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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
OK, here they are, in the order they occur to me:
I know you’re laughing.
But you’ve got to respect the courage it took for me to share this.
The boringest blog post ever
It’s Friday in
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!
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
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
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.
Now go away. I want to take a nap.
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
The problem is that sometimes the Waiting Father can’t help the Prodigal Son.
Sometimes the Prodigal Son just dies.
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
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!
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.
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
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
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.
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.
John Connolly is an Irish author…
…but he writes about
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.”
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.)
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.
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
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
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).
But I don’t want it to be winter anymore.
This is one of the things I hate about
And, oddly enough, it’s one of the things I missed when I lived in
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Today I substituted as teacher for a Christian Classics class at the
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
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."