I was watching the Scripps National Spelling Bee this morning and it hit me, year after year, the kids all seem to be Indian. A few years back my dad told me that Indians were so smart because they were educated by the English during the British Raj; I thought he was being bias because my dad was born and raised in England. But according to the following explanation, my dad’s explanation was partially correct:
For millennia, India was a land where the poorest scholar was held in higher esteem than the richest businessman. This approach to life proved disastrous for modern India. Jawaharlal Nehru, the country’s first prime minister and a Brahmin to his manicured fingertips, had such contempt for business (and for profits) that his economic policies condemned his people to two generations of stagnation.
But Nehru would have approved of spelling bees. Indian pedagogy relies heavily on rote memorization–the result of a fusion of Victorian teaching methods imposed by the British and ancient Hindu practice, in which the guru (or teacher) imparted his learning to pupils via an oral tradition. (The Victorians, for their part, regarded correct spelling almost as a moral virtue, and certainly as a caste “signifier,” to use a clumsy anthropological term.)
So the act of sitting down for months with dictionary on lap, chanting aloud the spellings of abstruse words and then committing them to memory probably taps into an atavistic stream coursing through the veins of Indian bee-children. A friend tells the story of how, in his childhood, he’d had an Indian boy home for a sleep-over. He awoke in the middle of the night to find his guest poring over the host family’s Random House dictionary. “I own an Oxford dictionary,” the boy had said, by way of bizarre, nocturnal explanation. “This American dictionary is so different!”
I think today’s photo is appropriate. Big day tomorrow…
I took this back in January of 2006
“Beach Cottages” in Newport, RI
Sunset on Newport
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I was in Newport, Rhode Island a few years back and I took this photo from the front yard of “the Breakers” mansion. Newport is well known for its annual jazz festival and has hosted the America’s Cup a few times. But what really brings tourists to Newport are the “beach cottages.”
Before there was a federal income tax, robber barons amassed large fortunes (often at the expense of other’s livelihoods) from unregulated capitalism. New York financiers, Pennsylvania steel captains and Western railroad tycoons all built their summer retreats in Newport. It was called the gilded age. This is one of the most fascinating periods in American history, and if you’re interested in catching up on it, I recommend reading an excellent and classic novel: Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence.
Anyway, the Newport Mansions are beautiful and almost all are perched right on the shoreline overlooking the Rhode Island Sound. I’ve posted a few more photos below.
Interior of the Receiving Area
My friends Xan and Kevin
This mansion is called the “Breakers” (named for the breaking waves right out front of the property) and was designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt for Cornelius Vanderbilt. The home is designed in the Beaux Arts style. Keep in mind this home was built for one family.
Check out the waves out front!
The Breakers the home is named after
The Driveway and Port-Cochere in the Distance
I just watched this, and after laughing out loud at some of the comment these people spew, had to post it. I am dissapointed to call myself American when these people are doing to the same. It’s no wonder why most of the world hates us. Evangelicals really do scare me.
Monument at Manzanar
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I took this photo in August of 2005 at the Manzanar national historic site. This monument is dedicated to the Japanese-Americans that died while staying at Manzanar. The mountains in the background are the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada.
SO MANY COUNTRIES, SO LITTLE TIME!