- Roy Jacobsen, on his blog "Writing, Clear and Simple"
Author and pastor Doug Wilson has a lengthy post big-named Christians, ghostwriting, and plagiarism. He's had to deal with plagiarism accusations in the past and he describes some of them:
One of my first books was one called Persuasions. In that book I have a character compare monogamy to buying a musical instrument and learning to play it, which is not like buying a record album and being stuck with listening to just one album over and over again. Years later I had a friend tell me he was disappointed that I had used C.S. Lewis’s analogy when he thought I was fully capable of coming up with my own. But I had no idea I was borrowing from Lewis. I am sure I got it from Lewis, and had used it in many witnessing conversations, and then when I wrote a book of witnessing encounters, in it went.This reminds me of some devotional emails I used to write. One man praised my writing highly twice, both times after I had simply forwarded a portion of a Puritan prayer printed in The Valley of Vision. I thanked him, but wondered if he thought what I had just sent out was mine. I'm still not sure.
Other times I use something consciously. I conclude my weekly homily at the Lord’s Table with a phrase I got from John Bunyan — “come, and welcome, to Jesus Christ.” Should I feel bad about not saying, every week, “as Bunyan once said . . .”? But I don’t feel bad.
Author and pastor Tim Keller talks about writing as a pastor, recommending young pastors to give all of their time to their ministry and plan to write later. They can write short pieces now, if they feel compelled to write, but he suggests they wait for greater maturity before they tackle whole books. He also recommends reading:
That is far and away the most important discipline. You must read widely in general for years before you become capable of recognizing good writing. And then before you write a book on a subject, you should read 20 or 30 good books on the subject carefully and skim another 20 or 30. If you just read three or four (and refer to another three or four), your book will be largely a rehash and will offer few fresh insights.
Missionaries supported by my church, Dave and Eowyn Stoddard, serve in Berlin. I urge you to pray for them and read this remarkable post on what Eowyn calls the bullying of demons. She writes:
Satan was not playing fair. Now the shock turned to anger. I scanned the recesses of my brain. What had seminary taught me about demonic activity? I couldn't recall any class where we had discussed anything remotely similar to what we were experiencing. "Demonology 101" wasn't even offered! But seminary did teach me not to panic in the face of theological conundrums. It gave me a lens through which I could see everything from the perspective of God's sovereignty.
Every Viking reenactor, unless their given name is something like Ulfljotr Bjørnhjaltrsson, needs to choose a Viking name. My first name was easy to figure out -- "Halvdan" means "half Danish," which is close enough for a Norwegian with one Danish grandfather. But for my last name (or patronymic, properly) I was thinking of using "Jordensson." Because my father's name was Jordan. I shall explain the spelling discrepancy.
My grandmother once told me she named my dad after a guy she knew growing up in Iowa. I assume that guy's name was Jorden, which is a respectable Scandinavian name not related to the biblical river in any way. This guess is reinforced by the fact that, although Dad's birth certificate (which I have somewhere around here) says "Jordan," his baptismal certificate (which I've also got) spells it "Jorden."
My problem is I'm not sure if Jorden is a Viking Age name. I did a little web searching, in English and Norwegian, trying to find the history of the name. How far back it goes.
To my surprise, it's not listed in any of the Norwegian (or Danish; I checked) name lists. There's one list which claimed to have every name carried by more than three people in Norway, and Jorden didn't make it.
There are three guys named Jorden in America. A name search that came up told me so. But not in Norway.
So the name has gone out of fashion to an amazing degree in its homeland. This might have to do with embarrassment. "Jorden" means "earth" -- in the senses of both the planet and dirt. Also it's pronounced "urine," which is awkward for English speakers. Which most Norwegians are nowadays.
Still, it amazed me.
Andy Crouch discusses the flak flying over some of Mark Driscoll's publications. Sure, some material was used inappropriately, but is this a plagiarism problem? "There is something truly troubling here, in my view," he writes. "Not that 'Pastor Mark Driscoll' carelessly borrowed a section of a commentary for a church-published Bible study, but that 'Pastor Mark Driscoll' was named as the sole author of that Bible study in the first place."
He points to St. Paul's use of scribes and partners and the unique credit given in Romans 16:22.
Prolific writer and author John Piper has taken to Twitter on this: "If lying is the 'industry standard' reject it. Come on, famous guys, if someone writes for you, put the plebe’s name on it." For more, see Warren Throckmorton's blog for many details.
I figured it all out today. I was talking to a fellow in the library, and I got onto my little speech (which I've given in this space before) about the big difference between English and German.
German is famous for long, long words. But those words can be broken down into their constituent parts and analyzed by any moderately educated German speaker. This gives the language tremendous precision.
In English, our long words tend to be borrowed from Latin. And hardly any of us speak Latin anymore. So most of us don't know what our long words mean.
This has contributed tremendously to the obfuscation of our discourse.
It makes it possible to sound very intelligent in English without making any sense whatever.
In other words, it has given us modernism.
So all we have to do to reclaim the culture is to start teaching Latin again.
There, I've figured it out. I leave it to you to work out the details.
First off, I have to apologize and say that you'll be seeing slow posting from me this week, or none at all. I have a major paper to write for my Library Science class, requiring my undivided attention.
Meanwhile, I direct you to our friend Hunter Baker, who posted a very thoughtful piece today on the minimum wage controversy, and Christian compassion in general.
During a recent visit to twitter, I happened across a post from a noted Christian academic. He had composed the kind of pithy remark which is tailor-made to launch a hundred admiring retweets. Paraphrasing slightly, it was something like this: ”Conservatives, don’t talk to me about family values if you doesn’t endorse a minimum wage increase.” I am sure that he thought it was a pretty high-powered zinger.
The problem is that there is no necessary connection between family values and increasing the minimum wage....
The men behind Dr. Boli's Celebrated Magazine have an interview on The Catholic Book Blogger. If you've every wondered what kind of wondrous ponderer the writer behind Dr. Boli must be, here's a small glimpse. Both Mr. Bailey and Dr. Boli give their thoughtful answers. Mr. Bailey says:
Dr. Boli’s last name is etymologically the same as mine. The Baileys were a Pennsylvania Dutch family from York County who originally spelled their name Böli (or Behli or Beli—they’re all pronounced “Bailey” in Deitsch). The face of Dr. Boli is actually a photograph of Samuel Bailey, my great-great grandfather. And the name “Henricus Albertus” is a Latinized version of my grandfather’s name, Harry Albert Bailey. As I tell you these things, my grandfather is spinning in his grave like a top, because he had no idea his family was German: he fought the Germans in the First World War and hated everything German for the rest of his life, right down to the “dirty German dark bread” at the bakery.They go on to discuss a new book, Dr. Boli's Gift Horse
Emma Coats, formerly a storyboard artist with Pixar, has taught storytelling for a few years, I gather. Her 22 principles of storytelling have been on the Interwebs for a while, but I don't believe I've linked to them here. They are very good.
#4: Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.For a different perspective, award-winning author Paul Harding has a few ideas of what makes fiction work. "Fiction is about immanence. We are beings who experience our selves in time and space, through our senses. Fiction persuades its readers that they are reading something artful by immersing them as fully as possible in the senses and perceptions, the thoughts and actions of fictional lives."
#5: Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You'll feel like you're losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.
#9: When you're stuck, make a list of what WOULDN'T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.
Author Barnabas Piper also chips in his two sense, saying it's the boring parts that make the whole story work. "World-class novels are not composed of email responses and traffic jams and grocery shopping. But without such things the characters would never get where they needed to go and be who they need to be."
The Council of Nicea. I think St. Nicholas is the bald guy with the book on the right. Photo credit: Hispalois.
Our friend Dr. Paul McCain of Cyberbrethren quotes another friend of ours, Dr. Gene Edward Veith today, reprinting his classic account of Saint Nicholas (whose feast day is today) slapping the heretic Arius.
During the Council of Nicea, jolly old St. Nicholas got so fed up with Arius, who taught that Jesus was just a man, that he walked up and slapped him! That unbishoplike behavior got him in trouble. The council almost stripped him of his office, but Nicholas said he was sorry, so he was forgiven.
Dr. Veith goes on to make some constructive suggestions concerning new Christmas slapping customs we might adopt.
It made me feel kind of cheap The man was sincerely trying to kill me in a fair fight, and I was just setting him up for a bullet. Well, it’s not a chivalrous age, nor is mine an honorable profession. I wasn’t about to risk turning loose a wild man with an army and a nuclear missile because of some boyish notions of fair play.
For some time a cadre of readers has been clamoring for the re-release of Donald Hamilton’s 1960s Matt Helm novels, which have suffered from neglect, probably due in great part to the memory of those lame old movies with Dean Martin, which are as much like the original books as Paris Hilton resembles Conrad Hilton. Aside from the hero’s name and his cover identity as a photographer, the movies are nothing like the books. Matt Helm was often called an American James Bond in his day, and the comparison is a good one. He’s a tall, blondish fellow, a Scandinavian-American born in Minnesota(!). He works as an assassin for a super-secret American spy agency. My impression, on the basis of reading this one book, The Ambushers, is that the Helm novels are a little grittier than the Bond books (no tuxedos or casinos here), and just a tad more humane.
In this outing, we find Matt in a fictional South American country, setting up a sniper shot to kill a rebel leader, at the invitation of the local government. In the aftermath of his success, the government forces liberate a prisoner of the rebels, a female American agent who has been tortured. Back in the states, he finds himself ordered to go to Mexico to clean up a loose end from the previous job, and through a train of circumstances finds himself teamed up with the same female agent he helped rescue, almost reluctantly helping her to recover from the trauma.
I enjoyed The Ambushers very much, and have already bought The Death of a Citizen, which is the first in the series. Donald Hamilton was a writer of solid prose with a good sense of character and a mordant wit. Some mature content, but due to the age of the book it’s pretty mild by contemporary standards. Recommended.
I didn't mention it directly in the "Writing for others" post below, but I linked to a Patheos.com post on plagiarism and personality-based leadership. In that post, Miles Mullin linked out to this week's context: Janet Mefferd accusing Pastor Mark Driscoll of plagiarism in his most recent book and later, other publications. He links out to evidence of this charge, which allows you to judge some of the material for yourself.
Now, Mefferd has retracted her accusation and removed her blog with the evidence and the interview in which she made the accusation entirely. You can read her apology here.
Update: In her apology, Mefferd did not "evangelical industrial complex," but her producer, who just resigned over all of this, did. Ex-producer Ingrid Schlueter wrote, among other things: "I hosted a radio show for 23 years and know from experience how Big Publishing protects its celebrities. Anything but fawning adulation for those who come on your show (a gift of free air time for the author/publisher by the way) is not taken well. Like Dr. Carl Trueman so aptly asked yesterday in his column at Reformation 21 [sic], does honest journalism have any role to play in evangelicalism now? (It was rhetorical.) My own take on that question is, no, it does not."
All of this is ugly, but since it's public, I'd like a clearer explanation than what has been given at this point. Some commenters are saying the silence of certain writers and leaders is telling, but I don't think it's telling what they think it's telling. I suggest it's telling that these leaders don't want to assume guilt and start shooting.
The final episode of Agatha Christie's Poirot has aired, though I doubt I'll see it for many months, if not years. Netflix only has shows as recent as 1995 so far. LARB has a lengthy review of the series with many quotes from David Suchet, who has worked very hard to present the truest performances of Christie's Poirot ever. Molly McArdle writes:
As a character, Poirot has had a curious shelf life. He certainly doesn’t have the name, or visual recognition that Holmes enjoys. He also lacks that detective’s cold elegance, the kind that drives even very reasonable people into gif-making hysterics. Still, Poirot’s appeal endures. Between 2004 and 2005, for instance, the anime series Agatha Christie's Great Detectives Poirot and Marple had a 39-episode run in Japan. In its 25 years, Agatha Christie’s Poirot has been broadcast in 100 countries and dubbed into 80 languages.A little trivia: Suchet played Inspector Japp in the CBS production of Thirteen at Dinner with Peter Ustinov as Poirot. Suchet says it was his worst performance ever, but it helped get him the part in the A&E series.
Poirot with Hastings by ~CeskaSoda on deviantART
Kevin DeYoung talks about a pastor's responsibilities and possible conflicts with writing books and articles. Among other good thoughts, he says, "I’m glad I read Martyn Lloyd-Jones before I ever wrote a book because I can hear the Doctor in the back of my head saying, 'The pastor is first of all a preacher and not a writer.' There is nothing wrong with being a writer first, but that’s simply not the calling of a pastor."
He notes what a wonderful privilege it is for people to read anything you've written, which is a good reason for a writer to get over himself.
On a related note, Miles Mullin writes about contemporary tribalism among evangelicals. "This is the troubling reality of the personality-based leadership that encompasses much of American evangelicalism. Often, charisma and dynamic communication skills trump character and integrity as popular appeal wins the day," he observes. Like fans of sports teams who argue over purely subjective judgements, fans of preachers and writers defend their leaders against any accusation, sometimes even against obvious sins.
I do not understand that discipline called “Ethnography,” which seems to me the validation of a prejudice by means of an excursion.
One can no more understand the operation of other cultures from observation than can one so understand the sexual act.
Observation, in the case of each, is missing the point, and Ethnography, or “Anthropology,” rests on a false assumption: that one may be free of prejudice.
Hugh Hewitt interviewed David Mamet, the legendary playwright who has recently “come out” as a conservative, a couple weeks ago. They were discussing this book, Three War Stories. They concentrated on the first story of this collection, The Redwing, which Mamet described as a novella dually inspired by George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman books and Patrick O’Brien’s seafaring novels. So naturally I had to buy it.
This is one of those profound, densely packed works that probably ought to be read multiple times, and I’ve only read it once. But I enjoyed it, particularly the iconoclastic elements, which are many. I’m just not sure I entirely grasp the themes.
The Redwing is a very complex story, ostensibly narrated by a former sailor, galley slave, and spy who later became the author of popular novels based on his own adventures. He does not tell his story directly, but as a series of commentaries on his books, with which he assumes the reader is already familiar. So we have to piece his real story together, in non-chronological fashion. Thus we’re dealing with a story on numerous levels – “factual” (though fictional) notes on a fictional work, based on supposedly factual events. This allows the author to play with the problems of the veteran who has a need to tell his story, but not all of it. He protects his country, first by risking his life, and then by concealing part of the truth from it.
Notes on Plains Warfare is an examination (which I thought extremely apt) of the dynamics of a war in which one side had a strong moral case, superior tactics, and greater resolve, but was crushed by an opponent simply more numerous, technologically superior, and more pragmatic. It is presented in the form of another memoir, by an American army survivor.
The last story, The Handle and the Hold, is a more matter-of-fact story, a little more linear than the other two, about two Jewish friends, a cop and a gangster, who join together to do a secret mission for Israel shortly after the end of World War II.
Definitely worth reading, but more work than the fiction I usually review. Cautions for language and mature subject matter.
- N.D. Wilson, an author more of us should be reading, explains the fundamental flaws in The Hunger Games. Self-sacrifice? Not hardly. "Revolutions," he says, "are not started by teen girls suicide-pacting with cute baker boys. Oppressive regimes are not threatened by people who do what they are told."
- George Eliot writes, "And when we stood at length and parted amid that columnar circuit of the forest trees, beneath the last twilight of starless skies, I seemed to be gazing … on a sanctuary with no Presence to hallow it, and heaven left lonely of a God." She is being quoted in this brief post on art without God and what that means for morality.
- A father of boys and girls talks about their roles in the world as informed by Star Wars and other movies. There are many problems with his brief presention, which I'm sure a worldview class could pick apart for a month, but I think he asks some good questions and makes a fair point. What is a girl to take away from watching Star Wars? Hope the boys fight well so she can reward them in the end? What should a boy take away from that movie? That he must fight to win and get the girl in the end? (And to touch on one problem with this presentation, may I ask why I should assume patriarchy is wrong? Is it that men are mostly wrong?)
“He sort of looked mean, but in a hygienic, Minnesota way.”
Just recently I reviewed John Sandford’s more recent Virgil Flowers novel, Storm Front, and noted that that book’s light tone, and the fact that nobody got killed in it, typified the less serious quality of the Flowers books, as compared to Sandford’s hugely successful Prey novels.
After reading Mad River, I need to modify that observation. Storm Front was a diversion. The Flowers books by and large are plenty violent, though the depravity level is perhaps a notch lower.
Mad River is a story about a killing spree in south central Minnesota towns, perpetrated by a trio of young losers – a couple on their way to nowhere and a slacker friend. Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agent Virgil Flowers is tasked with heading up the effort to stop them, and he’s desperately trying to keep them from getting killed by the local cops, not so much out of professional ethics as because he suspects a murder-for-hire angle, and he needs them to tell him who paid them.
The whole thing is pretty unpleasant. Sandford accomplishes the difficult task of making these stone killers somewhat sympathetic, but I’m not sure whether I’m grateful for that. There’s some humor, but it’s mostly the graveyard variety. The writing's good, the characters well drawn and complex. But all in all it was pretty depressing.
Recommended on technical grounds, but I can’t say the book was much fun. Cautions for violence, sex, and language.
Addendum, 10:12 p.m.: I just remembered what irritated me most in this book. At one point Virgil, addressing a group of people, uses the pronoun "Y'all." This is absurd. Virgil is a native Minnesotan, speaking to other Minnesotans. We do not say "y'all" in these parts. I'm certain Sandford knows this. I can only assume the word was inserted by a New York copy editor.
Also this from Ray Bradbury: Read the rest of this entry . . .
"Home to Thanksgiving" by Currier & Ives, 1867
“He who sits by the fire, thankless for the fire, is just as if he had no fire. Nothing is possessed save in appreciation, of which thankfulness is the indispensable ingredient.” (W.J. Cameron)
I’ve used that quotation for Thanksgiving before, but it was a long time ago. On the old web site, I think. Anyway, I like it.
It occurred to me today how closely thankfulness is connected to faith. One of the most common hindrances to faith—at least in my experience—is worry about the future. “Things are all right just now,” I say to myself, “but what about tomorrow? Being thankful feels too much like complacency. I have to keep my eye out for what’s coming down the road.”
This is one reason, I suppose, why Jesus tells us to cast no thought upon the morrow. Worry kills thankfulness, and lack of thankfulness destroys our spiritual perspective.
So have a blessed Thanksgiving. I hope you spend it with people you love. Or, alternatively, that you love the people you’re spending it with.
And eating sweet rolls, Ho-Hos, and Ding-Dongs. Just watch your fingers on those pages.
Jeremy Olshan gives us advice on making money found in great novels. "Don’t expect, however, to find explicit tips on spending, saving and investing baked into the texts like messages in fortune cookies. Novelists and dramatists seem suspicious if not disdainful of those who dole out advice about money — which is perhaps why, when they do offer worthwhile personal-finance counsel, the words tend to be put into the mouths of imbeciles."
Here are his gleanings:
- Read Defoe to understand money. In Robinson Crusoe, the narrator finds a drawer full of gold while searching his ship's wreckage. "I smiled to myself at the sight of this money: 'O drug!' said I, aloud, 'what art thou good for? Thou art not worth to me, no, not the taking off the ground; one of those knives is worth all this heap; I have no manner of use for thee; e’en remain where thou art, and go to the bottom as a creature whose life is not worth saving.' However, upon second thoughts, I took it away."
- Read Trollope and Dickens to spot the next Bernie Madoff. "Rereading these Victorian novels," Olshan writes, "I’ve been struck, in a way that never occurred to me in high school or college, by how often the plots turn on bad financial decisions."
- Read Eliot and Flaubert before swiping that credit card. "Emma Bovary isn’t brought down by cheating on her doctor husband but by racking up ruinous amounts of debt."
- Read Dickens to learn the difference between saving and hoarding.
- Read Tolstoy before heading to the car dealership. "The old poker player’s adage that if, after a few minutes at the table, you can’t tell who the sucker is, it’s you, is more or less true in every financial transaction."
Irene Gallo, an art director with Tor Books, went to their press building in Gettysburg, PA, to see A Memory of Light (Wheel of Time, Book 14) being printed and bound. "The whole process looked like a marvelous bit of Suessian-magic to me, with long conveyer belts that doubled up and looped around," she says. (via Loren Eaton)
Speaking of Mr. Eaton, his 2013 Advent Ghost Storytelling is up.
“Okay,” she agreed, turning her eyes to the valley, lost in a blue haze of morning mist. “I don’t know about you, but my life has ceased to have linear chronology.”
This is the book I’m so proud of — the first book I borrowed electronically from the public library for my Kindle, thus dragging myself, kicking and screaming, into the 21st Century. The Spirit Well by Stephen Lawhead, third in his ongoing Bright Empires series. I’ve enjoyed the previous books, and I enjoyed this one, once I’d acclimated myself to it. Which is a bit of a challenge. It’s hard enough picking up a sequel to a book you read a year ago; it’s worse when the book purposely messes with time lines and has a large (and growing) cast of characters.
The central character of the series is Kit Livingstone, who was initiated by his late uncle into the art of jumping around in space and time (and alternate universes) through the use of “ley lines” – geographical locations that focus cosmic forces (or something like that). There are also the adventures of his former girlfriend Mina, who got stranded in 16th Century Prague but did quite well for herself, thank you very much, as well as various descendants of Arthur Flinders-Petrie, an archaeologist who had a map of the ley lines tattooed onto his torso, which is now preserved in what is called the Skin Map, for which good guys and bad guys are desperately searching.
Good stuff. I’m not sure whether I recommend reading these books now, though, or waiting for all five to be published so you can read them in a string and reduce continuity difficulties. Whatever you do, read them in sequence.
I note that Lawhead includes several positive Roman Catholic characters here, so he seems to have gotten over the contemptuous anti-Catholicism that was apparent in some of his earlier books. I also noted, with surprise, some problems in word choice – at one point he uses the word “approbation” to mean the opposite of what it really means. He also has a male character speak of “humankind” rather than “mankind” in a scene in the early 20th Century. This isn’t impossible, but it seems anachronistic.
Still, good stuff, and I think Lawhead is better in this sort of genre than in epic fantasy. Recommended.
The trouble is that modern art in various ways abandoned imitation, representation, naturalism, and it now has to make out a case for its products’ still being truth. This is where science—certain aspects of science—are seized upon, assimilated, or sometimes simply plagiarized in decorative words, so as to bolster up art’s claim to cognitive value. One such use—and it is a curious reversal of Aristotle—is the boast of factuality: the work of the artist is said to be research; his creations are findings.
—Jacques Barzun, The Use and Abuse of Art (1971)
Maureen Mullarkey expounds on this remarkable idea in one contemporary art exhibit series, WeakForce.
I saw the new Thor movie, Thor: The Dark World, this weekend, and I suppose I ought to review it. I find it hard to express an opinion, because I can’t find much handhold. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it – I had a good time. I was well entertained. But I’m left without any strong impression. Lots of action, lots of CGI, lots of interesting visuals (some locations shot in Norway’s Lofoten Islands), but I came away with no great emotional response.
One problem is the clearly contrived nature of the central problem of the plot. Long ago, the Dark Elves (who, I must admit, look more like elves than the Jotuns looked like jotuns in the first movie) fought a great war against the Aesir gods, and were ready to unleash their doomsday weapon, called Aether, which is supposed to have the power to destroy the whole universe. But the gods forestalled them by some stratagem I didn’t quite understand, and now the Aether is locked away in a secret place. But a dark elf named Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) has recently re-awakened, and is plotting to reclaim the Aether, in a plan that comes to involve Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), Thor’s (Christ Hemsworth’s) love interest from the last movie. There’s a big attack on Asgard, and Thor defies his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) in a desperate gamble to defeat Malekith.
One part I did enjoy was how the sibling rivalry issues were portrayed in Thor’s relationship with his adopted brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), who is first of all a prisoner, but then enters into a desperate alliance with Thor. I was troubled by the killing off of a couple important characters, which messes with the source material (both mythical and comic book).
When all was said and done, I didn’t come away with any feeling that the movie had transcended its sources, as I did with the first movie.
So I recommend it, but not in the highest terms. Cautions for lots and lots of comic book violence.
In my American Literature class, professor Ruth Kantzer instilled in me a love for the Bay Psalm Book. I could hear the music, like you can below, but the words, translated for singing, captured me. At first, I believe the congregations and families sang without instruments, so what we have below came many decades later.
One of the 11 original copies of the first book printed in America will be up for auction tomorrow at Sotheby's. The video above will give you some details. You can buy your own copy here: Bay Psalm Book
Today I used my Kindle Fire HD with the Overdrive app to borrow and download, for the very first time, a book from the Hennepin County Library (one of Lawhead's, if you care). I'm a student of library and information science, you know, and this is how I stay on the cutting edge.
What have I learned in my class so far? The most disturbing thing is that all that stuff we're digitalizing to "preserve it?" It's all crumbling to dust. CDs, DVDs, floppies, tape, every single digital medium deteriorates over time. As I recall they give the average CD-ROM a little over 20 years.
The most stable media for preserving data remain, for the time being, archival quality paper and microform.
Just to give you something to worry about tonight.
C. S. Lewis' grave in Holy Trinity churchyard, Headington Quarry, Oxford
Photo credit: jschroe
I’m going to alter my long-established custom of always posting about a days’ commemorations in the evening of that day, which means most of you read it the next day. Tomorrow is the fiftieth anniversary of the death of C. S. Lewis (also of a couple obscure characters named John F. Kennedy and Aldous Huxley).
I was, of course, around when it happened, in junior high if you must know. What did I think when I heard Lewis was dead? I’m not sure, because I wasn’t aware of his death date until years later, long after I’d become a Lewis enthusiast. I do remember the day though, because of the Kennedy thing.
But I’ve written about that before. I’d like to just recall what Lewis has meant in my life. It occurred to me today that Lewis was himself my Wardrobe, the portal through which I entered a larger world.
I was educated, like most of my friends, in Lutheran colleges which are now under the umbrella of The Very Large Lutheran Church Body Which Shall Remain Nameless. But, unlike a large percentage of my friends from those days, I neither apostatized or became a liberal. It was Lewis who made that possible (with the help at a later stage of Francis Schaeffer). The Lutheran schools I’m speaking of had then, and I assume still have, one single purpose in their religious education curricula, and that is to destroy all Christian faith in their students. But Lewis (though no biblical inerrantist) showed me that embracing orthodox Christianity doesn’t mean giving up reason. I clung to reason, and I clung to the faith of my childhood.
You yourself may approve or disapprove of that course on my part, but as for me, it’s one of the things I’m thankful for as Thanksgiving approaches.
Someone on Facebook posted a link to an article (not sure if it was this one; there are several out there) about this newly unveiled portrait of the Danish royal family, produced – though this seems incredible – at the family’s request, apparently.
If somebody did a portrait of your family like this, would you pay them?
I made a crack on my friend’s comments about how this is actually considered cheerful in Denmark, home of Hamlet and Kierkegaard.
But in fact I think it’s more ominous.
As a certified amateur artistic wiseacre, my immediate interpretation of these spooky figures, backed up by classical ruins, was that the purpose would seem to be to portray the royal family as doomed, a crumbling remnant of an outmoded social order.
And I bet the royals understand that, but know that pointing it out would just open them up to accusations of trying to suppress artistic expression.
But even more, it struck me that the composition reminded me viscerally of another famous royal portrait. This one: Read the rest of this entry . . .