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1. The Collective Power of a Nation of Readers

This piece also appears on The Huffington Post’s Impact blog.

Steve White, a volunteer at a local nonprofit, worked through the holidays to ensure that 3,000 kids in need in Denver would have brand-new books of their own at Christmas.

Elisa Mayo, the finance coordinator for a school district in Mississippi, helped students at her Title I school get the books — and the encouragement — they needed to start book clubs, and now dozens of students, from third to fifth grade, voluntarily skip recess to meet and to talk about their new books.

A community group in Navajo County, Arizona was so determined to have a free library for local children that they raised money through bake sales, started with a donated room in a nearby gas station, and eventually came up with the funds to build a library.

These everyday heroes all have something in common. They are part of First Book, a nonprofit network of teachers, librarians, community leaders and program administrators serving kids in need — a network that stretches across the country and around the world.

An Alabama teacher and her class, part of First Book's network

These men and women and thousands more like them are working every day to transform the lives of children from poor neighborhoods, and they know how desperate the need is. Kids from low-income families lack the resources that many of their middle and upper-class peers take for granted. Every study confirms the impact that has on their futures. One study that never fails to shock revealed that, while children in affluent neighborhoods had access to an average of 13 books a day, there is only a single age-appropriate book for every 300 children.

First Book is working to change that. We partner with the publishing industry to provide books — brand-new, high-quality books — to the teachers and program leaders who sign up with us. Our network is the fastest-growing group of educators in the country serving kids in need: we just reached the incredible milestone of 100,000 registered schools and programs.

Reaching that milestone is exciting, because that means that we’re reaching more children in need than ever.

But there’s another reason why bringing so many educators together matters.

By joining First Book, the people we serve are acknowledging something important: we have more power collectively than we do as individuals. It’s one of the most powerful ideas in human history, from the birth of cities to the workers’ unions that built the country to the marvelous online social networks that are transforming how we communicate.

We’ve already seen the impact this can have. For example, at one point, there was no bilingual edition (English and Spanish together) of the perennial children’s classic, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, but the educators we work with requested it repeatedly. Based on that feedback, we were able to go to the publisher and show that there was real demand. A bilingual edition rolled off the presses shortly thereafter, a book now available to all children and families.

This unprecedented network is also the source of valuable insight into the needs of those serving children at the base of the economic pyramid. There is no group of people whose voices are more critical to our collective future; what they have to say about the 30 million children living in low-income families in the United States and their futures is of paramount importance to us all.

Everyone at First Book is proud of our role in supporting this network. But we know there’s much, much more to be done. We estimate that there are 1.3 million educators and program leaders out there eligible to join us, and we’re doing everything we can to connect every single one.

The post The Collective Power of a Nation of Readers appeared first on First Book Blog.

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2. What’s the secret to high scores on video games?

By Siu-Lan Tan


When playing video games, do you play better with the sound on or off? Every gamer may have an opinion, but what has research shown?

Some studies suggest that music and sound effects enhance performance. For instance, Tafalla (2007) found that male gamers scored almost twice as many points while playing the first-person shooter game DOOM with the sound on (chilling music, weaponfire, screams, and labored breathing) compared to those playing with the sound off.

On the other hand, Yamada et al. (2001) found that people had the fastest lap times in the racing game Ridge Racer V when playing with the music off. Interestingly, 10 different music tracks were tested—and the lowest scores were earned when playing with the soundtrack built into the game (Boom Boom Satellite’s “Fogbound”).

Sometimes the results are more complex. Cassidy and MacDonald (2009) tested people playing a driving game with car sounds effects alone or with car sound effects plus different kinds of music. People playing with music that had been shown to be ‘highly arousing’ (in previous research) drove the fastest—but also made the greatest number of mistakes, such as hitting barriers or knocking over road cones!

800px-Dubaj

In our own research (published 2010 and 2012), my colleagues John Baxa and Matt Spackman and I found that people playing Twilight Princess (Legend of Zelda) performed worst when playing with both music and sound effects off. This game provides the player with rich auditory cues that function as warnings, clues for access points, feedback for correct moves such as successful attacks on enemies, and more. Many of these don’t just “double” what you see on the screen.

As we progressively added more game audio, performance improved. However, surprisingly, our participants performed best when playing with background music playing on a boombox that was unrelated to the game! (This would be like playing a game with the game sound switched off—while your roommate’s music is playing in the background.)

How to boost your game play?

So how do we make sense of these findings? And do they shed light on what distinguishes the top gamers?

A closer look at the individuals in our 2010/2012 study suggested that the majority of our participants—but not all—played better with unrelated background music until they “got the hang of” the game.

We used a game that was new to everybody. As Twilight Princess is a pretty complex adventure role-playing game, the average player seemed to have to focus attention on the visual information when first navigating the game. So music and sound effects built into the game may have interfered with their concentration, as they had to “tune it out” to focus on visual cues to guide their actions at first.

800px-Dataspel

However, our top players (who concluded four days of play in our Videogame Lab with the highest scores) were different. They tended to play better with the game sound on (full music and sound effects coming from both screen and Wiimote) from the very beginning.

The best players seemed to be better at paying attention to and meaningfully integrating both audio and visual cues effectively—thus benefitting from the richest warnings/clues/feedback. While the typical player strongly favored one sense, the best players were truly playing an audio-visual game from the beginning.

So…one secret to being a successful gamer may be to sharpen your attention to audio cues (in sound effects and music) within a game. Paying more attention to and integrating cues to both ear and eye may boost your game!

More than just high scores…

I’m also reminded of what a participant in our study expressed so well: “There’s more to a game than just high scores. It’s also about being transported and immersed in another world, and music and sound effects are what bring you there.”

Indeed, the lush cinematic scores take us through the emotional highs and lows of the journey of a game. Atmospheric tracks immerse us in other worlds. Rhythmic tracks serve as an engine to drive the action, the propulsion of the music making the virtual environment appear deeper and the visual array seem to whizz by faster (motion parallax).

When you have a great soundtrack, music can be the soul of a game.

Postscript: Sonic Mayhem!

Recently I had a chance to speak with composer Sonic Mayhem (Sascha Dikiciyan) when we were both interviewed on video game music by Sami Jarroush for Consequence of Sound. Sonic Mayhem is one of the most sought-after video game music composers today. He scored Quake III Arena, Tron: Evolution, Mass Effect 2 & 3, Borderlands, Space Marine, James Bond: Tomorrow Never Dies, Mortal Kombat vs DC, and a ton of other monumental games.

Click here to view the embedded video.

 Siu-Lan Tan is Associate Professor of Psychology at Kalamazoo College in Michigan, USA. She is primary editor of The Psychology of Music in Multimedia (Oxford University Press 2013), the first book consolidating the research on the role of music in film, television, video games, and computers. A version of this article also appears on Psychology Today. Siu-Lan Tan also has her own blog, What Shapes Film? Read her previous blog posts.

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Image credits: (1) Dubaj, by Danik9000, CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons. (2) Dataspel, by Magnus Fröderberg/norden.org, CC-BY-2.5 via Wikimedia Commons.

The post What’s the secret to high scores on video games? appeared first on OUPblog.

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3. Guest post by Gueh Yanting, Claudine


I am delighted to share a great guest post on the blog today.

Dear March House Books Readers,

Although I can’t remember it, I heard my first story from my parents. Not from story books, no. Real-life stories. Theirs.

They were the children who ran around in villages (we call them Kampong) in Singapore during the 50s and 60s, slippers slapping the dusty paths and clothes drenched when they hopped into ponds to catch fish. And that’s where the setting-inspiration for my children’s novel (in mid-60s) came from.

{How the Kampong looked like. Picture from Google Images Labeled for Reuse with Modifications. 
Source: http://comesingapore.com/travel-guide/article/607/ten-things-you-probably-didnt-know-about-singapore}

I asked my father, who especially loves telling snippets from his childhood, to contribute some for this post, and here’s what he told me:

·         As my father has 11 brothers and 3 sisters, they all crammed in one house, with one yard and owned one family plantation. My grandfather also reared chickens and pigs. At one point, there were more than 20 people (wives and baby cousins) living in that house!

·         My father and his brothers were too poor to afford school bags, so they used rattan baskets instead. When they had to sharpen their pencils, they used my grandfather’s shaving blade. They used to cut themselves quite often but never worried about it.

·         They showered using only one bar of soap: for the hair, face and body. That bar of soap was actually also used for laundry.

·         When he got off school at around 1pm, my father would return to the fields to help out. After completing his chores, he and my uncles would play at a nearby pond. Their main hobby was catching a certain species called ‘Fighting Fish’ and … letting them fight, I suppose.

·         Snacks were usually wrapped in newspapers. Sometimes they bought dried hawthorn flakes. If they didn’t have money for snacks, they’d get sweet potatoes from their fields, and roast them on a bed of charcoals.

{Dried Hawthorn Flakes/Cakes. Picture from Google Images Labeled for Reuse with Modifications.}

·         When the weather was hot, and in Singapore it mostly is, the children would buy balls of shaved ice to eat. The man who sold ice balls would drizzle colourful sugar syrup over them. By the way, we still have these at our marketplaces. During my childhood, it was also one of our favourite desserts. They are shaped like a small hill now, and have extra corn or red bean toppings, like this:


{Shaved Ice, a.k.a. Ice Kachang. Picture from Google Images Labeled for Reuse with Modifications.}

·         During lunar new years, parents would give children red packets (money stuffed in small, red envelopes) on New Year’s Eve, symbolizing good fortune for the coming year. When my father and some of his brothers received theirs, they spent all the money on firecrackers. Lighting up firecrackers was still legal then in Singapore. And they absolutely loved it! I suspect my father is waiting for Baby Olive (my one-year-old niece) to be slightly older so he could buy sparklers and play with her during New Year’s Eve.


{Red Packets. Picture from Google Images Labeled for Reuse with Modifications.}

·        My father studied in the village school till he was Primary 4, which was the highest level in that school. To go on to Primary 5, students had to travel farther out. My father and his brothers didn’t have the gift for studies, because even when they’d reached Primary 2 or 3 (around 8-9 years old), they were still not accustomed to gripping a pencil and writing with it. Usually, my grandfather or one of the elder brothers would have to steady their elbows in order for them to write neatly!

·         So he stopped studying after that and worked in my grandfather’s fields until he was about 16. Then he went into the construction industry.

A Gross, Mushroom Story (If you have a weak stomach, please skip this part!)

Those days, the nearest toilet could be quite far away and it was inconvenient to walk in the dark to get to one. People had chamber pots instead. However, with so many people under one roof, pots were too small. My family used pickled jars.

Sometimes they only poured the waste away after a few days. I’m not quite sure about this because I haven’t seen few-day-old urine, but I hear there would be sediments or dregs left in the jars.

Once, my grandfather stepped on a big, rusty nail. It was likely to give him a bad inflammation. Yet, he didn’t go to the hospital. They distrusted hospitals. My family had learned of a traditional folk cure, which was to soak a mushroom in the urine dregs overnight before applying it onto the wound. It sounds terribly gross, but it did work. The swelling went down the next day and my grandfather recovered fully soon after.


My father also told stories about adulthood, like how female guests attended wedding meals in the afternoon and all went home with a flower in their hair while male guests attended the evening round and each got a cigar, and how villagers called on midwives rather than hospital nurses when one of the women went into labour, and how one of my aunts ran off with a man she knew only briefly. My grandfather was livid, but they managed to get her back. That was the year the Queen of England visited Singapore.

Those were the days that were tough, but those were also the days my father and his brothers had the most fun. Those were the days I hadn’t experienced except through his stories. Those were the days (or close enough) that I’ve let my latest characters live in.



Gueh Yanting, Claudine, has written and published two picture ebooks (age 6 & up) and one middle-grade ebook (age 9 & up). Her latest story, LITTLE ORCHID’S SEA MONSTER TROUBLE, is about a girl trying to prove to her Ma that she hasn’t been spouting nonsense about the Giant Cuttlefish, and later turning into a sea monster herself. It is set in Singapore in 1965.

Check it out here:


Thank you so much for letting me spread my father’s story snippets here on your lovely blog, Barbara. I hope your readers enjoy them!


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4. Prime Minister’s Questions

By Andrew Dobson


“Noisy and aggressive,” “childish,” “over the top,” “pointless.” These are just a few recent descriptions of Prime Minister’s Questions – the most watched event in the Parliamentary week.

Public dismay at PMQs has led the Speaker, John Bercow, to consult with party leaders over reform.  The Hansard Society asked focus groups what they thought of PMQs as part of its annual look at public engagement. Nearly half said the event is “too noisy and aggressive”, the same proportion as those who felt that MPs behave unprofessionally. Meanwhile, a majority of 33% to 27% reported that it put them off politics. Only 12% said it made them “proud of our Parliament”.

John Bercow. By Office of John Bercow CC-BY-SA-3.0

Both the Deputy Prime Minister Clegg and Labour leader Ed Miliband agreed that the baying and screeching gave politics and politicians a bad name, and while Prime Minister David Cameron was a little more guarded, he too thought that Mr Bercow’s ideas were interesting and worth looking at.

So would it help if politicians listened to each other little bit more and shouted at each other a little bit less? The fact that PMQs is simultaneously the most watched and the least respected Parliamentary event is significant. No doubt we watch it precisely because we enjoy the barracking and the bawling, and there is always the possibility of grudging admiration for a smart bit of wordplay by one or other of the combatants. Parliamentary sketch writers nearly always judge the winner of PMQs on the basis of which of the party leaders has bested the other in terms of quips and ripostes – and very rarely on the basis of political substance.

So it’s hardly an informative occasion. Indeed the Hansard’s respondents’ main gripes are that questions are scripted, and that there are too many planted questions and too few honest answers.

Once again, though, maybe this misses the point. Some will say that the civilised and serious political work is done behind the scenes in committee rooms, where party loyalty is less obviously on display, and where considered debate often takes place. On this account, PMQs occupy a very small amount of parliamentary time, and anyway, the sometimes angry jousting that takes place between party leaders on Wednesdays is as much a part of politics as the polite exchange of views we find in Parliamentary committees. Where would politics be without disagreement? Would it be politics at all?

But then there are different ways of disagreeing – and some ways could turn out to be exclusionary. One of the ideas floated by John Bercow was that the flight of women from the House of Commons was in part a result of the way in which debate is conducted there.

David Cameron

David Cameron. By World Economic Forum/Moritz Hager (Flickr) CC-BY-SA-2.0

And it’s a fact that although good listening is much prized in daily conversation, it’s been almost completely ignored in the form of political conversation we know as democracy. While PMQs show that politicians aren’t always very good at listening to each other, they’re not much better at listening to the public either. Politicians instinctively know that listening in a democracy is vital to legitimacy. That’s why when they’re in trouble they reach for the listening card and initiate a “Big Conversation,” like the one Tony Blair started in late 2003, not so many months after the million people march against the Iraq war.

But won’t a government that listens hard and changes its mind just be accused of that ultimate political crime, the U-turn? In 2012, the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, announced some radical changes in UK secondary school education, including a return to an older style assessment regime. Then in February 2013 he suddenly announced that the changes wouldn’t take place after all. Predictably, the Opposition spokesman called this a ‘humiliating climbdown’. Equally predictably, Gove’s supporters played the listening card for it was worth, with Nick Clegg saying effusively that, “There is no point having a consultation if you’ve already made up your mind what you’re going to do at the end of it.”

So it looks as though, as far as listening goes, governments are damned if they do and damned if they don’t: accused of weakness if they change their mind and of pig-headedness and a failure to listen if they don’t. On balance, I’d rather have them listening more – both to each other and to us. John Dryzek is surely right to say that, “the most effective and insidious way to silence others in politics is a refusal to listen.”

As the ancient Greek philosopher Epictetus says: “Nature hath given men and one tongue but two ears, that we may hear from others twice as much as we speak.”

Andrew Dobson is Professor of Politics at Keele University, UK. His most recent book is Listening for Democracy: recognition, representation, reconciliation (OUP, 2014). He is a member of the England and Wales Green Party and he co-wrote the Green Party General Election Manifesto in 2010. He is a founder member of the thinktank Green House.

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Image credit: John Bercow, by Office John Bercow, CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons. (2) David Cameron, by World Economic Forum/Mortiz Hager (Flickr), CC-BY-SA-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

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5. It was a wild, wild wood…

furfamily

Here’s a little moment in time. Right after I read The Little Fur Family to Huck (for the first time!) the other day, he wanted to read it himself. This is one of my favorite picture books to read with very young kids, and I can’t imagine how it slipped past Huck until now—I found this copy of the book at the bottom of a box of toys earlier in the week. Of course the very best edition is the tiny one with the faux-fur cover. It’s around here somewhere, but I don’t recall seeing it in ages. It’s probably under a bed.

Anyway, when I grabbed my boy for the read-aloud, he was reluctant to listen, as he very often is right at the beginning. And then, as nearly always happens, before I finish the first page, he’s hooked. It went double this time around. He fell hard for the little fur child in the wild, wild wood, like so many before him.

I caught a good chunk of his reading on video. There’s background noise from his big sisters and brother, but you can hear him pretty well. I love watching the leaps kids make at this age—the substitutions where they think they see where the word is going and plug in one they know, like his “fun children” for “fur child” and “mom” for “mother.”

I don’t know if I caught this stage on video with any of the other kids. I have a pretty young Rilla reading an Ariel speech from The Tempest—you can’t hear much in the recording but it melts me to see the confidence with which she attacks some quite challenging text—but nothing, as far as I can recall, of the others at Huck’s stage. I’m glad I captured this much. Those sneezes!

(Vimeo link)

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6. Hate-Reading

Have you ever hate-read anything? Maybe, like this Paris Review contributor, you even do it regularly? When I came upon that post today I was initially taken aback. Why, I’d never! *Gasp of shock and horror*

Sure, I’ve hate-watched something before. I readily admit that after the second or third episode of the first season of the Under the Dome TV series I found it so terribly bad and realized it wasn’t going to get any better. But I kept watching it each week because there was something about hating it that was fun. And when the second season runs I will hate-wath that too.

But hate-reading? Why I’d never! Except then I remembered that once I did. It didn’t start off as hate-reading but the book quickly turned bad. I kept reading, however, because it was bad. It was a nonfiction book and its badness became not only fascinating but fun. Let’s see how many holes I can poke in the argument! And there were a few flaws of logic that were breathtaking. So I read to the end, hating it the whole time and always wondering why I didn’t just return the book to the library.

I am sure that was the only time I have ever hate-read something. But now I recall hate-reading a couple Harold Bloom books. Those books weren’t bad and Bloom is a very good writer, it’s the man himself that rubs me the wrong way. All his sly insulting comments about feminists, his pomposity and ego drive me nuts. I know this but I read those couple of books anyway just for the pleasure of whipping myself into a hate-reading frenzy.

I generally feel contrite afterwards; a little dirty and ashamed. So it is probably good I don’t hate-read very often. It’s been years but I doubt that means I have seen the error of my ways. No, I suspect I am just waiting for the right book to come along.


Filed under: Books, Reading

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7. Oh, the Places You’ll Go

bookCoverShannon Bowers’ son Alex loves Dr. Seuss’ Oh, the Places You’ll Go.

Shannon gets teary-eyed when they read it together. Someday Alex will grow up, go to college and live out his dreams. Alex gets teary-eyed when Shannon reads too many of the pages. He’s five now. That’s his job.

Recently, Alex and his classmates, students from diverse ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, all picked out brand-new books from First Book to take home. They chose stories about history, princesses and sharks. Their excitement was overflowing; many of them had no books at home.

Shannon Bowers family 2014Books have always been an important part of Shannon’s life. Her parents read to her as a child, and she and her husband Paul entered parenthood sharing the belief that education creates opportunities. They have always made an effort to fill their home with books.

Since Alex was born, Shannon and Paul have made reading as a family part of their nightly routine. Alex picks out a book; they all pile into his bed and share the story together. These days, Alex really likes to read to one-year-old Michael. He gets frustrated if mom or dad interrupts.

Shannon hopes reading will help take Alex and Michael all the places they want to go – in their imaginations and in life. She hopes financial issues won’t stand in their way. She hopes the same can be true for all kids.

“Our kids, they’re five years old,” she said. “None of them are thinking about [the future] right now. But we are. We think about that kind of thing… I want all of these kids to know if they make good enough grades, and they do what they need to do, then it’s there. They can do whatever they want.”

Together we can prepare kids for brighter future. Please consider making a gift to First Book today.

The post Oh, the Places You’ll Go appeared first on First Book Blog.

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8. Henry Bradley on spelling reform

By Anatoly Liberman


Last week I wrote about Henry Bradley’s role in making the OED what it is: a mine of information, an incomparable authority on the English language, and a source of inspiration to lexicographers all over the world. New words appear by the hundred, new methods of research develop, and many attitudes have changed in the realm of etymology since the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century, but nothing said in the great dictionary has become useless, even though numerous conjectures and formulations have to be revised.

Unfortunately, the world knows little about those who did all the work. It will probably not be an exaggeration to say that before Katharine Maud Elisabeth Murray wrote a book on her grandfather (1977) and gave it the wonderful title Caught in the Web of Words, few people outside the profession had any notion of who James A. H. Murray, the OED’s senior editor, was. Samuel Johnson’s definition of a lexicographer as a harmless drudge has been trodden to death by authors who live on borrowed wit. Alas, very often the only way to honor a distinguished “drudge” is to publish a short obituary, usually forgotten on the same day. As I mentioned last time, Bradley had better luck: a posthumous volume of his collected works appeared in 1928. I was happy to see his archival picture in my post. Many eminent scholars of that epoch were photographed in the same position, so that they look like venerable old twins, writing desk, glasses, beard and all. Yet this picture is different from the one reproduced in the 1928 book.

How harmless lexicographers are I cannot tell. It seems that, with regard to character, this profession, like any other, is, to use the most popular word of our time, diverse. In any case, lexicographers do not only shuffle index cards and sit at computers, trying to disentangle themselves from the web of words: they have opinions about many things, not related directly to the art of dictionary making. For example, both Bradley and Skeat had non-trivial ideas about spelling reform. Today I will summarize Bradley’s views. Skeat’s turn will come round next Wednesday. To begin with, Bradley, who made his thoughts public in 1913, was an opponent of Simplified Spelling, but he addressed only one side of the reform, namely the proposal that phonetic spelling should be adopted. In making his position clear, he advanced several perfectly valid arguments but overlooked perhaps the most important aspect of the problem.

cartoon80post

In one respect, Bradley was decades ahead of his time. He insisted that the written form of Modern English and of any language using letters, far from being a mechanical transcript of oral speech, has a life of its own. This is perfectly true. Much later, the members of the Prague Linguistic Circle, a great school of European structuralism, made the same point. Bradley wrote: “Among peoples in which many persons write and read much more than they speak and hear, the written language tends to develop more or less independently of the spoken language.”  He referred with admiration to the epoch of ideographic writing, when characters were pictures. Even today, he stated, we never read letter by letter, but grasp whole words. So we do, and for this reason we tend to overlook typos. Bradley did not object to many English words being ideograms, or images that have to be memorized and remain independent of the sounds of which they consist. Many scholarly words are familiar to us only from books; they are hardly ever pronounced, so may they preserve their familiar form, he said.

Bradley made his attitude clear: English spelling is an heir to an age-long tradition and should be reformed with care. Sounds, he added, change, and, “when change of pronunciation had made a spoken word ambiguous, the retention of the old unequivocal written form is a great practical convenience. It makes the written language, so far, a better instrument of expression than the spoken language.” Sometimes he was forcing open doors, but in his days there was no theory of orthography, and his point is well taken. Indeed, modern spelling has several (though hardly equally important) functions. For example, it may connect related words, in violation of the phonetic principle. Thus, k- in know ~ knowledge is a nuisance (I was almost tempted to write knuisance), but it should probably be retained by reformers because k- is pronounced in acknowledge (however, I am afraid that aknowledge would be quite enough).

It may be convenient that in some situations we bow to the ideographic principle and have write, wright ~ Wright, and rite. The recent invention of phishing is characteristic: it designates fishing for customers in muddy waters, fishing with an evil flourish (phlourish?). Bradley did not cite rite and its kin, but referred to hole and whole, son and sun, night and knight among numerous other homophones, which are not homographs. (Homophones sound alike; homographs are spelled alike.) He quoted the line Nor burnt the grange, no buss’d the milking-maid (buss means “kiss”) and remarked that Tennyson would not have agreed to write bust for bus’t; hence the virtue of the apostrophe.  When words are spelled differently, we are apt to ascribe different meanings to them. This is again correct. Bradley recalled the case of grey versus gray (see my post on this word): many people, especially artists, when asked about their thoughts on those adjectives, replied that they associate gray and grey with different colors.

Bradley agreed that the spelling of some words should be changed. He admitted that it may be useful to teach children some variant of phonetic spelling before introducing them to letters, for this would make them aware of the sounds they pronounce. But phonetic spelling as the aim of a sweeping reform was unacceptable to him. I am all for simplifying English spelling, but I think Bradley was right—not so much for theoretical as for practical reasons.  The English speaking world will never agree to a revolution, and promoting a hopeless cause is a waste of time. But the most interesting aspect of Bradley’s attack on the reform is his general attitude. He addressed only the needs of those who had already mastered the intricacies of English spelling. Obviously, to someone who learned that choir is quire and a playwright is not a playwrite, even though this person writes plays, any change will be an irritation. But the advocates of the reform have the uneducated in mind. They and Bradley speak at cross-purposes.

Strangely, only one aspect of English spelling worried Bradley: the existence of many words like bow as in make a low bow and bow in bow and arrow. This situation, he thought, had to be changed, even though he could not offer any advice. In his opinion, words that sounded differently had to be spelled differently. “The task of rectifying these anomalies, and of making the many readjustments with their correction will render necessary, will require great ingenuity and thought.” Consequently, homophones may be spelled differently (right, write, wright, Wright, rite), but homographs should be homophones (for this reason, bow1 and bow2, read and its past read, etc. need different visual representations).

The rest of Bradley’s argumentation against the reformers is traditional (English speakers pronounce words differently: for example, lord and laud are not homophones with 90% of English speakers, and so forth) and need not be discussed here, but we will return to it in connection with Skeat’s passionate defense of the reform.

Anatoly Liberman is the author of Word Origins And How We Know Them as well as An Analytic Dictionary of English Etymology: An Introduction. His column on word origins, The Oxford Etymologist, appears on the OUPblog each Wednesday. Send your etymology question to him care of blog@oup.com; he’ll do his best to avoid responding with “origin unknown.” Subscribe to Anatoly Liberman’s weekly etymology articles via email or RSS.

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Image credit: Theodore Roosevelt cartoon via Almanac of Theodore Roosevelt.

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9. The Pulitzers and Graywolf Press Rocks!

Oh Pulitzer Prize! Such an interesting mix of winners, but isn’t that mostly the case? How did I miss knowing bout the Margaret Fuller biography that won? And am I happy that Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch won? (or, as the Pulitzer Committee originally tweeted it The Goldfish) I have not read Tartt’s book, had decided not to actually because every time I would read a review of it I found myself changing my mind. First it was, oh it sounds good! Then it was, oh sounds like I won’t like it. And back and forth I went until I just decided that I won’t worry about reading it at all and find something else to read instead. But now it has won a Pulitizer and one moment I thought, well I guess I will read it after all and a little after that while reading commentary on the fiction selections in general I decided I wouldn’t read it. Why do I torture myself so? Do other people do this to themselves? Please tell me I am not alone in my craziness.

What I am really excited about is that the poetry winner was published by Graywolf Press. Graywolf is an indie publisher in Minneapolis. They published Tracy K. Smith’s Pulitzer Prize winning poetry collection Life on Mars. I’ve always been proud that they are in Minneapolis and impressed by the quality of the books they publish, but now I am simply over the moon.

I have not read the winning book or poet. The book is 3 Sections by Vijay Seshadri. You can read three of the poems from the book at the link and two more previously published poems at Poets.org. I like them enough that I want to read more.

Have you read any of the prize winners and if so, what did you think? Deserved? Or would you have preferred a different choice?


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10. Aunt Crete’s Emancipation

When I get in a certain kind of mood, there’s nothing that I want more than stories about downtrodden people being showered with care and nice things and the people who have been metaphorically treading on them having that shoved in their faces. And Aunt Crete’s Emancipation, by Grace Livingston Hill, is the distilled essence of that. And you guys know me pretty well, I guess, because a number of you have recommended it to me over the past few years. It’s my own fault for not giving in and reading it sooner.Aunt Crete is Lucretia Ward, a dumpy middle-aged spinster who lives with her sister Carrie and her niece Luella. They’re not particularly nice to her, in just about every way they can manage. They pass off to her the greater share of the housework, deprive her completely of anything she wants for herself, and put down everything about her: her looks, her intelligence…even the kindness and love for her dead eldest sister that make her look forward to a visit from her unknown Western nephew.  Carrie and Luella are much less excited about the nephew, who they picture as gawky and uncivilized, and flee to a seaside resort just before he arrives, leaving Aunt Crete to receive him — and also to finish trimming some of Luella’s dresses and make jam and whitewash the cellar. The nephew, of course, is neither gawky or uncivilized. He’s handsome and wealthy and well-educated and kind, and he both appreciates and returns Aunt Crete’s affection. He also quickly grasps the actual nature of the situation, hard as Aunt Crete tries to hide it from him, and immediately starts making up for it. First he takes her shopping for clothes, sparing no expense — an essential part of this kind of book — and then he takes her to the same resort Carrie and Luella have run off to. From there on, Hill wallows in gentle malice. And she does it with such balance. She’s less gentle than, say L.M. Montgomery, but less malicious than Mary Jane Holmes, who would have had Luella die at the end of the book, but not before all her hair had fallen out. Hill only makes Luella marry a plumber, but she rubs Aunt Crete’s newly acquired advantages in Luella and Carrie’s faces exactly as much as I wanted her to.  To paraphrase Jimmy Carr on 10 o’ Clock Live, Grace Livingston Hill has clearly found my level. I’m just kind of impressed by the purity of this book, for lack of a better word. It’s the platonic ideal of this trope, whatever this trope is called. It’s unsullied by romance and there’s no plot to speak of – just nice things being showered on Aunt Crete and not on Carrie and Luella, and Carrie and Luella having that rubbed in their faces. It’s petty, and vindictive on behalf of a character who couldn’t be, and I love it. I should go figure out where I left that copy of Cloudy Jewel.


Tagged: 1910s, cinderella, gracelivingstonhill

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11. How it feels…

…to get the latest Eric Shanower/Skottie Young Oz graphic novel for your birthday.

Emerald City

She’s been waiting for this one for a long time, in girl-years.

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12. 25 recent jazz albums you really ought to hear

By Ted Gioia


Jazz Appreciation Month gives us an opportunity to celebrate musical milestones of the past. But it also ought to serve as a reminder that jazz is a vibrant art form in the current day. Here are 25 recordings released during the last few months that are well worth hearing.

Ambrose Akinmusire1. Ambrose Akinmusire – The Imagined Savior Is Far Easier To Paint
Akinmusire is one of the most talented young trumpeters on the jazz scene. This release also represents a ‘return to its roots’ for the Blue Note label, which has increasingly strayed from mainstream jazz in recent years, but shows here that it hasn’t forgotten its heritage.

2. Greg Amirault – East of the Sun
Many of the most interesting new jazz albums are self-produced or issued by small indie labels. Montreal guitarist Amirault’s new CD is a case in point. He is hardly a household name in the jazz world, but this is one of the best guitar albums released in recent months.

3. The Bad Plus – The Rite of Spring
Stravinsky has been inspiring jazz artists for decades, but this ranks among the most creative reinterpretations of his work that I’ve heard.

4. Jeff Ballard – Time’s Tales
Check out the funky 9/4 groove that opens this leader date for drummer Jeff Ballard—joined byguitarist Lionel Loueke and saxophonist Miguel Zenon.

5. Joe Beck5. Joe Beck – Get Me
Guitarist Joe Beck died in 2008, but this posthumous release (coming out in a few days) is likely to reignite interest in a very talented and underrated artist.

6. George Cables – Icons and Influences
I’ve been a fan of Cables’ piano work since I was a teenager. He has been in poor health in recent years, but this new albums finds him playing at top form.

7. Regina Carter – Southern Comfort
Carter combines jazz with traditional Southern music on her latest release. Even listeners who don’t think they like jazz might find themselves enjoying this appealing album.

8. Matt Criscuolo – Blippity Blat
This is another self-produced album that merits close listening. Criscuolo is formidable saxophonist with a sweet tone and supple phrasing.

9. Karl Denson's Tiny Universe9. Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe – New Ammo
With this high-octane funk-oriented release, Denson proves that jazz can still work as dance music. This album might make a good entry point into jazz for rock fans who want to broaden their tastes and expand their ears.

10. Nir Felder – Golden Age
The recently revived OKeh label is releasing a number of outstanding jazz albums, but this CD from up-and-coming guitarist Nir Felder may be its most ambitious project of 2014, pushing beyond conventional boundaries of jazz and popular music.

11. Craig Handy – Craig Handy & 2nd Line Smith
Handy mixes elements of New Orleans party music and Hammond organ soul jazz in a very exciting hybrid. In a fair and hip world, this album (and the Denson release mentioned above) would be generating lots of radio airplay.

12. Vijay Iyer – Mutations
Iyer’s debut album with the ECM label is one of his best to date, revealing his maturity not just as a jazz player but also as a composer of jazz-oriented chamber music.

13. Christian Jacob13. Christian Jacob – Beautiful Jazz
Here’s another smart self-produced jazz album that you could easily miss. Pianist Jacob is a master at updating and reharmonizing the traditional jazz repertoire.

14. Erik Jekabson – Live at the Hillside Club
Jekabson is one of the most promising young trumpeters on the West Coast, and continues to impress with this new album.

15. John Lurie – The Invention of Animals
John Lurie has never gotten the respect he deserves for his jazz work with the Lounge Lizards. He subsequently abandoned music to focus on painting, but these rediscovered tracks testify to his brilliance as a jazz improviser.

16. Pete McGuinness Jazz Orchestra – Strength in Numbers
I have heard several outstanding jazz big band albums this year, but this one is the best of breed.

17. The North17. The North – Slow Down (This Isn’t the Mainland)
Fans of mid-period Keith Jarrett and E.S.T. will enjoy this trio album. This band is still a well-kept secret in the jazz world, but their music has clear crossover potential.

18. Danilo Pérez – Panama 500
Pérez has long ranked among the leading Latin jazz artists. Here he draws on the Panamanian music tradition for a theme album commemorating the 500th anniversary of Balboa crossing the Isthmus of Panama.

19. Matthew Shipp – Root of Things
Pianist Shipp possesses an expansive vision of jazz that, over the years, has encompassed everything from hip-hop to electronica. In his latest album, he returns to the acoustic trio format, where he is joined by bassist Michael Bisio and drummer Whit Dickey.

20. Revolutionary Snake Ensemble – Live Snakes
This Boston-based band is a throwback to the earliest roots of jazz, when hornplayers often performed in parades and brass bands entertained at social gatherings.

21. (718) – Sputnik
The group’s name comes from its phone area code, and the album title honors a 1950s spacecraft. But the music here is rock-oriented funk jazz in the spirit of the best 1970s fusion bands.

22. Helen Sung – Anthem for a New Day
I’ve been following Sung’s career with interest for a number of years, but this is her best album to date.

23. Daniel Szabo23. Daniel Szabo – A Song From There
Daniel Szabo is one of the most impressive young pianists on the scene today, but even in jazz circles most won’t recognize his name. I suspect they will soon. I highly recommend his new album.

24. Norma Winstone – Dance Without Answer
Norma Winstone has been a major force on the British jazz scene since the 1960s. At an age when many jazz singers start showing wear and tear in their voices, Winstone is recording some of her finest work.

25. John Zorn – Psychomagia
It’s easy to take John Zorn for granted. He records prolifically, and puts very little effort into marketing and promoting his projects. But this 2014 release deserves your attention.

Ted Gioia is a musician, author, and leading jazz critic and expert on American music. The first edition of his The History of Jazz was selected as one of the twenty best books of the year in The Washington Post, and was chosen as a notable book of the year in The New York Times. He is also the author of The Jazz Standards, Delta Blues, West Coast Jazz, Work Songs and The Birth (and Death) of the Cool.

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13. What to Make of It?

I’m seventy-five pages into my review copy of Francine Prose’s new book Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 and I’m just not sure what to make of it. It is one of those novels told in multiple voices with sometimes very distant perspectives to the main course of the plot. Most of the telling happens through documents — letters, chapters from a biography, newspaper stories, chapters from a memoir of some kind — but sometimes there is a chapter of regular narrative storytelling. This sort of approach I generally have no issues with, I often like the variety of perspective such a style has to offer. But this time I am struggling with it.

My struggles aren’t because I am having trouble following along or keeping things straight. My struggle comes from how contrived and same-y it feels. Prose can’t seem to find different voices for the different perspectives so they all come across as too much alike. And the letters, ugh! The letters are being written by only one character to his parents, a young man from Hungary who has gone to Paris to try and make his name as a photographer. This is 1924 and the guy is writing stuff to his parents that I wouldn’t write to mine in 2014! Plus the style in which he writes is not a correspondence style, or rather, each letter begins that way but as soon as he starts telling his parents what he has been up to it turns into a regular prose narrative with dialogue conversations that end with a plea for money and a sign off from the loving son. In addition, there are so many different narratives it is getting a bit cacophonous.

And now I find myself wondering if I should even keep reading. The story isn’t bad but it hasn’t grabbed me either. It is all just so-so. I am on the fence over whether I should give it another twenty pages or if I should call it quits because so-so isn’t good enough at the moment and King Lear is taunting me because I know I will love it since it is a reread that I loved the first time around. It is easy to give up on bad books or good books I am definitely not getting along with, but giving up on so-so books is harder because there is still the hope that maybe it will get better in ten more pages. But that can end up being a trap when after ten pages it still isn’t getting better but maybe in ten more. See me talking myself into making this book a DNF? The fence is starting to wobble.


Filed under: Books, In Progress Tagged: Francine Prose

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14. Passover in Jewish Eastern Europe

By Glenn Dynner


Today, observant Jews the world over are selling off their leavened foodstuffs (chametz) in preparation for the Passover holiday, which begins with a seder this evening and is followed by eight days of eating matzah, macaroons, and other unleavened products.

But in Eastern Europe, where the vast majority of American Jews have roots, the sale of leavened products not only used to be more widespread, it was more complicated. Many East European Jews—almost 40%—made their living selling beer, wine, and rye-based vodka in taverns leased from the Polish nobility. Passover was a forced holiday for them.

Henryk Rodakowski, “Karczmarz Jasio,” z cyklu Album Pałahickie, 1867, akwarela na papierze, 32 x 23 cm.

Henryk Rodakowski, “Karczmarz Jasio,” z cyklu Album Pałahickie, 1867, akwarela na papierze, 32 x 23 cm.

During the eight days of Passover, Jewish tavernkeepers had to “sell” all of their leavened products to non-Jewish neighbors. Rabbis drew up contracts for the fictitious sales similar to those utilized today, a loophole meant to prevent economic ruin.

Problems emerged in the early nineteenth century, when the government attempted to drive Jews out of rural tavernkeeping (ostensibly to protect the peasants from drunkenness and ruin) by imposing heavy concession fees on them. The Hasidic master Moses Eliyakim Beriyah of Kozienice lamented that “several of the [Jewish] villagers were forced to apostatize because of their need to make a living.”

The main issue for the numerous traveling Jewish merchants, who relied on Jewish-run taverns for hospitality, was not that those proprietors had converted to Christianity. It was that, according to Jewish law, the proprietors were technically still Jewish. Yet who could be sure that they were “selling off” their leaven products to gentiles during the intermediate days of Passover? This cast doubt on the ritual fitness of everything they sold. A governmental investigation, preserved in Polish archival records, confirms that most Jewish customers refused to purchase liquor from apostate tavernkeepers on these grounds.

Thus, conversion to Christianity did not turn out to be much of a solution for Jewish tavernkeepers struggling under the weight of discriminatory legislation. Instead, many began to evade concession fees by going underground—permanently installing Christians as “fronts” for their taverns. They did this with the full knowledge and participation of their Christian neighbors, a beautiful reflection of Jewish-Christian coexistence at the local level during the rise of absolutism!

Glenn Dynner is Professor of Jewish Studies at Sarah Lawrence College and the author of Yankel’s Tavern: Jews, Liquor, and Life in the Kingdom of Poland. He has been a Fellow at the Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, a member of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University, and is currently the NEH Senior Scholar at the Center for Jewish History in New York.

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15. Jus post bellum and the ethics of peace

By Carsten Stahn, Jennifer S. Easterday, and Jens Iverson


Whenever there is armed conflict, international lawyers inevitably discuss the legality of the use of armed force and the conduct of the warring parties. Less common is a comprehensive legal analysis, informed by ethics and policy concerns, of the transition from armed conflict to peace. The restoration of peace after conflict is often sidelined in post-conflict legal analysis. Interventions and peace operations seeking to build a just and sustainable peace frequently suffer from a misalignment between ‘means’ and ‘ends.’ There can be stark discrepancies between the immediate reaction to conflict and post-conflict engagement. It is true that concepts such as ‘humanitarian intervention,’ the ‘Responsibility to Protect,’ (R2P) or the ‘protection of civilians’ (POC) have been used to establish capacity and political will to respond to atrocity situations. But attention shifts quickly to other situations of crisis once a cease-fire or peace agreement has been reached. Some of the underlying premises of engagement, such as ideas of responsibility or the ethics of care, receive limited attention in the aftermath of crisis and during the lengthy process of peacebuilding.

An old idea that seeks to mitigate these dilemmas is the concept of jus post bellum. The basic idea emerged in classical writings (e.g., Alberico Gentili, Francisco Suarez, Immanuel Kant) and has its most traditional and systemic rooting in just war theory. In this context, it is part of a structural ‘framework’ to evaluate the morality of warfare, and in particular the ‘right way to end a war’, including ’post-war-justice’ (Michael Walzer, Brian Orend). Outside just war theory, jus post bellum is largely unexplored. The notion was used sporadically in different contexts over the past decade: peacebuilding and post-conflict reconstruction, transformative occupation, transitional justice, and the law of peace (lex pacificatoria) more generally. But the concept has lacked consistency; there are almost as many conceptions of jus post bellum as scholars, within and across disciplines.

A modern understanding of jus post bellum requires a fresh look at each of the core components of the classical concept, namely the meanings of ‘jus,’ ‘post,’ and ‘bellum.’ In traditional scholarship, jus post bellum has mostly been understood as ‘justice after war’. However, in modern scholarship, the concept of ‘jus’ is debated. Does it mean ‘law,’ ‘justice,’ or a complicated mix of the two? The concept of time and what it means to be ‘post’ conflict, and even that of ‘war’ itself, with blurred distinctions between modern armed conflicts, are now more and more contested.

Functions of jus post bellum

Classical scholarship tied jus post bellum to the vindication of ‘rights’ and ‘duties,’ military victory, and the distinction between ‘victors’ and ‘vanquished’. Today, such conceptions require re-consideration. The experience of the two World Wars has confirmed the Kantian postulate that peace remains fragile if it contains tacitly reserved matter for a future war’ (Perpetual Peace). But in modern conflicts (e.g. Afghanistan, Iraq), the entire concept of ‘victory’ has become open to challenge.

Insights from contemporary conflict research indicate that it is not enough to deal with the formal ending of conflict or the ‘pacification’ of violence. Distinctions between ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ become muddied, making it more difficult to mitigate the risk of a return to violence. Structural approaches to peacebuilding require engagement with social injustices, the ‘violence of peace,’ the establishment of ‘trust’ in norms and institutions and other factors that make a society more  ‘resilient’ against conflict.

This makes it necessary to re-think the concept of ‘jus’ beyond its traditional focus on rights and post-war justice (i.e. punishment, responsibility). Past decades have witnessed a rapid rise of the ‘liberal justice model’ and norms and instruments of criminal justice. Core challenges of modern transitions lie therefore not so much in the definition of proper accountability mechanisms, but rather in their coordination with other rationales and priorities (i.e. protection of socio-economic rights) and their perception as elements of ‘just peace.’ This creates space for a modern function of jus post bellum. A modern jus post bellum may pursue different rationales beyond rights vindication or punishment:

(i) it may have a certain preventive function, by requiring actors to look into the consequences of action before, rather than ‘in’ and ‘after’ intervention.
(ii) it may serve as a constraint on violence in armed conflict; and
(iii) it may facilitate a succession to peace, rather than a mere ‘exit’ from conflict.

System, framework, or interpretative device?

The branding of jus post bellum as a modern concept comes with its own problems and politics. The very use of the label creates some risks (e.g. fears of abuse and instrumentalization) and concerns relating to the function and reach of law. But there is some space to ‘think outside the box.’ A modern jus post bellum does not necessarily have to be framed in the structure and form of established concepts, such as jus ad bellum or jus in bello. There is virtue in diversifying the foundations of jus post bellum.

First, Jus post bellum may be said to form a system of norms and principles applicable to transitions from conflict to peace. It provides, in particular, substantive norms and guidance for the organization of post-conflict peace. Some voices have even called for new codification, i.e. a fifth Geneva Convention. But more law and abstract regulation do not necessarily suffice to address tensions arising in the aftermath of conflict. There may a greater need for a better application of the existing law, and its adjustment to context, rather than the articulation of new norms and standards. Some promise may lie in the strengthening of informal mechanisms and flexible principles.

A second and more ‘modest’ conception of jus post bellum is its qualification as a ‘framework.’ This conception emphasizes the functionality of jus post bellum, such as its capacity to serve an instrument to evaluate action (e.g., legitimate ending of conflict) and to establish a public context for debate. Jus post bellum might be construed as an ‘ordering framework,’ or as a tool to coordinate the application of laws, solve conflicts of norms, and balance conflicting interests.

Thirdly, jus post bellum may constitute an interpretative device. The concept might inform a context-specific interpretation of certain normative concepts, such as ‘military necessity’ or the principle of proportionality. It might, for instance introduce a novel end in relation to the conduct of hostilities, namely the objective not to defeat the goal of sustainable peace through the conduct of warfare.

In moral philosophy, the idea of jus post bellum has been associated with the struggle for ‘justice’ and ‘just peace’ for centuries. It has been driven by ambitions to reconcile ideas of justice and punishment with moderation towards the vanquished. These dilemmas continue today. But underlying tensions have received increased attention in the legal arena since the 1990s. Many of the unexplored strengths and new opportunities lie in the broader role of the concept in relation to peacebuilding. It is here where the concept provides new prospects to rethink some of the fundamental elements of the table of contents and institutions of international law, not necessarily in the form of the ‘liberal’ peace idea, but in a novel, pluralistic way.

Carsten Stahn, Jennifer S. Easterday, and Jens Iverson are the editors of Jus Post Bellum: Mapping the Normative Foundations. Carsten Stahn is Professor of International Criminal Law and Global Justice and Programme Director of the Grotius Centre for International Studies, Universiteit Leiden. Jennifer S. Easterday is a Ph.D Researcher, Faculteit Rechtsgeleerdheid, Instituut voor Publiekrecht, Internationaal Publiekrecht, Universiteit Leiden. Jens Iverson is a Researcher for the ‘Jus Post Bellum’ project and an attorney specializing in public international law, Universiteit Leiden.

Oxford University Press is a leading publisher in international law, including the Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law, latest titles from thought leaders in the field, and a wide range of law journals and online products. We publish original works across key areas of study, from humanitarian to international economic to environmental law, developing outstanding resources to support students, scholars, and practitioners worldwide. For the latest news, commentary, and insights follow the International Law team on Twitter @OUPIntLaw.

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16. The Year of Delight

Mel happened to be reading this one when I said I wanted a Cinderella book, and something that was like The Blue Castle but wasn’t The Blue Castle, and recommended it. And Margaret Widdemer’s The Year of Delight is very definitely both of those things, and if Margaret Widdemer can’t stop her characters from coercing each other into being married…well, it bothers me a lot less when the person being coerced is the man.

The title makes both more and less sense when you know that it’s the name of the title character. Delight Lanier is a dreamy, obedient child, brought up at a cross between a boarding school and an orphan asylum, and she grows up into a dreamy, obedient young woman, working as a secretary for a philanthropic cousin. She exist more in her daydreams, which take place in the year after next, than in her real life.

That changes when her cousin dies and leaves her six million dollars and she’s simultaneously diagnosed with pernicious anemia. She’s only got a year to live, so there isn’t any year-after-next anymore. But she’s got millions of dollars at her disposal, so she decides to start living in year-after-next now. She collects the girl she wanted as a best friend when she was a kid and hires her as her companion, does a lot of shopping, buys a house in the country, and gets up a house party with the man she hasn’t realized she’s in love with and his fiancée as its nucleus. And, with all that in place, she tries to be an ordinary young person, in a way she’s never gotten to be before.

She’s very good at it, of course. That’s the kernel of the whole Cinderella story thing: a heroine who’s out of the world in some way — whether because she’s poor, or sheltered, or a drudge or whatever — to the point where she doesn’t really know how to…do life, I guess. But then she gets fitted out with a nice set of worldly possessions and thrown in with a nice set of people, and finds out that actually she’s very good at doing life.

Margaret Widdemer has a pretty solid grasp on that concept — see The Rose Garden HusbandThe Wishing-Ring ManWhy Not?, etc. Don’t see I’ve Married Marjorie, because it’s gross. And she executes it very well here: The Year of Delight is materialistic but light-hearted, and Widdemer understands the value of being pettily mean to the hero’s fiancée, and of having an extra man on hand to fall in love with the heroine. She’s also really good at convincing you that her characters really enjoy each other’s company, which is always a plus.

The Year of Delight is almost too much like The Wishing-Ring Man, without being quite as good. Delight’s love interest, Julian, was a little less attractive by the end than he was at the beginning, partly as a consequence of clinging to Edna, his fiancée, for a little too long, and while Widdemer tries to make Delight’s inconsistency seem more like a feature than a bug, it doesn’t quite work. Still, though, mostly it’s just super, super fun. I feel like Widdemer delights in the same kind of knotty emotional situation that I do, and sometimes I almost don’t dislike her for I’ve Married Marjorie.


Tagged: 1920s, cinderella, margaretwiddemer, romance

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17. Mid-April

IMG_3741

Golly, more than a week since I posted. I think that’s only happened three or four times in the nine years I’ve been writing this blog. And no big reason; I got sick midweek, a virus that had already made the rounds of the rest of the family, and it walloped me a bit; but not so much I couldn’t have gotten a post or two up, if I’d been inclined. I suppose I was just thrown off rhythm.

Wasn’t reading a whole lot, either, so I had very little to report in my daily reading notes! When I’m sick I always crave Agatha Christie, and  I spent the week revisiting a comfortable volume of Miss Marple stories. I first fell under Jane Marple’s gentle spell at age eleven, in a collection found on my aunt shelves. Every year or two when we stayed at her apartment, I hunted that book back out—along with a Lewis Carroll collected works and a volume of Poe stories. I still remember lying in one of the two twin beds in my Aunt Genia’s guest room, flat on my back, the heavy hardbound Poe tome propped on my chest, trying to make sense of “The Pit and the Pendulum.” I found it baffling yet captivating, and I remember being haunted by its terrible choice, falling asleep with the images so sharp in my mind that they carried over into my dreams. I remember rolling into the Pit and awakening with a start.

There’s nothing at all baffling about Miss Marple, and I’m sure that’s why I seek her out when my head is fuzzy.

Beyond that, all last week’s reading was things with the kids. Lots of poetry with the girls—more Donne, a bit of Herbert, and our continuing journey through the Poetry 180 selections, which offer much food for thought. The King’s Fifth, which I read with Jane ages ago but none of the rest remember. The Secret Garden with Rilla. Stellaluna with the three littles. Other picture books I’m forgetting.

A Huck funny I want to remember (I feel a little embarrassed to share it, but I have to remind myself I keep this blog for me, for my own record, and this is most certainly a moment I want to hold on to): he was only three when Fox and Crow Are Not Friends came out, and if it registered with him then that I had written it, the knowledge left no impression. (Like many writers’ children, my younger set are decidedly unimpressed by my profession. Obviously parents shut themselves away for a while every day and write books. That’s ordinary and boring. What’s really interesting are people who drive garbage trucks.) But Huck is reading quite well now, and when he asked me to read Fox and Crow to him yesterday, he recognized the name on the title page. “That’s your name!” he said.

“Yes,” explained, “this is one of my books.”

He slowly craned his neck and peered up at me. “That you wrote?” he asked. “You made this story?”

“Yep. And Sebastian Braun drew the pictures.”

And suddenly he threw his arms around my neck and squeezed me tight. “I love this story,” he said. “Thank you, Mommy!”

And that, my friends, just may be the best review I have ever gotten. :)

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18. Parent practices: change to develop successful, motivated readers

Oxford University Press is a proud sponsor of the 2014 World Literacy Summit, taking place this April. The Summit will provide a central platform for champions of literacy from around the globe to come together and exchange points of view, knowledge, and ideas. We asked literacy experts Jamie Zibulsky and Anne E. Cunningham to discuss the importance of literacy on this occasion.

By Jamie Zibulsky and Anne E. Cunningham


Being literate involves much more than the ability to sound out the words on a page, but acquiring that skill requires years of development and exposure to the world of words. Once children possess the ability to sound out words, read fluently, and comprehend the words on a page, they have limitless opportunities to learn about new concepts, places, and people. To say that becoming a reader gives one the power to change is an understatement. In fact, attempting to detail the many ways that reading can foster personal growth and development without writing an entire book on the topic is truly challenging!

Children’s capacities to build the many skills required to access text are, to a large degree, determined by their environments. Parents and teachers play a critical role in introducing children to the sounds of words, the print on a page, the ideas and concepts that provide the background for comprehension, and the structure of stories. For these reasons, if we want to ensure that all children have the opportunity to become successful, motivated readers, we need to think about the power the adults in their lives have to change children’s literacy trajectories.

The language and literacy experiences of young children are largely social in nature, and both the environment and the adults that care for them initially guide children’s development. In fact, psychologists point out that language development occurs first as a social act between people and then later as an individual act, as we gradually internalize the directions, strategies, and advice of more skilled others by verbalizing them to ourselves. Similarly, to make sense of the written symbols used to convey any language, children need guidance from the adults in their lives. Talking and reading together with children is a powerful way to help them gain entry to the world of words, and doing so most effectively may require parents to change their current practices.

The kids reading together. photo by Valerie Everett. CC BY-SA 2.0 via valeriebb Flickr.

The kids reading together. Photo by Valerie Everett. CC BY-SA 2.0 via valeriebb Flickr.

Here are some powerful tips that families can use to make shared reading time supportive and effective for young children learning a variety of languages:

  • Let your child take the lead during reading time. We often think of reading together as a time when a parent reads a story to a child straight through, page by page. Instead, let your child take more of an active role by using the pictures to narrate the story, answering your questions about aspects of the book, or sounding out some words independently. This may feel like you and your child are swapping your regular reading roles. And that’s exactly what we want you to do. Even before children are able to read independently, they are ready to be active participants in book reading experiences. Giving them these opportunities helps children build stronger language skills, and provides some insight into their skills and interests.
  • Give your child hints, rather than providing the answer, when he is struggling. This support helps the child solve the problem in a way that allows him to feel competent and to learn from the situation, but also lets the adult to guide the child through the problem-solving process. In addition, it gives him the chance to successfully experience tasks he would not have been able to tackle alone, or that would otherwise make him become frustrated and give up.
  • Identify your child’s strengths, and those reading skills he or she already possesses. Providing experiences that build on the skills your child already possesses will allow her to enhance her learning capacities. If you think about almost any activity you expect your child to complete, you can probably think back to a time when you completed that activity for her. Gradually, over time, she took more responsibility and was able to do more of the task independently. This is not only true for activities like getting dressed and tying shoes, but also for language and literacy tasks, as well as tasks that require memory and concentration.
  • Label the behavior that you want your child to display, and praise it specifically.  Praise and encouragement from parents is a powerful motivational tool. Because shared reading is such a social activity, much of your child’s initial pleasure in reading together may come not primarily from the stories that he hears, but from the joy of sitting in your lap and spending time together. Your child values the time you spend together and will, over time, begin to value the books in front of him and the strategies needed to make sense of them. You can help him build his reading motivation by praising specific skills he displays, like listening carefully, sounding out words, and making great predictions.


Each of these tips helps set the stage for a successful shared reading experience, but may require change on the part of parents to help foster a powerful and engaged reader. These changes, though, help empower children to identify themselves as readers from the time they are young. And this strong foundation prepares them for so many challenges they will face in the future, so doing everything one can to raise a successful, motivated reader is one of the best gifts a parent can give any child.

Anne E. Cunningham, Ph.D. and Jamie Zibulsky, Ph.D. are the authors of Book Smart: How to Develop and Support Successful, Motivated Readers. Anne Cunningham is Professor of Cognition and Development at University of California Berkeley Graduate School of Education and Jamie Zibulsky is Assistant Professor of Psychology at Fairleigh Dickinson University. Learn more at Book Smart Family.

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19. Review – Letter Composed During a Lull in the Fighting by Kevin Power

9781444780819When I received a copy of Kevin Powers’ collection of poetry I was quite apprehensive. I definitely wanted to read the collection as The Yellow Birds was beyond amazing. It still resonates very strongly with me everytime I think about it and Powers’ poetry background really comes through in his writing. But I wasn’t sure whether or not I was going to have the same feelings and get the intensity from his poems, and if I did, I wasn’t confident in being able to review or talk about the poetry collection in the same way I am comfortable in doing so with prose.

Kevin Powers first poetry collection is divided into four parts. The first part I definitely enjoyed the most which helped me greatly. The first two parts of the collection deal mainly with his experience as a soldier in Iraq and for the most part are quite short and sharp. The title piece is amazing but the other poems are all powerful in their own different ways. Part two is made of up of slightly longer pieces and begin to move away from the war, although not completely. Improvised Explosive Device that ends part two is probably the most emotionally charged piece in the book and my favourite line ends After Leaving McGuire Veterans Hospital for the Last Time:

You came home
with nothing, and you still
have most of it left.

The rest of the collection varies in form and subject and my lack of poetry experience, understanding and confidence began to disadvantage me.

There is no doubt Kevin Powers is an extraordinary talented writer. War brings out the best and worst in humanity and Powers writing is able to funnel that into beautiful words and devastating emotions. The war poets of World War One were the only ones who could truly convey the horrors of the trenches to those who were not there. Since then other forms of words and pictures have taken over showing those at home what happens during war. However there are more sides to war than the battles and there are more casualties of war than those who are physically wounded or killed. To be able to convey these many sides in a succinct form with strong emotional intensity is rare a precious gift indeed.

Buy the book here…

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20. Some of This, Some of That

Yesterday was far too nice a day to be indoors in front of a computer. We actually made it to 70F (21C)! It was the warmest day we’ve had since October 11, 2013. There should be a state law that says the first 70 degree day of spring is a holiday. But since there isn’t, I had to take advantage as best I could. I ate my lunch outdoors in the sunshine and instead of blogging when I got home I sat on my deck and wrote a few cards to mail. Of course today is not as warm and it will probably be another week before we reach 70 again. That’s spring in Minnesota. But enough about the weather.

I just found out there is going to be a ballet at the Royal Opera House in London during their 4014/15 season based on the life and works of Virginia Woolf! Does the Royal Ballet ever tour? I would so love to see a Virginia Woolf ballet. Please bring the show to Minneapolis!

For poetry month Tor (science fiction fantasy) has commissioned a number of authors to compose original poems for them. Jo Walton did one and is it ever good. Hades and Persephone turns the story from one of abduction and rape into one of love with Persephone bringing light and flowers into the darkness of Hell. It’s a poem about desire and how much light and darkness need each other.

Have you ever heard of Drop Everything and Read Day? It is celebrated on April 12th, Beverly Cleary’s birthday since she is the author of the book in which D.E.A.R first appeared. For whatever reason I was not a Cleary reader or Ramona fan when I was a kid. Nonetheless, I can certainly get behind a day of doing nothing but reading! Come Saturday I will try my hardest to drop everything and read. Household chores can wait another day, right?


Filed under: Books, Poetry, Reading, Virginia Woolf

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21. Purina® “PAW”ty Challenge (Funpage for Kids)

First Book and Purina® have teamed up to celebrate two of our favorite things – reading and pets. And we want you to join the fun! Click on the image below to download and print our Purina® “PAW”ty Challenge funpage. You’ll find creative activities like drawing, story writing and a book maze for your kids or students to enjoy.

Purina and First Book fun page

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22. Overcoming everyday violence [infographic]

The struggle for food, water, and shelter are problems commonly associated with the poor. Not as widely addressed is the violence that surrounds poor communities. Corrupt law enforcement, rape, and slavery (to name a few), separate families, destroys homes, ruins lives, and imprisons the poor in their current situations. Gary A. Haugen and Victor Boutros, authors of The Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence, have experience in the slums, back alleys, and streets where violence is a living, breathing being — and the work to turn those situations around. Delve into the infographic below and learn how solutions like media coverage and business intervention have begun to positively change countries like the Congo, Cambodia, Peru, and Brazil.

Infographic Locust Effect

Download a copy of the infographic.

Gary A. Haugen and Victor Boutros are co-authors of The Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence. Gary Haugen is the founder and president of International Justice Mission, a global human rights agency that protects the poor from violence. The largest organization of its kind, IJM has partnered with law enforcement to rescue thousands of victims of violence. Victor Boutros is a federal prosecutor who investigates and tries nationally significant cases of police misconduct, hate crimes, and international human trafficking around the country on behalf of the U.S. Department of Justice.

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23. Does torture really (still) matter?

By Rebecca Gordon


The US military involvement in Iraq has more or less ended, and the war in Afghanistan is limping to a conclusion. Don’t the problems of torture really belong to the bad old days of an earlier administration? Why bring it up again? Why keep harping on something that is over and done with? Because it’s not over, and it’s not done with.

Torture is still happening. Shortly after his first inauguration in 2009, President Obama issued an executive order forbidding the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” and closing the CIA’s so-called “black sites.” But the order didn’t end “extraordinary rendition”—the practice of sending prisoners to other countries to be tortured. (This is actually forbidden under the UN Convention against Torture, which the United States signed in 1994.) The president’s order didn’t close the prison at Guantánamo, where to this day, prisoners are held in solitary confinement. Periodic hunger strikes are met with brutal force feeding. Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel described the experience in a New York Times op-ed in April 2013:

I will never forget the first time they passed the feeding tube up my nose. I can’t describe how painful it is to be force-fed this way. As it was thrust in, it made me feel like throwing up. I wanted to vomit, but I couldn’t. There was agony in my chest, throat and stomach. I had never experienced such pain before.

Nor did Obama’s order address the abusive interrogation practices of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) which operates with considerably less oversight than the CIA. Jeremy Scahill has ably documented JSOC’s reign of terror in Iraq in Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield. At JSOC’s Battlefield Interrogation Facility at Camp NAMA (which reportedly stood for “Nasty-Ass Military Area”) the motto—prominently displayed on posters around the camp—was “No blood, no foul.”

Torture also continues daily, hidden in plain sight, in US prisons. It is no accident that the Army reservists responsible for the outrages at Abu Ghraib worked as prison guards in civilian life. As Spec. Charles A. Graner wrote in an email about his work at Abu Ghraib, “The Christian in me says it’s wrong, but the corrections officer in me says, ‘I love to make a grown man piss himself.’” Solitary confinement and the ever-present threat of rape are just two forms of institutionalized torture suffered by the people who make up the world’s largest prison population. In fact, the latter is so common that on TV police procedurals like Law & Order, it is the staple threat interrogators use to prevent a “perp” from “lawyering up.”

We still don’t have a full, official accounting. As yet we have no official government accounting of how the United States has used torture in the “war on terror.” This is partly because so many different agencies, clandestine and otherwise, have been involved in one way or another. The Senate Intelligence Committee has written a 6,000-page report just on the CIA’s involvement, which has never been made public, although recent days have seen moves in this direction. Nor has the Committee been able to shake loose the CIA’s own report on its interrogation program. Most of what we do know is the result of leaks, and the dogged work of dedicated journalists and human rights lawyers. But we have nothing official, on the level, say, of the 1975 Church Committee report on the CIA’s activities in the Vietnam War.

Frustrated because both Congress and the Obama administration seemed unwilling to demand a full accounting, the Constitution Project convened a blue-ribbon bipartisan committee, which produced its own damning report. Members included former DEA head Asa Hutchinson, former FBI chief William Sessions, and former US Ambassador to the United Nations Thomas Pickering. The report reached two important conclusions: (1) “[I]t is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture,” and (2) “[T]he nation’s highest officials bear some responsibility for allowing and contributing to the spread of torture.”

No high-level officials have been held accountable for US torture. Only enlisted soldiers like Charles Graner and Lynndie England have done jail time for prisoner abuse in the “war on terror.” None of the “highest officials” mentioned in the Detainee Task Force report (people like Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and George W. Bush) have faced any consequences for their part in a program of institutionalized state torture. Early in his first administration, President Obama argued that “nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past,” but this is not true. Laying blame for the past (and the present) is a precondition for preventing torture in the future, because it would represent a public repudiation of the practice. What “will be gained” is the possibility of developing a public consensus that the United States should not practice torture any longer. Such a consensus about torture does not exist today.

Tolerating torture corrupts the moral character of the nation. We tend to think of torture as a set of isolated actions—things desperate people do under desperate circumstances. But institutionalized state torture is not an action. It is an ongoing, socially-embedded practice. It requires an infrastructure and training. It has its own history, traditions, and rituals of initiation. And—importantly—it creates particular ethical habits in those who practice it, and in any democratic nation that allows it.

Since the brutal attacks of 9/11/2001, people in this country have been encouraged to be afraid. Knowing that our government has been forced to torture people in order to keep us safe confirms the belief that each of us must be in terrible danger—a danger from which only that same government can protect us. We have been encouraged to accept any cruelty done to others as the price of our personal survival. There is a word for the moral attitude that sets personal safety as its highest value: cowardice. If as a nation we do not act to end torture, if we do not demand a full accounting from and full accountability for those responsible, we ourselves are responsible. And we risk becoming a nation of cowards.

Rebecca Gordon received her B.A. from Reed College and her M.Div. and Ph.D. in Ethics and Social Theory from Graduate Theological Union. She teaches in the Department of Philosophy and for the Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good at the University of San Francisco. She is the author of Letters From NicaraguaCruel and Usual: How Welfare “Reform” Punishes Poor People, and Mainstreaming Torture: Ethical Approaches in the Post-9/11 United States.

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24. The Mexican-American War and the making of American identity

By John C. Pinheiro


Few Americans today would have difficulty imagining a United States where the citizens disagree over the wisdom of immigration, question the degree to which Mexicans can be fully American, and dispute about the value of religious pluralism. But what if the America in question was not that of 2014 but rather the 1830s and 1840s? Along with being a high point of anti-Catholic nativism, these two decades witnessed the Texas Revolution, the US annexation of Texas, violence in US cities against Catholic immigrants, and the Mexican-American War. As Americans struggled to negotiate their identity as a people in terms of race, religion, and political culture, the war with Mexico clarified and for one century afterward cemented American identity as a Protestant, Anglo-Saxon republic.

Manifest Destiny held that American Anglo-Saxons, by reason of their cultural and racial superiority, were destined to overtake the western hemisphere. This Anglo-Saxonism was not so much based on attributes like skin color, as it was on unique attitudinal traits that predisposed Anglo-Saxons to be the most effective guardians of liberty. From this innate love of freedom had sprung Protestantism and republicanism—the religion and government for free men.

While the majority of Americans condemned a series of mob attacks against Catholic convents, churches, and schools in Boston and in Philadelphia, they nevertheless agreed with nativists that Catholicism was incompatible with representative—or what they called, “republican”—government. Politically unstable Mexico, they said, was proof of this.

When the United States and Mexico went to war in 1846, doubts quickly surfaced about the patriotic fortitude of foreign-born, Irish-Americans in a war against a Catholic nation. Irish immigrant soldier John Riley fled the US army on 12 April 1846, about two weeks before the first battle of the war. American authorities suspected that in September 1846 he was the leader of a group of mostly Irish and Catholic deserters at the Battle of Monterey. These rumors were true, and in late 1847 the US Army captured the San Patricios, or Saint Patrick Battalion. In the United States, debate ensued over the San Patricios’ motives and goals. At stake was the question of immigrant Catholic loyalty to the United States.

So, what were the factors in the San Patricio desertion? Abuse by nativist American officers was one of them. For a given crime, officers would sometimes merely demote native-born soldiers while imprisoning, whipping, or dishonorably discharging foreign-born men. Atrocities, church looting, and violence against priests by some American troops aggravated the fear that the Protestant United States was attacking not just Mexico but the Catholic faith.

The causes of this desertion, however, were not a one-sided affair. Mexican propaganda enticed Americans to leave their ranks. One broadside was addressed to “Catholic Irishmen” by General Antonio López de Santa Anna but the writer probably was Riley. It beckoned Americans to “Come over to us; you will be received under the laws of that truly Christian hospitality and good faith which Irish guests are entitled to expect and obtain from a Catholic nation.” It then asked, “Is religion no longer the strongest of all human bonds? Can you fight by the side of those who put fire to your temples in Boston and Philadelphia”?

It is most accurate, then, to say that while religion was involved in the defection, most of the San Patricios deserted because of intense abuse by officers, not for love of Mexico or the Catholic Church. This includes Riley. In all, 27 San Patricios were hanged.

Image of the hanging of the San Patricios

Hanging of the San Patricios following the Battle of Chapultepec. Painted in the 1840s by Sam Chamberlain. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

The capture and punishment of the San Patricios may have been dramatic, but the questioning of Catholic loyalty was just one small part of religion’s interplay with the war. Religious rhetoric constituted an integral piece of nearly every major argument for or against the war. This civil religious discourse was so universally understood that recruiters, politicians, diplomats, journalists, soldiers, evangelical activists, abolitionists, and pacifists used it. It helped shape everything from debates over annexation to the treatment of enemy soldiers and civilians. Religion also was the primary tool used by Americans to interpret Mexico’s fascinating but alien culture.

More than any other event during the nineteenth century, the Mexican-American War clarified the anti-Catholic assumptions inherent to American identity. At the same time, from the crucible of war emerged an American civil religion that can only be described as a triumphalist Protestant and white, anti-Catholic republicanism. That civil religion lasted well into the twentieth century. The degree to which it is still alive today in current debates over Latino immigration is debatable, but one can hardly miss the resemblance and connection between the issues of the 1840s and those of 2014.

John C. Pinheiro is Associate Professor of History at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He has written two books on the Mexican-American War. His newest book is Missionaries of Republicanism: A Religious History of the Mexican-American War.

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25. What is clinical reasoning?

By Lloyd A. Wells


It is easy to delineate what clinical decision-making is not. It is not evidence-based medicine; it is not critical thinking; it is not eminence-based medicine; it is not one of many other of its many attributes; and it stands alone, with many contributions from all these fields. It is far more difficult to characterize what clinical reasoning is and very difficult to define.

But the clinicians among us deal with it every day and, I think, recognize it when we do it and observe it.

Evidence-based medicine is a mantra. But it is a difficult mantra. No one wants to say, “I reject evidence: I am a quack.” But it is complex and difficult. Evidence from the research in psychiatry comes from clinical trials, neural imaging, genetics, and other fields. Clinical trials can be read and understood. They are viewed as the sine qua non of evidence-based medicine. But the trials are conducted on patients without any other clinical conditions and are usually of very brief duration. The clinician, on the other hand, is often dealing with patients with many other syndromes and a great deal of chronicity. It is hard to make a claim, based on evidence, that the excellent clinical trial of Drug X applies to such a patient.

Neural imaging is far more difficult. It is a very complex methodology, and psychiatric studies which use it include as investigators physicists, neuroradiologists, psychiatrists, psychologists, and others. The work is so interdisciplinary that, usually, none of the authors understands the entire paper. This is a huge question, I believe, for philosophy of science. Most of these studies are conducted on a small N, with very complex statistics, and few have been replicated. What is the clinician to do with them? Many clinicians make the assumption that the spectroscopic findings somehow translate to clinical “facts”, but that is generally not a safe assumption, nor one on which to base treatment decisions as yet.

Similarly, genetics studies are also very difficult, especially because of the completely central statistical analyses which are necessary to understanding the papers — and which few clinicians have time to read or sufficient training to understand.

800px-Wooden_Sculpture_of_Science_Genetics

Many clinicians try hard to be “evidence-based”, but it is very difficult for anyone to truly sort through the evidence in order to make an on-the-spot clinical decision which will affect the health of a patient. Some journals and digests attempt to do this in order to assist clinicians, but reliance on them implies a trust in their employees which may or may not be justified.

For all these reasons, “eminence-based” reasoning has some attraction. The clinician should base his decisions on recommendations of experts rather than her or his own scrutiny of the literature. But many of the experts are quite old and have been removed from day-to-day clinical interactions for many years.

A couple of years ago I encountered a young patient with a severe, atypical depression. My immediate response was, “This patient reminds me of another patient, who had a superb response to a monoamine oxidase inhibitor, so perhaps I should try one.” This is a poor rationale for a clinical decision until it is parsed, but, in fact, the young man’s depression was categorically similar to that of the other patient, neither had responded to more traditional treatment, and there was a supportive literature for the use of a monoamine oxidase inhibitor in this type of clinical situation. The patient in fact responded well to this treatment. I believe that this type of clinical decision-making is common and that it is based on science and evidence, though sometimes the science and evidence are not immediately apparent unless the clinician thinks about it.

467px-Vincent_Willem_van_Gogh_002

Clinical reasoning requires consideration of the evidence and efforts to assess it, good critical thinking, and also, in my view, the experience of interacting with and treating many patients over time. It is not a laboratory exercise but one which involves a doctor, a patient, and the world around them.

Lloyd A. Wells, Ph.D., M.D., is Consultant Emeritus at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, USA. While there, he chaired the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry for nineteen years and was the Department of Psychiatry’s Education Chair for twelve years. He is co-editor, with Christian Perring, of Diagnostic Dilemmas in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

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Image credits: (1) Wooden Sculpture of Science Genetics, by epSos.de, CC-BY-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons. (2) Sorrowing Old Man, by Vincent van Gogh, public domain via Wikimedia Commons

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