my other likes and dislikes.  Indeed, I have even been known to enjoy some of the musick of Aram Khachaturian.

The only explanation I’ve ever been able to come up with for this taste is that there is a certain exotic romance to the Barbarian Hordes, at least in their stylized form, that lurks somewhere in the European psyche, a gift no doubt handed down from Alexander.

Over at First Things, Joe Carter attempts to flesh out some general terms to describe “X-Cons,” that is, the political make-up of conservative Gen-X’ers.

Perhaps it’s because I was born in 1965, and am therefore not really part of this generation but somewhere at the outskirts, but some many of his illustrations are downright alien to me:

• X-Cons do not have a broad grasp of history. If we have an interest in history, we are likely to have a read a few books which we hold in high esteem and consider authoritative (Paul Johnson’s Modern Times is among our favorites). At best, we may have done in-depth study on a particular historical era (the American founding, the Civil War, World War II) but we lack a deep understanding of general history. We have almost no comprehension of the intellectual history of conservatism.

Why would this be?  And is the implication that liberal Gen-Xers have such a grasp?  I’ve always associated a knowledge of history with conservatism because of its sobering lessons about human fallibility and the consequences of Utopian efforts to perfect Mankind.

• Talk radio has had a profound influence in shaping our political sensibilities. Just as William F. Buckley, Jr. provided the cast for conservatism in the 1950s, Rush Limbaugh shaped the conservatism of X-Cons in the 1980s and 1990s. Limbaugh provided not only the content but the style in which we conservatives would engage in political discourse: assured, confrontational, snarky. Talk radio taught us X-Cons to appreciate confirmation of our political views. Arguments needn’t be persuasive when you are certain not only that we are right and our opponents are wrong, but also that we are right and they are wrong-headed.

I’ve never had any interest whatever in talk radio, more or less because of this very reason.  Give me WFB over Rush any day.  What does it say about the value of X-Con beliefs if they can’t argue them persuasively?

• With confirmation came a sense of (virtual) community and a realization that a Ph.D in Political Science wasn’t required in order to express a valid opinion on politics. Imbued with a sense of confidence from a young age, we X-Cons grew comfortable expressing ourselves in a conversational style that imitated our talk radio mentors. Blogging was (and remains) a natural outlet for our mode of expression.

But you just said that they don’t like to argue, but to confront and snark.  At any rate, Lord knows that I’ve never been shy about expressing my opinions, but I won my spurs first during nightly dinner debates in my yoot and then by going to an extremely left-wing college and fighting it out with the natives, not by listening to the radio.

• Having grown-up either in a broken home or surrounded by friends who did, we X-Cons recognize the value of traditional family structures. We may not always be successful in building permanent relationships ourselves, but we value the bonds of family more than the previous generation.

Divorce was still socially ostracized and pretty rare when I was young, but I did see its bad effects on a few of my classmates.  On the other hand, the strongest influence on my own beliefs was watching the Mothe stick it out with the Old Gentleman for 50 years.

• Our pro-life convictions stem from knowing that we could have been legally killed in womb—and recognizing that we are missing brothers, sisters, and cousins because of abortion.

I can’t say that I ever had a “that could have been me” thought, which idea seems pretty selfish to me, by the way, and not much of a foundation on which to build a moral position.

There are more illustrations, but you get the idea.  In the end, it would seem that I get to the same general political positions as Carter and his illustrative X-Cons, but from a very different direction.  Either he’s mistaken in his characterizations or I’m actually a lot older than I realize.

Sperm whales speak with accents:

Sperm whales like to be individuals; they use accents to identify themselves to others in their extended family group, new research finds.

The accents are specific to one call, or “coda,” used by whales worldwide, enabling them to recognize strangers from any region.

“It’s not that the individuals in a group are making different codas, they don’t have different names, they just say the same things in different ways,” said study researcher Shane Gero, of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. “We believe they can pick between each other, that they can tell each other apart by this call.”

Sperm whales live in family groups, with several generations of females living together with their young. They communicate using these codas, specific combinations of clicking sounds. The codas travel for about a kilometer in the ocean, and they are used mostly within a group to communicate during dives and social situations.

The team followed one group of sperm whales, called the “group of seven,” made up of four sisters, their aunt and two juvenile males, for more than 40 days while the animals fed off the coast of Dominica, a Caribbean island.

I can just imagine.

“Zut! Zat eest mah giant squeed on which you are feasting!”

“Nein! Dot ist mein sqitt! Go unt get your own!”

“Would youse guys shut yer yaps? I’ tryin’ ta eat over heres!”


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May 2011