- Walker Percy, Conversations with Walker Percy
Mollie Z. Hemingway offers great advice on how to excel in journalism in today's world.
"Don’t Sweat the Details. Is there a difference between an Evangelical and an evangelist? Who cares?"
"Don't question authority. ... if a politician suggests that the reports of scandal surrounding his administration are overblown, leave him alone already. Would he lie?"
A journalist's job is to advance his ideological narrative. "CNBC’s John Harwood said recently, 'Those of us in political-media world should just shut up about "narratives" and focus on what’s true.' Spoken like a real nobody."
She's got a good piece. I recommend it too all non-fiction writers. Of course, all of it could be summarized by quoting Henry Kissinger, who said, "Allow me to be the first to say that what we have done here is not a good thing. It's definitely not a good thing. But it was, given the circumstances, the smart play."
Everyone loves a good presidential birthday, don't they? Your social media feeds are loaded with them. Birthday music has been playing non-stop for the whole week. We can get top appliances for 30% off this weekend #stopthemadness!
But let's not limit our focus to Lincoln, once a licensed bartender, whose birthday is today, or to Washington, who had to borrow money to make it to his inauguration and whose birthday is February 22. Let's celebrate presidential birthdays all year long. Come on, ring those bells, citizens. Most of the truthful information in this post comes from randomhistory.com.
February holds two more presidential birthdays. William Henry Harrison was born on February 9, 1773. His inaugural address was 100 minutes long, which roughly 0.25% of his entire term in office. He died of pneumonia on his 32nd day as president.
Ronald Reagan was born February 6, 1911. He took up eating jelly beans as a way to stop pipe smoking, and he developed partial hearing loss in one ear one a movie set when a gun was fired next to his ear. Read the rest of this entry . . .
You know the concept. What if publishers told us the raw truth in their book titles? Here's a list of what could be written.
I Kissed Dating Goodbye: How To Not Talk To Girls Until You’re 25 Years Old
Heaven Is For Real: A Book About Heaven From The Perspective Of A Four Year Old Who Had A Near Death Experience And For Some Reason We Believe Him More Than The Bible
A Year Of Biblical Womanhood: One Woman’s Valiant Attempt To Create Straw-Man Arguments and Massively Misinterpret A Lot Of The Bible, All the While Saying, “You Go Girl!”
Radical: All You Rich, Fat, Lazy Christians Need To Stop Eating At McDonald’s And Become Missionaries To Africa
There's more. (via Barnabas Piper, whose book is in the list)
Back for a reprise: A ghost from my Christmas past. This guy is the late Roger Awsumb. In the '60s he used to play Casey Jones on the "Lunch With Casey" program on a Twin Cities TV station. This is probably the most popular thing he ever did.
"Your words are so foolishly and ignorantly composed that I cannot believe you understand them."
The Luther Insult Generator may be found here. Hours of innocent fun for you and your family.
Here's a strong example of Jimmy Fallon's great interviewing technique. He's talking with Bradley Cooper about The Elephant Man, a play Cooper says inspired him to become an actor. Watch and learn, friends.
Here's an amazing in-the-moment video of an actual writer working his craft!
...you can see Phil Wade in the background.
Have a good weekend.
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.
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."
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)
"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.
"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 top reasons why God can't get tenure (from the Internet of Yesteryear)
- He's authored only one paper
- That paper was in Hebrew
- His work appeared in an obscure, unimportant publication
- He never references other authors
- Workers in the field can't replicate His results.
- He failed to apply to the ethics committee before starting His experiments on humans.
- He tried to cover an experiment's unsatisfatory results by drowning the subjects.
- When subjects behavior proved his theory wrong he had them removed from the sample.
- He hardly ever shows up for any lectures. He merely assigns His Book again and again.
- His office is at the top of a mountain, and He doesn't keep office hours anyway.
- When He learned that His first two students sought wisdom, He had them expelled.
- His exams consist of only ten assigments which most students fail.
Rebuttal: Why God Did Receive Tenure.
- The one publication was a Citation Classic.
- The Hebrew original was widely translated courtesy of the author.
- Being written before journals existed, references were hard to come by.
- Original treatises that found a new area often require their own monograph.
- 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.
- The substitute teacher (son) was highly committed to his work.
- The substitute teacher cancelled the original ten requirements.
- The twelve teaching assistants formed numerous discussion groups.
- The substitute teacher knew students names without an attendance sheet.
- The professor's weekly Sunday lectures by surrogate instructors are attended by 974 million students.
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.
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."
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.
Also, Schrödinger's cat walks into a bar. And doesn't.
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 . . .
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.
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.
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?
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!
A group calling themselves The Lutheran Satire offers this holiday video.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For a slightly different angle on this joke:
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.
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.