An awning story to get you yawning

I had an odd feeling last night. I don’t like to think of myself as the kind of blogger who writes a lot about his feelings, but…

I guess I am.

Anyway, I was working on my Viking tent awning. I put together this non-historically-authentic, purely functional tent-awning thing to keep the sun off me when we’re doing encampments. I got the pattern off the internet. It’s a simple project, being built on a 9×12 painter’s drop cloth.

My first awning didn’t last long. I was pretty sure from the start that the fabric wouldn’t hold up to any kind of wind. It was thin stuff, like a 600-page novel written in six months. I wanted to reinforce the grommet locations, but I didn’t have any spare canvas. So I figured I’d make the first awning, then use it to patch the second once it had failed.

I’m not kidding you here. That’s how my brain works.

The fabric failed down in Bode, Iowa, and one of my vacation projects this week has been to whip up a new one. I bought the heaviest drop cloth I could find, and I used patches made from the old awning to reinforce the grommet locations, just as planned.

All that set-up exposition was provided to explain how I came to be watching “Criminal Minds” on TV last night, sewing away at a big piece of canvas with a large needle and heavy thread.

It came to me, all of a sudden, that this activity felt comfortable, familiar.

But I’ve never done it before in my life. Not on a big piece of cloth like the awning.

Then it occurred to me that I’m descended from hundreds of generations of Norwegian fishermen who spent a lot of time mending sails.

Genetic memory? (Possible.)

Incipient psychosis? (More likely.)

In any case, it was a strange enough feeling to blog about on a quiet, rainy August day.

A Land Fit For Criminals

Mike Johnson sent me the following link to a review by (the great) Theodore Dalrymple of the book A Land Fit For Criminals by David Fraser. It’s about the criminal justice system in Great Britain today.

He shows that liberal intellectuals and their bureaucratic allies have left no stone unturned to ensure that the law-abiding should be left as defenseless as possible against the predations of criminals, from the emasculation of the police to the devising of punishments that do not punish and the propagation of sophistry by experts to mislead and confuse the public about what is happening in society, confusion rendering the public helpless in the face of the experimentation perpetrated upon it.

My observation is that what happens in Europe generally works its way to America in time.

True or false: pick one

Romans 3:1-8 is a passage that’s always puzzled me. It’s not that I disagree with what’s said there, but Paul seems to be addressing First Century arguments that nobody would make today, and that confuses the contemporary reader.

But reading it today, it occurred to me that Paul is addressing the modern mind in one sense:

But if our unrighteousness brings out God’s righteousness more clearly, what shall we say? That God is unjust in bringing his wrath on us? (I am using a human argument.) Certainly not! If that were so, how could God judge the world? Someone might argue, “If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?” Why not say—as we are being slanderously reported as saying and as some claim that we say—“Let us do evil that good may result”? Their condemnation is deserved. (vv. 5-8, NIV)

There are doubtless many deep truths in this passage that I’ve missed so far. That’s a given. But one point that struck me as I studied it today was that Paul is drawing a line here. He’s saying, “There is a difference between right and wrong. It’s not just a matter of point of view. It’s not variability in cultural values. God approves of some things and condemns others. He’s not broad-minded in the sense that’s fashionable today.

There’s a tendency to think of “spiritual” as being the same thing as “fuzzy.” In the spiritual realm, we imagine, all differences are smoothed out. All disagreements are discovered to be meaningless. Right and wrong are seen as equally valid manifestations of the Eternal. Yahweh and Baal are really the same Being, as is Asherah.

Paul says “Hooey.” God is just, and He has told us what He means by justice. Don’t imagine it’ll all even out in the end. Get with His program or suffer the consequences.

We’re all on notice.

Words Frame The World

I remember a college guy telling me that grammar and language structure didn’t matter anymore because images ruled the way we think. I suppose I could have argued with him by saying, “I love that flavor too. Hey, when sue melon get fetchit?” But that would require on-the-spot thinking or even living in my element at the split moment he spoke. I’m rarely in my element, and he was a college guy, which means he was susceptible to bad, even stupid, ideas, some of which he wrote with his own mental words.

Does anyone doubt that we live by words? That’s because words are the stuff of ideas. The image of a bombed out building tells us little about reality if we have not words to put to it. Was it empty and dilapidated, more harmful to the city than helpful? Was a target in a war? If so, was it a fair target? Do we know anything about the building, the explosion, or the context of both that words have not given us?

In the same vein, what makes us human? What words describe the meaning of person hood, not being an animal or a cell block? That’s a cultural argument we have had for years now, leading to crimes like this one in Hialeah, Florida. The Deputy Police Chief says, “They can slaughter anyone they want according to the statutes before birth, but not after.” They can slaughter anyone . . . only because many people want to believe that babies are not people until they are declared to be so. Every child is to be a wanted child, so if the child is not wanted, then he is not a child.

He’s an image. A nothing. If we don’t name him, he won’t exist.

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First day of vacation

Today was the first day of my week off from work. I took a walk for exercise, wrote a thousand words, and picked up a few needed items, including a rat trap. I don’t have rats, but I have chipmunks attempting to take up housekeeping in my garage. My instinct is to live and let live (perhaps charging a nominal rent), but people tell me chipmunks are prone to gnaw on your car’s wiring, so I’ve declared Total War. Three chipmunks have been liquidated to date, and I felt it was time for a new trap.

I have a higher regard for my white squirrel. One day last winter, shortly after I’d moved in, I was talking to my brother Moloch on the phone, and I saw an albino squirrel in the back yard. On Saturday I saw him again, in the front yard. Albinos are rare in the wild, being pretty easy targets for predators, but I suppose an urban environment provides better cover.

I feel an affinity, for some strange reason, with any creature ill-designed for survival by nature.

By way of Blue Crab Boulevard, some very nifty, downloadable inspirational posters based on the original Star Trek. I love this kind of swill.

Book Giveaway: Open Drawing for Fantasy Novels

Congratulations! This is your opportunity to win a copy of one of Lars Walker’s three published novels, signed, sealed, and delivered by one of the many Norse gods hard-up for work in modern America. If we can’t contract a god to deliver in your area, we will use the good old-fashioned postal service. Of course, if parcel post was good enough for Leifr Eiricsson when we was on the continent, it’s good enough for us too.

Here are the simple rules to win one of three signed copies of one of Lars’ books. Leave a comment in this thread with your name and email before Saturday, August 26, 11:00 a.m. One comment per participant, please. After the deadline, I’ll number the comments, spin the roulette wheel, and the contact three winners. When I send you an email, I’ll ask for your mailing address.

Tell your friends and send them this way for the chance to win a great fantasy/sci-fi read. If you are new to Brandywine Books, note the links to Lars’ books at the top of our bloogroll on the right.

This is the first of at least two contests at Brandywine Books, and this is the easiest of them. The next contest will require some writing. For now, just comment with your name and email. Thank you for participating, and keep telling your friends about Brandywine Books.

The Will to Power

Here’s another sentence from a published book: “By sheer force of will, she typed in the access code and held her breath.”

I think understand this emotion, but is this a good way to describe it? I remember in other stories that characters willed themselves to continue. They . . . had . . to hang . . . on . . . (gasp)! How do you think pushing against emotions should be described?

Several things, all of them bad

I don’t mean to rag on the Presbyterians as a group. I worshiped at a PCA church for some time in Florida, and it was one of the finest churches I’ve ever been associated with. But this story about the PCUSA (via Town Hall Blog) takes my breath away. It’s not enough for these people to apostasize. That’s appalling, but it’s sort of old news. We’ve come to expect it from them. But the PCUSA has published a book promoting the view that the Bush administration engineered the 9/11 attacks, a position generally held by people who’ve forgotten to take their medication because it fell through a hole in their raincoat pockets while they were fishing for lunch in a dumpster. From a materialist point of view, heresy is sort of understandable, because true doctrine can’t be scientifically proven. But these people have lost touch even with this-worldly reality.

Not that I don’t believe in conspiracies. I’m growing more and more convinced that the people who run road construction in the Twin Cities conspire to make their construction projects as inconvenient to the public as possible. Not for money. Not because of political corruption. But just because it’s so much fun to sit down around a map with their coffee and bagels and draw a red circle around a neighborhood, then pose the question, “How can we completely cut this neighborhood off from the outside world, blocking not only the primary but the secondary routes into it?”

Such is the fate of my pleasant little part of Robbinsdale. I dwell in a sort of a bottleneck—not the useful kind that could easily be defended if the Assyrians attacked (a possibility that grows more and more likely with the passing years), but a traffic bottleneck. I live to the east of a park. Not far north of the park is a freeway. Not far to the south is a lake. My workplace is to the west. The practical jokers tore up the main artery yesterday, while I was at work. I made the mistake of following their “Detour” signs on the way home, and ended up lost in Brooklyn Park. I’ve found a way to get home from work (and vice versa) now, but it involves passing through a construction zone.

Commenter Aitchmark sent me the following entertaining review. At his request, because he is a tenderhearted man, I have excised the name of the author and the title of the book:

I kind of enjoyed ___________’s recreation of classic kid SF in _____________, so I went into the online system for the library and put a hold on the sequel____________.

Well, there’s another book with the title ___________, and in some kind of mental glitch, I clicked the right title but the wrong author. So I ended up with a cop thriller called ___________ by a fellow named _____________.

One of the worst pieces of writing I’ve ever read. Unimaginably bad. Bad grammar, bad diction, one gaping howler of disregard for reality after another, plot transparently ripped off from another book….

Example — a burglar gets killed by a booby trapped clock that fires a 2-inch dart at him…. which injects 6 ounces of snake venom.

Must have been from a neutronium snake.

And the writing….

“The darkness enveloped him with the suddenness of an unexpected physical attack.”

“An investigation that had nearly gotten him killed but had brought him and Detective Edna Gray very close together.” (yes, that’s the complete sentence)

I can’t go on. It’s just too much.

This is the guy’s 5th published book!

I’ve read 37 pages (Carmen challenged me to read 50). I can’t decide whether to just take it back to the library, or keep slogging through it to see how bad it can get.

Be careful if you see this book. It may rub off on you. Like a virus. A big, nasty virus that hurts people and sometimes even kills them. Dead. And dead is forever. So you have been warned. In case it infects your brain and makes you less intelligent than you were before reading the terrible book, you won’t be able to say you weren’t warned emphatically by me. Who warned you to be careful and think before picking up this terrible tome.

(help me. please… help me. Send Shakespeare or something. Fast.)

You Know You Are Not Reformed If . . .

  • you think the Apostles Creed is the guy who fought Rocky in Rocky I.
  • you think the Canons of Dort are like the Guns of Navarrone.
  • you think the psalter goes with the pepper shaker.
  • you think unconditional election is a practice of communist dictatorships.

And so on. Riddleblog has “You Know You Are Not Reformed If . . .

Yeah, I didn’t think it was that funny either, but I hope someone gets a laugh out of it. (by way of the Jollyblogger)

The saga of sailor and the shoes

Yesterday I wrote about instructors who will always get their book orders in just after I’ve been on the phone with the publishers.

That puts me in mind of one of my favorite stories. I shall share it now, even though I know most of you have probably heard it before.

Because in cyberspace, no one can hear you scream.

The date was December 6, 1941. A young man took his shoes in to a shop to be re-soled.

The next day, of course, he forgot all about the shoes, because of the news of Pearl Harbor. He did his patriotic duty by enlisting in the Navy immediately.

He saw considerable action in the Pacific. One day late in the war his ship was torpedoed, and went down with great loss of life. Our hero managed to clamber into a lifeboat alone. He floated for days, finally washing up on the shores of a remote island, far from the shipping lanes.

For 25 years he remained on that island. He was listed as Missing In Action.

Finally a passing freighter saw his smoke signal and he was rescued. Back at home he was hailed as a hero.

His delighted parents showed him his old room, which they’d preserved precisely as it had been the day he left home.

After his parents had gone to bed, the young man looked through his well-remembered possessions. He tried on an old suit, put his hand in the pocket, and discovered the shoe repair claim ticket.

“Could the shoes still be there?” he wondered. “Only one way to find out.”

The next day he took a bus to the shoe repair shop. He found it still in business, and inside, older and grayer, he found the same shoe repairman.

“Are these shoes ready?” he asked with a smile, handing the old man the ticket.

The old man looked at the ticket, then went into the back room. A moment later he popped his head out.

“Have ’em for you Thursday,” he said.

Book Reviews, Creative Culture