"Better new friend than an old foe."

- Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene
For Want of Wonder

Ron Block explores unbelief in a George MacDonald novel, noting Chesterton's observation, “The world will never starve for want of wonders; but only for want of wonder.”

People Don't Write Books

Author Jonathan Rogers was passed up by Senior Ms. America in last April's Music City Half-Marathon. It proved transformative.

Here in my forties I have gained wisdom from running that I never gained from books. To wit: I have learned never to ask, “Can I run 13.1 miles?” (the answer is probably no) but only to ask “Can I run to the next telephone pole” (the answer is probably yes). To apply this principle to my line of work, people don’t write books: they write sentences.

The Beatles Wanted to Do Lord of the Rings

I didn't hear this news when it hit years ago: "The Beatles had approached J.R.R. Tolkien about doing a film version of Lord of the Rings starring the Fab Four."

Lennon wanted to play Gollum; McCartney, Frodo; Ringo, Sam; and Harrison, Gandalf. Tolkien said, "Over my dead body," or something like that. Too bad Nimoy didn't have to ask him for permission to sing about Bilbo in the 70s.

Are Anchormen Worth Watching?

Take a look at this culture shock from 1954. It's Camel News Caravan, brought to you by the makers of Camel cigarettes--so mild and smooth.



This video came to my attention while reading Frank Rich's article on whether the TV news anchorman is a relevant job anymore. Though anchormen are popular, he cites "60 Minutes" as a successful news program without a steady anchor.

Alex Carp chips in. "What is going to come back, in my view, is the importance of sector expertise, on-scene reporting, and enterprise journalism. I saw a poster in Times Square the other day for the new season of HBO’s Vice magazine show. You know what the tagline is? 'We go there.' It’s a sad day when a newsmagazine can use 'we go there' as a distinctive selling point."

#ThingsJesusNeverSaid

Love is what you make it. Whatever you call love, it's all good.

Love your neighbors, like the Samaritans, except the hateful ones.

RT @rcsprouljr: #thingsJesusneversaid When the culture despises you/when perversion is protected & celebrated/when your political clout is gone all is lost.

I don't know when this Twitter hashtag was started, but it's been revived for the clash with Indiana Armies of Intolerance, who say they want to defend religious freedom, but we all know what they really want, right? It's obvious. Let's rally to drive them all out of business in the name of freedom and respect.

Last year, people were talking #ThingsJesusNeverSaid with images like these. I just shared #11.

Clearly a tag like this cuts both ways. Jesus didn't say many things, and everyone has put words into his mouth, but those who disrespect him may have done this more than anyone.

Jesus never said, "Put my name on something fun. Draw people to the Christian brand, and I will be honored."

He didn't say, "Watch yourself. If you get out of line, the Father will hammer you."

Or this, "Stop thinking about my teaching. Just believe what I say."

Feel free to add to the list.

The Fruit of Evolution

How Hegel's concept of a universal mind, a spiritual evolutionary process, gave us postmodernism, deconstructionism, and political correctness.

Over time, Hegel's pantheism was secularized and his Absolute Spirit was reduced to a metaphor -- the spirit of the age, the Zeitgeist. (In German, Zeit means time or age; Geist means spirit.) What remained, however, was the idea that individuals are "unconscious tools" of the Zeitgeist. They are not producers of culture so much as products of a particular culture. Individuals are shaped by the communities they belong to, each with its own shared perspective, values, habits, language, and forms of life.

In our own day, this has led to the extreme conclusion that everyone's ideas are merely social constructions stitched together by cultural forces. Individuals are little more than mouthpieces for communities based on race, class, gender, ethnicity, and sexual identity.
This comes from Nancy Pearcey's Finding Truth: Five Principles for Unmasking Atheism, Secularism, and Other God Substitutes.

'Contemporary scholarly methods do not always lead one to truth'

Seven essential lessons from Thomas Oden, an evangelical scholar in a secular academy:

  1. Contemporary scholarly methods do not always lead one to truth.
  2. Many of the questions raised by modern scholars have been addressed (long) before in the history of Christianity.
  3. The quest for originality and newness can be a dangerous one.
  4. Scholarly views can have serious social consequences.
  5. The modern scholarly community is not tolerant like people think.
  6. A faithful voice can have a significant impact.
  7. Modern Ideologies will eventually collapse under their own weight.

Difficult to Speak Out

Jackie Robinson said, "Virtually every time the black stands up like a man to make a protest or tell a truth as he sees it..." Read the full quote through the link. I share this because I believe it, and as a white man, I don't feel entirely free to share thoughts like this. The politics on this issue are too ugly and complicated to hold my confidence. I suppose this is fertile ground for humility.

MORE: Piper writes from his own experience on reasons white people don't like to talk about race. One reason is some people's habit of hamstringing the conversation by trying to kill honest words.

We'll Learn Ya

“Whiplash” — teaching success the old fashioned way, through humiliation, with hurling cymbals.

How to remember everything with or without a mind palace.

Yeats steered Ireland away from science, beginning in 1889: “There are two boats going to sea. In which shall we sail? There is the little boat of science. Every century a new little boat of science starts and is shipwrecked; and yet again another puts forth, gaily laughing at its predecessors. Then there is the great galleon of tradition, and on board it travel the great poets and dreamers of the past.”

The Magnificent Creation of the Almighty

Are there not things which our short-sightedness would call trifles in the volume of creation around us? What is the peculiar value of the daisy upon the lawn, or the buttercup in the meadow? Compared with the rolling sea, or the eternal hills, how inconsiderable they seem! Why has the humming bird a plumage so wondrously bejewelled, and why is so much marvellous skill expended upon the wing of a butterfly? Why such curious machinery in the foot of a fly, or such a matchless optical arrangement in the eye of a spider? Because to most men these are trifles, are they to be left out of nature's plans? No; because greatness of divine skill is as apparent in the minute as in the magnificent.
(from C.H. Spurgeon)

Personal update

Good afternoon, and thank you for your patience.

As you've noticed if you're a regular reader, my blog posting has been light for more than a year now. You may also be aware that I've been keeping dog's hours (is that a real saying? Sounds right, but most dogs I know generally sleep when they like and work very little) studying online for my Master's in Library and Information Science.

This, of course, explains my frequent absences. I'm stuffing my head full of high-falutin' book-larnin' notions, and now figure I'm too good for simple folk like you.

No, no, no, of course not. The sooner I can get away from academics, the happier I'll be. I'm a pin-headed Middle American yahoo, and the stress of trying to blend in with my classmates (even online) may kill me before I get through to graduation.

But I'm doing OK. Generally good grades, especially on my papers.

This week was spring break. I didn't actually relax much because the Norwegian publisher I've been translating for, with exquisite timing, dropped some more work on me. I'll get the translation back to them later today, so that worked out. The book, by the way, is supposed to be titled The Viking Legacy now, and seems to be coming late spring or in the summer. I'll keep you posted.

In other news, my bad hip continues to improve under a regimen of stationary bike riding and mobility exercises.

So life could be worse. Thanks for your interest.

Fakes Quotes, Real Quotes

8 Walt Disney Quotes That Are Actually Fake

Remembering Mister Rogers: 10 Heartwarming Quotes (Photos). Happy Birthday, Fred.

How True Crime Tales Affect Their Subjects

True Crime stories don't live in isolation. They purport to tell the truth from recent history, and sometimes their authors become players in the story. Here are five True Crime accounts that have stirred up the cases they describe.

No single case has probably generated more quality standalone volumes in true crime than that of Jeffery MacDonald. MacDonald was an Army doctor whose pregnant wife and two daughters were murdered in their home in 1970. According to MacDonald, Manson-like hippies attacked him and his family. After a military court failed to make the charges stick, MacDonald returned to civilian life but was eventually indicted in 1974. Then, following a lengthy appeals process over the sixth amendment that went all the way to the Supreme Court, he was tried and convicted of the murders in 1979. Before the trial, MacDonald had granted nearly unrestricted access to writer Joe McGinniss in the hopes that McGinniss would write a sympathetic book that argued his innocence. The result was 1983's Fatal Vision, which squarely pointed the finger at MacDonald and was adapted into a TV movie. In 1987, MacDonald sued McGinniss for fraud and, after a mistrial, they settled out of court. The dispute between them was the subject of Janet Malcolm’s 1990 classic nonfiction media meditation, The Journalist and the Murderer. In 2012, [True Crime author] Errol Morris published his own investigation into the MacDonald case, A Wilderness of Error, and argued in favor of MacDonald’s innocence.

Ken Priebe on "Song of the Sea"

Jeffrey Overstreet talks about Tomm Moore's animation. "This time, I invited animator and author Ken Priebe — a man whose imagination seems to exist in a state of perpetual invention. Ken literally wrote the book (books, plural, actually) on stop animation, and we have found that we have very similar passions for the works of Jim Henson, Pixar, and, yes, Tomm Moore."

Moore's movies, Song of the Sea and Secret of Kells, are visually arresting, magical animations that stand apart from everything else out there. Priebe says, "The one difference is that in [Song of the Sea], the song itself is almost another character in the film, and a recurring motif that is woven through the story (even the title). In Kells, the song is a highlight of one particular surprising moment in the story."

Comparing it to another recent movie: "Big Hero 6 also dealt with loss of a family member as a theme, but not with the same level of resonance and beauty as this film does. I’m still trying to figure out why, but I think it may have something to do with the mystical elements, connection to nature, and mythological motifs vs. a story that is driven by lots of fast action and technology, which we are all too bombarded with these days."

Film: Where We Started

"Where We Started offers a reminder of how prosaic sin frequently is: it’s neither murderous villainy nor forbidden secret pleasures, but simply broken people breaking themselves a little further. . . . It’s also a picture of what Christian cinema could be, if only Christians had a bit more imagination." Luke Harrington reviews an indie film that doesn't try to topple the Golden Gate Bridge with CGI.

'Not Surprising,' the Insensitivity at Wheaton, Moody

Barnabas Piper, who studied at Wheaton and worked at Moody, says it's sad but not surprising to hear of racial insensitivity at both institutions. "The American church has never been ahead of society when it comes to race," he says. "The white church has remained silent on race, comfortable in our majority culture and the benefits of it. And what should we expect?"

What's It Feel Like to Be Irish?

The Irish Independent has gathered response from several Irish young people who love to talk about being Irish. The Irish on YouTube are flagging themselves with #WhatItMeansToBeIrish, both there and on Twitter.

James Mitchell says they have a great sense of humor. He "discusses how much everyone wants to be Irish - and how much the Irish hate it. 'I once had someone tell me they were Irish... (because) they loved the colour green... Seriously.'"

Mamet on Film

David Mamet offers strong advice in this pared down clip from movie commentaries, such as this:

It's hard to write a drama -- because it's hard to write a drama with a plot, because a plot means that you have to at the end of the drama resolve that problem which gave rise to the drama in such a way that it's both surprising and inevitable as per Aristotle. The thing is, can you turn the film around in the last 10 seconds -- one of the hardest things in the world to do.

Do Christians Have to Be Radical, Missional?

Anthony Bradley has written many articles on the labels that are popular among many in the church today, saying they can be problematic. Communities that push themselves to be "radical," "missional," or "organic" may set themselves up for an alternative legalism that measures other believers by their activity instead of looking to our hope in Christ.

"To be fair," he writes, "the impulse that formed these tribes comes from a good place. They are all seeking to be faithful to what the Scriptures teach and are reacting to real problems that exist in the life of God’s people. The problem is that tribalism can cultivate a debilitating sense of shame and feelings of unworthiness that discourages God’s people from enjoying simple norms expressed in the dynamism of the ordinary."

He goes on to give seven points of garden-variety Christianity that will change the world. "The good life, then, the one that God has always used in his redemptive mission, is the one that brings glory to God by loving him and loving neighbor."

The Myth of Creativity

In Kevin Ashton's new book, How to Fly a Horse: The Secret History of Creation, Invention, and Discovery, Ashton predicts the demise of the word "creativity." It's a relatively new word intended to describe the process of a genius' insight, as described in these words created for Mozart's mouth:

“When I am, as it were, completely myself, and of good cheer, my ideas flow best and most abundantly. My subject stands almost complete in my mind. When I write down my ideas everything is already finished; and it rarely differs from what was in my imagination.”

Ashton says Otto Jahn, a Mozart biographer, told us those words were fabricated back in 1856, but people still use them to illustrate "creativity" because, he says, they have little else to go on. Studies that claim to show the spontaneous insight they call creativity cannot be validated, and other studies demonstrate "ordinary thinking" leads to creative results for most, if not all, people.

This appears to follow the pattern Malcolm Gladwell describes in his book David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants. He describes how top-percentile students perform at Ivy League schools and second-tier schools. The key to lasting success after college appears to be excelling within your class, not the relative prestige of that class. Students in the top 10 percent of a second-tier university tend to outperform most students in the upper 20 percent of an Ivy League school (I'm pulling those stats off the top of my head, so I may be off a bit). You might think a large percentage of the Ivy League students would outperform all of the students in "lesser" schools, because of the supposed superiority of Ivy League education, but that doesn't bear out in life.

The moral of the story, Ashton writes, is to see the truth in Newton's famous statement, "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants," by recognizing "he was standing on others’ shoulders by quoting George Herbert, who was quoting Robert Burton, who was quoting Diego de Estella, who was quoting John of Salisbury, who was quoting Bernard of Chartres."

My Writing and Editing Continues at a Steady Pace

A year ago I announced my transition into freelance writing and editing, and I remain thankful for the opportunities the Lord has given me. I’ve had a year’s worth of strong, interesting challenges, mostly in the area of writing small group studies for various churches. Those opportunities have come through the good people of Docent Research Group, who have been serving pastors and ministry leaders for many years. I couldn’t ask for a better team.

The Lord has also given me projects through Christian Editing Services, a network of professionals who can take a writer’s manuscript from rough draft to published in a timely manner. Their service listing is comprehensive, from academic editing to writing website copy, illustration to book trailers. I always look forward to receiving a new message from my CES editor in chief.

Last year, I mentioned my connections to a couple websites. I have much less of a connection with them now, but I guess I haven’t ruled them out completely. My largest project from the year came to me through independent channels. I was asked to edit a pastor’s devotional commentary and help usher it through publishing channels. That book is being published this month through Lulu.com. I’ll link to it when the sale page is up. Do join me in prayer that it finds a healthy readership.

Maybe I have something deep broken in me, because I feel both called to this work and completely inadequate for it. Even writing this simple post, I ask myself what I think I have to say and criticize every word I type. But pushing those thoughts aside, I enjoy putting words together and helping writers reach readers. I intend to do more of it over the coming year, if the Lord provides the work. More than ever before, I rely on our Lord for wisdom and daily bread. He has been generous with me, for which I am deeply thankful.

Poe as Odin

Edgar Poe looks Odinesque in this cover, don't you think?


How 'Person of Interest' Is Dying

"What do Person of Interest and Eddy/MacDonald have in common?" asks John Mark Reynolds. "They are the Scylla and Charybdis of making art, building a business, or running a church: never forget what got you there, but never become stale or trapped by what got you there. Without a vision the art or the project perish, but being held hostage to a stale vision can be just as bad." (via Lars on Facebook)

Addicted to Novel Reading


Writing for Eternal Fame

"There’s no such thing as a writer who yearns to be ignored. But writers thrive only in hushed vassalage to their own imaginations, shackled to their desks, trying to hear hints of that ancient inward thrum. When Montaigne proposes 'an unimportant life without luster,' you take his point. 'A talent,' said Goethe, 'is formed in stillness.' It’s called the limelight for a reason: Sooner or later you get limed by the light—burned, smeared, blinded."

"There was a moment in Rome, writes H.J. Jackson in her new book, Those Who Write for Immortality: Romantic Reputations and the Dream of Lasting Fame, 'when writers were elevated to a place among the immortals,' and litterateurs have been dazzled by that elevation ever since." (via Books, Inq.)

Strunk & White Approaches 55

Geoffrey K. Pullum of the University of Edinburgh hates the popularity of Strunk & White's Elements of Style. He doesn't believe the frequently recommended little book deserves it.

Following the platitudinous style recommendations of Elements would make your writing better if you knew how to follow them, but that is not true of the grammar stipulations.

"Use the active voice" is a typical section head. And the section in question opens with an attempt to discredit passive clauses that is either grammatically misguided or disingenuous.

We are told that the active clause "I will always remember my first trip to Boston" sounds much better than the corresponding passive "My first visit to Boston will always be remembered by me." It sure does. But that's because a passive is always a stylistic train wreck when the subject refers to something newer and less established in the discourse than the agent (the noun phrase that follows "by").

For me to report that I paid my bill by saying "The bill was paid by me," with no stress on "me," would sound inane. (I'm the utterer, and the utterer always counts as familiar and well established in the discourse.) But that is no argument against passives generally. "The bill was paid by an anonymous benefactor" sounds perfectly natural. Strunk and White are denigrating the passive by presenting an invented example of it deliberately designed to sound inept.
Of course, many writing teachers and word lovers like the book. NPR talked to Barbara Wallraff about why she's a fan.

"There's a certain Zen quality to some of [the book's rules], like, 'Be clear,'" Wallraff tells NPR's Renee Montagne. Read the rest of this entry . . .

Book, Music Sale

The Rabbit Room is having a sale on good books and music.

Why Star Trek Matters

Steven D. Greydanus writes about the important contribution Star Trek made to American or world culture.

"Star Trek as a whole promoted techno-optimism and wound up instilling countless fans with a love of science, space and technology, not to mention inspiring a number of real-world inventions — but Spock in particular helped make being a scientist, along with being smart and calmly rational, cool for countless Americans."

Asking Honest Racial Questions

When testing the instincts of police officers, subjects in Josh Correll's test revealed that they usually saw young black men as threatening, but they did so much less often than civilians did. “'We’re more likely to shoot a black man with a wallet,' Semien (a former officer) says, 'and we’re less likely to shoot a white man with a gun.'”

With this background, we must ask why we perceive young black men the way we do (and other types of people as well) and how we can make better judgments.

The Myth that Religion and Science Constantly Conflict

"The so-called 'war' between faith and learning, specifically between orthodox Christian theology and science, was manufactured during the second half of the nineteenth century. It is a construct that was created for polemical purposes."

Justin Taylor explains this quote from historian Timothy Larsen by pointing to the popular work of two men:

  • Andrew Dickson White (1832-1918), the founding president of Cornell University, and
  • John William Draper (1811-1882), professor of chemistry at the University of New York.
He says these men lied about history in order to create the impression that orthodox Christians had always opposed scientific investigations and inventions. Two of the myths they popularized were that the church-dominated medieval world believed in a flat earth and that Christians opposed anesthetics in childbirth based on an interpretation of the Genesis curse.

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