Brandywine Books
Friday, March 31, 2006
Portrait of the novelist as a young dork

This image is one of my high school yearbook pictures. The year was 1966, or something around there. The other day I was looking at somebody's blog (I forget whose), and saw that she'd posted an old photo of herself. I thought, "Why not do something similar? If I post that awful old high school picture, it can never be used against me by my enemies."

The first thing that strikes the consciousness of the appalled viewer is the goofy, Mortimer Snerd smile. The smile is really the heart of this art work. It was that smile, immortalized in that fashion, that persuaded me never to smile for a picture again, and to avoid smiling generally for the rest of my life. It wasn't just the inbred, widely spaced teeth that moved me to adopt that prudent policy, but also the way the smile, on a mouth the size of mine, smears the already-large nose half-way across the face, like a smoosh of peanut butter.

It would be about eight years before I'd figure out that the thing to do with my hair would be to comb it straight back while wet and allow it to find its own part.

Confession, acquired under duress: I chose those glasses. The really stylish glasses in those days had thick black rims and bows, but I wanted to be a little different (something that hasn't improved with the years). I thought the transparent frame-bottoms would camouflage the glasses a bit. And the metal bows, I thought, would make the glasses harder to break (a debatable theory, as it turned out).

This particular style of glasses frames was actually seen most often on people over sixty, even back then.

The shirt, though, was entirely my mother's fault.

One of Mom's problems (and I don't just base this on the shirt, but on a whole series of events) was that she sincerely resented the fact that her children lived in more comfortable circumstances than she had in her childhood. During the Depression years she'd had very few clothes, none of them new and all of them patched. One winter she shared a coat with her mother, so that both of them could never leave the house at once. So she decided it was important that I should experience the embarrassment of wearing hand-me-downs (I don't think she did the same with my brothers, now that I think of it). So she acquired some cast-off clothing from one of her uncles and got a woman to alter them to fit me (I had to wear pleated pants, the absolute nadir of uncoolness in the 60's). This shirt, however, didn't come from that batch. These clothes came from a young man, slightly older than me and suffering from a debilitating disease, who was a neighbor of my aunt's. But the purpose was the same. The shirt was chartreuse green, my least favorite color in the world.

If I remember rightly, I had actually forgotten that that day was Picture Day. I was appalled when I realized I'd be photographed in that shirt.

You'll note that my image is off-center. I think that was because I was trying to sneak out before the shutter snapped.

Lars Walker
 
In case you want evidence of how wonderful I am...

Dale Nelson informs me that his review of my last published book, Blood and Judgment, is now available at this Touchstone Magazine archive link.

Lars Walker
 
Thursday, March 30, 2006
Leaning Into the Circle and Other Stuff
  1. Noted and illustrated: Serious artists gravitate toward each other.
  2. So you want to be a great writer? Perhaps you should ruminate on that at Waffle House.
  3. The Third Carnival of Children's Literature will be held next week at Sherry's Semicolon.
  4. Speaking of Kiddy Lit, there's a closeout sale of Jewish books on at KinderKlassics.com
  5. And in other news, Frank of Books, Inq.echoess Instapundit in rejecting Borders' and Waldenbooks' curious decision to let the current issue of Free Inquiry slide. The magazine, published by the Council for Secular Humanism, contains four of the Danish cartoons which have already been published all over internet. The bookstore executives believe "the safety and security of our customers and employees" would be jeopardized by distributing this issue--which only goes to show that if you riot and scream about things, you often get your way. No, that doesn't sound right. Maybe it goes to show that once liberals have labeled you a victim of western oppression, you can get away with murder. Hmm, is that the meaning here? Maybe it means these executives think Muslims are scary. That's probably the extent of it.
- phil
 

Cut and Run by Ridley Pearson

I’m late to the keyboard tonight. One of my assistants had a family emergency, and another is gone on choir tour, so I filled in until 6:00. Since I took a couple hours for the plumber the other day, I guess I owe it to the firm anyway.

Ridley Pearson is one of the really reliable mystery writers out there. His Lou Boldt books, centering on a Seattle police detective, his co-workers and family, never fail to provide tight, suspenseful stories of crime and danger, human failings and heroism, built around a reassuring moral center.

Cut and Run is a departure—a story about a new character, Roland Larson, an FBI agent assigned to Witness Protection. Larson breaks protocol in a big (but narratively useful) way by falling in love with a witness, Hope Stevens, a beautiful accountant who is the sole surviving witness against a vicious Mafia family.

The first scene of the book describes a nearly successful attack on Hope by a skilled assassin who almost completes his assignment and manages to get away. The next chapter begins four years later. Larson has been reassigned to another FBI branch. He’s living in St. Louis when he hears a laugh in the audience at a Shakespeare performance and knows Hope has come back into his life.

But he has no chance to find her just then. He’s intercepted by two agents who take him to see his old superior in Witness Protection. He’s told that the man who designed their witness database has been kidnapped. This man has the ability to decode all witness protection records, placing everyone in the program at risk—including Hope, who ran away from the program but still could be traced through clues in the records. A body at the scene of the abduction is evidence that the abductor is the same assassin who nearly killed Hope four years ago.

This killer is an interesting character. We spend a lot of (creepy) time with him. His name is Paolo and he has a cutting obsession, finding sexual pleasure in murdering people with a razor, and using it on himself when he has no other handy target. Like all good villains, he believes himself basically a good person.

Naturally Larson and Hope will get together again, but that happens at just the moment when Hope’s daughter is kidnapped by Paolo. The tension escalates as Larson tries to rescue the daughter while trying to keep Hope from exposing herself in her desperate need to do the same.

This book delivers the suspense it advertises. It would be a good subject for a big action film. Cautions, as usual, for language and sexual situations.

Recommended.

Lars Walker

 
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
The Guardian's Guide to Wodehouse
By way of Frank Wilson of Books, Inq, I learn that The Guardian has published a guide to one of my favorite authors, P. G. Wodehouse. I didn't know he was so influential in American musicals.

My wife and I recently watched three episodes from the first season of Jeeves & Wooster. Quite good. Lots of things to complain about should one want to complain that the TV dramas don't match the Wodehouse originals, but Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie are terrific as Jeeves and Bertie Wooster.

As everyone knows, adaptations aren't perfect. Take this explanation from Fry, quoted on the Hat Sharpening Shop site: "Wodehouse described Jeeves' cough as 'like a sheep clearing its throat of a blade of grass on a distant hillside.' I tried practicing that but sounded more like a goat clearing its throat of a piece of cheese on a nearby hillside. These things are difficult."

Also, I finished an early Wodehouse novel, Leave It to Psmith. Wonderful with a bit of romance. Since Lord Emsworth didn't own a pig in this story, I think he had not yet risen to his full height, but he wasn't the center of attention anyway. Psmith was hilarious, even if a bit of a communist.
 
Speaking of Plagiarism
It appears a conservative blogger with good credentials has resigned in the light of frequent plagiarism. I didn't know of Ben Domenech before today, but he has been blogging from the balancing side of the political aisle for the Washington Post as well as other places. I suppose he will be out of the office for a while now.

In a related article by Nate Anderson on arstechnica.com, plagiarism is rampant among students and even some professiors. "The cut-and-paste nature of the Internet and its massive store of content have made plagiarism an increasing temptation," he writes. "The last week alone brings us the story of an Australian judge who plagiarized sections of her legal rulings, the current national scandal of Chinese professors ripping off the work of other colleagues, and the admission that Oxford University is rife with student plagiarists."

I can't decide which is the funnier story: the fliching judge who took words from another legal decision or the Chinese journalism ethics prof who pitched copy from a PhD grad student?

Say, I cut-and-pasted the above quotes, you know. It was easy. It felt good. *Does that make me a bad person?* Do I need help? - phil
 

Career milestone: I get pirated by Lutherans

Today was even nicer than Sunday. The temperature was in the 50’s and the sun shone. I took my walk after work and managed to make it out and home again without getting lost or abducted. Tonight it’s supposed to rain, so I imagine I’ll be back on the Nordic Track for my workout tomorrow. But temperatures look to be warm.

I got a copy of a magazine called The Lutheran Digest in the mail at work today. I’m familiar with it (it’s sort of a minor-league Reader’s Digest for Lutherans), but I’d never gotten a copy at the library before. Because I’m shiftless I took a minute to look through it. And there was an article called “And Then, One Morning—It’s Easter” written by me.

I remembered the article. I’d written it for our denominational magazine and it was published a year ago. I wasn’t paid for it (it’s not that kind of magazine), so I took it for granted they must have granted rights to the Digest.

Out of curiosity I gave the Assistant Editor of our magazine a call. She told me no, they’d released articles to the Digest in the past, but nobody had asked her about this one.

So I sent them a polite e-mail, not claiming compensation but pointing out that they seem to have printed the article without permission.

Haven’t heard back from them yet.

Of course I may have just forgotten giving permission. One never knows at my age.

There’s a catalog for every lifestyle, I guess, and now there’s a catalog targeted at people at my personal level of success: The Acme Catalog, which meant so much for so many years to our friend Wile E. Coyote. Enjoy.

Hat tip to Mirabilis.

Lars Walker

 
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
Music, music, music
As Lars said, we have been tagged by Michael for a music meme. Michael asks:
What are your top ten musical adrenaline rushes? . . . They are the ones that give you the biggest sensation of giddiness & make you feel like turning the car stereo all the way up if they should happen to come on. Genre mixing is encouraged.
Do I have to choose ten? Can I count to ten? I guess I'll try.
  1. Dvorak's "New World" Symphony (#9) is my long-time favorite symphonic work. The first and fourth movements inspire beautiful images within me if I give myself over to it's spell. Albert Bierstadt's paintings go well with this work.
  2. "The Indiana Jones March" by John Williams
  3. Rich Mullins' "The Color Green" - I think I heard the Irish-style flute line in another piece at a restaurant once, but I don't know how to track it down. I wonder if the wonderful jig part of this song is an echo of another song or work.
  4. John Michael Talbot's "Advent Suite," which asks, "Can you believe in the miracle coming?"
  5. Saint Saens' Symphony #3 is dramatic.
  6. "Peppermint Patty" in Vince Guaraldi's "The Charlie Brown Suite"
  7. Jars of Clay's whole "Redemption Songs" album is a boost of ads.
  8. I think I should add Henry Mancini's "Something for Sophia," though I don't own a recording of it. "Peter Gunn" is rush too.
  9. "Palladio" by Karl Jenkins, which is used as the Diamonds Are Forever theme for the old commercials.
  10. I guess if "Palladio" gets a vote, Elgar's "Pomp and Circumstance" gets one too. I wanted to play part of this work at my wedding, but my sweet wife wouldn't allow it. We settled for Chopin's "Military" Polonaise as the recessional. (Okay, okay, the first part isn't true. I had actually wanted to have Grieg's "Sigurd Jorsalfar: Homage March." The context of the music may be inappropriate for a wedding, but I think it's a beautiful, quiet march.)
There you go. Do you feel enlightened? Have I helped with anyone's homework? Oh, I didn't include any reels or jigs for the highland bagpipes, but then I can never remember their names. I encourage Daniel of Alien Soil to take this up, if he hasn't already, and anyone/everyone at Thinklings.
 

In which money enters the economy and all boats are lifted

I took a couple hours off work today and met a plumber at my home. I’d puzzled over whom to call. I thought of trying some small plumber from my town, but I didn’t have any information on who’s good (and the Yellow Page listings always make everybody look local). In the end I decided to call the company that has the really irritating commercials on my favorite talk radio station. On the minus side, I’d be reinforcing their lame advertising (but then if I boycotted all lame advertisers it would eliminate pretty much everybody who advertises there). On the plus side, I’d be rewarding them for targeting me and my fellow crypto-fascists with their promotional dollars.

The plumber was neat and professional, and seemed to know his business. He told me that the smart thing to do would involve replacing a lot of superannuated pipes and fixtures. It wouldn’t be expensive, by Federal Government standards.

I opted for the band-aid, put-off-the-inevitable approach, which still postponed my retirement a few months. But everything works now, and nothing drips.

Everyone told me this would happen. And that there will be more.

Whenever it happens, be assured I’ll let you know.

Finished Ridley Pearson’s Cut and Run today while waiting for the plumber to reactivate the bathroom. I’ll be telling you what I thought of it one day soon.

Lars Walker

 
Monday, March 27, 2006

Meme-spirited

It was a day with ample room for improvement, weather-wise. The sky was overcast, and sometimes it rained without enthusiasm.

On the other hand it didn’t snow, and temperatures were in the forties.

Yesterday—yesterday was glorious. The thermometer got up around fifty, and the sun shone brightly. All over the metropoli you could see happy survivors who’d clambered out of their dens like groundhogs to blink at the sun and walk around with its blessed warmth on their shoulders. I was one of them. It’s rare for me to go on a walk when I don’t have to (scheduled afternoon walks on weekdays are “have to” events—part of my personal list of obligations), but after church I bundled up in a turtleneck sweater, windbreaker and cloth cap and walked down to Crystal Lake and a block or so beyond. This will be my regular walking route from now on, God willing, and I thought I’d measure it (fifteen minutes out, fifteen minutes back) on such a fine day. I noted that there are some really nice houses near the lake, which reinforced my suspicion that I’m not good enough to live in this neighborhood.

If I gave the impression that Saturday was an utter failure, that wasn’t entirely accurate. I did get my mailbox up. The house when I bought it had an ancient steel mailbox hanging by the door, considerably rusted. This was fine with me, because I’d always wanted one of those Scandinavian mailboxes—you may have seen them. They have a picture of something like an English horn and the word “Post” blazoned on the front. I bought a red one and tried to install it a couple weeks ago.

I think the box is made in Sweden, and it suffers from typical Swedish planning. The lid is hinged and has an angle at the top, so that it needs a little space to swing back into. That means you can’t just screw it to your wall. It needs some sort of ledge or railing behind it, so there’ll be space for the swing-back. On Saturday I carefully cut a couple lengths of lath, drilled holes in them to match the holes in the box, switched out the old screws for longer ones, and successfully installed my mailbox. It sticks out like an inflamed pimple against the pale green of my house. But it has the Norwegian flag windsock I hung from the porch awning to balance it, and I think overall it lends the neighborhood just that element of garish tackiness it had been missing before my arrival.

Michael at The Euphemist has tagged Phil and me with a meme. This is a musical meme, designed to bring my deepest, most banal musical pleasures into the light of public scrutiny. But I surrender, a broken man.

The question is, name ten songs that give you an adrenalin rush.

You asked for it.

  1. Walter Brennan: “Old Rivers”.

(Just kidding)

OK, here they are, in the order they occur to me:

  1. Edvard Grieg: “Tribute March” from “Sigurd Jorsalfar”.
  2. Roger Whittaker: “The Last Farewell” (the lyrics are a little weak, but the whole thing really works. And I first heard it around the time I lost the great love of my life, so it will always have bittersweet connotations for me).
  3. The Seekers: “Morningtown Ride” (I’ve blogged about this before. It’s beautiful and it makes me feel good. What’s wrong with that?)
  4. The theme from “Exodus”.
  5. “Sukiyaki” as performed by Sissel Kyrkjebø in an old album called “Syng Med Oss”, long out of print, of which I have an illegal copy on cassette, now transferred to CD. I know it’s weird to hear a Japanese song sung by a Norwegian, but it pleases me.
  6. The soundtrack music from the movie “Once Upon a Time in the West” (preferably the Italian version, which I have on vinyl).
  7. Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture”.
  8. “The Ride of the Valkyries” by Wagner.
  9. The sailor’s song, “The Water’s Wide,” as performed by the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem.
  10. The praise song, “Before the Throne of God Above” (almost the only praise song I like).

I know you’re laughing.

But you’ve got to respect the courage it took for me to share this.

Lars Walker

 
Da Vinci Code Source and Spin
Did I miss where Dan Brown's wife, Blythe, was called to the witness stand to defend her husband on plagiarism charges? If he worked off of her research primarily, I'd think her testimony would merit a hearing. Not that the trial is not a publicity stunt for the prosecuting authors.

So if The Da Vinci Code is a poorly written book of bad history, why doesn't someone write essentially the same book better? Entertainment Weekly writer Jennifer Reese asks that question in a review of The Secret, by Javier Sierra, which was first published in Spanish in 2004. Reese states, "Brown's imitators invariably overthink, overplot, and overwrite their tortured historico-religious mysteries." Though she doesn't know if Sierra meant to imitate Brown, his novel does draw close parallels.

Isn't that what Brown did to write The Da Vinci Code? No, Biographer Lisa Rogak argues, Brown was inspired by what he read and experienced just as all of us are. Rogak concludes her Houston Chronicle article: "Perhaps Chilean novelist Isabel Allende said it best in her book Aphrodite: A Memoir of the Senses: "Copying one author is plagiarism. Copying many is research."

So, do you plan to catch the movie based on the bestseller? - phil
 
Saturday, March 25, 2006
Plumbing: 2; Walker: 0

OK, I failed with the dripping bathtub spout a couple weeks back, but I knew I could replace the toilet tank apparatus today (the flapper's been sticking). I'd done it before, in another place and time.

But the old house laughs at the naive new owner. The old house has secrets. The art of plumbing goes back to the ancient Assyrians, and some of those Assyrians put this plumbing together. In the end I was forced to reassemble it the way I found it. I don't think I did a lot of harm. I hope.

Somewhere in the Twin Cities there's a plumber with a big day coming.

Lars Walker
 
Friday, March 24, 2006

The boringest blog post ever

It’s Friday in Minnesota (and in many other places, remarkably enough, by some uncanny cosmic convergence). I don’t have much in the way of ideas, so I’ll tell you about my day and hope something clever turns up, like a murder weapon in a nearby dumpster.

I took my Chevy Tracker, Mrs. Hermanson, to the shop today. She’s been making a rattling noise for a while, and I thought I might as well get the diagnosis on the loss of four-wheel drive capability while I was at it.

The good news was that the rattling could be fixed with the application of some clamps. The bad news was that a couple hooks that control the automatic four-wheel drive are frozen or rusted in place, and replacing them would cost about a thousand dollars.

So I guess I’ll just continue to be a poser, pretending to have an off-road vehicle when in fact I have a tall station wagon. And some winter’s day I’ll find myself stuck in the snow, and passersby will laugh me to scorn, because that moron can’t get out of a snowdrift with four wheel drive!

After work I drove to K-Mart and picked up a new set of sheets for my bed. This is to solve a serious symmetry problem I’ve been having with my laundry.

(I knew you'd understand.)

I bought full-sized sheets for the bed I acquired with Blithering Heights (it’s a great bed, by the way. I’ve been sleeping better than I have in a long time). I bought dark blue sheets in a fit of nonconformity and counterculturalism. They’re fine (thank you, Martha Stewart) but they have to be washed with my dark clothes rather than my whites. That means I have a huge dark load (sometimes two of them) and a relatively small white load. I can adjust water levels in the washer, but the whole thing offends my sense of proportion. I want my whites and darks roughly equivalent, in a wonderful rainbow of multicolorism and equal opportunity.

(My brother Baal, by the way, solved this problem back in college. He abolished all whites from his wardrobe. Dark shirts, dark underwear. That way everything goes in the same load.)

So I picked up a set of white sheets with only modest red stripes on the borders to add pizzazz. I’ll save the dark sheets for guests, assuming I ever have any.

Maybe I should start wearing only white at all times. No, Tom Wolfe beat me to that schtick.

Maybe I’ll just wear more white shirts. It’ll be another step in my psychotic retreat into the past.

Tomorrow, toothpaste blogging!

Lars Walker

 
Thursday, March 23, 2006

Agent-al House

Enough of passive-aggressiveness, already. Memo from Middle Management: Blog about active things. Eschew the passive voice and the passive life (or fake it if you can’t).

I’m getting my nose into the archive at the library at last. I’ve figured out a system by which to approach the cataloging mess that is the archive, and I’m beginning to work it (and to feel relatively virtuous about doing so).

Cataloging the old books involves a lot of translation from Norwegian. I picked up a pamphlet which was apparently printed by a pastor on his retirement from a church in Jewell, Iowa. He seems to have sprung for the costs of having a brief autobiography, his letter of resignation and a valedictory message printed up for distribution to his congregation. Seems kind of self-promotional for an Iowa Norwegian pastor around the turn of the 20th Century to me, but then answering the phone with my name makes me feel pushy.

Looking through it, I noticed that the pastor mentions that his successor will be Pastor M. Norstad. This struck a spark in my mind, because I remembered something I’d been told by a former friend who’d been the son of a later Jewell pastor. He told me that Gen. Lauris Norstad, Supreme Allied Commander in Europe during the 1950’s, had lived in his house.

This means nothing to you, of course. You’ve never been to Jewell and you’ve probably never heard of Gen. Norstad. But it was an interesting connection to me, providing a moment of about as much excitement as I generally get in a day (thank Heaven).

One of the inevitabilities of being a published author is having hopeful authors ask the dreaded question, “How do I get an agent?”

This is a great question. Everybody knows by now that most publishers won’t even look at unagented manuscripts anymore (a sad thing, but with everybody owning a word processor nowadays they’ve got to do something to keep from being physically expelled from their offices by the accumulation of unread manuscripts).

It’s also a terrible question, because the simple answer is, “It’s not easy.” Agents tend to hide in caves and brush out their tracks with leafy branches when they venture abroad, so as not to be hunted down and devoured by authors. Most of them (especially the good ones) have no incentive whatever to advertise for manuscripts. They have all they can handle in their slush piles already (for reasons noted in the previous paragraph).

The sad fact is that getting an agent is kind of like pledging for a college fraternity (judging from what I’ve been told. Never joined a frat myself). The power is in the upperclassmen’s hands. They want to find out if you really want in, and they expect you to endure a certain amount of indignity to prove it.

It’s even harder for me because I lucked out in that department. An editor who’d bought several of my short stories decided to become an agent and asked me to come aboard. So I avoided that whole business of researching the market and plowing my way through multiple rejections. Which, considering my personality, might have ended my career right there.

So in lieu of answering the question myself, I’d refer you to the April issue of Writer’s Digest Magazine, which features an article (starts page 36) called “Have Agent, Will Publish” by Lisa Wurster (go to a newsstand and pick it up. Ignore the lame title). It not only outlines the process of finding an agent, but lists some who are actually willing to admit in public that they might be willing to look at manuscripts…

…IF you work the system properly.

Good luck.

Now go away. I want to take a nap.

Lars Walker

 
Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Another fine day of Passive Aggression

A guy named Ben Shapiro, who looks just about old enough to drive on a Learner’s Permit, provides another fine example of Passive-Aggressiveness in a Town Hall post today:

"It has been my privilege to work for the American people," Bush stated, "but I now realize that I can never satisfy the requirements of this office. In my opinion, only one person can meet the challenges we face today: respected journalist Helen Thomas.”

Read it. It’s funny. And it’s funny because we all know that when kids get to a certain age, all you can do to teach them right from wrong is to let them make their mistakes and find out what the consequences are. Passive Aggression isn’t cowardly in that circumstance, because a parent’s instinct is to protect the child. It takes great courage and self-control, when it comes to it, to stand back and keep the hands off.

It’s funny to imagine George Bush acting like the fed-up parent and letting the Left get what it says it wants, then have to live with the consequences. It’s not going to happen, but we get the message.

It seems to me that we live in an adolescent society. Among today’s icons are John Belushi in Animal House and Bart Simpson in anything. The slacker is so much smarter than everybody else. He sits back and makes fun of the squares who work and make sacrifices. He knows only suckers take on responsibility. He knows somebody will always bail him out. Nobody makes movies or TV shows about squares. (Notice how every hero in every movie or TV program is described as, “a rebel. A loose cannon”?)

But if we’re adolescents in America, the Europeans are two-year-olds. It’s counterintuitive. They’re supposed to be our parents, but instead they’ve become our children. They believe they can play their political and economic games forever, because if they ever get into big trouble, bad old Dad (meaning the U.S.) will rescue them. No matter how much they’ve mouthed off to him. Because when it’s life and death, you can always count on Dad.

The problem is that sometimes the Waiting Father can’t help the Prodigal Son.

Sometimes the Prodigal Son just dies.

Lars Walker

 
Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Heading ‘em off at the passive-aggressive

Oh, by the way, this weekend I held my breath and hooked up the new DSL modem my ISP sent me. To my utter flummoxment and amaziation, it worked right off. It would appear that the underground church pastor who doubtless assembled it in a concentration camp somewhere in China left out the obligatory “consumer frustration chip” that industry standards demand.

The weekend actually went pretty well. I put up bracket shelves in my bedroom, something I feared because it meant drilling holes in the wall. Holes, after all, are forever. Ask any archaeologist.

But it worked pretty well, and the final result looks straight and shows no signs of pulling out. Hooray for me! Today the shelves, tomorrow the plumbing!

Or not.

This enabled me to get some more books unpacked. Progress is being made. I’m far from done with settling into the house, but it’s getting better.

Mike Adams has an amusing column today at Townhall. If you’ve ever had trouble understanding the concept of Passive-Aggressiveness, this is pretty much what it means. Passive-aggression is my favored way of waging interpersonal warfare. It’s a cowardly method of manipulating others, thus well suited to me.

What’s really interesting is when two passive-aggressives try to manipulate each other.

My late aunt Jean was a wonderful person, and I loved her to death. She was also a master PA. But she met her match in her sister (also an aunt of mine, by an odd coincidence), who told her on her deathbed, “Maybe when I’m gone, somebody’ll throw some flowers on my grave once in a while.”

Needless to say, Jean saw to it that her sister got flowers every Memorial Day as long as she (Jean) lived.

And now I’m doing it for Jean.

Nothing binds the generations together like guilt.

Lars Walker

 
Monday, March 20, 2006

A middle-aged man's fancy turns to thoughts of Puritanism


So Phil is taking a week off, leaving me to Phil his shoes (ba-rum-bum).

Don’t expect major changes while he’s gone. Other than the new All-Sissel Kyrkjebø and -Jessica Simpson All the Time format. And my new series, beginning tomorrow, on the philosophical fallacies underlying a few of John Calvin’s major errors.

Spring is in our midst now in Minneapolis. Not obviously. Not out in the open. But in the background, behind the tapestry like Polonius. It didn’t feel particularly spring-like today. The temperature was in the 30’s, but the sun came and went. So we didn’t get that sun-on-the-face warming effect, and it just felt chilly.

But the melt is happening. The snow recedes measurably. The end of the insurgency is in sight. Soon I’ll be getting my afternoon exercise by walking past the park and City Hall, down along the shores of Crystal Lake. And it will be good.

For now, I’m using my Nordic Track in my basement, listening to Hugh Hewitt on the radio and looking out a small, high window, over the top of a snowbank at a red house across the street.

Because I’m back on the horse. My diet is in effect and I’m getting my exercise. I fell off it last fall, when I had the emotional setback I blogged about, and then there were the holidays, which always kill diets. And then came the house-hunting and the move, which just threw everything into the Department of Nail Clippings and Used Vacuum Cleaner Bags (whatever that means).

I’ve only been on the wagon a little more than a week now, but already I feel better. Fewer headaches and my Sunday suit fit more comfortably at church yesterday. I feel so much better when I live this way. It’s a wonder I ever stop.

But I know why. Overeating provides a quick, intense thrill that trumps long-term satisfactions every time. It’s part of the human condition. Intensify the hunger and the satisfaction by an order of magnitude and you’ve got drug addiction. It’s how human beings are built. God intended us, with His help, to tame the beast and make it serve us. But that’s not our nature. It’s not what we were born wanting. We have to resolve to do it and then work at it.

Everybody knows this. Everybody knows that life is better if you eat less than you want and exercise more than you want. They know life improves overall if you cut back on the booze and leave the tobacco alone altogether. They know that the great pleasure of acquiring a skill comes from putting in the dog-work of the learning process. They know that our instinct is to trade long-term satisfaction for short-term pleasure, and that that instinct has to be tamed.

Except in one area. The worldling, the normal modern Westerner, will grant all those principles except in one area – the area of sexuality. When it comes to sexuality, they appear to believe that self-discipline is dangerous and pathological. Anyone who tries to bring his sexuality under control, they believe, is a Puritan. He is repressed and needs to be liberated.

I suppose it comes from Freud. Modern people claim to have no dogmas, but this one principle from the Gospel of Freud admits of no questions, no relativist reinterpretation. Sexual repression is always bad. It will hurt you. It will ruin your children. Flee puritanical temptations.

Maybe the next generation won’t have this tiresome blind spot.

Lars Walker

 
Spring Break
I think I'll take this week off to reflect and read more. I haven't been posting much anyway, because I've been reading to my wife, playing with my kids, and beating myself up. I do have reviews I want to put together, so I may have a flurry of good posts for next week or whenever I return. But you have to have something to say in order to write good posts, and I'm wondering if I have anything. I know that doesn't stop some, perhaps many, bloggers. It hasn't stopped me in the past, but lately it weighs me down.

So, I'm taking a spring break this week. Maybe I'll start writing one of the stories I've thought about for so long.

By His grace,

phil
 
Friday, March 17, 2006

The Black Angel by John Connolly

I remember resenting St. Patrick’s Day when I was a kid. Why the big deal about the Irish, I wondered. Why do they get a big celebration when the Norwegians don’t?

But I warmed to the Irish in time. I fell in love with their music, and when I started writing my Erling novels through the eyes of Father Ailill, I spent a lot of time trying to think like an Irishman [insert ethnic joke here]. There came a point when I almost started thinking I was an Irishman, which is just delusional and scary.

Anyway, I’m OK with the holiday now, at least in principle. Patrick was a saint even a Protestant can love. Hope you had a good day, all you Micks.

[Begin transition]

John Connolly is an Irish author…

[Close transition]

…but he writes about America, at least in his Charlie Parker books. The Black Angel is the first Connolly novel I’ve read. It’s well-written and fascinating, but I don’t think I’ll read another.

If I’d known it was a horror novel I probably wouldn’t have bought it. I took it for a private eye novel, which it is, in part. Connolly’s game is to put a hard-boiled detective into a Stephen King-style story. It works pretty well. My problem is that I just hate horror.

Charlie Parker lives in Maine. He is a private detective with personal demons in more than a metaphorical sense. His investigations tend to bring him into conflict with criminals genuinely possessed by demons, sociopaths far worse than the garden variety kind. A few years ago one of those sociopaths murdered Parker’s wife and daughter. Even today, when he is living with a girlfriend who has borne him another daughter (whose christening forms an early scene of the book) he sees their apparitions.

Parker’s best friend is very large black killer named Louis, who also happens to be a homosexual. It isn’t quite clear what Louis’ source of livelihood is, but it’s clear that he’s been a very bad sort in the past, though he has reformed somewhat.

Louis has a cousin named Alice for whom he feels some responsibility, because he killed her natural father years back. Alice has made bad choices and is now a prostitute and drug addict on the streets of New York. When Alice disappears, her mother travels to Maine to appeal to Louis, and Parker is drawn into the search through friendship with him.

It soon becomes clear that Parker has stumbled into another paranormal quest. There’s a mysterious silver box containing a piece of manuscript for which people are willing to kill. There’s a very fat man who kills people and consumes their souls in a Screwtapian manner, and an aged doctor who constructs statues out of human bones. And everything leads back to a monastery called Sedlec in Czechoslovakia, where monks once died to protect a terrible secret, and a powerful relic, one that has a personal connection with Parker himself, is hidden.

I liked and disliked the book. The Parker sections worked well for me. Good hard-boiled prose, well done. But Connolly jumps back and forth from first-person to omnipotent point of view, and I find that technique whiplash-inducing. And the omnipotent sections contain a lot of really nasty occult activities that I don’t care to read about.

I’m not sure what to say about it from a theological point of view. I’d guess that Connolly is a Catholic with DaVinci Code/Gnostic leanings. He hews fairly close to orthodox theology, but there are variations, and the whole thing just feels wrong. But there’s a moment of grace at the end, so I don’t want to be too judgmental.

It’s just not a series I want to go back to.

Lars Walker

 
Thursday, March 16, 2006

The fashion of slaves

(The following post was meant to appear Thursday night, but got delayed due to technical problems.)

The snow wasn’t as heavy as it might have been, but it was heavy enough. Tonight after work I spent my usual workout time working out in the yard, using a quaint device we call a “roof rake” in these parts to pull some of the snow off my roof, so that melting snow doesn’t freeze at the gutters and work its way under the shingles and insinuate its way into the tissue of my home.

If a house, like mine, happens to stand right up beside the driveway, that means all the snow on one side of the roof falls into the freshly cleared path, and has to be shoveled up. It was heavy snow, high in water content.

I noted that only one of my neighbors had bothered to do the same, which probably means that this late in the year the snow melts so fast that it’s pointless.

Still, I’ll need a roof rake next winter, and the way the aluminum market is running this purchase just now is probably a good investment.

A commenter on this blog has raised the question of slavery in reference to the Bible.

This is a subject I’ve done some research on, in connection with my books. I’m not a professional historian, but I’ve learned a few things. Not so much about slavery in the Bible as about slavery in the world in general, something most Americans don’t know much about.

The first thing to understand is that slavery is not an anomaly in human history. Our own society’s abolition of slavery is the anomaly. There have been very few cultures in the world – and those few very primitive – that did not practice slavery. Up until modern times the sophistication and greatness of a culture were almost always proportionate to its slave-holding.

This is because, up until the Industrial Revolution, slaves were the only labor-saving devices that existed.

If you had money and wanted to turn your attention to the finer things of life – philosophy, say, or painting or poetry – you had no choice but to buy and keep slaves. Otherwise you’d have to either pay free people to do the scut work (prohibitively expensive) or do the scut work yourself. If you’re growing your own food and caring for your own livestock and cooking your own food and cleaning your own house, there’s no time left for philosophy or painting or poetry. For that reason, great civilizations like the Egyptians and the Greeks and the Andalusians all had large slave populations.

Over the centuries a few people noticed that there was something wrong with this. The Epicureans of Greece, I’m told, disapproved of slavery. But they did nothing to abolish it. St. Patrick of Ireland, (consider this my obligatory holiday reference), himself a former slave, may have been (according to Thomas Cahill in How the Irish Saved Civilization) the first man in history to condemn slavery as an institution.

But nobody paid any attention. Somebody had to do the scut work. Slavery was the price of civilization.

It was the Industrial Revolution, not the evolution of higher human consciousness, that finally changed all this. The discovery and exploitation of steam, electricity and the internal combustion engine made it possible to let machines do the unpleasant jobs. It was now possible for the philosopher or artist to pursue his calling without unpaid human support.

It was only at this point that a number of people began to allow themselves to say what no one had dared to say before – “You know, you really can’t reconcile slavery with Christ’s Golden Rule.”

It took time for the idea to catch on. It caught on faster in the northern United States than in the South, due to a lag in mechanizing the cotton industry.

The arguments of the northern abolitionists were, of course, unanswerable. Slavery is completely incompatible with Christ’s teaching. The southerners tied themselves into interesting rhetorical knots trying to explain how holding black people as slaves was actually an act of charity, since the Africans (they asserted) were like children and needed to be taken care of (their Democratic descendents today use much the same argument to justify keeping black people perpetually on Welfare).

But James Watt had cut off slavery’s head when he built his first engine, long as it took for the body to die off (it actually still survives in some countries. Not Christian countries either, much as that will surprise the Left).

So when the Bible addresses slavery it speaks to a condition that has been an immediate concern for most Christians up until very recently (they were as often the slaves as the masters too). It might please prissy moderns if the Bible had used up space denouncing an institution that would go on existing for almost two millennia.

But it wouldn’t have been any help to the people actually suffering under its yoke.

Lars Walker

 
Walter Wangerin, Jr.

Gina at Novel Journey features the first half of an interview with Walter Wangerin, Jr. today. If you love The Book of the Dun Cow as much as I do, you'll want to read it and lift up a prayer for Wangerin in the challenge he's facing.

Lars Walker
 
St. Patrick's Day Quiz
As a service to our Irish readers, I direct your attention to this article in the Star Telegram of Fort Worth, TX, which asks which of the following "Irish" beers actually come from Ireland?
A. Guinness Extra Stout, "Traditionally Brewed /St. James's Gate, Dublin"
B. Guinness Draught
C. Murphy's Red
D. Michael Shea's Irish Amber
E. Original Wexford Irish Cream Ale
F. Harp
G. Killian's Irish Red, "The Official Beer of St. Patrick's Day -- Get Your Irish On!"

As a bit o' help, only one of the above is from Ireland.

 
Favorite American Poem?
What is the most popular American poem? What's your favorite poem written in the USA? Oxford wants to know. Vote for your favorite poem here. There are some good ones to choose from, but I think something from Longfellow should be on the list. "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day," maybe?

I won't tell you how I voted in this post, but it wasn't for the two most popular at the time.

[By way of Books, Inq.]
 
Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Hypocrisy Gambit, Part III

Today I stopped for groceries on my way home, and it seemed as if there were a lot of people in the store. More than usual on a midweek evening.

Then I remembered. We got a storm coming. They’re stocking up.

Another storm. The twin, according to the forecasters, of Sunday/Monday’s storm. It’s supposed to start this evening (though it doesn’t look to me like it’s rolled in yet) and continue through tomorrow morning. Accumulations may reach eight inches.

The weather man said on Monday that the snow can’t last long, because the sun’s so high this time of year that it just melts it right off.

But if it keeps coming at this rate, the sun won’t be able to keep up.

I hadn’t intended to do a three-parter on hypocrisy, but things keep occurring to me. Since I don’t play host to actual ideas very often, I’d better take advantage of it.

Our opponents in the culture wars would have us believe that the presence of hypocrisy invalidates all moral affirmations. “All those church people are hypocrites” (a famous complaint) is taken as proof that everything those church people believe must be false.

They’d even like us to think this is Jesus’ position. “Jesus condemned hypocrisy, didn’t He?” they’ll ask.

The answer, as usual, is “Yes, but…” (Nobody proof-texts like a liberal.)

Note what Jesus actually said about the issue: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.” (Matthew 23:2-3, NIV)

Do you see what He’s saying? The scribes and the Pharisees are hypocrites and stand condemned. But that does not invalidate the great rules they affirm. Their hypocrisy is evidence only against them. It says nothing about the Law.

The Law stands on its own.

The Law comes from God.

Lars Walker

 
The slippery slope in Ireland

According to this article from the London Times, the Irish have decided to abandon the wisdom of their ancestors (or their ancestors' rulers) and are annulling a large number of honest, sensible laws beautified by the patina of time.

Your funeral, Ireland. But if somebody serves you coffee with sheep dung in it, don't say I didn't warn you.

Hat tip: Mirabilis.

Lars Walker
 
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Oslo Woman Draws Beer from Kitchen Tap
As a service to our Norwegian readers, I must pass on this news. Last weekend, a woman went to her Olso apartment water faucet to clean up with nature's universal solvent. She got a sink full of beer instead.

Meanwhile on a lower level in the same building, a thirsty bartender asked his taps for some Oslo brew. He received the municipality's H20.

Somehow, the water and beer plumbing were switched by the bartender while replacing the beer tanks.

Hmm. Someone in a frat house somewhere in America is thinking.
 

The Hypocrisy Gambit, part 2

The sun was back today, but its salubrious rays fell on vast fields of white from horizon to horizon, and so were reflected back into space again, where they do no good that I know of.

There was some ice on my car hood, remnants of snow that fell on it yesterday and then melted overnight in the garage. After I’d driven a few minutes on my way home the hood warmed up, and some of those ice patches were blown off with a clatter, coming loose like the scales from St. Paul’s eyes.

That’s one of my few actual winter pleasures. I love it when that happens, for some reason.

Probably because I’m a hypocrite.

There was more I should have said about the Hypcrisy Gambit in my last post. Also there’s been some disagreement with my premise, so I’ll address that too.

It may be true that both liberals and conservatives make shameless use of ad hominem (personal attack) arguments nowadays. That hasn’t been my observation (except for the execrable Michael Savage), but I’m prejudiced. So I’ll stipulate to that. Nevertheless, I think the Left uses it more, and with more ruthlessness and effectiveness.

Evidence, you ask?

Look at who’s winning the fights.

Don’t talk to me about elections. Yes, conservatives have won elections. Yet the continual cry in our ranks is, “What have we gained?”

Is marriage stronger today? Is our society rallying around the nuclear family, encouraging couples to delay sex till after marriage, and encouraging them to stay together after that?

Is our entertainment cleaner and more uplifting?

Are our institutions of learning (higher or otherwise) friendlier to Judeo-Christian morality?

Ditto the news industry?

In purely cultural terms it seems to me indisputable that the Left has won every battle. And they confidently look forward to winning the rest of them with time, no matter who gets elected.

I believe that a major reason for these changes in public attitudes is the successful demonization of conservatives. You can see it in many ways – news broadcasts often speak of “the extreme right” but never of “the extreme left”. With a few blessed exceptions, if someone shows up in a movie carrying a Bible or quoting Scripture, you can be sure they’ll turn out to be either con men (if the screenwriter’s feeling broadminded), bigots or full-blown psychopaths. Educational curricula are careful to catalogue every sin of western Christianity, but they gloss easily over the dark sides of other cultures and religions.

I think the Hypocrisy Gambit is a major component in all these phenomena. Enter into a discussion of any moral or cultural issue and you know what happens.

If we talk about abortion, we’ll be told, “You talk a big talk about protecting children, but you don’t do anything to help mothers take care of unwanted children.”

If we talk about marriage, we hear, “Yeah, heterosexuals aren’t doing so great with the divorce rate. You’ve got no business preaching to anybody about the sanctity of marriage.”

If we talk about the Iraq war, we’re told, “What right does America have to depose a dictator, when we’ve propped up so many dictators over the years?”

All of these are versions of the Hypocrisy Gambit, writ large.

The answer to the Hypocrisy Gambit should go like this, I think (I wish it could be stated more concisely to fit on a bumper sticker. Bumper stickers are the primary form of civic discussion in our day): “A serial killer may be open and frank about his serial killing, and therefore no hypocrite. But that does not make him an admirable man.”

Lars Walker

 
The History Behind The Da Vinci Code

With the enduring popularity of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code and its upcoming movie adaptation, many bloggers and teachers have addressed the bad history in it. (Note this DVD from Ken Boa on the novel and the history. Also note Amy Welborn, who has a new book focused on Mary Magdalene.) I thought I'd address some historical matters too which, as I understand it, are the main appeal of Brown's novel. Sure, it may be a fun story, but most fans appear to be excited about the dismantling of accepted church history.

  1. Could Jesus have possibly survived the cross and lived happily ever after? No. There were plenty of politically powerful people who wanted him dead. There were hundreds of people of various economic levels who wanted him alive. Had Jesus survived the cross and moved away his disciples would have followed him and proclaimed the Kingdom of God in a new city.
  2. But those statement are based on the Bible and that's unreliable. No, the Bible is as reliable a history of the first century as anything we have, even more than Julius Caesar's writings and (I think) Plato's writing. We have great evidence to show that what we have translated into English and available at many bookstores is what the original writers intended to communicate. But the Bible stirs people up by claiming to be the Word of God, so critics try to destroy its credibility.

We could go into more detail, but there are the basic facts. Brown's thriller is based on myths which appeal to those who dislike the Bible's message and don't care for sound history.

 
NY Times Tells It Straight
Describing The Da Vinci Code, a NY Times reporter says the novel "has been denounced by some Christians angered at what they say are its heretical ideas."

Some Christians, eh?
 
Said then the lost Archangel
. . . Farewel happy Fields
Where Joy for ever dwells: Hail horrours, hail
Infernal world, and thou profoundest Hell
Receive thy new Possessor: One who brings
A mind not to be chang’d by Place or Time.
The mind is its own place, and in it self
Can make a Heav’n of Hell, a Hell of Heav’n.

- from Milton's Paradise Lost
 
Monday, March 13, 2006
Shout Out
Praise to Mind & Media for the new blog design from Natalie Jost. Much cleaner design.

Hey, Lars, have you heard of Godbit Project? I just did and saw a small Norwegian connection.

And I see you were called out by Gene E. Veith in relation to Adherants.com. How does it feel to be on a list with Dr. Seuss and Walter Wangerin?
 
European reality check

From Front Page Mag, a review of a new book by a homosexual writer who got a rude awakening when he moved to Europe.

Welcome to the real world, neighbor.

Lars Walker
 
Author Martha Grimes on Mysteries and Da Vinci Code
In an interview with the News & Observer, Mystery Author Martha Grimes comments on other mysteries, PD James, and The Da Vinci Code:
Q - What is your next book called?
A - I never tell anyone the title of the book before I finish it, although I always know the title before I begin. . . .

Q - Do you read mysteries in your spare time?A - Yeah . . . but I ordinarily really do not like series. I find them boring. I think the trouble is that most mysteries, and certainly series mysteries, are plot-driven. They are books in which the writer could easily have written an outline. They're driven by the plot instead of being driven by the characters. P.D. James is a really, really good writer. Actually, it's P.D. James' other books that I like more than the series.

Q - Have you read The DaVinci Code?
A - I'll tell you how much I read before I just couldn't stand it any longer. I think I read maybe 75 or 100 pages. And his writing is so terrible. I just couldn't get over the cliches. I couldn't get over the bad description. I mean, he had a terrific idea going, but it just amazed me that this thing was so popular. And I can only assume . . . people were getting sort of an education in art, in the Bible and all that stuff. People really like that. People like to think that they're not wasting their time.
 

The Hypocrisy Gambit

I like to eat a bowl of oatmeal each day, in the futile hope that I can stave off that inevitable coronary by a few minutes, someday. Unlike most people, I eat my oatmeal as part of supper, because I like my breakfast to be protein-heavy.

When I lived in my apartment I cooked the bowl in the microwave for one minute, twenty seconds. That heated the gruel well without exciting it overmuch (who wants excited oatmeal?).

In my new house, I’ve found I need to cut that time down to one minute, fifteen seconds. Otherwise it boils over.

It’s the same microwave oven. I don’t think the few feet my present kitchen stands above the level of the old one would account for a "high altitude" difference.

Apparently we just have a better grade of electricity here. Maybe it comes from Venezuela or something.

What did I say about March weather? Huh? What did I say?

Yesterday it was spring. Today it is winter. That’s what happens in March in Minnesota.

The snow started coming in last night, and it continued falling until around noon. Schools closed. Businesses opened late. It looks like about 5 inches to me (I can’t get Weather Underground to actually give me snow totals. I haven’t found the place where they hide that information).

The Bible School held classes as usual, since the students are mostly right there on site, warehoused in the dorms. I left for work a little early, tootled along pretending my four wheel drive works, and made it to the library at my usual time. Personal inconvenience was minimal.

But I don’t want it to be winter anymore.

This is one of the things I hate about Minnesota weather.

And, oddly enough, it’s one of the things I missed when I lived in Florida.

Today I shall expound a little on one of the neatest tricks the Left managed to pull off in the Twentieth Century. By means of this rhetorical device they managed to silence their opponents, wrap themselves in a mantle of righteousness, and seize power in almost every field of political, artistic and informational endeavor.

This rhetorical device is the Hypocrisy Gambit.

The hypocrisy gambit goes like this:

A conservative makes a moral statement like, say, “I think eating one’s young is evil.”

The liberal replies thus: “You conservatives! You’re always judging people! Are you so perfect? You've never broken one of society's rules? What right do you have to lecture anybody about morality? What have you done lately to help the poor or liberate the oppressed in our society? You’re a hypocrite!”

At that point many conservatives slink away, stabbed to the heart by the secret knowledge of their own sins. The liberal has managed to shift the discussion away from a moral debate to a personal ad hominem attack. And the conservative, especially if he’s a Christian, is susceptible to this, because our Lord has warned us not to be like the Pharisee in the temple.

A more contentious conservative is likely to reply something like this: “That’s beside the point. Nobody lives up to his morality in everything.”

That’s when the liberal plays his trump card. He says, “I do. I believe in doing whatever feels good (sometimes he’ll add “as long as it doesn’t hurt anybody”). That’s my total moral position. And I obey it all the time, every day.”

This has been an extraordinarily successful gambit. By its means, people who live solely by their appetites, people who have been despised in almost every culture in the history of the world, have been able to present themselves as moral exemplars. Their hero is Howard Stern, who claims that because he says all those things the hypocrites only think, he is the only man in the country with real integrity.

The weakness of this device is that it produces a society full of scoundrels in the end, and such societies inevitably fall, to be replaced by something more rigorous.

I’d rather see us reformed than overthrown, though.

Lars Walker

 
Saturday, March 11, 2006

A senseless waste of a day

This day so far has been an expensive wash-out, except in terms of practical education.

(The weather, by the way, is great. Not as bright as Thursday, but temperatures are in the 50’s. It’s overcast with occasional flashes of blue and gold.)

The ancient, original bathtub in my house has been dripping at the spigot in a minor way since I moved in. I figured I’d have to dig out my household do-it-yourself book and replace the washers one of these days. Today, I decided, would be that day.

Also the kitchen faucet appeared to be coming apart in two pieces. I figured I’d replace that too (that’s also covered in the book).

I carefully read the instructions, then ran out to the nearest hardware center for tools and hardware. I spent about a hundred dollars.

After several hours and two trips to a closer, local hardware store, I have learned the following:

  1. The plumbing in my bathtub bears only an incidental resemblance to the diagrams in my book. The place where the washers go seems to be recessed into six inches of inaccessible copper pipe. I’ll have to take a second mortgage out and call a plumber.
  2. My kitchen faucet appears to be an integral part of the sink. It cannot be removed without taking the whole thing out. On the bright side, it seems that turning the stem tightens the thing up and solves the problem (for now).

If God wills, I’ll get over my frustration sufficiently to do something positive about unpacking this evening.

You don’t have to tell me. This is what it means to be a homeowner.

Lars Walker

 
The Beautiful Spanish
I don't listen to NPR often, but I did catch this audio commentary by Cuban-born describes some of the beautiful expressions of her strain of Spanish. You know, there are many ways we can criticize pop culture, but I think one of its insidious influences is its steamrolling of beauties in language and creative expression. We don't want homogeneous entertainment, art, and language in America. We want creative freedom to celebrate life, love, truth, goodness, beauty, and community. We're healthier with this diversity. - phil
 
Friday, March 10, 2006

Without an audience

Hooray! I emit this uncharacteristic expression of jubilation because I have DSL again. A representative of my ISP called me today to say I’m now cleared for high speed at my new location. I was able to plug my old equipment in and fire ‘er up.

Of course my old equipment is two years old now. That’s geriatric by internet standards. So they’re sending me a shiny new DSL modem. I have every confidence that when I try to use that one it won’t work, and I’ll have to spend six hours on the phone with Customer Support. And I’ll have to repeat the process twice more after that.

Last night I watched Without a Trace on television. It’s part of my usual viewing cycle, not because I’m in love with it but because it follows CSI. And I enjoy Anthony Lapaglia’s portrayal of a dour FBI team leader with poor social skills (can’t think why I’d appreciate that).

Also the Hispanic chick they just added to the cast is really beautiful.

This episode was apparently an experiment, a change of pace. As a break from their usual menu of tragedies and frustrated hopes, they did a feel-good show.

It was about a female advice columnist, played by a very appealing redhead whose name I didn’t catch. She disappears from her apartment. The first twist is that she’s an agoraphobe. She hasn’t left home in two years, and now she’s gone.

Then we learn that she has forced herself to go as a kindness to her assistant. Her assistant bought a birthday gift for her father, but decided not to take it to him because she’s a lesbian and her father disowned her.

Then we learn that the father is a mafia don.

Then we learn that the columnist herself is a repressed lesbian, and that she forced herself to take the gift to her assistant’s father because she’s in love with the assistant.

And in the end we had a sort of comic, Wodehousian resolution where the don turned out to be a big ol’ softy and gave them both a big ol’ hug, and the two girls gave each other a big ol’ kiss.

Awww.

And I sat there and thought, “This is why I’m giving up on TV. I’ve cut my cable without noticing much loss, and I believe I’m losing interest in television in general.”

It’s not because I’m furious and disgusted by watching two cute lesbians kiss each other.

It’s because I don’t care.

I don’t care whether the girl gets the girl. I certainly don’t care whether a boy gets a boy.

And as various entertainment media deem it necessary to improve my morals by feeding me more and more homosexual-themed entertainment, I feel more and more drawn to old books.

It’s not anger.

It’s plain disinterest.

Lars Walker

 
Abuse or Tough Love at Jesusland?
Sherry posts on her outrage at the allegations in Julia Scheeres' memoir, Jesus Land. She says the book is filled with stereotypes and the typical stories bitter non-Christians tell about real and imagined people who are stupid enough to believe the Bible. In some eyes, everyone is a hypocrite. But are Scheeres' allegations true? Sherry hopes a responsible news organization, like World Magazine, will investigate.

Sherry has posted the response from the director of the New Horizons, the school in the memoir.
 
Thursday, March 09, 2006

Deceitful Thursday

Today was lovely, at least the time I spent out in it. It was warm (up near 50º) and bright. That combination doesn’t happen often in winter, even in late winter. Driving home from work, the sun shining like June, it was easy to imagine that winter was over.

But we know better. Oh yes, we know March from of old.

A day like this is like a dame in a noir film – all soft and warm and smooth and willing. But if you trust her, if you allow yourself to say, “Baby, I’d do anything for you,” she’ll take a pull on her Lucky Strike and say, “Well, I’ve got this husband who needs bumping off…”

No, we’ve seen days like this before. We don’t have the option of running away from them, Joseph-and-Potiphar’s-wife-wise, but we don’t have to trust them. We remember that March is part of winter. We know that March is statistically the snowiest month of the year.

Fortunately, unlike the case of the noir dame, there’s no sin in enjoying this particular doxy, while she hangs around.

I showed the second half of Shadowlands to the Christian Classics class today. I wasn’t happy with the TV screen set-up I’d used for the first half, so I brought in my deluxe rig – the digital projector I use when I give PowerPoint lectures, connected to my laptop, with the sound running through my boom box. It was extra trouble to lug the stuff in, but I was happy with the results.

I hurried to get the movie started so we’d have a little time for discussion afterwards. I figured there’d be plenty of fodder for questions there – the issue of divorce and remarriage, which is still a live issue in our fellowship, and the larger issues of love and pain and death, and “how can God allow evil?”

But the only question I got was how Lewis got along with his stepsons. I threw in some facts about Joy Davidman as a free bonus.

I suppose I shouldn’t have expected kids just out of high school to be as moved by the story as I am.

And there was the fact that we only had five minutes before the bell rang.

Lars Walker

 
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
Da Vinci Code: Author Retracting Statements
Essentially, Michael Baigent is saying, "let me take that back."

The lawyer defending Random House and Dan Brown against a lawsuit by two authors of a related work, which was far less popular than it became after The Da Vinci Code captured readers' imaginations, confronted Baigent with his claim that many reviews of Dan Brown's book noted the similarities between it and his earlier work, supporting his claim that Brown copied Baigent's central theme for his novel. The lawyer charged that the reviews did not support that claim. Baigent reportedly said, "In that case, you are correct . . . I think my language was infelicitous, and I think I have to agree with you on that."

At one point, the judge asked Baigent why he was retracting statement to which he swore only several hours ago. Baigent replied, "I did not read them (book reviews) with the correct assiduity as I should have done." - phil

Tag:
 
...Any club that would have someone like me for a member

Tonight when I try to access this blog, I get a message saying I am forbidden to access this server.

I can post, apparently, but I'm not permitted to read.

I blame the Patriot Act and the neocons.

Lars Walker
 
Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Shadow lesson

Today I substituted as teacher for a Christian Classics class at the Bible School. It wasn’t a major challenge from a pedagogical point of view, since I’d only been asked to show the class a movie related to a Christian literature classic. In my ongoing effort to always be entirely predictable, I showed the students the original BBC version of the movie Shadowlands (I’ve blogged about this production before. I consider it head and shoulders superior to the theatrical version, except for Deborah Winger’s performance as Joy Davidman the second time around).

The movie must be about twenty years old by now (I can’t seem to find a copyright date), so I was afraid the students would find it slow and talky. But they seemed to take a real interest in it, and they laughed in all the right places. We only had time for the first half, so I left them with Joy writhing on the floor in pain. We’ll see the rest on Thursday.

(By the way, the version I linked to on Amazon seems to be the abridged 73 minute version. I don't recommend that one. My version has the abridged one plus the original 90 minute version, which is what I'm showing the class. I bought mine from a Christian movie seller, and for the life of me I can't remember its name.)

When you think about it, I’m a lot like C.S. Lewis. Except that he was famous and I’m not. And he was a professor and I’m a librarian. And he was clean-shaven and I wear a beard. And he lived in England and I live in America. And he had deformed thumbs. And I can drive a car.

Never mind.

Lars Walker

 
And Now . . .
A man with a harmonica up his nose.

Oh. I'm sorry. The man appears to be out for the moment, so allow me to refer your attention to the Ministry of Silly Walks.

Thank you. (What? No, no. Not at all. Thank _you._)
 
Monday, March 06, 2006
Cyrano de Bergerac
Forgive me if this displays profound ignorance, but until tonight, I knew of Cyrano de Bergerac, the fun, romantic character of Edmond Rostand's play, but I did not know of Cyrano de Bergerac, the French novelist on whom the play was based and whose birth day is today in 1619. Cyrano wrote a couple "philosophical voyages," which appear to be something along the lines of Gulliver's Travels.
 
Travel Guides to Nowhere
Yesterday's NY Times has a report on best-selling authors of video game guides.
The challenge for the industry's two biggest publishers — Prima Games, a division of Random House, and BradyGames, a subsidiary of Pearson — is how to capitalize on computer technology without being undone by it. In a world of virtual play, they want to prove that a physical book is the best, most effective sidekick.
One author says, "It's like writing a travel guide to a place that doesn't exist."
 
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