1. It is with some sadness that I report that one of my favorite bloggers, Marla Swoffer of Just Marla, is giving up her blog. She feels a calling from God to spend more time with her family, and in her final post she lists a number of other reasons in her usual eloquent and forthright fashion. I've always admired how Marla is willing to tackle even controversial issues in an honest and gracious way, and she also seemed like a person you could sit down with over coffee and spend a fascinating couple of hours talking about all kinds of subjects. I'll miss her on the blogosphere, but I'm glad that she will guest blog occasionally on Intellectuelle. I'll look forward to those posts.
UPDATE: Another blog bites the dust: Strand of Three.
2. Here's a complete change of tone. Remember the book Fahrenheit 451 by Robert Heinlein, where in a dystopian future, firemen go around burning up every book they can find, because it's against the law to possess them? In the final scene, a former fireman who has grown to love books escapes outside the city to a commune of sorts where other book-loving refugees live. Each one is assigned to memorize one entire book -- by Plato, Shakespeare, Austen, et. al -- so that its contents will survive throughout the ages. The other day, I had this thought (and it tells you a lot about my philosophical tendencies): if the commune grew big enough, would one poor soul eventually be forced to spend the rest of his life walking around with the text of Captain Underpants and the Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants repeating endlessly in his head?
3. If you've ever had to watch some of the cartoons now popular on Nick Jr., Toon Disney or Cartoon Network (as I have), and have lamented the disappearance of most artistic and intelligent animation, go out immediately and rent the DVD of "Howl's Moving Castle," released just a few weeks ago. Another masterpiece by director Hayao Miyazaki, the master of Japanese animation, it has some of the most beautiful and inventive animation sequences I've ever seen. And unlike many "cartoon movies," it's got characters that you actually feel for by the end of the tale. Muley gives it two floppy ears up.
4. As long as I'm making product endorsements, let me put in one for The Teaching Company. What this company does is find some of the best professors in the world, and then tape them delivering lectures on their subjects of expertise. The result is a number of fascinating courses, broken into 30- or 45-minute chunks, that you can listen to at your leisure. I listen to them in the car going back and forth from work, and just driving around town. The "normal" prices for the courses are pretty steep, but there are at least five or six titles at any point in time that are on sale at drastically reduced prices. Just keep looking, and at some point during the year the course you're interested in will go on sale. After waiting a year or so, I just bought possibly my favorite course, Victorian Britain, on sale in cassette form. I'm thoroughly enjoying it. I've also bought courses on C.S. Lewis, science fiction, American authors, famous Romans and the Aenid from the company. I recommend the products for anyone with an interest in lifelong learning.
5. Finally, let me impart an interesting fact of history I just learned from the course on Victorian Britain I've been listening to. Queen Victoria married Prince Albert after she'd been on the throne just a few years, and after they were married, he was the love of her life for 20 years. After he died, Victoria was so distraught that she wore black mourning clothes the rest of her life (some 40 years). She rarely went out in public, and insisted on keeping up certain routines as if Albert were still alive. For example, every morning she had servants lay out his shaving utensils and his robe, she had a place set for him at the table, and at night in her bed, she had a cast of his hand which she held as she went to sleep.
"I feel sure that no girl would go to the altar if she knew all."