"Would it promote the peace of the community, or the stability of the government to have half a dozen men who had had credit enough to be raised to the seat of the supreme magistracy, wandering among the people like discontented ghosts, and sighing for a place which they were destined never more to possess?"

- Alexander Hamilton, speaking of ex-presidents
A Walk Across the Sun

World Magazine's Russ Pulliam highlights the new work of author Corban Addison, who crafts a story Pulliam describes as an Uncle Tom’s Cabin for sex trafficking. He says, A Walk Across the Sun "takes Washington lawyer Thomas Clarke to India for pro bono legal work to fight sex trafficking. Clarke’s world intersects with two Indian girls who lose their parents in a tsunami."

John Grisham, whom I'm told doesn't do book blurbs, did one for this book. An Amazon reviewer, who gave it five stars, says it's "not a feel good topic. It is repulsive and hard to read." But many people are finding it compelling, and it's certainly relevant. I learned yesterday that a local message parlor had traffick victims enslaved there. Local police shut it down, but apparently lacked the evidence to go further. I believe we know the story because they have that evidence now.

Really dynamic equivalence

Here's an oddity, and pretty much up my alley. Tip: Grim's Hall.

I think I've mentioned before how I've gradually been won over, at least tentatively, to the view that the original Viking raids against England, particularly the one against Lindisfarne (793 AD), may have been intended as a preemptive attack, in order to send a message to the Emperor Charlemagne. This would have been because Charlemagne, at the Battle of Verden (782) forcibly baptized the defeated Saxons, and (probably) massacred them, an action that Denmark (understandably) considered provocative.

Under the rule of the Franks, the Saxons were formally Christianized. In order to teach them the gospel, Frankish missionaries did something both interesting and questionable. They “translated” the Gospel story into Germanic epic form, in a work known as the Heliand. (I actually have a friend who's been raving about this poem for years, but I've never read it myself.)

We've wrung our hands recently over a New Testament translation that caters to Muslim sensibilities. But those changes pale compared to the alterations the Franks made, in order to put Christ's story into a form that would be intelligible to Germanic warriors.

Having been thoroughly ‘Saxonised’, Christ becomes a warrior, the towns of ancient Israel become ‘hill forts’ and the three wise men become warriors and thanes. John the Baptist is called a ‘soothsayer’ and the Lord’s Payer [sic] apparently contains ‘secret runes’. When Christ leaves the wedding at Cana, the Heliand says that

‘Christ, the most powerful of kings decided to go to Capharnaum, the great hill fort, with his followers. His forces of good men, his happy warrior company assembled in front of him’
Read all about it here.


And now, a moment of inspiration.

Ronald McDonald, matchmaker

Originally broadcast on a Twin Cities TV station, this story comes from Neatorama. The McDonald's in question is about three miles from my house.

Fifty years ago, then 16-year-old Steve Rydberg was working at a local
McDonald’s. Since he worked at the grill, his co-workers developed a code
to let him know whenever a cute girl walked in the restaurant.

Here’s a wonderful story of how Steve met his true love back then and
how he surprised his wife on her birthday fifty years later at the same

The Untamed, by Max Brand

Dan was laughing. At least that chuckling murmur was near to a laugh. Yet there was no mirth in it. It had that touch of the maniacal in it which freezes the blood. Silent halted in the midst of his rush, with his hands poised for the next blow. His mouth fell agape with an odd expression of horror as Dan stared up at him. That hideous chuckling continued. The sound defied definition. And from the shadow in which Dan was crouched, his brown eyes blazed, changed, and filled with yellow fires.
If the passage above, taken from Max Brand's novel The Untamed, seems a little turgid to you, I am in agreement. The book was free for Kindle, and I'd never read any Brand, so I thought I'd give him a try. I don't think I'm going to be a fan. The prose is labored, and dialogue (though the slang is probably authentic, since the author actually worked as a cowboy for a while) clunks like a counterfeit double eagle.

And yet... considering how literary tastes change, I could see how this could have been an extremely popular book in its time. There's a mythic quality to it, especially toward the climax, where the image of a mysterious rider in the dark, whistling a weird melody as he approaches with death in his hands, evokes a scene that could have inspired Sergio Leone. Read the rest of this entry . . .

Certain Words Need Not Apply

Banned Books Week We've talked about censorship here before. We've noted often that when a government stops a book from being printed or distributed, that's censorship, but when a parent complains about the appropriateness of a book for her child, that's not. We hope parents are actually morally and reasonably when they question some of the recommended reading at school. Doesn't always happen, of course. Recently a teacher was investigated by school and community law enforcement because a parent complained that Ender's Game is pornographic. Help us.

BTW, you can buy Ender's Game (with cool cover art) here.

But we usually don't talk about bookstores that won't sell perfectly good books because of one or more select words. Caryn Rivadeneira writes about a few of these examples, particularly an argument author Rachel Held Evens had with her publisher. In short, Thomas Nelson wouldn't let her use the word vagina.

Rivadeneira notes the difficulties. "They are businesses after all, and to be successful, businesses need to sell products their customers will read without getting up in arms. The problem with Vagina-gate and similar forms of “censorship” is that, in an attempt to protect customers, publishers and bookstores are making it a lot harder for writers to tell the stories God has called them to write. And when Christians are barred by other Christians from serving God, it dishonors God. In fact, it’s sin."

I think she's right.

BTW, you can pre-order Evans' book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband Master, here.

Old Words

The verb unfriend was listed in the Oxford English Dictionary from 1659. I wonder what citizens of Jamestown, Virginia, 1659 AD, would have thought a facebook was.

The Rocky Mountain Moving Picture Association, by Loren D. Estleman

I've always had a fondness for tales of early Hollywood. It was an amazing time and place in history, in a sense the culmination (as author Loren D. Estleman himself argues in this novel) of the American Wild West. There, in the dusty hills of sleepy Los Angeles, a dysfunctional aggregation of eastern Jewish businessmen, stage actors, vaudevillians, European artistes, and ordinary cowboys improvised like mad to create an art form that had never existed before, and so had no rules or traditions to which to appeal.

Loren D. Estleman is best known as a mystery novelist, but he also writes good westerns, and The Rocky Mountain Moving Picture Association contains elements of both genres. It's a fun book, and I enjoyed it quite a lot.

Presented in the form of three long flashbacks, interspersed with vignettes describing the main character's (and Hollywood's) later history, TRMMPA tells the story of Dmitri Pulski, who when we meet him in 1913 is working for his father, an ice merchant with an operation in northern California. His father, who has received a huge order for ice from the titular Rocky Mountain Moving Picture Association, has grave doubts about the likely solvency of such an enterprise (“Moving pictures are a fad,” he explains, “but people will always need ice.”). So he sends Dmitri south, along with a Russian immigrant co-worker, in a Model T to investigate. Read the rest of this entry . . .

How To Do a Review

Maxine talks about book reviews after getting some criticism that her review was a plot summary, not a review. She says, "I find it hard to judge whether to read a book if 'random reviewer' states a view on the writing quality, the plot, etc, rather than giving the reader some degree of objective information (which I do not think is found in the official “blurb” of the book, as in crime fiction these blurbs tend to summarise key, late plot points and so remove suspense and even in some cases any point in reading the book)."

So, plot summary or review?

It's True, Despite Lies

What is truth outside of the facts? If someone writes a memoir describing his remarkable experiences, drawing from these profound truths about the world, do people not treat this differently than a novel? If it is learned that his experiences were completely fabricated, do we not see the book in a completely different light? And if an author writes fiction but claims it is fact, is he not appealing to the evidence of reality which he can't do in a novel? He is, and yet some will still argue that his intentions outweigh his lies.

Mike Daisey has a one-man show called, The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs. Mike D'Virgilio writes, "Daisey conveys his experiences on a visit to China of seeing the allegedly deplorable working conditions in Apple’s production facilities. It turns out much of what he speaks about in his theatrical monologue and on the 'This American Life' episode about it, never happened." That liberals will defend this non-factual account which purports to get at the truth is typical of them, D'Virgilio argues.

Kudos to Ira Glass for rejecting lies presented as truth.

Christians Are Starting to Make Good Movies

"The aggregate product coming out of Hollywood is something that can be deeply offensive to people like myself, and I think Christians have sat back. ... Now we're realizing instead we need to engage, and we need to make quality work," says Jon Erwin, director of October Baby, currently in theaters.

Film Review: "John Carter"

It’s all very strange. All I keep hearing is that Disney’s John Carter movie is turning out to be one of the greatest flops (in terms of profits vs. costs) in history. And yet I’ve yet to see anyone actually say they hated it.

Of course my web surfing is mostly limited to conservative sites, but several of the bloggers I read have reported on seeing it, and every single one of them likes it.

So I went to see it too.

I liked it.

Not a perfect film. But a good afternoon at the movies, suitable for most of the family. Read the rest of this entry . . .

John Christopher (1922-2012)

My wife read the first of John Christopher's trilogy, The Prince in Waiting ~ Beyond the Burning Lands ~ The Sword of the Spirits, and wanted to know what the next book was, not even knowing this was a series. I called on the powers of the Interweb to answer our query, and behold, I learned the author died last month. Sci-fi Author John Christopher (born Sam Youd of Knowsley, U.K.) died February 3, 2012. He was the author of the Tripod series, which is a neat set of books and good, though incomplete, BBC series. Apparently, this is only one set of post-apocalyptic stories he wrote.

In the Guardian's obituary, they report: "Youd had an unusual way of working. He did a quick first draft of the opening chapter, but for the remainder typed a 'final' version, with several carbon copies. When he had completed the book he would go back and redraft the first chapter."

Courage: New Hampshire

Colony Bay Productions, an independent acting group, is taking up the story of early America with a passion some well-known commentators might think no longer exists. Lead by James Riley, a reenactor of Patrick Henry and owner of Riley’s Farm, this group is producing an ambitious DVD series called Courage, New Hampshire. It’s goal is to tell the story leading up to our independence, season by season for the remainder of the decade. They started in the winter of 1770 with the story Sarah Pine, an unmarried, young woman who gave birth to a child she claims to be by a British soldier named Bob Wheedle. The story primarily introduces the characters and the small town of Courage. No appearances from Ben Franklin or Paul Revere. The Boston Massacre occurs during the time of this story (March 5, 1770) and is the only reference given to the history of the world beyond their border.

There are two episodes available today; the third is coming in several weeks. My wife and I watched the first one, “The Travail of Sarah Pine,” and loved it. The music by Rotem Moav is perfect. I love the authentic sound of the many references to the Bible in the dialogue. Costuming and setting all look beautiful and genuine, though at one point I thought they should have aged a man’s clothing to take the straight from the catalog look away.

There is a community theater aspect to Courage. Some of the acting isn’t as polished as I’d like, because in the end, viewers want to enjoy the story and not think about the last few lines sounding off a bit. Some of the actors are fairly new or untrained in their art, but many of the cast have experience with Shakespearean plays, movies and TV, and some famous people play a part here and there, like Andrew Breitbart in episode two.

I can't discern a political agenda in this story, unless stories about colonial America without touching on select hot spots makes a story politically incorrect. I look forward to seeing the big historical names, if they ever get out to Courage or if the story ever goes to Boston. I see that episode three has a much lesser-known figure, a black soldier named Caesar, who fought in the continental army.

You can buy a DVD or steam the episodes through their site. If you like period drama, this is worth your time. I'll let you know what I think of other episodes when I see them. (Thank you, Ori Pomerantz, for promoting this series to me and sending me this DVD.)

Friday stuff

Finished another Dick Francis-- Driving Force. Not among Francis' best, in my opinion. It's about a former jockey who runs a transport service for race horses. He discovers somebody's been smuggling something under his trucks. This is one of those books where the hero could have probably saved himself a lot of unpleasantness if he'd just gone to the police with what he knew in the first place.

Viking news! Mel Gibson says he's still working on his Viking movie, in spite of losing Leonardo DiCaprio (what a loss!) as the star a couple years ago. He's working on the script with Randall Wallace (Braveheart). That all sounds good, except that he now tells us his attitude toward Vikings: They are “very unsympathetic characters and these guys will be bad.”

I know a guy who was actually approached to find reenactors to be extras in the early stages of this project. I contemplated trying to bring my outfit up to code, just to be part of it. I probably won't lose any sleep about not participating now.

Is It Elementary?

Sherlock Holmes, an ever-evolving icon, according to techgnotic. This article has a lots of artwork, from realistic drawings of the actors who have portrayed Holmes to comic-style caricatures.

Talking The Hunger Games

Hannah Notess and Jeffrey Overstreet watched The Hunger Games and talked about it as a film, an adaptation of a novel, and a story in itself. They say it's fast-paced, touches lightly on disturbing questions, and doesn't give you time to think about them.

Notess states, "This is one of the biggest questions the book asks: What does it mean for such a violent spectacle to be broadcast in great detail, as entertainment?"

Overstreet says, "The Hunger Games concludes in a very interesting place, one that seems carefully contrived so that those who want a “happy ending” can see one, and those interested in darker possibilities can look closer and see those too."

Notess also asks how much, if any, violence does God allow his followers to commit in order to survive. I think the answer in the context of The Hunger Games is different than a real world context. Christians will reasonably and honorable die, if necessary, when placed into a totally unjust, deadly entertainment venue. But if the question is whether to use force to defend your village from the viking hoard or to join the army to destroy the raiders from across the sea, then Christians may reasonably and honorably fight and kill. Perhaps Christians in the world of The Hunger Games should storm the Capitol by every possible means to stop the evil madness. What do you think?

A foolish post

In a Viking reenactment group on Facebook that I belong to, somebody asked an interesting question recently. “I know a guy who'd like to portray a Viking fool,” he said. “What do you people think about that?”

The response was unanimous (very much to my pleasure, since there's precious little unanimity among Viking reenactors on anything). There's no evidence for jesters in Viking culture, and the very idea is not one that fits with the Viking ethos.

I thought I'd meditate on the reasons tonight. It has to do with issues I've addressed before.

The Viking culture, steeped in its heathen virtues, set personal honor above all things. You could make jokes about your enemy all you wanted—as long as he wasn't present. If you made a joke about him to his face, it meant you wanted a fight. No insult could be overlooked, if a man was to keep his social standing. “It was just a joke! Lighten up!” wouldn't buy you any tolerance. A cutting word was no different from a blow.

Gradually, with the coming of Christianity, that changed. Honor culture lingered (the duel was still legal in places well into the 19th Century), but it came gradually to be accepted that a man did not demean himself if he admitted a fault (Canute the Great, only a second generation Christian, did penance for a man's murder, which must have been hard for a fellow so close to Asa worship. I need to remember to examine that when he comes into the Erling books). Read the rest of this entry . . .

Realistic Disney Princess Photos

Jirka Väätäinen, a student at Arts University College at Bournemouth, United Kingdom, is working on beautiful, realistic photos of women who resemble Disney princesses like Snow White and Tiana. These are photo manipulations. I haven't read how much of these are the result of Photoshop work (or a comparable program, if there is one) or photo preparation with the model, clothing, etc.

Poetry of the World

Yesterday was World Poetry Day (somewhere). You probably knew this already. I had to learn by reading blogs (so sad). Crooked Timber celebrates here. (via Books, Inq.)

Flying Blind, by Max Allan Collins

This one’s a heartbreaker.

Yet another Nate Heller mystery from Max Allan Collins here. Flying Blind is all about the disappearance of Amelia Earhart. I’ve always steered clear of the Earhart business myself, because I don’t much care for stories where the girl dies (though I’ve written some, come to think of it). Most of what I know about the Earhart mystery came from an old episode of Unsolved Mysteries, and this book actually fitted in pretty well with the speculations on that show.

This story starts in 1935, when Chicago private eye Heller is hired by Earhart’s slimy husband, P. G. Putnam (of the P. G. Putnam and Sons publishing house), to be her bodyguard on a lecture tour. She’s been receiving threatening letters, Putnam says (although there’s some suspicion he created them himself, to garner publicity). Privately, he asks Heller to find out if Earhart is having an affair. Though he feels guilty about it because he despises Putnam and likes Earhart, Heller agrees to do the job. He ends up having an affair with her himself. Read the rest of this entry . . .

Kazuo Ishiguro's "Never Let Me Go"

Dale mentioned a dystopian novel I've wanted to get into, but I haven't remembered it often enough to hunt down in a library or bookstore, Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go Here's a movie tie-in featurette on the story.

The Key to Understanding the White House?

Perhaps this is the key to understanding what's been happening in the White House for the last several year.

Bob Dylan lyrics in the White House library

For more on what's in the White House library, which can only hold 2,500 books, read this.

"How does it feel
How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone ?"

"The Year of the Warrior" vindicated. A little.

When I wrote The Year of the Warrior, I took a historical gamble. I included among the buildings at Sola farm, where the hero lived, a heathen temple.

That may not sound too audacious, but in fact I was flying in the face of all the research I'd done on Viking life. In book after book, I'd read that historians believed there were no temples in the Norse religion; that religious ceremonies were performed either in the open air or in the chieftain's home.

But Adam of Bremen, in his history of the bishops of Hamburg, insists that there was a temple at Uppsala, Sweden. And having a small shrine just seemed right to me, so I put one in the story.

And now this, from the Archaeology News Network:

Located at the site of Ranheim, about 10 kilometers north of the Norwegian city of Trondheim, the astonishing discovery was unearthed while excavating foundations for new houses and includes a "gudehovet" or "god temple." Occupied from the 6th or 5th century BCE until the 10th century AD/CE, the site shows signs of usage for animal sacrifice, a common practice among different peoples in antiquity. Over 1,000 years ago, the site was dismantled and covered by a thick layer of peat, evidently to protect it from marauding Christian invaders. These native Norse religionists apparently then fled to other places, such as Iceland, where they could re-erect their altars and re-establish the old religion.
I love being right. It doesn't happen very often.

One thing that puzzles me is that the article suggests that similar temples have been discovered outside of Norway. Why has no one told me about this?

Velcome To Dystopia

Dystopia is that disturbing place where some of your friends say you are headed in a handbasket, and everyone's talking about it with the movie debut of The Hunger Games this weekend. So what's your favorite or most respected dystopia?

Robert Collins has a good list of ten in The Guardian.

Shane Dayton of Listverse has his own list of 12 (with some natural overlap).

What do you think?


Europeanne writes about her trip to Fort Breendonk, once a Nazi concentration camp north of Brussels. What will keep abuse like this from happening here? Are we at risk of entertaining ourselves into a stupor that will allow evil men to go unchecked in America?


"If this is war..."

Author Sarah Hoyt, who was kind enough to let me post on her blog not long ago, hit one out of the park yesterday, with an outstanding post entitled "War is Hell," which addresses the currently popular accusation that conservatives are waging war on women.

War is where the enemy decimates your numbers – like, say in China where abortion is killing mostly females.

War is where you are kept from learning – like in most Arab countries, where women have restrictions placed on their education.

War is where your houses are burned, your children taken away into slavery, your goods looted, and you are dragged away in chains.

In the United States, right now, women have preferential treatment – by law – in any company that gets federal funds (which heaven help us, right now, is most of them.) Women live longer than men. Cancers that affect females get more money and more attention than those that affect only men. Women have the right to be sole deciders on abortion, and if they decide to keep the child and make the man pay, he pays. (This by the way is a complete reversal of the “penalty” of sex which used to fall mostly on women.) And if he doesn’t pay, he goes to jail. Divorce courts award custody to mothers overwhelmingly. Oh, and in college campuses, women outnumber men.

If this is war it is war on men. And I’ve had just about enough of everyone who claims otherwise.

Read the whole thing.

Seven Daily Sins

Jared Wilson's Seven Daily Sins: How the Gospel Redeems Our Deepest Desires

Reading from Aardvarks to Augustine

Al Mohler laments the passing of the printed Britannica. "My guess is that, all things being equal, a boy my age riding along in the family's Prius this summer is more likely to be playing Angry Birds on his iPad. Left behind is the unexpected serendipity of reading about the mating habits of aardvarks. Is this progress?"

Heh, he has a point, though it would be better served by another example, don't you think?

Modern Irish Hymn: "In Christ Alone"

Happy St. Patrick's Day. I may spend the day in the kitchen, making Irish soda bread and tomorrow's lunch, but you go have fun or something.

We are wonderfully blessed to have a Northern Irish couple writing music for modern church. Songs like "In Christ Alone" and "The Power of the Cross" are contemporary songs worthy of the hymnal for their lyrical richness and musical flow. See the rest of Keith and Kristyn Getty's music on their site. I see they are holding a St. Patrick's Day sale on their website, 17% discount.

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