I watched the Japanese movie Full Metal Alchemist. I liked it. I thought it was fun and weird and very Japanese.

I haven’t read any of the mangas, though, which is why I liked it. I am pretty sure if I were a fan of the comics I would hate this. I read some reviews after I watched it and it seems they did leave a lot of stuff out, which only makes sense given the length of the story in comic book form.
But if you are a novice to this manga series and you like the particularly Japanese quirky vibe, I think you’ll find it fun, too. If you’re not sure, maybe try something else first.

It’s violent, so if you are really sensitive to that you’ll want to avoid it. It is comic book style violence, but there’s also a rather sad betrayal that will bruise your heart, and there’s a villainous with a lot of cleavage (her name is Lust, although I don’t remember seeing anything outside of her costume that would support the name. Gluttony was more of a straightforward one to one correspondence with his name).

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Alexander Pope’s Essay On Man

“Of the poems of Pope none perhaps is more celebrated in common fame, none has provided more passages for storing in the memory and applying on common occasions.”

John Aiken, 1796 (most of this information comes from his preface to an edition of Essay on Man)

“Who is there that has any taste for polite writings that would be sufficiently satisfied with hearing the beautiful pages of Steele or Addison, the admirable descriptions of Virgil or Milton, or some of the finest poems of Pope, Young, or Dryden, once read over to them, and then lay them by for ever?” ~Isaac Watts

Pope described his Essay on Man as a short system of ethics, and said he could have written in prose as easily as in verse, but he preferred verse because principles and maxims are more impressive in verse than in prose.  He also said that verse adheres to the memory more easily.  It is said that the framework of this system of ethics was originally presented to him by his friend the Earl of Bolingbroke, who had intended to write it out in prose himself with a poem by Pope accompanying the work, but in the end Pope is the one who completed the presentation in full verse.

And so, says Aiken of Essay on Man, we have an ethical treatise transmitted from the mind of a philosopher to that of the poet who gave it new dress and accommodated it to a new set of readers, while also (inadvertently, perhaps, although Pope was a deliberate and meticulous poet) showing us a clear example of the powers and limitations of the art of poetry.

A hundred years later, Mark Pattison edited an edition of the poem and in his introduction he said “It is but a portion of a large poem contemplated,but not completed. Hence the title imperfectly describes its contents. It is less a treatise on Man than on the moral order of the world of which man is a part.”
Pattison notes that Essay on Man was a product of its time, and was composed at a time when the “reading public… were occupied by an eager and intense curiosity by speculation on the first principles of natural religion. Everywhere, in the pulpit, in the coffee-houses, in every
pamphlet, argument on the origin of evil, on the goodness of God, and the constitution of the world, was rife.” So reading Essay on Man should give you some feeling or sense of the times in which Pope wrote.

Aiken suggests it will help when reading Pope’s Essay on Man to look for certain traits and forms, such as:

  1. a ‘maxim, proposition, or sentence’ presented in philosophical language but with poetry so polished it reduces the concept down to its essential essence, a thing of quivering energy.  Just as when the same amount of matter is reduced in size in increases in density, this idea so concentrated by verse ‘sinks into the mind with the same kind of force that’ causes a ‘weighty and polished ball’ (a cannonball? Musket ball?) to penetrate solid matter.  Of course, sometimes the time and distance between ourselves and Pope makes some of us to have brains a bit more resistant to such penetration than others.

As examples he offers this couplet about God:

To him no high, no low, no great, no small—
He fills, he bounds, connects, and equals all.…

And this on Mankind:

The glory, jest and riddle of the world.
Born but to die,
And reas’ning but to err

Johnathan Swift, a friend and admirer of Pope, said that Pope could put more sense in one couplet than Swift himself could fit in six.

In explaining Pope’s tremendous popularity Aiken said that “nothing comes more home to the minds of men in general, or is more universally congenial to the taste of readers than a moral sentiment or religious truth forcibly and clearly expressed.”  I’ll leave it to you to determine if this reason for Pope’s popularity in the 18th and 19th centuries might also be the reason he fell out of favour in the 20th and 21st centuries.

2. In addition to his skill with those “sterling clauses of weight and effect, ” the ‘faculty of compressing sense into a small compass and giving it a harmonious setting’, Aiken admires Pope’s ‘splendor of diction’ and his ability to shed light on intellectual truths by associating them in his verse, and thus our minds, with ‘some sensible object of the sublime or beautiful class, giving ‘live and motion to language’ and ‘gratifying the imagination’ with striking figures.  Aiken says Pope mined the literature and thought of the ages and the world to deepen his skill with figurative speech.  Thomas Gray said poetry is ‘thoughts that breathe, words that burn,’ and Aikin thought this was a perfect description of Pope’s skill.

As examples of Pope’s skill with figurative expressions which add such ‘vivid colouring’ to Pope’s poetry, Aikin offers (emphasis is his):

Who knows but he, whose hand the lightning forms,
Who heaves old ocean, and who wings the storms,
Pours fierce ambition in a Cæsar’s mind,
Or turns young Ammon loose to scourge mankind?
Let earth unbalanc’d from her orbit fly,
Planets and suns run lawless through the sky;

Let ruling angels from their spheres be hurl’d,

Being on being wreck’d, and world on world;
Heav’n’s whole foundations to their centre nod,
And nature tremble to the throne of God.


“A third expedient employed by Pope to diversify and enliven his subject, is the introduction of little pictures and incidents by way of illustration, which are generally conceived with great happiness and wrought with peculiar care.”

“Examples of this kind include the sportive lamb unconscious of his approaching state; the Indian indulging his humble expectations of future existence ; the enumeration by pride of the benefits of nature designed for Man ; the progress of superstitlon ; and the historical allusions to the vanity of human grandeur. These form an agreeable relief to the train of precept or argument, and essentially add to the poetical character of the work.”


It is worthwhile to note that as much as Aikin admires Pope, he does admit that the poem Essay on Man falls short of that “high polish and correctness which are supposed peculiarly to characterize the author,” probably, Aikin says, because the subject itself did not lend itself to complete versification as well as Pope hoped. Aikin said that stubborn persistance at rendering what is essentially a philosophical argument entirely and wholly in verse is probably responsible for “the many  prosaic lines, mean expressions, inaccuracies of construction, and deficits in the mechanism of versification”. ” Indeed,” he says, “there are sufficient  tokens that the work was undertaken as a task — that  the writer was occasionally tired or bewildered in  following his argument — and that the poet and  system-builder did not always happily draw together .”

I offer these ideas and tidbits of  information for you to do with as you will.  You may find it helps you to work your way through the Essay on Man, or at least sparks some interest where there was none before.   You might find it adds pleasure to your efforts if you try to spot examples of both the polished diction and the ‘prosaic lines,’ or you may prefer to ignore all of them as you read and just allow the work to speak for itself.

Some students find it helpful to take a work such as Essay on Man and turn the verses into prose, or to make a list of the points in this philosophical system of ethics. Some just enjoy spotting turns of phrase that have become part of our common speech.

Whatever your approach, I suggest you read slowly.  As the critic Samuel Johnson once wrote about the metaphysical  poets who were some of Pope’s contemporaries, “to write on this plan, it was at least necessary to read and think.”  Pope is not usually considered one of the metaphysical poets (or baroque as some now call this group), but he did read widely, deeply, and well, and he certainly did think. It order to get the most out of his work, it is necessary for us to do the same.


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GREAT Resource on Cultural Intelligence

Hey- for those of you who find my culture differences posts fascinating, the best source I’ve had (besides talking to local people) is David Livermore’s
Customs of the World: Using Cultural Intelligence to Adapt, Wherever You Are. It’s one of the Great Courses offerings and right now you can get it for 50% off the SALE price.

Use the code T89K to get the video download for about 17 dollars or just the audio (which is what I’ve had) for about 12.dollars!

Only good until Sunday night!

This is not an affiliate link. I just know many of you will love it.

There are 24 lectures, each around half an hour long. If you have a high school student, this is a good solid credit to give for a World Cultures course- provided you make sure your student does some outside reading and writing at the high school level, and if at all possible, finds a way to visit with somebody from another culture and ask some questions and write about that as well. Or find some people who have lived in other cultures and ask them about their experiences- what was hard, what was funny, what mistakes did they make, what do they wish they had known?
Additional reading in the news about issues around assimilation would not be amiss, either.

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Linking for Thinking

Black Rednecks and White Liberals by Thomas Sowell is an outstanding read, and now you can also enjoy Amanda Green’s chapter by chapter review. Bookmark it.

No, socialism is not cool, and yes, it has been tied. It’s deadly.
China is amending its Constitution to make Ji Xinping dictator for life.

Trump looking at steep tarrifs on steel and aluminum

Conservatives and cultural power. Part 2. I nearly stopped reading when David Brooks was called a conservative. He just plays one for money, but not with any sincerity or accuracy.

If you don’t already know about Appendix N, you should. This will make more sense if you do. I’d put it on the same shelf as books by John Taylor Gatto and Samuel Blumenfeld.

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Books Read in February

A Charlotte Mason Education by Catherine Levison- this was, of course, a re-read, but I hadn’t read it in probably 15 years. I still like it. It was fun reading my notes, too- there were a couple areas I once strongly disagreed with her and later revised my opinions. It’s a fast read, and a quick escape pod read to shoot you out of the public school mindset and into the nuts and bolts of a CM education. IT’s more about practice than principles, but sometimes that’s what you need to get going. She never pretends that what she’s written here is all anybody needs, but recommends repeatedly that people read the six volumes for themselves (even gives suggestions where to read for different topics). I have some minor caveats- I wish she sourced her statements more thoroughly. One or two minor points she makes are taken out of context, IMO, but overall, it’s a very useful read. She also has timetables from December, 1908 reprinted in the back of the book along with the timetable she uses instead, and she’s very clear on the fact that timetables are helpful primarily as examples, not as straightjackets. Still Recommended after all these years.


JFK: History in an Hour, UNABRIDGED by Sinead Fitzgibbon, Narrated By Jonathan Keeble.  An audiobook.

Planning and Implementing Retreats, A Parish Handbook by Nicki Vergloegen Vandergrift,a nifty little handbook aptly described by the title. It’s written by and for Catholics, but can be used by others.

Essay on Man & Other Poems by Alexander Pope.

Pope is out of style these days, but I like him.  He’s witty. His words are gems, finely cut, perfectly fitted in their setting. He sparkles.

The Jekyll Legacy by Robert Bloch and Andre Norton, I picked this up for about 20 pesos at a used bookstore, and for that price, it was a light, amusing, interesting read. IT was 2 parts obvious social commentary, 1 part mystery.  The gist of it is that Jekyll’s niece has no idea she is his niece because her father moved to Canada and changed his name years ago.  She happens to have come to England as a penniless governess who promptly loses her job because she’s too independent, and just before she’s about to starve, she discovers her surprise inheritance.  There are some murders and some mysteries as well as human trafficking, and yet, it’s still a light Read.

Two short stories by O Henry- The Ransom of Red Chief and Tobin’s Palm- both amusing, with Red Chief being the funnier of the two.

The Importance of the Electoral College by Dr. George Grant- “The architecture of the Electoral College established a procedure wherein the Republic’s Chief Executive would be chosen by the people as citizens of the States in which they reside.”  We don’t really have a single national election, we have fifty State elections on the same day.  This is so the President will be accountable to the citizens of each state. The various states have very different interests and the President should know about and try to represent all of them. Otherwise, in a winner takes all vote system (which we have never had), the presidential     candidates could completely ignore the middle states and just campaign in thhe two or three most populace states, which a recent candidate attempted to do and thus lost the election. It’s frustrating to me to try to explain this to people who hate the electoral college. They are recalcitrant in their lack of understanding that we are not a simple majority rules democratic form of government- and never were intended to be. WE’re a republic with a federal government, and it matters. The fact that we’ve grown so much larger both geographically and population wise is not a reason to dump the electoral system, it’s a reason to keep it. It keeps the Chief Executive paying heed to the varying needs and interests of the different states. We are not all Californians, and we are not all Minnestoans or Dakotans, either, and citizens of each of the States have some right to expect their President will have some knowledge of their respective concerns.

If we’re going to do away with the electoral college, then we would also need to look at something other than a simple majority. AFter all, Woodrwo Wilson received less than 42% of the vote, Truman and Kennedy receives less than half, Nixon and Clinton won with only 43% of the vote.
The president needs broad cross-national support or else the candidate could simply pander to a populous area, promise them the moon in exchange for votes and use the rest of the nation as a dump for the waste of the most populous states.

This little book explains that well enough. The chapters are short, and the book includes a copy of the pertinent sections of the constitution. It is a bit dated, in that it spends overmuch time on the election of 2000, but that’s understandable. Each chapter opens with a brief quote related to liberty, government,or specifically our government. Unfortunately, at least one of them is spurious- Grant relied a bit too much on Barton and David Barton allowed his enthusiasm to outstrip his careful scholarship in some cases.

Foundation of a Biblical Worldview by G. Thomas Sharp– a slim little volume. It was intended to be the first of a series, and may have been republished with the others here, I am not sure.

Some of it I agreed with, some I didn’t, some was very interesting for reasons not really related to the book itself.  From my notes: Secularization is the source of America’s problems, the foundation of that secularization is Darwinism, including the industrial revolution and its dehumanization of workers, however at the same time claims ‘trend toward secularization of Christian thought can be ‘traced to Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas’ (from the intro, but a Thomas Reid), and other places blames the enlightenment and renaissance eras.

Prefers term Hebrew- Christian to Judeo-Christian because he says Judeo-Christian is too connected to Zionism.

Culturally we are no longer either, but rather pagan largely because one generation (I think the 50s-80s) taught one worldview and lifestyle regarding biblical truths and God, but actually lived as if they did not believe what they were teaching.

He recommends all Christians be careful students of the Bible and then compare their attitudes, goals, and values with what they read. I can agree with that.

This was interesting because of the cultural implications (which you all know I am hungrily devouring while living in the Philippines)- Presuppositions, preconceptions, sets of assumptions, dominatn theoretical framework- these are nearly impossible for us to recognize in ourselves, and yet they filter everything,they determine what we see, how we see it, how we interpret it. These invisible filters, compasses, calibrations actually determine what we think is interesting and worth studying (what we even notice in the first place), how we respond to information.  We truly almost never challenge our own worldview because we almost never even recognize those underlying presuppositions.  We interpret new information through them and ignore or reject observations or conclusions which contradict our own presuppositions.

We are vulnerable to cultural sins for those reasons.  Hebrews 12:1- the sin that besets us could be interpreted as the sin that surrounds us, the surrounding encompassing sins, sin which clings too easily…

He quotes Alfred North Whitehead, and this quote is one all of us should consider:

“…students of the history of ideas should not look for those ideas which are under constant discussion in any age, but instead should look for those basic assumptions which are so fundamental to a man’s way of thinking that he does not even realize he is assuming them. ”

The Russian Revolution: History in an Hour
By: Rupert Colley
Narrated by: Jonathan Keeble
Series: History in an Hour
Length: 1 hr and 20 mins

I like the History in an Hour series, and I like Keeble as a reader. The History in an Hour series is useful for review, helpful as an introduction. By nature, most of them have to be a somewhat superficial overview. You can’t cover the Russian Revolution in depth in two hours, let alone 80 minutes (this one is a bit over an hour). But the recordings in this set are usually very inexpensive and accessible and give you some background and highlights that will help smooth your path should you pursue more in depth studies.

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