"The story of the Incarnation has pre-eminently the “inner consistency of reality.”"

- J.R.R. Tolkien
Watch the Writer in Action!

Here's an amazing in-the-moment video of an actual writer working his craft!

If you look closely...

...you can see Phil Wade in the background.



Have a good weekend.

Mrs. Olson, abortonist

Scandinavians are so culturally identified with coffee that one of America's foremost brands actually made a Scandinavian (of unspecified nationality) their spokeswoman for more than twenty years, a period of time popularly known as "our long national caffeine-induced nightmare."

From 1965 to 1986, Virginia Christine, an actress of Swedish extraction, played "Mrs. Olson" in one of the longest-lived commercial campaigns in history. Throughout those years this diabolical old harridan, obviously unhappily married herself, insinuated herself into other people's domestic problems, like this.



According to her Wikipedia page, Ms. Christine spent her declining years as a Planned Parenthood volunteer, which explains a lot, it seems to me. Clearly she was slipping contraceptive drugs into these people's coffee. Which obviously accounts for the dropping birth rates that characterized the '60s, '70s, and '80s.

Coffee. A clear and present danger to the republic.

ThinkGeek's Useless Box

What Do The English Do on the Fourth of July?

A genuine Englishiander gives us this rundown of what his people do on The Fourth of July (besides watching American TV). One thing they do is watch fireworks:

"Crowds of people dress in red coats and gather under large scaffolds, which are extensively rigged with explosive fireworks. At an agreed-upon time across the country, the fuses are lit and the fireworks shoot downward, into the throng that has gathered underneath. This serves to remind the British people of the pain and suffering that came from the defeat endured by the King’s Army, and to prepare younger generations of English men for the eventuality of a second battle in which the Crown retakes what is rightfully British land."

"All web content deserves to go viral." Share This!!

Just in time for Friday the 13th, your new, favorite website has launched. ClickHole, from the makers of The Onion, "is the latest and greatest online social experience filled with the most clickable, irresistibly shareable content anywhere on the internet." It says so right on the About page. It has "only one core belief: All web content deserves to go viral."

It's spontaneously generated (not written by any actual humans) appears on the site, just begging to be clicked and shared. If anyone needs help on just how this "clicking" process works, scroll the About page for a helpful illustration.

Share your results for great quizzes like "How Many Of These ‘Friends’ Episodes Have You Seen?" I got "Nice! 'You know math?!' Yep, looks like you're a borderline 'Friends' genius! Wish you were around when Joey posed as a combat medic in Iraq during season 8!"

Read George R.R. Martin's confession: "When I Started Writing ‘Game Of Thrones,’ I Didn’t Know What Horses Looked Like."

Watch and share this touching video: "What This Adorable Little Girl Says Will Melt Your Heart"

And best of all: "8 Touching Pics Of Celebrities And Their Dads."

(via 10,000 Words)

No More Plagiarizing, I Mean It.

"There is a difference between inspiration and imitation," so stop copying Ace Ventura: Pet Detective in this workshop. (via Prufrock)

All righty then.

In other news, they had automated hot dog machines in Gothenburg, Sweden, in the 1950s.

11 Ways to Support Your Local Author

"Anyone can support an author’s book release by doing different things to help the book sell and get noticed," writes Chuck Sambuchino. He has 11 fairly obvious ways to do it, but these points need to be made because people on the Internet don't have much sense--can we all agree on that?

His points include buying the book for yourself and others, reading that book in public, posting selfies of you reading that book in public, posting photos of you reading that book in "private" (the more sensational, the better), and rearranging bookstores.

I personally attest to this last point. Several times I stuffed a few Harry Potter books into the Star Wars collection in order to make room for a few of Lars' books on the Hot New Reads by J.K. Rowling display. Once I got the store manager shouting about it, which is great publicity I tell you.

One great way to support a book that Sambuchino doesn't list relates to hard-bound books only. If the book you want to promote has a dust jacket, you can swap it with a great NY Times bestseller's dust jacket for increased crossover sales. It's hard to recommend a best time to try this bit of good-hearted subterfuge, because customers and managers alike tend to rat you out. Maybe if one person starts a fire in the Survival Tech section, another person will have the time to swap dust jackets.

Twelve Reasons Why God Can't Get Tenure, Rebuttal

Twelve top reasons why God can't get tenure (from the Internet of Yesteryear)

  1. He's authored only one paper
  2. That paper was in Hebrew
  3. His work appeared in an obscure, unimportant publication
  4. He never references other authors
  5. Workers in the field can't replicate His results.
  6. He failed to apply to the ethics committee before starting His experiments on humans.
  7. He tried to cover an experiment's unsatisfatory results by drowning the subjects.
  8. When subjects behavior proved his theory wrong he had them removed from the sample.
  9. He hardly ever shows up for any lectures. He merely assigns His Book again and again.
  10. His office is at the top of a mountain, and He doesn't keep office hours anyway.
  11. When He learned that His first two students sought wisdom, He had them expelled.
  12. His exams consist of only ten assigments which most students fail.


Rebuttal: Why God Did Receive Tenure.
  1. The one publication was a Citation Classic.
  2. The Hebrew original was widely translated courtesy of the author.
  3. Being written before journals existed, references were hard to come by.
  4. Original treatises that found a new area often require their own monograph.
  5. Although research has been sparse since the Creation, the professor has taught a number of courses: Human anatomy 212; Ancient Middle Eastern History 101, 102; Hydrology 207; Human Development 350; seminar on Egyptology; extended field trips to the deserts between Egypt and Palestine; Politics of Theocracies 277; Military Science Special Topic: Use of Voice as a Municipal Assault Weapon; Criminology 114; guest lectures in the Vet School: Digestive Anatomy of Whales; Wisdom & Ethics 550; Special seminar: Fertilization without sperm; Winemaking 870; Healing by miracle 987; Theology 101, 102, 230, 342, 350, 466H, and 980.
  6. The substitute teacher (son) was highly committed to his work.
  7. The substitute teacher cancelled the original ten requirements.
  8. The twelve teaching assistants formed numerous discussion groups.
  9. The substitute teacher knew students names without an attendance sheet.
  10. The professor's weekly Sunday lectures by surrogate instructors are attended by 974 million students.


College Theses Boiled Down to a Laugh Line

I believe these are actual submissions from grad and undergrad students, but the result is funny. Last December, a Harvard student put up "LOL My Thesis" as a way to procrastinate her own thesis writing. Here are some submissions:

Reed College: NERO WAS ACTUALLY AWESOME AND I CAN PROVE IT, and building programs act as excellent predictors to how your rule is going to end.

Steton Hill University: It is possible to write an urban fantasy novel featuring vampires who aren’t having sex. But then multiple agents and editors will tell you it’s nonpublishable. Thanks, Twlight.

Princeton: Sauron is pretty evil. Voldemort is also pretty evil. Sauron and Voldemort are also pretty similar, but they are not EXACTLY the same. I will now talk about them for 90 pages.

Boston University: Sir Arthur Cannon Doyle is the Nostradamus of forensic science.

Texas Christian University: Museums are culturally appropriative pack rats, and people are noticing.

Colbert's slow clap

U.C. Berkeley: If You Took Out the Best Part of This Book, It Wouldn’t Be as Good.

A student from John Hopkins University offers the actual thesis for comparison: Homegrown Solutions: Global Environmental Change and Sustainability

Translation: Cities aren’t really doing anything but the fact that they’re doing things is a thing and eventually the government may notice that it’s a thing.

I found this site via a Facebook friend, who had another friend add this comment:

My actual thesis was something like "Interactive storytelling through the medium of narrative games facilitates a stronger Aristotelian catharsis, producing more proper pleasure, making them a more powerful tool for sharing hope in a sin-scarred world."

Translation: "Somebody make a video game based on Christian principles that doesn't make me want to tear my thumbs off, please."

Schrödinger's Cat and Other Jokes

Here's a list of 20 good jokes that are supposedly funny only to intellectuals, but many non-intellectuals will get them too. For example: It's hard to explain puns to kleptomaniacs because they are always taking thing literally.

Ha!

Also, Schrödinger's cat walks into a bar. And doesn't.

Why Are Tennis Balls Fuzzy and Other Questions

Q. Why are tennis balls fuzzy? Aerodynamics, baby.



The fuzzy felt that covers a tennis ball helps you control it when you bat it over the net. The bounce and spin you get with these balls is lessened by the fuzz. You'll notice a difference if you hit around a bald ball after practicing with a new, fuzzy ball. The bald ball will be a little wilder on the court.

Q. If blood is red, why do veins look blue?

This gets at the reason why anything has color. The light that reflects off an object gives it the color we see. Good light has all colors in it, even colors we don't see (e.g infrared and ultraviolet). For the blood in your veins, light must soak into your skin before coming back to your eye. Apparently, Read the rest of this entry . . .

An interesting Lutheran

I meditated the other day, in this space, on the question of whether Lutherans are boring. It’s a given, of course, that I’m boring personally, but what about the rest of my brethren? I tried to think of some notable Lutheran I could point to and say, “You call that boring? Ha!” But I couldn’t come up with any.

And then one of my Facebook friends posted this video.



Now I don’t know whether Egil Ronningsbakken, the performance artist here, is a Lutheran or not. Odds are he’s at least nominally Lutheran, since most Norwegians are, but more and more Norwegians are purely secular nowadays, without even going through the traditional pro formas of baptism and confirmation.

Still, he’s at least Lutheran by heritage. And whatever you may call whatever it is he’s doing, you can’t call it boring. Frankly, just watching the video is almost physically painful to me, afraid of heights as I am.

I might mention that Preikestolen, the cliff where he’s performing here, is the precise spot I had in mind in the big climactic scene in The Year of the Warrior where Erling and his men confront a warlock under the northern lights. I called it the High Seat in the book, not in order to protect the innocent, but just because I assumed that Preikestolen (The Pulpit) wouldn’t be a name the Vikings would have used. So I made one up.

Lutherans. Not boring. Just bug-eye crazy.

Enough to curl your hair

I'm not the Norway expert I thought I was. I hadn't been aware that the Norwegian Olympic curling team is famous, not for winning matches, but for wearing silly pants.

I do not feel richer for the knowledge. It does make me feel better about my ancestors' decision to emigrate, though.

Tip: "Scott" at Threedonia.

How The Hobbit 2 Should Have Ended

This is funny and a totally appropriate spoof on a recent movie you may have seen. If you haven't seen it or read any criticism of it, then you will miss half the jokes.



Dude, was I right or what?

Achievable resolutions, 2014



Below find my traditional list of achievable new year’s resolutions for 2014. Disclaimer: I am a professional. Do not try this at home.

I resolve to give up twerking.

I resolve to cut my caviar expenses by at least 50%.

I resolve to eat no komodo dragon meat.

I resolve to be gracious in my forgiveness, when the Minneapolis Star and Tribune finally apologizes for failing to meet my information needs, as inevitably it must.

I resolve to help Peter Jackson fix his last Hobbit script, if asked.

I resolve not to run if nominated, and not to serve if elected.

I resolve not to let the Balrog pass.

I resolve to read no books by Dan Brown.

I resolve not to wear knee-britches.

I resolve to permit my enemies one more year of life before I defeat them, see them driven before me, and hear the lamentations of their women.

Happy New Year!

Horus Wishes You Merry Christmas

A group calling themselves The Lutheran Satire offers this holiday video.

"Da Night Before Chris-moose"



Posting this video is probably an act of self-indulgence, but I keep remembering it around Christmas. And just today I discovered someone had put a video up on YouTube. Except that it’s not a video video, just a sound recording illustrated with a recurring loop of photos. The real visual image that should go with the poem is this one.

It’s a Scandinavian-dialect parody of “The Night Before Christmas,” which a Minneapolis kids’ TV personality named Clellan Card (in his character of Axel Torgerson, an eccentric immigrant who lived in a tree house with a dog and a cat) did every year around the holiday. For kids who grew up in southern Minnesota, this is a precious memory.

Clellan Card was a clever radio comedian who had something of a national reputation, but the accidental deaths of his two oldest sons in 1952 and 1953 impelled him to devote himself entirely to entertaining children. The best I can do to describe him is to say he was sort of a talking Harpo Marx – a five year old kid grown up in body but not in spirit. You can’t fake that attitude. Kids can smell a phony. Card was the real thing.

In 1966, he started being absent from his show more and more frequently, his sidekick “Carmen the Nurse” filling in for him. And on April 14, Carmen tearfully announced that Axel had died. We had a lot of local kids’ shows in those days, and some of them were pretty good. But nobody ever achieved the heights of nonsense that Axel did.

Public service announcement

I figured it all out today. I was talking to a fellow in the library, and I got onto my little speech (which I've given in this space before) about the big difference between English and German.

German is famous for long, long words. But those words can be broken down into their constituent parts and analyzed by any moderately educated German speaker. This gives the language tremendous precision.

In English, our long words tend to be borrowed from Latin. And hardly any of us speak Latin anymore. So most of us don't know what our long words mean.

This has contributed tremendously to the obfuscation of our discourse.

It makes it possible to sound very intelligent in English without making any sense whatever.

In other words, it has given us modernism.

So all we have to do to reclaim the culture is to start teaching Latin again.

There, I've figured it out. I leave it to you to work out the details.

You'd better watch out


The Council of Nicea. I think St. Nicholas is the bald guy with the book on the right. Photo credit: Hispalois.

Our friend Dr. Paul McCain of Cyberbrethren quotes another friend of ours, Dr. Gene Edward Veith today, reprinting his classic account of Saint Nicholas (whose feast day is today) slapping the heretic Arius.

During the Council of Nicea, jolly old St. Nicholas got so fed up with Arius, who taught that Jesus was just a man, that he walked up and slapped him! That unbishoplike behavior got him in trouble. The council almost stripped him of his office, but Nicholas said he was sorry, so he was forgiven.

Dr. Veith goes on to make some constructive suggestions concerning new Christmas slapping customs we might adopt.

Life Without Garfield

Have you seen Garfield Minus Garfield? The book has been out since October 2008, collected from the comics posted on Dan Walsh's website. The gist is to remove the cat from the strip and discover a remarkably funny, albeit dark and usually depressing, comic strip.

Publishers Weekly says, "If Samuel Beckett had been a strip cartoonist, he might've produced something like this." Here are a couple.

Miserable Life

Respect

For a slightly different angle on this joke:

String or Noodle

"Skin"



Allan Sherman was an entertainer from the days of my youth, who had no particular talent except for his ability to write clever parodies of popular songs. I was a great fan of his, and even tried to write parodies of my own. But I was never as good at it. The clip above is perhaps my favorite of his works, a take-off on the song, "You Gotta Have Heart," from the musical D*mn Yankees (fifty years after the show opened on Broadway, I still can't bring myself to spell out the title). It came to my mind today, heaven knows why.

The good, the bad, and the manipulative

I came up with a one-liner today that is, in my opinion, hilarious. It’s so good that I’m positive somebody else must have come up with it first.

“I’d give my right arm to be ambidextrous.”

Thank you, thank you. I’ll be here all week.



My big entertainment, over the weekend, was watching all three Man With No Name movies on Blu-ray. I’ve had a Blu-ray player for several months now, but I didn’t actually own a Blu-ray movie. Finally I noticed that Amazon was selling a set of all three Eastwood spaghettis for about twenty-five bucks, so I sent away for them.

Consumer report: I enjoyed the movies very much, as I always do. But I realized more than ever before – I suppose it’s inevitable as I grow older – that there is no moral value in them whatever. I first encountered the term “moral holiday” in a review of a James Bond movie when I was a teenager, and that conception applies just as well to Sergio Leone’s westerns. They’re works of art, and sometimes breathtaking. But they do not know good from evil.

They think they do. I’m sure director Leone thought he was teaching a moral lesson to the world with his works. He loved westerns – it’s apparent in every frame – but he did not love America. Part of the mystique of the spaghetti western was the suggestion that these movies were more honest than the older movies. The old movies had sugar-coated the hard truth, turning gunfighters into boy scouts. But now we could see the true motivations – hatred, revenge, and especially pure greed.

In fact this was no more realistic than the earlier westerns. If the traditional American oaters romanticized the cowboy and the shootist, the Italian westerns imposed on them a purely modern, amoral sensibility. You can see that in the frequency of violence against women in the Italian movies. In the real American west, violence against women (at least white women) was among the chief taboos. These were Victorians, after all, not members of the Manson family.

But Leone knew how to make a film, and he hired one of the greatest geniuses in film music, Ennio Morricone, to do the sound tracks. The result is pure entertainment, the kind of alteration of consciousness that only a master epic filmmaker can produce.

Just as Leone “tore the mask” off the American cowboy, I shall here tear the mask off the moviemaker – moviemakers are manipulators. They always stack the decks, for good or ill. Understand that and you’re free to have a good time.

Applies equally to novelists, come to think of it.

What Your Coffee Says About You

You're fun, energetic, serious, and focused on what's important. You may not have the world by the tail, but you're going to look like you do, by gum.

Whoa! Another earthquake. They seem to come every morning about this time too. Did you feel it? It isn't just me, is it? (via David C. Cook)

True Story

I just pulled up something I wrote in 2002 and thought I'd share it with you. It's true. I did not make this up.

My co-worker was home alone when she found a large spider on a pile of towels. She smacked it repeatedly with a fly swatter. screaming all the while, but afraid that it was only stunned, she scooped it up in the towels, dropped them on the driveway, and whacked it several more times, again screaming the whole time.

Later, she overheard her husband asking her son about the spider in the driveway, assuming he had run over it in his car a few minutes prior.

“Oh, that big, brown thing?” her son exclaimed. “It was huge! I couldn’t believe it! Good thing Mom didn’t see it.”

Journalism tips from (Mollie) Hemingway

Our friend Anthony Sacramone sends a link to a snarky column at Intercollegiate Review: "How to Be a Really Lousy Journalist for Fun and Profit":

Start with the assumption that your own views are moderate. Within your newsroom, they probably are, even if last night at a colleague’s dinner party you argued for single-payer health care and mandatory re-education camps for homeschoolers. Then, instead of describing the views of people outside your newsroom, just label them “right-wing,” “anti-abortion,” or “extremely conservative.” You might be wondering if, finding rational argument too burdensome, you can just resort to calling the people you disagree with bigots and dismiss them. Turns out you can!

If you need to beef up your word count, throw in a few stereotypes and clichés about backwoods believers. Be careful even here, though, as you don’t want to showcase views that might catch on.

Read the whole thing here.

Critics Abound for Renowned Dan Brown

Lars shared this article on Facebook, and I was moved--moved I tell you--to share it here, because you can't get good writing like this often: "The voice at the other end of the line gave a sigh, like a mighty oak toppling into a great river, or something else that didn’t sound like a sigh if you gave it a moment’s thought. 'Who cares what the stupid critics say?' advised the literary agent. 'They’re just snobs. You have millions of fans.'"

Michael Deacon writes in response to the Dan Brown's upcoming novel, Inferno, which if you are going to buy it, you must use this link. Must! Support starving artists!

The novel is another unique take on art history and world conspiracy. From the book: "Against [the backdrop of Dante's Inferno], Langdon battles a chilling adversary and grapples with an ingenious riddle that pulls him into a landscape of classic art, secret passageways, and futuristic science. Drawing from Dante’s dark epic poem, Langdon races to find answers and decide whom to trust . . . before the world is irrevocably altered."

Dude! That is one unique thriller! I'll go on record now by predicting this will tell of a Manx plot to manipulate world currency. Dante has been rumored to be Manx sympathizer among all the scholars who have studied him. Sorry, I should have given you a spoiler alert.

Deux Spocks

You Americans! Ha, Ha!

On a note related to Lars' last post, here are ten American habits which at least one Brit cannot understand. Take flossing, for instance, or talking to strangers.

By contrast, here are ten British habits which apparently don't jive with Americans. Take avoiding eye contact and direct intentions. I wonder how many times I'd be tempted to tell a Brit to shut up.

50 Myths Busted (or Something Like That)

And now for something completely different:

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