All posts by Lars Walker

The weenie horror

Mowed the lawn tonight, for my evening exercise. The grass was kind of wet. I don’t like to mow wet grass as a rule, but they’re predicting more rain tomorrow and Friday, so if I don’t do it now I’ll have to hack my way through it with a machete (or my new saex), like Ramar of the Jungle.

Anybody out there remember Ramar of the Jungle? I actually recall it from re-runs, but it got re-run a lot. My primary memory of the show is how the characters would be hacking their way through the jungle (with machetes, not saexes), and somebody would pause and point off to the right or left. Then the film would (with extreme clumsiness; you could almost hear the projector clunk) switch to stock footage of lions or giraffes in the savannah. It appeared that they almost never went anywhere in the jungle except along the edge, where it bordered the savannah.

Which raised the question, why not just walk through the savannah, and save yourself all that hacking?

I wanted to link to this post by Gaius over at Blue Crab Boulevard. Partly because I think it’s a pretty clever comic pastiche of Conan Doyle, and partly because the news story that sparked it just makes me mad.

This, in my opinion, is the real problem with increasing government “compassion and care” in our lives. It put this kid’s parents in an impossible situation.

The law allows parents to do only one thing to discipline a kid – talk sternly to him. That’s it. Anything more would be child abuse and get them into Really Big Trouble.

So the only thing the neighbor who found the kid a nuisance could do, in a situation where Stern Talks weren’t working, was report him to the police.

And the police have only one weapon – they put people in jail. Which is what they did with this kid. It was insane, and I’ll bet everyone involved knew it was insane. But the law – the law intended to protect the child – left them with no other option.

This is what happens when the government becomes the parent. The world is full of horror stories about traditional families that abused and mistreated children (I have a story like that of my own). But that’s how freedom works. You get a small percentage of excellent homes, a large middle of middling homes, and a small percentage at the bottom of very bad stuff.

But when the government raises the kids, Churchill’s description of economic systems kicks in. He said Capitalism is the unequal distribution of wealth, and Communism is the equal distribution of poverty.

Traditional families are an unequal distribution of good nurturing. But government parenting is the equal distribution of dysfunction. Has anybody raised in a government institution ever grown up well-adjusted?

Dead Simple, by Peter James

I’ve just got to share this post from Junkyard Blog. Not all pictures are worth a thousand words, but that one is.

I picked up Dead Simple by accident. I’d intended to check a book by J. J. Jance out of the library, having not tried her work yet, and through inattention I went home with the book that had been shelved right next to the volume I meant to take. Once I got it home and discovered my mistake, I figured I might as well give it a shot.

I’m not sorry I did. It was an interesting and well-plotted book. I can’t give it the highest accolades, for reasons I’ll explain, but it kept me turning the pages.

The set-up is tremendous. Michael Harrison is a young English entrepreneur. He makes a lot of money and lives in style. He’s about to marry a gorgeous woman whom he loves very much.

When the book begins, Harrison is half-unconscious in the back of a van, pub-crawling with his buddies as part of his bachelor party. Michael has been a ruthless and rather cruel practical joker, especially in relation to his friends’ bachelor parties, and they have a dandy revenge in store for him.

They put him in a coffin (one of the friends works at a mortuary) and bury him in a shallow grave with a bottle of whiskey, a dirty magazine, a flashlight and a walkie-talkie. There’s an air tube to keep him from suffocating. The plan is to leave him there for a few hours, then dig him up again.

Except that there’s an accident, and his friends end up either dead or in a coma.

And when Michael’s partner, who missed the party because of a delayed flight, comes home and hears the news… he does nothing at all. In spite of the fact that he knows Michael is buried out there somewhere.

I love a neat set-up like that. And James keeps the tension rising, revealing information to the reader in careful, cruel doses. When you think things can’t get any worse, they do.

The hero of the book is Detective Superintendent Roy Grace of the Sussex Police (I wish James had chosen another name. Whenever I read “Grace said…” I think of a woman). He’s the most interesting character in the book. A man alone (his beloved wife simply disappeared a few years back), he lives mainly for his work. The big handicap in his career seems to be his advocacy of the use of psychic evidence in his investigations.

Needless to say, that’s a problem for me. I consider most (perhaps all) psychics frauds. If any are not frauds, then they are in contact with dangerous spiritual forces, and anyone who contacts them is putting himself in severe peril. The author’s bio on the flyleaf says that Peter James has a “deep interest” in the paranormal.

This is not quite “playing the game,” by the rules of traditional detective fiction. Dorothy Sayers, in her essay “Problem Picture” in The Mind of the Maker, quotes the following question asked of applicants to the Detection Club:

PRESIDENT: Do you promise that your Detectives shall well and truly detect the Crimes presented to them, using those Wits which it shall please you to bestow upon them and not placing reliance upon, nor making use of, Divine Revelation, Feminine Intuition, Mumbo-Jumbo, Jiggery-Pokery, Coincidence or the Act of God?

CANDIDATE: I do.

Of course times have changed, and Miss Sayers wouldn’t have cared for a whole lot of what goes on in mysteries today. But I can’t help thinking that appealing to the supernatural in what is presented as a standard mystery is a bit of a deus ex machina. I think I’d feel the same if prayer were used similarly in a Christian mystery (but who knows? Maybe I’m deluding myself).

Detective Grace’s tentative attempts to begin dating again, in his rare free moments, provide an appealing subplot, helping to flesh out what is really the only fully-rounded character in a plot-driven book.

But the plot is driven very well indeed.

All in all an entertaining novel, but I have no great desire to read more by the author.

Serious noms de plume

It was a rainy weekend, and today was rainy too. Almost constant, soaking rain. This is good (except for the folks in the southeastern part of the state who suffered flooding). Up to this weekend, we had below average rainfall. Now suddenly we’re above it. I hope it’s not too late to help with the crops.

It did put a damper on our Viking Age Society’s annual Viking Youth Day event, held at the Danebo Hall in Minneapolis, under the sponsorship of the Sons of Norway. We had both indoor and outdoor activities planned, but it ended up being only indoor. Some kids came (with their parents, of course), but they all went home after lunch, and we left ourselves shortly thereafter.

Discovered something fairly disturbing today. James Lileks at buzz.mn mentioned that great impersonator, “Iron Eyes Cody,” (the “crying Indian” in the famous environmental ad), who turned out, on closer examination, to have been a second-generation Italian-American. The Snopes article he linked to contained a further link to this piece about “Forrest Carter,” author of Gone To Texas, the novel that was the basis for one of my favorite movies, The Outlaw Josie Wales. Turns out that Forrest Carter was in fact Amos Carter, an active white supremacist well known to the FBI.

I never read The Education of Little Tree (Carter’s putative autobiography), but I read Gone To Texas, and I’m not sure I perceived all the subliminal racism the author of that article seems to find in it. I did note one wrong note in the book, though. Lone Watie, the character played so well by Chief Dan George in the movie, describes himself as a “Cherokee. Full-blooded, I reckon,” in the book.

I knew this was misleading, because historically the full-blooded Cherokees sided with the Union (Lone Watie fights with the Confederacy). It was the mixed bloods who, by and large, owned slaves and supported the South. I’m not sure what point was served by that misdirection, but it struck me as odd at the time. Perhaps Carter had a message of racial separation in mind.

Carter was far from the only author to obscure his real identity. A famous example was B. Traven, author of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. To this day, nobody’s sure who the heck he was.

Maybe that’s what I ought to do. I’ve pretty much sputtered to a halt as Lars Walker. Maybe I should re-invent myself as Luisa Wahlid, a Mexican-Pakistani lesbian living in this country illegally, forced to live in hiding (in a carbon-neutral compound in Oregon) because the CIA is trying to assassinate her for knowing too much about Bush’s lies in Iraq.

Nah, I expect it’s already been done.

What I meant to say

I missed a step yesterday. As I re-read my post, I thought, the transitions here, from Elvis to Rock ‘n Roll to my personal navel-gazing to fear, aren’t flowing properly. But I had other things I wanted to do, so I let it stand.

But now I remember I’d wanted to say something about fear. Something positive, difficult as that may be to believe.

First of all, I was going to say that, in case you were wondering about my problems with book orders in the bookstore due to the internet being down, that it all got worked out. The IT guy came up and burrowed under my desk a while, and then went down to the server and discovered that the problem was there all the time. So I got my service, and all the orders were placed on Thursday (except for the orders of that one instructor who never gets his orders in until just before classes start. I figure if he can live with it, I can live with it).

I employ a mixed media approach in ordering books from publishers. I use the internet to research the books, learn the publishers and ISBN numbers, and after I’ve transcribed all that information on a spread sheet, I call the publishers’ 800 numbers to actually make the orders. It seems to work best for me that way.

And that’s remarkable, under the circumstances. Because I hate calling people on the phone. When I first took this job, the phone calling was one of the duties I dreaded most. It’s related to my Avoidant problem, as you’ve probably guessed.

But I got past it. After I’d done it a couple times, I learned that if I was prepared, making the calls with my orders wasn’t all that difficult.

I need to highlight this in my mind, which is why I highlighted it above. Within my personal scenario, the warped lens through which I look at my life, there is no place for improvement. I see my life as a place where everything is going downhill. Nothing ever gets better. Instead, the inevitable slide takes me, eventually, to the place where I lose my job, my home, all my friends and family, and end up wandering the streets yelling at imaginary enemies.

But this got better. I actually improved at something. I overcame a fear.

I’d better stop now. If I write any more, I’ll find a way to sabotage it.

Have a good weekend.

Elvis, Hauge and fear

Everyone’s talking about Elvis today, the 30th anniversary of his death.

I have nothing particular against Elvis, except that his stuff never did much for me.

I never got Rock ‘n Roll. Rock ‘n Roll is for adolescents, and I never really was one. I was a kid forced to act like a grownup before he was ready. I didn’t actually become a grownup, I just got stuck at the “kid playing adult” stage for the rest of my life, which is how it works when you do that. So I think I lacked some emotional components necessary to appreciate the genre.

Also, of course, R&R is about sex. Teenagers are excited about maturing, and their music expresses that. Me, I was terrified of what was going on in my body. I was pretty certain that I’d never get a lawful outlet for it (I was right), and I tried to deny the whole thing as long as I could.

I liked soaring, symphonic music that raised my spirit to eternal things, and causes worth dying for. “The Theme from Exodus” was my favorite song.

I think Mel Brooks is overrated, but I appreciated one running gag in his “2,000 Year Old Man” act. Carl Reiner would ask him where something—pretty much anything—got started, and Brooks would say, “Fear!”

Fear controls us more than we like to admit (even I, who admit it all the time). Writing a story? Want to know how to motivate your characters?

Ask two questions—“What does he want?” and “What is he afraid of?”

The answer to the first question will tell you what the character will do. The answer to the second question will tell you how he will do it.

Another thing that impressed me in my reading of Hans Nielsen Hauge’s autobiography (see yesterday’s post) was the fearless way he went about his ministry, doing stuff that nobody in his country had ever dared to do before.

It’s a measure of the depth of his Christian conversion that he became a man almost without fear—or at least a man whose faith conquered his fear.

Hauge was the first man in Norwegian history—one of the first in Europe—to decide that he wasn’t obligated to obey his rulers all the time. The principle that “we must obey God rather than men” is a biblical one, but it was taken for granted in those days that the king ruled by God’s authority, and so there could be no conflict. The law (a very sensible one in many ways) said that all religious preaching and instruction had to come from an authorized representative of the state church. Otherwise, you’ll get nuts running around preaching heresy and nature worship and reincarnation and witchcraft and a lot of other nonsense. Which did, in fact, happen in the end, so you can’t say their concern was unreasonable.

Hauge harkened back to a principle of Luther’s—that a plowboy with his Bible had more authority than all the popes and councils that ever met. Convinced of this authority, Hauge went out to do whatever good he could—spiritual or material—for his neighbors.

He was warned. He was arrested. He was beaten. He was thrown out of towns. But the conviction of his heart and his study of the Bible weighed more in his eyes than any intimidation or violence.

There was a Danish/Norwegian author named Axel Sandemo who invented what he called “janteloven,” the Law of Jante (which is a fictional city, based on his Danish birthplace, in his stories). It’s a series of rules that would be familiar to many people, Scandinavian or not. It’s sort of a Lake Woebegone thing. Some of the janteloven rules are:

You shall not think you are anybody.

You shall not think you are as good as we.

You shall not do anything to give the impression that you are better than we.

You shall not think you are worth anything.

You shall not think you can teach us anything.

Hauge fell to the janteloven in the end. They put him in a cell, where it was dark and cold, and they gave him nothing to do, and nothing to read (except the works of Voltaire), and they kept him from his friends. Year after year. Finally they let him go, sick and old before his time, but not before they’d gotten him to confess that he’d gone too far. He’d taken things to extremes. He’d been a bad Lutheran and a bad citizen.

He never recanted his faith (they didn’t want him to), but he recanted a part of his vocation. He wanted to walk under the sun again, to see things growing in the soil, to talk with fellow believers.

But the thing that really broke his heart, according to what I’ve read, was that they convinced him (it was hard, but they did it at last) that the king was against him.

It’s hard for us to understand today what the king meant to the peasants through most of European history. The king was not an oppressor. The king was their friend. The common people loved the king. Every man who suffered injustice knew in his heart, “If I could just get to the king’s ear, I’d get justice.”

“If the king thinks I was wrong, then I must be wrong,” Hauge thought.

And yet he won in the end. That bent, white-haired, toothless old man of fifty was nevertheless the future of the country.

Kind of like Elvis, I guess.

A Christ-like man

A lot of people think we’re behind the times at the seminary/Bible school where I work, and right now they’re right, at least technologically. Our computer network has been down since Monday. The timing couldn’t have been much worse for me. This is the week I’d planned to order textbooks for the fall, and I use the net extensively for that job. I can do most of it the old-fashioned way, I guess, with catalogs and phone calls, but I expect the network will be back up before I get far into that process, so I’m… delaying.

I’ve been looking at a book in the archive, a selection from the writings of the Norwegian lay evangelist Hans Nielsen Hauge. I’ve written about him before, and will probably write about him again. He was an important historical figure in a fairly unimportant country, so he’s not very famous except among Norwegian Lutherans. But he was a remarkable man, a true original and a Christian to his toes, and reading his story in his own words only reinforces that opinion in my mind.

[Short overview, for those of you who don’t want to read the Wikipedia entry: Hauge was a farmer’s son with a minimal education. In the 1790s he began traveling as a lay evangelist, urging people to repent, be converted, and live lives worthy of Christ. He also wrote books of edification, which he got printed and mostly gave away. His activities were illegal, and Hauge was arrested repeatedly, finally being sent to prison from 1804 to 1811. This broke his health and shortened his life. His movement, however, proved to be revolutionary. Under his teaching, the common people began to improve their education and to get involved in business, industry and politics.]

The first thing that impressed me was that he was an essentially cheerful man (remarkable in a Norwegian, but there it is). The stereotype of the Haugeans, built up over generations (and generally true), is of extremely dour people who frown on all pleasure and love to find opportunities for dressing their neighbors down. Hauge was definitely a Type A, obsessive about using every moment profitably (he even learned to knit so he could make stockings as he traveled on foot from place to place. I’ve seen a pair of his stockings in the Folk Museum in Oslo), but he was an optimistic Type A. When faced with a challenge, he assumed things would go well. When he met people, he assumed they would treat him well. He never feared the law, because he was convinced his good king would never oppose God’s work. He was a genuinely charming personality.

In a famous incident, during one of his early, temporary arrests, he was confined in a bailiff’s house. A girl was sent in. Hauge says she was sent to “mock him.” I have to assume the idea was seduction, to get evidence of hypocrisy against him. Most of the Haugeans I grew up with would have had a fit at that point. But Hauge didn’t lecture the girl. He spoke to her quietly, and in a few minutes she was weeping.

Then they sent in a crowd of people, led by the bailiff’s wife and a fiddler. The fiddler struck up a dance tune, and the rest of the people started dancing. The bailiff’s wife took Hauge’s hand and invited him to dance.

Hauge said, “I’ll join you if you’ll have the fiddler play this song—” and he began to sing an old hymn (he’s said to have had a beautiful voice). The dancing stopped immediately, and Hauge began to talk to the people. He doesn’t say that he converted any of them, but he says they began to take pity on him, and some said they wished they were like him.

I have found no incident in the story, so far, where Hauge “dresses anybody down.” He had a spirit of gentleness, always seeing Christ in people, even the crudest and most depraved. And it was that vision of Christ in others that made him bold to speak the gospel to them.

Freddy and Fredericka by Mark Helprin

Mark Helprin is one of those slow novelists who brings out a moving, life-altering book every decade or so, like a geological fault spawning earthquakes.

This is probably good, for two reasons. First of all, it’s really depressing for an ordinary author like me to read something as perfect as a Helprin book. It makes me feel like a junior higher who’s just discovered The Lord of the Rings and sets out to pen his own epic on his laptop, in a really neat font he downloaded off the web.

Also, it’s a fact, too often overlooked in the publishing industry, that you can’t produce a superior book like one of Helprin’s in a year. Or two. Even three.

It’s worth the wait.

My favorite Helprin novel (the same as pretty much everybody else’s) has got to be Winter’s Tale. My second favorite is probably Memoir From Antproof Case. A Soldier of the Great War is tremendous, but the tragic elements were too much for me. I haven’t read Refiner’s Fire (got to look for that).

But I think Freddy and Fredericka has supplanted MFAC as my second favorite. Briefly put, it was a delight from beginning to end.

Think of an Evelyn Waugh novel, written by P. G. Wodehouse. That’s the British part.

Think of a Tom Wolf or Mark Twain novel, also written by Wodehouse. That’s the American part.

The final segment, back in England, is merely sublime and moving.

It’s been a long time since I’ve laughed out loud, again and again, over a novel. But Freddy and Fredericka did that for me.

Here’s the (ridiculous) premise: Freddy and Fredericka are a fictionalized version of Prince Charles and Princess Diana. Names have been changed to protect the innocent, but it’s impossible not to recognize the royal family here as the one we know in our own, slightly inferior world.

Freddy seems, perhaps, a bit more solid than Prince Charles. He is strongly traditional and conservative in his opinions. Sound fellow. However, he has a problem. He is prone, sometimes because of irresistible impulses, and sometimes because of what Jeeves used to call “a concatenation of circumstances” to do ridiculous things in public that get him onto the front pages of the tabloids, such as (for instance,) trying to get back in through the gate of Buckingham Palace, stark naked, tarred and feathered, with a takeout chicken box on his head.

Fredericka, on the other hand, seems even more vapid and photogenic than her real world prototype. (At one point she asks Freddy, seriously, “What is a raw egg?”) On the other hand, she seems to be something of an airhead savant. She has bizarre flashes of brilliance, doing complex algebra problems in her head, for example.

My favorite line of her dialogue: “Lord Louey sent me a book on compassion that I have to read because he wants me to be the author.”

Because of the bad press, and because he has failed an occult family test to determine his worthiness to rule, Freddy and Fredericka are sent on a quest.

They are to parachute into New Jersey, incognito, clad only in rabbit skin bikinis, to win the United States back for the Commonwealth.

Piece of cake.

What follows is a satiric and affectionate odyssey through America, in which F & F (totally unrecognized by people who’ve been looking at their pictures all their lives) take odd jobs, ride the rails, serve as forest rangers, impersonate dentists, and Freddy becomes a speech writer for a presidential candidate (who bears no discernible resemblance to Bob Dole, despite the fact that Helprin himself was chief writer for his campaign, something I suspect even he would admit is not the highlight of his résumé). Like all good travelers, they learn not only to love the new country, but to love their own country better through it.

And the final chapters, when they go home, are deeply moving, filled with hope for the world.

One only wishes Prince Charles really were Freddy. And that Di had been Fredericka, of course.

I don’t award stars to books, but if I did I’d add a star for this one. Get it. Read it. Laugh. Be touched. Thank me later.

You’ll probably just want to skip this post

The family reunion went great. Fine weather, good turnout. Everyone was genial, and nobody said anything to offend me.

And yet I went home miserable.

Well, what do you expect? I’m me.

It started out fine. I drove down early to catch the 9:00 a.m. service at my old home church. Even when I got corralled into joining an impromptu quartet of relatives to sing “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” for the special music, I figured the experience couldn’t have been much worse for us who had to sing than for those who had to listen to us. Attendance was summer light, but the church was comfortable and I enjoyed the sermon. (The theme was “Be ye faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life,” in case you’re checking up on me.)

Then I drove out to the farm where the reunion is held nowadays. We had a couple hours yet before lunch, but I helped set up chairs and chatted with a few cousins.

Then people started arriving, and it got more difficult. Not bad. I was doing OK, though there are only three questions anyone asks me:

1. “Making any more trips to Norway?” (Answer: “No. I’m house-poor now. I may never get back to Norway again.”)

2. “Writing any more books?” (Answer: “Yes, but my publisher dumped me and my agent went belly up, so I’m back at square one.”)

3. (This one was only asked once, but was unquestionably posed silently by many:) “Now that Cousin X has surprised us all by getting married after all these years, are you gonna surprise us too?” (Answer: “Probably not, because I’m crazy in a way that women find particularly off-putting.”)

But I was holding up OK, until my brother Moloch casually mentioned something he said I’d said a long time ago, that I didn’t remember saying, and of which I’m ashamed now that I know about it.

That was when the trapdoor opened, and I plunged down—not into emptiness but into sewage, a noxious mixture of fear of other people and loathing of myself. I pretty much shut down for the rest of the afternoon, mostly just speaking when spoken to (which means, in all probability, nobody noticed any difference).

I drove home as soon as I could get away, and went to bed early.

I can’t even handle a pleasant afternoon with family. I wonder if I’m sliding toward complete agoraphobia. Which would be a bad thing for someone who doesn’t have anyone to sponge off for his upkeep.

I’m somewhat better today. It was a low fall and a quick bounce-back. But of course the bounce-back always ends up a little lower than the place where you started.

Beyond dispute

Tonight Hugh Hewitt (who obviously hates me) messed up my evening walk by broadcasting a debate between David Allen White and Christopher Hitchens over the existence of God.

This isn’t what I want in an exercise partly designed to lower my blood pressure. So I had to switch to the cassette function of my Walkman. I climbed down in the basement to find a cassette that hadn’t flaked off all its oxidation. I found an acceptable Sissel tape, and so saved the walk.

I hate arguments. If the Calvinists are right, and I’m not among the elect, I expect Hell to be a room full of people arguing at the tops of their voices forever. I shrink inside when people argue. I don’t have to be one of them. My fetal-position instinct kicks in.

I admire logic and disputation. I have immense respect for men like C. S. Lewis, who could go at an argument with a colleague for hours, then laugh and share a beer with him. That’s the way it ought to be. Questions should be talked out to the bitter end, all permutations nailed down, and there should be either consensus or an agreement to disagree. And no one should bear hard feelings.

Wish I could do it.

In harmony with this theme, my doorbell rang tonight, and there was a young woman “organizing the neighborhood for NARAL.” Last year they sent a tattooed, one-armed lesbian with her female “bodyguard.” This year’s representative was more presentable, though she avoided avoiding a cliché by having a stud in her nose. No visible bodyguard.

How does she dare go out alone like that, in a country steeped in rape and violence against women?

Anyway, I told her I wasn’t interested and backed away. She asked me why not, and I told her, “I’m pro-life.”

“I’m a sexist pig,” I added, as I closed the door.

That’s my zinger. I pull out the insult I expect from my opponent, and I use it on myself, to disarm them. “Your feeble bullets have no power over me, because I just shot myself!”



It doesn’t even make sense to me.

But let’s not argue about it.

Have a good weekend. I’m down to Kenyon for the biennial (semiannual?) every two year Walker Family Reunion on Sunday.

I thought of saying I’d share pictures, and then I thought, “Why?”

Intriguing story from Sweden

I’m a little later than usual tonight, as I had to go to the dentist for my semiannual (I think that’s right. Can’t be biennial, can it?) check-up and cleaning. Since I know you’re keeping score, you’ll be relieved to know that no cavities were discovered. However there is that tooth with the old root canal that’s going to crumble like an abandoned house deck in Florida one of these days. And there’s the other tooth that’s mostly amalgam, which also needs replacement. But I put them off. I always think that I’ll maybe have some money six months from now.

If you go to this page (which you probably can’t read because it’s in Norwegian), and scroll down (unless you’re reading this article in the future, when everything’s down in Archive territory), you’ll find a story headlined, “Homoprest nekter å vie enkjønnede samliv.” Which means, “Homosexual pastor refuses to bless same-sex relationships.” I’ll translate the rest for you, because this is really interesting, and I can’t find a report in English anywhere:

Homosexual priest Erik Johansson of the Swedish (Lutheran) Church has chosen to live in celibacy. Johansson refuses to bless same-sex relationships, even though this may lead to his expulsion from his own church.

Unfortunately this web site charges you to get the rest of the story, but I really want to know more. It seems to me this is precisely the way it ought to be. A homosexual willing to submit to the same sexual morality the Bible demands of all of us, which in his case means celibacy, is qualified to operate as a pastor and upholds Biblical teaching. Maybe I’m missing something, but this guy sounds like a hero who ought to be celebrated throughout the evangelical world.

Tonight, my imitation of Scrappleface

(San Francisco) Democratic presidential contenders vied with one another to declare defeat in their own campaigns today, in a candidates’ forum sponsored by the non-partisan group Childless Gays for Education.

“I’ve been campaigning for almost eight years now,” said Sen. Hillary Clinton, “and frankly I’m demoralized. The cost has been tremendous, and I see no guarantee of success further down the road. I’ve decided it’s time to admit defeat and go home to New York.”

Sen. Barack Obama did not delay in picking up the theme. “We hear sensational stories about possible devastation to the country under four more years of Republican government. I consider that unlikely. I support the Democratic party and its operatives one-hundred percent, but the best thing we can do for those patriotic men and women is to bring them home before they’re completely brutalized by this inhuman struggle.”

John Edwards retorted, “You guys are behind the curve. I gave up months ago. I began a phased withdrawal of my campaign workers back in March. It’s been clear to me for some time that, with our present national consensus that no fight is worth the trouble unless it can be finished in a few weeks at practically no cost, this campaign is a quagmire and a waste of time. I feel that the best thing I can do for the Democratic Party is to concede to the Republicans right away. And I’m doing that tonight.”

Schoolboy memories

Better today, thanks for asking. Went to bed early last night and slept hard until the alarm woke me. It was almost worth the deprivation of the previous night to enjoy such luxurious, concentrated sleep.

Here’s an interesting (interesting to me) post from a blog called Shape of Days. The author employs some language I wouldn’t use myself (be warned), but it was interesting to see another blogger writing about his emotional disorder. Indeed, his problem, Borderline Personality Disorder, is a cousin to my Avoidant Personality Disorder. I believe AvPD used to be diagnosed as Borderline, until they refined the criteria, or something.

His problem seems to be more severe than mine, which is some comfort, I guess. He blames it on a “brain defect or malfunction,” and I’m pretty sure mine, on the other hand, stemmed from simply growing up in a crazy environment, where I had to learn crazy behavior to survive. My first mistake was in choosing my parents. The second mistake was that I seem to have run into some remarkably toxic adult authority figures on my way up (or whatever way I was going).

Chief among these was Mr…. I’ll call him Mr. Woundwort. He was football coach and physical education (we called it Phy Ed in that time and place) teacher for our Junior/Senior high school, which meant he was licensed to poison my life for six full years.

The man was a sadist. That wasn’t just something his football players said as a joke after drills. Everyone knew he was a sadist. He was mean at the core. There was a story, a bit of schoolboy folklore, that said he’d accidentally killed his own brother when he was a kid. I don’t know if it’s true, but it would help explain a lot if it were.

Of all his hates, and he had many, his hatred of fat kids was chief. He singled out the fat kids, humiliated them. I was a fat kid. I was on his list from the first day.

One day he had us doing calisthenics, and he noticed that I couldn’t do a push-up. Yes, I wrote that right. I was a farm kid, but I didn’t have the upper body strength to do a single push-up. This was one of many clues which had already proved to me that I was unworthy and defective.

Mr. Woundwort decided this called for special coaching. His own kind of special coaching.

He set the rest of the guys to some game or other. He took a folding chair and a yardstick, and he took me to a corner of the gymnasium. He told me to get into push-up position in the corner, and he sat on the chair and told me to “Do one.” I tried and failed.

He hit me on the butt with the yardstick.

He told me he would keep telling me to do a push-up as long as it took, and every time I failed he’d hit me again.

We went on like that for the rest of the hour. By the time it was done my meager muscles were quivering, and I was sobbing uncontrollably. He had to let me go (he told me he’d test me later, and if I couldn’t do one by then, I’d have to take Phy Ed with the girls), and after showering I went immediately to the school Guidance Counselor, and told him what had happened.

I’m one of those who believe that educational standards have fallen appallingly since those days. I believe students today are coddled and over-rewarded and underdisciplined.

But there are limits, and Mr. Woundwort had gone over the line. Even in those days, I think, what he’d done with me was too much. I don’t know what happened, but Mr. Woundwort eased up on me after that, at least to the point of not punishing me sadistically anymore. So I think the G.C. probably had a heart-to-heart talk with him and made some threats.

I suspect Mr. Woundwort thought I was homosexual. Which is kind of ironic, since one of his prized football players (another sadist, as it happened, one who beat me up many times) later “came out of the closet,” and eventually died of AIDS.

I never told my parents about it, not even when I was grown up.

I couldn’t shake the feeling that they’d take Mr. Woundwort’s side.