Just because…scaring people is funny

All I can say about this video is that I hope some of these people are carrying lots of insurance and know some good therapists…especially for the children.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DFKdBPEunRM&feature=player_embedded

More random links

I had a few more random links that I didn’t include in this morning’s Flotsam and Jetsam post. And, I didn’t want to leave you with insufficient resources for wasting time on Friday. So, here you go.

A video of Western Seminary’s ThM students

I took this video during my Th.M. seminar last spring, and it clearly shows our Th.M. students excitedly gathering to learn more amazing theological truths from their esteemed program director. I’ve tried to tell them that they really don’t need to squeak like that all the time, but we were discussing the Greek Fathers, so I can understand why they’d have a hard time constraining themselves.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sFqeWTfVi3I&feature=player_embedded

Flotsam and jetsam (9/3)

The top banned books of the decade

The American Library Associated has published a list of the top 100 banned/challenged books from 2000-2009. Here’s the top 10:

  1. Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling
  2. Alice series, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  3. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
  4. And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
  5. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
  6. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
  7. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
  8. His Dark Materials (series), by Philip Pullman
  9. TTYL; TTFN; L8R, G8R (series), by Myracle, Lauren
  10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky

Apparently, I need to read controversial books a bit more, since the only ones I’ve read in the top 10 are the Harry Potter books, Of Mice and Men, and the His Dark Materials series.

Some interesting inclusions from the rest of the list:

  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn comes in at #14. Still? After all these years, there’s still controversy. That by itself is a pretty impressive accomplishment. Go Twain.
  • My Brother Sam Is Dead by James Lincoln Collier hit #27. What’s the deal with this one? This was one of my favorite books as a kid. I don’t know how many times I read it, and I don’t remember anything particularly controversial. Maybe I just wasn’t sheltered enough as a child.
  • I have the same question with the Bridge To Terabithia at 28. Is this really controversy worthy?
  • #35 on the other hand is one that I haven’t read, but the title alone probably explains the controversy: Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging, by Louise Rennison.
  • The fact that The Kite Runner comes in at #50 is just a shame. Sure there’s a pretty tough scene in the book, but can’t we get past that and appreciate the power of the story?
  • The Junie B. Jones books (#71)? Really? Did we run out of things to complain about?
  • And, of course, there’s the normal list of great literature that touched on difficult themes and therefore should be kept from our children: The Color Purple (17), Catcher in the Rye (19), To Kill a Mockingbird (21), Brave New World (36), Fahrenheit 451 (69), and The Handmaid’s Tale (88).

I could keep going. There’s some great literature on this list. (It also looks like there’s some real garbage, but I can’t comment on books I haven’t read). Since I obviously haven’t read everything on the list, I’d be curious to know what books you think are on here that kids really should be reading.

Piled High and Deeper on the fear of graduating

Yale Philosophy Lectures by Shelly Kagan

For those who will be taking Marc’s philosophy class I thought I’d mention that you can watch a long list of videos from Academic Earth that seemingly deal with some of what we will be covering in classes and in our reading. The philosopher is Shelly Kagan of Yale. You can find the lectures here.

Flotsam and jetsam (9/2)

I’ve been out of town for a while, so I haven’t posted many links in the last couple of days. Here are some of the more interesting ones, just in case you missed them.

Free online access to Sage Bible/theology journals

Sage Publishing is offering “Free Online Access to all SAGE Journals until October 15, 2010.” The free registration will give you access to journals across a broad range of disciplines, but here are the journals in Bible and Theology I thought you might be most interested in. Six weeks of free access (think downloading pdf files) is hard to pass up.

  • Biblical Theology Bulletin
  • Currents in Biblical Research
  • The Expository Times
  • Irish Theological Quarterly
  • Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus
  • Journal for the Study of the New Testament
  • Journal for the Study of the Old Testament
  • Journal of Pentecostal Studies

HT

How does language affect the way we think?

In a recent NYT article, “Does Your Language Shape How You Think?” Gary Deutscher addresses the question of whether our native language affects the way that we think about the world. The article begins with a very nice discussion of  Whorf’s (not the Klingon) original theory that a person’s native language constricts their ability to think in certain ways. You may have encountered this, for example, in the popular notion that Hopi Indians cannot think in terms of past/present/future because their language has no tense – i.e., it is an entirely aspectual language. Deutscher points out that this theory “crash-landed on hard facts and solid common sense, when it transpired that there had never actually been any evidence to support his fantastic claims.” As he points out, there is a pretty basic fallacy in this theory: “The general structure of his arguments was to claim that if a language has no word for a certain concept, then its speakers would not be able to understand this concept.” But, we simply don’t work this way. We are perfectly capable of understanding a wide range of concepts for which we have no specific word or grammatical structure in our native langauge.

But, the fact that Whorf’s original theory had some serious flaws does not mean that our native language might not still exercise some influence on the way that we think about the world. So, Deutscher draws on the work of Roman Jakobson to contend, “Languages differ essentially in what they must convey and not in what they may convey.” In other words, our native language does not prevent us from thinking about any given concept, but it may cause us to focus on and highlight particular things in ways that can affect how we view the world. He specifically focuses on how the gender and spatial aspects of  a native language can nuance a person’s thinking in important ways. Again, this does not mean that our native languages comprise uncrossable boundaries, necessarily preventing us from understanding foreign concepts. But it does highlight the ways in which we use language to conceptualize and construct the world around us.

I’d encourage you to read the whole article if you’d like a nuanced take on how the way that you’ve learned to speak can impact the ways in which you understand the world around you. Language does not create reality, but it does shape it in important ways.