No year's resolutions
This may be my last post before the new year (I’m not sure when I’ll be back from our family Christmas celebration, to be held at Brother Baal’s place somewhere around Hudson’s Bay), so I’ll list my new year’s resolutions tonight.
I read a phrase years ago that impressed me deeply. It was “achievable goals”. I always try to make my new year’s resolutions achievable.
Here’s the achievable list for this year:
Have a happy and blessed new year, friends.
Be a wolf. Shake a spear.
I haven’t said it before, but I’ll say it now: Jared of the Thinklings is the most perceptive observer of novelist blogging we have today.
I was thinking about the Chesterton poem I posted below. I’m no connoisseur of poetry, but I consider that one a very fine thing. It’s a kind of poem that doesn’t get written anymore – a loud clashing of syllables, a Beethoven symphony in words. It goes back in tradition to the poems of old times, songs made to order for chieftains, meant to preserve the memory of battles and heroic deeds.
The old Vikings listed poetry along with fighting and hunting and riding as manly accomplishments. The Icelander Snorri Sturlusson (pictured) wrote the Prose Edda as an instruction book for young men who needed to be able to write poems in the old style as part of their warrior’s education. Richard the Lionhearted wrote poetry, as did Sir Philip Sidney. Nobody thought that strange at the time.
I’m not sure when the change came. I suspect it had to do with the invention of the printing press. Before cheap books became available, poetry was the information storage and retrieval system of the culture. The rules of meter and rhyme (and consonance and alliteration) ensured that the data in the poem was preserved to future generations relatively intact.
Books rendered this function redundant, so poetry became the toy of aesthetes. Their concern wasn’t to memorialize great men or to rouse courage for battle, but to express the deepest longings of their souls in sentiments of great beauty.
And of course there’s nothing wrong with that.
But the old kind of poetry continued to be made for a while. Kipling was probably the last great practitioner of this form. But the sons of Oscar Wilde overcame the sons of Rudyard, and T.S. Elliot pretty much killed what was left of the older tradition by removing the rhyme and obscuring the meter.
I was thinking these melancholy thoughts today when it suddenly occurred to me that there is a field even today in which young men use rhyme and meter to proclaim to the world their warrior status and virility.
It’s called Rap Music.
I don’t know what to make of that. Except, perhaps, that you can’t keep a man down.
Good or bad, I won’t say.
The Lion, The Witch and the Cinema
As I write, Fox News is interviewing Bruce Feiler, author of the book, Where God Was Born (I won’t link to it). I recall seeing it in stores while shopping. From what I gather, Mr. Feiler spent a decade traveling to the places where the Bible stories happened, and came out of the experience with the astonishing conviction that God’s real message was all the things most Westerners today already think!
What an amazing thing – all previous generations, including the ones that actually produced the original texts, had no clue as to what the Bible really meant. Only we understand its true meaning – tolerance, diversity, pluralism – and we didn’t even have to do the work of thinking it out. We just absorb it from the surrounding culture.
What luck. Salvation by Being Modern.
Finished my shopping today. I shrewdly took advantage of post-Christmas sales, just as I’d planned, with the unfortunate result that the people I bought gifts for earlier will get less valuable gifts than today’s targets. But I won’t say which ones they are, in case one of them actually reads this blog.
The air has been above freezing yesterday and today. Our snow is gradually melting off. However, I confidently predict that there will be more cold weather and more snow before spring.
I celebrated Christmas by going to church, first of all, and then going to see The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe at last.
Short review: I was very pleased.
The child actors were among the best I’ve ever seen, and they looked like kids – not kid models. Lucy in particular was perfect. Since it’s very much her story, this was important.
The special effects were great. Not as big as in the Lord Of the Rings movies, but Narnia is a smaller world than Middle Earth.
Did I cry? You bet. Like a baby. But not always where I expected to.
I get tired of people complaining that movies based on books aren’t just the way they imagined them in the reading. The fact is, movies are different things from books. The pleasures of a movie aren’t the same as the pleasures of a book. I see no reason why they should be.
The experience of this movie is significantly different from the experience of reading the book. Speaking subjectively, the center of the novel TL,TWATW is the resurrection scene, where Lucy and Susan (I trust I’m not spoiling anything here) see Aslan return, and then have a glorious romp with him. To this day I can’t read that chapter without breaking down.
That scene is in the movie, but in an abbreviated form. In the movie, the emotional climax is the final battle.
This doesn’t bother me. I think the battle works better as the climax in a movie. It’s more cinematic. And this means that people who read the book on the basis of enjoying the movie will still have a wonderful surprise in store for them. Nevertheless, the movie was not false to the book in any major way.
So I’m very pleased. I’ll probably see it again, and I’m sure I’ll buy the DVD.
Oh yeah. The beavers were great too.
The House of Christmas
(This is my favorite Christmas poem. It's my gift to all of you. Thanks for stopping by, and God Jul.)
There fared a mother driven forth
Out of an inn to roam;
In the place where she was homeless
All men are at home.
The crazy stable close at hand,
With shaking timber and shifting sand,
Grew a stronger thing to abide and stand
Than the square stones of Rome.
For men are homesick in their homes,
And strangers under the sun,
And they lay their heads in a foreign land
Whenever the day is done.
Here we have battle and blazing eyes,
And chance and honor and high surprise,
But our homes are under miraculous skies
Where the yule tale was begun.
A Child in a foul stable,
Where the beasts feed and foam,
Only where He was homeless
Are you and I at home;
We have hands that fashion and heads that know,
But our hearts we lost - how long ago!
In a place no chart nor ship can show
Under the sky's dome.
This world is wild as an old wives' tale,
And strange the plain things are,
The earth is enough and the air is enough
For our wonder and our war;
But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings
And our peace is put in impossible things
Where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings
Round an incredible star.
To an open house in the evening
Home shall all men come,
To an older place than Eden
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and that are,
To the place where God was homeless
And all men are at home.
I'll be clean for Christmas
My thoughts are in
I received two Christmas e-mails with photo attachments from
Maybe I ought to go to
I’d have to buy a lot of presents though.
I bought some lefse at the grocery store today. Lefse is a delightful thin, Norwegian potato pancake. I like mine rolled up with margarine and strawberry jam inside. My brothers scoff at this, insisting that you must use either white or brown sugar, but I was once served lefse with strawberry jam in Norway, so phooey on that.
According to my Norwegian almanac, today is “Tollesmesse”, St. Torlak Torhalsson’s Day. He was bishop of Skalholt in
Today was the traditional Christmas housecleaning day in
Then it was time for the Christmas bath. A tub was brought in, and the father of the house washed first, followed by his wife, the children and all the servants. All used the same water. Afterwards they enjoyed the “bath soup” (I know what you’re thinking, but it wasn’t the bath water) for supper. The bath water itself they would preserve in the tub until after Christmas, because if they poured it out earlier than that everyone would get sick.
So keep it clean, folks.
Mommy Knows Worst by James Lileks
This morning’s aquarium casualty was one of the neon tetras. This means that I have achieved that sweet spot in piscine husbandry where I’m overfeeding the larger fish while simultaneously starving the tetras.
I guess it’s a good thing I don’t have children. And that observation facilitates an elegant transition to today’s book review: Mommy Knows Worst.
The pattern seems to be established now. Every Christmas, Lileks brings out a funny book. I consider this a good thing because:
a) Lileks makes me laugh, and
b) I will never have to worry what to give my nieces for Christmas so long as Lileks lives.
Lileks is the proprieter of The Daily Bleat, probably the most enjoyable blog in the world. He has come out with two previous books in the same vein as MKW: The Gallery of Regrettable Food and Interior Desecrations. MKW concentrates Lileks’ venom on old advertisements for products alleged to be helpful to parents.
Interior Desecrations is still my favorite Lileks book. For some reason the appalling 1970’s rooms in that beloved book never fail to crack me up. Perhaps it’s because, as a child of the 50’s, I’ll always have one foot in the 70’s, and it’s cathartic to laugh at oneself. The Gallery of Regrettable Food and Mommy Knows Worst throw a wider loop, encompassing odd recipes and children’s products advertisements from most of the 20th Century. Laughing at some of this stuff makes me feel like I’m laughing at my grandmother.
But I still laughed.
One thing that particularly moved me was a reproduction of an ad for Mercurochrome near the end of the book. Just the word brings back traumatic memories and makes me physically cringe. If you’re around my age and grew up in the
It came in a small square bottle. It had an applicator in the cap, a glass tube with a bulbous tip. When you got cut or scraped, your mother would call six or eight neighbors to hold you down while she applied the vile red stuff to your open wound. Did it hurt? Let me put it this way. If our interrogators were putting Mercurochrome on the wounds of detainees at Gitmo, even the French would be mounting rescue operations.
On the other hand, we’d have already gotten everything we needed out of those prisoners, so the War On Terror would be over.
Why did our mothers do this to us? Because everyone knew (what could be more sensible?) that in order to kill germs and allow the wound to heal cleanly, you had to apply something that hurt you as much as it hurt the germs. It just made sense.
Later, around the time we entered college, the medical community came out with a corporate “Oops.” Turns out you don’t need to apply caustic salts to wounds to get the best healing, they announced. In fact, a soothing antibiotic cream works best, underneath a nice band-aid.
The sense of betrayal my generation felt was convulsive. It made us question our entire world. “You don’t need to make it hurt worse to make it better? What else have they been lying to us about? I’ll bet all our parents’ moral lessons were lies! I’ll bet you don’t have to save for a rainy day! I’ll bet freedom is free! I’ll bet self-sacrifice doesn’t earn you anything! I’ll bet eternal vigilance isn’t the price of liberty!”
And there you have the explanation for the 60’s.
I have great hopes that the generations born since then, who never knew the scourge of Mercurochrome, will do better than we did, and undo much of the devastation that Lileks documents in Interior Desecrations, which is the book that came out previous to Mommy Knows Worst, which this is a review of.
The Murder Room by P.D. James
My new fish feeding protocol has already begun to have its effect. I came in this morning and another fish was dead. It was an orange one that sort of looked like a goldfish but wasn’t. One of my old stalwarts, a survivor of my previous misadventures.
I suppose I fed him/her too much. This is the problem I haven’t worked out – I’m supposed to feed the fish small amounts three times a day. But if I only put in a small amount, it seems like the big fish who hang around on the surface, who don’t need more food, get it all before it sinks. In order for any to get down to the neon tetras, who cruise near the bottom, I have to put in enough food so that the top-dwellers let some get by. But then the top-dwellers eat too much.
I suspect that the answer is to give up on neon tetras. But I like them. I like small, bright fish. (My views on fish are similar to my views on Christmas lights.)
P.D. James has adopted a formula (whether purposely or not, I don’t know) in her recent books. She imagines a venerable institution (it has been a publishing house and a monastery among others) which is the center of a fight between traditionalists (who want to sustain it) and modernists (who want to close it down). Somebody from one side or the other is murdered, and Commander Dalgliesh is called in to sift through the clues and motives. The Murder Room follows this evocative formula, which has (amazingly) not yet grown stale.
This book concerns the
The timing is bad for Dalgliesh, who has to break a date with Emma Lavenham, the woman he fell in love with in Death In Holy Orders. It looks very much as if Dalgliesh has found true love at last, but Emma is having second thoughts, due to his many no-shows, just as Dalgliesh is making up his mind that he’s serious this time. The couple’s romantic near-misses provide a backdrop of tension for the whole story, fully as suspenseful as the murder investigation.
James isn’t known as a great portrayer of characters, but there are sympathetic actors on the stage here. One of the most sympathetic is the murder victim (whose identity I won’t reveal, since the murder takes place well into the book). Another is Tally Clutton, the middle-aged housekeeper who lives on the museum grounds and finds the first body. Rescued from a collapsed building during the
P.D. James is a high-church Anglican. Her religious faith is implicit (but not explicit) in most of her books. They’re not my favorite mysteries, but I always enjoy them, like a solid, home-made meal. The author is getting on in years, but I hope she keeps on delivering a good while longer.
The Eve of St. Erling’s Day
My friend Mari Anne Næsheim Hall, in
I suppose I should tell you to wait for me to write a novel about that battle to find out how it happened. But as it looks more and more like such a book will never be written – or if written, never published – I’ll say that you can get the whole story from Snorri Sturlusson’s book Heimskringla. It’s in the sagas of Olaf Trygvesson and St. Olaf Haraldsson.
According to Mari Anne, they’re having an observance on
Erling has been badly treated by historians in
More recently Erling has been coming back into his own, ironically as a by-product of the de-Christianizing of the country.
I’d hoped to contribute to this rehabilitation through my own Erling books. I like Erling for many reasons. One is that he came from a part of
So hail, Erling Skjalgsson. I’d be at Bokn to remember you, if I could.
While Phil squanders his substance in riotous living over Christmas, I expect to remain right here, blogging away at the old stand. This is because Phil has a life and I don’t. Also, my family will get together over New Year’s, so the two or three of you who’ll still be reading by then will have the pleasure of my absence at that time.
Today I took the bullfish by the horns, so to speak, and addressed my Aquarium Problem. Despite numerous pleas from readers I haven’t done any fish-blogging for a time. This was because, even for a downbeat blogger like me, the state of our library aquarium was a matter almost too sad to express.
I’d been reading in the book on tropical fish I’d bought, and I was pretty sure why the fish kept dying. I had a toxic tank. I’d allowed the water to become a poisonous stew of nitrates, heavy metals and (probably) Agent Orange. Our beautiful blue Beta was looking peaked on Friday, and had gone the way of all sushi when I got in this morning.
I’d found some pH testing strips among the supplies I’d inherited when I took over the librarian job, and I tested the water. It told me our water was horribly, incredibly, almost impossibly alkaline.
The people at the pet supply store had told me they could test our water more thoroughly if I brought a sample in. Then, I assumed, they could sell me some expensive chemicals to fix the spectrum of disease and death that would be made manifest. So I dipped some out in a baggie (amazingly, the baggie didn’t disintegrate), and drove it to the store, where a young lady dipped a test strip in and told me the water was perfectly fine.
She asked probing questions about my fish stewardship, and numbered my sins.
I was feeding them only once a day (the book I’d bought said overfeeding was the most common reason for toxic water. Uneaten food rots in the base gravel). “I’d feed them at least twice a day,” she said. “More if you get tetras. They use up a lot of energy darting around.”
Ah, that was why my neon tetras died.
She also said I was changing the water too often.
I like that. I like anything that means less work.
I still don’t know why the Beta died, though. Maybe it had just reached its Omega point.
I bought three neon tetras, and some kind of interesting Molly, to make a poor substitute for the Beta (they don't recommend putting Betas in with the general population. They're too aggressive. Apparently we'd lucked out with a Quaker Beta this time, but it would be unwise to expect it to happen again). Actually the prettiest fish I have now is a showy-tailed guppy I also bought today, to give company to the single showy-tailed guppy still remaining of the two I’d bought previously. The old guppy took an immediate dislike to the new one (probably because the new one is more handsome) and has been bullying him ever since I turned him loose. In fact all the fish seemed to be bullying the new guppy.
I knew there was a reason I liked him. He’s my twin soul.
I also bought a new Plecostomus (algae eater). This is my third Plecostomus since I took over the aquarium. The pet store lady told me that once they’ve cleaned the algae off the walls and the rocks, you need to actually buy algae pellets for them to eat, otherwise they starve. Which explains what happened to my last two.
I mark my learning curve in the heaped corpses of dead fish. But I press on.
I wish I approached the rest of my life with the ruthlessness with which I treat the fish tank. If I dipped out my interpersonal failures, flushed them away and just tried afresh, I’d be a better and happier man.
Give a man a tropical fish, and you give him entertainment for a year. Kill that fish, and you give him platitudes for a lifetime.
And to the earth it gave great light…
It’s one of my earliest memories. My father woke me up on a Christmas morning and brought me down the narrow stairway of our farmhouse, through the hall door into the living room. And there was a Christmas tree, with all its lights glowing – those old-fashioned big, fat electric lights in red and blue and green, with star-shaped tin reflectors. There was tinsel, and bright glass ornaments.
It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen in my small life. I don’t think I’d ever been aware of the concept of beauty before that moment.
That there were presents under the tree was also wonderful, and I certainly gave them my full attention a minute later. But the first impression was just of the tree, and its beauty. That morning has stayed with me through the years as one of my few purely happy memories.
That it all had to do with celebrating Jesus’ birthday just made it better.
We Haugeans (Norwegian Lutheran pietists) were never very big on beauty in worship. We took pride in our simplicity. Not for us the “bells and smells”, the candles and the incense. We were suspicious of those whose worship forms were ornate. We felt that such things tended to idolatry, drawing attention to outward forms rather than the truths of the spirit.
And all in all I still agree with that position.
But Christmas was different. Bright lights and beautiful music, right there in church. Green garlands with red bows. A tall, tall tree, donated by a local grocer, up in front, strung with colored lights and hung with bright decorations (by the way, does anybody other than Lutherans have “Chrismon trees”? “Chrismons” are an abomination that first came to my attention in the 1960’s. Some spoilsport decided to make Christmas decorations more theologically pure by replacing them with Christian symbols, usually done in Styrofoam and gold foil. They’re clunky and dull and I hate them. The perpetrators generally complete the enormity by using only white lights, thus eliminating all color. Chrismons had not yet been invented in the times I’m recalling).
How did our pietist elders justify this excess? “It’s for the children,” they said. And that was more true than they knew, because it wasn’t only for the chronological children but for the child in all of them.
The fact is that, high church or low, we need beauty. Beauty feeds our spirits. Beauty is a place where eternal things enter into the business of this world.
And that’s precisely what God did when Christ was born.
What could be more appropriate?
More snow today, but not as much as yesterday. It snowed lightly through the day. And yes, I made it up the hill to work this morning.
Sand Storm diagnosed my muscle problem as “mouse controlleritis”, and suggested several palliatives, including working my mouse with my left hand. I am making that experiment. It’s interesting. Frustrating in small ways (my L-shaped desk at work works much better with the mouse over to the right), but I think Sand Storm is probably right. Before my arm hurt my right index finger hurt.
I wonder what will happen when the “mouse controlleritis” moves into my head? That’s the stuff of horror movies, folks.
Having told you that I love Christmas, I have gone on to pitch and moan about all kinds of seasonal irritations, public and private. So I’ll talk about something I like again today.
After careful consideration, I have decided (and it was a tough choice) that “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” is my favorite Christmas hymn. Written by no less than Charles Wesley, first published in 1739, the hymn we sing ain’t actually quite what Wesley wrote anymore.
We’ve changed the words. Wesley’s original first verse went:
Hark, how all the welkin rings,
“Glory to the King of kings;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”
As you’ll note, revisers have done some cosmetic surgery over the years. (Welkin is a great old word, pretty much forgotten now. It meant basically what we mean by “universe” today.) If I’d been alive when somebody first changed the initial line to “Hark, the herald angels sing,” I’d probably have been furious, and would have sung it the old way as loud as I could, just to spite these godless modernizers.
But I wasn’t alive then, and I like the version we have. (By “we” I do not mean the Large Lutheran Body Which Shall Remain Nameless, which has doubtless made numerous alterations to the text I know in its latest hymnal. This is because they consider it a sacred duty to change the words to all the hymns as much as possible, and in as ugly a way as they can devise. Inclusiveness Over Poetry is the motto of all modern, mainline hymnbook editors. Their purpose is not comprehensibility, but political correctness)
Here’s the hymn as I love it:
Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”
Joyful, all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With th’angelic host proclaim,
“Christ is born in
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”
Christ, by highest Heav’n adored;
Christ the everlasting Lord;
Late in time, behold Him come,
Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail th’incarnate Deity,
Pleased as man with man to dwell,
Jesus our Emmanuel.
Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Ris’n with healing in His wings.
Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die.
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.
Charles Wesley is renowned for teaching theology in his hymns, and this is one of his best efforts, imho. The whole doctrine of the Incarnation is right there in extract, and every Christmas it sneaks out into the general population, showing up in the oddest places.
I remember how impressed I was years ago, when the TV show “Moonlighting”, which starred Bruce Willis and Cybil Shepherd, ran a Christmas episode. “Moonlighting” was famous for “breaking the proscenium” (the device whereby an actor turns and addresses the audience directly), and this episode utterly bulldozed the proscenium, pulling the cameras back so that the viewer could see the edges of the sets and the boom mikes and cameras. Then the cast and crew began singing “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing,” and they all went down the hall to their cast Christmas party, still singing. And they sang the whole hymn (at least the verses familiar to me).
I thought, “This is tremendous. The whole country is getting to hear the doctrine of the Incarnation expounded on national television.”
(“Moonlighting” was a great show at its best. And when it jumped the shark, it jumped it so high and fell so deep that you still had to admire the audacity of the thing.)
Now somebody will probably tell me in Comments that my memory is wrong, and it was another hymn entirely. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised.
In any case, if you’re getting overwhelmed by the holidays, sit down and spend some time with “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing”. It’ll remind you what’s what in the welkin.
Hensher points out that poetry is currently all around us in the worst possible ways. 'Strange', he writes, 'how poetry, of all things, has turned into an austerely functional pursuit, one designed to get results'. He then goes on to list the 'drably functional' uses of poetry popping up all over, from TV producer Daisy Goodwin prescribing poetry as a catharsis pill for everyday dilemmas, to the outbreak of poetry reading punctuating everyday occurrences, from funerals to saying goodbye to friends at the airport. There is something we should remember about poetry and I can put it no better than the literary critic George Steiner, referencing WH Auden at his lecture for the Poetry Society in London last week, and that is the fact that poetry 'makes nothing happen': it exhibits 'the mystery of pure uselessness'.Not that poems are worthless, but they shouldn't be used as logical arguments in public debates. In response, I must say this: (ahem)
Tidings of discomfort and angst
You don’t really want to hear about my day. Honestly, you don’t.
Oh, all right. If you insist. But remember I warned you.
The promised snow fell like a layer of paper pulp, inches of it. The air being fairly warm, the snow was easy to push off the car, though it left behind a drift almost deep enough to keep me from backing out (more on this later). I put the Tracker in four-wheel drive and made it to work in good time, passing the SUV Top Guns who’d spun into ditches and fences.
I told you about my sore right arm a week ago. It started out as a deep muscle ache, and to my irritation it didn’t fade with time. Instead it seemed to migrate up my arm – up the outside of the bicep, into the shoulder. This morning it had tightened to a hot spot located just at the point where my shoulder met my neck. The term “blood clot” entered my mind, along with a picture of the thing itself entering my mind for real.
I called my brother Moloch in
So I called my clinic and talked to a medical assistant there. She said, “You’d better come in and be looked at.”
What did I expect her to say? “Take two aspirin and call me if you have a stroke”?
So I went in this afternoon and saw a doctor. Not my usual doctor, whom I like. He describes himself as a “diagnostic minimalist”. “If it ain’t broke, and it ain’t bleeding, and it hasn’t dropped off, don’t fix it” is his motto. Unfortunately he fell down and broke his hip a couple weeks ago, which meets even his requirements for treatment. So I saw a young fellow with a soul patch. Doctors shouldn’t have soul patches, in my opinion. They should have porkchop sideburns and wear batwing collars and little round eyeglasses pushed far down their noses. And they should be older than me, regardless how old I get.
When he asked me how I felt, I had to tell him the truth, and the truth was that since I’d made the appointment my pain had miraculously vanished. I felt some mild discomfort in the armpit area, but the pain in the neck was as if it had never been. I could read the words “Munchausen’s Syndrome” in his eyes. My mind flitted back to Saturday, when I saw my dentist for an abscess that also miraculously disappeared. I wondered if this was the beginning of a brand new, wonderful world of psychopathology for me.
But the doctor gave me an EKG test and had them draw blood for some reason they didn’t explain (probably to do a DNA scan for the Overactive Imagination gene). He also wants me to go in for a stress test in a couple days. But my EKG looked perfectly normal, so he thought I’d probably just slept funny.
Afterwards I drove to an office supply store for something we needed at work (which they didn’t have, by the way). Coming back I tried to get up the hill that leads to the library, and I couldn’t get a purchase on the roadway, though I’d been up it twice already that day. Snow had been falling steadily, and the accumulation had reached critical mass.
So I left my car down at the bottom, at the campus entrance, and walked up to the office. I ran into Wayne, the maintenance guy, and I said, “We need sand on the driveway. I couldn’t get up here.”
“Were you in four-wheel-drive?” he asked.
He shook his head. “Lend me your keys. I’ll bring it up,” he said. I thanked him and did that.
When he came up to my office a few minutes later he said, “The good news is, your car’s up here now. The bad news is, your four-wheel-drive doesn’t work.”
Ah. That would explain why, on the rare occasions when I’d tried to use it on seriously tough snow, it never worked very well. I was too clueless to recognize the symptoms.
What a betrayal. Mrs. Hermanson, the Chevy Tracker I love, is not what she claimed to be. She’s a tall station wagon, no more.
I took her out again tonight to go to Advent worship anyway. As I drove to church, I noticed the pain in my neck had come back. It’s now about half way up to my ear.
If I suddenly stop blogging and nobody can reach me, it’ll probably be because I’ve had a massive stroke.
But I think it’s just my body turning on me. Everybody’s body hates them over the age of fifty. Mine just hates me worse than most.
“I’m still a virgin because of you!” it says. And then it pulls the fire alarm and runs away, cackling.
Can’t hardly blame it either.
There is a lion in the street
(Extra points to anyone who recognizes the above biblical reference.)
I seem to have beaten my bug again. I was back in the saddle today. Relatively warm outside. But they have a winter storm warning in effect for tonight and tomorrow, so our White Christmas remains likely.
If we have a white Christmas, we will be told that this proves global warming.
If we don’t have a white Christmas, we’ll also be told that that proves global warming.
If the winter is warmer than usual, that will prove global warming, and if it’s colder, that will prove it too.
Must be true, with that kind of preponderance of evidence.
Can’t say. Haven’t seen it yet. Not sure when I will.
This is not, as you may think, because I’m afraid it won’t be up to my expectations. Actually, I think I’m more afraid that it will be up to my expectations.
I’m afraid I’ll find myself sitting alone in a theater (that’s pretty much the only way I ever sit in a theater), bawling like a baby.
That scares me. If I manage to creep out of my comfort zone, I’ll let you know what I think.
Subject: Need Your HelpIf that interests you, take a look. If you read through it, come back here and tell us about it. - phil
From: "Don Jackson"
Date: Thursday, March 4 - 1:15AM
To: "Samantha Dempsey"
Karen and I need your help. Six months ago Lisa dropped out of Berkeley and joined a cult in Marin County north of San Francisco. This isn't like the moonies or hari krishna or any other cult you've ever heard of. I wish it was. Believe it or not, Lisa is running around having sex with strangers out of some crackpot belief that this is going to lead to world peace.
We just returned from California an hour ago. We went there in the futile hope that we'd be able to persuade Lisa to leave the cult. We weren't sure if we'd be able to see her but the cult leader, excuse me - the "spiritual guide" - a bizarre woman named Simone couldn't have been friendlier. She knew damn well that Lisa wasn't coming back home with us. . . .
Targeting a retailer
The temperature got up to about freezing today, and the snow began melting. Could be we’ll have another brown Christmas. I don’t know what the forecasters expect, and my energy's too low to find out.
I’m fighting another attack of grippe or something today, so I suppose I’ll have to go to bed early and see if I can fight it off again. I’m not doing great this season. I’m behind on my Christmas cards and shopping, and I haven’t yet decked a single chestnut nor roasted a hall. I don’t even rest me particularly merry.
I’ve mentioned before that I try not to shop at Target, because of its policy of forbidding Salvation Army bell ringers. I don’t mean to foment an uprising or spark a social upheaval or anything. I’m uniquely unconstituted to lead grass roots movements, and I’m quite sure that if I ever tried to I’d discover that I’d got the facts wrong and would end up having to apologize to somebody. So I want to make it clear that my Target “avoidance” (I won’t say boycott just now) is just something I do for my own entertainment, like trainspotting or taxidermy.
It could be argued that I’m being unfair to Target (a company begun and based in my own city), since they very openly make large contributions to the Salvation Army for its charitable works (I’ll say nothing of the “Merry Christmas” controversy today).
But frankly I don’t care about “fair” in this context. I’m thinking about Tradition.
The first Salvation Army bell ringer manned a kettle in
As the shopping moved to the malls, the kettles and bell ringers moved to the mall entrances, and everybody was happy to have them, because they were part of the American Christmas.
But traditions don’t treat everybody equally. Traditions give precedence to old things. And that isn’t acceptable to the modern mind, which believes that the innovative and the faddish should be given equal preference with the tried and true. And so Target decided the tradition didn’t count. If some groups couldn’t collect money, then nobody should be able to. All very fair and evenhanded and neutral.
But I don’t want a neutral Christmas. I want a traditional one, with Santa and nativity scenes and Salvation Army bell ringers.
And I’ll go to a store that feels the same.
We must do the thing we mustGreat American poet Emily Dickinson was also born on this day in 1830. Sherry has a cutesy Dickinson Christmas poem today. That Emily--what a kidder. From another of her poems, good advice for Christian blogger and author alike:
Before the thing we may;
We are unfit for any trust
Till we can and do obey.
The truth must dazzle gradually- phil
Or every man be blind.
A tooth for a tooth, an eye for an eye
I went to the dentist today. Emergency stuff. The old familiar sensitivities, to pressure and heat, had once again tiptoed into the no-man’s-land that is my mouth. (I’ve had four previous root canals.) Usually I wait until you can actually see those little lightning bolts, the ones advertising artists used to draw, radiating from my jaw before calling the dentist, but I thought, “Let’s just do it the easy way this time. Let’s go in earlier rather than later.”
So my dentist made me some time this morning and in I went, bringing along my checkbook and my personal banker. The dentist had prescribed some antibiotics for me, and I’d started taking them yesterday evening. I steeled myself for the inevitable. Somehow in the Monopoly Game of life I’d drawn a whole pile of tickets that said, “You need a root canal. Pay the bank $1500.00.”
But when the dentist asked me to bite down on a stick I got nothing from the nerve that had been complaining like a mugged intellectual the night before. The X-Ray he took showed nothing for certain. So we shook our heads and I left undrilled. Maybe the antibiotics knocked out whatever’d been bothering me.
But I’ll bet it comes back. I’ll keep you posted.
Did some Christmas shopping (the church set-up I wrote about yesterday is scheduled for this evening). On the way home, in Maple Grove, I saw one of those left-wing bumper stickers that showcases the kind of logic that can only be nurtured in a rich soil of marijuana smoke, hallucinogens and fair trade coffee. It said, “If We Were All Blind, Nobody Would Know Who To Hate.”
Even leaving to one side the fact that it should be “Whom To Hate,” this slogan is so simpleminded that I hardly know where to begin deconstructing it.
Are you saying, dear loving leftist, that no blind people are ever bigots?
It’s my impression (and experience) that homosexuals (to take one example), unless they are raving queens, are not generally identifiable by their appearance. Does that mean that you’ll stop calling me a bigot for disagreeing with their agenda?
Somehow I doubt it.
Would it be a better world if we surgically removed everybody’s eyes?
I can see it as a science fiction book, actually. A future world where electronic sensing devices have rendered plain old eyesight unnecessary. I can see the future equivalent of the Democratic Party advocating universal eye removal, “for the sake of the children.”
Nobody needs eyes in the modern world, they’d say.
If it saves one life, it will be worth it.
"They're discriminating based upon a religious viewpoint,'' Mat Staver, president of the Liberty Counsel, said. "It sends a tremendous disconnect to a young person when you're familiar with the song 'Silent Night' and tune and all of sudden you learn the same tune with totally secular words.''A school administrator explained, "Somebody totally misunderstood and had the belief that one of our teachers took it upon herself to rewrite the words to 'Silent Night.'''