"1. Never read any book that is not a year old. 2. Never read any but famed books. 3. Never read any but what you like; or, in Shakspeare's phrase, 'No profit goes where is no pleasure ta'en: In brief, sir, study what you most affect.'"

- Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Books"
P.G. Wodehouse’s The Code of the Woosters

Bertie Wooster has had more than his share of trouble from well-meaning and ill-meaning aunts over the years, and while that sort of trouble disturbs him some in this novel, he must deal more with the sort of trouble that comes from beautiful young women wanting to marry his friends.

For example, Madeline Bassett, who is “undeniably of attractive exterior—slim, svelte, if that’s the word, and bountifully equipped with golden hair and all the fixings.” This beautiful thing plans to marry Bertie’s friend, Augustus Fink-Nottle or Gussie, which is not a settled matter owing to her father’s disapproval of him. If she cannot marry Gussie, however, she is resigned to marrying Bertie. Not that he wants to marry her, but somehow Madeline’s got it locked between the ears that Bertie wants to marry her and is only deferring to Gussie, who got to her first. If there’s one thing at which Bertie is extremely bad, it’s convincing women he does not want to marry them once they’ve decided he does.

And then there’s Stiffy, or Stephanie Byng, who wants to marry Bertie’s old college buddy, Harold “Old Stinker” Pinker. That arrangement isn’t looking good either, because her uncle, Madeline’s father, isn’t going to allow to two undesirable men marrying the girls of his charge in one weekend, if ever. So Stiffy asks Bertie to stage a situation for Harold to impress himself on her uncle, and those types of things never work out as planned. This one actually calls for blood, so Bertie isn’t eager to give it his all.

But Bertie could give them all up and leave the country or at least Totleigh Towers, if only his favorite aunt hadn’t forced him into a difficult task—he must pinch a silver cow creamer. If he fails to abscond with the ghastly antique, his aunt will bar him from her house and her famous chef’s delicious meals; but if he does steal the cow-shaped server, no lack of evidence to the deed will prevent him from being pounded by Roderick Spode, a close friend to the owner of the desired silver creamer.

“Don’t you ever read the papers?” Gussie asks. “Roderick Spode is the founder and head of the Saviours of Britain, a Fascist organization better known as the Black Shorts. His general idea, if her doesn’t get knocked on the head with a bottle in one of the frequent brawls in which he and his followers indulge, is to make himself a Dictator. . . . He and his adherents wear black shorts.”

“Footer bags, you mean?”


“How perfectly foul.” Of course, such a man is more than able to deliver a good pounding to creamer stealers.

Through it all, Bertram Wooster lives up to his family code to never leave a friend in the lurch, even at personal cost. As with almost everything I’ve read by Wodehouse, this book doesn’t not take all the predictable turns, and even when you know what’s going to happen, it’s hilarious to follow it through. Though Lars has said this was the first Bertie and Jeeves book he read, I enjoyed remembering the references to earlier stories. More than once, Bertie says that we may remember the time when … and I enjoy remembering it too.

D.C. Children Denied Scholarship Money

That massive spending bill passed several days ago, the first one not the second one, effectively denies funding for a D.C. area education scholarship program which has been pretty successful in allowing parents to give their children better education. But we already know school choice is not something Democrats favor. They seem to favor submission to their iron fists. Why do the people upset about privacy issues in The Patriot Act not give a rat's rear-end about families finding the best education they can? (That's broad-brush, of course. I'm sure some people do want choice in education and take issue with The P.A. and some of those choose homeschooling or unschooling for themselves.)

In other news, "Homeschoolers Save Taxpayers Billions Per Year."

Word Power

"... the power of your own finger producing each word on paper."

Going out and playing with God

One of the recurring irritations of my life has been one of my brothers. This brother, from an early age, made it his constant purpose to try to get me to go outside and do stuff.

My idea of a good time is to stay in the house with a book. A house to be inside of, a good book, and chocolate are about all I need for perfect contentedness.

This was, naturally, highly frustrating for my brother, who loved the outdoors and wanted somebody to play with, but was stuck with me for a sibling. As a playmate I left much to be desired. Experience had taught me that if I yielded to his importunities, the result would be 1) some game in which he’d beat me, and then, 2) a fight in which he would beat me again. This was a programme whose charm wore off at a pretty early stage.

For my brother, of course, as a normal human being, going outside and playing was a good thing in itself. My refusal to help him out with that was a major frustration in his young life. Read the rest of this entry . . .

The Poe I Didn't Know

I just read that Dostoevsky said E.A. Poe was "an enormously talented writer" and based his detective in Crime and Punishment on Poe's C. Auguste Dupin. I didn't know that. I also didn't know this:

Poe wrote most of his greatest works while living in Philadelphia. Tell-Tale Heart. Fall of the House of Usher. Black Cat. Murders in the Rue Morgue. Mystery of Marie Roget. Masque of Red Death. Gold Bug. Pit and the Pendulum. It was the city that transformed his genius into the greatness we all know and love. And I’m not talking about all that Liberty Bell, Birthplace of Independence crap. It was Philly’s gothic, chaotic environment in the early 19th century that had an indelible impact on the style and content of Poe’s work.

The doomed family of the House of Usher was conjured by Poe in Philadelphia. William Wilson and his evil doppelganger took form there. The madman of “The Tell-Tale Heart” made his murderous confession under the dark skies of the Quaker City. C. Auguste Dupin, the prototype of Sherlock Holmes and all fictional detectives to follow, sprung from Poe’s fertile pen while the author was reading the daily criminal mysteries that plagued the city. The detective/mystery story was invented in Philadelphia! (Why a mystery writer convention is held in any city but the one that invented the genre is beyond me, too.)
What did they teach me in school?

Games and Quizes

Also from the Drexel PG blog, a link to a loaded game site, Sporcle. I'm proud to say I could not name all of the U.S. Presidents, and the ones I couldn't remember are the ones no one else could either, except Chester Arthur. I knew him, and most people don't apparently. Others people couldn't name are Pierce, Buchanan, McKinley, um, Taylor . . . Harding . . . Here's the test, so you play yourself.

New Blog and City Words

The Drexel Publishing Group has a new blog in which students will be contributing. Prof Stein has the details.

Today's post from Jen Fromal is interesting. She talks about Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, and the idea that every city has a word that defines it.

Rome’s word is “sex” and Naples’ word is “fight.” Gilbert’s Swedish friend says that Stockholm’s word is “conform,” and Gilbert concludes that New York City’s word is “achieve” (as opposed to Los Angeles’ word of “succeed.”)
What do you think of this? I wonder if Washington D.C.'s word is "control."

The Friday Fight: Losing a Shield

You should know that I scanned YouTube for other videos, live steel combat with knights or other non-vikings, but what I found was sorry. I almost posted a video with some bold language in the sidebar from the video's sponsor, but it wasn't a fight--it was an instructional talk.

Murder, Easy As Falling Off a Ladder

The ad reads: "Are you sick and tired of cleaning up after your lazy, good-for-nothing family?" Try murder. It can be easy, even for a woman.

Heads and tails

All these years I thought I was going gray. Turns out I'm a peroxide blonde.

Which just goes to show that one of my Viking friends was right when he said, "I'm not getting grayer. I'm getting blonder."

And here's a story about a woman in New Zealand, an amputee, who got the Weta special effects people (the folks behind all the neat stuff in "The Lord of the Rings") to make her a prosthetic mermaid's tail.

Part of me thinks that's a little creepy. But most of me thinks it's pretty neat.

What bothers me is that the tail the technician is shown sculpting in the pictures doesn't appear to be the same tail the woman is wearing in the photos. Perhaps there were alpha and beta versions. Or perhaps they're making them available to the general market.

Tips on both stories: Fox News.

The Economy is Up

At least, it is for sales of Any Rand's Atlas Shrugged and guns.

"'Americans are flocking to buy and read Atlas Shrugged because there are uncanny similarities between the plot-line of the book and the events of our day' said Yaron Brook, Executive Director at the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights." I haven't read the book. Is it a tragedy? I keep thinking about buying a gun too, but I haven't. I hear the supply is down because demand is so far up. No need to fear, Americans. Nancy Pelosi said she wasn't interested in restricting second amendment rights for the time being.

The Economy Is Down

Humanities departments are among the hardest hit. In this post, Joel Mark comments:

The recession is not what is hitting the humanities departments of most of our major universities. Intellectual poverty and dishonesty are what is hitting them, in the name of such ideologies as postmodernism, neo-Marxism, socialism, political correctness, multi-culturalism and sheer selfish and immature anger (especially in the arts).

I love the humanities and have taught for several years in the humanities department of a university in California. The best place to study and learn about what we call the humanities today, however, is often as far away as possible from a major modern university.

If humanities departments in universities do suffer, that constitutes our best hope for a future rise in our actual learning in the real ‘humanities’ far from the angry ivory towers. So, I am optimistic.

Ash Wednesday thoughts

Over at Patrick O’Hannigan’s The Paragraph Farmer, he quotes Peter Kreeft’s response to the question: “But is not God a lover rather than a warrior?”

A: No, God is a lover who is a warrior. The question fails to understand what love is -- what the love that God is, is. Love is at war with hate, betrayal, selfishness, and all love's enemies. Love fights. Ask any parent. Yuppie-love, like puppy-love, may be merely "compassion" (the fashionable word today), but father-love and mother-love are war.

Read the whole thing. It’s not long.

In a somewhat related vein,
I had reason to consult one of Sigrid Undset’s novels today (The Axe, the first novel of her less-famous tetralogy, The Master of Hestviken, which the author preferred to the more famous Kristin Lavransdatter, and I think I agree). Here’s a speech from one character:
“It is an easy matter, Olav, to be a good Christian so long as God asks no more of you than to hear sweet singing in church, and to yield Him obedience while He caresses you with the hand of a father. But a man’s faith is put to the test on the day God’s will is not his. But now I will tell you what Bishop Torfinn said to me one day—it was of you and your suit we were speaking. ‘God grant,’ he said, ‘that he may learn to understand in time that whoso is minded to do as he himself wills will soon enough see the day when he will find he has done that which he had never willed.’”

Olav looked earnestly before him. Then he nodded. “Aye. That is true. I know it.”

The Sea and the Skylark

On ear and ear two noises too old to end
Trench—right, the tide that ramps against the shore;
With a flood or a fall, low lull-off or all roar,
Frequenting there while moon shall wear and wend.

Left hand, off land, I hear the lark ascend,
His rash-fresh re-winded new-skeinèd score
In crisps of curl off wild winch whirl, and pour
And pelt music, till none ’s to spill nor spend.

How these two shame this shallow and frail town!
How ring right out our sordid turbid time,
Being pure! We, life’s pride and cared-for crown,

Have lost that cheer and charm of earth’s past prime:
Our make and making break, are breaking, down
To man’s last dust, drain fast towards man’s first slime.

"The Sea and the Skylark" by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Words Used to Mean Things

Over at "Follow the Money" blog, Brad Setser notes a Wall Street Journal story reporting, "Citigroup officials hope to persuade private investors that have bought preferred shares — such as the Government of Singapore Investment Corp., Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and Kuwait Investment Authority . . ."

Setser goes on to point out, "But it is striking that none of the 'private investors' mentioned in the Wall Street Journal are actually, well, private investors."

Speaking of banks, did you hear President Obama say the Feds would strong arm banks to do what they want? Read the rest of this entry . . .

The Tin Roof Blowdown, by James Lee Burke

James Lee Burke is a superior mystery writer. He writes in the tradition of high craftsmanship and sensitivity that characterizes the best Southern literature. I found The Tin Roof Blowdown brilliant and moving.

And I probably won’t read any more by him.

But first, a synopsis.

The setting for The Tin Roof Blowdown is New Orleans and its environs, during and immediately following Hurricane Katrina. The conflict is set off by a group of young black men who steal a motorboat (thus dooming a number of trapped people to drowning), break into a rich man’s house, and discover a treasure trove of drugs, cash and diamonds. That same night one of them is killed and another paralyzed by a bullet fired by someone in the neighborhood. Suspicion falls on a neighbor, whose daughter (by a strange coincidence) was recently gang-raped by some of these same young men.

Although investigation of his death is technically a federal matter (under 1960s laws dealing with deprivation of civil rights by murder), the bulk of the investigation is elbowed off (due to heavy case loads) to Dave Robicheaux, a sheriff’s deputy in New Iberia Parish and hero of a number of mysteries by Burke. He is unofficially assisted in his investigation by his friend Clete Purcel, a former cop and present skip tracer. Read the rest of this entry . . .

Suburbia in the Twilight

"Something essential, however hard to define, had been lost en route [to suburbia]; some aspect of innocence, perhaps, that at least to a romantic imagination, once existed in our towns," according to Rod Serling apparently. "Casting a seductive smile, Serling alone continued to convey on TV what every other serious writer wanted to say but wasn't allowed to"--that message being the dangers of commercialism and fear of current events.

Thanks for Delanceyplace.com for this excerpt.

Twisted Humor

"NASA global warming satellite crashes after launch"

*snicker* Maybe it was on a failed mission.


Last week, I risked offended our readers and my fellow blogger by recklessly posting a poem lightly referred to by one of the world's finest, Michael. Let me attempt to make up for that misjudgment by posting something beautiful, a bridal march.

The real Oscars. Accept no substitutes.

My weekend was remarkable only for its nondescript character, and I had no idea what I was going to blog about today.

Then, while on the Nordic Track tonight (I have Nordic tracks all over my house, left behind by the slushy shoes of Nordic people) I came up with a silly gag that I thought would do.

I would start out in Clueless Voice™, saying how everybody’s talking about something called the Oscar awards today, but I don’t see anything about anybody named Oscar in any of the lists.

Then I’d list some awards for people actually named Oscar, like Oscar Wilde, Oscar Levant, and Oscar Mayer.

Must have been a good gag, too, because Wankette over at Threedonia beat me to it.

However, her list is far from comprehensive.

Below the fold, the true winners of some of the less-known Oscars. Read the rest of this entry . . .

Is This the End?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

At first I thought this was ALL THE Evidence YOU'LL EVER NEED to see the World is going to Hell in a Handbasket. Some Sadist asked people whose coffee they preferred, McDonald's or Starbucks. "Overall, McDonald’s won 43 percent to 35 percent, but if you break down the numbers, you’ll find the stereotypes about 'latte-drinking liberals' prevailing. Self-described liberals favored Starbucks 46 percent to 33 percent, while conservatives favored McDonald’s 50 percent to 28 percent. Moderates fall in between, with 44 percent favoring McDonald’s and 37 percent going for Starbucks. Protestants and Catholics favor McDonald’s, while the religiously unaffiliated choose Starbucks."

But there is a touch of hope. Alisa Harris, the coffee shop beat reporter, writes, "In independent coffee shops, people get their coffee in actual mugs and sit down in actual chairs, and look at art or create it on laptops, and have actual conversations."

What's Wrong with Newspapers

Two Philadelphia newspapers filed for bankruptcy today, and Frank Wilson, who used to work on the book pages for the Philadelphia Inquirer, explains why the papers and any other newspapers are in trouble. He says the front page has no news. "One of the abiding problems with contemporary journalism - most obvious in the broadcast variety," Frank states, "is this insistence on providing commentary on what the rest of us have witnessed."

Pass on the Good Life

Old man with glass of wine
A new public service announcement from the federal government’s new National Coordinator of Health Information Technology.

[Camera pans over empty rooms in a dimly lit, well-furnished house. Senior male voiceover begins.]

I’ve lived a good life. I don’t want to be a burden on my family or the good taxpayers of America . . .

[Pan over unused swimming pool and immaculate yard]

Working hard a McDonald’s, Jiffy Lube, or Waffle House just to make ends meet.

[Cut to old man at a kitchen table with a glass of wine, speaking into the camera. Shake the camera to add realism.]

My doctor told me medication for people my age was becoming scarcer by the day, so I asked him what I could do to help ease me onto the next life. He said, “Try salt.”

[Cut to salt pouring slowly, gracefully, from 5 lb. container.]

He said, “Salt tastes great, and eating more salt can raise your blood pressure which will shorten your life.”

[Show old man salting his steak, salting his wine, taking of the lid off the shaker and pouring it down his throat. Continue voiceover.]

Now, I eat salt with everything. And I eat more processed foods, because they’re rich in wonderful, life-affirming salt.

[Cut to man speaking to camera]

You know, I’ve lived a good, long life, and with salt, I can pass on that life to my children and yours. Cheers.

[compassionate female voiceover] One in four men will probably have a stroke by age 85. Get yours over with sooner by using more salt. Pass on the good life. A message from thoughtful people at the office of the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology.

The Cure by Athol Dickson

Athol Dickson’s 2007 novel, The Cure, captures the atmosphere of a Maine small town in an exciting tale of man-made redemption.

Riley Keep has been burying the shame of his past for years in alcohol, but now that his friend is drinking himself to death, he remembers a rumor that a cure can be found in their hometown. They drag themselves to Dublin, Maine, and find a place in the homeless shelter.

When Riley stumbles across a white powder with a note claiming it will cure alcoholism, he tries it, shares it, and becomes a hunted man for it. Some won’t believe he ever had a miracle drug for alcoholics, and those who do won’t believe he can’t make it for them. On the one hand, he wants people to believe he just found the formula, and on the other hand, he doesn’t correct their assumption that he discovered it himself. Every attempt he makes to repent or make up for his years of failure turns against him. When hundreds of homeless alcoholics arrive in Dublin, looking for a miracle, has the cure Riley hoped to find become a curse?

This is Athol Dickson’s fifth novel and the one that follows his popular story based in Louisiana, River Rising. He beautifully brings out the nature and people of a small, fishing town in Maine, much like he does in Winter Haven. For instance, the man Riley hires for legal council is a full-time lobsterman who had trained in the law several years ago but would rather live off the ocean. The dark story of Riley Keep, the alcoholic, failed professor and failed missionary, is as much a part of The Cure as the miracle formula is. The history of the intertwined characters is revealed piece by piece as memories and conversations arise, building to a great climax at the end.

This novel spoke to me, perhaps because of my familiarity with some counseling techniques. Dickson says he was a drug and alcohol abuser early in life, so it may be out of personal experience he draws the metaphor of the homeless feeling like ghosts. That’s hasn’t been my experience, but I feel I’ve rubbed up against it. That nagging perception of failure, that desire to apologize for something undefined—I know those feelings. It’s akin to hoping for a cure apart from the work of Christ Jesus. But there is none.

Is Milk Good For You?

Carl Trueman states, "Some weeks ago, I penned a piece on Ref21, arguing that the trendy Christian infatuation with cultural interaction was problematic at a number of levels. Well, a review of the film, Milk over at the Gospel and Culture project is good evidence of a number of my points."

Bridging the Chasm

Author Bret Lott at the 2006 Christy Awards:

Christ’s stories surprised His listeners. They were unexpected, yet the surprise of them was totally logical and clear and, finally, the kind of surprise that makes good literature good literature: the surprise turn in a story—not of plot, but of character—when the reader must come face to face with himself, and his own failures, and the dust of his own life, a dust with which we are each of us fully familiar, but which we forget about or ignore or accommodate ourselves to. The dust of our lives that we have grown accustomed to, and which it takes a piece
of art created in the spirit of Christ to remind us of ourselves, and our distance from our Creator—and the chasm that is bridged by Grace.

Novel update

The word from my publisher is that they're going into production for my book now. No word on the eventual publication date.

The Man Who Invented Florida, by Randy Wayne White

I like Randy Wayne White’s Doc Ford books, but I don’t love them. I think The Man Who Invented Florida is my favorite.

Marion “Doc” Ford is the hero of the series—a big, bespectacled marine biologist with a shadowy background in covert operations for the government. Periodically he finds himself investigating a mystery or carrying on his own private operation to rescue somebody. The Man Who Invented Florida, however, is barely a mystery at all. There is the puzzle of two government surveyors and a fishing show host who disappear in the Everglades, but it turns out (I hope this isn’t too much of a spoiler) to be less than meets the eye.

This book is, in fact, a farce. The real center of the narrative is Ford’s uncle Tucker Gatrell, the kind of man for whom the word “colorful” was coined. A former cowboy, fishing guide, gun runner and moonshiner, he’s devoted to his nephew, but his nephew hates his guts (for reasons that become dimly apparent toward the end). Tucker’s best friend is the Indian (don’t get riled; that’s what he calls himself) Joseph Egret. Joseph is the last of the Calusa, the original Florida Indians, to whom the Seminoles and Creeks are newcomers. As such he’s an outsider both among the Indians and the Whites. But he likes Tucker, because Tucker despises everybody all the same. Read the rest of this entry . . .

The Friday Fight: Broadswords

On England's fair and pleasant land

A lot of us all over the western world watch England with fascinated horror, to see what our own futures may bring.

Our friend Hal G. P. Colebatch has an article today over at the American Spectator about local government actions to restrict the freedoms of Christians in England that occurred in one single week.

I frankly don't approve of all the challenged actions, but the pattern of repression, along with the reasons given for repression, are troubling.

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