Brandywine Books
Tuesday, January 31, 2006
I can feel those roots spreading down already

I closed on the house this morning. Everything went well. We were all smiles as I made the scariest legal commitment of my life.

I'm now In Possession. My home is my castle. I'm not ruler of all I survey, but I'm monarch of one small chunk of real estate (by the bank's sufferance).

I think I've worked out a scheme to make the whole business easier for me financially. More details later, after I've researched it more.

Blogging (from me) will be sporadic till the end of February. I'm going to be trying to move a few things over every night.

Meanwhile, Phil will keep you well occupied with a twenty-eight-part series explaining why he is converting to Lutheranism (JDD*).

Lars Walker

*(Joke Delivered Deadpan)
 
Unprecedented
From Bob Tourtellotte of Reuters.UK, "Despite wowing critics, the media and now Oscar voters, Brokeback faces a pitched battle for best movie because the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has never before given its top honour to a film with an overtly gay love story."

You mean, subject matter is an factor in the Oscars? Where will the corruption stop? Will we live to see Hollywood saved from the shackles of middle-class morality?

By the way, did you see G.E. Veith's review of Brokeback Mtn. in World this month? He points out the movie's effort to tie nature's beauty and the free outdoors to the "pure" love of the two male leads. I love his conclusion:
. . . having children and struggling to survive are what's "natural." Leaving your family for escapist, sterile sex is literally "unnatural." Heath Ledger does a fine piece of acting as the taciturn, conflicted Ennis. But Michelle Williams as his hurt, rejected wife makes a powerful case for family values.
 
Monday, January 30, 2006
Monday: Chocolate Shirts
By way of another Monday Post, I direct your attention these t-shirts licensed to chocolatier Scharffen Berger. Simple, colored shirts (yellow, blue, and brown) with these words on the front: "(semi) sweet," "(bitter) sweet," "(extra) bitter." I love it. I should probably choose the "(bitter) sweet" to closely match my personality (within the choices allowed, you understand).

When I told my good wife about this, she didn't see the personality connection. "Why don't they have milk chocolate? That's what I want one to say." It's not what chocolate you want to eat, precious. It's who you are.

Apparently others don't get it as well. I learned about these shirts from Cecilia's blog of PhD Comics (I hope that link works for a while). Cecilia is a grad student in the PhD Comic strip. In a post dated Dec. 14, she says wore the "(extra) bitter" shirt, but no one laughed or commented, leading her to wonder if they thought the shirt was a good label for her, not a joke. Now, you'll know to laugh and point fingers if you see someone wearing one of these shirts in public. - phil

(My goodness--the things you find when you search the Net to check the spelling of 'chocolatier.')
 

The Lord bless thy going out and thy coming in

All is well with the house deal.

As it turned out, everything was always well. My swing loan was right on track, and all I had to do was go to the bank today and sign for my money. My only real problem was that the banker hadn’t called me as promised on Saturday, so I worried all weekend that something was wrong.

There’s a parable there, I suppose. “Cast no thought upon the morrow,” and all that. The difference here is that trusting God involves trusting… well, God. Trusting my banker is not the same thing at all.

Brother Moloch, his wife and the Oldest Niece were in town today, and the real estate agent met us at the house so I could show it to them. The sellers were there, doing a final clear-out, and we were able to talk about the place. They seemed pleased with me as a new owner, surprisingly enough. The wife was a little teary, because this was the house she grew up in, and she’s saying goodbye to it. Been there. I can sympathize.

I don’t know the Hebrew meaning of the passage, “The Lord bless thy going out and thy coming in, from this time forward.” My personal interpretation, for whatever it’s worth, is that it refers to the changes of life. We leave one stage, one place, and go out of it. We then come into a new situation, in God’s timing and providence. There’s sorrow in the going out and joy in the coming in (or there should be). We need to learn to see both sides of the door as places where God is present and guiding us.

The verdict from Moloch and family – great house. Hope you can afford it.

Me too. Me too.

Lars Walker

 
End of the Spear: When To Be Outraged?
Marvin Olasky blogs: "Aren't protests about the casting of a gay actor in End of the Spear (see Jan. 13) ironic in this sense: The missionaries died to display the gospel of grace to savage murderers, yet some Christians are unwilling to show grace to a homosexual."

That sums up my view. I regret the casting decision which led to the protest, but I don't think it changes the movie. Were the movie to paint Nate Saint or one of his friends as homosexual, then we can be outraged. But for this? Are Christian primed for outrage over homosexual issues and not on other issues which are equally bad? Take the fact that Liam Neeson, the voice of Aslan in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, has played some horrible roles over the years. My estimation of his personal standards dropped when he took the lead in that horrible movie, Kinsey (No, I haven't seen it, but I still think it's horrible.) Did that not phase the Christian community or are we not primed for outrage on that one?

If we are drawing the line as we are on End of the Spear, I think we should stop watching movies and television altogether for consistancy's sake. (For a little more on this, see Gene Edward Veith's post on the blog interest in his recommendation of this movie.) - phil
 
Monday: Life, She is Short
Any week now, I'll stumble into so much knowledge about how to maintain a high-traffic blog that Brandywine Books will be #1 on everyone's chart.
But we're not there yet. So far, I've learned that to drive traffic to your blog, you should post blonde jokes and mislabel the denomination of other popular bloggers. Be sure to check back later this week for my post on how the Jollyblogger is a Pentecostal and Hugh Hewitt appears to be becoming a Mennonite.

For now, let me announce this calendar-marker taking place on the campus of Jacksonville State University in Jacksonville, AL. It' s a writing conference called On the Brink. This year's theme: "Life's Too Short to Drink Bad 'Shine." Southern writing for you and yours.

While you're there, keep watch for the white squirrel in the area. It is not a ghost. - phil
 
Sunday, January 29, 2006

Today: A festival of substandard writing

It’s raining today. It’s January 29. I’m in Minnesota.

As the IQ tests say, “Which one of these things does not belong with the other two?”

Nothing more to report on the house situation, since my last comment on my previous post.

(Howls of delight from the galleries)

Today in church we sang a Praise Song that contained the following immortal lines:

“Holy words long preserved

For our walk in this world.

They resound with God’s own heart.

O let the ancient words impart.”

Listen, song-writers – having your heart in the right place is great, but if you’re going to write songs that will be inflicted on Lutherans who are standing when they’d rather be sitting for twenty minutes every Sunday, try to put the words in a form that makes some sense.

Nothing in heaven or earth merely imparts. I’m sure there’s a technical term for the kind of verb “impart” is, but I don’t know it. What I do know is that nothing just sits there and imparts. Things impart other things. Love can be imparted, and wisdom. So can sweetness or understanding. I suppose I could imagine a situation where cubicity and inarticulacy (I like that last word; note yesterday’s post My spell checker doesn’t red-line it, so it must be a real word. “Cubicity”, on the other hand, isn’t) get imparted.

You might as well say that a pipeline is “transporting”. “What are you transporting in this pipeline?” you ask the engineer. “Oil? Water? Natural gas?”

And he replies, “No, we never put anything into it. We’re just happy that the pipeline is sitting there, transporting.”

No wonder the world thinks we’re morons.

Not that their lyrics are any better nowadays.

I finished Volume I of C.S. Lewis’ Collected Letters yesterday, and I moved on to Douglas Gresham’s new biography of Lewis, Jack’s Life.

Douglas Gresham is the son of a woman who was both a noted poet and the author of perhaps the most vividly composed book on Christian morality ever written, Smoke On the Mountain.

His father was William Gresham who wrote Nightmare Alley, which did pretty well in its time. And he had C.S. Lewis himself for his stepfather.

Judging from this book, it doesn’t appear that much of that skill rubbed off, I’m sorry to say.

One must make allowances for the fact that the book seems to be aimed at the twelve-year-old demographic. This is apparent from the style, though I can’t see that it’s been marketed that way.

But the talking down and endless explanations get tiresome, and the occasional use of slang will only serve to date the book more quickly. Word choice and grammar are sometimes poor as well, and Gresham repeats himself from time to time. Somebody at Broadman & Holman should have taken the editing firmly in hand. (By the way, do you ever think that “Broadman” is an odd name for a Christian publisher? It sounds like a character from Pilgrim’s Progress: “And Christian saith then to Mr. Broadman, ‘That road seemeth me a perilous street, for are we not told that the way to the Celestial City is both straight and narrow?’ And Mr. Broadman replieth, ‘Nay, sir. I call this a passing good road, for it is both easy in the going and well-befolked for pleasant company.’’)

On the other hand, in spite of stylistic weaknesses, having Douglas Gresham’s testament to the things he observed, and heard from “Jack” himself, while they lived in the same house is worth any amount of minor irritations. It was particularly interesting to hear Lewis' account of being wounded and crawling back to his own lines during the battle of Arras.

The CD enclosed with the book, featuring a half-hour interview with Gresham, is possibly worth the price of the book all by itself. Gresham has a great voice. Did you know it was him doing the war news over the radio in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe movie?

Lars Walker

 
Saturday, January 28, 2006
Investing in Eternity
How much thought do we put into the moral or spiritual aspects of how we save or invest our resources? In the book, Eternity Portfolio, author Alan Gotthardt asks, "How would our lives change if we became aware of the rewards of faithfully investing our resources?" The website has chapter summaries, other info and links. From chapter two:
Why is giving not a priority for most Christians? The answer is that obligation alone is not enough to create in us a vision for investing in others. So, what is? "The desire for rewards," [Gotthardt] answers. God has promised great reward for those who give freely and generously out of a changed heart and life. In other words, the ultimate investment should be in heaven, for from heaven comes the ultimate reward.
- phil
 
"The Aging Brain Grows Stronger"
Mental Multivitamin has a link and good quotes from a Newsweek article on a 50-year-old's creativity and the myth of the midlife crisis. I know Newsweek is unreliable for political news, but this article may be sound. As with so many reports, I suppose this one also needs a grain or two of salt.

Oh, do you remember that post I did on what I thought was an original idea. I probably got it from this blog. Sorry about that--I'm a dope sometimes. - phil
 
Friday, January 27, 2006

Assumable loan

I suppose it’s right and proper that any major transition in life should be accompanied by large quantities of sturm und drang, weeping and gnashing of teeth. The change from one manner of living to another seems to demand some minimum amount of pain. When one goes in for dental work or a minor operation, and it’s all over before we realize it and almost doesn’t hurt at all, isn’t there just a touch of disappointment? “That’s all I get? How will I tell my friends harrowing stories about this?”

No fear of that kind of disappointment in connection with my house purchase.

About a week and a half ago I called my investment banker to arrange to liquidate some (most) of my assets so I could make a down payment when we close this Tuesday. She told me we’d have to dip into the annuities, and it would take about three weeks to get that money.

“Then I can’t get it in time for closing?” I asked.

“No,” she answered. “I think we can do it.”

So I trusted her. Major mistake.

She told me a check would be coming. When it hadn’t shown up by last night, I called this morning to ask how things stood.

She told me I couldn’t expect the money yet. It takes about three weeks. “I told you that,” she said.

In her defense, I’m not sure she intended to mislead me. During the conversation she made one surprising statement that I felt I had to question, and I learned that she’d meant the exact opposite of what she said. Her problem appears to be mere inarticulacy.

So what could I do? She referred me to a personal banker, who was very cheery and told me she thought she could get my line of credit increased this very day. She would call me back.

She didn’t.

When I called her office around 4:00, I learned from her voice mail that she’d left at noon.

So I called my real estate agent, who suggested I call the mortgage banker who’s doing my mortgage. I did that, and he told me (on the callback; I had to leave a message) that he’d try to get me a line of credit through his bank, but he couldn’t close it out before Monday afternoon.

When I got home Banker Number Two called me to tell me that I was in the Final Approval Stage, and that she’d probably have final word tomorrow some time.

So I called my realtor again, and he called Banker Number Three. I think they’ve put the second loan on hold.

But I don’t think I’ll sleep tonight.

When I came back into my apartment after putting clothes in the washer tonight (the last time, God willing, I’ll have to put quarters in the apartment building machine), my phone was ringing. I was too slow to catch it.

Whoever it was didn’t leave a message.

I suppose I ought to assume that if it was really important they’d have left a message.

But if that assumption was correct it would be the first correct assumption I’ve made since this process began.

Lars Walker

 
Buy Lars' Books (or the Dog Dies)
Now, you can buy Lars Walker's books through easy links on our sidebar. I know you've been putting it off because you didn't want the hastle of searching for them online. All of the mouse clicks needed to find something in Amazon can wear you out. Now, you don't have to.

Buy through Amazon.com these great titles:
Blood and Judgement
The Year of The Warrior
Wolf Time
Also buy from Alibris.com. No affliate program here--just links.
 
Color Blindness
Are Americans generally agreed that judging each other on the basis of skin color is unproductive in normal, civil interaction?

I'm talking about M.L. King's dream: "I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." Most Americans agree with this, right?

Then why do some of us repeatedly bring up color questions? For example, author Tayari Jones asks why NPR Librarian Nancy Pearl doesn't include "non-white" authors in her list of recommended books. Somehow, her question seems legitimate to me. It isn't color-blind, though. Is this an example of good demographic judgment, similar to asking about authors from a certain tradition or with a certain style?

For another example, someone comments in response to a review of a poetry for the people anthology, saying "poems can be blessedly color-blind" but that it's terrible only three non-white poets were included in the anthology. Somehow, this question seems illegitimate to me. Looks like something Ray Nagin would say. Does color-blind mean multicolored? I think it does for some.

What do you think? Do we need to remain color-conscience in order to be color-blind? Are the questions in my two example essentially the same? - phil
 
Retelling Biblical Tales of Women
Looking for a Biblical flavor in your steamy romance? Look no further, but don't expect historical accuracy. The Red Tent, Canaan Trilogy, The Gilded Chamber, Wisdom's Daughter are some examples. Bradford Pilcher, writing for Atlanta Jewish Life, says, "Most [of these books] fall into a formulaic (and often dull) approach that overly sentimentalizes biblical heroines and, in some cases, furthers old stereotypes."
 
Oprah: Truth Matters Afterall
On yesterday's Oprah Winfrey show, Oprah apologized for defending James Frey and his book, A Million Little Pieces.

"I made a mistake," she said, "and I left the impression that the truth does not matter, and I am deeply sorry about that because that is not what I believe."

Oprah used most of her show yesterday to grill Frey on details of the book. According to the Chicago Tribune, the editor of the Smoking Gun, the site which got this ball rolling against Frey, said Oprah didn't let up on Frey, and in the end, you felt bad for the guy. From the transcript of yesterday's Oprah:
Oprah: Well then why did you say you didn't have Novocain? Because, you know, the last time I went to the dentist, my dentist said that could not have happened. And I said, 'Oh no. It happened. He told me it happened.' So, why did you do that?

James: I mean, once I talked to the person at the facility about it, you know, the book had been out for nine months. We'd already done a lot of interviews about it. . . Since that time I've struggled with the idea of it . . ."

Oprah: No, the lie of it. That's a lie. It's not an idea, James. That's a lie.
The Chicago Tribune says The Smoking Gun "initially" raised questions about Frey's Little Pieces, but in truth some reviews of questioned shortly after its release--the NY Times review, for one. In a preview for Amazon.com's Fishbowl, Bill Maher talks to Stephen King about being a writer and his new book, Cell. They wrap up their nine minute conversation discussing Frey's memoir, and King says he knew it was baloney when he heard that Frey was an alcoholic and drug addict yet was recovering and writing about it all on his own. King says, "Alcoholics and drug addicts lie about the weather just to keep in practice. . . . Once you discover he has lied about one thing, Katie bare the door--it's probably all lies."

Both King and Maher expressed surprised that Oprah and many readers would give Frey a pass on this. Perhaps, that message got through to Oprah; but I also believe that she didn't need public rebuke, only time, to think through her response.
 
Thursday, January 26, 2006

My country, 'tisn't me


I should apologize for misspelling Gene Edward Veith's last name in yesterday's post. I'll correct it as soon as I've posted this.

In my ongoing effort to singlehandedly exorcise all fallacies from our common life, I link you to Roy Jacobsen’s Dispatches From Outland blog, where he talks about the fact (melancholy but true) that the beloved old story of the frog in the kettle (which, in case you’ve been living under a rock or in North Korea, says that a frog placed in a kettle of cold water will allow himself to be boiled alive if you raise the temperature of the water gradually), is simply not true. Frogs don’t do that.

We’ll have to find a different paradigm. Or icon. Or whatever the frog is best described as.

It was ridiculously warm today. The temperature rose almost to 50º (that’s Farenheit, for our foreign readers. I don’t know offhand what it is in Celsius, and I’m too lazy to look it up).

I drove out to Sam’s Club to pick up candy for the campus bookstore. We do a thriving little sideline in empty calories to keep the young people fat and placid as we brainwash them. Once I dreamed of running a candy store, and now I do, sort of.

As I was preparing for the trip I kept reminding myself, “Remember to take a check.” This was because Sam’s doesn’t take any credit cards except for Discover. If I drove off without a check (it’s been known to happen) I’d be a broken link in the supply chain, and all my fellow capitalists would make hooting noises at me and throw paper wads.

I remembered the check, but forgot my shopping list.

It seems as if with me it’s always a choice of two evils. There isn’t room in my head for two thoughts at once. If I remember one thing, I’ll forget something else. “Write notes,” efficiency experts tell me. That’s great, but as we’ve seen above, a list (for me) is just one more thing to leave behind on my desk.

It occurred to me, meditating on this, that this may be a characteristic of societies too. I had in mind one particular either/or – self-image vs. patriotism.

Yes, I’m suggesting that high self-image may be inconsistent with patriotism.

The traditional human attitude, I think, has gone something like this: “I am not perfect. I, personally, know I have many faults. But my group – my tribe or my caste or my country – we are magnificent, best in the world!”

I’m toying with the idea that, ever since Freud taught us to try to feel better about ourselves, we’ve lost our need to find personal meaning in the groups to which we belong. In the Middle Ages the ideal was the knight who was willing to die for his king. Today the hero is the rebel who won’t conform to the hypocritical rules of the larger group, whether it’s a business, a school or a nation.

I thought that Europe might be an argument against this theory. Europeans, as far as I can tell, think they are pretty great individually, and they certainly believe that Europe is infinitely better than America.

But I’m not sure. What Europeans believe, if I read them right, is that their civilization is essentially evil and deserving of death (they are, accordingly, killing it off). They hate America because America is an offshoot of Europe thus far resistant to accepting its own demise, and therefore a group even the Europeans can hate. To hate us is to hate their own culture more perfectly.

It’s a theory. I don’t insist on it.

Lars Walker

 
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Is It Blue Like Jazz or Peanut Butter?
"I am more and more convinced that talking to the reformed about art and literature is like talking about gourmet cooking with a man who only believes in eating PBJ." - iMonk (link)

I know the blogosphere is full of rants. It's virtually brimming with outrage and strong opinions. As you can see I'm sure, Lars and I attempt to blog sparingly, yet lovingly, on controversial matters and voluminously, even vociferously, on non-controversial, uninteresting matters. Generally speaking, if you are looking to pick a blog fight, go to the Daily Kos.

However, certain matters are too precious to ignore. Some doctrines are sacred and require a defense. Some outrages too heinous . . . well, let's cut to the chase. Joel Hunter of Boar's Head Tavern says crunchy peanut butter is not orthodox peanut butter. Can you imagine?! If it isn't obvious that Smucker's Natural Peanut Butter--the kind with only crushed peanuts and salt which must be blended by hand occasionally before spreading on your homemade, whole wheat bread--is peanut butter as God intended, as close as we can get to how it tasted when He handed a jar of it to Adam in the garden, then no one knows what real peanut butter is. The Fall must have taken that pleasure from us, I suppose.

But then, obtuseness is as obtuseness does, as Gomer says. Let's move on.

Do Christians in the Reformed tradition appreciate art and literature? That's the question the iMonk, (who is fine, upstanding member of a Baptist congregation, not a pub-dwelling, no-account Lutheran--unlike Lars who is an excellent, Gold Standard Lutheran), answers negatively in response to a review of Donald Miller's memoir, Blue Like Jazz on 9Marks.org. Reviewer Shane Walker believes Miller's theme is that Jesus wants to hear you out, so take the time to tell Him your story. He writes, "Donald Miller is making an earnest attempt to witness to nonbelievers and disciple Christians, but he doesn't distinguish between being relevant and being worldly."

The iMonk believes Miller isn't endorsing worldliness; he just being honest about his imperfect life. "Miller deserves a hearing because he is boldly, genuinely talking about Jesus in a way that breaks the usual stereotypes and straitjackets," he says in a post on Tuesday. "He shakes me up and I need to be shaken up."

The iMonk accuses people like Walker of disliking the Emerging Church and postmodern-type believers on personal grounds, not theological ones. That's a rant. I doubt he would argue that seriously with honest, reformed people; but I daresay he is right about some self-righteous curmugeons in the reformed faith who would oppose the Holy Spirit if He didn't wear a suit on Sunday. The church isn't free of problematic people. Thank God for His abundant grace.

How this results in reformed people disliking and misunderstanding art and literature I don't know, but since he brings it up, let me point to another review of Miller's Blue. Walter Henegar reviews it for an issue of the Presbyterian Church of America's new magazine, By Faith. He likes it in general, calling it "Honest, Funny, Flawed, and Profound."

He says Miller is "an earnest Christian who stumbles through his faith and describes it well." The book reads like a blog and makes many good points, though some bad ones. Henegar quotes a sentence: "Jesus didn't just love me because it was the right thing to do. Rather, there was something inside me that caused Him to love me," then concludes, "As grievous as this statement is, he fortunately doesn't follow through with all of its implications."

Perhaps it's bad theology like this that puts the dark clouds in Walker's review whereas Henegar gives Miller more leeway to be wrong. Is that a problem? Is a negative review evidence that reformed believers are philistines?

For more discussion on this, see these two Thinklings threads: Book Review and The Importance of Art. The iMonk's review of Blue Like Jazz and Miller's follow-up book is on internetmonk.com. - phil

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Patriot’s progress

Today was a mild day, graced with sunny skies above (where sunny skies are frequently found in these parts). When I got to the office I realized, to my horror, that I’d left my sack lunch at home. A little later, down in the main office, I asked the cafeteria guy what was on the menu for lunch today, as I’d need to eat lunch there.

“A bunch of us are going out for pizza today,” the bookkeeper put in. “It’s Jim’s (the Bible School dean's) birthday. You could come along with us.”

This, dear friends, is Heaven’s way of revealing to us that the diet we’re on needs to be moderated, just for one day.

That afternoon we had cake in the break room. The dean of the seminary said to the Birthday Boy, “You were 5’ 11” when you graduated from Bible School, weren’t you?”

“Yeah,” said Jim, who stands about 5’9”. “But then I got married and settled down.”

The new receptionist began to laugh and had to bend over the break counter to keep from collapsing on the floor. She is a young woman with a keen appreciation of Norwegian humor.

That’s the kind of fun we Lutherans have, folks. Don’t you wish you were Lutheran too?

Everybody seems to be writing about Benjamin Franklin today, even though his birthday was back on the 17th. JunkYard Blog notes that his frequently quoted statement that “Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither” was originally a much more “nuanced” thought. Gene Edward Veith at World Magazine has a thoughtful post on Franklin too.

My favorite Franklin story comes from the book Christianity and the Constitution, by my friend John Eidsmoe. Early in his career, when Franklin was apprenticed to his brother James, a printer, they both got involved in a “Science vs. Religion” controversy. The dispute centered on the practice of smallpox inoculation.

“Ah,” you think. “The sad old story once again. The ignorant religious people opposed inoculation, while the enlightened scientists were for it.”

Well, no. In fact it was the other way around. The scientific establishment was dead set against the radical, dangerous practice of inoculation. It was the clergy (mostly Calvinists) who supported it.

Go figure.

Later in his life Franklin lost his beloved son, Francis Folger Franklin, to smallpox. He wrote in his Autobiography:

In 1735 I lost of my sons, a fine boy of four years old, by the small-pox…. I long regretted bitterly, and still regret that I had not given it to him by inoculation. This I mention for the sake of parents who omit the operation, on the supposition that they should never forgive themselves if a child died under it; my example showed that the regret may be same either way, and that, therefore, the safer should be chosen.

Eidsmoe speculates that this traumatic experience, demonstrating that men of faith sometimes know better than men of reason, may have shaken Franklin’s faith in the Enlightenment and softened his long-standing opposition to Calvinism, though it probably did not make him a personal Christian.

In any case, when he was 73 and living in Paris, Franklin made the decision to send his grandson Ben, who was living with him at the time, to a Presbyterian school in Switzerland. He wrote to the boy’s mother, “…I intend him for a Presbyterian as well as a republican.”

Not as good as being a Lutheran, of course, but progress. Definite progress.

Lars Walker

 
Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The alien virtue

Today I had a meeting with the board of the Georg Sverdrup Society. I’ve agreed to be the editor of their Newsletter and Journal. Georg Sverdrup (as I’m sure you’re all aware) was one of the two founding fathers of the Lutheran Free Church, predecessor to the church body that employs me. He and his friend Sven Oftedal more or less invented congregational Lutheranism.

And we all know how successful that’s been.

On the other hand, we are a growing church body. Not many American Lutheran groups can say that anymore.

When Sverdrup and Oftedal first published their radical ideas on church government, people scoffed. “You have to have episcopal rule to guard against heresy,” they said.

Today the American Lutheran church bodies that went the episcopal route (at least the Scandinavian ones) have mostly been subsumed into one large denomination that embraces heresy with all the canny discernment of a three-year-old with a gold card at Toys ‘R Us.

And we “undisciplined” free Lutherans still hold to the Faith.

Draw any conclusions you like.

C.S. Lewis notes several times in his apologetics that Christ taught no new moral ideas, and that that’s as it should be. I agree with him generally, but I have one reservation.

One thing I’ve noticed in my historical reading – particularly my study of the Vikings – is the importance of Pride in most pre-Christian and non-Christian societies. What is for Christians the greatest sin was in most cultures the greatest virtue. Read Beowulf. Beowulf isn’t shy about proclaiming his own virtues and victories as loudly and as frequently as possible. He taunts his enemies and jeers them in their destruction.

I don’t know about the Far East, but I believe that Jesus was the first moral teacher in the Near East (and by extension in the West) to declare humility a good thing. The ancient Jew thought humility shameful. So did the ancient Greek, the ancient Roman and the ancient German. Humility before God (or the gods) was OK. A man was expected to bow before God. But to bow before men, to put oneself last and defer to others, that was what slaves did. Vikings called such men “rags” and the implication was that they were homosexuals.

We often hear people object that western civilization wasn’t really very Christian, even in its heyday.

Considering how hostile the west was originally to Christ’s humility, I think it’s remarkable it became as Christian as it did.

Lars Walker

 
Monday, January 23, 2006
Oprah-like Sales for Blum?
Author William Blum remarked that having his book, Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, recommended by today's public enemy #1, Osama bin Laden, is almost as good as having Oprah select it for her book club, according to Time Magazine. Blum, who seems to be cut from the same cloth as uber-liberal Norm Chomsky, also said, I happen to share with Osama bin-Laden a certain view of US foreign policy, and this is great if more people read my book.”

Sales of Rogue State have reportedly exploded since bin Laden's tape was released to the public a few days ago. - phil
 
Monday Post: Jokes and Imagery
I've been busy and discouraged today. No, no--the discouragement is my fault and probably a sin; but I haven't felt like blogging today. I've thought a little about designing a new blog for posts about why I wasn't blogging that day. I would call it, "Not Today," or something like that. I may still do it. I have visual design in my blood and keep thinking of how to make this blog better looking, even seasonally themed, so I would want to make a blog like "Not Today" into something remarkable, funny, and visually appealing as well as having good, short, and needless to say brief posts about non-blogging. But I'm blogging now, so let's move on.

I have learned over the past several days that the way to drive traffic to this excellent blog is to post blonde jokes. Getting a nomination to a blog contest helps too, but the real money is in blonde jokes. I may be able to tempt the fates without angering them by referring to blonde jokes repeatedly in this post, but the odds on that gamble, that of referring to blonde jokes without actually telling them, are still out. Of course, I have searched a bit for blonde jokes, but my results were unsatisfactory.

The subject of blonde jokes reminds me of one of my favorite jokes of a similar nature. You see, a blind man, a deaf man, a preacher, a rabbi, a nun, a blonde, a grandmother, a polock, and a dog all walk into a bar, and the bartender says, "What is this? A joke?"

[pause for laughter]

I know--you're about to bust a gut. But wait. I have real material for a Monday Post, namely imagery found on sloganmaker.net.
  1. Is it a frog or an orange peel? Sometimes, the contestants are Worth1000.com do remarkable work.
  2. Julian Beever apparently wants us to watch our step when we're in his city. I wonder if he thinks of himself as a screever.
So, you have it. A late Monday post. Before you go on to read more profitable things, do you know why elephants wear yellow shoes? Do yah? - phil
 
Christians Ought to Write Excellently
In light of Lars' review of River Rising tonight, I offer this quote from Gina Holmes' recent interview with Athol Dickson on Novel Journey. Dickson says:
There are a lot of people who think you have to write fast and get a lot of novels out there or readers won’t remember you. I get the marketing logic of that, and maybe its good advice if all you care about is making money, but I think it’s a bad plan for a Christian. We need to be the ones who are excellent at what we do, so the others will see and be drawn to the truth. And it takes time to tell the truth well. Even people who claim to get a novel done in two or three months, if it’s a good novel, they’ve already put in months or years of thought and research and just plain living in order to be able to write it that fast. . . .

GH: Do you have a pet peeve having to do with this biz?

AD: People who write below their abilities in order to crank out tons of books and make a buck. Especially Christian authors who do that. Outsiders judge us for it, and make fun of us for it, and it makes Jesus look bad. We of all artists on earth should be the most concerned with doing our best possible work at all times. We of all people should write with all our hearts, as if writing for the Lord and not for men.

...

Dale Cramer is doing some of the best Christian fiction work today, writerly-wise. His Levi’s Will is a masterpiece.
 

Book Review: River Rising by Athol Dickson

Sometimes it’s great to be proven wrong.

Just a few days ago I commented on the low quality of CBA (Christian Bookseller’s Association) fiction. Most commenters concurred that CBA authors weren’t generally producing anything that would be looked at twice by a “real world” publisher, or even by a discerning secular bookstore customer.

About the time I wrote that, I received a copy of River Rising from Bethany House Publishers. One of their promotional people had offered to send it to me, and since I’d never been offered a review book before I accepted it, not expecting much.

I was very pleasantly surprised.

In fact, I have an idea I may have just read a classic in the making, a book our children and grandchildren will read and love.

The story is set in southern Louisiana, at the very mouth of the Mississippi delta (evocatively described), in 1927. Rev. Hale Poser, a black minister with a bad hip, poles his pirogue into the town of Pilotville, where he takes a job as janitor at the Negro Infirmary. He has come because he’s an orphan, and he has discovered a document in an orphanage that says he originally came from this town.

The town amazes him. It’s not like any other place he’s ever been. Whites and blacks coexist on nearly an equal footing. Blacks look whites in the eye, and no offense is taken. There’s no legal segregation.

And yet… something is wrong. The racial harmony is enforced by “Papa” DeGroot, a rich old white man who controls the town. But up close Papa seems to be less than the genial patriarch he claims to be.

Also there’s an ongoing mystery. Occasionally – every few years or so – a black child is kidnapped and never seen again. It happens rarely enough to draw little attention, but too often to be accidental.

And when another black child disappears from the Infirmary, Rev. Poser goes out to search for her himself. What he discovers then is a horror he has never dreamed of, as well as the answer to the secret of his parentage.

There’s a supernatural element to the story. Miracles happen when Rev. Poser prays, although they seem to fail him when he needs them most. As he enters upon the greatest suffering of his life he must wrestle with temptations and doubts he’s never imagined.

The book climaxes with a massive flood that washes out the town and its secrets. Dickson leaves the reader with a challenge and a question for the conscience. Black readers and white readers alike will come away with much to pray about.

Buy this book (or at least keep it in mind for when it comes out in paperback). Bethany should be rewarded for publishing something this good, and Athol Dickson ought to be the bestselling novelist in CBA. He ought to be a bestselling novelist in mainstream literature, for that matter.

Lars Walker

 
Saturday, January 21, 2006
Meeting in Washington D.C.


I won't be there, but I thought it worth blogging.
 
King Hates Cell Phones, Marketing Loves Them
From an article by Jeffrey Trachtenberg in Tuesday's The Wall Street Journal: "Author Stephen King hates cellphones and won't use them. 'They're 21st-century slave bracelets,' he said."

He could be right. I don't have one because--forgive me if this shocks you--I don't need one. My lifestyle isn't mobile enough to call for one, just like I don't need a PDA, iPod, laptop, or television. I live an acoustic life--sort of. So I think I understand where King is coming from.

In the WSJ article, King's publisher reportedly sent text messages to 100,000 cell phone users, inviting them to join a VIP club focused on King's new book, Cell (to be released Jan. 24). Ringtones of King's voice are available for purchase.

The veteran horror writer says he got the idea for his new novel while watching a beautifully dressed woman standing outside a New York hotel, talking on her cellphone. What would happen, he wondered, if she suddenly received a message telling her to kill people? "I cruise the landscape, looking for things that would make people nervous," he says.

He doesn't pretend to know whether his fans will buy his ring tones. He did try to convince his publisher to record a ring tone that consisted solely of Mr. King saying, "Don't answer it, don't answer it." But Scribner rejected the idea, he says.

 
How Do You Say It?
  1. Huge: hyooj or yooj?
  2. Humble: hum-bel or um-bel?
  3. Humility: hyoo-mil-i-te or yoo-mil-i-te?
  4. Whale: hwal or wal?
  5. Historic: hi-stor-ik or i-stor-ik?
  6. Herb: hurb or urb?
Do you pronounce the h-sound in these words? Any idea why you say it your way?
 
Friday, January 20, 2006

Adventures in retail

I have no thoughts today, so I’ll just tell you what I’ve been doing. There is no lesson in this, no moral, just the unvarnished truth about life in the sordid, half-lit world of a Bible School bookstore and library.

The first surprise was a call from my Oldest Niece before I left for work. The O.N. is in China, teaching English. Only it turns out she’s not. She’s back home in Iowa, thanks to health problems beyond the skills of ancient Oriental medical arts. So she’s back home to get fixed up, and expects to return to the Mysterious East when she’s better. They’re treating her for a parasite, and she seems to be responding.

The important thing, though, is that she’ll be around to help me move sometime next month.

After all, what’s the point in having a younger generation if you can’t exploit them for cheap labor?

I have a theory that the major cause of juvenile delinquency is the abolition of child labor. Want to solve the gang problem? Round up the kids and put them to work in sweatshops, picking oakum or operating pneumatic hammers or something. Pay them a quarter an hour. Crime decreases, the demand for illegal immigrant labor decreases, poor families get an income supplement, and corporate profits rise. What’s not to like?

(I’m kidding. I’m kidding.)

My work day was interrupted by a farewell dinner for one of our receptionists, a lovely young woman who is going away to do mission work in Mexico. I told the story of the O.N., as a cautionary tale and to enhance the luncheon experience for all present.

In the bookstore it was one of the busiest days of the year. The Spring Term at the Bible School begins on Monday, and I’m not ready.

My part in the well-oiled educational machinery is to make sure the textbooks are ordered and ready for sale. That duty is complicated by the fact that instructors (with some blessed exceptions) are reluctant to actually divulge what books they want. And I, as you’ve doubtless noted, am not one of the Bulldog Breed. Hounding people for information is not among my one or two strengths.

Added to this was the fact that I didn’t know how many students would be enrolled in each class until late last Friday. I planned to order books on Monday, and it was on that day that I looked at the calendar and realized that classes start on the 23rd, and that’s too fargledy soon!

So I got my orders out, knowing that some of the books would come in too late. Fortunately a lot of book companies ship fast, and the first books actually arrived on Wednesday. More came in yesterday, and yet more today.

But that doesn’t mean I can just price them and shelf them. Oh no. I have to know what the complete invoice amount is, including shipping and handling, before I can determine our retail price (we like to sell below suggested retail, to help our students out). Many publishers only put a packing list in their cartons. The actual invoice or statement will be along, oh, whenever they get around to it.

So I’ve been making calls to publishers, asking for invoice amounts. This works well with all but one or two, particularly a publisher which shall remain nameless (except that its name starts with Z). They have fully automated customer service with no option to speak to a human being at all.

Anyway, I’ll be going in tomorrow on my own time to try to make things as ready as possible come Monday.

At least it’ll keep me from joining a gang.

Lars Walker

 
Thursday, January 19, 2006
Reusable Plastic Newspapers
If it isn't enough that eInk technology is making PDA-like devices virtual books, a company called Plastic Logic is working on displaying live info on thin plastic sheets. The Discovery Channel reports:

Cambridge, U.K.-based Plastic Logic recently announced development of the world's largest plastic display — 10 inches diagonally — that can render active images.

The display, which currently has the resolution of a normal computer screen — 100 pixels per square inch — and four levels of gray scale, could help usher in durable, paper-like screens that can be attached to small electronic devices such as mobile phones and then rolled up and tucked away when not in use.

The reusable, plastic, local newspaper with daily downloads may be on the horizon. - phil

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Jesus' Skin Color
It doesn't bother me to hear of a new drama based on Jesus' life using black actors. Why should it? The Lord Jesus came for all people. Telling his story in live action is a good medium. But claiming to tell his story and message while actually telling your own is another thing.

The director of a South African film, Son of Man, told Reuters, "We wanted to look at the gospels as if they were written by spindoctors and to strip that away and look at the truth. The truth is that Christ was born in an occupied state and preached equality at a time when that wasn't very acceptable."

No. No, it isn't. Are we talking about Jesus, the one who said, "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law"?

The good news which Jesus gave would work out to a cultural equality, but oddly enough, Jesus didn't teach on it. He taught that he was the Son of God who had come to take away the sins of the world. Anyone who believes in him could follow him and have everlasting life. And that commitment to the truth of God's Word is what got him killed by men who used the temple for political advancement.

But I disgress a bit. All I meant to say was that I don't mind Jesus movies using black, asian, or even hispanic actors to portray him.

Now, pretending to have the risen Lord as a talk radio host? That's wrong. I'm sorry. Good intentions don't cut it.
 

The search for “mean”-ing

Today was overcast, with temperatures suspended like a jellyfish just below freezing. We got some snow, and more is forecast. It was an interesting kind of snow – it accumulated in little round pellets, like what you brush off the corners of certain kinds of Styrofoam packing.

I performed a manly act today. I’ve determined that the demands of householding will call for some adjustments in the lifestyle to which I’ve grown accustomed. One expense that stuck out of my budget like a stubbed toe in sandals was my cable TV bill. So I resolved to make a clean break and not have cable at all in the new house. I called to cancel today.

I had the shakes afterward, like an alcoholic at an Intervention.

That’s an exaggeration.

But the image of Bilbo Baggins giving up his Precious did cross my mind.

Expect more book reviews from me in the future.

Speaking of cable TV, last night I was employing that medium when I heard somebody using the word “mean” in the sense of thoughtless cruelty.

I began to meditate on the word “mean”, and you, Gentle Reader, shall have the benefit of those deep thoughts.

You’re familiar, I’m sure, with the use of the word “mean” to signify a lack of kindness in a person. You’re probably also familiar with “mean” in the sense of “average” as in, “the mean temperature”.

But did you know that those two senses derive from the same original meaning (meaning! Get it? I kill myself sometimes.)?

In past centuries, when someone said that a man was mean, what they meant was that he was average.

This is puzzling to the modern mind, because we think of average as being not so bad.

But in centuries past the assumption was that the nobility was where the society’s store of virtue reposed. People of high status were assumed to be better than the hoi-polloi who did the menial work and paid the taxes, who got drunk on cheap wine and carved one another up with knives. If one gentleman said to another, “Your behavior is mean,” he meant that he wasn’t living up to the standards of his social class (like a churl or a villain, which mean respectively, “common man” and “village dweller”).

Later on a new social order evolved, and common people, getting educated and aspiring to better things, started applying words like “gentleman” to themselves (C.S. Lewis comments on this somewhere) and applying the word “mean” to behaviors they considered beneath them.

This was a great turning in history. Lewis complains that it spoiled the word gentleman, since we already had the term “good man”, and “gentleman” lost its original precise meaning without really adding to our stock of useful words. He has a point. But the social phenomenon by which common people aspired to more moral lives, more refined pleasures and more lofty ideals provided the environment (perhaps the only environment) in which republican democracy could thrive.

The Socialists had a word for this development. They called it “the bourgeoisie” and they despised it. They considered the bourgeoisie the great enemies of their movement.

They were right too.

Lars Walker

 
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Best of Blogs Contest: Update
Best of BlogsVoting continues, and you can vote once a day, which I believe translates into one vote per 24-hour period. Voting will continue through the end of the month, but I don't if I will keep this post here that long. A swell of Marxist voters showing their support for Diversity Despite Disapproval have pushed Bwb into a dead heat for third-to-last place. You can make the difference in this struggle. Vote here.

Best of Blogs has organized this differently than other contests. The awards will not go to the highest popular vote in each category. They will be given points based on the vote, presentation, readability, and content. With this scheme, it is possible a blog with a mediocre popular vote could win on the strength of its posts and layout. Not that I'm saying anything. In fact, I make it a point never to say anything in a blog. That's the secret to my popularity. - phil
 
Filthy, Rumor-mongering, Lit-blogs
Are lit-blogs just unaccountable rumormills, fraught with error and distortion? That's what Book Editor Bob Hoover at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette thinks. Kevin points to the editor's column on the new and improved Collected Miscellany, "Mr. Hoover can whistle by the graveyard all he wants, but if he - and newspapers across the country - continues to churn out rubbish like this he will only fuel the growth of 'alternative media.'"

Hoover, who says he's been "glancing" at lit-blogs for a while now, expressed his doubts that lit-blogs have any "accountability, dependability and durability. Also, outside of their mothers, it's hard to figure out whom these bloggers are targeting."

Now, I have to express my doubts that Hoover knows what he's talking about. First, triple the number of lit-blogs if you want, you don't have to give them all "a glace or two." Scan them until you find a dozen worth reading. There are at least a dozen which would make better book suppliments in most Wednesday and Sunday newspapers across the fruited plain than what's currently printed.

Second, I think the following is equivalent to saying the Empire State Building is in Atlanta:

The most response on any subject of 2005 came from a column on Edward Klein's embarrassing (for him) biography of Hillary Clinton, when angry readers ignored the facts and took out their political frustrations on me, a few on the phone.

Bloggers aren't exposed to that sort of accountability. If and when I turn to writing a blog, I promise to stick to the traditional standards of accuracy, proper grammar, attribution, but I'll leave out my phone number.

I know we don't pull in many comments on BwB, but some blog have reams of comments and email. There's also the feedback you can't see, the kind expressed by loss of readership. Newspaper editors should be familiar with that.

Hoover's column has drawn a bit of response. Twenty posts according to Technorati. (I expected more; but perhaps 20 is a strong response.) Bud Parr, one of those strong lit-bloggers, does not pull punches with his response:

I ask you sir: is it a wonder that many “serious readers” are turning to blogs instead of shallow writing in the “established media” such as your own?

Can you honestly say, Mr. Hoover, that articles about the physical weight of books (“Weighing in on novels by the pound” Sunday, October 30, 2005) are what “serious readers” are looking for? Maybe they turn to you to get reviews of books like “Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog” (Sunday, January 08, 2006). Perhaps they turn to you for your lists, sir, such as your article “Collections, anthologies and stuff” (Sunday, October 09, 2005), that included such serious “stuff” as Calvin and Hobbs cartoons.

- phil
 

Thoughts under the influence of phlegmaticness... er, phlegmaticism, er, forget it

Don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’m not feverish, and I’ve been sleeping fairly well (for me). I’m not aching or physically weak.

But I dragged today. I had to keep refocusing my mind, as if the set screw were loose. I got work done, but it took a major investment of energy to get me out of Neutral. I get these spells sometimes.

I’ve been meaning to write about a book I started reading a few days ago. It was written by an author who’s pretty high on the Christian Bookseller’s Association lists right now, and judging by the covers I thought he might be somebody I’d enjoy.

I won’t tell you his name, because I didn’t like the book.

I liked the premise. The author’s heart is clearly in the right place, and parts of the story were handled well.

But he overwrites. He doesn’t trust his own craft enough to let the story tell us how to react. He has to make sure everything is absolutely clear, and provides all kinds of reassurances at the beginning so that sensitive readers may know that everything will be OK in the end.

His dialogue’s OK, except when he starts talking about God. Then suddenly it reads like a Sunday School paper.

I had to put the book down. Couldn’t go on. I think the author has talent and is likely to improve as he works. But for now he isn’t ready for prime time.

The awkward and shameful thought crosses my mind: I’m better than this guy, but he’s got a market and I don’t.

Surprised to see that coming from me, aren’t you? No self-deprecating little joke about how I’d probably have a publisher if I deserved one. Nope. On this I’m relatively confident – I know how to write a decent book, and I can do it better than most of the people working in CBA today. I’ve played in the big leagues, if only as a second-stringer.

So what should I do? Aim at CBA and see if I can knock ‘em dead in the minors? Or hold out for another mainstream publisher?

I should insert a self-deprecating joke here, but I’m too beat today.

Lars Walker

 
I'll See Your Meme and Fold
4 Movies You Could Watch Over and Over
1. The Princess Bride
2. The Incredibles
3. My Girl Friday
4. They Saved Hilter’s Brain

4 Places You Have Lived
1. Chattanooga, TN (all of my life)
2. Dayton, TN (college years)
3. Ely, MN (canoe trip)
4. Orlando, FL (Disney vacation)

4 TV Shows You Love To Watch
I fall short on this one. I do like Iron Chef America.

4 Places You Have Been On Vacation
1. Outer Banks, NC
2. North Georgia mountains
3. San Antonio, TX
4. Colonial Williamsburg, VA

4 Websites You Visit Daily
The sites I visit daily are boring: Yahoo!, Google, Comics.com. I don’t even go to one news site every day, but I often go to:
1. Thinklings
2. Arts Journal
3. Bartleby
4. Semicolon

4 Of Your Favorite Foods
1. Chicken Pot Pie
2. Fresh, strong coffee
3. Beef Stew
4. My wife’s pizza

4 Places You Would Rather Be Right Now
1. I’d rather be blogging from the Oval Office
2. I’d rather have unrestricted access to the Library of Congress
3. I think I’d rather be walking on the levee I can see from my window
4. Or maybe in England at Oxford enrolled in a creative writing program

4 Bloggers You are Tagging
1. Sherry of Semicolon
2. Ella of Box of Books
3. Bill of Thinklings
4. Kevin of Collected Misc.
 
Open Mic
Hello. It's Wednesday, January 18, 2006. Anyone care to say anything?
“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes—and ships—and sealing wax—
Of cabbages—and kings—
And why the sea is boiling hot—
And whether pigs have wings.”
Remark, praise, or rebuke at will. :D
 
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
CBA and Another Gospel
When is a positive remark on a book not praise of the same? When the remark is taken a wee bit out of context.

For example, Centuri0n argues for the irrelevancy of the Christian Booksellers Association (CBA) by pointing to its praise of The Gospel According to Oprah, by Marcia Nelson. Theologian, speaker, author, and blogger Albert Mohler is quoted with positive words, but if you read Mohler's full review, you get a better idea of what the positive parts are. The book, according to Mohler, describes Oprah's worldview and impact effectively. And Oprah? "She promises meaning without truth, acceptance without judgment, and fulfillment without self-denial," he says.

Chuck Colson is also referenced in the CBA praise--no quote, just a mention. What does he say about it?
Ironically, after eighty pages of talking about the values Oprah represents and the influence she exercises, Nelson admits, “I don’t know what [Oprah’s] personal religious beliefs are.” The point seems to be that nobody needs to know. . . . She’s talented and generally provides wholesome entertainment. But don’t confuse it with the faith. By Nelson’s own account, many people are turning Oprah and TV into their own personal gods of self-fulfillment. And that’s the kind of “religion” that does far more harm than good.
If I understand Centuri0n's point, the question silently shouting is why is this a CBA book? Because it comes from Westminister John Knox Press, I suppose. - phil
 

Curses, memed again!

Michael at The Euphemist has tagged me (and Phil) with the following meme. I’m generally receptive to these things because they relieve me of all obligation to think up a topic. My considered responses follow.

4 Movies You Could Watch Over and Over

  1. Joe vs. the Volcano
  2. Local Hero
  3. The Three Musketeers (Michael York, Oliver Reed version)
  4. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (which technically brings it up to six)


4 Places You Have Lived

  1. Kenyon, Minnesota (my home town)
  2. Mineral Point, Wisconsin (my year and a half in radio. Short version: it wasn’t a success)
  3. Perryville, Missouri (I actually lived in a sort of Christian commune there. Also not a success)
  4. Malabar, Florida (my Florida exile)



4 TV Shows You Love To Watch

  1. House
  2. CSI (any version)
  3. The Rockford Files (possibly the best show ever)
  4. The Avengers (Diana Rigg seasons; oh how I loved Mrs. Peel in my youth!)



4 Places You Have Been On Vacation

  1. Norway
  2. Newfoundland (to see the Leif Eriksson excavations)
  3. Deadwood, South Dakota (to visit Wild Bill’s grave)
  4. Branson, Missouri (before most people had heard of it)



4 Websites You Visit Daily

  1. Lileks (Lileks is just like me, if you add a wife and child, cheerfulness and wit)
  2. National Review Online
  3. JunkYard Blog (perhaps my favorite blog all around. And not only because Bryan Preston gave me free advertising for my last book)
  4. Shot In the Dark (Not the most famous member of Hugh Hewitt’s Northern Alliance, but the most entertaining)



4 Of Your Favorite Foods

  1. Milk chocolate
  2. Roast Turkey
  3. Roast Beef
  4. Deep dish pizza



4 Places You Would Rather Be Right Now

  1. In my new house, Blithering Heights
  2. Norway. I’m always up for Norway
  3. Spain, because it would be warm
  4. England, because I’ve always wanted to spend time there (before they ruin it entirely)



4 Bloggers You are Tagging

  1. To answer this question would be to assume other bloggers actually read me. God would certainly punish me if I did anything like that.

Lars Walker

 
Is Maureen necessary?
As for her ostensible subject, not only does Dowd have nothing new to say about men or women but, for all her exertions, she manages to miss one of the most disturbing changes in postfeministAmerica: the feminization of the news. Perhaps she is being modest; she is, after all, its founding genius.
from Kay Hymowitz' review of Are Men Necessary? When Sexes Collide by Maureen Dowd, Commentary Magazine
 
Do You Have a Book That Matches My Purse?
I'm suspect the site Overheard in New York is cardinal sin unto itself, but I noticed this humorous exchange through another blog the other day. If yesterday's Monday Post wasn't funny enough for you, how about this:
Lady: Excuse me, but I'm looking for a book.
Store chick: And?
Lady: I don't remember the title or author, but the cover is purple.
Store chick: Our purple books are downstairs.
Lady: They sent me up here.
Store chick: We're sold out of purple books. You want something in a yellow?
--Barnes & Noble, Brooklyn Heights
This reminds me of a photo I saw of a bookstore (I think) which organized its books by color for a short time as a tribute to Adobe Systems.
 
Monday, January 16, 2006
Fully armed

I'm sure you've all been losing sleep over the sore arm I complained about a while back. I'm happy to report that it seems to be all better now.

Some of you were kind enough to give helpful advice, which I did employ with benefit, but the best counsel came from my brothers Moloch and Baal over Christmas. They told me it was a muscle inflammation, and my best course was to take two Aleve a day for ten days. I did that (along with changing my mouse hand and applying heat) and the inflammation seems to have gone away. I am once again a force to be reckoned with from either side.

Lars Walker
 

Not a coffee table book

The other day I was processing books in the library and I picked up a book called Organic Chemistry Made Ridiculously Simple. It seems to be a school textbook intended to employ the approach of the successful Dummies books. And of course, I think we all agree, no Bible school library is complete without at least one text on organic chemistry.

I looked inside the back page and found a list of other books in the series. One of them caught my eye: Acute Renal Insufficiency Made Ridiculously Simple.

Uh huh.

Not when you get to my age, bud.

Lars Walker

 
Narnia Too Much Like Casablanca

I doubt any of us need another review of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe (LWW) by an unprofessional blogger, but I said I would do it, and I make an effort to be a man of my word. I should make a stronger effort to avoid giving out my word.

In short, I enjoy the movie--great acting and wonderful imagery, probably will buy the DVD. I think the professor is my favorite secondary character. Lots of cinematic details are smart and fantastic; but the movie as a whole disappoints me. It seems to run on basic Hollywood clichés or formulas more than its own strength.

For example, I don’t mind the essence of the scene on the frozen river, a little heightened suspense having a confrontation with the wolves; but the words put in Susan’s mouth make no sense. Susan has read books, so she should have some understanding of smooth-talking villains, besides the fact that this villain is a wolf whose fellow wolf is holding Mr. Beaver in his mouth. Why in the world would Susan argue that Peter should lay down his sword and trust it? It’s something done only in the movies. Of course, what Peter actually does works only in the movies too.

Also, some of the dialogue, even when taken from the book, falls into formula. It reminds me of Casablanca. Bogart says, “Here’s looking at you, kid,” three times, and the third time doesn’t make sense in the scene except from within the formula.

“Here’s looking at you, kid.”

“Why’d you say that, Rick?”

“Because it’s something I say, sweetheart. It’s in the script. Now shut up, and get out of here.”

Several lines in LWW strike me this way. Not most of them, but several—maybe more toward the end of it, because I walk away feeling their effect. Maybe I should chalk it up to being a kids’ flick. But I don’t want to. - phil

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Monday: Veer's Inkjet Haiku
Design resource Veer had a haiku contest some time back, not the 17 sylable variety, but four lines with about 30 characters each. I thought this one by Carl Peterson was worth more screen time:
It's easy to write a bad haiku
A great one, well it is not so
This li'l hack will have to do
Because I'm no Edgar Allan Poe

That rings, doesn't it? - phil
 
Saturday, January 14, 2006
How to Feel Uneducated
I know there are plenty of ways to feel uneducated, but here's one of them. Find a blog with a name you can't pronounce and look it up to discover that it is also the name of a Oliver Wendell Holmes' poem:
If all the trees in all the woods were men;
And each and every blade of grass a pen;
If every leaf on every shrub and tree
Turned to a sheet of foolscap; . . .
Warms the heart, doesn't it? I think I'll return to pushing pixels around the screen. - phil
 
Thermos Question
I have a nice coffee thermos which has a nice way of pouring through the lid. I like it, but lately the pouring mechanism sticks. I can open it, but I can't close it. I think it's a swelling of the opening valve. Know what I'm talking about? Is that normal for these things? Is the result of bad design, do you think? - phil
 
A local habitation and a name

Lileks has a cute name (Jasperwood) for his house.

I want a cute name for my house too, so I can drop inside references in this blog and make newcomers feel ill at ease.

Henceforth and until I change my mind, my new house in Robbinsdale will be known as Blithering Heights.

You may now return to your regularly scheduled activities.

Lars Walker
 
The friend of my enemy is sometimes my friend too, if he isn't very bright

I haven't seen Good Night and Good Luck, and I have no plans to do so. But it occurs to me that George Clooney may have unintentionally done the Republicans a good turn.

If you present your audience with the spectacle of Joe McCarthy grilling suspected Communists about every minor aspect of their lives, making accusations and questioning their motives and associations, shortly prior to the spectacle of the Senate Democrats performing an almost identical exercise with Judge Alito, the comparison does not redound to the glory of the Party of the Little Guy (TM).

Now, if the Republicans just don't do something stupid to waste that goodwill...

On second thought, never mind.

Lars Walker

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Is This Teenager English?
Mr. Nice Guy's fatherhood blog points out some interest verbage on a few baby products, and I have to ask if his findings are the result of the teenaged girl's effect on English. Perhaps I should call that Teenglish or Engirl--maybe Girlinguistics. How else do you explain "Gigglastic"? Nice Guy says, "I think if you looked deep down inside yourself, you would admit that your own life would be less of a hopeless morass of nauseating despair and unceasing ennui if only you had a Gigglastic waistband." Funny observations, and I fully agree with the one about the kid's book.

Not to be too critical, but you could easily ask other usage questions about this post. For instance, the word "awesome" is too good to be used to replace "interesting" or "cool." The same goes for "wicked," though Nice Guy doesn't use it. - phil

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