Just call me Fezziwig
Had our first Advent service at church tonight, and as usual in December I was an usher. On the way home it started snowing again. We’re supposed to have enough accumulation to make the morning commute interesting.
But I’m glad Christmas is coming. I don’t know if I’ll get around to putting a tree up this year, but I’m always glad it’s Christmas.
If you’re one of the people who says, “You know, Christmas is really just a pagan holiday dressed up by the medieval church. It’s not actually that important,” you can expect me to… well, I’m not going to argue with you because I can’t handle arguments. But I’ll definitely clam up on you and move to another part of the room.
Because Christmas means a whole lot to me. And I don’t think it’s only because it was the only time of the year, when I was growing up, when my mother really made an effort to have a happy family. It’s also about growing up in the north, and on a farm.
The “who needs Christmas?” people, I suspect (I don’t know for sure) tend to live in southern climates, where they literally don’t need Christmas. The days (unless they live in equatorial areas or the southern hemisphere) may be shorter down there this time of year but they’re relatively warm. Winter is mostly just a section of the calendar for them, not a life-or-death challenge.
This was one of the reasons I never reconciled to life in
For us in the north country, even nowadays, winter isn’t just a matter of diminished comfort. December is the midnight of the year, the time when darkness lingers longest, when a combination of bad luck and poor planning can put you in a place where the cold will kill you like a psychopath. For our ancestors it was a time of fears, both superstitious and real. Not only freezing but starvation was a real possibility, and they believed in ghosts.
December is a time of year when we desperately need a celebration in the north. So sure, we borrowed one from the heathens and tacked our own meaning onto it. Why not? What better time to celebrate the miracle of the Incarnation? We took the old heathen holiday and cut out the worst parts, the sacrifices and the bacchanalia (which weren’t nearly as fun as people imagine, especially for the women). We made the food better and the ceremonies better, and we definitely improved the music. We brought fragrant trees into our homes. We lit lights and created a wonder, a magical kingdom before there ever was a Disney. We gave it as a gift to the world.
And now the world is kicking it back in our faces.
But when it’s only us celebrating the holiday again, perhaps in secret, the children of the world will still sneak in to gaze at our lights and listen to our carols.
I hate it when the news is good
We got our snow last night. More than I expected. First the ice, then the sleet, then snow, so that in the morning we had a fair covering. The temperature dropped to antarctic levels (or so it seems now; in a month the same will seem fairly mild) and the stuff I scraped off my windshield had the consistency of baked oatmeal. It made a noise coming off that seemed like about 60 decibels.
The wind must have come from the southwest, because my driver’s side door was iced up like Captain Franklin’s death ship. I was reduced to entry from the passenger’s side, with all the joys that entails for a middle-aged, less than limber man. I tried the lock again around noon, in the hope that the wan sunlight filtering through the cloud cover might have loosened it up a little. Progress report: None.
After work I gave blood. Different place this time – a VFW hall. I like the VFW gigs because the vets give you sloppy joes on top of the usual cookies and juice afterwards.
Traditionally one donates a pint of blood, but it must be close to a pint and a half now, if you add in all the blood they draw in little vials in order to test you for AIDS and SARS and (probably) black basement mold. I can’t remember what all they tested for. I can’t complain I was uninformed. I was informed beyond my capacity to outform.
I’ll bet it was a breeze back in WWII. I’ll bet they just welcomed you in, asked you to please leave your bottle of gin at the desk (“Smoking? Sure you can smoke. This is
Through generous exercise of my car heater on the drive home I finally got my driver’s side door open. It's primed with WD-40 now, to prepare me for the rigors of the coming day.
Great news from
To my own embarrassment, I’m almost disappointed. This case has been my ace card in arguing about persecution of Christians in the west for several years. Now the Swedes have shown unexpected decency, deciding that free speech does, after all, actually cover unfashionable ideas.
Maybe there’s hope.
Which would be lousy for my writing career.
The value of hats… the evidence mounts
The day after Thanksgiving, snow began to fall on the Twin Cities, a couple inches of thick, fluffy insulation. You could hear 200,000 SUV’s switching into four-wheel-drive all at once. Clearly, this was the end of fall and the beginning of winter, and it couldn’t have come on a more suitable day.
However the temperatures rose over the long weekend, and the snow was pretty much gone by Sunday. Today the thermometer read around 45º. But to our west a big, ugly, sociopathic blizzard is roaring out of Sturgis. That blizzard is expected to reach us tonight about the time it runs out of energy. Some collateral damage is expected though. Apparently we’ll have rain turning to snow, and then the temperatures will drop and we’ll be able to save energy by ice skating to work tomorrow.
So we’ll all need to wear something warm on our heads. All my life I’ve known – and I learned this through hard experience – that if I go out without anything on my head on a winter’s day, I will infallibly get a cold.
Yet well-informed people (including my brother Moloch, who used to be a nurse) persisted in telling me (sometimes in pretty condescending tones) that I had to be wrong. “Science has proved,” they said, “that getting chilled doesn’t give you a cold.”
Well phooey: Read this: Cold Prevention Nothing To Sneeze At.
What it says, in short, is that if you have a mild cold sort of sitting around in your head, not strong enough to get past your immune system, it appears that getting a chill will weaken your defenses and allow that mild cold to realize its full, God-given potential.
I feel the same smug satisfaction as the hypochondriac who had them carve “I told you I was sick” on his tombstone.
All these years I’ve been the obscurantist, the hidebound, credulous believer in old wives’ tales (like the despised Intelligent Design people) just because I believed the evidence of my own experience.
Today I’m on the side of Science. I am a hardheaded realist, grounded in solid data.
And I haven’t moved one inch. I just waited for the Anointed Priesthood to come over to my side.
This has been my lifelong strategy in most areas of thought. I’ll be waiting for you whenever you’re ready, world.
I’ll be the one wearing the hat.
Art historian Elkins "posted inquiries in newspapers and journals, asking for stories from anyone who had responded to a painting with tears." A fascinating analysis of why contemporary viewers steadfastly resist the emotional pull of art. Instead of giving a coffee-table art book, give a book that examines how we respond to art — and why we don't.On OpinionJournal.com the other day, Court Reporter Catherine Crier has a list of five great crime books. Oh, look--classics. Her fourth pick is Les Misérables by Victor Hugo. She says:
Never mind the kitsch Broadway version: Victor Hugo's epic novel of the struggle between Jean Valjean and his nemesis, Inspector Javert, delivers a moving commentary on injustice, oppression and rehabilitation. Valjean is sentenced to prison for 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread. He is released only to commit a second minor crime. Javert vows that the act shall not go unpunished, and the chase is on. This grand drama, much of which is set against the political tumult of the French Revolution, is an exciting read that transcends its time. Hugo's words deliver valuable lessons about the inequities that shape so many lives today and the longing for liberty that we all share.
One of the great advantages of Austen's fiction is that it gives the lie to our feigned classlessness. In our public morality, we talk endlessly about treating everyone equally and about the unimportance of money and possessions. But we make judgments all the time about money, income, looks, clothes, and possessions — nowhere more so than in our schools. Austin takes these matters seriously, but, since she takes virtue more seriously, she offers what we now lack, namely, a vocabulary for success and character. Despite its Victorian fascination with formality, Austin's world neatly dovetails with the world of contemporary teenagers. As Bohlin comments, "First impressions, battles of pride, the power of prejudice, pervasive gossip, and tensions between the genuine and the disingenuous in both friendship and romance are all quite real to" teenagers.
The Art of Deception by Ridley Pearson
It’s strange, when I think about it, that I always forget Ridley Pearson when I list my favorite thriller writers. That’s odd, because I always have a good time with his books. I enjoy his characters, and the stories draw me in. He’s even gotten more Christian-friendly in his recent Lou Boldt books, including a story line where Lou’s wife, dying of cancer, dropped her chemotherapy in favor of prayer and a renewed devotion to her Catholic faith. And, to Lou’s amazement, it seems to be working.
Yet the books never leave a lasting impression on me for some reason. I don’t know why. Maybe this book will change that.
The Art of Deception is, in my opinion, the best Pearson book (of those I’ve read) to date. His characters are growing and changing. His hero,
But the focus of the story is on Daphne Matthews, police psychologist, another continuing character. What I like about Daphne (deduct points for sexism here) is that she’s not the standard, kick-butt fictional policewoman we’ve grown so accustomed to of late, the one so absolutely interchangeable with her male colleagues that the reader suspects she went through mandatory menopause on graduation from the police academy. Daphne is a feminine woman, well aware that she’s not a physical match for most male cops and most male criminals. Her edge is in her education and empathy, her ability to understand the criminal mind and predict its movements.
Her challenge in The Art of Deception is the case of a young woman who fell from a fire escape and was afterwards run over by a car and dumped off a bridge. Her investigation centers on the woman’s abusive boyfriend and her seriously troubled, homeless brother, a young man who was attached to his sister in an unhealthy way and who begins to transfer that affection to Daphne herself. And he’s not the only guy who’s taken to stalking her. Daphne is weary of this, then wary, and finally pretty scared.
She’s also getting tired of her personal life. She’s been engaged a couple times, but both engagements fell through. Part of the reason for that is that she’s still half in love with Lou Boldt, with whom she had a brief affair years back. They’re both attached to one another because of that, and they both know it’s not good for them (shades of the Bible’s teaching about becoming “one flesh”).
But then there’s John LaMoia, another colleague. LaMoia has been almost a comic figure through this series of books, a constitutional adolescent addicted to one sexual conquest after another. But a serious injury, and a subsequent physical addiction to painkillers which he has managed to beat through hard effort, has matured him. and now he finds himself (somewhat to his own surprise) looking at women as more than trophies. And the more he looks at Daphne Matthews, the more he finds himself thinking about changing his life and settling down – growing up, in short. And Daphne feels drawn to him too, but...
The investigation, in a fascinating manner, moves under the earth just as it moves under the skin, taking us into previously unexplored areas of
An excellent book. As usual with thrillers, cautions are in order concerning language, sex and violence, though Pearson is not a major offender in these areas. Some of the crimes, though, are pretty disturbing.
I recommend The Art of Deception.
His own clothes were a matter of complete indifference to him: he had an extraordinary knack of making a new suit look shabby the second time he wore it. One of his garments has passed into legend. It is said that Jack once took a guest for an early-morning walk round Addison's Walk, after a very wet night. Presently the guest brought his attention to a curious lump of cloth hanging on a bush. 'That looks like my hat!' said Jack; then, joyfully, 'It is my hat!' and clapping the sodden mass on to his head, he continued the walk.
The Feast of
Oh yeah. I should have mentioned nuts yesterday. Nuts are another thing everybody else likes that I can’t stand. The one exception is peanuts. But peanuts (as I’m sure you know) aren’t really nuts at all. They’re a kind of bean.
I know I said I hate beans too. So sue me.
One of the things that brings low pressure fronts into my life is to bite down on something sweet and delectable, like a cookie or a piece of cake or some ice cream, and find a nut waiting there, like a rock or a chunk of wood.
Life is such a trial…
Today is the anniversary of the death of C.S. Lewis. It was very thoughtful of John F. Kennedy to die on the very same day, so that I could always remember what I was doing the day Lewis died. When I heard about Kennedy I was in an art class in junior high. As a matter of fact it was the very class Mr. Maus asked me about the day I first talked to him, as I related in an earlier post. (That means I was 13 when it happened, and I must have been in 7th Grade. Amazing how I had the information to work that out lying around in my head all this time.)
It was also my brother Baal’s birthday. Happy birthday, Baal, if you’re reading this. Which I know you’re not.
To some people, Sigmund Freud is the most important person to have lived in the 20th Century. For others it’s Churchill, or FDR, or Martin Luther King or Elvis.
For me it’s C.S. Lewis. No contest. I don’t agree with Lewis on everything. His view of Scripture was too low. He believed in Anglican stuff like Purgatory and the veneration of saints. But one of his gifts was the ability to explain to provincial Pietists like me what things are necessary in the faith and which are those on which believers of good will may disagree.
I remember a winter’s day, working in my dad’s barn, shoveling manure out of the gutters. I was thinking about a passage from The Screwtape Letters, which I’d recently read, where the devil Screwtape complains:
“(God is) a hedonist at heart. All those fasts and vigils and stakes and crosses are only a façade. Or only like foam on the sea shore. Out at sea, out in His sea, there is pleasure, and more pleasure. He makes no secret of it; at His right hand are ‘pleasures for evermore’…. He’s vulgar, Wormwood. He has a bourgeois mind. He has filled His world full of pleasures. There are things for humans to do all day long without His minding in the least—sleeping, washing, eating, drinking, making love, playing, praying, working. Everything has to be twisted before it’s any use to us. We fight under cruel disadvantages. Nothing is naturally on our side.”
I remember how exciting and subversive that passage seemed to me. Growing up among Pietists, I’d picked up the idea (not actually expressed) that pleasure was in itself sinful. Through Lewis I began to understand that pleasure is innocent (all other things being equal) because the body is a good creation of God. And we know the body is good because of the Incarnation. It was the beginning of my personal journey into theology, and Lewis set me on the right path. Perhaps without Lewis I'd have ended by rejecting Pietism altogether, as both my brothers did.
So God’s blessings on you, Jack Lewis, in Heaven or in Purgatory, or wherever you are. I’d have a drink in your memory, but I’m still too much of a Pietist for that.
I don’t get it
I guess the proper, non-slang way to express that thought would be “I don’t comprehend it”. But for a long time people have been looking for a better way to say it, something that would express the fact that not only do they not grasp a thing intellectually, they find it just as hard to grasp it emotionally. They have a difficult time putting themselves in the places of people who do (or think) this (or that). When I was young, people started talking about “digging” and “not digging” things. But it sounded too effete. It smelled too much of beatniks and coffeehouses and the collected works of Allen Ginsberg in paperback.
Then Robert A. Heinlein came out with Stranger In a Strange Land (a book I didn’t like much, except for the sexy parts), and there was a short vogue for the word “grok”. Which more or less meant “dig”. But back then nobody really wanted to admit they read Science Fiction, so the word languished and died.
I guess I’ll just say “I don’t get it”. Herewith, a list of extremely popular things that make no sense to me, that make me feel like E.T., or a Republican candidate in a
The list starts with food items. My relationship with food is conflicted. I love to eat, and my body shows it. But I only love a very short list of selected foods, of which I never tire. The great, diverse spectrum of human culinary art leaves me mostly apathetic. Scientists now know that people’s sense of taste varies greatly from individual to individual. Some people are very sensitive to sweet taste. A spoonful of sugar is plenty for them. They favor vegetables and fruit, and of course they feel morally superior. Others, like me, are oversensitive to bitter. I can eat chocolate until I die and enjoy it all the way, but I choke on lima beans. What is worse, I bit through my tongue once when I was a kid, and I suspect I may have severed a nerve. That’s the only explanation I can figure for why there are so many popular foods I can’t endure.
Maybe I’m just in the wrong species.
No matter what the French do with their government or country, I think of
When I first heard of the riots this month, I wondered if I would learn what really caused them. Initially, the reports I read blamed poverty and immigration policy. The latest I’ve read quotes a leader in parliament blaming the immigrants’ polygamy for putting too many unsupervised children in the streets. I can’t or don’t want to work out the politics of the French riots. Look to the poli-bloggers for that. I’m a lit-blogger—unqualified and small-minded, but a lit-blogger nonetheless. So I have only a few cultural thoughts.
How long of the French distained the French culture and history, teaching multi-culturalism instead? I thought the world’s secularists disliked only American culture, so I was surprised to read that the schools in
That hints at the immigration problem with which
Can any country govern itself while allowing pockets of foreigners to live within its borders, generally unaccountable to its authority? When a family immigrates, they may sustain their cultural traditions within their homes or communities, but they cannot buck the authority of the host country. They must integrate into the new society. They must learn the language, understand the customs, and respect the law. If they seek employment in this new country, how can they avoid this simple integration? It doesn’t make them less Moroccan or Italian, but it does start to make them French. They live in
Tolerance only goes so far. We can tolerate many differences in families and regions within one country, especially from immigrants who can’t be expected to drop the old ways instantly. They need time to adjust, and some old ways don’t need to be dropped. But the law of one country is not based on the foundation of all. No matter how many perspectives we tolerate in polite society, the law of the land should enforce the fundamental philosophy of that land. Of course, if that philosophy is not rooted in true ideas about people, the world, and life, then the country will collapse on itself.
I wonder if this concept is ground zero in
I don’t suppose secular
Thanks, Mr. Maus
It would be a mistake to write about anything as contributing to my “success”, since my limited achievements seem to be rapidly swirling into the sewer at this point, but there were people in my life who did contribute to limiting my less than utter failure.
I don’t honestly remember what year it was. The whole scenario only became clear in my mind much later. But the general outline was unmistakeable.
I was in junior high, I think (it’s hard to say for sure because I can’t peg the memories to architecture. I went to junior high and high school in the same building). Mr. Maus, our Guidance Counselor, called me into his office to ask me if I wanted to take an elective class they were going to be offering. I think that was a pretense. I think he had a pretty good idea that I had a lot of stuff I wanted to talk about, and he was giving me an opening.
I took it. When the conversation paused, I started blurting out the whole ugly story of the abuse that was going on in my home. I went back to his office several times to dump the whole story.
Things were different back then. If a counselor were to hear a story like that from a student nowadays, he’d be legally bound to alert the authorities so that they could investigate and, if necessary, remove the children from the home.
But back then Mr. Maus was limited in his options. He offered to talk to my mother, but I begged him not to. If Mom found out I’d spilled the beans, I was certain, she’d take revenge in a serious way.
But there was one thing Mr. Maus was able to do. As we discussed my school work, I made a comment about how dumb I was.
“Don’t you think you’re smart?” he asked.
I said, “No.”
He went to a filing cabinet and pulled out my personal file. He pulled some forms out of it. “These are your IQ tests,” he said. He explained how IQ’s are scored. “Your IQ is 126. You’re one of the ten smartest kids in your class.”
I was amazed. I had honestly not known this. In fact I’d harbored a suspicion for years that I was borderline retarded, because of the great difficulty I had (and continue to have) with mathematics. All my life people had been telling me, “You’re too smart to do this kind of work,” but I thought that was just a line people used to make me feel guilty. When people called me “dumb”, I believed them. Mr. Maus gave me evidence. It was a priceless gift.
I wasn’t conscious of what happened next, but a look at my academic record later on showed it to be true. My grades went up, almost without my noticing it. I got onto the honor roll, and eventually I went to college.
My life story has hardly been an exemplary one, but I attribute a lot of what success I’ve had to Mr. Maus.
Self-indulgent post No. 387
Snow on the ground today. Not Christmas In Vermont, knee-high snow, the kind that leaves your trouser legs white at the bottom. More of a powdered-sugar snow that covers the grass while still letting the green shine through. Although it wasn’t actually powdery at all. It was icy, from mixing with last night’s rain. I put Mrs. Hermanson into 4-wheel-drive this morning, and went slowly as I drove to work.
It was a long day. One of my assistants had a personal emergency and had to go home till Thanksgiving. So I stayed until 6:00 p.m., when the late shift assistant came in. We’ll be rearranging schedules, and I’ll probably work ten to six for the next couple days at least.
Had to stop at the grocery store on my way home. Like most pathetic single guys, I generally use the express line for my meager purchases (I always imagine fellow shoppers evaluating my groceries and laughing at me behind their hands. “This guy buys four Banquet Pot Roast dinners at a time. Clearly someone who never gets a date.”). The express lane sat motionless for about half an hour (subjective time) while they looked all over the store for a bag of rock salt that the lady two shoppers ahead of me wanted. Eventually, after a full inventory of all departments, they decided they didn’t have any rock salt.
Leaving the store at last, my purchases mostly melted, I saw a pile of rock salt bags by the door.
Maybe she wanted a different kind. What do I know about rock salt?
Dennis Prager invited calls today about the various come-on lines men use to get sex from women. I listened in amazement, as I would to descriptions of life along the
There are dynamics here of which I have no experience. Not only the drive of a man to get sexual pleasure, even if it means telling a lie (I can sort of understand that), but also the drive of a woman that would impel her to fall for such lame arguments, in order to get something or other that she also wants.
I’ve never played this game. My sexual need has never outweighed my (overactive) sense of shame. And no woman has ever felt sufficiently drawn to me, I’m confident, to succumb to my clumsy blandishments, had I blandished them.
My theory (and it seems to be borne out by the testimony of both sexes) is that it’s all about the attraction of Power. Women respond to strength in men. Even relentless feminists (unless they’re lesbians) are subject to it. Something visceral within them recognizes the aggressive alpha male as a good provider and protector. This accounts for the stereotyped situation where the woman rejects the nice guy who adores her in favor of the jerk with excessive body hair who beats her up and cheats on her. The woman would probably be glad to have a strong guy who’s nice, if one happened to be available. But if the only strong guy on offer is a jerk, she’ll opt for him over a pleasant wimp.
I’m not complaining about this. It seems to me a perfectly reasonable way for a woman to choose a mate.
It just makes me sad.
On the bright side, my substandard genes will probably not be passed on.
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
There were rumors of snow today, but all it did was rain until evening. As I headed home the precipitation was falling in a transitional state, not sure what it wanted to be. Kind of like a Republican in the Senate.
It was inevitable that I read and review Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. Several people have asked me what I thought of it, since it deals with many of the same themes and mythology as my own Wolf Time. Want a novel about the Norse god Odin attempting to revive his power in modern
It’s surprising in a way, though, how many similarities there are in two essentially different books. I was particularly interested in the Odin character in each. My Odin is a world-class sophisticate who goes to all the best parties and is seen with all the best people. Gaiman’s is a god fallen on hard times. Like the other pagan gods, he ekes out a marginal living as a con man and grifter, using what powers he retains to cheat the gullible. Yet the two seem to me to be essentially the same character. Odin, as described by the Icelandic saga writer Snorri Sturlusson, is a distinct and vivid personality, clearly recognizable in both books.
Gaiman’s hero is strange, almost rootless man who goes only by the name of Shadow. At the opening of the book he is waiting to be released from prison, keeping his nose clean and aching to be reunited with his wife. He is released early and informed that his wife is dead. On the plane home he finds “Mr. Wednesday” in the seat beside him. Wednesday offers him a job, which he turns down, suspecting (correctly) that it would involve him in activities that would involve lawbreaking.
But Wednesday (Odin) wears him down, and they end up traveling around
I enjoyed the trip. Gaiman takes us to a number of off-the-beaten-path American sites that happen to be familiar to me, notably the House On the Rock in
The mystery of “what the heck is going on here anyway?” is compelling too. I’m not sure I understand the final resolution entirely, but it left me mostly satisfied.
The theology of the book is, of course, an important element for the Christian, and it’s hard to say what to report about that. One direct reference is made to Christ where He is called (in rather offensive terms) a “lucky” kid. But the reference comes from a pagan god, who can hardly be expected to be objective.
Gaiman tells us more than once that
I enjoyed the book. The morality is mixed, the language mixed, but I’ve read more offensive stories. I definitely think it deserves its success.
But my book’s better.
He was born on this date in 1821. While he was at school, his father was murdered by his own servants at the family’s small country estate. He graduated from engineering school but chose a literary career. He was arrested and charged with subversion because . . . read on
"...Not," he went on, "that life's worth much. An absolute wash-out, that's what life is. However, it will soon be over. And then the silence and peace of the grave. That," said Frederick, "is the thought that sustains me."
What do you think America knows about Louis Armstrong thirty-four years after his death?
TT There's more general awareness of Armstrong than you might expect, probably because of the Ken Burns documentary on jazz, and also because all of his most important recordings have remained available. But our collective sense of Armstrong as a character and as a personality doesn't get much below the surface -- not that his surface isn't a beautiful and wonderful thing, but there's more to him.
In 1944, Leonard Feather wrote, "Americans, unknowingly, live part of every day in the house that 'Satch' built." Can this still be said?TT Yes, it is still true, although today, people are influenced by people who were influenced by Louis, rather than, for the most part, being influenced by him first-hand. To an extent that most people just don't get, Armstrong created the way that jazz sounds. He didn't invent jazz, of course, but he set the parameters within which it operates, and had an influence on every other kind of American popular music too. The house that we live in, the house that Louis built, is a rhythmic house. Our idea of what it means to swing is, to a great extent, his doing.
First, the list does not include books written as textbooks. Some books I recommend may be a reach for high-school students, but many would rather read harder stuff by good writers than the dumbed-down texts typically assigned them. . . . Second, I've left out books whose authors assume greater knowledge than we have of why specific events happened in particular ways.Two or Three.net has prepared the list for links and scanning, which is the kind of thing I might do and now need not. I want to remember to read Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington sometime soon.
I think the meaning of the words was perfectly clear--"Insofar as you are simply an angry man who has been hurt, mortify your anger and do not hit back"--even, one would have assumed that insofar as you are a magistrate struck by a private person, a parent struck by a child, a teacher by a scholar, a sane man by a lunatic, or a soldier by the public enemy, your duties may be very different, different because [there] may be then other motives than egoistic retaliation for hitting back.I also pulled up Aaron's Lewis-styled blog, The Wardrobe Door, which I'm sure I've heard of often, but haven't looked at until now. He is a Mind and Media reviewer, btw.
And whatever happened to Wormtongue? Well, Tolkien wasn't quite sure when he would have him arrive. According to Christopher Tolkien in The War of The Ring, Theoden's advisor was originally supposed to arrive before the first time that Gandalf got there but his father later changed this to have him show up just after the flooding of Isengard. In the final version, he gets there that same morning that Merry and Pippin were "guarding" the gate. Shocked by what he finds, he tries to flee but Treebeard seizes hold of him. Gandalf had already warned the Ent that this wretch would be arriving soon. He makes Grima wade through the water, which is about up to his neck, and enter the tower of Orthanc. Here Tolkien makes some notes in his original draft. He writes: "Shall Wormtongue actually murder Saruman?" At this point, he is considering what Saruman's fate will be. It is not clear at what point he decided to advance this plot point to the end of the story.Finally, here's an infrequently updated blog by Tony Darnell who is learning to play the Irish or Uilleann pipes. You may be thinking of the hard Scottish Highland bag pipes; but the Uilleann pipes have a beautiful, mellow sound--still a soft drone, but more versatile than the Highland pipes, though I enjoy them too.
(Sir Henry) Irving used to delight in telling a story of his early days in which he was very much the criticized party. One night when playing Hamlet, he noticed an old lady in the front row of the pit dissolved in tears, and delighted at this apparent appreciation of his acting, he sent round word that he would like to see her after the performance. When she arrived, Irving said, "Madam, I perceived that my acting moved you very much." "Indeed it did," said the old lady. "You see, I've a young son myself play-acting somewhere up in the north, and it broke me up to think that he might be no better at it than you."
You say, as I have often given tongue
In praise of what another’s said or sung,
’Twere politic to do the like by these;
But have you known a dog to praise his fleas?
Of course you know this doesn’t mean war
Jared at Mysterium Tremendum is looking for a fight. He wants to start a literary feud with somebody in the hope that erudite insults lobbed back and forth will raise reader interest and promote his prospects of publication.
I’m tempted to offer to help, but frankly I just want to sit quietly and think about… nothing. For a while.
My self-esteem, never very robust, took a punch to the kidneys yesterday, and all I want to do is lie down with a good book and eat chocolate until I gain 300 lbs. and contract diabetes.
Don’t worry. I won’t.
One of the many things I admire in Jewish culture is the concept of chutzpah. Chutzpah is the attitude expressed in the words, “It can’t hurt to ask. The worst they can do is say no.”
Heavens, I wish I’d been raised that way. I was taught that to ask and be turned down was a deadly humiliation, a judgment on me that would be noted in my Permanent Record. I suppose half of it’s just my native disposition, my Avoidant Personality Disorder. But I could have used some encouragement, some motivation to chutzpah.
A literary feud would be fun. Gone forever are the days of the classic insult from one educated man to another, delivered in the sure knowledge that a relatively educated public would appreciate such things.
John Wilkes, the British parliamentary reformer (yes, Booth was named after him, I’m pretty sure), is supposed to have once gotten into a shouting match with the Earl of Sandwich (yes, the same one they named the food item after), a noted libertine and glutton. The Earl said, “I predict, sir, that you will die either on the gallows or of the pox.”
To which Wilkes is supposed to have answered, “That, sir, would depend on whether I embraced your principles or your mistress.”
Some early American politician, I forget which one, said something more or less like this about an opponent: “That depraved being, at once so brilliant and so corrupt, who, like a mackerel by moonlight, shined and stank.”
“You’re ugly and your mother dresses you funny” isn’t bad, but it’s not the same.
Try harder, Carter
I crossed one item off my to-do list today. I asked a woman out. Her response was a little complicated, but what it boiled down to was she turned me down.
It’s sad, because, a) I really like and admire her, and b) I only do this about once a decade, so it probably means I’ll be alone at least until I’m around retirement age. I’ve asked out a total of five women in my life, and I’ve gotten two “yeses”. My last attempts have resulted in three strikes in a row. I’m getting worse at this game as time goes on.
That escaped prisoner in
I’ve been reluctant over the years to strongly criticize ex-President Jimmy Carter, and not just because I voted for him back in my benighted youth. Much as I’ve disagreed with him over the years, I’ve always seen him as a Christian brother who has been pretty consistent in his life and speech.
But he was recently interviewed by Larry King, and some of his comments are so ridiculous, so ear-flappingly moronic, that I have to take issue. Quote:
A fundamentalist though, as I define in this book, in extreme cases has come to the forefront in recent years both in Islam and in some areas of Christianity. A fundamentalist by, almost by definition as I describe is a very strong male religious leader, always a man, who believes that he is completely wedded to God, has a special privilege and relationship to God above others.
And, therefore, since he speaks basically in his opinion for God, anyone who disagrees with him at all is inherently and by definition wrong and therefore inferior. And one of the first things that a male fundamentalist wants to do is to subjugate women to make them subservient and to subjugate others that don't believe as he does.
The other thing they do, and this is the only other thing I'll add, is that they don't believe that it's right to negotiate or to compromise with people who disagree with them because any deviation from their absolute beliefs is a derogation of their own faith. So, those two things, exclusiveness, domination and being very highly biased are the elements of fundamentalism.
Jimmy Carter is a Baptist, a church member and Sunday School teacher. For someone like him to make a statement of this kind is something like a lifelong American citizen saying, “America is governed by a parliamentary system, in which the party winning the majority vote in the general election forms a coalition government with one or more of the seven major parties, and rules until such time as there is a no-confidence vote.” You have to wonder what cellar this person has been locked in, to be so blazingly wrong about his daily environment.
American Christian Fundamentalists are not known for following charismatic leaders. Outsiders imagine we are, because they don’t know how we live, but Jimmy should know better. American Fundamentalists spend time in the Bible and consider their own opinions just as good as anybody else’s, including their pastors’ and those of the leaders of their denominations. Our characteristic activity is not blindly following the dictates of demagogues. It’s splitting, creating factions and new sects. Herding cats. Herding frogs. Baby calisthenics. That’s what it’s like to try to get American Fundamentalists together in anything.
See my post on unity below.
I have spoken.
If you believe as I do, and as many reporters do -- and Woodward and Bernstein, you know, in their core, they believe it -- that news is what somebody, somewhere, doesn't want you to know that the public needs to know. All the rest is just advertising, just to paraphrase what some Canadian press baron said.I think many of us would like the press to be more inaudible; but to the point, who is this somebody who doesn't want us to know various news stories? I suspect it's The boredom Maven (She Who Must Be Revered). "Don't listen to that sniveling twit whine about current events! Turn off the TV and play with the children, or I'll crack your head with my shiny stick. Or maybe a banana."
Now, look at today, just for a second. How many stories out of Washington do you think are anything but advertising for somebody's point of view? I would say, at least eight out of 10, probably nine out of 10, come out from a handout, conveyer belt. So the question arises, and to ask the question is not to suggest that I know the answer, but the question arises, is the press -- electronic and otherwise -- is it doing its job today or is it cowed? Is it reluctant? If you like it (INAUDIBLE)...
When brothers don’t dwell together in unity
Oops. I got home from work tonight, looked at the clock, and realized I’d left an hour early. I could blame it on the atomic clock I keep on my desk, which for some reason hasn’t gotten the message about the Standard Time change yet (although I set it to do so). But I knew the clock was wrong and started believing it for some reason anyway.
Ah well. I’ve put in quite a bit of extra time recently. I wonder what my student assistant thought, though.
My post the other day about Luther got me thinking on the subject of Christian unity. I have an opinion about it, you’ll be delighted to know.
Basically I’m against unity. At least in the form it’s usually practiced nowadays.
I’m not against spiritual unity. I’m a Lutheran pietist, but I have mainline Lutheran friends and Calvinist friends. I have Catholic and Orthodox friends. I don’t think any of them are going to hell (at least not on the basis of their affiliation).
But I don’t want to be in the same church with them.
Time and again, I hear people intone the old formula, “The divisions of Christendom are a scandal before the world. If only we could reunite – then we could go forth boldly to advance God’s Kingdom on earth!”
You think so, do you? How, exactly?
How is this wonderful, world-wide Church you envision going to operate?
For instance, how will it be governed? Somebody’s got to train the pastors, print the curricula, draft the news releases. So you’ve got to have a church government. Will it be congregational, presbyterian, episcopal?
If it’s episcopal, what will you do with the people who deeply, sincerely believe in local church government?
If it’s congregational, what will you do with the people who are convinced that you can’t have a real church without bishops?
To have one, single, universal church, one group’s going to have to force its will on the other groups, against those groups’ consciences.
Is that how genuine unity is built?
My own church body started as an assembly of congregations that wouldn’t accept a Lutheran merger already approved by the majority of their fellow congregations. They suspected that their distinctives would be subsumed in the big, bright new church. They were absolutely correct. The big, bright new church has since been subsumed into an even larger merged church, and that new church retains no vestige whatever of those old distinctives. As a matter of fact, it retains almost no vestige of Christian theology of any sort.
I’ve seen several Lutheran mergers in my lifetime, and I have noted this consistent result – the new church is always more authoritarian, more liberal, and less devoted to the Scripture and to mission than the previous constituent churches.
When I’m together with my brothers from other communions, we are able to share together and pray together. When we want to worship, we go to different churches and worship in different ways, with one another’s blessings.
I think that’s far to be preferred to jamming us all together in some one-size-fits-all megachurch where most everybody’s unsatisfied.
One of my favorite quotations comes from Martin Luther’s good friend Philip Melanchthon: “In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity.”
That’s my definition of unity.