"I rather fancy it's Shakespeare--or, if not, it's some equally brainy lad--who says that it's always just when a chappie is feeling particularly top-hole, and more than usually braced with things in general that Fate sneaks up behind him with a bit of lead piping."

- P.G. Wodehouse, My Man Jeeves
Economic crimes and hate crimes

I have sinned. Economically.

The used book store where I’ve been shopping for the last few years was doing fine, as far as I could tell, last January, the last time I was there. Then I lost my renter, things got tight, and I chose to re-read The Lord of the Rings. Then Dave Alpern sent me some books to read (Got to return those. Looking for the right box). So what with one thing and another, I didn’t buy any books for a while.

Today I dropped by the store after work, since I have a renter again and he just gave me his May payment.

They’re closed up. Empty. Dark and bare. Not a flyleaf left behind.

It’s my fault. I, personally, am solely responsible. I have no doubt that the owners lost their home and are now living on the streets, eating out of dumpsters, all for lack of my business.

I’m sorry. So very, very sorry.

Have you heard of HR 1592? It’s a bill now under consideration by the House of Representatives.

Its purpose is to expand Hate Crimes legislation. That’s bad enough, in my opinion, because the very concept of the “hate crime” amounts to punishing people for their thoughts. If a jihadist cuts off my head, I want him prosecuted for killing me, not for killing me for Islam. The motivation should be irrelevant in the eyes of the law.

But this bill expands the definition of Hate Crime in such a way that, in conjunction with Title 18 of the U.S. code, merely expressing religious opposition to homosexuality would be a prosecutable offense, in the case that some moron should draw the wrong conclusion and go out and commit a “hate crime.” Understand that? A pastor who simply repeats what the Bible says on the subject could be prosecuted and imprisoned, based on the reaction of one of his listeners.

Hat tip: Vision America.

This is what happened to the Revolution, kids. I always knew the hippies were lying when they talked about free speech. When they said “free speech,” they meant their own freedom from other people's speech. When Paul McCartney sang, “Power to the people, right on!” he meant “Power to the people who are right on.” That is, people who agreed with him.

I don’t think a nation can survive without some kind of shared value system. It’s not enough to share a few symbolics, if the symbolics mean entirely different things to different groups. In America today, we can’t even agree on what the definition of “is” is. We’re so far apart we don’t even understand each other’s words.

I see a train wreck down the line. I wrote about this stuff in Wolf Time.

Right again, blast it.

Christian Short Fiction

Dave has posted some of the stories submitted to Relief Journal's Daily Sacrament contest.

"The Stain" by Mary Grabar

"Four Feasts" by Susan Fish

"Dark House" by Renee Ronika Bhatti-Klug

"Smith and 9th" by Elizabeth Ann Osborn

What do you think?

Speaking of Shakespeare

Thou impertinent hasty-witted whey-face!

[Thou art] already dead. stabbed with a white wench's black eye, run through the ear with a love song, the very pin of [thy] heart cleft with the blind bow-boy's butt shaft.

Those poor college students won't know what they're missing when confronted with The Shakespearean Insulter

Losing Shakespeare

It appears no one or very few students are required to study Shakespeare in college. I thought several colleges followed the pattern of my alma mater in studying one of Shakespeare's plays in Freshman Composition. I took The Merchant of Venice. (via Books, Inq.)

Battle of Earls

"Morning Coffee and Afternoon Tea" compared two brands of Earl Grey one afternoon, and results were similar to comparing Coke and Pepsi. I love Earl Grey. This post makes me think I haven't quite tasted the real thing yet.

I'm drinking a mug of Tazo's Wild Sweet Orange at the moment. Thank you for asking.

Beyond Recognition

*Stand by for your Minneapolis weather report.*

Nice weather today. A little over seventy. But we could use some rain.

*This has been your Minneapolis weather report.*

I probably should have passed this story over to Gaius at Blue Crab Boulevard. It’s his beat.

But I couldn’t resist linking to it here.

Thousands of people have been 'fleeced' into buying neatly coiffured lambs they thought were poodles.
Entire flocks of lambs were shipped over from the UK and Australia to Japan by an internet company and marketed as the latest 'must have' accessory.

We farm kids love that kind of story.

I found myself without a book to read last week, on the day of the week my usual used bookstore is closed. So I picked up a book that had been among my late Aunt Jean’s things, Beyond Recognition by Ridley Pearson. I’d taken it away from her house when we were closing it up after her death, not sure if I’d read it before. I find that I have read it; in fact I think Aunt Jean probably got this copy from me. But it was so long ago I’ve forgotten the main points.

I came to this passage today, and thought it worth sharing. Sgt. Boldt, the hero, is investigating a string of vicious arson killings. He drops in at a jazz club run by a friend, “Bear” Berenson, and starts talking with him, trying to unwind. They’re discussing how you see horrific crimes nowadays that you never saw in the past.
“I think it’s God,” Boldt said immediately, because he’d been thinking about this for a long time and Bear was the kind of friend he could say this to. “Or, more to the point, the lack thereof. I was raised with church. Sunday school, that sort of thing. You?”

Bear nodded. “Temple.”

Boldt continued, “Yeah, and in all those stories, all those lessons, you had good and evil, God and the Devil—no matter what significance you put in either—but they were there, and you had faith, some sense of faith, some belief in something larger than yourself, no matter how small or on what level. Maybe you look at the night sky a little differently or maybe you go to church twice a week, but it’s there, it’s in you. And without it, without that sense of God, there’s no flip side, there’s nothing to fear, and as much as I hate to say it, maybe fear is a good thing in this case. A sense of God—whatever you choose to call it—gives you a soul; without a soul, you’re left with unfocused eyes and sense that you’re at the top of the food chain and anything goes. And that’s what you see in a killer’s eyes: no humanity, no consciousness, no thought or concern for their fellowman. Some kid blows away his best friend over a pair of sneakers—so what? I’m telling you, it’s no act. They have no soul. I interrogate these guys, I look them right in the eye, and I’m telling you they’re beyond recognition. They aren’t human. I don’t know what they are.”

And on that happy note, I wish you a pleasant and psycho-free weekend.

Update: I should have given Aitchmark credit for tipping me off to the poodle story.

Phrase Origin Rumors

Did you know that people used to bathe their babies in water so dirty they couldn't see through it? They might even loose their baby in the bathwater, and that's where the phrase "Don't throw out the baby . . ."

Or not. Read this list of stories supposedly explaining why we have certain phrases today. As far as I know, all of them are bogus.

Writer's Digest 101 Best

Hugh Hewitt just reported that a bomb has been found at an abortion clinic. I think it was in Austin, Texas (I can’t find the story online yet).

I know I speak for 99% of pro-lifers when I condemn all such acts of terrorism. If you’re a clinic bomber, tell me all about it. I’ll go straight to the police.

Well, it should have been a good day. Getting a column up at The American Spectator usually bucks me up a bit. Today, somehow, it didn’t work. I don’t know why. Maybe it was the weather--cool and overcast. Spring without enthusiasm. Around noon the Sickness Unto Tedious Self-Absorption began to metastasize in me, and pretty much everything I did after that was like swimming in a chocolate milk shake, only less tasty.

But I still dragged myself out for my evening walk, so I have a small glow of self-righteousness within to warm me. Tomorrow will probably be better.

Writer’s Digest published its annual list of “101 Best Websites For Writers” this month. Here are a few that might be of interest. Or not.

www.thinkbabynames.com lists the most popular baby names for every decade since 1900. Great for finding names for characters for your historical novel, or for finding a name for your baby that’ll get him/her laughed at for the rest of his/her life. On the other hand, the name might come back into style when the kid’s 18, and… well, he/she still won’t ever forgive you, but it might help get him/her onto whatever Reality Show is popular by then.

www.agentquery.com is a free site that lists established literary agents seeking writers. Also offers tips for approaching them.

Another agent resource is www.writers.net/agents.html. “...allows you to search for agents by name, location or topic.”

www.armchairinterviews.com is a site where you can access recorded author interviews. If reading me hasn’t soured you forever on authors already.

That’s all I’ve got. Go now and read my Spectator post again.

Poet Laureate of the Blogosphere

You, yes, you can vote for the Poet Laureate of the Blogosphere. Get your votes in by this Sunday.

It Does Too Take a Village

I have another column up at The American Spectator today.

If already depressed, skip this post

Reader Aitchmark forwarded me this link to a perceptive column Tony Blankley wrote for the Washington Times. I agree with him that it nails the precise conceptual difference between the Left and the Right on the war (no doubt there are people who oppose the war for better reasons, but I think the view Blankley analyzes probably motivates the Democrats in power).

...the great divide is between those, such as me, who believe that the rise of radical Islam poses an existential threat to Western Civilization; and those who believe it is a nuisance, if episodically a very dangerous nuisance.

Those who believe in nothing higher than “personal spirituality,” I think, are incapable (without some kind of psychic “whack upside the head”) of understanding that there are people out there who really believe in things outside themselves. To them, Christians must be either incredibly stupid or they’re running a confidence game when they speak of doctrines and absolute moral truths. And Muslims… well, they’re inscrutable. But in their hearts they must be just like us. If they do… regrettable things, they must have been driven crazy by some evil force. Like Republicans.

I’d like to say that good Christian fiction—not preachy CBA fiction that preaches to the choir, but gutsy, smart, well-crafted Christian books like Andrew Klavan’s Damnation Alley, are one way to open people’s minds and fight back against the darkness. And books like that can’t hurt. Maybe I’ll find a publisher myself again someday.

But I think good Christian movies and TV would probably have more impact. Unfortunately, though some progress has been made recently, that’s still a major challenge and I suspect progress, if it happens, will occur slowly.

The bottom line is, I wonder if the remnant of Christendom can be saved. I wonder if the West has declined too far. Perhaps we’re entering a new period of worldwide tribulation. Maybe that’s God’s plan for the Last Days.

It’s all in His hands, of course. Our brothers and sisters have suffered persecution throughout history, and they still suffer today. There’s no reason we should think of ourselves as exempt. In fact, we are instructed to rejoice in it.

Beautiful Tea

Kudos to the designer of this tea promotion website for Lipton. I love it. Lipton Pyramid Tea

Belated, Misdirected Shock Over Political Label

Last month, I almost wrote a post about a column on Barack Obama by David Ehrenstein, which I heard on Rush Limbaugh's show. Ehrenstein called Obama a "magic negro," meaning he is a nice black man who doesn't have the harsh characteristics white people dislike so they, the racist whites, can accept him and assuage their guilt for disliking the undesirable black people they may or may not know. Limbaugh read through the column, arguing that it was evidence of a widespread liberal view that Obama was not black enough to be . . . I don't know . . . real or acceptable, I guess. I had thought last month to say that "white negro" was worse than another term in the news at that time, tar baby. But today, I'll put that aside and just report that Limbaugh says he is getting some flack this week (as he predicted) from people who have just heard the parody song on "Barack, the magic negro" and believe Limbaugh came up with the label himself.

Thank you for reading. I hope you feel edified.

Most Influential Books

World Mag Blog asks what are the most influential books from the last 25 years? According to USA Today, Harry Potter #1 is number one on that list.

Promise Me by Harlan Coben

I don’t often laugh out loud (for those of you under 20, that’s an antique term for “lol”) at anything I read online, but Lileks cracked me up today with his deconstruction of a set of postcards from China in the days of the Cultural Revolution, describing an opera called “The Red Detachment of Women.”

I’m always looking for new favorite thriller writers. Klavan, Connelly, Tanenbaum, Kellerman and Lehane can only put out so much product per annum. So when I saw Harlan Coben’s new novel, Promise Me, in a grocery store rack, I figured I’d give him a try.

It was close, but he didn’t make the cut.

Not that the book’s bad. I enjoyed it and read it with interest. But… well, let me lay out the particulars.

The main character is Myron Bolitar (full points for audacity in choosing a character name), a sports and entertainment agent who divides his time between New York City and his suburban home town. Bolitar, it appears, was the hero of a series of earlier Coben novels, though he hasn’t appeared in a new book in about seven years. During those years, we are told, Bolitar has been concentrating on his business. Never married, he has recently begun dating a local widow.

One evening, during a party, he overhears his girlfriend’s daughter talking to a friend (Aimee, a girl he has known all her life, the daughter of friends of his own). They mention parties and drinking. Bolitar decides to talk to them. He gives each of them his card, asking them to promise him that if they ever find themselves in a situation where they’re faced with driving drunk, or riding with a drunk driver, they will call him. He promises to drive anywhere and pick them up, no questions asked.

It’s an admirable act, but the results aren’t what he planned on. He gets a call one night from Aimee. She’s in Manhattan and needs a ride. When he shows up, she’s not drunk at all, only troubled. She directs him to a residential address in the suburbs, then goes to a dark house that she says is a friend’s. Her friend will let her in, she says.

After that she disappears.

Myron is the last person to see her, and his story sounds thin. Also another girl from the same town has disappeared in similar fashion. Her father is desperate to find her, and not particular how he gets the information. He’s also a gangster.

Fortunately Myron has his own resources. He has a good record with the police. He also has a friend named Win Lockwood.

Many of today’s mystery heroes have psycho killer friends—scary, dangerous guys devoted to the hero for some reason, who are useful in the situations of extreme violence such stories tend to involve. We don’t like our heroes to be killing machines, I suppose, so we need the psycho killer friend to keep the hero alive.

I found Win Lockwood a kind of unconvincing PKF. He’s supposed to be the scion of very old money. As a boy, after a serious incident of bullying, he devoted his life to learning all the killing arts. Now, apparently, he just enjoys his wealth and watches Bolitar’s back for fun.

I think I was supposed to like him. Maybe I would have if I’d read the earlier novels. But in this book I found him sort of a flat, amoral deus ex machina.

I liked the book a lot in some ways. The theme overall is how much parents love their children, and the lengths to which they'll go to protect them.

I wasn’t sure, though, whether Coben was willing to make moral distinctions. He seemed to conclude (I may have misunderstood him) that there is no real difference in kind between any child-protective acts, even including murder.

And the ending was troubling for any Christian conservative.

So I don’t think I’ll go back to Coben. Too bad. There was much to commend the book.

Hitchens, Fighting the Bad Fight

I like this review by Bruce DeSilva of Christopher Hitchens' latest book, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. DeSilva writes, "Christopher Hitchens is an essayist and pundit who loves a good fight and is never afraid to pick on someone his own size; but this time he's outdone himself. He's picked on God. . . . Hitchens has nothing new to say, although it must be acknowledged that he says it exceptionally well."

The Sixth Weirdness

A few days ago, the Maverick Philosopher linked to us in connection with an Andrew Klavan post he wrote, primarily pointing out this article from The Weekly Standard.

So, now I have to confess what's wrong with me, eh? Well, one man's weird is another man's social obligation. I should ask my sister what is truly weird about me. Take for example:

1. I always carry a pocket handkerchief. I'm sure some people think that's weird.

2. I can't break the habit of falling asleep while praying, bent double on the floor with the circulation in my legs (and sometimes my arms) cut off.

3. For all the joking I do about beer, the closest I've come to drinking one is a sip of someone else's O'Doul's.

4. Despite #3, I confess I have consumed almost an entire bottle of Cognac on my own. Over several months, but still without any help from the sweet wife, who avoids alcoholic and caffeinated beverages like stagnant pond water.

5. From memory, I can sing a few songs from the American War of Independence.

Tags: I'd like to see Blestwithsons and Lintefiniel take this up, if they haven't already.

Nothing tough about this one

Andrew Klavan has this essay up over at City Journal today.

That high-pitched noise you hear in the distance is me, screaming, “I wish I’d written that!”

Michael at The Euphemist has come out of hibernation long enough to tag Phil and me with a “Six Weird Things About Me” meme.

Now there’s a challenge.

If he’d asked for six normal things about me, I might have had some trouble.

OK, where do we start?

I have heterochromia iridis. This is not a rare, debilitating genetic disease. It’s the condition where a person has bi-colored eyes. A famous instance is the rocker David Bowie, who has one blue eye and one brown. My H. I. comes in a different form, where the two colors are mixed in the eyes, in a pinto pony combination of brown and gray (or blue, depending on the light and who’s looking).

I like folk music.

I don’t like cheese of any kind, except in pizza.

I actually much preferred the second Conan movie to the first one.

I have no good memories associated with any sport (except for live steel combat).

I can read Norwegian in the old, Gothic Fraktur typeface.

I shall now take my hat and cane and go.

Speaking of Evil

Pray for North Korea. I learned today that 100 years ago, Pyongyang witnessed a huge revival, so much so that the city was called the Jerusalem of the East.

Alternative History Named Evil

Author Orson Scott Card calls a thriller he read "evil."

At the beginning of the book, we are shown a Palestinian during the 1948 war over the creation of the state of Israel. . . . [Steve] Berry sets this scene against a background in which Israelis are systematically driving all the Palestinians out of Israel; the Israelis are heavily armed by the British while the Palestinians have no weapons to counter them; and the Israelis have rounded up whole villages of Palestinians and slaughtered them, men and women alike. . . .

This is the kind of thing that readers -- especially ones who don't know anything about history -- are likely to assume the writer has researched, so that it can be trusted. . . . So when a novel like Berry's The Alexandria Link treats such events as background, as if everybody knew that this is how Israelis act, what it is really doing is furthering the propaganda of one side in a desperate war.

An Abundance of Single Cats

Have you seen the list of 40 things which only happen in movies?

  • One man shooting at 20 men has a better chance of killing them all than 20 men firing at once (this is known as Stallone’s Law).
  • All grocery shopping involves the purchase of French loaves which will be placed in open brown paper bags (Caveat: when said bags break, only fruit will spill out).

One of them stands out above the rest for me, that being "all single women have a cat." Help me out here. I know all single women do not have cats, but aren't there a lot of them who do? I mean, most of them?

Rooten English Spellin

Ever wonder why the words through, bough, dough, and rough, are pronounced different despite their similar spelling? Mark this down as another opportunity for that familiar past-time of all warm-blooded Americans: blame the French. It's an exaggeration, but don't let petty details get in your way of a good anti-Gaulic rant. From David Crystal's The Fight for English: How language pundits ate, shot, and left:

Much of the irregularity of modern English spelling derives from the forcing together of Old English and French systems of spelling in the Middle Ages. People struggled to find the best way of writing English throughout the period. ... Even Caxton didn't help, at times. Some of his typesetters were Dutch, and they introduced some of their own spelling conventions into their work. That is where the gh in such words as ghost comes from.
The words in our first sentence come from the Old English words thurh, boh, dag, and ruh.

It's Friday. All you get is scraps

Will Duquette of View From the Foothills is another favorite blogger of mine whose posting has regrettably decreased. But he put up an entertaining poem about Smeagol this week, and I wanted to wave you in that direction.

Guy Stewart shares this butt-kick for discouraged Christian Science Fiction writers.

Have you heard the recording of Alec Baldwin chewing out his daughter on voice mail? What’s your take on that? I know that even the best parents can be pushed past the limit sometimes and say things they regret, with no harm done in the larger scheme of things. But I grew up in a situation where this kind of tirade was pretty much daily fare, and so it’s hard for me to judge where the limits are. Do you parents out there respond to the recording by saying, “Wow, I’m glad there wasn’t a recorder on the last time I cut loose on the kids,” or do you say, “That was definitely over the line”? I’m just curious. I honestly don’t have a gauge for this, and I’m not a parent myself.

For Want of a Book Review Editor

Atlanta's newspaper, the Journal Constitution, has released its book review editor. The paper plans to continue its books and arts coverage on Sundays with fewer staff (as far as it goes).

The Great Expectations Log Flume!

What luck! There's a Charles Dickens theme park in Kent, England. "If it's done right, it can exploit precisely the kind of thing that made Dickens popular in his own day," one man says.

Pilgrim's Progress

Back on July 24, 2003, Dr. George Grant blogged on John Bunyan and Pilgrim's Progress. He briefly described the circumstances in which Bunyan wrote, and generalized on the book's theme and styles.

For nearly a decade, Bunyan had served as an unordained itinerant preacher and had frequently taken part in highly visible theological controversies. It was natural that the new governmental restrictions would focus on him. Thus, he was arrested for preaching to "unlawful assemblies and conventicles.

The judges who were assigned to his case were all ex-royalists, most of whom had suffered fines, sequestrations, and even imprisonments during the Interregnum. They threatened and cajoled Bunyan, but he was unshakable. Finally, in frustration, they told him they would not release him from custody until he was willing to foreswear his illegal preaching. And so, he was sent to the county gaol where he spent twelve long years--recalcitrant to the end.


My favorite part of this book is in the Interpreter's House. I don't remember which picture impressed me most at the time I read it, but this one is a good one and illustrates the Interpreter's House section.
Then I saw in my dream that the Interpreter took Christian by the hand, and led him into a place where was a fire burning against a wall, and one standing by it, always casting much water upon it, to quench it; yet did the fire burn higher and hotter.

Then said Christian, What means this?

The Interpreter answered, This fire is the work of grace that is wrought in the heart; he that casts water upon it, to extinguish and put it out, is the Devil; but in that thou seest the fire notwithstanding burn higher and hotter, thou shalt also see the reason of that. So he had him about to the backside of the wall, where he saw a man with a vessel of oil in his hand, of the which he did also continually cast, but secretly, into the fire.

Then said Christian, What means this?

The Interpreter answered, This is Christ, who continually, with the oil of his grace, maintains the work already begun in the heart: by the means of which, notwithstanding what the devil can do, the souls of his people prove gracious still. And in that thou sawest that the man stood behind the wall to maintain the fire, that is to teach thee that it is hard for the tempted to see how this work of grace is maintained in the soul.


The full text can be found at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library.

God of the Fairy Tale

[first posted July 29, 2003] Shaw Books, an imprint of Waterbrook Press which is a division of Random House, has quietly announced the upcoming release God of the Fairy Tale from Jim Ware, coauthor of Finding God in the Lord of the Rings. Ware is a writer, folklorist, and Celtic musician, which are just credentials I wish I had. The book reports to be an examination of twenty fairy tales, retelling them and highlighting their themes. It's the type of thing I would hope any reader could do with their children, but Ware will undoubtedly bring significant insight into the literary analysis. This work probably echoes Tolkien's opinion that myth is not an untrue story, but a story which delivers essential, though maybe not factual, truth. The Gospel can be considered a myth, a beautiful story, but one that is true in almost every way it's told. (Should you wonder why I say "almost," I think that Philippians 2 describes the emptying of Jesus which the best of us cannot fully understand and may even interpret incorrectly.)

In related news, Tolkien's The Children of Hurin is now available and is currently #2 on Amazon.com.

Professor Liviu Librescu

A hero is laid to rest.

Maybe Bach Listened to the Sun

"Astronomers have recorded heavenly music bellowed out by the Sun's atmosphere," writes SPACE.com reporter Jeanna Bryner. Awesome. The heaven's declare the glory of God.

Problems with G.K. Chesterton

George Grant passes on an irony with some Chesterton fans.

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