Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Footprints or Preservation?

Are you a Footprint Leaver?  Or are you a Preservationist?

This can be somewhat of a hot topic (believe it or not) between readers who like to write in their books and readers who like to leave them unmarked.

Mr. Adler, mentioned in a previous post, encourages us to interact with the book by underlining, making margin notes and writing your insights.  This engages more senses to improve the learning process.  Also, old and rare books are increased in value if people of the times wrote in the book--it becomes a piece of history.  In other words, they are leaving their footprint on the book for others to follow.

On the other hand, if anybody has tried to read a used textbook with rampant and gratuitous highlighting, underlining that goes through the words and awkward phrases in the margin, you see not everybody who leaves a note in the book is as historically valuable as we would hope.

Of course, any of you taken to task by the teacher for writing in your middle school textbook will know there are others out there who are rabid preservationists.  Those who leave the book in mint condition as long as possible.  Some go so far as to alter their reading stance in order to contort around the book so the spine doesn't actually bend.  Not everyone is that bad, though.

On the other hand of that, books can often be a fluid commodity.  They pass like dollar bills from hand to hand and shelf to shelf.  If every person felt compelled to note in the book, there would be no more room left for the text! 

Who is right?

My answer:  Nobody... or Everybody

It really is a personal preference.  It can also be different for the different types of books you read.  A fun fiction book might not need too much attention.  An exegetical text might beg more interaction when you are analyzing a passage of scripture.

My personal preference is to sticky-note the book as much or as little as I want.  That way, I can take notes and interact with the text but also take them out eventually if I want to hand the book on to someone else.  I also figure that what I have to put down in the margin isn't so intellectually stimulating that someone 150 years from now would want to read it.  

No matter what you decide, the idea is to immerse yourself in the book and enjoy the experience.  However, this little video covers the how-to-mark-a-book style (with the option of sticky notes) in a very nice way.

Happy reading!

*The Preservation Faux Pas video was featured on (the website for the American Library Association).  The How to Annotate a Book I found from searching on YouTube.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Gulliver's Travels, Part 2

After the well-known voyage to Lilliput, Lemuel Gulliver is content to stay home with his family for only 2 months before he set out again.  Just as the narrative started, I found myself thinking, "I need to search for sailing lingo just to follow this".  Then one of the few, but pertinent, footnotes in my edition pointed out that a section is taken from a Mariner's Magazine published around that time.  It is purported to be almost verbatim.  Funny that nowadays we call it plagiarism and back then it was to enhance the technical feel of the book.

Gulliver is then stranded in a new land where, as luck would have it, everyone and everything is 12 times bigger than he is in complete inverse proportion of him to the Lilliputians.  The interesting thing is how the perspective and observations change from one extreme to the other.  Not just the comical descriptions of the land and people (although the horror Gulliver expresses at seeing the wet nurse expose the tools of her trade when suckling a child is truly hilarious) but the whole manner of observing as from the outside in (Lilliput) to inside out (Brobdingnag).  Here is where the true satirical luster of Swift's writing shines.   The sheer audacity of the facetious writing is amazing.

There are some dry political/governmental descriptions that I had to gloss over (not being my field of interest, I didn't want to drool on the pages with boredom) but the depiction of the English/European people given by the king at the end of chapter 6 is definitely worth a read and the beginning of it is given at the end of this post. I think you will find it as true and pertinent now as it was then.

My favorite thing to note is Gulliver's ego unchanged throughout either of his adventures.  He is adamant that anybody who agrees with him is clever and intelligent but those who disagree are ignorant and wrong-headed.

Have I convinced you to get your own copy, yet?  I'll be working part 3 next, join me on my journey through the classics.  If you're not keen on Gulliver, consider Darwin for our next adventure.  Or, suggest something different, let me know!

This is the king holding Gulliver in his hand to deliver his opinion of the European people:
"My little friend Grildrig [Gulliver's name in that country], you have made a most admirable panegyric upon your country.  You have clearly proved that ignorance, idleness and vice are the proper ingredients for qualifying a legislator.  That laws are best explained, interpreted, and applied by those whose interest and abilities lie in perverting, confounding, and eluding them.  I observe among you some lines of an institution, which is its original might have been tolerable, but these half erased, and the rest wholly blurred and blotted by corruptions."

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Working my way through the Classics

     While I am an avid reader and have some literature training in my background, I am not what I would consider well-read in the classics.  Pretty  much anything written before the 1900's is out of my realm of experience.

I am determined to change that!

     About a year ago I read a wonderful book entitled How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler.  If you haven't heard of it, this isn't a typical high-school level book on how to read for meaning or learning how to "read between the lines".  It is an eloquent monologue on the importance of reading for understanding, how to read different types of books (from Pythagoras to Aquinas to Swift) and how to incorporate all of that information into a usable base of knowledge from which to approach any thought-provoking problem.

     Having read How to Read a Book, I cannot escape the notion of reading all the "Great Books".  Why are they called that?  Because Adler coined the term and then edited the first edition of a series of broad-ranging texts from the earliest manuscripts until the middle of the 20th century.

     Michael Owen.  He is the other reason my curiosity was peaked and my determination solidified.  Mike is both a friend and a colleague at PIU.  He not only went through a Great Books program in college but he used the wisdom he gained from that to marry his wife, my friend Samantha (see, education is useful in real life if you use it right).  We have had some fascinating discussions and he has brought some really interesting insights to bear that have been directly influenced from the reading, discussion, and learning he'd gleaned from going through these timeless works.

     So, now I have the tools and the determination so I've had to decide where to start.  Yikes!  There's so much to choose from, how do I decide?  Well, I went through my bookcase at home (o.k. one of about a million bookcases we have, what can I say?) and found quite a few classics that we have been given or collected through the years.  So, I picked one I am familiar with but not published too far in the past to be incomprehensible (I hope). I also chose a satirical book being an avid fan of that type of humor. What did I choose?

     So, being steeped in colloquial and idiomatic American English, I thought this would be a refreshing start into my journey through the classics.  The language is familiar enough that I don't feel I have to decipher it to get the meaning and the plot style is still very similar to books published today.  Also, I am a fan of historical romance novels (you may gag but it won't change my opinion) so some of the English history of that time is familiar (romance writers really do their research despite what you may think). 

     The first thing I noticed, is that there is no dialogue written.  It is all recalled from the narrator's experience and he does not give voice to individual conversations choosing, instead, to filter all things through his own recollection--we are left to decide how accurate each of these recollections may be.  With some modern books being more dialogue than description, this is an interesting change.

     Now as to the story, I am 1/3 of the way through the travels and Gulliver has just left the island of Lilliput.  I have seen one or two film adaptations of this story (although not the most recent Jack Black version) and this is the most often depicted part of the story.  I am pleased to say that I have enjoyed the story much more than the movie versions because the medium of video has to rely on visual experiential scenes to tell the story (this is not to say that film doesn't have impact or is inferior, I am just stating that they are different mediums and it can be difficult to transfer from one to the other).  The text is much more cerebral and the irony of reading about the absurdities of court life as seen from an outsiders point of view is very funny but also poignant because the charades and dramas are what were real life for many people.

     Now, I don't want to spoil the story or give away plot points but I do want to encourage those of you who haven't attempted to explore the classics to give them a try.  I'll chronicle some of my observations of Gulliver's Travels while I read through it, and maybe you can read it at the same time and see if you agree or disagree with what I say.  After Gulliver, I'm not sure where I'll venture.  Maybe Darwin because, believe it or not even after a Bachelor's degree in Biology, I still haven't read On the Origin of Species which I believe as an instructor is a sad lack in my earlier education.  What do you think?  Comment with suggestions for my next classic or email me.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

2013 Bible Run... Done!

It's over!  The 2013 PIU Bible Run went as planned and now we're all recovering.  

     For those of you who don't know, this is a major event hosted by PIU, this being the 2nd year in a row that we've held it.  It involves churches from all over the island, the Guam Police Department, all the village Mayors' offices, the Guam Running Club (this year), publicity, news releases, t-shirts and graphic design, run day logistics and many volunteers along with our dedicated faculty and staff. 


     That is a lot over Christmas and New Years, directly following the end of a hectic semester.  Times are ripe for frustration, impatience, and just plain grumpiness.  I admit that I did feel some of this leading up to and including some time during the run.  But it was eclipsed by the excitement of the people who were all eager to be a part of an island-wide proclamation of our uniting faith in Christ.  That is more than enough to drag even a dedicated grump out of the doldrums!

     I also realized that my favorite part of the run was the praying.  Not just joining in the prayers but, to my extreme fascination, my comfort level in praying aloud in public.  Being from a conservative background, I always try to be a good Lutheran and we only have things written down (yes, sarcasm for you uninitiated)... but I really didn't ever practice or feel comfortable with spontaneous prayers in groups of people.  My time here at PIU has really overcome that and I not only was able to participate but also enjoy the opportunity to pray with fellow believers on the side of the road, in the heat of the day, uniting our faith.  What an awesome experience!  The Lord be praised!!

Members of the Southern team

Thursday, 3 January 2013

2013 Bible Run Around the Island!

Mark your calendars!  January 5th, 2013 is the second Bible Run Around the Island presented by Pacific Islands University.  Participants join in by relaying 2 copies of the bible along routes that cover the perimeter of Guam.  Everyone who supports this endeavor is encouraged to pray for the island of Guam, especially the village they are passing through, the people and leadership of the island.  We seek to proclaim that Christ is Lord and join as many people and churches as we can across the island.  Please see the PIU website ( for more information on how to support the Bible Run whether or not you are on the island of Guam.