Shakespeare with Kids

shakespeare kidsSpeaking of Shakespeare (as I was here), several years ago, some friends came over and we watched Kenneth Brannagh’s Much Ado About Nothing (it has nudity, but we like the rest so well we thought it worth it to fast forward through that).

Afterwards we were discussing the movie and Kenneth Branagh. One of our friends said that he’d been nominated for an Academy Award for best screenplay for one of his Shakespeare productions, which my friend thought was strange and a little like cheating, since Shakespeare, of course, wrote the play.

(As it turns out, he was nominated for best screenplay adaptation for Hamlet, but that’s irrelevant to the point I want to make).

I’ve read the play, but I much prefer the movie. Branagh adds no dialogue, no lines, in fact, he leaves a few lines out, but his stage directions, the actor’s facial expressions and body language give the play a life, a meaning, and a dimension it just doesn’t have on the printed page. When I thought of it, this made sense, because (and I’m embarrassed to tell you that at the time this was a revelation) Shakespeare did not write his plays to be read, but to be *seen!*

In my family, this is what we call TGO (Tremendous Grasp of the Obvious).

Here’s another point. Quite a few of Shakespeare’s plays (in fact, I think it’s all of them) were based on stories or historical events already familiar to his audience. His talent was for reworking these old stories and tales in new, fresh, and exceedingly clever and thought-provoking as well as entertaining ways, but the basic characters and plot were already well-known.

If not even the original Shakespearean audience went to the plays without already knowing a lot about the general plot of the story they were going to see, it seems to me we’re asking an awful lot of ourselves if we try to get into Shakespeare from scratch, so to speak, by reading a play without knowing any background, especially when we no longer speak Elizabethan English.

So, it seems to me a more authentic (and easier) way to approach Shakespeare would be to first become familiar with the storyline by reading either the Tales from Shakespeare or E. Nesbitt’s Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare, and then, if at all possible, seeing it performed either on stage or in a movie,, several times before ever reading the play. That isn’t cheating at all. Shakespeare *expected* his audience to know that beforehand.

fairies and bottomI took a Shakespeare class in college and one in high school, and I think the approach I suggest makes a whole lot more sense than anything we did in either course in school. I know my older girls as teens knew far more about the plays than I did after either course, and they enjoy them more than I did after either course, as well. They read the plays and they laughed at the funny parts, and when I was in school I had to read the footnotes before I could tell something was supposed to be funny!  Once we took all the children we had at the time to see a play, and our second youngest, who was only 2, at intermission turned to the older couple in the seats behind us and cheerfully informed them that her favourite part was next, that was where Bottom got his head turned into a donkey’s head, and then she giggled with delighted anticipation.

Don’t miss the narration and discussion afterward, either. Miss Mason quotes ‘a philosophical friend’ as saying ” “The mind can know nothing save what it can produce in the form of an answer to a question put to the mind by itself.” (volume 6, page 16), and narration and discussion are one of the very best ways to both put those questions to mind and answer them.

At the request of my eldest, one year we read Much Ado About Nothing aloud together, each of us taking a few parts and reading it in character (all that meant we assigned characters, that is, I read all of certain character’s lines and she reads the rest, we didn’t ham it up much). She enjoyed it immensely. I was more thrilled about the fact that she enjoyed it so much than I was with reading the play, but I was surprised at how much I learned. 

The behaviour of one of the characters in Much Ado really confused me. It didn’t seem to make sense at all. After watching the movie for the second time, my second child asked me why I thought this character behaved the way she did. I confessed that this had bothered me, too, so we discussed it a while, and I think we figured it out! This was really exciting! And it wasn’t that our discussions were so profound, I think it was just the act of thinking out loud for somebody else (narrating!) that helped us see what we were missing. As the Bible says, As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another…” 


the mind can know nothing charlotte mason quote


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The North Wind Doth Blow Colouring Page

The Northwind Doth Blow coloring page


From a 1906 School Arts magazine

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Free Kindle Books- published 1902-1915

The Blazed Trail
set in and about logging men.

Reader review: A very interesting, well written book that keeps your interest throughout the book. It is very wholesome, shows a good knowledge of the subject(in this case it is logging and getting the logs to the mill, as well as the business side of logging to a degree).

by the same author: The Riverman

This is a great story! A rugged adventure from a time when men had to work for a living. I’m not a Western reader or a Lumberjack fan but this book was hard for me to put down. I may be a little biased. My father told me that the bulk of this novel was written on the family farm in Michigan. Either way it stands on its own as a great tale of the logging industry as it takes place from the river to the mill. Vivid imagery and superb character development tap the imagination and definitely draw you into the story.

And this one: The Forest

“The Forest” contains a collection of related short stories about Mr. White’s camping experiences in — I believe — South Eastern Canada, probably just north of Michigan. Mr. White’s style is often humorous, often educational, sometimes exciting, and always entertaining. His vocabulary and syntax are of the early 1900’s. Anyone who has ever been camping will find familiar at least some of the situations to which Mr. White alludes. Those unfortunate enough not to have enjoyed the camping experience will find themselves at least planning for such an adventure.

I read “The Forest” several times in college and became so enamored with Mr. White’s writing that I began collecting his books. The collection now numbers over thrity.

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On the Trail of Grant and Lee
reader review:Very readable historical overview of the intersection of these two military leaders at a watershed period in U.S.history. Gives a side-by-side narrative ending with the events at Appomattox Courthouse.
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Oldfield A Kentucky Tale of the Last Century
the 1903 The World Almanac and Encyclopedia section on books calls it The Kentucky Cranford and says it deserves special commendation.


The old white curtain was slightly too short. Its quaint border of little cotton snowballs swung clear of the window ledge, letting in the sunbeams. The flood of light streaming far across the faded carpet reached the high bed, and awakened Miss Judy earlier than usual on that bright March morning, in the Pennyroyal Region of Kentucky, a half century ago.

Miss Judy was always awake early, and usually arose while her sister lay still fast asleep on the other side of the big bed. She had learned, however, to creep so softly from beneath the covers, and to climb so quietly down the bed’s steep incline, that Miss Sophia was hardly ever in the least disturbed. Moreover, Miss Judy always kept a split-bottomed chair standing near her pillow at night. This served not only as a stand for the candlestick and matches,—so that the candle need not be blown out before Miss Sophia was comfortably cuddled down and Miss Judy was in bed,—but it also furnished a dignified and comparatively easy means of ascending the bed’s heights. On descending, Miss Judy had but to step decorously from the mound of feathers to the chair and to drop delicately from the chair to the floor.

To have seen Miss Judy doing this must have been a sight well worth seeing. She was so very pretty, so small, so slight, so exquisite altogether. Old as she was, she had still the movements of a bird. Her sweet old face was as fair as any girl’s, and as ready with its delicate blushes. Her soft hair, white as falling snowflakes and as curly as a child’s, was burnished by a silver gloss lovelier than the sheen of youth. And her beautiful eyes were still the blue of the flax flowers.

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The King in Yellow

Reader Reviews: This is pre-Lovecraft weird fiction and I loved every second of it. Chambers was far ahead of his time when he came up with these plots.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Weird, Wonderful, and Classic., December 17, 2014
By Amazon Customer – See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
This review is from: The King in Yellow (Kindle Edition)
If you’re into Lovecraftian fiction… all that crazy and weirdness… get this. It’s classic.

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The Primrose Ring
by Ruth Sawyer, one of my favorite authors. She also wrote Roller Skates (not free, and not on Kindle), and the charming picture book Journey Cake, Ho!
illustrated by Robert McCloskey.

She also wrote Seven Miles to Arden, which Ladies Home Journal, during WWI, called a ‘sparkling romance.’

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The Henchman
by Mark Lee Luther

I read about this author in a WWI woman’s magazine. All I can tell you about this one is that it’s centered on politics, and I think that sounds interesting because I’d be curious to see how much it forshadows the political shenanigans of today.

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The Fortunes of Oliver Horn

A best seller in 1902, ‘artist life in New York forty years ago with glimpses of the Old South’ (which probably means not a little bigoted).

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The Mississippi Bubble How the Star of Good Fortune Rose and Set and Rose Again, by a Woman’s Grace, for One John Law of Lauriston
The 1902 description I found says John Law was the Pierpont Morgan of his time. I’m guessing he’s the Henry ‘Hank’ Paulson of our day.

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The Conqueror Being the True and Romantic Story of Alexander Hamilton

A fictionalized biography by Gertrude Franklin Horn Atherton

a more straightforward biography by Charles Conant is also free; Alexander Hamilton
While is more straightforward biography, it’s also written before the penchant for proving all the founding fathers had not only feet of clay, but legs, hips, and trunk of clay as well.

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The Spenders A Tale of the Third Generation

1902 (tracing the history of the newly rich through three generations)

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Tramping with Tramps Studies and Sketches of Vagabond Life

by Josiah Flynt

Reader Review at Amazon; While not the most exciting read, it is compelling. An unscientific study based on personal experience as to what lead people to choose or be forced to living on the road at the turn of the century. Also a good insight into a working person’s daily life during this time period and the author’s thoughts on the criminal mindset.

by the same author:

My Life

Notes of an Itinerant Policeman

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Ruth Arnold or, the Country Cousin

I don’t know a thing about it, but the title looked like it could be interesting, or complete drivel.

Gutenberg has it, and here’s the opening:

School was over, and the holidays were beginning once more, summer holidays, with all their promise of pleasure for dwellers in the country. The scent of sweet new hay was borne on the afternoon breeze, and the broad sunlight lay on fields of waving corn which would soon be ready for the sickle, and on green meadows from which the hay was being carried.

Ruth Arnold slowly wended her way home-wards along the hot dusty road, turned down a shady green lane, opened a little gate and walked up the garden path; and then, instead of running indoors as usual, she sat down in the little rose-covered porch and looked rather thoughtfully at the book in her hand.

It was a new book, a prize which had been awarded her that afternoon; but she felt very little pride in it, for she had known all through the half-year that the prize would be hers unless she was very idle or lazy. Nor did she anticipate much pleasure in reading it, for it was only a new English grammar, and grammar was not a study in which she felt particularly interested at that moment.

It was not often that Ruth sat down to think, for she was a merry lively girl; but this afternoon she felt rather discontented with her lot. The truth was that she had been at Miss Green’s school, the only one in the village, ever since she was six years old; and now she had turned fourteen, and began to feel some contempt for the elementary catechisms which had been her only lesson-books, and which were certainly not calculated to make learning attractive or interesting. The mode of instruction at Miss Green’s was the old-fashioned one of saying lessons by rote from the said catechisms, and when the pupils had reached the end of the book they had to begin again at the first chapter.

“I’m sure I don’t know what I’ve learnt this half-year,” said Ruth to herself. “I can’t remember learning a single thing which I didn’t know six months ago; and yet mother says that I must not leave school until I am fifteen. I wonder what books they use in large boarding-schools, and if they ever get beyond Mangnall’s Questions in the first class. I suppose I shouldn’t trouble about it if it were not for father’s teaching us in the winter evenings; but he knows so much, that we see how ignorant we are.”

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Peter Ibbetson

Reader Review: Peter Ibbetson is one of the strangest, yet most remarkable books I have ever read. I read it because I had seen the old black and white film version, which I have to admit is more interesting than the book in terms of plot since it takes a few liberties with the text to move the story along. However, the book is definitely worth reading.

The book begins by describing Peter’s early life in France in the 1840s, the glorious world of his childhood. The first half of the book reads like a regional history or travel tract about the town where he lived, and all the activities of his childhood, especially his friendship with Mary, a friendship which becomes remarkable later. Due to family tragedies, Peter and Mary’s friendship comes to an end when they both have to leave their little town. When they meet years later, Peter is an architect and Mary has become the Duchess of Towers. This change in their status does not affect the friendship. As soon as they recognize each other, they embark on a long friendship in their minds.

The glamour of the novel is this friendship and how they create it. Peter ends up in prison for killing his uncle, who has acted the villain toward him. Mary, because of her position, must travel about a great deal, yet she and Peter are always together in their dreams. It is difficult to explain the situation if the reader does not read the book, but in their dreams, they are able to meet and recreate their past childhood world in France, revisiting their old haunts and even to see themselves as children. Part of this amazing power they possess may be the result of sharing mutual great-great-grandparents as they discover. More specifically, they are pioneers in the life of the mind
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The Thirteenth Chair A Play in Three Acts

A play, as it says.

Bayard Veiller (1869 – 1943) was an American screenwriter, producer and film director. He wrote thirty plays before taking his place in the world’s hall of fame. He “did police” for a New York daily where he learned how to portray human nature just as it is. He was married to the English actress Margaret Wycherly from 1901 to 1922; their son, Anthony Veiller, was also a screenwriter.

Reader Review: An excellent play with a good twisty end. I saw the movie first and had to get to script to see what was different. There are some differences in location and the order of presentation. This is probably due to being a movie instead of a recording of the play. This book has the stage directions and dives in to the story so fast that if you did not know the essence ahead of time you could get lost. So you may need to read it a couple of times. There is good stage direction to keep you in the know where everyone is and their relationship to the thirteenth chair.

Thirteen people gather in a locked dark room for a séance. Only twelve will emerge alive. Everyone and no one could have done it. The dastardly instrument is missing.

The kindle version is missing the physical diagrams.

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Kindle Books, free at listing time

book narrowIn the Day of Adversity

Excerpt: All over Franche-Comté the snow had fallen for three days unceasingly, yet through it for those three days a man—a soldier—had ridden, heading his course north, for Paris.

Wrapped in his cloak, and prevented from falling by his bridle arm, he bore a little child—a girl some three years old—on whom, as the cloak would sometimes become disarranged, he would look down fondly, his firm, grave features relaxing into a sad smile as the blue eyes of the little creature gazed upward and smiled into his own face. Then he would whisper a word of love to it, press it closer to his great breast, and again ride on.

For three days the snow had fallen; was falling when he left the garrison of Pontarlier and threaded his way through the pine woods on the Jura slopes; fell still as, with the wintry night close at hand, he approached the city of Dijon. Yet, except to sleep at nights, to rest himself, the child, and the horse, he had gone on and on unstopping, or only stopping to shoot[2] once a wolf that, maddened with hunger, had sprung out at him and endeavoured to leap to his saddle; and once to cut down two footpads—perhaps poor wretches, also maddened with hunger—who had striven to stop his way.

On and on and on through the unceasing snow he had gone with the child still held fast to his bosom, resting the first night at Poligny, since the snow was so heavy on the ground that his horse could go no further, and another at Dôle for the same reason, until now he drew near to Dijon.

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Guy Fawkes or The Gunpowder Treason

Guy Fawkes or The Gunpowder Treason

REader Review: This book, written around 1840, is a historical novel, rather than a history. At the same time the authors seem to have studied the subject well. They begin by telling of the severe persecutions of Catholics in England in the reign of James I.

There had been persecutions under Elizabeth I, but they were stepped up a year after James took the throne. This was partly to provide finances to the king’s less wealthy friends. Putting them in charge of collecting from the Catholics gave them a nice income. They were supported by those Protestants who still harbored a grievance for the bloody reign of Mary I, even though she had been dead nearly a century. The surprising thing is not that the situation led to the Gunpowder Plot by a handful of Catholics, but that it didn’t lead to outright revolt by a majority of them.

The suffering of those condemned is not dealt with in the gruesome manner currently in fashion. You’re told what is going down, and then left to use your imagination (or not) as to the details. Altogether, I think the book is worth a look, if only to remind us of the fact that there’s a difference between disagreeing with someone’s views and becoming obsessed with “saving” them from their errors. (BTW if you’re wondering, no, I’m not Catholic, but I am a Christian, and I find nothing in our Lord’s teachings about hating thy neighbor.)

If I had teens I’d want them to read this to help them understand the history of the establishment clause in the Constitution, and to let them see where unchecked prejudice can lead.

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“The battles of Blenheim and Ramillies were among Marlborough’s magnificent victories. E Everett Green in Fallen Fortunes tells us a lot not only of London but of the latter of these two combatants. Henty has also written of the mighty captain who was called the most powerful, as he was the richest subject the world had known. There are two books by him; The Cornet of Horse A Tale of Marlborough’s Wars and In the Irish Brigade A Tale of War in Flanders and Spain, both telling incidents of Marlborough’s foreign wars. The history is accurate and the stories with their boy heroes the usual Henty kind.”

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“A different phase of the period with a hero quite as famous as Marlborough, for very different reasons, is contained in another of Ainsworth’s books- Rookwood, which tells the career of Dick Turpin the highwayman. A wild and reckless tale it is, beginning with the year 1705 and running to 1739. Dick’s famous ride is one of the features of the story.”


Reader Review:

This 19th Century gothic novel includes a lot of singing. While the words to the ballads become a little tiresome, the novel itself is interesting.

Luke Bradley (the son of Susan Bradley Lovel) assumed he was the illegitimate son of Sir Piers Rookwood, but he discovered on the death of his father that his parents WERE actually married. Naturally the current Lady Rookwood wishes to suppress this information, as Luke would supplant her own son (Ranulph) as heir.

Luke was raised by gypsies, and is romantically involved with Sybil, grandaughter of the Gypsy Queen, when he meets his cousin Eleanor Mowbray for the first time. Through manipulations of both his Grandfather, Sexton Peter Bradley, and the gypsy queen, they attempt to arrange a marriage with Eleanor instead. Because the family is filled with control freaks they ruin more than one life.

I usually enjoy reading this genre, but I only gave it 3 stars because the author doesn’t seem to have a very high opinion of women. Most of the women in the novel cheat on their husbands, turn their lovers in to the authorities, or figuratively stab them in the back.

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Love and Life An Old Story in Eighteenth Century Costume
Historical fiction by Charlotte Yonge, set in the period of Queen Anne, Walpole, and the first two Georges.

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Also by E. Everett Green:

A Heroine of France, The Story of Joan of Arc

True Stories of Girl Heroines

The Lost Treasure of Trevlyn A Story of the Days of the Gunpowder Plot

French and English A Story of the Struggle in America

In the Wars of the Roses A Story for the Young

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Clean Eating – The All-Day Clean Eating Playbook: Looking to clean and healthy living? Here are tips and recipes to get you started to looking and feeling great

The Top 50 Evernote Functions: Tips for Increasing Your Organization and Productivity

Gettysburg, 1913: The Complete Novel of the Great Reunion

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The Button Doll of Wordishure (Tales of Wordishure Book 8)

What is Wordishure?

It is a collection of seven children’s stories in one book. The first six chronicle the adventures and lessons of the various inhabitants of Wordishure. Story number seven brings all the characters of the first six together for one grand adventure.

These stories are written for children of all ages and can be enjoyed by parent and child alike. Each adventure includes Biblical lessons that will inspire the reader and also start a dialogue between parent and child about God and personal accountability. Children tend to have a natural love for Jesus Christ, but sometimes they grow away from Him as they get older because they never truly got to know him. Some just seem to love Him because they sit in church every Sunday and they see that their parents are pleased when they say they love Him. Children need to get to know Jesus at a level they can understand, and that their decision to follow Him requires a willingness to change their heart and behavior.

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Quiet Time Cds That Aren’t & Other Miscellaneous Quiet Time Tips

Yes, a storybook CD is a fine thing for quiet time. Especially if they’re educational. Or good literature.

But maybe not Mozart’s Magic Fantasy: A Journey Through ‘The Magic Flute’. This is a good CD for bouncing around in the morning, and for road trips. But its very exciting, upbeat, and (if you’re a Dread Pirate Grasshopper) very energizing.

The same is true for Focus on the Family Radio Theatre Presents: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, or any other Focus on the Family Radio Theatre production. They’re fabulous for keeping your children occupied while you work in the kitchen or something, but if you have a Dread Pirate Grasshopper do not (repeat, Do NOT) attempt this at bedtime or quiet time. The Dread Pirate Grasshopper likes to pretend like he’s part of the dramatization. He has been known to crawl along the living room floor on all fours, wearing a tail and leaping on and off the couch, pretending he’s a leopard while listening to this sort of thing.

You’ll have far better luck with a simple audiobook that isn’t dramatized, and preferably one without too much high adventure. The Wind in the Willows is fabulous for this. The DPG doesn’t necessarily fall asleep to this, but he does settle still for it. (Notice “settle still” and not “sit still.” Nobody like the Dread Pirate can sit still, so dont’ ask for it. Let them colour in colouring books or flip through picture books.) The Silver Chair CD (Chronicles of Narnia (HarperCollins Audio)) won’t work, not even if you have just a plain old read-aloud version. Much too much excitement. Sword fights! Dragons! And giants that eat manpies, just to name a few reasons why The Equuschick eventually figured out that there was simply no way The Dread Pirate Grasshopper was going to fall asleep in the middle of that one.

For musical stories that do work for Quiet Time, Mr. Bach Comes To Call is fun but seems low-key enough for the DPG to be able to enjoy it without physically leaping on and off his bed, and the same can be said for Vivaldi’s Ring of Mystery (Audio CD).

The jury is still out on Tchaikovsky Discovers America and Quiet Time, but its great for road trips.

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But don’t expect Quiet Time to always be a time for sleeping. Think of it more like house arrest. As long as they’re in bed, its all good. Right?

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A Public Defender Speaks About His Black Clients

This is a distubing and, to me, heartbreaking read. It’s written by a public defender who says he’s liberal, but what he has learned about race on his job has shaken him profoundly.

There is more than one serious flaw in what he writes. Obviously, he sees the dregs of the groups he represents. He speaks of blacks as a whole, and it’s important to qualify those remarks with ‘black criminals and their families.’ In his job he sees a disproportionate number of criminals, and as a liberal, he probably doesn’t actually know many blacks outside of his job, so his perspective is a little skewed. His ego is clearly involved- he wants deference and respect, feels entitled to it, and is offended and that ego punctured by his black clients who gratify his ego with neither of those things.

Nonetheless, it’s an important and informative read. Unfortunately, to even talk about these things will mark you forever as a horrible racist. This is a tragedy, because our culture has many problems connected to race- we have no eliminated white racism, and it is a sin. We have barely even admitted there could be such a thing as black racism against whites, and nobody in power is willing to admit that’s even possible. Just pointing it out will mark you as a racist. But race relations are a complex issue, and we proposed solutions, as this public defender says, “should be based on the truth rather than what we would prefer was the truth.”

He begins:

I am a public defender in a large southern metropolitan area. Fewer than ten percent of the people in the area I serve are black but over 90 per cent of my clients are black. The remaining ten percent are mainly Hispanics but there are a few whites.

I have no explanation for why this is, but crime has racial patterns. Hispanics usually commit two kinds of crime: sexual assault on children and driving under the influence. Blacks commit many violent crimes but very few sex crimes. The handful of whites I see commit all kinds of crimes. In my many years as a public defender I have represented only three Asians, and one was half black.

As a young lawyer, I believed the official story that blacks are law abiding, intelligent, family-oriented people, but are so poor they must turn to crime to survive. Actual black behavior was a shock to me.

The media invariably sugarcoat black behavior. Even the news reports of the very crimes I dealt with in court were slanted. Television news intentionally leaves out unflattering facts about the accused, and sometimes omits names that are obviously black. All this rocked my liberal, tolerant beliefs, but it took me years to set aside my illusions and accept the reality of what I see every day. I have now served thousands of blacks and their families, protecting their rights and defending them in court. What follow are my observations.

One of his observations is that blacks lack empathy, or a clear understanding that others have it and they don’t (again, I think he misses the point that this is true of his clients because they are criminals, and criminals in general lack empathy). A particularly thuggish crime was caught on video. The public defender asked the criminal how he thought a jury would react to seeing him beat young white girls working at a store he’d robbed, and terrorizing them. He thought the juror wouldn’t care:

“I asked him whether he felt bad for the women he had beaten and terrorized. He told me what I suspected—what too many blacks say about the suffering of others: “What do I care? She ain’t me. She ain’t kin. Don’t even know her.””

I don’t know how many others saw it, or remember, but there was video footage of attempted vandalism in Ferguson being held off by a short but feisty female employee of the store. On the footage, you can hear a black woman (presumably the camera woman) saying something like, “What? Why is she risking her life for the store. It’s not her store, why does she care?”

I wouldn’t say that woman was without empathy. I think she was concerned that the employee might get hurt and she didn’t want that to happen. But she clearly had a short-term view of law and order and how destroying that person’s work place actually did hurt her, even if she didn’t own the store. She didn’t seem to realize that other people do care about bad things happening to third parties.

It’s a form of tribalism- we all have it, actually, in some measure. But criminals by definition have it in lesser measure. Of course they don’t care and they don’t feel any empathy for strangers or they wouldn’t do those things to others. To me, the most significant difference between this public defender’s black clients and his hispanic and white clients isn’t that the criminals representing the other two races have more empathy, I don’t think they do. The difference is that they at least understand that society at large really does care about people who ‘aren’t us, aren’t related, and we don’t even know.’

Another observation he makes is that none of his defendants have fathers. We know fatherlessness is a bigger problem right now in the black community in general (I know some stellar exceptions). But it’s rising elsewhere. It’s no secret that I blame the Welfare State, but it does seem to be a secret that statistics back that up. There’s very compelling evidence that in the years immediately after slavery the black family was more intact than after the Welfare State. You cannot have a system that rewards mothers for not having husbands and penalizes them for having husbands and not expect those results. One reason I think it was worse and hit first in the black community is because in the black community it was already harder for black men to find employment than for black women.

He also says “Many black defendants don’t even have mothers who care about them.”

I have seen this- I wouldn’t say their mothers don’t care at all, but there is a cultural divide. In my circles, somebody who takes their kid to the doctor for every sniffle and never lets their kid get dirty is a smother mother, over-anxious, over the top, over-bearing- not somebody to emulate. In some circles, that’s the sign of an outstanding, conscientious mother.

But also often the mothers I see seem not to know how to care (at least by my standards). Posturing- chewing out your child in front of others is a way of showing what a great mother you are. A mother who spends hours braiding her daughter’s hair but never helps with home-work, who punishes harshly for making messes but laughs or ignores her child giving somebody else’s kid a thumping, who fosters a sense of ‘that’s not fair’ and “I deserve mine,” – that’s a good mother. There’s a lot of lip service to caring, but children are commodities in some circles. I’ve been, pretty much point blank, “my child lives with my mother so my mother can get welfare.”

The defender writing this article has seen this posturing as well:

The mothers and grandmothers do not seem to be able to imagine and understand the consequences of going to trial and losing. Some–and this is a shocking reality it took me a long time to grasp–don’t really care what happens to the client, but want to make it look as though they care. This means pounding their chests in righteous indignation, and insisting on going to trial despite terrible evidence.

He says those same mothers often quite showing up very soon into the case, and then he is able to talk his clients out of taking cases they will surely lose to court.

He does acknowledge that “My experience has taught me that we live in a nation in which a jury is more likely to convict a black defendant who has committed a crime against a white. Even the dullest of blacks know this. There would be a lot more black-on-white crime if this were not the case.”

I think that goes a very, very long way toward explaining much of what he sees- if you feel like the deck is stacked against you, and frankly, it is, then you also reach a point where you feel like if it doesn’t matter what you do, you might as well do what you want and refuse to try to fight the system that seems stacked against you.

That’s understandable, if counterproductive and also self-fulfilling prophesy.

The problems, as I see them, are both racial and cultural. If we think in terms of the Aesop’s fables, the culture of the Welfare state rewards grasshopper like behavior and penalizes the ant-like behaviors. It’s already toxic, but when you combine that with the toxicity of pre-existing racism, with the equally toxic reality that innocent, law-abiding blacks *are* more likely to be stopped by police for no reason, or killed by police with impunity (does anybody really, honestly believe that Tamir Rice would not still be alive today if he were a blonde, blue-eyed boy in a white neighborhood?).

We want it to be all one thing or the other, though. We want to be able to fit the problem and solution on a bumper sticker.

Ferguson, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Daniele Wats, and Akai Gurley are either all about unruly black people with inflated senses of entitlement, rioting and burning things down and good officers just doing their jobs or all about institutionalized racism against peaceful, law abiding blacks, depending on where you fall politically. But it’s a lot more nuanced and complicated. We are dealing with human beings, and we are all more complicated than that.

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Should Adultery Be Illegal?

Jazz at Hot Air makes the suggestion. I think it should be.

I believe in what Richard Maybury (author of Whatever Happened to Penny Candy? A Fast, Clear, and Fun Explanation of the Economics You Need For Success in Your Career, Business, and Investments (An Uncle Eric Book), Whatever Happened to Justice? (An Uncle Eric Book), and other excellent books on economics and law) says about the basis of English Common Law:

“…do all you have agreed to do and, do not encroach on other persons or their property. The first rule is the basis of contract law, and the second, the basis of tort law and some criminal law.”

The state has only three proper functions- protecting people from encroachment by others (that is where laws against murder, theft, assault, vandalism, etc come in); self-defense (the only legitimate function of a military), and enforcing contractual agreements, another form of protection against encroachment.

Marriage is a legally binding contractual agreement between two parties. Adultery violates that contract (unless you have an adultery clause, making it clear in advance that your contract is not exclusive).

Marriage isn’t dating. It’s not just a personal relationship between two people. It’s a mini corporation- you file taxes (separately or together, but you don’t file them the same as you do as a single person). The state is already involved since you have to pay for a license, and you have to involve them to dissolve your special relationship, and they already criminalize one form of adultery (bigamy). If you live in a community property state, that is another way marriage is recognized by the state as more than a simple personal relationship.

So yes, adultery should absolutely be illegal.

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Is it that time yet?

“It’s 8:23. Now it’s 8:25. It’s 8:29. Do you know what time it is? It’s 8:31. Now do you know what time it is? It’s 8:33″ Etc. and etc, and etc.

2014-12-29 10.19.27Nod got a new watch for Christmas.

Me (at 11:30, so you see how patient I was): “You know what? Whenever TiTi wants to know what time it is, TiTi will ask you directly. Promise. So wait for me to ask, okay?”

Equuschick: Anyway, the only times I care about are breakfast time, lunch time, supper time, snack time, quiet time and bed-time.”

Me: I don’t think those are on his watch. Especially the quiet time one.

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Putting On Your Shoes

The journey of a thousand miles starts with putting on your shoes.

The journey of a thousand miles starts with putting on your shoes.

A long time ago I read an account by a homeschooling mom who had decided to improve her reading.  She picked up a book of Shakespeare plays, cold, unfamiliar with any of them or with Shakespeare other than that he was famous.  She flipped a few pages, laughed, and returned the book to the shelf, deciding to leave the course of self improvement for another day.

We all do that- have ambitions that are a little over-ambitious and under-informed, don’t we?  At least, I know I do.  It is said that those who fail to plan, plan to fail, and it’s better to aim high than not to aim at all.  That sounds good, but the truth is that aiming too high is often just about the same as not aiming at all when it comes to results.

There’s a better place between too high and not at all where I suspect more gets accomplished.  Not that I would know that, personally, since most of my goals are lofty and magnificent and entirely in my head where they miscarry before they ever born to the light of day.

Another useful proverb is that the journey of a thousand miles begins with but a single step.  I am more likely to want it to begin with a giant seven league leap, but my seven-league boots have been mislaid, and the fairies who might have made up for that deficiency seem to have been waylaid on their way to my natal cradle.

Even my small steps don’t always go far, but I have known much better success from determining to take small steps, a little at a time, than I ever have from aiming high.

Heres a list of small steps for those of us for whom those small steps are seven league strides:

Getting out of bed

Washing your face

Fixing breakfast

Brushing your hair and teeth

Getting dressed

Changing the baby’s diaper before it sags to her knees

Reading a few pages a day in an improving book- set a target, the number doesn’t matter so long as it’s actually doable.  Doable for you might be two pages, or twenty-five.  Or perhaps you need to insist to yourself that you *not* read more than 25- you decide.

Wash the dishes.

Spend fifteen minutes cleaning an area in your house.

Put a meal in the crockpot.

Eat something healthy- no sugar added- just for your next meal.  (and then try the next one, and then the next one).

Walk for five minutes.  Later bump it up to ten.

Take your vitamins or herbal remedies.

Do a load of laundry.

Make your own list.  Make it short.  Make it ridiculously simple looking (on paper, anyway). Get things over with.  Sometimes we spend far too much time stressing over things and procrastinating, and if we timed ourselves just doing them, we’d see it wasn’t that dreadful.  Yes, it will all have to be done again and that’s depressing and things go wrong and that’s discouraging (I’m almost afraid to inventory my freezers because the last two times I did, somebody left open the door and most of my inventory was null and void).

Don’t look too far ahead. Just look at what you need to see in your immediate future and do that, one step at a time.

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Catastrophs and Contemplations

vintage bathMy grandchildren are adorable, precious, precocious, rambunctious, clever, adventurous, and energetic. There are seven of them.
Blynken and Nod are also here, bringing the count up to 9 children ages 10 and under, with all but two of them 5 and under, and Nod has a strange form of hearing disability, as he can only hear people saying things about him, not to him, and words involving desserts.

Over the course of an astonishingly short time:

JennyAnyDots discovered chocolate wrappers from her Christmas candy on the floor between the bed and the wall and two totally angelic little girls (2 and 3) admitted to being the culprits.

A shower of pepitas rained down in one of the guest bedrooms (another Christmas stocking gift to another adult, and the culprit confessed, sort of, to that. He says he threw some and then the rest just sort of poured out of the bag.

One of the children created a rope trap in the bathroom>

All the cousins (except the newborn who cannot crawl yet) found Strider’s new Kindle and changed the settings to Italian. Not one of the children involved in that prank can read, so we really are not sure how it happened. The parents required Google assistance to get it back to English.

The ten year old sat the hyper allergic toddler down on a stool at the kitchen island directly in front of a knife, peanut butter (her eyes swell shut), and a glass of milk (she gets hives), and a crisis was only averted because Grandma was there freaking out and snatching all the things, yelping “she’s allergic to this, she can stab herself with that, and she must not ever, ever, ever be near enough to peanuts to put them in her mouth!”

Never mind that the day before Grandma set down her candy bar for a moment and the same toddler snatched it up and ate a bite- fortunately the nuts in it were hazelnuts rather than peanuts (yes, I know peanuts are legumes), but it also had milk in it. She got a light rash around her mouth and that was thankfully all.

We’ve had to chase after the children and the Cherub all week because they all leave their food out where she can get it, and she’s allergic to half of it and they don’t want her eating the other half (SO DON”T LEAVE IT OUT!” we keep saying, but apparently to the air, because they have already dashed off to be precocious adorable livewires elsewhere).

We had the stick in the eye incident.

Also on Christmas Day, I noticed that one of the little girls was in the main downstairs bathroom an usually long time, but I didn’t think much of it until the next person to use it said that it wasn’t flushing. Over the next 24 hours, time after time, somebody would say it wasn’t flushing and my husband or one of the heroic sons-in-law would plunge it. They resorted to a snake, and that didn’t improve it much either. I suggested we just lock that door and figure it out later, but that suggestion was no a popular one. My husband took apart the pump in the septic pit and worked on that for many smelly hours and thought he’d fixed it but it turned out he hadn’t.

I thought about lye, but I was quite positive that the problem was something like a doll, matchbox cars, and dollhouse furniture, so I didn’t suggest it. My husband thought about it, but he also really thought it was toys, so he didn’t try it. He spent today pulling the toilet apart (unfortunately, all the sons-in-law had gone home by then), and after hours of hard unpleasant labor and two trips into town for necessary parts and stuff, he discovered the problem.

It was a bar of soap.

We should have tried the lye.

I thought about that for a good while. Now a bar of soap is an excellent thing in its own place and time. It wasn’t really all that far away from the place it belonged- it’s a small bathroom, so it was perhaps an entire two feet away from where it needed to be. Where it needed to be, that bar of soap would have been an excellent tool for cleaning filth and fighting germs. Where it wasn’t supposed to be, it was the cause of filth and germs.  How often do we, with misplaced and poorly thought out good intentions blunder into the wrong place and the wrong time and the words we meant as balm turn out to be match on a fire we didn’t know was smouldering?  Something between us and them has blocked our good intentions and caused them to back up and spill out something much nastier?

Or looked at another way- consider the fact that we (meaning my husband) went for the big guns because we all thought we knew what was wrong, when going for the simpler solution of lye first would have saved hours of work and fixed the problem in short order.  Our assumptions were just that- assumptions- and acting them created a ridiculous amount of additional hard work, stress, and dealing with all sorts of unpleasantness and nasty stuff.

There are many applications and uses of this little event in our lives. They came to me over and over again over the course of several hours.

And then, in the midst of my philosophy, another thought struck me and all my philosophy died on the spot.

What if that bar of soap was in the toilet because one of the grandchildren was washing her hands in the toilet?

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