- Harriet Martineau
I didn't mention it directly in the "Writing for others" post below, but I linked to a Patheos.com post on plagiarism and personality-based leadership. In that post, Miles Mullin linked out to this week's context: Janet Mefferd accusing Pastor Mark Driscoll of plagiarism in his most recent book and later, other publications. He links out to evidence of this charge, which allows you to judge some of the material for yourself.
Now, Mefferd has retracted her accusation and removed her blog with the evidence and the interview in which she made the accusation entirely. You can read her apology here.
The final episode of Agatha Christie's Poirot has aired, though I doubt I'll see it for many months, if not years. Netflix only has shows as recent as 1995 so far. LARB has a lengthy review of the series with many quotes from David Suchet, who has worked very hard to present the truest performances of Christie's Poirot ever. Molly McArdle writes:
As a character, Poirot has had a curious shelf life. He certainly doesn’t have the name, or visual recognition that Holmes enjoys. He also lacks that detective’s cold elegance, the kind that drives even very reasonable people into gif-making hysterics. Still, Poirot’s appeal endures. Between 2004 and 2005, for instance, the anime series Agatha Christie's Great Detectives Poirot and Marple had a 39-episode run in Japan. In its 25 years, Agatha Christie’s Poirot has been broadcast in 100 countries and dubbed into 80 languages.A little trivia: Suchet played Inspector Japp in the CBS production of Thirteen at Dinner with Peter Ustinov as Poirot. Suchet says it was his worst performance ever, but it helped get him the part in the A&E series.
Poirot with Hastings by ~CeskaSoda on deviantART
- N.D. Wilson, an author more of us should be reading, explains the fundamental flaws in The Hunger Games. Self-sacrifice? Not hardly. "Revolutions," he says, "are not started by teen girls suicide-pacting with cute baker boys. Oppressive regimes are not threatened by people who do what they are told."
- George Eliot writes, "And when we stood at length and parted amid that columnar circuit of the forest trees, beneath the last twilight of starless skies, I seemed to be gazing … on a sanctuary with no Presence to hallow it, and heaven left lonely of a God." She is being quoted in this brief post on art without God and what that means for morality.
- A father of boys and girls talks about their roles in the world as informed by Star Wars and other movies. There are many problems with his brief presention, which I'm sure a worldview class could pick apart for a month, but I think he asks some good questions and makes a fair point. What is a girl to take away from watching Star Wars? Hope the boys fight well so she can reward them in the end? What should a boy take away from that movie? That he must fight to win and get the girl in the end? (And to touch on one problem with this presentation, may I ask why I should assume patriarchy is wrong? Is it that men are mostly wrong?)
And eating sweet rolls, Ho-Hos, and Ding-Dongs. Just watch your fingers on those pages.
Jeremy Olshan gives us advice on making money found in great novels. "Don’t expect, however, to find explicit tips on spending, saving and investing baked into the texts like messages in fortune cookies. Novelists and dramatists seem suspicious if not disdainful of those who dole out advice about money — which is perhaps why, when they do offer worthwhile personal-finance counsel, the words tend to be put into the mouths of imbeciles."
Here are his gleanings:
- Read Defoe to understand money. In Robinson Crusoe, the narrator finds a drawer full of gold while searching his ship's wreckage. "I smiled to myself at the sight of this money: 'O drug!' said I, aloud, 'what art thou good for? Thou art not worth to me, no, not the taking off the ground; one of those knives is worth all this heap; I have no manner of use for thee; e’en remain where thou art, and go to the bottom as a creature whose life is not worth saving.' However, upon second thoughts, I took it away."
- Read Trollope and Dickens to spot the next Bernie Madoff. "Rereading these Victorian novels," Olshan writes, "I’ve been struck, in a way that never occurred to me in high school or college, by how often the plots turn on bad financial decisions."
- Read Eliot and Flaubert before swiping that credit card. "Emma Bovary isn’t brought down by cheating on her doctor husband but by racking up ruinous amounts of debt."
- Read Dickens to learn the difference between saving and hoarding.
- Read Tolstoy before heading to the car dealership. "The old poker player’s adage that if, after a few minutes at the table, you can’t tell who the sucker is, it’s you, is more or less true in every financial transaction."
The trouble is that modern art in various ways abandoned imitation, representation, naturalism, and it now has to make out a case for its products’ still being truth. This is where science—certain aspects of science—are seized upon, assimilated, or sometimes simply plagiarized in decorative words, so as to bolster up art’s claim to cognitive value. One such use—and it is a curious reversal of Aristotle—is the boast of factuality: the work of the artist is said to be research; his creations are findings.
—Jacques Barzun, The Use and Abuse of Art (1971)
Maureen Mullarkey expounds on this remarkable idea in one contemporary art exhibit series, WeakForce.
In my American Literature class, professor Ruth Kantzer instilled in me a love for the Bay Psalm Book. I could hear the music, like you can below, but the words, translated for singing, captured me. At first, I believe the congregations and families sang without instruments, so what we have below came many decades later.
One of the 11 original copies of the first book printed in America will be up for auction tomorrow at Sotheby's. The video above will give you some details. You can buy your own copy here: Bay Psalm Book
Today I used my Kindle Fire HD with the Overdrive app to borrow and download, for the very first time, a book from the Hennepin County Library (one of Lawhead's, if you care). I'm a student of library and information science, you know, and this is how I stay on the cutting edge.
What have I learned in my class so far? The most disturbing thing is that all that stuff we're digitalizing to "preserve it?" It's all crumbling to dust. CDs, DVDs, floppies, tape, every single digital medium deteriorates over time. As I recall they give the average CD-ROM a little over 20 years.
The most stable media for preserving data remain, for the time being, archival quality paper and microform.
Just to give you something to worry about tonight.
Someone on Facebook posted a link to an article (not sure if it was this one; there are several out there) about this newly unveiled portrait of the Danish royal family, produced – though this seems incredible – at the family’s request, apparently.
If somebody did a portrait of your family like this, would you pay them?
I made a crack on my friend’s comments about how this is actually considered cheerful in Denmark, home of Hamlet and Kierkegaard.
But in fact I think it’s more ominous.
As a certified amateur artistic wiseacre, my immediate interpretation of these spooky figures, backed up by classical ruins, was that the purpose would seem to be to portray the royal family as doomed, a crumbling remnant of an outmoded social order.
And I bet the royals understand that, but know that pointing it out would just open them up to accusations of trying to suppress artistic expression.
But even more, it struck me that the composition reminded me viscerally of another famous royal portrait. This one: Read the rest of this entry . . .
This Saturday is Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary. A special episode, “The Day of the Doctor,” will broadcast around the world at 7:50 p.m. GST (11:50 a.m. PST/ 2:50 p.m. EST).
I don’t know who introduced me to the show. I just remember watching it through the 80s and maybe before that. PBS played whole series on Saturday nights year round, so if season 16 has six multi-part stories, then PBS played them in 6 weeks. They were playing Tom Baker, the 4th Doctor and favorite of The Countess of Wessex, when I started watching. At some point, they broadcasted all of Jon Pertwee’s episodes, picked up again with Baker, and carried on with Peter Davidson, Colin Baker, and Sylvester McCoy until it was cancelled (or put on hiatus) in 1989. I haven’t picked up the new series yet, though Christopher Eccleston’s first episode, “Rose,” was great fun.
I’m sure you’re dying to know that my least favorite of these actors was Sylvester McCoy (who plays Radagast in The Hobbit), not because of his ability, but because of the script. Of all the shows I have seen, his version of our universe’s problem solver seemed to have read the script more than any others. The stories in the late 80s didn’t show The Doctor figuring out situations and boldly foiling the bad guys. They ran him and his companions through a variety of hoops until the curtain rose on Act 4 to depict The Doctor walking in with the solution in hand. How did he know the solution? He read the script, as far as I could tell—and crazy scripts they were.
For the series anniversary, I wanted to compile some trivia which will amuse and befuddle you. No need to thank me. The pleasure is all mine. Enjoy! Read the rest of this entry . . .
One of three known photographs of Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg, taken by David Bachrach.
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
It was on this day 150 years ago that Abraham Lincoln delivered his Gettysburg Address at the dedication of the battlefield cemetery. The words have become part of our national canon, and not without reason. Lincoln had the rare qualities of having both a first class mind and a masterful prose style. This is particularly interesting when we remember that he had about the least formal education of any American president. If he had not existed, it would have been impossible to invent him.
For your reading pleasure (or possible displeasure):
10 Great Forgotten Books, such as The Castle of Otranto and the "unnecessarily tedious" Ravenshoe. (via Relief Journal)
15 Works of Dystopian Fiction Everyone Should Read, such as Invitation to a Beheading and The Stars, My Destination.
In other news, a sequel, “It’s A Wonderful Life: The Rest of the Story,” is in the works. The story shows Karolyn Grimes, who played Zuzu from the original movie, is an angel who visits George Bailey's irritable cuss of a grandson, named George Bailey, to show him how much better the world would be without him. Grimes says she has seen many scripts for Wonderful Life sequels, and this one actually brings the juice. (via S. Greydanus)
Floyd at Threedonia posted this trailer for an upcoming movie from Randall Wallace, to be released next Easter. What troubles me is that it actually looks kind of good. You all know the general rule about religious-themed movies: If the theology's good, the movie's probably bad, and if the theology's bad, the movie's probably bad anyway. But this almost looks like it could work.
Which would be a miracle. And that would prove God's existence, right?
- Evil intersperses cruelty with kindness.
- Evil assumes other people are as fake as It is.
- Evil likes to toy with other people’s boundaries.
- Evil takes a victim stance.
- Evil would rather kill the person doing the questioning than take a realistic look at itself.
- Evil does it for kicks.
- At it’s heart, Evil is parasitic.
- Evil is smooth-talking and impulsive.
- Evil, it would seem, reduces living things to commodities, especially those foolish enough to lick its knee.
- Evil ruins childhood and refuses kids the tools to grow up.
- Evil is mindless suffering and a blind compulsion to act out a painful past.
First, a brief commercial message. Due to a momentary technical lag in our diabolical plan to raise the prices on my two self-published e-books, Troll Valley remains for sale for the old $2.99 price at the time of this posting. I have no idea how long this will last, so if you want it at the old, low-self-esteem price, get it now.
Author Michael Z. Williamson sent me this link to a remarkable piece of writing by Jackson Crawford, who teaches Norse and Norwegian languages at UCLA. It's a retelling of the Star Wars story as an Icelandic saga, and to my ear it seems letter-perfect. Also better than the movies.
But Lúkr took Artú’s bloody cape and there found the message written by Princess Leia. He began to read it. “I am no runemaster,” he said, “But these words say, ‘Help me, Víga-Óbívan Kvæggansson; you alone would dare to avenge me.’ I don’t know how to read any more words, because they are written poorly and hastily. What is this?”
Artú pretended not to speak Norse, and asked in Irish, “What is what?”
“What is what?” responded Thrípíó, “That was a question. What was written on that message which Princess Leia gave you?”
“That’s nothing,” said Artú, “An old message. I think that Princess Leia is long dead.” Thrípíó translated his words into Norse.
“Who is Princess Leia?” asked Lúkr, “What family is she from?”
I had no idea they were making a movie of Mark Helprin's Winter's Tale. Hard to imagine they could do it justice, but the trailer hits the right notes.
Coming early 2014.
Alissa Wilkinson writes about Christian artists who eschew identification as such:
Sometimes it's because they're afraid of being stigmatized, in some fields more than others. But just as often, what I hear is that they don't because they're afraid that the "Christian world" will glom onto them, making them the next poster child for the cause: "Look! Christians can be cool, too!" Then, precisely because the gears are ready and well-oiled, they fear they'll be sucked into being packaged for "the Christian market." (And often they want their art to be appreciated because it is well-made, not because a Christian made it and we all gotta stick together.)(via Jeffrey Overstreet)
My father, Pfc. Jordan Walker, in the Occupation Forces in Japan, about 1946.
Thanks to all our veterans for your service and sacrifice.
C. S. Lewis wrote somewhere that for modern souls, the acquisition of new appliances, vehicles, and entertainment devices constituted “the very stages of their pilgrimage.” I bear that in mind as I announce my acquisition of a Kindle HD.
As you know if you’ve been following this blog, I’ve had a Kindle Keyboard (the generous gift of no less a figure than the learned Dr. Hunter Baker) for some years now, and have fallen wholly under its sway. I like its ergonomics, its lightness, and the opportunity, when I need a new book, to satisfy my jones in about a minute. I treasure my Kindle Keyboard, and have no plans to abandon it. In the single day I’ve owned my Fire, I’ve tried reading on it, and it’s fine. I’m sure I could transition to it as a regular reading device without trouble. But the battery on my old Kindle lasts longer, and the essential reading’s equally good.
The Kindle Fire HD is a genuine tablet, albeit a low-end, entry-level one. The first thing that impressed me was the graphics. What I see on my device doesn’t have the definition of the more expensive Kindles, but nevertheless it amazed me. I got a free month of Amazon Prime with my purchase, and I downloaded an episode of “Justified.” I was highly impressed with the speed and picture quality (though downloading YouTube videos can be annoyingly slow and page loading can be poky). Also impressive was the Dolby sound, which is amazingly good for such a small device.
I’m still learning to navigate on the thing, and experiencing the normal old dog’s problems. I like the way you can move around and zoom in on the screen with a finger swipe, and I think the whole thing will become pretty instinctive before long. For someone who’s always worked with Windows, the whole “Mojito” operating system involves a little techno-shock, but like all systems it makes its own kind of sense. The virtual keyboard is OK; it confounded me for a while but I think I'm catching on.
The main reason for the low price of this Kindle is that it doesn’t have either a camera or a microphone, so the buyer should be aware of that. I bought mine because I wanted more flexibility in accessing the web. I think I’ll even be able to do some of my graduate course work through it; at least that is my hope.
This is a preliminary evaluation. I’ll let you know if I change my mind about anything.
Emily Temple has a brief, but long list of hard books: "Some books are only for the toughest readers on the block, your Sylvester Stallones of literature."
If I’d known what I was getting into when I agreed to be one of the Vikings present last night at the American Swedish Institute’s annual “Loki’s Bash” Halloween party, I might not have done it. It was only after agreeing that I learned that one of the event’s sponsors was a local paranormal society, and that divination would be performed as part of the festivities.
But I’d given my word, so I set off. As it turns out, it wasn’t so bad. No doubt I was surrounded by people who would have considered me a Nazi if I’d shared any of my views, but that’s a less and less infrequent experience for me. And I don’t think anything went on, in terms of the occult, that didn’t also happen at the Science Fiction cons I attended. In any case, all of that was out of my sight.
What I did see was an endless parade of (mostly) young adults (total attendance, I’m told, was 1,600) adorned in costumes of varying degrees of quality, cleverness, and good taste. A fair number were dressed as they imagined Vikings would be, in keeping with the event theme. Many were identifiable characters from movies and TV shows. Many others, no doubt, were identifiable characters from movies and TV shows I’ve never heard of. Others were puzzles. Some were meant to be puzzles.
Take for instance, my favorite. There was a young woman there dressed in a black dress with white collar and cuffs. She wore a gray wig plaited in two pigtails. And she had an eyepatch and two toy ravens perched on her shoulders.
I finally had to ask. “Schoolgirl Odin?” I asked.
“No," she laughed. “I knew it was too complicated. I’m Wednesday Addams. But Wednesday is Odin’s day.”
Makes perfect sense when you think about it.
I got home after midnight, and to bed after 1:00 a.m. My alarm clock picked this morning, of all mornings, to lose its bearings and set off its alarm about forty minutes early.
I blame witches.
I've been playing with the kids today and working on theology piece which I hope to post here soon, so while it's still Reformation Day, let me direct you to this recreation of Luther's Reformation acts in !!eye-poppingly realistic!! LEGO form. You will believe you are actually in Germany with these events went down.
"The pleasures of Moby Dick are more akin to the pleasures of a police procedural like CSI or NYPD Blue," writes author and scholar Jonathan Rogers. "A better comparison, really, would be the Horatio Hornblower books or Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series."
He says Moby Dick is a book about whaling, which is the reason there are so many details about whaling in it. He notes, "The piled-on detail seems oppressive to many readers; it truly is hard to handle. But the story begins to do its work on you when you stop trying to handle it."
Moby Dick by ~scumbugg on deviantART
What a strange day. I was very low and very high within a few hours, and all through the mediation of the Internet. This whole thing would have been inconceivable just 20 years ago.
First, though, the weekend report. My big project was my annual ceremony of seeking out and repairing cracks in the retaining wall on the west side of my property, so it doesn’t rain chips down onto my neighbor’s driveway, or give way altogether in small landslide. The neighbor and I have discussed replacing the whole thing, but that awaits the Day When My Ship Comes In. A movie deal would do it.
I knew ahead of time that the work would leave me walking like Walter Brennan on the old Real McCoys TV series, which most of you are too young to remember. Which is just the sort of thing Grandpa McCoy would have said himself, except that he would have said it about Vaudeville or nickelodeon shows.
The other big accomplishment of the weekend was submitting my first research paper for my grad school class. Worked hard trying to master the APA style, and had to cut out half my text after I realized I’d forgotten to make it double spaced. I’ve often had people (some of them with doctorates) tell me they can’t imagine writing a novel. I for my part have a hard time imagining writing a doctoral thesis.
So I hobble into work today and check the grad school web access page, and find that my instructor has critiqued my paper, but not given me any grade points. I took that to mean I’d failed the assignment, and so plunged into Stygian depression. I have to maintain a B average to stay in school. All that was over now, I thought. I was done. Bound for unemployment and life on the street.
Then I e-mailed the instructor, asking her to explain. She e-mailed back that she just hadn’t assigned grades yet.
OK. Never mind, then.
And then I get a plug from John Wilson at Christianity Today’s Books & Culture podcast (see below). That’s like a bucket list thing for me. All my life, Christianity Today has been the standard of intellectual respectability in the evangelical world. And I made it! In a way.
My grandmother would have been so proud. Though I’d have to explain to her what the Internet and podcasts are.
Then we could commiserate about our stiff joints.
In his podcast today, John Wilson of Books and Culture talks about how much he enjoyed Lars' latest !!spell-binding!! novel, Hailstone Mountain, and a bit about how he was provoked to read it. The world feels smaller somehow.
If you too are brand new to Lars Walker's novels, learn more by following this wonderful, insightful, and humility-inspiring blog or through the links below:
- Twice the Critical Goodness!
- Phil's Review of Troll Valley
- Eleventh Century Vox
- I Did Not See That Coming
- My Review of Hailstone Mountain
- By the Dawn's Erling Light, Part 1
- By the Dawn's Erling Light, Part 2
- My Review of West Oversea
(via Kevin Holtsberry)
Had a small adventure today, a step outside my customary work orbit. It involved a connection with a fellow blogger, too.
Dennis Ingolfsland (a fine Norwegian name) is the chief librarian at Crown College in St. Bonifacius, Minnesota, a school of the Christian and Missionary Alliance. He’s also the blogger at The Recliner Commentaries, a fine blog I’ve been following for years. He doesn’t post as often as I’d wish, but then he’s a teacher as well as a librarian. Also the pastor of a church. That’ll eat into your time.
I’m in the last stages right now of composing a research paper on Theological Librarianship for my grad school class. One thing I was required to do for that project was to interview some working librarians in the field I’m covering. I e-mailed three, and they all agreed to help (librarians, I'm discovering, are a remarkably helpful and accommodating group. Which makes me wonder whether I’m cut out for the job). Dennis invited me to come out to Crown and look at their set-up, and I decided it would be a good idea.
He showed me through their library, which is far larger, better organized, and more sophisticated than mine is. He gave me some good suggestions for connections to online resources. And he bought me lunch, on the college’s dime.
I think they must have confused me with somebody else.
In any case, thanks, Dennis.
A still from Night of the Living Dead, 1968.
It’s Halloween season now, I guess, so I think I’ll speak my mind about zombies.
I don’t like them.
Not in the Bruce Campbell Evil Dead sense of, “I hate those bleeping zombies and I’m gonna blow them away.”
No, I dislike them because they’re boring. Of all the monsters invented by the mind of man, the zombie (as imagined in America ever since the movies altered a Haitian folk superstition into a semi-systematic popular mythology) is the least intriguing.
Zombies have no style, like Dracula. They (generally) have no pathos, or capacity for it, like Frankenstein’s monster. They have no tortured self-awareness, like the wolf man.
They just lurch around hungering for brains, compelled by mere appetite, without choice or agency.
They are a metaphor for modern humanity, as seen by itself.
And I hate that most of all.