Brandywine Books
Monday, October 31, 2005
Thackeray on Line Five, Mr. Spielberg
Here's a late Monday post (a Monday post is meant to be humorous or at least diversionary, in case you are asking about the term).

As I recall, Random House issued a new edition of William M. Thackeray's The History of Henry Esmond some time back. The book was originally released in 1852, and Thackeray died in 1863. But with this new edition, a respectable agency in Hollywood took notice and wrote the author in care of Random House, praising his abilities and the potential for a screenplay based on Henry Esmond. The publisher returned the letter, signed as Thackeray, thanking them for the offer and saying maybe they would be interesting in his upcoming novel, Vanity Fair. They replied with interest, and they asked for a copy of Henry Esmond to recommend to producers.

Alas, that movie has yet to be made; but I assume the agency eventually learned a little more about their newly discovered author. In the land of light and shadow, you never know what they really know. (This story rewritten from material in The Writer's Home Companion by James Charlton and Lisbeth Mark) - phil
 

Hollow whining

Via Fraters Libertas, a very nice article about P.G. Wodehouse from First Things. We’re big on Wodehouse in these parts. Go out now and buy his books. I’ll wait for you.

My friend Aitchmark, who comments here now and then, came up with a pretty quotable line in an AIM chat last night: “The most damning indictment of the Episcopal Church,” he said, “is that nobody grows up to hate it.”

This was not one of my better days. It was the kind of day when everything I did seemed either to be plain wrong or wrong in some nagging, yet-to-be-revealed way that I will discover in time. As I took my afternoon walk and night began to lower (“lower” is an obscure verb, really, that rhymes with “flower”. Remember that next time you read Longfellow), I heard a little girl say to her mother, “Look! There’s a Trick-Or-Treater dressed as an embittered, middle-aged Norwegian bachelor!” Her mother answered, “Just don’t look over there.”

As far as Halloween goes, when it comes down to it, I’m just reluctant to give the Wiccans the satisfaction of letting them scare us off anything. I hate to take one of our pleasant cultural traditions and turn it over to them (whether they want it or not), saying, “Here. This is yours from now on.”

When it comes to the occult, a lot of the things Christians think they know come from the writings of a guy named Mike Warnke, who wrote a series of books about his supposed experiences as a Satanist high priest. Warnke was the subject of a series of articles by Cornerstone magazine, some years back, and the story they uncovered was not an uplifting one. I remember reading Warnke’s The Satan Seller back in the 70’s, and being struck by a feeling that something was very wrong with this guy. He took too much pleasure in the sordid details (a criticism which some, no doubt, will make of my own books). Whether you believe everything the articles say about Warnke or not, the mere fact that the guy has been married four times and in each case moved in with the new girlfriend before even divorcing his previous wife testifies, imho, to a less than mature spirit.

Finally, let it not be forgotten that today is Reformation Day, the anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting of the Ninety-Five Theses on the church door in Wittenberg. (This, by the way, was not an act of vandalism. The church door was the local bulletin board in those days.)

We have Protestants and Catholics who drop in here, so opinions on Luther will vary. I’m pretty big on him myself, being a Lutheran and all. Volumes have been written about his effect on history, but I judge it, on balance, good. The Reformation had tragic results, notably the horrors of the Thirty Years’ War. But (leaving out theology for the moment) the Reformation forced Europe to come to an accommodation that separated church from state to some extent, and a certain amount of freedom of thought came to be acceptable. It suddenly occurred to Christians (who generally had not thought of this before) that if truth is of God it is probably stronger than falsehood, and can win in a fair fight. America’s First Amendment was, to some extent, the fruit of this insight.

Sure hope it works out.

Lars Walker

 
List of Good Ones

Ella of Box of Books makes a good point about Time's Best of Pick-a-Number list. She says, "The nagging unease of having read only 22 of the TIME picks and 13 of the Modern Library list (100 Greatest Novels Ever Written) is easily defeated by drawing up my own list, and there is much satisfaction in finally having a list in which I’ve read everything." She has her list and calls me on the carpet to present mine.

The problem I have with these lists is that they reveal how little I've actually read [insert protracted whine here]. I don't want to drive people away, more than I do by blogging on boring things, by revealing my ignorance. Why am I a lit-blogger? Because I can be. I keep thinking I will give it up and concentrate that time on writing fiction; but I haven't yet. Still, I like Ella to a limited degree since I barely know her, and I feel compelled to draft a list.

Here's a list of books, stories, and plays I remember enjoying:

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, by Judy Blume
Superfudge, by Judy Blume
How to Eat Fried Worms, by Thomas Rockwell
The Odyssey
The Power and the Glory, by Graham Greene
My Name Is Asher Lev, by Chaim Potak
The Fellowship of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Two Towers, by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Return of the King, by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien (is it cheating to list Tolkien's books like this?)
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne
“The Great Stone Face,” by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Enemy of the People, Henrik Ibsen (Lars' favorite playwright)
The Importance of Being Ernest, by Oscar Wilde
The Second Coming, by Walker Percy
Carry On, Jeeeves, by P.G. Wodehouse
The Inimitable Jeeves, by P.G. Wodehouse
Right Ho, Jeeves, by P.G. Wodehouse
The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexander Dumas
Original Sin, by P.D. James
The Great Gatsby, by F.S. Fitzgerald
The Year of the Warrior, by Lars Walker
The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, by C.S. Lewis
"Uncle Fred Flits By," by P.G. Wodehouse
Beowulf (which I'm itching to read again in Seamus Heaney's translation)
Black Dog Man, by Jared Wilson
The Edge of the World, by Phil Callaway

Ok, thirty. I can't remember others right now, especially stories. - phil

 
At The Proper Time
To the would-be writer and the unpublished author who casts his faith on Jesus Christ, take heart. "Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you" (I Peter 5:6-7).

Mmm, that's one for meditation. Lord, I never doubted your faithfulness, but I have complained. I have worried. Fill us with your Spirit and help us cast our anxieties on you. We are crucified with Christ. We no longer live, but Jesus Christ lives in us, and the life we live in the flesh we live through faith in Him who loves us and gave himself for us. What more could we ask for? What more is there to gain?
 
John Keats, 1795-1821
On this date in 1795 (or possibly last Friday, October 29), poet John Keats was born.
About 1813, Clarke read to [Keats] Spenser’s Epithalamion, and put into his hands The Faerie Queene. . . . Clarke tells us how "he went thro' it as a young horse thro' a spring meadow ramping . . . . Like a true poet, too, he specially singled out epithets, . . . he hoisted himself up, and looked burly and dominant, as he said, 'What an image that is,—"sea-shouldring whales."'" (from The Cambridge History of English and American Literature)
Here's a natural quotation in his honor, from Endymion.
A THING of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing. 5
Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o’er-darkened ways 10
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits.
 
Sunday, October 30, 2005
Light Content Warning
Sense readership are up and the fewture looks well for Brandywine Books, I may probably will be not posting much this wekk. I may still writing some things, but I have feeling I won't. Thank you for your attintion. I'll see you again sune. -phil

(now that I've written this, i'm starting to doubt it. where'd I put that spelling/grammar checker?)
 
Saturday, October 29, 2005

This’ll bring the comments in…

Beautiful day today. I wore a sweater instead of a jacket, and then I took off the sweater. I went out to pick up a few things. Walking into K-Mart I looked at my shopping list and saw an item, written in my own hand, about whose meaning I had absolutely no clue. After I’d finished my shopping it finally occurred to me what I’d wanted, and I couldn’t have gotten it at K-Mart anyway. Had to go to Target.

Of course I hate to go to Target because I’m still officially boycotting them over their Salvation Army embargo. But you gotta do what you gotta do, so I went in, got what I needed, and slinked out, tormented by my conscience.

Why do I boycott businesses? I’m now boycotting three oil companies, Target and one soft drink-and-food conglomerate (which hurts, because I really like one of their soft drinks). The answer is cowardice, I think. I’m afraid (and too lazy) to write letters to companies to complain about their policies. Boycotting them is a passive-aggressive way to convince myself that I’m making a difference.

There may be some people out there who aren’t boycotting me yet, but the following ought to fix that.

America wants to know, what does Walker think about Halloween?

I think it’s fun, and we ought to enjoy it (or not, for those who, like me, have no social lives).

“But doesn’t it promote witchcraft?” you ask.

The first part of my answer is this question: “If the non-Christians got together and dressed their children up like Jesus and Moses and sent them around to beg for candy and play tricks, would you feel that that activity promoted Christianity?” The fact is (from what I’ve read) members of the Wicca religion don’t much care for trick-or-treating.

Secondly, I think Christians today are way too concerned about witchcraft in general. My own suspicion is that one of the main reasons for Wicca’s growth has been that people know they’ll get a rise out of us by declaring themselves witches, and it makes them feel dangerous and important.

I don’t believe that witches have any special powers. I’m a Christian supernaturalist, so I believe that supernatural events happen in our world from time to time. But my observation and experience is that they’re very, very rare. And I believe that Satan is way, way less powerful than God. If you read my novels, you’ll note that my wizards and magicians generally have a power of illusion and little more. And frankly my books are fantasy. I think I’m giving them more credit than they deserve.

Here’s a fact of Christian history that very few Christians know. Belief in witches with supernatural powers was not part of early Church doctrine. According to Rossel Hope Robbins’ The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology,

“Until the thirteenth century, the official and accepted position of the Church theoreticians was that the acts of witches were all illusions or fantasies originating in dreams, and that consequently belief in the actuality of witchcraft was pagan and therefore heretical.” (p. 74) This doctrine was laid down in the Canon Episcopi, a document whose origins are lost, but it was around in 906 A.D. and was incorporated into Canon Law in the 12th Century. When witch-hunting came into vogue a couple centuries later, the Church had to do some fancy doctrinal maneuvering to explain why the new activity didn’t really contradict it.

It seems odd to me that Protestants (especially) who generally despise the medieval Catholic church, are so keen to defend a Roman Catholic belief that only took hold in the middle ages.

Modern Wicca was invented by an Englishman named Gerald Gardner (1884-1964) who seems to have been largely motivated by a desire to see women dancing naked in the moonlight. It’s my belief that the whole business would have attracted much less attention than it did if many Christians didn’t have a constant need to find things to be outraged about.

My opinion. Let the arguments begin.

Lars Walker

 
Luther on "the pure Scripture"
In response to the discussion below, entitled "What Would Luther Do," Lutheran pastor Michael, blogging at The Euphemist, quotes Luther:
". . . nothing better could be wished than that all books would be put aside and nothing else stay in all the world, especially among Christians, but simply the pure Scripture or Bible."

"I . . . often wish that [my books] would perish, because I fear that they may hinder and keep the readers from reading Scripture itself, which alone is the fount of all wisdom."
 
Friday, October 28, 2005
Ruminating on old offenses

When I wrote the post that said "Anne Rice turns to God" I did it with a certain amount of trepidation. Not over the content of the post (or not much) but simply over my choice of words. When you're a Lutheran, you learn to be careful with words. We had Theological Correctness before anybody'd ever heard of Political Correctness.

Here's how it goes for a Lutheran pietist. I talk to somebody about how I (or someone else) "found Jesus" and some member of the theology police is sure to jump in and say, "No, you mustn't say you 'found Jesus'. That suggests that Jesus was lost. You must say, 'Jesus found me'."

This never made any sense to me. If "I found Jesus" implies that Jesus was lost, doesn't the formula "Jesus found me" suggest that he'd lost track of me -- didn't know what had happened to me?

I don't see how that glorifies Him more than what I said in the first place.

I'm weary of theological gamesmanship. It's one thing to combat heresy, and another to rack up debating points for correcting people on disputable points of expression.

On the other hand, I probably do it myself on other points, and am not aware of it.

Well then, I should stop it too.

Just don't try to persuade me that mixed bathing isn't a mortal sin.

Lars Walker
 
Today
(perhaps I should title this "Yesterday" since I missed my Thursday deadline for this post)

Earlier this week, I was putting something into the shed on an afternoon leeched of color by the cold wind and churning clouds. Above me, the silhouette of a butterfly flew against the wind, beating its wings hard to stay in place. I heard a mockingbird call, and if I hadn't known the butterfly couldn't make such a noise, I would have thought it had called--shouting perhaps against the coming of winter.
 
Thursday, October 27, 2005

I can’t handle success!

Phil says we’re getting more visitors. I don’t know if I’m ready for this. I go straightaway into analytical mode: “What went right?”

What is it people are enjoying here? My posts about writing? Can’t be. I haven’t written about writing in a while.

My posts about all things Norwegian? Obviously a subject with less than universal appeal.

My relentless, depressing, self-analytical posts? Yes, that must be it! People want more obsession, more ruthless, unforgiving self-analysis -- in short, more Walker!

I must write yet more about myself. Perhaps you, Gentle Reader, would care to learn about my gall bladder.

Wait. I don’t have a gall bladder anymore.

But I could blog about the operation!

[The material that originally followed the above was deleted by Phil. After a brisk talking-to and a visit to a specialist, Mr. Walker is now medicated and prepared to complete his post.]

Thomas Sowell has a great article on the historical background of Rosa Parks’ famous ride in his column today. Bet nobody ever told you this stuff before!

I mentioned posts about writing earlier. Roy Jacobsen of Dispatches From Outland has a writing blog called Writing, Clear and Simple. Nuts and bolts stuff. Well worth reading.

Lars Walker

 
What Would Luther Do?
[by way of Balaam's Ass] Posing a Doom's Day scenario, Othniel of Cross Theology, a Lutheran, asks what one book should a thinking individual take to help him rebuilding civilization from the ground up. The Bible? Othniel says:
Now, I'm never going to deny that the Holy Scriptures are the inspired and infallible Word of God. I believe they are. But that doesn't mean that I believe all men are inspired and infallible interpreters of the Word of God. More often than not, we are quite fallible in our interpretations of the Holy texts. This is why, if Apocalypse ever stops me on the street, I'll say, "I'll take the Book of Concord!"

It's not because I think the BoC trumps the Bible. It's quite the opposite of that. It's because I think the BoC says exactly what the Bible says, only in a much more clear and accessible way. In fact, it goes to great lengths to avoid being misunderstood on all the most important issues one could ever pull from the Scriptures.

I mean, you've got the Small Catechism to start with, which really is ALL the Scripture any one of us really needs to know.
This last statement is as dangerous as it gets. "All the Scripture any one of us really needs to know?" That would be taking away from the Word of God, wouldn't it? As a Presbyterian, I couldn't say the Westminister Confession is a better pick than the Bible in this Doom's Day choice. What do you think?
 
Praise of The Year of the Warrior
Sherry of Semicolon reviews Lars' The Year of the Warrior this week. She likes it and plans to recommend it to her son. It's kind of like Stephen Lawhead's books, she says. A little too much action, but the characters are strong and the story good, even though the cover art gives it a "lurid" appearance which the story does not have.

I plan to review this book soon, and if I was a competent blogger, I would have already; but the last word has already been had by Will Duquette's Ex Libris Review -- "a fascinating, inspiring (and frequently humbling) story."

Also see Lars' other books:
 
Congratulations on a New Look
Jared has reworked one of his blogs, Mysterium Tremendum, to be a lit blog. Good move, sir. I like it.

In his most recent post, he compares Dave Eggers’ You Shall Know Our Velocity! with A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. In Heartbreaking Work, "the ideas and the innovations and the emotions all intertwined so neatly and impressively. It’s a gregarious book, deeply felt and unembarrassed by its ambition. You Shall Know Our Velocity!, a sort of Catcher in the Rye meets The Innocents Abroad, is absolutely entertaining but only occasionally insightful, and even then, probably not at the times Eggers most wants to be."
 
Thanks to the Christian Carnival
Thank to White Ribbon Warriors for including the review of Think Before You Look in this week's Christian Carnival. If you stopped by Brandywine Books by way of the carnival, feel free to use the comments on this thread to comment freely.

Also, more people have been looking into BwB lately. I'm sure it has nothing to do Lars enjoyable content nor the brilliant, albeit mediocre, posts I've scraped together. I think it's weather related actually. Cold air abounds. People are feeling down. They go to the Net to cheer up, and naturally they think "Brandywine Books would be nice. I wonder when Phil's going to get his act together to publish a story or book. That would make my day. And when will Time-Warner or that new editor at NavPress wise up and publish Lars Walker's next books? That would make my day double. Wow, I feel so much better now."

I'm sure that's why traffic is up--only makes sense.
 
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
Jared says...

At Mysterium Tremendum: "I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Lars Walker is our best novelist blogger."

Questionable judgment, but it certainly calls for a link.

Lars Walker
 

High tension


Here’s some wandering thoughts I’m trying to work into my current novel project. Some of you may have trouble with them, which probably speaks well of you. The ideas that really excite me generally hover around the edges of heresy – without passing them, mind you – but I think it’s the nature of heresy to deviate just slightly from genuine truths. Which means the truth next door remains true, but it has to be handled with care.

In other words, I am a trained professional. Do not try this at home.

(Saints above! Have I gotten that smug? I guess I must have, because it’s right there in black and white.)

Anyway, remember Uzzah in the Bible? 2 Samuel 6?

It’s one of those stories they don’t dwell on much in Sunday School, because it’s problematic from a Christian point of view. David wants to bring the Ark of the Covenant up to Jerusalem, so he loads it on a cart and starts out. At one point one of the oxen slips and the cart tips, and a guy named Uzzah, with all the best intentions in the world, reaches out to steady the Ark. What happens to him then was the inspiration for the big fireworks scene in “Raiders of the Lost Ark”.

What you’ve got here is the Old Testament God raw, so to speak. He’s precisely like a high tension line – the electricity does not care whether your motives are good or bad. Touch it and you die. That’s all.

This is a difficult story for us, because it seems to contradict what the Bible says just a little further on, in 2 Samuel 16:7 – “God looks on the heart.”

What we’re dealing with here, I think, is a tension that mounts through the Old Testament, and is only resolved in the New. Jesus said that the “weightier matters of the Law” were justice, mercy and faithfulness. But justice and mercy were always uneasy companions. Complete justice is merciless. Complete mercy is unjust.

Jesus resolved the problem on the Cross. He opened “a new and living way” (Hebrews 10:20) by which we could approach the holy things that could not be approached before.

It’s almost as if Uzzah had survived the first “zapping”. Now God turns around and says, “Come on! Touch it! I grounded it for you.”

I can imagine Uzzah being pretty scared to do that again.

I’m scared too. I’m scared of lots of things, as I’ve told you. But lately I’ve been thinking of Uzzah, and imagining God saying, “Touch it! Go ahead!”

If I suddenly stop posting, it’ll be because I’ve been transformed into a small clump of carbon.

Lars Walker

 
Made for Themselves

Bill Wallo describes Hollywood as it is on World's Cinema Veritas:

I mean, filmmakers, like any storytellers, want to tell their story their way. They may offer up certain story components because they know the audience wants car chases, explosions, or skimpy bikinis, but by and large they're making the kind of movies they want to see. When Ang Lee made The Hulk, he made the kind of comic book movie that he was interested in making. When Ridley Scott did Blade Runner, he didn't hint that his main character might be a replicant because he thought the audience wanted that; instead, the suggestions represented his own unique vision. If we say that our creative visions are an extension of our worldview, it should not be particularly surprising that films often tend to manifest the worldview of their creators (even if, as I've noted before, it is likewise possible to interpret a creative work in ways which might not have been envisioned as the work was fashioned).
Directors and producers make the films they want to make. Sometimes to make money, sometimes to tell stories they like. As I recall, this is one of the premises of Michael Medved's Hollywood vs. America, but he argued that Hollywood filmmakers aren't playing a Please the Audience card when they film explosions and bikinis. That's part of what they want to see on the screen, the visualization of personal fantasies and the outworking of their common lust.

 
What Results of Intellectual Despair?
"Intellectual despair results in neither weakness nor dreams, but in violence. . . . It is only a matter of knowing how to give vent to one's rage; whether one only wants to wander like madmen around prisons, or whether one wants to overturn them." -- Georges Bataille (1897-1962), French novelist and critic.

Bartleby.com says, "Bataille was the founding editor of the journal Critique (1946). Strongly influenced by Nietzsche, he focuses on extreme states of consciousness (violence and eroticism) as forms of mediation between nature and culture."

What do you think of his statement? I'm inclined to agree. Maybe not for all men, but for some of us when faced with utter despair, all calm days would precede days of war.

 
Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Lord knows I needed this…

The headline above is not meant ironically. I’m going to point you to a news item that cheered me greatly. It lifted me a bit from the slough of despond in which I’ve been wallowing for the last week or so. (No, really. I know it’s been difficult to tell from the lighthearted tone of my posts, but I haven’t been very cheerful.)

I fought off a cold or the flu or something yesterday. At work I developed a headache that didn’t respond to Tylenol, and I grew more tired and feverish as the day wore on. So I went home, posted my blog entry, took care of this and that, then went to lie down. I slept for a couple hours, and when I woke up I was pretty sure I’d beaten whatever it was. The Lord has blessed me with this amazingly robust immune system, and a little extra rest is usually all I need to shake a bug off. I’m a little weak today, and I didn’t feel up to my afternoon walk, but I feel much better and there was no need to skip work.

Here’s the news I needed. Your mileage may vary: Anne Rice turns to God.

OK, it’s not a perfect story. As an evangelical Protestant I’d have preferred that she embrace Fundamentalist Christianity rather than Roman Catholicism. And there’s no guarantee her Jesus book won’t be a scandal to the Christian community.

But I’d have to be a much more zealous antipapist than I am not to consider this a real step in the right direction.

C.S. Lewis writes somewhere (can’t find the reference) that there’s a temptation in the modern world to say, “This is fantasy” when we see happy children playing, and to say “This is reality” when we see human entrails, while in fact both are equally real. I’m prone to forget that myself. I notice only the bad news. But God is alive, and grace is at work, even in 2005.

Lars Walker

 
Monday, October 24, 2005

Since you mention The Da Vinci Code…

Full disclosure: I have not read The Da Vinci Code. I’m too far behind on reading books I actually want to read to waste time on ones that will only make me angry.

But when I think of the impending DVC movie, I think about Tom Hanks, who’s making it. As you may recall, Tom Hanks is the star of what is (next to the Lord of the Rings movies) my favorite film: Joe Vs. The Volcano, a quirky parable about risk-taking. I saw a TV biography a while back that told me he was part of the Jesus Movement back in the 70’s. This makes him seem like a sort of former brother, an impression strengthened (for me) by the fact that he resembles an actual Christian brother of mine from that period (who, unlike Tom, is thankfully still firm in his faith).

A short web search (I’m not posting links because the best one I found was a Mormon site, and darned if I’m going to link to them) reveals that Tom Hanks grew up in a chaotic, broken home and bounced from Catholicism to LDS to Nazarene. In high school he was a self-described “Jesus Freak”. And like so many Jesus Freaks, he “grew out of” those beliefs. Apparently he’s officially Eastern Orthodox now, having married a woman of that faith. I don’t think he’ll find his new church much happier with his new movie than his old born-again friends.

Of course it’s all my fault.

Avoidants like me are stuck in emotional childhood. We believe that we cause everything that happens around us. So when I think about a number of dear, dear friends from the 70’s, guys I prayed with and shared confidences with, guys closer than brothers to me, who walked away from the Faith, I assume responsibility. On a larger scale, I suppose, I blame myself for the collapse of the entire Jesus Movement.

Was there ever a Christian revival with so few lasting results? Did a revival ever collapse so utterly?

Maybe there was and some have. Perhaps proximity warps my perspective.

My opinion is that we failed because we preached an incomplete gospel. It was a consumer gospel – The New Improved Jesus! More fun and costs less! There was no cost of discipleship in the Jesus Movement (as I remember it), just a cuddly Jesus who lived to meet our needs.

When Jesus Freaks discovered recreational sex, they found they couldn’t stretch even Jesus Movement theology to accommodate that. So they stood like one of those Deciding Men in a cartoon – sex on one hand and the Bible on the other. The only question that occurred to them was, “Which will bring me more satisfaction?”

Sex won, and the Jesus Movement ground to a halt.

Maybe we deserve to have you spit on us now, Tom.

But I’m not going to your movie.

Lars Walker

 
Ten Predictions on Da Vinci Code Movie
Oh, ok, since you're twisting my arm, I'll post a second Monday humor. I don't think I can hold on to this one for a week. Alan Kurschner of The Calvinist Gadfly offers "10 Gadfly Predictions on the Da Vinci Code Movie." Here's a start:

1) Tom Hanks will try to sound like an authority on Church history when he does interviews.
2) There will be seeker-sensitive churches that will attend the movie as a church group.
3) Tim Lahaye will denounce how terrible it is for people to make money on falsehood.

Yeah, I can see it happening.
 
Just Thinking on My Way Out the Door
For Monday's light-hearted post, let me quote from the second story on Winnie-the-Pooh. Pooh wedges himself in Rabbit's front door after a little visit, and the story carries on:
Now by this time Rabbit wanted to go for a walk too, and finding the front door full, he went out by the back door, and came round to Pooh, and looked at him.

"Hallo, are you stuck?" he asked.

"N-no," said Pooh carelessly. "Just resting and thinking and humming to myself."

"Here, give us a paw."

Pooh Bear stretched out a paw, and Rabbit pulled and pulled and pulled . . .

"Ow!" cried Pooh. "You're hurting!"

"The fact is," said Rabbit, "you're stuck."

"It all comes," said Pooh crossly, "of not having front doors big enough."

"It all comes," and Rabbit sternly, "of eating too much. I thought at the time," said Rabbit, "only I didn't like to say anything," said Rabbit, "that one of us was eating too much," said Rabbit, "and I knew it wasn't me," he said.
Also for your amusement, I found the blog, My Best Gadgets, by surfing through Blogexplosion. Immediately, I spotted this handy device, a need for every home and some offices: a Radio Toaster. Wow! I saved so much space with the radio toaster that I bought five new coffee mugs. Don't you love the feel of this GreenSpace Eco-terrorism mug? It says, "Spare the Earth. Die today!"
 
Knowing They Missed It
What do you do when you read a blog post that touches on a spiritual matter and you see how badly they missed the point? It probably depends on the blog or your relationship with the blogger, right? I usually don't say anything, but I'm probably just avoiding confrontation which could be constructive. Anyway, between you and me, let me point out a couple posts which made my heart sink a bit recently.
  1. It's wonderful that reading fiction changes people, but sometimes the change is for the worse. Antigeist tells us briefly of reading Mark Twain's The Mysterious Stranger because it was the story that caused her friend's father, a former missionary, to lose his faith. Draw what conclusions you want about the father and his theology. The fact that Twain's novella, which suggests the world is a mere dream and maybe a play thing for an evil deity, inspired him to reject the Lord grieves me.
  2. The author of Waiterrant.net has a good story on loneliness and personal demons. I question his exposition of the demoniac story found in Mark 5, but I don't mind his point. Still, my heart sinks to read:
    I want someone to pluck me off the side of the road and love me with total abandon. I'm not talking about God here, not something ephemeral, but a woman, a flesh and blood woman. A woman who'll cast out my self doubt and drive it into the lake to be drowned. A woman who thinks I'm worth everything.

    Maybe I'm being selfish or overly romantic. Maybe I'm expecting too much. Maybe I have to change things before that happens. But human love, with all its heat and tumult, with all its disappointments and triumph, is still the closest thing we have to heaven on earth.
    I understand the feeling; but he appears to be hoping a woman will take God's place in emotionally supplying all he needs. There are women who may be up to this challenge; but just as the adulterer who believes he will truly be happy with another lover, so often the new one will sour to his taste. He's right about human love being close to heavenly joy. It still can't replace it.
 
Sunday, October 23, 2005
We Want Competence in Writing
We want competence, but competence itself is deadly. What you want is vision to go with it, and you do not get this from a writing class. – Flannery O’Connor

Quoted by Jared W from Vicki McC
 
Saturday, October 22, 2005

Book Review: Slow Kill by Michael McGarrity

I have rarely been less whelmed by a novel than by this one. The following review is offered largely for the sake of the aspiring authors among our readers, to point out to you things I think you ought to avoid.

Bear in mind, though, McGarrity is a prize-winning author with bestseller credentials. I’m Currently Between Publishers. So consider the source.

I picked this novel up by chance, in a supermarket display. As I’ve mentioned before, mysteries and thrillers are my favorite light reading. I can’t write the things, so I don’t have the same problem analyzing the interior mechanics as when I’m reading my own genre, fantasy.

McGarrity’s great strength is that he writes from experience. He’s a former Santa Fe County, New Mexico deputy sheriff, and has worked in other capacities as a police instructor and state investigator. The procedures his police officers follow communicate a real impression of authenticity. The weakness that accompanies this strength is that these procedures are often fairly tedious. We’re forever reminded in crime novels that real investigation involves a lot of paperwork and routine. This fact comes through clearly in Slow Kill, but does not make for compelling reading, in my opinion.

McGarrity’s greatest weakness is that his characters never come to life. As the novel begins, his hero, Kevin Kerney, police chief of Santa Fe, New Mexico, is in Santa Barbara, California, visiting a horse ranch where he hopes to buy some stock for his own horse-breeding sideline. He discovers the dead body of a fellow guest, a world-class hotel magnate. At first he is himself a suspect. This irritates him, but as a cop he understands. After a short time he’s cleared, and he swallows his irritation in order to cooperate with Sergeant Elena Lowrey, the local policewoman investigating the death.

And this is one of the problems with the book. Kerney is so blasted reasonable. He might vaguely mention that he is somewhat irritated at being under the searchlight, but there’s no blow-up, no argument with Lowrey. I’m sure this is how a responsible policeman would act in real life. I’m sure McGarrity is being realistic.

But it’s not very dramatic.

Kerney doesn’t seem to have any real passions at all. He cares about his New Mexico home. He cares about his wife (who is in the military and lives on the east coast) and their infant son. But he never goes overboard on these things. The fact that he lives separated from his family doesn’t seem to bother him much at all, beyond a mild ache. His interactions with his wife might involve a small amount of friction on rare occasions, but they’re quickly smoothed over. When an attractive woman he meets in the course of his investigation flirts with him, he just brushes it off. He seems barely aware of it.

Kerney seems to be the perfect feminist husband. He supports his wife’s career above all, even above being with her. He never argues, never yells. He’s utterly domesticated.

But I wonder how many women really want a man that tame.

This political correctness extends to his relationships with the policewomen (one in Santa Fe, the other in Santa Barbara) he primarily works with in this story. No sexist thought or emotion ever crosses his pure, upright mind.

Of course there’s small reason any should, in one sense. These women are indistinguishable from men, aside from physical appearance. They’re indistinguishable from one another too, for that matter, and from Kerney himself (again, aside from the physical).

It reminds me of the reason why I stopped watching Star Trek: The Next Generation after just a few episodes. The men and women were exactly alike, except for appearance. Such things do not rivet my attention. I have seen the future, and it is boring.

So I don’t think I’ll be buying any more of McGarrity’s books.

Lars Walker

 
Friday, October 21, 2005

The long road home (Road Work Ahead)

I spent quality time with Mrs. Hermanson last weekend.

Mrs. Hermanson is the name I have bestowed on my 1998 Chevy Tracker. I named her after my elementary school principal, a forbidding lady who stood about sixteen feet tall.

I reserved to myself the pleasure of a visit with my friend Dale in Mayville, North Dakota on my way back from Minot, generously inviting myself to sleep over at his home. I figured that breaking up the trip in eastern North Dakota would make it a lot easier. And I’m sure it did, but in that case I can only assume that I wouldn’t have survived trying it in one stretch.

Dale and his wife and family were hospitable and longsuffering as always. Their German Shepherd, Gisli, being a better judge of character, took an immediate dislike to me. He came to tolerate me at last, at least to the point where he was willing to wag his tail at one end while growling out of the other. Molly, the Golden Retriever, who has no standards at all, took to me right off.

Dale and I took several walks together, partly to emulate Lewis and Tolkien, but mostly for the sake of the dogs. Dale has genuine erudition to bring to this exercise, while I can offer only the credentials of a paperback hack, and numerous opinions. I went to church with them Sunday morning, sponged a delicious Sunday dinner off them, and then took off in a cloud of dust, their silverware in my luggage.

These are the times that sigh men’s trolls, with their long, repetitive, unrelentingly mathematical distances. You start out by covering the first one-thousandth of the trip, knowing that you still have nine-hundred-ninety-nine of those thousandths left to do, and the next thousandth doesn’t improve matters much. Today your job, whether you choose to accept it or not, is to keep your foot on the accelerator for hours and hours.

I had Sissel on the CD player, of course, with the Seekers for a break. But Mrs. Hermanson is big on road noise, especially in a headwind, and I had to crank them up pretty high to hear them. This is not relaxing.

These are the hours when an Avoidant starts ruminating on the failures and lost opportunities of his life. I remembered a long trip on that very road years back, when I drove west to accept a job from a man, and then drove back to break my word to him, one of the worst things I’ve ever done in a less than exemplary life. I thought about the fact that I’m middle-aged and single, and that I’ll almost certainly grow old alone and die alone. I thought about the wreck of my novel-writing career (probably God’s judgment on me for breaking my word to that guy in North Dakota). I thought about the decline of western civilization, the Avian Flu, and entropy. I thought about my prostate.

I made it home at last, but I wasn’t fit for human society. Fortunately there was nobody to observe, so it was like a tree falling in the forest. Some sort of small tree.

I wondered why I was so tired, since I’d slept reasonably well at the Høstfest, and very well at Dale’s place. My counselor tells me that Introverts (and I think I qualify for that title) draw their energy from solitude, and a week of very little time alone probably ran my batteries down. I find this a very acceptable rationalization, and I’ll keep it.

And so ends the legend of Theseus and the Minot-tour.

Lars Walker

 
This Blog Ain't Worth Nothing
I've had this encouraging thought for some time now:

My blog is worth $0.00.
How much is your blog worth?




I see that Thinklings.org is worth $125,327.88, and Semicolon rates at $136,618.68. Remarkable. At least, my blogshares rate is much more valuable, over $25,000. For what it's worth.
 
Personal Reflection
In response to Jakob Nielsen's advice on blog design, I reluctantly offer you a self portrait. I haven't wanted to add an image of myself to my Blogger profile or to the info in my sidebar because . . . well . . . I haven't wanted to. Maybe it's vanity, maybe it's artistic concerns (like when Faulkner didn't want to write letters from Paris because he didn't want literature scholars pouring over sloppily written, personal notes--which sounds like vanity, doesn't it). But I respect Nielsen, and he argues that the personal connection given by an author photo improves a blog's credibility and bridges the reality gap between the blogosphere and our physical communities. In this light, I submit to you this beautiful shot of a window sill framed by two mirrors.
Blogger Phil Wade in two mirrors
Oh, I have been blogging today, but over at Coll. Misc. Nothing interesting, really. Don't bother reading it.
 
Thursday, October 20, 2005

My not unpleasant week in Minot

If it’s one of your dreams to see a lot of people wearing Norwegian sweaters with cowboy hats, Høstfest (it means Autumn Festival) in Minot, North Dakota is the place for you. A ten-gallon hat topping off a sweater from Dale or Devold pretty much sums up the whole Høstfest experience. It must seem bizarre to the numerous Scandinavian visitors (heck, it seemed bizarre to me). But this is Squarehead culture with a definite Nashville flavor.

Høstfest takes place at the North Dakota state fairgrounds, in a complex of interconnected halls, each named for a Scandinavian City – Oslo Hall, Reykjavik Hall, Stockholm Hall, etc. The meat and potatoes of the festival is (sometimes quite literally) the numerous commercial booths where you can buy Norwegian sweaters, Swedish glassware, craft items, books, music and lots of other stuff, as well as your lunch. But the big draw of the festival is the music.

After my ravings about the divine Sissel, you might have the idea that Scandinavian music is a major component of Høstfest. This impression would be wrong. The big music draws are Country and Western acts. Merle Haggard sang this year, and Randy Travis and Ray Price and Glen Campbell. Charlie Pride (yes, Charlie Pride) comes back every year, and is a big favorite.

The musical king of Høstfest, though, was the late Myron Floren, former performer on the Lawrence Welk Show. You’ll still hear many saying “It’s just not the same without Myron”. In Myron’s place they have a “Myron Floren Tribute”, headlined by Myron’s son-in-law Bobby Burgess, whom you may remember (if you’re old enough) as the insufferable, constantly smiling male half of the featured dance team on the Welk show.

Oh, by the way, I loathe Polka music.

Almost every hall has its own stage, and there’s a constant rotation of obscure musical groups entertaining on them. Most of the music is Country, because that’s what they listen to in North Dakota, by thunder.

Did I mention that I loathe Country music too? Someday I’ll tell you about my year-and-a-half stint as a Country disc jockey in Wisconsin. It’s not a pretty story.

One exception was a musical duo that performed each morning in Copenhagen Hall while I was having breakfast at the Viking Fish Boil stand (pancakes and eggs, not fish). She was tall and blonde and beautiful, and a guy who must have been her father accompanied her on guitar. And she sang mostly old American standards, with a sprinkling of Norwegian standards. I could have kissed her, if I’d wanted to be beaten up by her father.

We of the Viking Age Club were given a space on the mezzanine floor of the main hall, a location most visitors don’t know exists, and one where only the boldest venture. But some people came through from time to time, and now and then it was even crowded. Yet I survived this enforced exposure to actual human beings fairly well (for me). I faithfully carried out our club’s Prime Directive, which is to explain to people that no, the Vikings did not wear horns on their helmets. And I sold a few books.

I also had perhaps the longest Norwegian conversation I’ve ever had in my life, with the owner of the third largest cheese company in Norway.

And I came to the rescue when a Norwegian lady at a food stand couldn’t understand the question, “You want fries with that?” I also translated “What kind of pop do you want?” I had delusions of adequacy for maybe three minutes.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you how I fought my way through blizzards, grasshopper plagues and Indian attacks to cross the prairies and return to civilization.

Lars Walker

 
Today
This morning, I intended to rise and blog a bit before breakfast. I held my sweet wife instead. After a minute, my precious two-year-old kicked open the door and climbed up to join the holding. I have the best little family.

So, what'd you do today?
 
Reporters Find No Body in Rove's Garage
I have to drop our regular BwB topic for a second to point out a stupid AP report. "Karl Rove's Garage Proves to be Typical" is the headline on a report which details what was seen from the door of Rove's open garage and a complaint that it was messy. Fox News headlines the same report, "Bored Press Scouts Inventory Rove Garage."

What the fruit are reporters writing about Rove's garage? Were they expecting to find a body? Maybe a confession to guilt in the Valerie Plame investigation scrawled on a chalkboard?
 
Wednesday, October 19, 2005

A Meme break

OK, Phil seems to think I ought to talk about books for a change, rather than Scandinavian related travel, and he has directed my attention to this Meme in particular. Well, it certainly looks like something that will be highly embarrassing to me, and that’s always entertaining.

What books from the list of a hundred have I read?

Animal Farm
George Orwell

The Big Sleep
Raymond Chandler

The Bridge of San Luis Rey
Thornton Wilder

Catch-22
Joseph Heller

The Catcher in the Rye
J.D. Salinger

The Heart of the Matter
Graham Greene (Hated it, by the way)

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe
C.S. Lewis

Lord of the Flies
William Golding

The Lord of the Rings
J.R.R. Tolkien

Lucky Jim
Kingsley Amis

The Moviegoer
Walker Percy (I’m not actually sure of this one. I tend to forget which Percy I’ve read and which I haven’t.)

1984
George Orwell

Red Harvest
Dashiell Hammett

Slaughterhouse-Five
Kurt Vonnegut

To Kill a Mockingbird
Harper Lee (Probably doesn’t count, since I read it in the Reader’s Digest condensed version)

I’ll tell you about the Høstfest and my drive home tomorrow.

Lars Walker

 
The Book Meme 100
MEME ALERT!! Jared points to Time magazine's list of best English language novels since 1923 and suggests we admit which books we've read. See his post for the full list. I'll give you what few I've read below. I should probably keep this information to myself and avoid losing blog readers; but here's to reckless blogging:

Beloved, Toni Morrison
The Bridge of San Luis Rey, Thornton Wilder
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis
The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
The Power and the Glory, Graham Greene

Hey, Lars, what have you read on that list?

 
Celebrating Christian Fiction
Fellow Georgian* Dee Stewart is a writer and editor who blogs at christianfiction.blogspot.com. She has solicited a long list of published and unpublished stories, novel excerpts, and blog posts from her readers in a type of carnival of Christian fiction. It could be interesting. No, it is interesting, and it could be good. Take a browse.

I also see that Dee's work in progress meter is at 95.3%. Great job, Dee. Keep up the good work.

*I am not a Georgian, though I do live in Georgia. I'm actually a Tennessean. I clarify because I know you care.
 
Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Nunc dimitis

Minot is a small city of about 35,000 people, if I remember correctly. It is home to a US Air Force base. And once a year it hosts better than 50,000 visitors, drawn to the Norsk Høstfest in October.

I’m not sure what it says about Scandinavians in this country that our largest ethnic festival is located in one of the remotest cities in the nation. Perhaps it speaks well of our determination and adventurous spirit. Or perhaps it says something else about our intelligence.

I’ve wanted to visit Høstfest for many years. The Viking Age Club (of which I’m a member) puts in a presence every year, to serve as part of the ambience. But it’s a ten hour drive, and I wouldn’t have gone this year, while I’m still settling into a new job, except for Sissel Kyrkjebø.

I’ve blogged about Sissel before. For the sake of readers who don’t go that far back, Sissel is a Norwegian popular singer. She’s fairly famous in Europe and (surprisingly) in Japan, but she’s never really made her name in America. You’ve probably heard her sing though, as it was her voice doing the background vocals in the movie Titanic.

I’ve been desperately in love with her ever since I first heard her Christmas album, Glade Jul, back in the late 80’s (it still holds the record in Norway for the largest selling album of all time). Aside from the fact that her voice was pure as mountain air at midnight, her face just looked so sweet on the cover. In fact, I modeled the character Halla in The Year Of the Warrior on that picture.

I’ve been desperate to hear her in concert ever since, but she doesn’t sing in the U.S. much, and when she does it’s usually in New York or L.A., or some other blue area where they couldn’t possibly appreciate her. So when I discovered she had been booked for this year’s Høstfest it was but the work of a moment for me to order my ticket and inform the club that I’d be joining them in Minot.

I was telling my friend Dale Nelson (I’ll blog about my visit with him tomorrow) on Saturday that I’ve pretty much given up on communicating with anyone in the world about music. I do not understand the music of my generation, and it doesn’t understand mine. I’ve been trying to interest people in Sissel for years, and as far as I know I haven’t “converted” anyone. So it was a shock for me to walk into the State Fairgrounds arena in Minot and find myself in the midst of a packed-out house, everyone seemlingly as enthusiastic about her singing as I was.

The evening opened with a flag ceremony and the singing of national anthems. When the Norwegian anthem started I assumed it was a group thing, and I joined in with gusto. Soon I realized it seemed to be just me and the soloist on stage singing, so I toned it down.

But afterwards two people thanked me for it, so I guess it wasn’t a disaster.

Finally She came on. She wore one of those shirt things women wear over slacks, in pink, with flared sleeves. She has grown her hair out shoulder length, which filled the cup of my joy to the brim.

It was a dark day in my life when I saw her singing on TV during the Lillehammer Olympics in ’94, and observed that she’d cropped her hair short. It’s been short in various styles ever since. I forgave her, but I can’t deny it hurt.

This was around the time she got married to a superannuated jerk from Denmark. Since she just broke up with him, I feel confident in blaming the whole short hair unpleasantness on him.

It’s partly my fault too, of course. I think it’s obvious that the superannuated jerk she was supposed to marry was me, and I failed to do my part by not becoming famous in time to snag her.

The concert was as good as I hoped. One person I spoke to afterwards complained that she mostly sang in Norwegian, but I prefer that (and in spite of my language skills I really didn’t follow much of the lyrics). Another problem in her career, in my opinion, has been that her handlers have tried to promote her as a pop singer, putting out pop albums in English. There isn’t a single English-language album that has impressed me much. She’s at her best doing Norwegian folk songs and hymns (she always includes a few hymns). There was quite a lot of this sort of thing here. There were only two songs I recognized from her recordings. But that was fine. I think she was doing material to be included in her next album (“It was supposed to be called ‘Nordic Summer Nights’,” she said, “but it took so long in production it’s going to be ‘Nordic Winter Nights’”).

Naturally the auditorium was equipped with screens, so that we could get a close-up view of her beautiful face. And that was nice. But I tried to stare at her, herself, on the stage below, as much as possible. I’ve seen pictures of her before.

As you can see, Sissel reduces me to stark sniveling, fan-boydom (or, more properly, fan-geezerdom). I came prepared to worship, and I worshiped.

She did three songs for an encore, and her last one was Løvland and Graham’s “You Raise Me Up”. Was I in tears? What do you think?

I can die now. The Lord can take me home.

Lars Walker

 
I'll Tell You What You Need
In inestimable Marla suggests that we Google "[insert first name] needs" and post the first ten results. Jared and Quaid picked the meme and ran with it. Now, I offer you the same bit of silliness here. After all, what's a blog without memes? Nothing much.
  1. PHIL NEEDS JESUS-HE NEEDS THE TOUCH OF THE MASTERS HAND!! (I can't argue with that.)
  2. Saint Phil Needs A Blog. (Thank you, Saint Martin. Here's the blog you're looking for.)
  3. Quite frankly, Phil Needs A New Act. (Everyone's a critic.)
  4. PHIL NEEDS A WAKE UP CALL AND THIS SUIT COULD BE IT. (I need to leave town.)
  5. What Phil needs to realize is that the main reason we suck is because we're
    saddled with a roster of undesirable players with huge contracts. (Yes, yes. I see the truth now.)
  6. Phil needs some start-up money for his new business. (Quite frankly, I wouldn't mind start-up money for my current business or what you could call blog-enhancement.)
  7. Hey, look. Here's a meme on a guy named Phil, commenting under "furious idiot." Looks as if Phil needs to get a life. (That's not me, if you're asking.)
  8. Phil needs your help today to fight the Schwarzenegger fundraising machine! (Ask . . .)
  9. If Phil needs more assistance, he should go to the Reference Desk (. . . and you shall receive.)
  10. Another commenter reports, "When I typed in 'Phil needs' it came back with 'Phil needs to tell Jamin how incredibly good looking he is and to offer to have his children.'"
 
Monday, October 17, 2005

Why not Minot?

I’m back at last from the steppes of North Dakota. I fear that what I’ll report about Høstfest will sound negative, and that would be unfortunate. It’s a great event, and Minot is a great town. I guess essentially I’m still suffering from car lag, and an event like this is tough on me, for reasons I’ll explain in an upcoming entry.

The main thing wrong with Minot, as far as I can see, is that its name looks like an abbreviation, or an acronym.

It’s about a ten hour drive to Minot from Minneapolis. I did the outbound drive in one leg, stopping in Fargo long enough to meet blogger Roy Jacobsen of Dispatches From Outland in a coffee shop. Roy surprised me by being a thin guy – I’d been pretty sure, from looking at pictures various bloggers post, that being fat is pretty much de rigeur for participation in the medium. Roy actually took time off from a conference he was attending to meet me, which must have seemed to him in the end a sad waste of time. I made it worse by embarrassing him, ordering a large strawberry sundae (it was about 10:00 a.m.). It just seemed like the right thing to do at the time. I’d been up since 5:00 a.m., and didn’t want to spoil my lunch. As it turned out, the sundae was so big it became my lunch anyway.

Roy tells me that Fargo has developed into a minor hotbed of high-tech industry, thanks in part to enlightened tax policies (“Progressive” would be a better word than enlightened, but the Statists have co-opted it. As if high taxes had anything to do with progress).

North Dakota, as you’ve no doubt heard, is a rather flat state, where you speed along ruler-straight highways past widely scattered farmsteads. In North Dakota I miss highway billboards. When the government ordered them down they took away the only items of interest on that whole trip.

When you get further west, closer to Minot, the landscape grows more varied and interesting, as if the glaciers started getting leg cramps at that point and decided to drop some gear. One thinks inevitably of cowboys and Plains Indians. The weather changed too. A day which had been unseasonably warm suddenly got colder and threatened rain (in fact the rain had just passed through). I saw something white in a ditch and thought, “What’s that? It looks like snow. It can’t be snow.”

But it was. They’d had 14 inches the week before. There was quite a lot in ditches, and other places.

So I made it to Minot and connected with the Viking Age Club, mostly already in residence. The Sissel Kyrkjebø concert would be the following night.

I’ll tell you about that tomorrow.

Lars Walker

 
Is the Label 'Jezebel' a Compliment?
Joking about The Prayer of Jabez, Russell Moore of Touchstone Magazine said, "that the feminist revisionists would respond with their own small devotional volume: The Prayer of Jezebel." On Friday, he reported the book's release.
Fortress Press, the publishing house of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, has announced the publication of The Jezebel Letters, which "combines top-notch biblical scholarship with a fictionalized first-person account of the biblical character." According to the Fortress press release, the book "transforms the stereotype of the notorious biblical queen into a more historically based portrayal of a powerful, literate royal woman."
You may have gotten a bad impression of Jezebel from the Biblical account, but this book argues that the facts are "she was 'the urbane and thoughtful Queen of Israel who gives voice to her efforts and those of her family in guiding Israel through one of its most challenging, and least understood, periods.'"

Fortress Press, where the truth is what we make her.
 
So, Um, Like . . . Life Is Like
Let's have some interaction with this week's Monday Post. For a season in college (I think everything ran in a season) we joked by making absurd reflections on life. "Life is like a car," we might say, "because it has four wheels and gas."

I know, your sides are about to burst over that one, but the joke was the nonsense. Half of the time, our statements could possibly have made some kind of sense; but that was part of the fun too. We weren't reflecting deeply on life, phrasing our thoughts in a pregnant metaphor. We were being stupid. What do you think about life? What is life "really" like? Here are some lines to get you thinking (though maybe in the wrong direction):
 
Life and Art
Jared has some heart-stirring posts on art and life in art at his solo blog, Mysterium Tremendum. Here's a starting point, if you happen to find this post long after the posted date.

Before you link over, ask yourself, "What is the purpose of art?" Get a solid answer in your head, before reading post on Bach's answer to that question.
 
Saturday, October 15, 2005
Do You Read a Bible Paraphrase?
A 2005 survey of "secondary school-aged pupils" in the United Kingdom shows 75% of them disagree with this sentence: "The Bible is no longer relevant because people no longer believe in God." This ran contrary to teacher expectations, who said the children would probably think the Bible is "boring, old-fashioned, and uncool." Some students did call it "a waste of time," 15% of them.

For children and adults who struggle with reading or understanding the Bible, the newspaper for The Church of England suggest a recent UK paraphrase.
Rob Lacey's best-selling title, The Word on the Street offers an excellent starting place. Lacey wrote this fresh, urban paraphrase of the Bible for those "who don't count themselves as religious or churchgoers" for them to get the basic story. He wanted, he says, "to kick out all the overly religious language, so they could at least have the chance of deciding what they thought about it."

Lacey is realistic about the scriptures: "The Bible is the most published book in the world, but probably not the most read book in the world," he admits. "What happens is it starts at page one with Genesis and they love it, but by the time they get to Leviticus, they are struggling in a desert, and they don't get any further. That is a crime that people miss out on all the brilliant stuff later on because they don't realise that you don't need to read it as a normal book.
Do you read a Bible paraphrase? (You can interpret "read" however you like.) Some readers have a strong aversion to them, but what do you think? I used to enjoy the Phillips New Testament, but I haven't picked it up in years. The New King James and the English Standard Version are the translations I enjoy to use most.
 
Friday, October 14, 2005
Think Before You Look, by Daniel Henderson
Last Sunday was the day xxxchurch.com chose to campaign against pornography in the Christian church. They put together a video kit to aid pastors in preaching against the sin of viewing pornography.

One participant told the Dallas Morning News: "Pornography has been called America's dirty little secret, and there are people inside the church dealing with this issue. One of the things I like about the approach they are taking is that they aren't telling people how bad they are. They're offering hope and a different perspective about what God has to say."

From their website, you may agree with some critics of xxxchurch.com that their tactics are too edgy for their own good, but co-founder Mike Foster says they need to be provocative in order to be heard. "We're living in outrageous times, and if you come out of the gate with a soft message, then no one is going to pay attention," he said.

Think Before You Look is much softer approach, but it's probably the right one and would make a great follow-up to the hard hitting wake-up message. In fact, xxxchurch calls it "a must read" for dealing with porn's temptation.

It's short, focusing on forty reasons men should avoid sexual temptation. Each chapter takes one reason in about four pages and ends with an exhortation which could easily be memorized by someone digging themselves out of a deep addiction. Reasons include: Think concludes with a long list of suggestions for avoiding temptation, ranging from meek to bold.

Henderson doesn't appear to condemn Internet surf all together, but he comes close in some chapters, writing as if being online means you're watching or looking for porn. I'm sure he doesn't mean this, but he could be more clear. That's my only criticism.

Think doesn't tell a dozen stories of men ruining their lives. It doesn't spend any time on the psychology of addiction or describe the male brain when viewing porn. It gets to the basics, what do to to avoid pornography. Recommended.

Sidenote: This book was cover-designed and published in my hometown, Chattanooga, TN.

 
Thinkling Bait
I appreciate Jared linking to Lars' post on culture and the interest it has generated in this humble blog. I don't know how much marketshare of the blogospheric readers they hold, but they have always felt like 100x bigger than BwB. I should leave it at that, but I can't. I must submit to you the following, boldfaced, Thinkling bait:

Biomechanical Lifelike Organism



Biomechanical Intelligent Lifeform Limited to Dangerous Exploration


Click the images access the Cyborg Name Decoder.
 
Thursday, October 13, 2005
Which Is an Interesting Question
Kris of Ain't No Beach in MO poses an interesting Bible translation question:
Same or Different Bible Verse?

"This is no afternoon athletic contest that we'll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels."

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places."
I have more respect for some paraphrases than for others, but this question gets me wondering how the Lord preserves His Word through the languages of the ages. Suppose a small society has no understanding of sheep or shepherds, how can translate Psalm 23? It isn't by added a long contextual note explaining shepherds. It's by changing it to a chicken-raiser, maybe.

Oh, and since Lars is gone this week, I feel I should throw in a Norway or viking link. Um, here's something. Oh, look, a bundt pan.
 
Noonan with a Creative Writing Moment
From Peggy Noonan's latest column comes this writing moment regarding the Supreme Court nomination:
I think I know what White House aides are thinking.

They're thinking: This is the part of my memoir where we faced the daily pounding of our allies. They're thinking: This is the "Churchill Alone" chapter. They're thinking: He was like a panther in the jungle night. For five years he sat, watchful, still as marble, his eyes poised upon his prey. And then he sprang in a sudden burst of sleek-muscled focus, and when it was over his face was unchanged but for the scarlet ring of blood around his mouth. But enough about George Will. They're thinking: That's good, save it for later.
Heh, heh. You know she's right.
 
Family Christian Stores Break from the Pack
Family Christian Stores is no longer reporting their sales figures to the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA), according to Publishers Weekly. An unnamed publisher tells the industry magazine that Family appears to be jumping to the conclusion that the ECPA is trying to building marketshare in the discount stores and mega-booksellers. Sales have been down a bit in the Christian Bookselling market, but general religious book sales are up.

The publisher said, "If they stop and think about it, why would Christian publishers want to harm CBA booksellers? They're our closest allies."
 
Today

Today, I figured out how to make the office black and white copier/printer/fax machine print a document in booklet format (folded and stabled) the way it should by default. Under normal conditions when asked to print multiple copies of a 20 page booklet document, it will print the full document forwards and backwards, fold both, and staple them together. I found the settings which order it to print, fold, and staple only one document at a time. No one else knew how to this, so I have essentially saved the day, don’t you think.

What did you do today?

 
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
Choose You This Day
If you could do only one tomorrow evening, which would you prefer to do?
  1. Blog or read a book?
  2. Blog on your own or read/comment on other blogs?
  3. Read a novel or the news/news opinion?
 
Morning Needs
I have had material for blogging, but have neglected it primarily in order to finish reading Lars' The Year of the Warrior. I ended it last night, and let me tell all of the publishers and editors who read this blog that if his sequel novels of Erling and Ailill were published, I would be eager to get them. I may blog my review this week.

For now, let me turn your attention to a puritan prayer from The Valley of Vision:
O God the author of all good, I come to Thee for the grace another day will require for its duties and events. I step out into a wicked world; I carry about with me an evil heart. I know that without Thee I can do nothing, that everything with which I shall be concerned, however harmless in itself, may prove an occasion of sin or folly, unless I am kept by Thy power. Hold Thou me up and I shall be safe.

Preserve my understanding from subtilty of error, my affections from love of idols, my character from stain of vice, my profession from every form of evil. . . . read on
You may also want to look over these beautiful thoughts on reading and Wodehouse at A Circle of Quiet.
 
Monday, October 10, 2005
Christian Fiction Analysis: Ezekiel's Shadow
A month or so ago, I told you that the wildly popular author David Ryan Long had challenged fiction critic and distinguished professor J. Mark Bertrand to justify his criticisms of the famous bestseller, Ezekiel’s Shadow. I also said I was going off my prevarication medication. But let me return to the point.

The challenge has begun! All this week, it's must read blogging at the Faith in Fiction forum and Bertrand's blog. Not only that, you can participate by signing up at the Faith in Fiction forum. The smackdown begins with "The End of Horror!"
 
Monday Diversion
By way of a first of the week diversion, I direct your attention to the second ring for "Bunch of Meaningless Stuff!" Yes, I know you think you've seen all the meaningless stuff on the blogosphere already. Perhaps, you believe the whole blogosphere is meaningless. But this is just an underpitch, ladies and gentlemen. In this blog, you'll see . . . well, to cut the hype, some nice photography of Paris and other European locations. It's attractive. It's diverting. And it's today's Monday post.
 
Sunday, October 09, 2005

Pilgrimage, Stage 2

I wasn’t going to post again before I got back from Minot, but I think I didn’t really finish yesterday’s post. I made sweeping statements about why we’re not worthy of Christianity in our culture anymore, but I was rather vague about why. So I’ll try to buttress my argument.

I think the modern view of “normal” life – the life we expect and feel entitled to – involves living without any need of courage. If my home is destroyed in a fire or flood, I don’t say, “This is a trial I must overcome.” I say instead, “Whom can I sue, and what government agency will pay to restore what I’ve lost?” The idea that we might have to bear a loss or make sacrifices grows more and more unacceptable to us.

Here’s the thing – courage is the same as faith. If I want to exercise faith, I must exercise courage. If I want to exercise courage, some kind of faith is required of me. Not necessarily faith in God. Just faith that my risk and sacrifice are worth something, that they serve some purpose greater than my personal comfort.

When we try to build a world where courage is unnecessary, we destroy faith. When we tear down the things that people believe in, we destroy courage. Europe used to be a contest between Christians and. Communists, the clash of two faith systems. Nowadays Europeans take pride in not believing in much of anything. And that’s very comfortable. But people who don’t believe in anything beyond themselves don’t have children, and the empty cradles of Europe are a hole in the bottom of the cultural bucket, draining it out. Islam is coming in to fill the resultant void. Case in point: http://www.aftenposten.no/english/local/article724262.ece

In America, Islam is a less immediate danger (though I wouldn’t rule it out). But we are pushing Christianity more and more into the shadows, and our old “civic religion” of flag-waving and patriotic songs has become an object of derision. Once again, no faith and no courage. My life is about my comfort, nothing more. “Go to war? What’s in it for me?”

It may be that our future is in the influx of Hispanic immigrants. Perhaps we’ll become a Catholic nation, with a state religion.

In many ways, an Islamic Europe and a Catholic United States would be superior to the nihilism of the present order.

But they wouldn’t be Europe and they wouldn’t be the United States, with the characteristic freedoms and ideals of each.

And I’m against that.

Lars Walker

 
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