Soon I’ll be in my 60s too

Today the temperature topped 60. We’re not fooled, mind you. We’re Minnesotans. We’ve been deceived too many times by Madame March to put any trust in her fickle promises. Tomorrow will be cooler (though not bad) and there’s a chance of some snow over the next few days.

But today it was possible to pretend the whole thing was over.

As I took my constitutional, I saw two people I also saw last night. Last night I took them for a mother and her little boy.

Today I got closer and realized the mother was a young guy. And the little boy was his girlfriend.

That’s pretty much all the proof I need, isn’t it? I’m officially a codger.

Movie advice (from a guy who almost never goes to them anymore): If you enjoyed 300 and want to find more of the same, and if you check out movies starring Gerard Butler on Netflix, and you see that he did one called Beowulf, and you think, “Hey, another great action movie with swords, starring the same guy!”—take it from me. Don’t waste your money.

My review of Beowulf is here.

I’m considering devoting the rest of my life to destroying the market for that particular irritating piece of political correctness.

Being a codger now, I have to take my pleasures where I can.

There May Be a Lutheran Near You

I see that Lars has noticed this discussion, but I’ll spare him from linking to it. Luther at the Movies notes, “There are as many Lutherans in the United States today as there are Swedes in Sweden—9,000,000;” so why aren’t they more visible in the public square? Rev. McCain of Cyberbrethren says:

The very things that Lutheranism have that make it stand out in the crowded “marketplace” of American denominationalism are the very things that so many non-Lutherans find attractive, while cradle Lutherans sometimes seem determined to minimize or ignore them! What are we so embarassed about? The incessant self-loathing and self-depricating attitudes we display toward the treasure of doctrine and practice that is historic, Biblical and faithful Lutheranism is truly distressing to observe.

Dr. Veith explains that Lutherans still have an immigrant mindset, “grateful for this country, but they really didn’t think of it as ‘theirs’ in the same sense that those who were here before them could.”

Honestly, this discussion makes me curious about Lutheran distinctives. I need to look them up. Should I go somewhere other than the Book of Concord?

Pretending it’s spring

Sorry I’m late. I interviewed a prospective renter this evening (yes, I finally got a call). I’m not going to describe him, because he might be whacko, or he might be a saint. Or neither. But if he’s a saint I don’t want to be talking behind his back.

We ended the meeting on an ambivalent note. One of us may call the other, or not.

The weather has been beautiful, in terms of air-to-skin compatibility and sun-to-earth face time. It was my weekend on set-up team at church, which is always a drag, but when I came back from church on Sunday, my obligation fulfilled, I noticed the bank thermometer said 50°. I went to the local Chinese buffet I just discovered (not the one I told you about before, where the hostess is cute but the food marginal; the hostess at this one is less cute but the food is much better). Then, to make the day perfect, I noticed that the local Dairy Queen has reopened for the spring, so I was able to buy my traditional after-Sunday-lunch Dilly Bar (you’ve got to get the kind made in the store; the factory-made ones in cellophane wrappers aren’t worth the trouble). So the day was perfect. I love Sunday afternoons. I made a commitment years ago that, since I considered myself a professional writer, I wouldn’t write for money on Sundays. That makes the Lord’s Day a weekly break from (some) guilt for me, and I bless the Lord of Sinai for it.

When I got home from work today, most of the snow had already melted from my front lawn. And my basement hasn’t flooded.

It’s not spring yet, but I’ll take what I can get.

Many Unread Books

A new survey out of Britain says the average person may buy several books in a year, but read only half of them. I’m sure I would fill out the low end of the average, though I’m also low on the number of books I buy too. Don’t hate me. I do intend to read them all somehow.

Coincidentally, Sandra of Book World quotes from Virginia Woolf today: “The only advice, indeed, that one person can give another about reading is to take no advice, to follow your own instincts, to use your own reason, to come to your own conclusions. … After all, what laws can be laid down about books?”

What laws can be laid down? Do you have to read a book completely to consider it read? It applies more to non-fiction, but should a reader not feel free to dip into a book to pull out a tasty apple, leaving the rest of it unread at least for the moment?

Posturing in Front of Experience

The National Book Critics Circle gave out awards last weekend. See their list here and their posts on each category here. John Leonard, book critic and former editor-in chief of the New York Times Book Review, received the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award. In his acceptance speech, he made this interesting observation:

The books we love, love us back. In gratitude, we should promise not to cheat on them — not to pretend we’re better than they are; not to use them as target practice, agit-prop, trampolines, photo ops or stalking horses; not to sell out scruple to that scratch-and-sniff info-tainment racket in which we posture in front of experience instead of engaging it, and fidget in our cynical opportunism for an angle, a spin, or a take, instead of consulting compass points of principle, and strike attitudes like matches, to admire our wiseguy profiles in the mirrors of the slicks.

Yes, but isn’t the point of our critique to get to the praise from our peers on the otherside? We want to hear how clever we are, how sharp-eyed we are, that nothing can stand before our scrutiny. Our peers may not bother to read and actually judge our critique, and why should they? We are right, are we not? Oh, the books we could write if only we had the time.

River Rising by Athol Dickson

I put River Rising in my Amazon cart while buying some other books—homeschool material I think—saying to myself I should buy a good book like this one, fun to spend money on myself, buy something good to read as though I didn’t have other good books on the shelf to read—books I bought for friends or family and never wrapped up or all those Graham Greene books I bought for $0.99 each and failed to read the rest of that summer as I had planned. So I bought River Rising, and when it came, I put it neatly on the shelf. It’s wonderful to have a new potential read smiling down on me from a line of other potential reads.

I tell myself I should read more and blog less. I say it with a weak voice from behind my gullet, which regularly questions my motives and actions. When I read, it asks if I shouldn’t be writing; when I write, it asks if I shouldn’t be reading or gardening or cleaning, parenting, diapering, fixing, or working on something more profitable than writing what-is-it-again. Moments of clarity or passion prevail at times, of course, or you wouldn’t know me in these words.

I didn’t have a newborn at the time I bought the book. She’s four months old, and the book was acquired a several months ago. I didn’t have her then, so I didn’t have to hold her gassy tummy and wiggly arms. She’s such a precious thing, spit-up and all, and there’s a patch of spit-up cheese on the carpet there, sweet wife, if you would grab a towel while you’re up. I didn’t have the princess tiny when I bought River Rising, so I didn’t have that delay on reading it. Continue reading River Rising by Athol Dickson

It is all about us, isn’t it?

Our postmodern world is pulling each individual into a vacuum of self-centeredness, whispering, ‘It’s all about you.’ It’s all about your own pleasure, peace, prosperity, and comfort. It’s all about what you think. It’s all about your own self-actualization, your individual pursuit. It reminds me of the first lie that mankind heard in the garden: ‘You will be like God!’ It is all about us, isn’t it? –Del Tacket,

Quoted on Your Writers

I remember a writer, whom I didn’t know then and now can’t remember, saying his biggest hurtle in telling a good story was taking himself out of focus. He wasn’t meant to be the main character of every story.

First Black Disney Princess

I’ve wondered why Disney hasn’t developed a princess story with a black character before, but I assumed they satisfied their multi-ethnic impulses with their forays into Arabian, Chinese, and Early American cultures. I doesn’t matter really. I haven’t cared to see any Disney cartoon since The Lion King, even though I have suffered through Pocahontas and Mulan and I hear Tarzan is worth seeing.

Now, Disney is telling a story in New Orleans called “The Frog Princess.” I believe her name is Maddy, and she appears to be a black American. Hopefully, this will be a good story, ala Beauty & the Beast.

Good Coffee, Strong Coffee

I’d like to have some, but here I am blogging as a service to you (or me or some idol I fancy–how many of us really blog to God’s glory?) And here you are reading. Feel blessed. No, no, I insist.

Provocative Church has begun to serve Rwandan coffee between services. The company is The Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee which “invests up to $3 [of every 12 oz bag sold] in the Rwandan Economy, $1 of which goes directly to fund micro-finance, small business projects for the women of Inyakurama (widows in Rwanda who are working to restore their lives),” according to the company website.

In other news, a physicist briefly explains why coffee drops leave rings when they dry. He says, “I’m having to learn some fluid dynamics for the first time, and it’s pretty amazing how complicated it all is.”

Also from our beverage desk, a couple companies, one in California, one in Alberta, are selling bottled “holy” water. Catholic and Anglican priests are offering blessings on California bottled water in an effort to promote “law enforcement” by redeeming drinkers. And get this warning label: “If you are a sinner or evil in nature, this product may cause burning, intense heat, sweating, skin irritations, rashes, itchiness, vomiting, bloodshot and watery eyes, pale skin color and oral irritations.”

I suppose things more blasphemous than this have been done before.

Island thoughts

Anthony Esolen, in a post at Touchstone Magazine, shares a poem that contains these lines:

When your mother has grown older,

And you have grown older,

When what used to be easy and effortless

Now becomes a burden,

When her dear loyal eyes

Do not look out into life as before,

When her legs have grown tired

And do not want to carry her any more–

Then give her your arm for support…

It was written by a very famous man. Read the article and be troubled.

Christians, I think, have a leg up in thinking about things like this, because we believe in Original Sin. If you aren’t a Christian and don’t understand what I mean, feel free to ask.

In the room where I slept during my sleep study they had a TV with cable. I hadn’t watched cable in a while. I clicked through the stations, and noticed there was a show about fishermen, and I gathered from the narration that it had to do with crab fishing in the Bering Sea.

This caught my interest, for reasons I’ll explain, but I decided not to watch it because I assumed it wouldn’t relate much to my own experiences.

How wrong I was.

The latest issue of the Sons of Norway’s magazine, Viking, carries an article about that series (“The Deadliest Catch” on the Discovery Channel), and it connects to me in a couple ways.

First of all, the featured fishermen, Sig, Edgar and Norman Hansen of Seattle, are Norwegian-Americans. Not only that, but their parents and two of the brothers’ wives (one is single) were born on Karmøy Island, the birthplace of my great-grandfather Walker and one of my favorite places in the world.

Secondly, I spent a summer of my own life processing Bering Sea crab. I wasn’t doing the dangerous work, fishing with a crew, but it was a memorable experience.

My musical group (we spent nine years together) were still in college when our leader said “My cousin just spent this past summer working at a crab meat packing plant in Alaska. He put in a lot of overtime and came home with a pile of money. I think we should do the same thing, and finance a concert tour.”

Although the thought of lots of overtime gave me pause, I went along with the plan. The idea of going to Alaska sounded adventurous (and indeed I’ve found it one of my few sure-fire conversation sparks ever since). So we bought tickets to Anchorage, and from there we took a bush air service to Sand Point (that’s on Popof Island in the Shumagins. The Hansens sail out of Dutch Harbor, which is in the same general area [we touched down there on the flight]. I understand the plant where we worked was closed down long ago).

Popof Island is less than 40 square miles and had, at the time. about three miles of gravel road. It was a frontier place, and we learned something about frontier living. The most important thing about frontier living is that it’s generally, really, really boring. There’s nothing to do when you’re not working your glutes off, which helps explain the popularity of drinking and fighting in such places. Once a month we had to help unload the supply freighter, and the largest single commodity we moved was alcohol. Never was so much booze consumed by so few.

We lived in a “dormitory,” a large house that had once been a hospital, located at the top of a hill. I forget the precise number of steps that went up to it, but I believe it was closer to 100 than fifty.

On Fourth of July morning (a day off, of course) we found a drunk passed out in the basement.

He had a cast on his leg.

Somehow he’d scaled all those steps with his leg in a cast.

There was a desperate emptiness in the place, a feeling of being at the end of the world in a couple senses. Nowhere to go from here. If things don’t work here, drown in the sea or drink yourself to death.

We had a short summer in Sand Point. The crab fishermen went on strike and we didn’t get the expected overtime. We went home earlier than planned, with some money but less than we’d hoped.

I’ve never read a Western quite the same way since then.

High Rates for Internet Radio

New rates from Copyright Royalty Board, if unchallenged, would shut down great Internet radio stations like Accuradio and Pandora. According to this Wired News article, the new fees are a flat “$0.0011 per song per listener,” increasing to $0.0019 by 2010, and they are retroactive to 2006, at a rate of $0.0008.

Kurt Hanson of Accuradio and “Radio and Internet Newsletter” has a breakdown. “That math suggests that the royalty rate decision — for the performance alone, not even including composers’ royalties! — is in the in the ballpark of 100% or more of total revenues.” Meaning, it would cost webcasters more to operate than they can make from it.

Hanson told Wired News that “he doesn’t ‘think the people actually running the record labels want to see internet radio shut down,’ but that SoundExchange’s lawyers had planned ‘an aggressive, win-all-you-can battle in Washington. I think they were more successful than they expected to be.'”

If the lawyers didn’t intend to gain this much ground, I hope they back off when the rate change goes to congress. Speaking of congress, when is Mrs. Clinton going to decry the evil music industry for their corporate malpractice at the people’s expense?

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Book Reviews, Creative Culture