Fairy tales and trigger warnings

Fairy tales, then, are not responsible for producing in children fear, or any of the shapes of fear; fairy tales do not give the child the idea of the evil or the ugly; that is in the child already, because it is in the world already.  Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey.  What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey.  The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination.  What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.  Exactly what the fairy tale does is this: it accustoms him for a series of clear pictures to the idea that these limitless terrors had a limit, that these shapeless enemies have enemies in the knights of God, that there is something in the universe more mystical than darkness, and stronger than strong fear.

—G. K. Chesterton, Tremendous Trifles (1909), XVII: “The Red Angel”

I thought of this quote as I read N. D. Wilson’s recent essay “Why I Write Scary Stories for Children.”  Wilson has much the same message, except that in his case, it comes as a product of his own experience as a parent.

I write violent stories. I write dark stories. I write them for my own children, and I write them for yours. And when the topic comes up with a radio host or a mom or a teacher in a hallway, the explanation is simple. Every kid in every classroom, every kid in a bunk bed frantically reading by flashlight, every latchkey kid and every helicoptered kid, every single mortal child is growing into a life story in a world full of dangers and beauties. Every one will have struggles and ultimately, every one will face death and loss.

There is absolutely a time and a place for The Pokey Little Puppy and Barnyard Dance, just like there’s a time and a place for footie pajamas. But as children grow, fear and danger and terror grow with them, courtesy of the world in which we live and the very real existence of shadows. The stories on which their imaginations feed should empower a courage and bravery stronger than whatever they are facing. And if what they are facing is truly and horribly awful (as is the case for too many kids), then fearless sacrificial friends walking their own fantastical (or realistic) dark roads to victory can be a very real inspiration and help. . . .

Overwhelmingly, in my own family and far beyond, the stories that land with the greatest impact are those where darkness, loss, and danger (emotional or physical) is a reality. But the goal isn’t to steer kids into stories of darkness and violence because those are the stories that grip readers. The goal is to put the darkness in its place.

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Presidential candidate Saruman J. Trump?

From Narnia to Middle Earth with Donald Trump, courtesy of The Federalist:

I’m the best at talking to Sauron, I really am.  Tough guy, tough negotiator but you really just have to have a man-to-man.  Not like the people running Gondor, they’re stupid.  I mean, how stupid are they?  Now, my tower – and let me tell you, it’s the biggest, classiest tower, great views of the whole ring of stone and the forest and the river – I can get him on the line.  Doesn’t answer anybody else, but when I want him, here’s there.  I’ll be so good at dealing with him, it’ll make your head spin.

Read the whole thing—it’s priceless.

 

Orthanc, tower of Isengard.  Public domain.

On the insipidity of pop music

Does all pop music sound the same to you? Well, as the Aussie comedy/music trio Axis of Awesome points out, there’s a reason for that (note: language warning):

Now, if you’re like me, this immediately reminded you of something else—this bit from the American musical comedian Rob Paravonian (language warning here as well), which takes the same idea a bit further:

Between the two, I’m not sure there’s all that much left to say.

All the news that’s fit to—wait, what?

Gregg Easterbrook, in his latest Tuesday Morning Quarterback column on ESPN.com (which includes, by the way, the best analysis I’ve seen of why New Orleans won the Super Bowl and Indianapolis lost), has this entertaining collection of corrections from the New York Times:

In the past six months, the Times has, according to its own corrections page, said Arizona borders Wisconsin; confused 12.7-millimeter rifle ammunition with 12.7 caliber (the latter would be a sizeable naval cannon); said a pot of ratatouille should contain 25 cloves of garlic (two tablespoons will do nicely); on at least five occasions, confused a million with a billion (note to the reporters responsible—there are jobs waiting for you at the House Ways and Means Committee); understated the national debt by $4.2 trillion (note to the reporter responsible—there’s a job waiting for you at the Office of Management and Budget); confused $1 billion with $1 trillion (note to the reporter responsible—would you like to be CEO of AIG?); admitted numerical flaws in a story “about the ability of nonsense to sharpen the mind;” used “idiomatic deficiency” as an engineering term (correct was “adiabatic efficiency”); said Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride occurred in 1776 (it was in 1775—by 1776, everybody knew the British were coming); “misstated the status of the United States in 1783—it was a country, not a collection of colonies” (dear Times, please Google “Declaration of Independence”).

The Times also “misidentified the song Pink was singing while suspended on a sling-like trapeze;” confused the past 130 years with the entire 4.5 billion-year history of Earth (see appended correction here); misused statistics in the course of an article complaining that public school standards aren’t high enough (see appended correction here); said Citigroup handed its executives $11 million in taxpayer-funded bonuses, when the actual amount was $1.1 billion (in the Citigroup executive suite, being off by a mere two zeroes would be considered incredible financial acumen); said a column lauding actress Terri White “overstated her professional achievements, based on information provided by Ms. White;” identified a woman as a man (it’s so hard to tell these days); reported men landed on Mars in the 1970s (“there was in fact no Mars mission,” the Times primly corrected).

The Times also gave compass coordinates that placed Manhattan in the South Pacific Ocean near the coastline of Chile (see appended correction here); said you need eight ladies dancing to enact the famous Christmas song when nine are needed; said Iraq is majority Sunni, though the majority there is Shiite (hey, we invaded Iraq without the CIA knowing this kind of thing); got the wrong name for a dog that lives near President Obama’s house (“An article about the sale of a house next door to President Obama’s home in Chicago misstated the name of a dog that lives there. She is Rosie, not Roxy”—did Rosie’s agent complain?); elaborately apologized in an “editor’s note,” a higher-level confession than a standard correction, for printing “outdated” information about the health of a wealthy woman’s Lhasa apso; incorrectly described an intelligence report about whether the North Korean military is using Twitter; called Tandil, Argentina, home of Juan Martín del Potro, a “tiny village” (its population is 110,000); inflicted upon unsuspecting readers a web of imprecision about the Frisians, the Hapsburg Empire, the geographic extent of terps, and whether Friesland was “autonomous and proud” throughout the Middle Ages or merely until 1500; inexactly characterized a nuance of a position taken by the French Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress (philosophy majors must have marched in the streets of Paris over this); confused coal with methane (don’t make that mistake in a mine shaft!); on at least three occasions, published a correction of a correction; “misstated the year of the Plymouth Barracuda on which a model dressed as a mermaid was posed;” “mischaracterized the date when New York City first hired a bicycle consultant” and “misidentified the location of a pile of slush in the Bronx.”

Here, TMQ’s pal Michael Kinsley duns the fastidiousness of Times corrections. Kinsley’s column complaining about facts contains—you knew this was coming!—a factual error. Mike says the really big hunk of rock in southern Alaska is Mount McKinley on U.S. government maps, though commonly referred to by Alaskans as “Mount Denali.” Actually, it is commonly referred to by Alaskans as Denali, which means “Great Mountain” in Athabaskan. “Mount Denali” would mean “Mount Great Mountain.”

Granted, everyone makes mistakes, this is over a period of six months, and many of them are trivial (though some are ludicrously huge); still, I’m amused.

Another random Internet find

also preserved years ago from someone’s signature on a message board:

English doesn’t borrow from other languages. English follows other languages down dark alleys, whacks them over the head, and goes through their pockets for loose grammar.

Found on the Internet

years ago, in someone’s sig file:

“Bother,” said Pooh. “Eeyore, ready two photon torpedoes and lock phasers on the Heffalump. Piglet, meet me in transporter room three. Christopher Robin, you have the bridge.”