- Anton Chekhov, "The Teacher of Literature"
“If it comes to a swinging, swing all, say I.”
Today is Talk Like a Pirate Day, and my little family plans to catch a dozen free doughnuts at Krispy Kreme. If you talk like Long John Silver, they'll give you a doughnut. If you dress like Blackbeard, you'll get a dozen. That's our mark, matey. Other establishments may have deals in your are, but Talk Like a Pirate Day is really about the office watercooler.
“Dead men don't bite," you might say to your shipmate who won't throw you overboard. "Heaven, you fool? Did you ever year of any pirates going thither? Give me hell, it's a merrier place: I'll give Roberts a salute of 13 guns at entrance." This is an especially good line for those who have a Roberts on board.
If you're looking for inspiration like some of what I've quoted here, search for quotes from Treasure Island and records of historic quotations.
"In an honest service there is thin commons, low wages, and hard labor; in this, plenty and satiety, pleasure and ease, liberty and power; and who would not balance creditor on this side, when all the hazard that is run for it, at worst, is only a sour look or two at choking. No, a merry life and a short one, shall be my motto." Thus spake Bartholomew "Black Bart" Roberts, according to the scribe, and who can argue with him?
What's more? Here be a boon of quotes for ye, nancy-pants!
Update: In the spirit of authenticity, here's a page with history of some piratey words.
The Herald of Scotland is culling a list of the 100 best Scottish novels from their readers. They have 30 so far, including The Death of Men by Allan Massie, The House with the Green Shutters by George Douglas Brown, and The Heart of Midlothian by Sir Walter Scott.
Readers might take this recent list of crime fiction into consideration. They say Scotland can have an sobering, perhaps despairing, effect on people. Writer Helen Fitzgerald appears to disagree.
“My mum said 20 years living in the grey, murder capital of Western Europe, has made me write about darkness, despair, and deviance. She suggested I come home to Australia to write something with hope and joy in it. Taking her advice, I headed downunder in December, sat at an outside table in a cheerful, sunny beach-side cafe, and started writing. The story I started writing is about a dysfunctional Australian couple who accidentally overdose, kill and bury their baby whilst a raging bushfire burns folk to a crisp in the distance. Sorry Mum, it’s not Glasgow. It’s me.”
People have begun to publically worry that the world is forgetting what happened in Ferguson, Missouri over a month ago. I haven’t forgotten. I was praying for the families there this morning.
I could say many things about the Michael Brown shooting, how the police have handled it, how the community has handled it, the demonstrations, and the militarization of civil police forces. My perspective on these things has been stretched, and I don’t want ignore it. So let’s talk about “white privilege.”
You can see it in videos like this, showing a social experiment. A white guy tries to break into a car for thirty minutes, alarm blaring, without being questioned or stopped. A black guy does the same for less than five minutes before police show up. You have to assume witnesses believed the white guy had lost his keys (or something legit), but the black guy was obviously committing a crime. (Here’s a man’s reaction to the video, blaming blacks for legitimizing the stereotype they dislike.) I’m told the same kind of experiment has been tried with two men and a woman, each pushing a car up a street. Witnesses ignore the white man, question (or call police on) the black man, and offer to help the white woman.
In these cases, white privilege—no matter what the term may imply when pundits and professors use it—means being able to get on with your life without harassment, even when your car has broken down. Dr. Jarvis Williams describes other ways the term applies: getting a job or promotion, hailing a cab, or walking around a department store on your own merits, not being judged by the color of your skin. As a white man, I have never thought I could look suspicious while browsing a store, but that has been the experience of many respectable people who are judged regularly by their skin color. The absence of that public suspicion is what “white privilege” means.
Read the rest of this entry . . .
A Facebook community of authors are donating September's royalties to Iraqi Christians through Voice of the Martyrs. They call themselves Authors in Solidarity. We've reviewed a few of books featured in this community. Lars is donating his royalties from Hailstone Mountain (The Erling Skjalgsson Saga Book 4). There's New Found Dream: Book Two of "A Healer's Tale", The Legend of Sheba: Rise of a Queen, Bid the Gods Arise (The Wells of the Worlds) (Volume 1), and many more. Let us know if you join this effort to help Christians in Iraq.
Megan McArdle, a columnist at Bloomberg View, attempts to explain why writers are great procrastinators. She suggests many, perhaps most, writers haven't failed enough. They have rested on their natural talent for too long and believe that the talent is all they have to offer. They don't see their talent as a muscle that will grow with exercise; rather they see it as a solid that can be tested for purity. If the world discovers they aren't as good as they sometimes appear to be, they will be certifiably, undeniably doomed.
"This fear of being unmasked as the incompetent you 'really' are," McArdle writes, "is so common that it actually has a clinical name: impostor syndrome. A shocking number of successful people (particularly women), believe that they haven’t really earned their spots, and are at risk of being unmasked as frauds at any moment. Many people deliberately seek out easy tests where they can shine, rather than tackling harder material that isn’t as comfortable."
When faced with this fear, people may choose to hamper their own performance. She quotes Alain de Botton, saying, “Work finally begins when the fear of doing nothing exceeds the fear of doing it badly.” "For people with an extremely fixed mind-set," she continues, "that tipping point quite often never happens. They fear nothing so much as finding out that they never had what it takes." (via Lore Ferguson)
When you leave 50 replies to a negative review of your interactive ebook, you're doing it wrong.
Maybe you need more creativity. But then, "how did we come to care so much about creativity? The language surrounding it, of unleashing, unlocking, awakening, developing, flowing, and so on, makes it sound like an organic and primordial part of ourselves which we must set free—something with which it’s natural to be preoccupied. But it wasn’t always so . . ." (both via Prufrock)
In case you didn't see this at the beginning of summer, here's the teaser trailer for the next animation from the people who brought us The Secret of Kells.
"SONG OF THE SEA tells the story of Ben and his little sister Saoirse -- the last Seal-child -- who embark on a fantastic journey across a fading world of ancient legend and magic in an attempt to return to their home by the sea. The film takes inspiration from the mythological Selkies of Irish folklore, who live as seals in the sea but become humans on land. SONG OF THE SEA features the voices of Brendan Gleeson, Fionnula Flanagan, David Rawle, Lisa Hannigan, Pat Shortt, Jon Kenny, Lucy O'Connell, Liam Hourican and Kevin Swierszsz. Music is by composer Bruno Coulais and Irish band Kíla, both of whom previously collaborated on The Secret of Kells."
Many families and individuals are weighed down with graduate or under-grad debt while national theorists continue to recommend higher education as the solution to boosting the economy. These growing concerns have lead two authors to ask whether students are expecting too much from a college degree. One of two story trends that emerge from the research is seen in this student called Nathan.
His sputtering progress after college was foreshadowed by his choices during it, Mr. Arum and Ms. Roksa write. Nathan coasted, focusing more on socializing than on academics. He studied mostly with his friends, doing so alone for just five hours a week. When asked to name a significant academic experience, he at first couldn’t think of one. Still, Nathan graduated with a 3.9 grade-point average.If he had received a 2.1 grade-point average, would he have changed his trajectory and tried to raise it, or would his final record simply reflect his work accurately? (He was given a Business degree, by the way.) Is it the college's fault in even a small way that he has trouble finding a good job within a few years of graduating?
On another topic in higher education, Gregory Thornbury of The King's College in New York City, says we must continue to cast a vision for the next generation to run with.
I think we’re guilty of assuming that young people have signed up for the evangelical project or that they’ve signed up for democratic capitalism. We definitely get students who have signed up for that, who come from homeschooling backgrounds and so forth. They’re all charged up and ready to go. But there are also many who have never heard the case for the truthfulness of Christianity, for the things that caused flourishing in Western civilization. When people ask me, “What’s your personal mission?” I often say to them, it’s to re-enchant this generation with the animating ideals that made Western civilization in general and America in particular great. We are legatees of a great intellectual inheritance, and we have to make that case again.
Had to post about this, before there's further confusion.
This article from Tor. com has been making the rounds.
Researchers at the University of Western Australia decided to revamp the way they studied Viking remains. Previously, researchers had misidentified skeletons as male simply because they were buried with their swords and shields. (Female remains were identified by their oval brooches, and not much else.) By studying osteological signs of gender within the bones themselves, researchers discovered that approximately half of the remains were actually female warriors, given a proper burial with their weapons
It didn't take long for a rebuttal to come from what looks like a somewhat more credible source, Stuff You Missed in History.
But, this paper essentially uses the presence of six female migrants and seven male as evidence that women and children most likely accompanied the Norse armies with the intent of settling the land once it was conquered, rather than migrating in a second wave once the fighting was over. It is, sadly, not at all about female Viking warriors, and not some Earth-shattering evidence that Norse armies were evenly split among women and men.
They'll still have to prove to me that there were any female Viking warriors at all, but the point is made. The Tor article drew unwarranted and exaggerated conclusions from a study that examined a mere 13 graves.
Hey, Tor Books rejected my novel Wolf Time (soon to be re-released in e-book form) with disparaging comments, about 30 years ago. That should tell you all you need to know about them.
Anthony Bradley argues that most Christians today simply defend their political tribe using biblical language or proof-texts. They don't hold to any confession of faith, but they believe their view of the Bible is right and other views are wrong or dangerous. "Progressive evangelicals, like their liberal mainline cousins, have simply traded off, in many cases, the tools in the Christian social thought tradition for the analytical tools of the social sciences and the humanities (critical race theory, feminist theory, etc.). For progressive evangelicals, the social sciences are authoritative and are often above critique."
If we would fall back on sound theological confessions or a biblically developed history of Christian social consciousness, we could discuss issues like believers should and find common ground aren't finding now. As Dr. Bradley concludes, "A lively discourse about the right application of Christian principles within the Christian tradition is far more fruitful and interesting to me than engaging in a tribal war that tries to prove whose tribe best represents Jesus."
Speaking of a topic on which progressive Christians fail to think, Andy Crouch writes about the shrinking legal window on corporate identity: "In her dissent, Ruth Bader Ginsburg cited approvingly the idea that for-profit groups 'use labor to make a profit, rather than to perpetuate a religious-values-based mission. The words rather than are key. In Justice Ginsburg's view, it seems, corporations cannot serve—or at least the law cannot recognize that they serve—any god other than Mammon."
Read the rest of this entry . . .
It just occurred to me that Autumn/Fall is the only season with two names. Perhaps because it's so depressing they figured they'd divide it up into two bundles to make it easier to carry.
Oh yes, buy my book: Death's Doors.
So. Fall. This means that my blog posting, never regular even during summer break, will diminish materially. It's back-to-school time. I'm in my second year of graduate school already. How time does fly!
No it doesn't. I feel like I've been at this for a decade, and have about 30 years left to go.
I had a gratifying moment on Saturday. It's my ancient custom to go out for lunch somewhere on Saturday noon, and then go to the local Dairy Queen for a Dilly Bar.
As I approached the window, the manager said, "I always like to see you coming. You remind me of better times." Read the rest of this entry . . .
Perhaps you've heard this story about Sir Winston Churchill and Lady Nancy Astor, who apparently had a famous rivalry. Astor was the first woman to sit as a Member of Parliament in the House of Commons (1919). Her Wikipedia page notes her quick wit and, though they are poorly documented, her trading of insults with Churchill. One rumored exchange says Churchill disliked her being in parliament, saying that having a woman there was like being intruded upon in the bathroom. Astor replied, "You're not handsome enough to have such fears."
A familiar anecdote has the viscountess in a disdainful state of her prime minister. She says, "If I were your wife, I'd poison your coffee." Churchill replies, "If I were your husband, I'd drink it."
Astor's Wikipedia scholars attribute this quote, not to Churchill, but to his marvelously funny friend, Lord Birkenhead. I can't suggest Birkenhead did not have this exchange, but I'm fascinated to learn that the insult is much older than he, Churchill, or Astor. The Quote Investigator, my new favorite website, reports the earliest recording of this joke comes from an 1899 Oswego, New York, newspaper. It was completely anonymous, being passed off as something the reporter overheard on the subway. The account was picked up by many newspapers, so by the time Birkenhead and Astor may have conversed, it would have been an old joke.
What's more amusing is many people have claimed credit for it or given it to others. When Groucho Marx told the joke in 1962, he told it of George B. Shaw insulting a woman in his audience. In 1900, a comic named Pinckney claimed to have invented the dialogue a short time before the interview and that it had already worn itself out by flying around the world.
So if Lady Astor actually told Churchill or Birkenhead that she would poison them if they were married, she had plenty of opportunity to know she was setting herself up for a great joke.
Little did I know, when I moved to Robbinsdale, Minnesota, that I was relocating to a seedbed of treason. But so it appears. Not one but two jihadist casualties overseas have been identified as former students at Robbinsdale Cooper High School. And it gets closer than that, as I’ll explain.
First, a little orientation. Robbinsdale Cooper High School is not in fact located in Robbinsdale. The historical reasons are convoluted (I don’t actually know them), but enough to say that the school district includes several inner ring suburbs. In any case, it’s close to me.
More than that, early reports (the information seems to have been redacted now; perhaps it was in error) stated that the latest casualty, Douglas McAuthor (sic) McCain, dead in Syria, lived on Oregon Avenue in New Hope.
Before I bought my house, I lived in an apartment building on Oregon Avenue in New Hope. New Hope isn’t that big. Oregon Avenue isn’t that long. We were neighbors. I very likely rubbed shoulders with him at some point.
Even so, I find it hard to generate a lot of sympathy for the young man. He was born in America, and New Hope isn’t a ghetto. He had ample opportunities to respond to the gospel. Instead he joined a death cult to murder infidels and rape women.
Still, after some consideration, I can think of a couple reasons to pity him. Read the rest of this entry . . .
1. A Colorado coffee shop, located in an housing development for the homeless, is attempting to help the people around them as well as change their community's perspective on the capabilities of homeless people.
"People don't know who's behind the counter when they stop here," Kelly Kelley said. "It could be any one of us in that low-income or homeless category. We want to make a positive experience for people."
2. 10 reason why fair-trade coffee doesn't do what it claims, and plenty of pushback in the comments. "Fairtrade is not a one time, cure-all, it provides a framework. It's a tool and if applied well, producers move up the value chain, negotiate better terms, and strengthen their communities."
I remember a coffee roaster saying he saw little value in fair trade certification, because he knew a farm received certification on only half of its crop because they couldn't afford the price. No difference in the coffee they grew. They just could not afford to pay for the fair trade label for the second half of what they produced.
3. Costa Coffee, United Kingdom's largest coffee chain, has replaced its club card for an app.
4. Starbucks has gone to Colombia, and the Colombian national chain Juan Valdez is expanding in response. "In downtown Miami, a new Juan Valdez cafe feels like a slice of Colombia: traditional floor tiling, warm wood details, woven baskets, fresh arepas, and pictures of Colombia and its coffee. A poster of a smiling coffee farmer hangs near the entrance, greeting customers with the company’s key new message: 'Carlos is one of the 500,000 coffee growers who owns this coffee shop.'" Leaning on their history has proven profitable so far.
5. A young Lauren Bacall with coffee. (I believe this photo would be rated PG-13 because it depicts smoking. Steel yourself.)Read the rest of this entry . . .
Angel Sarkela-Saur and Andrew Saur have been painting with coffee for years. This video introduces them and their artwork. They mention sending their work to the U.S. Embassy to Malawi in the video. Now they are sending three pieces "Drained,” Dabble,” and “Voyage to Valhalla” to our ambassador to Columbia for a three year stay.
Coffee week, huh? That's what I get for being gracious, in a moment of weakness.
Getting into the spirit of the thing, I want to recommend to you Mark Helprin's masterful novel, Memoir From Antproof Case. It's a moving story about a man who goes into violent rages whenever he smells coffee, or sees anyone drinking it. Needless to say, he's a sympathetic character.
I wanted to re-post my review, but it seems to be on the old blog, where I can't search.
Also, on another note, I want to thank Loren Eaton for giving me a mention in his latest review. I have trouble commenting over there, so I'll say it here.
Now get some sleep. Helpful hint: It helps if you lay off the caffeine.
Coffee has been a subject of some uneasiness on this blog from the time I climbed on. There used to be a mission statement around here somewhere that said (I quote from memory), “Book reviews, creative culture, and coffee.” It’s no secret to any fair-minded reader that Phil has discriminated against me constantly because I don’t consume the vile stuff.
My isolation is increased by the importance of coffee in Norwegian-American culture. If I had a nickel for every time somebody has said to me, “What kind of Norwegian are you? You don’t drink coffee!” I’d be able to afford… a cup of coffee, I guess, because they cost a lot of nickels these days. But how did coffee get to be so important to Norwegians? I now know the answer, thanks to a book I’m reading.
I was recently given, as a birthday present, an interesting work by Kathleen Stokker, Remedies and Rituals: Folk Medicine in Norway and the New Land. It’s mostly about the superstitious – but sometimes scientifically valid – remedies Norwegians have used through history, and the sometimes celebrated, sometimes persecuted, but always feared people who practiced them.
One of the subjects covered is the use of brennevin (distilled spirits), which held an important place in folk medicine. That touches on the subject of the general use of alcoholic beverages in Norwegian history. The Norwegians, like all Europeans, were drinkers from the earliest times. But they mostly drank beer, and often quite weak beer. Later brennevin appeared, but its use was generally restricted to medicine and celebrations. But in 1817 a law was passed giving every Norwegian farmer the right to distill as much liquor as he liked whenever he wanted.
The result was disastrous. Celebrations became drunken brawls, ending in injury and death. Accidents increased. Productivity decreased. More and more individuals became hopeless slaves to drink.
By the mid-19th Century, people were forming temperance and abstention organizations, and the distillery law was repealed. One of the substitutes suggested to people who wanted to kick the brennevin habit was coffee: Read the rest of this entry . . .
Whit Stillman's next work will be on Amazon.com. A TV pilot episode for a potential series, "The Comopolitans," will be available through Amazon Studios on August 28. See a cute preview here.
“This has elements of all three of the first films,” he tells Vanity Fair, referring to his 1990 debut, 1994’s Barcelona and 1998’s The Last Days of Disco. “It’s very much like the fourth film, of those three.” He says one has to earn a living, and TV is where one can do it.
He also says he doesn't watch TV with violence and sex, "so it knocks out almost everything." Others say he only watches TV on airplanes.
"This summer on my way to work," writes The Public Humanist at The Valley Advocate, "I found something just for me in a box of cast-off books on a sidewalk in downtown Northampton . . . a yellowed and fragile New York Times Book Review clipping, from April 2, 1978: a list of the books that Tolstoy was most impressed by, organized by the age at which he read them."
The list was written in 1891 and includes selections such as Puskin’s poems: Napoleon, Gogol’s Overcoat, The Two Ivans, Nevsky Prospect, Rousseau's Confessions, all of Trollope's novels, and all of the Gospels in Greek. (via Open Culture)
Robin Williams greets the troops on a USO tour.
You’ve probably already heard the news that Robin Williams is dead at the age of 63. I sat thinking about which of his movies I’ve seen, and I realized I’ve only seen one – Popeye, a film of which I am, as far as I know, the only fan in the world (it helps to appreciate it if you know about the original comic strip, not the animated cartoons).
But the man had an unquestionable gift. Nobody ever did “off the wall” improvisational, stream of consciousness comedy like he did. He always admired Jonathan Winters, but he was better than Winters. He hit the bullseye more often.
Reports are that he died by his own hand, having struggled with depression and substance abuse for many years. One always suspected that he needed artificial stimulation to maintain that manic comic delivery. But he also seemed to be able to work just fine when he had dried out. Still, we don’t know the pressures he was under. I can speak from experience about the pain of depression. Someone like me can always tell himself that if we achieved this or that we’d feel better. What do you do when you’ve reached the top and still don’t feel good about yourself?
I had always assumed – stereotypically – that Robin Williams was Jewish. But his Wikipedia page says he was raised Episcopalian, and remained a member of that church.
We sacramentalists put great faith in the keeping power of God’s grace in baptism and holy communion. Let us pray that Robin Williams has found his long-sought peace in the grace of the Lord Jesus.
James K.A. Smith sets up the next issue of Comment by asking, "What if secularism is loudest precisely because it is a final cry before it is unveiled as implausible and unsustainable? Doesn't the emperor shout loudest about the beauty of his raiment precisely when he least believes it himself?"
I am given to understand that the Minnesota Vikings pre-season game tonight will feature a new attraction: Viking reenactors in authentic costumes doing... something or other between plays.
These reenactors will in fact be members of my own group, the Viking Age Club and Society of the Sons of Norway. We've been discussing this deal for some time, but I didn't want to announce it before I had definite confirmation.
However hard you look, however, you won't see me. My mobility problems, plus my looming study schedule in the future, make it imprudent.
Still, just so you know, these are my friends. Maybe when they're rich and famous they'll remember me.
Yvonne Zipp says Lev Grossman's The Magician's Land reminds her of Lewis' The Last Battle while remaining original.
“I bet it’s because of heresy like that that the world is ending. Your earthy, irreverent sense of humor has doomed us all,” King Josh tells Queen Janet. (If Peter was “The Magnificent,” and Edmund was “The Just,” in Narnia, Janet of Fillory should just be known as “The Awesome.”)
If that’s not enough of a selling point, The Magician’s Land also features a motto that should be emblazoned on T-shirts, embroidered on pillows, and hung on walls in dorm rooms everywhere: “Give a nerd enough time and a door he can close and he can figure out pretty much anything.”
"When Truman Capote called In Cold Blood a 'nonfiction novel,' he meant something very specific: that the book used the techniques of fiction but was completely factual," explains Ben Yagoda, but today many people appear willing to talk of fiction or nonfiction "novels" as if that word means a bound work of any form. In high school, this usage is everywhere, and it's prevalent in college too. Have you ever done it or seen it done? (via Mark Bertrand)
Earlier this morning, I read some a piece on how smart phones and similar tech have banished boredom from our lives and caused the very same problem for us. We don't know how to be bored, or better said, we don't know how to go without entertainment. Some say it comes from having small minds, but more than that, it trains us in small instant pleasures that will not build us up.
Have you ever asked yourselves why no one notice something wrong, perhaps something horrible, happening right under our noses? Whatever the reasons may be, we are polishing up our blind spots so that we will miss even more of those problems with our mobile tech and other distractions.
We don't have to check email while waiting on the cashier. We don't have to give our kids movies while we do errands around the city. It isn't that children shouldn't play when they are essentially waiting on us. It's how we are training them to play--what we're telling them is important.
Patrick Kurp wrote about this last year. He said, "T.S. Eliot claimed most of the trouble in the world was caused by people who want to be important. I would add a corollary: Most of the people in the world who want to be important have convinced themselves they are bored and that life is boring."
These self-important people do not see the value in small things or quietness. They want the exotic orchid, not the difficult research and travel to obtain it. But then, am I any better?
John Rhys-Davies on how The Lord of the Rings may have been influenced by World War I.
"Tolkien's experience of war left him with 'a deep sympathy and feeling for the "tommy," especially the plain soldier from the agricultural counties.' He based the character of Samwise Gamgee on common soldiers that he had known during the war, men who kept their courage and stayed cheerful when there was not much reason to hope.
World magazine is praising a new Irish movie called Calvary, which depicts a Catholic priest whose life has been threatened by a parishioner who suffered abuse by another priest in the past. Writer and director John Michael McDonagh wanted to talk about serious issues in this film, not smirk like a hipster at anyone who claims to believe something.
“The film is not made for ironic hipsters who are slouching through life, never coming up with any emotional or intellectual response for anything. As if that’s too—‘Oh, I don’t want to get into all that, let’s just watch some TV show.’ To me, it’s a film made for those people, who I assume is all of us, who are striving for some kind of philosophical decision about why we’re here. Fox Searchlight probably won’t like me saying this, but it’s a film about death. There’s lots of references to death all the way through, and it’s coming to terms with what’s going to face us at the end of our lives.”
He goes on to describe his love for Flannery O'Connor.