Chernobyl: 20 Years Later

A couple of years ago, I noted a photo essay that explored the “ghost town” that is now Chernobyl, Ukraine. It is a haunting, disturbing essay, and should be revisited today, the 20th anniversary of the disaster.

Even more disturbing, is this photo essay that chronicles victims of the accident. It is difficult to watch because it involves the people who were affected, and remain scarred by the disaster. Nevertheless, it is one of those things that we should see, lest we become too comfortable, too removed.


Three years ago today, April 25, 2003, I began this blog. Judging by the proliferation of blogging since that time, I’d guess that blogs three years old or older occupy a small slice of the pie.

Remember the old standard of dog years, where seven or so dog years equaled one “human” year? Well, here’s a new concept: blog years.

In blog years, I’d say that TruePravda is the equivalent of a stalwart fifty year old. I had hoped to celebrate with a facelift, but that will have to wait a bit (although a redesign is in the works). Whether or not it’s fifty or three, TruePravda is surely out of the terrible twos. Thanks for reading, and have yourself a piece of cake — my treat.

Subject to Enthusiasm

Teachers & Teaching: Part II

On every university campus, there exist certain professors who, at the very mention of their names, cause students to cringe with fear. At the University of Tennessee, Dr. Von Trapp* was one of these professors. Students who had survived his Western Civilization class told tales about him to other students much like the ones Marines tell of Parris Island: “I’ve been through Von Trapp’s Western Civ. class. It doesn’t get much worse than that.”

Continue reading “Subject to Enthusiasm”

Facing Down Iran

Journalist–extraordinaire Mark Steyn tackles the $64,000 question on whether or not Iran would use a nuclear weapon in his must-read City Journal essay, “Facing Down Iran.” Steyn argue that the fact that we even have to ask the question tells us much:

So the question is: Will they do it?

And the minute you have to ask, you know the answer. If, say, Norway or Ireland acquired nuclear weapons, we might regret the “proliferation,” but we wouldn’t have to contemplate mushroom clouds over neighboring states. In that sense, the civilized world has already lost: to enter into negotiations with a jurisdiction headed by a Holocaust-denying millenarian nut job is, in itself, an act of profound weakness—the first concession, regardless of what weaselly settlement might eventually emerge.

Steyn observes that the predictable Western response isn’t too reassuring, either:

Back when nuclear weapons were an elite club of five relatively sane world powers, your average Western progressive was convinced the planet was about to go ka-boom any minute. The mushroom cloud was one of the most familiar images in the culture, a recurring feature of novels and album covers and movie posters. There were bestselling dystopian picture books for children, in which the handful of survivors spent their last days walking in a nuclear winter wonderland. Now a state openly committed to the annihilation of a neighboring nation has nukes, and we shrug: Can’t be helped. Just the way things are. One hears sophisticated arguments that perhaps the best thing is to let everyone get ’em, and then no one will use them. And if Iran’s head of state happens to threaten to wipe Israel off the map, we should understand that this is a rhetorical stylistic device that’s part of the Persian oral narrative tradition, and it would be a grossly Eurocentric misinterpretation to take it literally.

This one is a must-read, especially if the events of the past couple of weeks has caught you off guard with regards to Iranian situation. Read, as they say, the whole thing.

Katie Couric’s Connectedness

The “news” that Katie Couric will assume the mantle of Dan Rather as CBS’s chief newsreader is no more interesting than that age-old debate of whether or not a tree falling in the woods makes a sound. If no one is there, does anybody hear it?

Considering the ads that run during the evening news, most marketers seem to think that unless you need the Purple Pill, Depends undergarments, Arthritis medicine (ask your doctor!), or a host of other geriatric-aimed products, odds are that you don’t watch the evening news anyway.

Evening newsreaders come and go, but something in Ms. Couric’s announcement was telling of the age in which we live:

Actually there are some things that are new. I guess this is the appropriate time for me to share my future plans. I wanted to tell all of you out there who have watched the show for the past 15 years that, after listening to my heart and my gut, two things that have served me well in the past, I’ve decided I’ll be leaving “Today” at the end of May.

It was really a very difficult decision for a lot of reasons. First of all because of the connection I feel with you. I know I don’t know the vast majority of you personally and it may sound kind of corny, but I really feel as if we’ve become friends through the years.

And you’ve been with me during a lot of good times. And some very difficult ones as well. And hopefully, I’ve been there for you.

I can’t tell you how grateful I am for the support you all have given me. And I so appreciate that you’ve included me in your morning routine.

Speaking into the camera, Couric said, “it may sound kind of corny, but I really feel as if we’ve become friends through the years.” Kinda corny? Kinda.

I wonder how many of Katie’s so-called “friends” could call her up and invite her over to dinner with any success? To how many of these “friends” does she send Christmas cards? How many of these “friends” does she help move or visit in the hospital?

It’s easy to poke fun at Katie Couric. Sadly however, whether we like it or not, the pervasive shallowness that accompanies mass culture affects us all. How many celebrities — whether they be newsreaders, actors, writers, or radio personalities — do we consider our “friends?” How many true friends do we sacrifice at the expense of these anonymous relationships?

The proverb tells us, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” (Proverbs 17:17, ESV) The self-indulgence of celebrities like Couric allows them to see their mass–broadcasted selves as achieving a real sort of connectedness. Compared with the proverb, it makes one wonder just how connected we in the age of connectivity really are…

Teachers & Teaching: A Definition

To begin our perusal of teachers, teaching, and the learning process, it is necessary to first establish some terminology for discussion. After all, the idea of teaching means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Using the “Googlism” tool, we find that Google says:

  • teaching is as much about passion as it is about reason
  • teaching is a work of heart
  • teaching is not a brassiere
  • teaching is teaching is teaching
  • teaching is a full time profession in quebec
  • teaching is better than bossing

Got it? Well, maybe not. How about this: The American Heritage® Dictionary says that to teach is “To impart knowledge or skill to.”

We’re getting closer, but there is still a crucial element lacking. The definition from which I will be working encompasses the lexical meaning, but completes it by giving it an object:

Teaching is communicating knowledge of a subject to a person or persons.

That should be enough to get us started in our discussion. Have I missed anything?

Next week: Subject to Enthusiasm

This post is part of the Teachers & Teaching series, which can be found listed in its entirety here.