- C.S. Lewis, "On Reading Old Books"
Mary Grabar at Pajamas Media reports on current efforts in the academic world to "deconstruct" the late Alexander Solzhenitsyn out of existence.
So I'm scanning headlines and I see this one on the topic Lars says will bring us the traffic and recognition we deserve as a serious literary and thoughtful reading blog.
"Jessica Simpson Wants to Be the Next Dolly Parton"
Now, what do you think that means?
Ok, stop thinking about that and get back to Swedish Olympics news. Or closer to home, this news that scientists have concluded drinking several beers really will make other people seem more attractive. Those crazy scientists, they'll stop at nothing until they get to the verifiable facts.
I have been away lately. Not physically away, because I am just as close to you as I was before, but I have been away from the blog this week. That is, I've been busy--not necessarily fun-busy either. No live sword combats. No book shelf collapses. No visits from brilliant people challenging me to get off my b---. Just busy with non-blog things.
Today I notice that Brandywine Books has been overlooked again for the top 100 list of undiscovered websites, organized by PC Magazine. It may be because we aren't cool enough, but it more likely that we have been deemed not entirely undiscovered. We're mostly discovered. Perhaps pre-discoverable. Of course, it's also possible that we rank 101 on the top 100 list.
Maybe I should have reviewed those Harry Potter books after all.
I watched a couple more movies on DVD over the weekend. First I rounded off the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy. The last movie was quite a mishmash, wasn’t it? In a way, in contrast to most viewers, I actually liked the last two more than the first.
Oh, Pirates III was a mess. No question. Whatever possessed the people at Disney to start the movie the way they did, knowing that lots of children would see it? I have to assume they got a really bad shipment of cocaine in Beverly Hills that week. And how were we supposed to build sympathy for a bunch of characters who kept betraying one another? Read the rest of this entry . . .
I don't follow the Olympics, even when they're held in countries I like (except, of course, for Norway). But I've heard a lot of talk today about how the Olympic organizers replaced video of an actual little girl who sang a solo at the opening ceremonies, and replaced it with that of a prettier little girl, lip-synching to the first girl's voice.
I'm amazed that anyone finds this surprising.
This is China, still a Communist, regimented society. The reason we care about the feelings of a little girl is because we're burdened with the cultural baggage of the West. For the progressives of China, a little girl's feelings are a matter of no consideration at all.
They tell me the whole opening ceremony production was a tour de force of human beings made to operate like pixels on a computer screen. Why should Beijing care about any one of those human beings? If one of them were to drop dead, he could be replaced by another human being, equivalent in every way.
For the Communist Chinese, you can give a little girl a pony, or you can shoot her in the head. Either course is good or evil, not because of what it does to the girl, but because of how it effects the Great Movement.
Tonight, children, a story. An epic adventure with danger, passion, deadly battles, journeys to far-off lands, and… magic! Or at least the rumor of magic.
My fellow Viking reenactors probably wouldn’t like me to say this (we try to discourage the use of the word “barbarian”), but if there was ever a genuine, real-world Conan the Barbarian, it must have been Harald Sigurdsson (1015-1066), known as “Hardrada” (or Hard Ruler, but not till after his death, and certainly not to his face), king of Norway from 1047 to 1066. If there’s a more sprawling epic made out of a single life in world history, I don’t know about it.
Harald was the half-brother of King Olaf Haraldsson of Norway, better known as St. Olaf. He shared his brother’s exile when he fled to Russia (about 1028), and was fighting at his side (he was only fifteen years old) when Olaf died at the Battle of Stiklestad in 1030. Then followed another flight to Russia. After that he journeyed to Constantinople, where he became the captain of the emperor’s bodyguard, the Varangian Guard, which at that time was made up entirely of Scandinavians. He fought a number of successful campaigns for the Empire, an enterprise that proved so profitable that he was accused of malfeasance and imprisoned. He managed to escape (with the loot), and returned to Russia (where he married a princess), and proceeded home to Norway. Read the rest of this entry . . .
Despite my reservations about the tone of the article ("How do we know the Epicureans were so great? Because they weren't Christians!" More or less), I find this story utterly fascinating.
The unique library of the Villa of the Papyri in Herculaneum, buried beneath lava by Vesuvius's eruption in AD79, is slowly revealing its long-held secrets.
By way of Mirabilis.
We had our annual Viking Youth Camp on Saturday, at the Danish American Society in Minneapolis. For a change we had a pretty nice day, by August standards in Minnesota. It was warm, but not stinking hot, and it was humid, but that’s not as bad if it’s not stinking (see above) hot.
Unfortunately the good weather wasn’t matched by good attendance. A lot of people who’d said they’d come didn’t show. So perhaps we’ve fallen under the classic Catch-22: If the weather is bad, it’s too lousy to come to the camp, and if it’s good, we can go up to the lake instead.
My charge for the day was to oversee the Stone Toss Game. It’s a game played with stones and stakes in the ground, kind of like horseshoes, except that there are limits to the science you can apply, because the uneven stones and the uneven ground make every toss a surprise.
I noted that the littler the kids were, the better they seemed to do at the game, as if proximity to the ground gave them the home court advantage. The exception was a somewhat older kid, perhaps Junior High age, who racked up a phenomenal six points, something I’d have sworn was impossible. I was later told he’s borderline autistic, and wouldn’t be at all surprised if that didn’t give him an advantage in some way.
Avoidance, alas, doesn’t seem to confer any benefit at all.
I know I've become appallingly predictable, linking to everything Andrew Klavan writes, but I swear, I can't help this one. In this Washington Post editorial, he puts his finger directly--exactly--on the problem today, not only with Hollywood, but with the arts in general and society in even more general.
The left has somehow succeeded in convincing the rest of us that there is virtue in a culture of lies, that some truths should not be spoken and that if you speak them you are guilty of racism or sexism or some other kind of bigotry. Right-wingers may disagree philosophically with this sort of political correctness, but I think they may have incorporated some of its twisted values psychologically and walk in fear of seeming "offensive" or "insensitive."
The Bible has harsh words about those who call good evil, and evil good. I believe that this error, at its extreme, is the sin against the Holy Spirit.
It's a cheap joke, I suppose, but I'm still laughing.
(And another Klavan review recycled tonight. Have a good weekend. I'll be playing Viking for a Sons of Norway youth event at Danebo Hall in Minneapolis on Saturday. I'll let you know how it goes, if I live.)
Hunting Down Amanda is a masterful book. It’s fascinating in its own right, as a brilliantly crafted, smart, moving thriller.
It’s also fascinating to the Christian reader as an artifact of the conversion process. Because Klavan, who was not a Christian when he wrote it, was clearly on the way, and his growing interest in matters eternal informs the whole product.
The Amanda of the title is Amanda Dodson, a five-year-old girl who, when the story begins, witnesses a terrible air crash. She wanders to the crash site, and is carried out by a man. Her mother, who has been searching for her, sees this and says, “Oh God. Oh God. Now they’ll come after her.” Read the rest of this entry . . .
A man of Finnish and Norwegian descent wants "U.S. Postal Service to add kilts as a uniform option for men." He says the current uniform chafes. He said, "there are plenty of approved uniform items that very few mail carriers wear, including a cardigan sweater, vest and pith helmet."
Don't look for this story in your local newspaper. Do you think it would get covered if Christians tried to get a book "killed" by its publisher?
In May, Random House abruptly called off publication of the book. The series of events that torpedoed this novel are a window into how quickly fear stunts intelligent discourse about the Muslim world.
By way of Power Line.
I meant to link to this earlier. Britannica has coordinated a talk on whether The Internet (pause for silent reverence) is ruining our concentration. I'm willing to see this as a possibility. I know I scan a lot. I glance; I skim. I don't blame the Internet for it.
Our new poet laurate, Kay Ryan, learned at an early age that language was powerful.
Take, for example, the time when, alone with a group of adults, she described "my sixth-grade teacher's bottom jiggling as she wrote on the blackboard."Here's a Ryan poem called "Death by Fruit."
"I caused a woman to spit her milk across the table," she recalls.
One who discovered her was the poet and critic Dana Gioia, now chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. In a 1998 essay in the Dark Horse literary magazine, Gioia noted "the unusual compression and density of Ryan's work." Like Emily Dickinson, Gioia wrote, Ryan "has found a way of exploring ideas without losing either the musical impulse or imaginative intensity necessary to lyric poetry."
Today, Gioia calls Ryan simply "one of the finest poets writing in America," adding that she has "the gift of being simultaneously very funny and very wise."
The Oxford University Press is having a sale on some interesting anthologies, studies, and books on many subjects.
Of course, there's always sites like BookCloseouts.com for perpetual sales.
And I just found this site which collects info on library book sales and those by non-profit organizations across the country. Oh, look, the Chattanooga-Hamilton County library is having its sale at the end of the month.
Tomorrow, August 8, is Sneak Zucchini onto Your Neighbor's Porch Night. If you have more zucchini than you want, take time tomorrow to celebrate with friends, family, or strangers by giving it to them. Need a bit of motivation to eat zucchini? Try this yummy zucchini cobbler recipe. It really tastes close to apple cobbler. Ice cream helps as always.
If you happen to be in Vermont later this month, watch out for zucchini enthusiasts at the 11th Annual Vermont State Zucchini Festival. I'm told that if you leave your car windows down while walking around the festival, you may find someone has "blessed" you with vegetable gifts when you return.
From the Wall Street Journal.
Full disclosure: Of the books listed, I've only read Crime and Punishment.
Congratulations to Jimmy Davis for his work in the Worldview Church eReport, a newsletter from Breakpoint.org. He lists teh contents of the current issue on his blog, The Cruciform Life (which has a new address).
Sherry has managed to keep her head above water with How Right You Are, Jeeves. A natural, you might say.
And congratulations to Michael on the birth of Ransom Dunnington Lander. I saw a photo yesterday. What a cute kid. He says he's going to name his second boy, Clive Staples Lander. Does your wife have anything to say about this?
Delancey's Place has an excerpt today about olden France and a certain deadly icon:
Guillotin's motive was to introduce a more humanitarian form of capital punishment, and his success in that was evident from the very first use of the guillotine when "the crowds, accustomed to bloody bouts with the ax and sword, thundered in disappointment, 'Bring back the block!' " Yet almost immediately, guillotine executions became Paris's favorite form of entertainment, with families bringing picnic lunches and reveling in the carnival atmosphere that surrounded them.The guillotine was used until the 1950s, and in a public execution in 1939 of a hated German criminal, the crowd acted as if they were at a coronation festival or maybe a rock concert. "[E]legant ladies, avid for souvenirs, rushed to dip their handkerchiefs in the blood" of the man whom they had just watched lose his head. This comes from Stanley Karnow's Paris in the Fifties.
Here's a bit more from our archeology desk. Archeologist Daniela Agre and her team have found a complete, well-preserved chariot in Borisovo, a village in southeast Bulgaria. Several interesting things were found in the Thracian tomb, dated 1,900 years old.
Shakespeare acted himself, and staged his first plays, at a London site which is now being excavated.
The remains of a London theatre where William Shakespeare's early plays including "Romeo And Juliet" were first performed have been discovered by archaeologists, a museum said Wednesday.
Shakespeare appeared at The Theatre in Shoreditch, east London, as an actor with a troupe called The Lord Chamberlain's Men, which also performed his efforts as a playwright there.
Full story here.
People always seem surprised to discover that institutions of higher learning tend to be raging battlegrounds of clashing egos on an epic scale.
The common stereotype of the professor is of a vague, mild-mannered oldster in an incorrectly buttoned sweater, blinking vaguely as he searches for the glasses that sit perched atop his forehead. In fact, scholars tend to be people who have all their lives been the smartest people in the room, suddenly thrust together into a single institution with a bunch of other people who’ve also always been the smartest people in the room, and resenting it. Add to this the fact that really smart people tend to grow up too busy with their interior worlds to bother with mundane exercises of basic interpersonal skills, and you’ve got the ingredients of gunpowder.
Finding Atlantis: A True Story of Genius, Madness, and an Extraordinary Quest for a Lost World tells the story of a man of extraordinary intellect and achievement who grew so enamored of his revolutionary theories that he failed in humility, university politics, and the judgment of posterity.
Olof Rudbeck (1630-1702) was a Swede, the son of Gustavus Adolphus’ personal chaplain. As a young medical student he dissected a calf, in order to discover the source of a milky substance he saw in the carcass. The result was the discovery of the lymphatic system (although there is controversy as to who identified it first), and Rudbeck became a scientific celebrity. Appointed to the University of Uppsala, he oversaw the construction of a large dissection theater and a botanical garden (botany was another of his specialties). He was also much admired as a musician and singer. Read the rest of this entry . . .
Perhaps you are fed up with silly or at least slightly amusing news articles, but I feel compelled to share a few links to funny stories this afternoon.
1. A recent Pew poll found 48% of the roughly 1000 people surveyed are tired of hearing about Mr. Obama. A third of the Democrats polled said the same.
2. "Burgeoning jellyfish populations in coastal waters around the world is proof oceans are being impacted by global warming and overfishing, Spanish experts say."
3. Jay Leno reportedly said, "Obama's supporters got him his usual birthday gift of gold, frankincense and myrrh." But maybe you're tired of hearing about that.
4. Newspaper companies are suffering "in large measure to a marked reduction" in want ads. The Classifieds just aren't classy anymore.
5. Tips for encouraging childhood reading (or should that be "underage reading"): "Give them books to use in their play, such as car manuals with toy cars, recipe books with a toy cooker . . ."
6. In a Knoxville, Tennessee Barnes & Noble, you can get rolled or TPed if you stand still too long.
Some used to say, "The treasures of wisdom are only to be found in Timbuktu." Now researchers and scholars are rushing to preserve those treasures. "The French are developing a database, while the United States has donated a device to digitize the damaged documents. The Norwegian cities of Oslo and Bergen are training locals to become conservators." They hope to capture the ancient wisdom before the ink recording them fades completely.
(Tonight, another reposted Klavan review.)
One-line review of Andrew Klavan’s Damnation Street: “Woo-hoo!”
I got a Barnes & Noble gift certificate for Christmas, and Damnation Street was one of the books I chose to get with it. I don’t generally buy hardbacks, but I felt this was a special case.
It was, in fact, a more special case than I knew. Because it appears that Klavan’s Weiss and Bishop books (the previous ones are Dynamite Road and Shotgun Alley) are not going to be an ongoing series, but a trilogy (unless I read the ending wrong). Read the rest of this entry . . .
Thanks once again to reader Dale, who alerted me to the recent death of Pauline Baynes, illustrator for both C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. He also sent this link to an entry on her from Brian Sibley: The Blog.