"“Merry Christmas! What right have you to be merry? What reason have you to be merry? You’re poor enough.” “Come, then,” returned the nephew gaily. “What right have you to be dismal? What reason have you to be morose? You’re rich enough.” "

- Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
It Only Gets Freakier From Here

Author Terence P. Jeffrey talks with National Review Online editor-at-large Kathryn Lopez about his new book, Controls Freaks: 7 Ways Liberals Plan to Ruin Your Life.

LOPEZ: Why is a book published in 1910 important to you, Mark Levin, and the Social Security Administration?

JEFFREY: In Liberty and Tyranny, Mark Levin notes that Columbia University economist Henry Rogers Seager, in his 1910 book Social Insurance: A Program for Social Reform, laid out an argument for an American welfare state anchored in a social-security program. As Mark pointed out, the contemporary Social Security Administration is so taken with Seager’s statist views that it has posted his book on its website. Seager was the consummate Control Freak, someone who wanted to eradicate the pioneering spirit from American life, and he pushed not only for a welfare state, but also for eugenics — literally advocating the sterilization of people he believed unworthy of breeding. Seager exemplifies how modern liberals parted ways with both the constitutional and the moral traditions of our nation.

LOPEZ: Is the conscience front the most insidious? Or is the speech front?

JEFFREY: Yes, conscience is the most insidious. Liberals today don’t just believe they can force you to pay for the killing of someone else’s unborn child (and brazenly tell you they are not doing it), they also believe they have a right to teach your five-year-old kindergartner that same-sex unions are a good thing — without ever telling you they are doing it. There is a reason why liberal politicians like President Obama don’t like school choice, even if they send their own children to very expensive private schools. They see the public-school classroom as a moral battlefield where they can wage a 13-year insurgency to capture the soul of your child.

The wreck of the Narcissist

BETHEL, NY - AUGUST 14:  Grandpa Woodstock (R) and Estar look on as the 40th anniversary of the Woodstock music festival approaches August 14, 2009 in Bethel, New York. On August 15-17 in 1969 an estimated 400,000 music fans gathered on Max Yasgur's farm in Bethel, N.Y. for the most celebrated music festival ever. The 40th anniversary concert will take place tomorrow.  (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

For reasons I'll keep to myself
(for a change), I've been thinking about growing old lately. That leads me to consider my whole generation, that fabled company known in the West as the Baby Boomers. I'm confident that future historians (I trust there will be some) will certainly rank us as one of the greatest disasters in western history.

The generation of Americans that survived the Depression and won the Second World War faced the post-war years with two firm goals—to have families, and to give their children everything they never had. The children they bore were (by and large) the most cherished, the most cossetted, and the most privileged in human history. Many (not all, but enough) were taught that they were the center of the universe, the most important people in the world. As they grew older, they were confidently informed that they were the smartest, best-educated, wisest generation the world had ever seen. They would, they were assured, change the world forever.

And change it they did. Read the rest of this entry . . .

Writing is Hard

NPR's Talk of the Nation has a good segment about writing with three authors who are honest about the struggle to put words on paper, so to speak. One caller asks if pain is a requirement for writers, noting a particular unhappy author who stopped writing during a short happy spurt then returned to writing once the sadness settled back.

You Can't Clean Yourself Up Before You Go to God

I heard something of a radio show tonight that ties in a bit with Lars’ last post. The show was discussing a Christian response to homosexuality, and I believe both guests had struggled with same-sex attraction over the years. A woman called in to ask if they believed people could be born gay and told her painful story of being rejected by churches repeatedly. She was 66 years old now, did not want to have homosexual feelings, but was beginning to believe God made her this way.

What burned me up was when she said churches had alienated her when they learned she struggled with homosexuality. Some churches wanted her to embrace the perversion; others wanted her to clean herself up before she could come to God with them. Naturally, I believe the first group is not practicing biblical morality, but the second group? Who do they think they are?! Are they in church to do God a favor? Does the Almighty need them to do his work? Did they clean up themselves before God redeemed them?

I hate hearing of church people who reject those struggling with the ugly, public sins. It’s just as blasphemous as any play or movie you might be recruited to boycott.

But as usual when I start writing, I calm down before I’m finished. I know the church has many godly people who help anyone who comes to them through the roughest sins and struggles. And I know there are churches with many religious people, who do not know God, but think they can save themselves by doing good things and avoiding certain bad things. Of course, the second group is going to hold to whatever religious culture they have in their town and kick out the ugly sinners who can’t overcome their own faults through sheer moral courage or maybe bad luck.

Yes, it’s bad luck to overcome your faults on your own Read the rest of this entry . . .

Unconverted Rice

NEW YORK - APRIL 25:  Writer Anne Rice attends the opening night of 'Lestat' at The Palace Theatre April 25, 2006 in New York City.  (Photo by Paul Hawthorne/Getty Images)

The big news in Christian popular culture today is that Anne Rice, the bestselling vampire author who announced her conversion to Christianity a couple years back, has unconverted.

The 68-year-old author wrote Wednesday on her Facebook page that she refuses to be "anti-gay ... anti-feminist," and "anti-artificial birth control."

She adds that "In the name of ... Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen."

There was a surge of debate about this on a Christian SF/Fantasy e-mail discussion list I subscribe to. Part of the scuttlebutt (who knows how reliable?) was that she had a bad business experience with a Christian company that planned to film her novels about Christ, and that that may have contributed to her disenchantment. If that's the case, it wouldn't be the first time. The history of celebrity converts in my lifetime hasn't been a happy one. And it's not just a matter of the celebrities' immaturity. Christian enterprises are rather notorious for their shoddy business practices and promise-breaking. Sad but true.

But if the Facebook posting really reveals her heart, it would seem she simply found the gate too narrow and the way too straight. She appears to be one of those many who want a Jesus who'll accommodate their preferences. Being in the church involves a certain amount of doctrinal teaching and accountability, which they find offensive and intrusive.

I think of the rich young ruler from Luke 18—“When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth.”

Discipleship has a cost. The cares of the world often choke out the seed that has been sown.

Let's pray for Anne Rice.

(Photo credit: Getty Images)

Movie: For All Mankind

Hulu is offering the documentary, "For All Mankind," a film about the 24 men who have gone to the moon in their own words and images.

And for something completely different, this movie is a Japanese staged King Lear. I wonder when I'll have time for these.

You don't have to be a meteorologist to know which way the wind is blowing

Novelist Andrew Klavan, about whose work you may have read from time to time in this space, reports at City Journal that his French publisher has backed out of a deal to publish a translation of his novel Empire of Lies.

The book’s French cancellation is, I realize, a rather small cultural event. Yet it gives specific color to the recent revelations on the Daily Caller website that left-wing journalists conspired to suppress scandals that might harm Barack Obama and to the brouhaha over Breitbart’s online release of a video that resulted in a government worker’s momentarily losing her job. In both stories, one thing leaps out at me: everywhere, the Left favors fewer voices and less information, and conservatives favor more. Everywhere, the Left seeks to disappear its opposition, whereas the Right is willing to meet them head-on.

Meanwhile a federal judge has ruled that Eastern Michigan University did not violate a student's freedom of religion when they required her to abandon her religious beliefs or be booted out of a graduate counseling program.
U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh dismissed Ward’s lawsuit against Eastern Michigan University. She was removed from the school’s counseling program last year because she refused to counsel homosexual clients.

Anybody else sense a trend?

"If any form of pleasure is exhibited, report to me and it will be prohibited..."

"Floyd R. Turbo" at Threedonia blog reviews West Oversea, in flattering terms.

Building Men

World's Anthony Bradley describes his motive for teaching a class of boys the fundamentals of the faith.

A ninth-grade history teacher and I decided to create a “Men’s Bible Study” for our students because we noticed that the feminization of church was churning out a generation of “nice guys” who were not capable of leading, had no sense of why God created them to be men—other than have a family and a nice job—and were oddly passive. The ninth-grade boys would walk the halls with heads bowed and shoulders slouched as if they were carrying 80-pound weights in each hand as their bodies were carried along by an airport terminal moving sidewalk.

Playwright Mamet Rejects Liberalism

David Mamet, "America’s most famous and successful playwright," has rejected the political liberalism of his past, perhaps in an effort to avoid unpleasant New York cocktail parties. In the current Commentary magazine, Terry Teachout describes the playwright's conversion as revealed in print.

Style Guide Update: His Beneficence

When referring to the blog, "Writing, Clear and Simple," do not cite rmjacobsen.squarespace.com, but writingclearandsimple.com instead. When referring to the blog's author, use "Roy Jacobsen the Magnificent" when quoting and "Roy Jacobsen the Beneficent" for all other references.

Metaxas on Bonhoeffer: Extended Interview

This is remarkable. At about the 15 minute mark, author Eric Metaxas talks about how focused the Nazis were on race. Their corrupt view of purity and polluted ideas about the Jews became woven into almost every German, Christian and non. Bonhoeffer among a few others argued against the Nazis racism in part because he had seen racial division in the United States.

A side order of pictures

Photobucket works for me tonight, so I can share some photos from Nordic Fest in Decorah, Iowa.

Here's an eager crowd learning all about Vikings from the Skjaldborg guys.
Decorah 1

Here's the Vikings extracting much-needed sustenance from pork chops, the national cuisine of Iowa.
Decorah 2

And here's my friend, under my own awning, showing off the mail shirt he's making.
Decorah 3

The big thing that kept occupying my mind all weekend (and my friend got pretty sick of hearing about it too) was the fact that when I attended Luther College, which is also in Decorah, it was forty blankety-blank years ago. Forty years.

When I consider that fact, I'm not surprised by how much has changed. I'm amazed anything remains the same. The fact that some of the same buildings yet stand in Decorah, and that a few of them even serve the functions they did back in my time, seems somehow against nature. When I think that forty years have passed, I imagine that the very hills should have been brought low, and the river should have o'erflowed its banks and found a fresh course. Everybody should have flying cars, and we should all be taking our sustenance in tablet form.

Well, that last part did sort of come true. I do not lack for pills in my diet in this strange old world.

Won't Criticize Family

John Nolte on Oliver Stone: "As long as your politics are in order, no 'Jewish domination of the media' comments can hurt you."

Can We Ever Believe Them Again?

Ed Morrissey of Hot Air describes more of the coverage of the JournoList revelation, talking about the few reporters who stood up for honesty on occasion:

James Surowiecki offered a longer exposition on the same theme after Journolisters started debating whether the media should report on Fort Hood terrorist Nidal Hasan’s ties to radical Islamist terrorists. When Luke Mitchell of Harper’s argued that reporting on the ties would lead to something “alarmingly dangerous, such as the idea that there is a large conspiracy of Islamists at work in the United States,” Surowiecki reminded Mitchell and others of the entire purpose of journalism, emphasis mine:
“I find it bizarre that anyone would argue that an accurate description of what happened is somehow pointless,” Surowiecki said. “That is, that it’s not useful to offer up an accurate picture of Hasan’s actions because nothing obvious follows from it. We want, as much as possible, to have a clear picture of what’s actually going on in the world. Describing Hasan as a violent Islamist terrorist is much closer to the truth than describing him as a disturbed individual.”
One has to wonder why a journalist from Harper’s — and other publications — would need that reminder, especially about terrorism.

Obama and The Fake Tag

Here's a little story from the proprietor of The Black Sphere. "The election of Obama reminds me of years ago, when I bought a fake Tag Heuer watch while visiting Manhattan."

A weekend in exotic Iowa

I meant to share some pictures of my weekend in Decorah, Iowa, but I can't seem to upload anything to Photobucket today. Not sure if it's their fault or mine. I'll try again tomorrow.

I rode down with one of the other Vikings, who has relatives in the area with whom we bunked. The festival actually starts on Thursday, but we only took Friday off, and arrived a little after noon. Viking Sam was there with his Viking boat, and a small contingent from the Skjaldborg group from Omaha.

Friday was an amazing day for me. It was stinking hot—tropical hot, southeast Asian hot and humid, as it so often is in Decorah at the end of July, most especially in the little hollow behind the Norwegian immigration museum where the Viking camp has been located for the last few years.

First of all a couple ladies, sisters as it turned out, came into the camp and talked about a Viking festival they'd attended in Norway. Turned out it was Vikingfestivalen Karmøy, which I've been trying to get to for the last decade or so. It further developed that they were descendents of Karmøy, home of my great-grandfather, and their family had come from a neighboring farm.

Later, when I went up to Main Street to scrounge up some lunch, a total stranger stopped me and asked, “Are you Lars Walker, the author?”

I expect that's the only time that'll ever happen to me in my life, so thanks, whoever you are, for making me feel like a big shot.

Finally, a couple from Illinois wandered into the camp. She was, as it turned out, the president of the organization devoted to saving and preserving The Viking, the replica Viking ship that was sailed from Norway to America for the Columbian Exposition in 1893. It's been gradually allowed to deteriorate ever since.

As an added bonus, they're Christians. He's a retired employee of Moody Broadcasting.

Saturday was OK, the weather actually pleasant (following thunderstorms which soaked my stuff) but my normal insecurities returned, and—oddly—although traffic was heavier, I sold fewer books.

But you can't have everything.

Thanks to Sam and Skjaldborg for making it possible for me to be there.

Grading Websites

Michael Hyatt has some interesting thoughts on author websites and points to a tool for grading your site. I thought BwB would rank fairly low, and I could see how we could improve our grade, but our website grade is 95. I wish that meant something. Maybe it means more than I know. Perhaps a more realistic score comes from the blog-specific grader, which gave us a 68. And the grader did not find our Twitter account, so I wonder if that put us down a notch.

Anyway, I'm a little encouraged by our 95 grade. That's a solid A, and we have room to improve. Our traffic could be much better. Our images could have alt tags, and our pages meta tags. We could allow Sissel to guest blog. Anyway, I'm encouraged.

Speaking of the End: Xclusive eBooks

NEW YORK - MAY 06:  Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos holds the new Kindle DX, which he unveiled at a press conference at the Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts at Pace University May 6, 2009 in New York City. Bezos was joined by Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., publisher of The New York Times and chairman of The New York Times Company.  The Kindle DX, a new purpose-built reading device, features a larger 9.7-inch electronic paper display, built-in PDF reader, auto-rotate capability, and storage for up to 3,500 books. Amazon has also partnered with select major newspapers to offer readers discounts on the DX in return for long-term subscriptions. The Kindle DX is available for pre-order starting today for $489.00 USD and will ship this summer. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
"Rage, rage against the dying of the light!" Publishers Random House and Macmillan are criticizing an eBook deal by one of America's leading literary agents.
Home to 700 authors and estates, from Philip Roth to John Updike, Jorge Luis Borges and Saul Bellow, the Wylie Agency shocked the publishing world yesterday when it announced the launch of Odyssey Editions. The new initiative is selling ebook editions of modern classics, including Lolita, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Updike's Rabbit tetralogy, exclusively via Amazon.com's Kindle store, leaving conventional publishers out of the picture.
Publishers are citing active contracts on these works and Amazon's dominance in the market as reasons against this deal. Agent Andrew Wylie doesn't know how to respond, according to the NY Times.

I am neither a prophet, nor the son of a prophet

The Angel with the Book. Bible Revelation 10:1-6. Wood engraving c1860

It was one of those rare, perfect moments in preaching.

While living in Florida some years back, due to limited choices I was attending a church of a different denomination than my own. It was a large, growing, dynamic congregation. The pastor announced a series of sermons on Revelation. But when he started preaching, it quickly became clear he was not teaching the Dispensational Premillenial (i.e., Left Behind) interpretation that's so popular in our day. He was an amillennialist.

Many congregation members were not happy about this, and made their opinion known.

After a few weeks of controversy, the pastor got into the pulpit one Sunday morning and announced that, for the sake of peace, he was discontinuing the sermon series on the End Times. Instead, he would take up a topic that would trouble people less.

“I'm going to preach on Hell,” he said. Read the rest of this entry . . .

Three Key Points for Writers

It's easier to publish a work or a video than ever, so here a few observations from Jane Friedman of Writer's Digest. A commenter points to this comedy sketch on choice for perspective.

Everyone's Talking Minotaurs!

A publishing executive trying to get ahead of the next big wave says minotaurs are the new vampires, according to this Onion News report. I'm thinking librarians are about ready for their due.

Of butterflies and kerfuffles

1swallowtail0801 - Eastern tiger swallowtail on flowering thistle in Shenandoah National Forest.
Last night I confessed on my Facebook page that I love butterflies and dragonflies. I think my love for butterflies is easily understood. If there are any butterfly haters out there, I’ve never encountered one. Dragonflies, for their part, are cool because they’re beautiful in a sleek, deadly, Viking ship kind of way. As an extra bonus, they devour mosquitoes in large quantities. Every time I see a dragonfly, I want to show my support in some way; buy him a drink and say, “Thank you for your service.” Haven’t worked out a way to do that yet.

Did you ever ponder the word “butterfly?” Where does the butter come in? I did some web searches and discovered (to my delight) that nobody really knows. There are, thank goodness, a few mysteries left in our world. Some say that it’s a confusion of the original name, “flutterby.” That seems to me a little precious, and there seems to be no actual evidence for such a word in history. Some think the word originally only designated the yellow ones, and then expanded to embrace the entire genus. Others say that it’s because butterfly droppings are yellow. Take your pick, or make up one of your own.

By the way, the Norwegian word for butterfly is sommerfugl, which means “summer bird.” What a lovely, poetic name. Illogical, as they have lots of birds in Norway in the summer, but apt.

Much summer heat is being generated by Andrew Breitbart’s story on Shirley Sherrod and her speech to an NAACP meeting. I defended Breitbart in a discussion over at Threedonia earlier today, but on consideration I’ve come to the conclusion that he had a fair point, but bungled the story badly. He was trying to make the reasonable argument that the NAACP shouldn’t call other people racist when its own members laugh and cheer at a story of reverse racism. But he went ahead without having the full story, and should have been aware that Ms. Sherrod, who seems to be a decent person, would be caught in his line of fire.

Talleyrand is supposed to have once said of a political assassination, “It was worse than a crime. It was a blunder.” This was worse than a blunder. It was a sin.

I confess I can imagine myself committing the same sin. Doesn't make it right, though.

"Didn't Know I Had This Much Hate in Me"

Actor and the voice of a slew of Simpson's characters, Hank Arzaria lends his talents to the Smurfs movie which filmed in NYC, NY on April 30, 2010. Azaria who plays Smurf sworn enemy, sorcerer Gargamel, wrecked havoc on the city in a convincing and crowd pleasing costume.  Fame Pictures, Inc
The Daily Caller has an exposé of a Journalist discussion group called JournoList.
If you were in the presence of a man having a heart attack, how would you respond? As he clutched his chest in desperation and pain, would you call 911? Would you try to save him from dying? Of course you would.

But if that man was Rush Limbaugh, and you were Sarah Spitz, a producer for National Public Radio, that isn’t what you’d do at all.

In a post to the list-serv Journolist, an online meeting place for liberal journalists, Spitz wrote that she would “Laugh loudly like a maniac and watch his eyes bug out” as Limbaugh writhed in torment.

In boasting that she would gleefully watch a man die in front of her eyes, Spitz seemed to shock even herself. “I never knew I had this much hate in me,” she wrote. “But he deserves it.”

Spitz’s hatred for Limbaugh seems intemperate, even imbalanced. On Journolist, where conservatives are regarded not as opponents but as enemies, it barely raised an eyebrow.
Read more on The Daily Caller.

Politico.com did a story on this list last year, giving it a much less radical appearance. Perhaps the comments at the time were much less radical. The senior editor of The New Republic described the conversations on this exclusive email list.

“There is probably general agreement on the stupidity of today’s GOP,” he said. “But beyond that, I would say there is wide disagreement on trade, Israel, how exactly we got into this recession/depression and how to get out of it, the brilliance of various punk bands that I have never heard of, and on whether, at any given moment, the Obama administration is doing the right thing.”

The story this week is that JournoList members assume the worst of conservatives, and perhaps each other occasionally, pioneering new interior ground on the quest to learn how much hate they truly have. Maybe they should read Chesterton. Then they'll get an idea of who is at fault for the world's ills, and it isn't Bush.

Paradise Is So Holy It Would Spew the Unholy Should They Be Allowed to Enter

I came across this remarkable language in an essay on holiness by Thomas Brooks (1608-1680), and I thought I would share it.

The eighth argument to prove that without real holiness there is no happiness; that without holiness on earth no man shall ever come to a blessed vision or fruition of God in heaven, is this, The Scripture, that speaks no treason, styles unholy persons beasts, yea, the worst of beasts ; and what should such do in heaven? Unholy persons are the most dangerous, and the most unruly pieces in the world, and therefore are emblemized by lions, Ps. xxii. 21, and they are cruel; by bears, and they are savage, Isa. xi. 7 ; by dragons, and they are hideous, Ezek. xxix. 3; by wolves, and they are ravenous, Ezek. xxii. 27; by dogs, and they are snarling, Rev. xxii. 15; by vipers and scorpions, and they are stinging, Mat. xii. 34, Ezek. ii. 6; by spiders and cockatrices, and they are poisoning, Isa. lix. 5; by swine, and they are [still grunting, Mat. vii. 6. No man in this world is more like another than the epicure is like a swine; the fraudulent person a fox ; the lustful person a goat; the backbiter a barking cur; the slanderer an asp ; the oppressor a wolf; the persecutor a tiger; the seducer a serpent. Certainly the Irish air will sooner brook toads and snakes and serpents to live therein, than heaven will brook such beasts as unholy souls are to live there. Surely God, and Christ, and the Spirit, and angels, and 'the spirits of just men made perfect,' are not so in love with dogs and swine, £c., as to put them into their bosoms, or make them their companions. Heaven is a place of too great state to admit such vermin to inhabit there. Read the rest of this entry . . .

Triple Crown, by Dick Francis

A while back I reviewed Dick Francis' mystery, Decider, and said I'd be reading more. So I picked up the collection Triple Crown (comprising Dead Cert, Nerve, and For Kicks) and read it last week. It was an intriguing reading experience for me.

I have a hard time pinning down what's so compelling in a Dick Francis mystery. Most of the stories revolve around the sport of racing (with the corruption that racetrack betting invites), and that's a field of endeavor in which I've never had much interest (though I'll admit that if I have to watch a horse race, I'd prefer a steeplechase, which is the kind of racing Francis concentrates on, at least in the novels I've read). I can't say that he's a brilliant stylist—in fact I'd characterize him as the kind of author who disappears totally, which isn't a bad way to get your reader invested in your characters. I can't say he's especially skilled at crafting vivid characters. And yet I found myself horizontal on the couch for hours, turning page after page, absolutely under the spell of the stories.

Dead Cert, I understand, was Francis' first published novel. It's good, but I think he was still feeling his way. Nerve was his second book, and by then he'd already found his pace. This was possibly the most satisfying tale of revenge I've ever read. And For Kicks amazed me. It was the compelling adventure of a man who takes a dangerous job for money, endures great suffering and violence, and in the end learns something about himself that changes his life.

I think what I particularly like is that Francis writes about manly men. Men blessed, and burdened, with strength, integrity, and courage, Churchillian in their resolve never to give up.

What a joy to discover an author you didn't know before, who has a long list of published works you can look forward to!

What is Beauty

Athol Dickson writes on beauty.

Beauty is not always comfortable. Consider forest fires and lightning. Think of the summit of Mount Everest. Are they not beautiful in their own ways? Yet aren’t they also terrifying? Remember the great white shark again, or a black widow or a lion. Some beauty makes us so uncomfortable we feel the need to set ourselves apart from it. And our desire for distance from some kinds of beauty isn’t only due to danger. We were created to care for the garden. To work it. To organize it and arrange it. This explains the impulse many of us feel to make some kind of change in nature. We trim hedges. We separate flowerbeds from lawns. But what of those who take that impulse further? Who set fire to forests simply to destroy them, hunt for animals they do not eat, and fence off land they do not use? Beauty sometimes makes us sense our smallness. It reminds us we are not in control. It whispers “You are only mortal, and none of this is really yours.” Beauty is not always comfortable.

In which I look more like Sherlock Holmes than Robert Downey did

'The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual'. Dr Watson watching Sherlock Holmes going through mementoes of his old cases. From The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Conan Doyle from The Strand Magazine (London, 1893). Illustration by Sidney E Paget, the first artist to draw Sherlock Holmes. Engraving.

Not a bad weekend, all in all. The storms did no damage to my house that I'm aware of. I'd planned on doing something constructive and diligent in terms of house maintenance, but wasn't able to manage it. On Sunday I gathered with other Sons of Norway members at Wabun Park in Minneapolis, and oddly enough it wasn't for anything having to do with Vikings (much). We had a picnic to celebrate the centennial of our district. Somebody had spoken vaguely of dressing in period for 1910, so I made an effort. I wore a white dress shirt with a tie, light-colored khaki trousers with suspenders (Y shaped. You've got to have the Y configuration). And I topped it off with my panama hat. I actually looked sort of like I might have come from the 1930s, if you didn't look too closely, but I made the effort. This paid off when somebody showed up with a 1913 Moline automobile, and I got to ride around in it a little because I was dressed right.

Sometimes—rarely--virtue is rewarded in this world.

Also watched the DVD of Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey.

What shall I say about this very odd concoction? Read the rest of this entry . . .

Why Authors Should Use LinkedIn

Four Reasons Every Author Should Use LinkedIn, a social network for professionals (from Jane Friedman's Best of Twitter)

White-Black Hats

a little caucasian boy dressed in his pajamas jumps up and shows his super hero cape
I read O’Connor’s short stories “The River” and “A Circle in the Fire” recently, and a phrase from the praise on the back cover resonated with me: “some of the most powerful and disturbing fiction written this century.” I normally interpret disturbing fiction as morally ambiguous or reveling in perversion for its nihilistic glory, but O’Connor’s fiction is disturbing in that it requires you to work on it and some of the details are ugly. It isn’t easy, and these two left me asking what I should think about them.

I think part of what disturbed me was my desire to see white and black hats.

In “The River,” a little boy, age 5, is taken to hear a rural preacher who speaks from the muddy river in which he baptizes his listeners. He talks about the kingdom of Christ being a river and entering that kingdom through the river. His message is confusing when he gives it and complicated when repeated by his congregation, but the idea of the river sticks with the boy, and it changes his life. He leaves his family, for whom everything was a joke, and embraces the theology presented by the river preacher.

At first, I thought it disturbing that even a poorly stated gospel message doesn’t result in hope or life. The preacher’s theology is bad. He’s flattered when people say he has healed the sick and wants that to be true, even though he claims he can’t heal anyone. What he says does point to Christ, but he appears to want the signs and wonders, those visible clues to the power of his ministry, so badly that he is willing to fabricate them. Maybe this desire to point to himself is what muddles his sermon. So the preacher and woman who takes the boy to have him baptized don’t wear white hats. They’re more flawed than that. Read the rest of this entry . . .

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