For those who pay attention to such things, I’m preaching Friday at our midday mass commemorating Leo the Great. (On the topic of Leo being “the Great,” Dylan has an entry wishing that she had a jazzy nickname such as “The Edge,” to which I appended a comment about the good ol’ days when theologians got topical nicknames; I left out my favorite example, Peter Comestor, whose nickname means “the Eater” [of books, or of knowledge].)

The readings are 2 Timothy 1:6-14 (“Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me”), Psalm 77:11-15 (“I will remember the works of the LORD, and call to mind your wonders of old time.”), and Matthew 5:13-19 (“let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven”). I don’t know where I’m going with all this; it’s tough for me to resist Matthew’s “whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew’s Jesus insists that “not a jot or a tittle will pass away from the Law” — but he concedes that those who “break one of the least of these commandments, and teach others to do the same” will still be gathered into the Kingdom of Heaven.

The Generous Web

David Weinberger frequently tells his audiences about the generosity built into the structure of the Web, whereby the Web is constituted by links that point away from my page and toward others’. That generosity sometimes (often?) also comes to expression in the content of the pages that point hither and yon, as in the recent discussions among Tom and the Tutor and Frank and David and their commenters about Faithful Interpretation.

David goes above and beyond, though, by having produced a podcast through the Berkman Center. Our interview wound on about twice as long as we had planned; in retrospect there are some things I wish I had added, or clarified, and at least one rebuttal I wish I’d pressed — but those are future entries, whereas right now I need to thank David for the time he put into his response, and to the podcast, right at a time when his own book is taking its final shape.
Continue reading “The Generous Web”


Mary Hess pointed me to Scott McLeod’s reflections on computer gaming and education (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). The series opens up a vast terrain for reflection and imagination (critical as well as ebulliently enthusiastic), but I affirm without qualification that if the right educators and the right game designers put their heads together, you could generate some explosive change in pedagogy at every level of education.

The Life Ate My Blog

It’s a good thing I didn’t volunteer for NaBloPoMo, because I’d have fallen off that wagon on Day Three (thanks for the link, ahem, Jeneane — those gadgety Nab thingies look interesting, but we don’t have enough change in the couch cushions).

It’s because Margaret is home for the weekend, and not just any weekend but her birthday weekend (would you believe she’s already 36?), and I’ve been preoccupied by the most wonderful, amazing, tremendous, sweet spouse I could have dreamed of. Given the choice of thinking complicated thoughts about semiotics for my weblog and gazing into her eyes. . . well, I’ll blog later.
Continue reading “The Life Ate My Blog”


How strong would a Gore-Obama ticket be for the Democrats in 2008? Obama isn’t seasoned enough to win right away, I think, but he’ll strengthen any ticket on which he appears. Gore won in 2000 before the Bush legacy was as manifestly catastrophic as it is now. He’s used the interim to shore up his image; unlike Kerry, he doesn’t have “loser” plastered all over him, and he shows a genuine sense of chastened humor about the whole debacle. If he ran on the platform of “This time, let me help you out of this mess,” with the charismatic Obama as his running-mate (Obama for President then in 2012 or 2016), wouldn’t that look like a shoo-in for the Democrats? I don’t quite understand why they’re bothering with flirtations from Evan Bayh, Hilary Clinton, or back-from-the-dead John Kerry (thanks for the link, Kevin! I voted for the boys).

Temps Trouvé

So yesterday I reconnected with Mike and Jeneane, and today I’ll pick up a couple of threads with David and Tom. All that’s lacking would be a stinging observation from the Tutor and an argument with Mike Sanders.

So to return to Tom, the challenge (he politely calls it a “quibble”) that he poses at the end of his review submits that “it’s safe to say that there are many, many features of written language that can be identified, logged, quantified, in a manner that most (one can’t say “all,” ever) people would find nothing to disagree with. We can count the “Q’s” in a poem and arrive at a total – and, pace AKMA’s pains to assure us that one never reads the same Q twice, there’s a literal identity that subtends the manifestations of that and every other member of the alphabet that cannot be elided by attending to differences such as whether the Q is in print, or handwritten, etc.” On the basis of this premise, he reminds me that “there is reason to have faith in the utility of a distinction between description — as per the Trivium — and interpretation”

My response will probably not, alas, set his mind at ease. I’m entirely comfortable distinguishing description from interpretation, and proposing examples of each that contrast sharply with one another. I’d still argue, though, that the distinction I proposed was not more durable than the consensus that backs it up. Since as Tom allows, “one can’t say ‘all,’ ever,” what do we make of the dissenters who claim that there are two “Q” in “Not Ideas about the Thing
but the Thing Itself
”? Well, we can start by saying they’ wrong, but we already knew that we thought that, and so did they; that doesn’t advance our understanding of anything (even if it be true). Rather, we can learn by noting the scope and characteristics of the set of all people who believe there is but one Q in “Not Ideas. . .” and comparing them to the scope and characteristics of the set of all people who think there are two. Such comparisons, often not worth much more time than a few seconds, can justifiably issue in claims such as “As far as we’re concerned, there just plain is one Q in ’Not Ideas. . . ,” and there’ an end on’t.” or even “It’s a fact.” But where people disagree over what a fact is, we have to come back to acknowledging that our claims about facts aren’t self-authenticating; they differentiate “us” (for whom it’s a fact) from “them” (who for whatever reason, delusion, insanity, blinkered pig-ignorance, or sometimes an uncommon insight, dispute our claim). So yes, sure, there’s a difference between description and interpretation. But precisely where we want it to do some work for us, when we want to explain to some confused person that we’re describing and they’re interpreting, the distinction does us no good.

On a related note, I was emailing back and forth with David while he was preparing this morning’s post, and at the same time as he was writing “Nature is just about all joints. How we carve depends on our interests, intentions and culture,” I was emailing him the following questions:

If Everything is Miscellaneous, doesn’t that mean that taxonomies aren’t intrinsic to things? And if taxonomical tags don’t subsist in things, but they’re taxonomized based on relationships that people imagine and (by acting upon) put into practice, might one not apply the same reasoning to. . . words and meaning?

David sees a difference in the cases, a difference foretold by his qualifying “just about all joints.” Maybe after he gives his presentation, and I finalize my course proposals for Seabury’s new improved curriculum (with mostly the same courses extended to a semester each, but which require all new course proposals), we can clarify the ground we don’t share.
Continue readingTemps Trouvé


I confess that as my network of acquaintances in Blogaria expanded, and as the frequency with which Mike Golby blogged declined, I lost track of him — dropping by only on those rare occasions when I worked systematically through my bookmarks or blogroll. You young’uns won’t remember some of the long, dark nights of the soul through which Mike narrated us, but take my word that Mike has been there and back, more than once, and he brought us along with him (and with him we survived South Africa’s deadly traffic out there on Highway 61).

So when I saw that Jeneane was pointing again to Mike, with great good news of his family, I took a deep breath and revisited the halcyon days of Pagecount. It brought back a lot — the whirlwind of those early Blogarian communiques, with darts of imagination and wit flashing around the world at the speed of hyperlinks, seasoned with the strange exhilaration of discovery, of finding wild souls whose associations redefined “free.”

Congratulations, Mike — not just on the occasion of the wedding, but on all that went before it, all that it’s cost you, and all that overrides the costs and bursts forth in joy and grief and love and death and truth, oh truth, and glory. Congratulations, and thank you, and bless you, Mike. Missed you, man.


I must be wrong, but I thought the reason the Democrats nominated John Kerry for President in 2004 was that he was “electable.”

After reading David’s comparison of Bush and Kerry on Iraq, I realized that I should stipulate that I’m not the least bit sympathetic with those who would distract their critics by magnifying the impropriety of whatever Kerry might have said or intended; I’m ruefully intrigued, though, by the use and effects of the term “electable.”