Daylight Saving Time: A Change Is Coming

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Daylight Saving Time ends tonight. Set your clocks back one hour before you go to day or you may be late for church tomorrow.

Next time we do this, we will do it sooner. “Beginning in 2007, Daylight Saving Time is extended one month and begins for most of the United States at 2:00 a.m. on the Second Sunday in March to 2:00 a.m. on the First Sunday of November.”

I don’t expect this to affect the Christmas shopping season.

Update: These cuckoo clock museum owners in London will take all weekend to turn back their 500+ clocks.

Update: Dave Lull directed my attention to this humorous article on the origins of Standard Time and Daylight Saving Time. When Standard Time was proposed to meet the desires of the railroad industry, some said it was “puzzling, saddening, or infuriating [to assume] that time was arbitrary, changeable, susceptible to the whims of the railroads or defined by mere commercial expediency. Surely the world ran by higher priorities than railroad scheduling.”

I would television scheduling to that.

Confederacy of cats

I was intrigued by Florence King’s review of Dixie Betrayed by David J. Eicher over at the American Spectator blog today.

My attitudinal history as regards the Confederacy has traced a sine wave profile over the years. As a child I was a Lincoln buff (still am), and a rabid partisan of the Union (I was born just in time to have the Civil War Centennial pretty generally in my face during my early teen years, and I loved it).

Later, as I found myself drawn to federalist politics, I started thinking more highly of the South. I find the argument pretty compelling that the Constitution would never have been ratified if anybody’d been told that secession would be forbidden. Lincoln’s constitutional argument, so far as I could tell (in spite of my reverence for the man himself) seemed to be basically, “We have to preserve the Union because I think it’s a good idea.”

Which is nice, but one might argue whether it was worth 600,000 lives.

But I had no idea what an organizational mess the Confederacy was, if Eicher is correct in his analysis.

Maybe the best thing Lincoln could have done would have been to have told them, “Bye-bye, have a good life,” and then waited for them to go to pieces, then crawl back and ask to be readmitted.

I have a sad feeling that somewhere on one of those battlefields a man died who would have written or preached or sung something that would have made America a better, happier place today.

Then again, maybe Lincoln was right when he said in his second inaugural address.

“Yet, if God wills that [the war] continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said ‘the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.’”

Sometimes stories lie

I sit in a house that’s both quiet and not quiet. It’s quiet in the sense that I don’t have Hugh Hewitt on, as is my custom this time of day (he’s interviewing Andrew Sullivan, and who needs that at suppertime? Or is it Andrew McCarthy?).

But the house is noisy because I’ve got a half-dozen guys crawling around my roof replacing the shingles, hammering away and occasionally dropping what sounds like sleeper sofas. The Day has come at last. In theory they’ll get the job done tonight, though it looks to me like a lot of work remains.

The previous owner was in love with green. The walls of Blithering Heights are a mottled green stucco, and the shingles were bright green. Up till now I’ve been able to end my directions, when telling people how to get here, with, “And my house is the green one, third from the corner.”

I am not in love with green. It’s my least favorite color, in fact. I chose a solid, conventional brown for my new shingles. I have no objection to standing out from other houses, but I don’t want to stand out in terms of greenness.

My impulse was to shingle the place in red, but I figured it would end up looking like a Christmas decoration.

Restraint is my watchword.

Restraint and “chocolate.”

Hence the brown shingles.

I think I’ve got one more post on subjectivity and stories in me. I’ll just open up the old brain-box and see if anything’s in there…


Ready as I ever am, in other words.

I was saying that stories are a powerful means of teaching, because they engage both reason and emotion, thus bringing the whole person into the project.

But this is a sword that cuts both ways (“The Amazing Crossover Cutlass! Only $49.95 in three easy payments, from K-Tel!”). You can use a story to nail truth down in a person’s heart. But you can nail a lie down just as easily.

I read some time back about a phenomenon in cinema called “Movie Logic.” The wonderful thing about movies is that people believe what they see. If you show a car leaping over a twenty-six foot gap in a bridge, you believe it because you just saw it happen, right before your eyes. You don’t think about the fact that one end of a car contains the engine and is therefore much heavier than the other end. For that reason, when a car goes over a gap like that in real life, it tends to nose down (if the engine’s in front) pretty quick. Stunt arrangers load the rears of stunt cars with counterweights to permit them to make such jumps.

How many times in recent years have you seen somebody in a movie run out of an exploding building, ahead of a blast that just barely manages not to catch them?

Care to try that in real life?

It’s similar in stories, though not as vivid. But most of us trust writing more than movies, so I suspect literature may have more staying power in the long run.

How many kids have learned one of their first profound life lessons from Dr. Seuss’s The Butter Battle Book? Dr. Seuss explains it all. The Yooks eat their bread butter-side-up, and the Zooks eat it butter-side-down. And that’s all the difference between them. All this war stuff, it’s based on a misunderstanding. All our differences are trivial. If we’d just sit down and talk it over reasonably, why, we’d discover we all want precisely the same things.

Remember M*A*S*H*? The TV show especially. The North Koreans, when we were allowed to see one, were always scared, confused young men who only really wanted to go home. They weren’t interested in killing anybody. The only people who wanted to kill anybody were stupid Americans like Frank Burns and Col. Flag (apparently the rule that we all want the same things doesn’t apply to Americans).

It’s all a misunderstanding! We just haven’t talked enough! Can’t we understand that the North Koreans were always our friends? Even today, Kim Jong Il is just posturing with those nukes. What he really wants is for George Bush to put his arm around his shoulders and tell him how proud he is of him.

We all want the same things. We Americans want our children to grow up happy and healthy. So the Islamic jihadists have to want that too. If they instead strap bombs to their kids and send them out to blow themselves up in crowded markets, well… well, we must have driven them to it by not understanding them enough. And anyway, George Bush signed death warrants in Texas, so it’s all the same.

It must be, because Dr. Seuss told us so.

We need stories that touch our hearts, but we need stories that exercise our brains too. Stories informed with knowledge of the real world.

Remember the movie “Being There” with Peter Sellers? At the beginning Sellers, playing a retarded man who has spent his entire life watching TV in a rich man’s house, is turned out on the street, with nothing but a nice suit and his remote control.

When some young muggers confront him, he tries to use the remote to change the channel.

There’s a story we can learn from.

Living in the purple zone

Let’s see. We were talking about fiction and the problem of subjectivity. It’s a problem for me anyway. The moment I hear somebody saying, “It’s all subjective,” I can feel the cholesterol clumping up in my arteries. I hate subjectivity with Schaefferian zeal. I remember an argument I had with my college roommate for hours one Sunday at lunch (we were eating with girls and could have spent the time more profitably). After going around and around forever, I finally figured out that my roommate had his own private definition of “subjective,” one which bore no resemblance to any recognized definition anybody else used.

He’d defined “subjective” subjectively.

So I’m reflexively resistant to all talk of the “S” word.

But that’s a wrong response. (Blame my subjective reaction.)

Look at it this way:

Imagine two colored vertical bars, like the design on the French flag. On one side you’ve got a red bar—all passionate and fiery and subjective. Emotional. Think of Barbra Streisand’s political philosophy.

On the other side you’ve got cool blue. Clinical. Reasoned and proportional. “Just the facts, ma’am.” Systematic.

Personally I’m a lot more comfortable with the blue side. What good did emotions ever do for me?

But like I said, that’s wrong. (My reason tells me so.)

What do you suppose you find in the middle, between the two bars? A wide white no-man’s-land (again like on the French flag)? An impassible barrier, where never the twain shall meet?

No, it’s not like that at all. What you have is a very wide band of purple, graduating from red to blue.

And that purple area is where you and I live. We live in reason and emotion, spirit and body.

Some days we’re closer to the red side. Other days we’re closer to the blue. Some people try to live all the way over on one side or the other (think Sherlock Holmes contrasted with Rosie O’Donnell).

But we all have to live in the purple area. So our communication—our really effective communication—has to be a blend of red and blue, passion and reason.

That’s why stories communicate so well. When God wanted to tell us about Himself, He didn’t dictate a book of Systematic Theology (as I would have advised Him if He’d asked me). He gave us a book full of stories, stories about people’s real lives and how He’s dealt with them.

That’s why a human being in a photograph provides the best overall kind of scale. A concrete post with words “SIX FEET” painted on it might work, but it wouldn’t work as well. Because the story of the waterfall is not just a story of measurements. It’s a story of experience too. The feeling of the spray on your face, the roaring of the water in your ears.

That’s why fiction speaks to people as science and philosophy (essential though they are) never can.

Man is not the measure of all things.

But man is the best measure of some things.

Imprints Are Old School

Faith*in*fiction notes that Westbow will be history in its parent company’s reorganization. Thomas Nelson has 18 imprints and plans to consolidate all of them under one name over several months. President and CEO of Thomas Nelson, Michael Hyatt, said imprints are “an inside-out way of looking at the market, self-focused rather than customer-focused. The only ones who care about imprints are publishers, and they are expensive to maintain.” No jobs will be cut and some added, according to the report.

Boring post on interesting writing

In my last post I included a photograph, and noted the fact that adding a staged, theatrical element to the scene actually resulted in a more realistic (and impressive) picture, one that gave a truer impression.

I burbled something fuzzy about the paradox of a fiction increasing realism. I wasn’t up to thinking about it much more at the time.

I’m not actually up to thinking much tonight either, but I’ve been pondering the matter off and on over the weekend and have come up with the following hypothesis.

What the tourist people did, when they added the fictional elf-girl to the scene, was a sort of visual counterpart to what I do when writing novels (especially since I write fantasy).

You had a prospect, a “view” which was most impressive in real life, but didn’t translate well to the photographic record. The problem with the photograph was that scale was lacking. You saw a picture of rocks and moving water, and you couldn’t tell if you were looking at a small mountain stream or a mighty waterfall.

So the tourist people added a human being. She gave it scale. Suddenly you take a picture and you can see how large the waterfall is in comparison to her. The falls comes alive (not to mention that the girl is nice to look at in her own right). You can almost hear the roar of the water now.

Fiction is like that. History (contemporary or older) provides data, data that can overwhelm and bore the consumer. There are a few talented historians who can bring the stories alive, but even their work doesn’t ring bells for many people. Because the historian (generally) follows strict rules. He can only use the documented evidence. He may not invent things. And there’s a lot he can’t know.

His narrative, therefore, often lacks human scale on the emotional level. We miss the drama of the story because the historian can’t tell us how it felt to the people involved—the things they feared, their hates and loves.

The novelist adds the personal element. He tries (with more or less success) to transport us into the skin of a historical character (real or imagined or composite). He tells us how things looked and sounded and smelled. He shows us (doesn’t just tell us) how the issues being contested affected the people involved. The flat photograph acquires proportion.

The subjective human element provides scale.

The irony of this is that subjective things generally make poor yardsticks.

I shall consider that problem tomorrow.

Unless I find I’ve thought myself into a corner and turn to drink instead.

Hymn Sung to “Kingsfold”

I love this hymn, written by a Quaker teacher in 1906, sung to a traditional English tune called “Kingsfold.”

I feel the winds of God today; today my sail I lift,

Though heavy, oft with drenching spray, and torn with many a rift;

If hope but light the water’s crest, and Christ my bark will use,

I’ll seek the seas at His behest, and brave another cruise.

It is the wind of God that dries my vain regretful tears,

Until with braver thoughts shall rise the purer, brighter years;

If cast on shores of selfish ease or pleasure I should be;

Lord, let me feel Thy freshening breeze, and I’ll put back to sea.

If ever I forget Thy love and how that love was shown,

Lift high the blood red flag above; it bears Thy Name alone.

Great Pilot of my onward way, Thou wilt not let me drift;

I feel the winds of God today, today my sail I lift.

The choir in my church was to sing an arrangement of this song today, and I could have joined them if I wasn’t with my sweet wife having another little girl. We had prayed for an easy delivery of our fourth daughter, and we received it. Thank the Lord. The next day after we returned home, my wife felt a hardening in her leg with some pain when she drew back her toes–a potential blood clot in the leg most afflicted with varicose veins during pregnancy. We called her midwife and obeyed the summons to the emergency room downtown. A five-hour wait to be admitted to a labor room upstairs for another uncomfortable night on a hospital bed for my good, good wife who only wanted to recoup her strength from carrying and delivering the baby.

But I am able to write you tonight because we have returned home. Thank the Lord. The symptoms in her leg were not a serious blood clot, though maybe asuperficial one treatable with heat and aspirin. We can rest at home without blood thinners and monitoring. The Lord saw us through the drenching spray of a rough sea, and will continue his faithfulness as we raise our daughters I have no doubt. Now, to bed.

A City By Any Other Name Would Still Smell

Seattle, Washington, hopes to draw tourists and new residents by calling itself “metronatural.” For those of you in the back row, that’s like metropolitan with a part of that word replaced by another word so that the final word is–I don’t know–kewl.

What does “metronatural” say to you? If it doesn’t say, “Visit Seattle for your kind of vacation,” then you can add it to your list of ways to spell “failure.”

This reminds me of a breifly lived slogan my city did while I was away in college. In print with designed letters, it’s attractive enough that you may miss the words: “Live it, love it, it’s Chattanooga.” That’s close to “like it or lump it.” Perhaps others agreed with me, which is why the city’s current tagline is “The attraction’s only natural.” Similar to Seattle’s, when you think of it, but less hokey.

I like it when the elves trick me

My mind is sterile, tonight, clean as a boiled sheet. All I can think of to do is to post a picture and tell you about it.

Elf maiden

This comes from my last trip to Norway. There’s a place called Flåm, on a beautiful fjord. A funicular railroad runs up to a mountain station from there. Some people take the train for practical purposes, but much of its business is tourists (like me, on two occasions).

This picture shows a place on the route where they stop the train so people can take photos of the waterfall. The first time I took the trip, with my dad, we got out and took pictures, but they were a little disappointing. In two dimensions, it just wasn’t as dramatic as it is in real life.

This last time the tourist people had jazzed it up. When a crowd comes out to gawk, a girl in folk costume comes out and stands on the rocks. She mimics singing while a loudspeaker plays a haunting folk song. At one point she disappears behind the rocks, and another girl dressed just the same pops out of a building nearer by, as if she had magically transported herself. Clearly she’s a huldre, an elf maiden, trying to lure us to our deaths in the fast water.

It’s hokey and corny, but you know what? It works. Not just for the drama, but because including the girl in your photo adds perspective to the whole thing and makes the waterfall look much more dramatic. In other words, the fake thing makes it more real.

I don’t know what the moral of this is. Perhaps it means it’s OK to go over the top now and then, as long as it works and nobody’s fooled.

Lewis link

I got this link from the New York C.S. Lewis Society’s newsletter. Sort of.

Apparently the BBC has reconfigured its website, and the precise link I got from the newsletter didn’t work. But, in my selfless zeal to provide the best resources to you, the valued reader, I worked my way through the maze and found the right place.

What you’ll get here is two sound files made from voice recordings of Lewis himself in his career as a BBC broadcaster. One is from 1944, part of the broadcast talk that became the book Beyond Personality, later a section of Mere Christianity. The other is his introduction to The Great Divorce from 1948.

I’ve often dreamed that original recordings of Lewis’ BBC broadcasts might be found. Apparently these bits are all that were actually saved. (Yes, I know about the Four Loves recordings, and I have them. But I’m told those aren’t his best work.)

But personally I don’t believe the recordings are lost. I believe the BBC is sitting on the original wax disks, terrified that the release of the full series would singlehandedly bring Britain back to God.

It would dishonor me not to wear a tie

Thoughts thought while preparing to go to church for the meeting last night:

“Looks like rain. I’d better wear my trenchcoat.

“If I wear the trenchcoat, I’ll have to wear a tie.

“You cannot wear a trenchcoat without a tie. If you do, you look like a pervert hanging around a playground, not the International Man of Intrigue you bought the coat to resemble.”

Dave Lull sent me this link to a Reason article by Jonathan Rauch which explains Honor Cultures (one of my current obsessions) pretty clearly.

Bored of deacons

I don’t have much time tonight. I’ve got to go to church to participate in a long, boring, meeting. I know it’ll be long and boring because that’s the only kind we do.

I agreed a couple years back to serve on a constitutional revision committee. Since then we’ve held zero meetings. I came to look on the obligation the same way we Boomers think back on the atomic bomb scares of our childhoods, something we feared then but need not worry about now (oh, wait…)

But the call finally came.

I’m pondering whether to attend the meeting or just kill myself.

Decisions, decisions.

Being dead is an acceptable excuse for non-attendance, right?

Book Reviews, Creative Culture