Best of News Cut 5x8
Each weekday morning the News Cut blog presents "5x8" -- five stories that make you think, laugh, or shake your head. Here's the best of 5x8 for the week of July 30-Aug. 3, 2012.
1) MEANWHILE, ON MARS (posted Friday, Aug. 3)
We're just a few days away now from the Mars science lab landing on the planet. If the event is half as good as some of the animated videos about the Curiosity, it'll be fantastic. Here's the latest:
Related: A manned landing on Mars could be a decade away, one expert says. Don't hold your breath.
2) SEWING FOR SOLDIERS (posted Thursday, Aug. 2)
When I met Marisela Solesbee, left, in Wisconsin late last week, she was taking a break from what comes naturally these days: making quilts. Solesbee, of Corona, California, makes quilts for wounded soldiers being treated in Germany and those returning to the U.S. after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Solesbee started making the quilts after her cousin died in the war in 2010. Her three sons are also in the military, two are deployed, and one is about to leave for the war.
"I just talked to him this morning," she told me. "We said our goodbyes."
Ms. Solesbee did not question her sons' decisions to join the military. "I'm not from this country," she said. "But I'm a citizen now and I love this country. I'm proud of them."
Each quilt is different, she says, although the American flag in the center is standard. She writes a short note on a card when she sends a quilt off to a soldier.
She's made 85 quilts so far, and there are 85 soldiers somewhere who might be wanting to meet her. They won't. She doesn't sign her name or address to the cards, because it's not about her, she says.
Someday she'll make three quilts for her returning children, but she's not thinking about stopping quilt-making anytime soon. "I think we're always going to be at war somewhere," she said.
3) THE BAD GRAMMAR DEBATE (posted Thursday, Aug. 2)
Is bad grammar making the language more "vibrant and relevant?"
An English professor in North Carolina says students today are better writers than their counterparts 30 years ago, which should shock their counterparts of 30 years ago who've read the current works.
On NPR's Monkey See popular culture blog today, Linton Weeks explores the notion that the kids are destroying the language...
In the pre-digital era, he says, "most texts we read came from published works -- books, newspapers, journals, et cetera. This means they represented the variety of English associated with such media -- generally formal, edited prose using the grammatical and orthographic conventions of 'standard English.' "
Such texts are still part of our world today, Gordon says, "but we also encounter very different kinds of writing online and sometimes elsewhere." He cites the use of "U" to represent "you," confused homophones such as "you're" and "your" or "it's" and "its," and the use of newish terms like "LOL" for "laughing out loud" and "totes" for "totally."
But it would be wrong to take such contemporary usages as indicative of the deterioration of the language or even a relaxing of the rules of grammar, Gordon says. "They are trivial matters in terms of the overall structure of English."
But another professor gets it... well... right:
"Good grammar is credibility, especially on the Internet. In blog posts, on Facebook statuses, in e-mails, and on company websites, your words are all you have. They are a projection of you in your physical absence. And, for better or worse, people judge you if you can't tell the difference between their, there, and they're."
4) PEOPLE DOING GOOD: THE SCHOOL SUPPLY DRIVE (posted Wednesday, Aug. 1)
Jameson McCarvel has a birthday next month but he's giving up presents, and donating his own money to the United Way of Cass Clay's annual School Supply Drive. He spent a day this week packing supplies into backpacks at the Fargodome.
"I just wanted to help people," he tells the Fargo Forum. "Just people we don't know. Kids."
Jameson McCarvel is 5.
5) IN SEARCH OF SOMETHING DIFFERENT (posted Tuesday, July 31)
I spent a great deal of time on vacation talking to people who chased dreams. There was the New Zealand pilot, for example, who always wanted to fly into the big airshow in Oshkosh. So he dismantled his plane, shipped it to California, reconstructed it there and flew it to Wisconsin last week, ending a two-year effort. Dream achieved.
This guy, Benton Purnell of Maine, started his quest to travel the Mississippi River from start to end in Minnesota in May. Here he's going through our scenic locks and dams.
The trip started with the teenager and his father. Dad dropped out in Minneapolis.
Once, when the river was so narrow that he could touch each bank with a paddle, a wolf ran up to the shoreline to inspect Benton and his father before loping off into the woods.
"It looked like a husky, but it was as big as a St. Bernard," he said.
Another time a deadly water moccasin slithered under his upside down canoe for the night, and struck out at him the next morning.
Another time, a good-sized carp jumped into his canoe.
Surprisingly, some of his most frightening moments came at the hands of relatively benign animals. He was charged by an angry beaver and drew an attack from a duck defending her nest.
"I almost fell right out of the canoe," he said.
Early in the trip, in the backwoods of Minnesota, the absence of people was the danger, with help hours or days away.