Wednesday, December 31

It's time again for my traditional New Year's blog post. I heard this song sung at a New Year's service at church years ago; the pastor read the names of all those who had passed away during the year. A woman then got up, and sang this song to the tune of Auld Lang Syne:

It singeth low in every heart
We hear it each and all
A song of those who answer not
However we may call.
They throng the silence of the breast
We see them as of yore
The Kind, the brave, the true, the sweet
Who walk with us no more.

‘Tis hard to take the burden up
When these have laid it down
They brightened every joy of life
They softened every frown
But oh! ‘tis good to think of them
When we are troubled sore
Thanks be to God that such have been
Though they are here no more.

More homelike seems the vast unknown
Since they have entered there
Tis not so hard to follow them
However they may fare.
They cannot be where God is not
On any sea or shore
What e’er betides, Thy love abides
Our God, forevermore.

In memory of all those who have passed away during the past year: rest in peace, and go with God.


Tuesday, November 4

An open letter from a young conservative:

I am proud to call myself a conservative. Even when my views have made me unpopular among others my age, I am proud to have stood for my beliefs. But at the moment, I am very angry and almost ashamed to identify with conservatives.

Why? Because the other conservatives that I see are acting like spoiled children. Every time one of your fellow conservatives disagrees with you, you throw a hissy fit, and stop speaking with them except to shout them down.
Why do you think we can’t keep our government on course when we can’t even work with people who disagree with us? I thought we were the party of responsible adults, those who understand the proper place of government. I thought it was the Left who turned politics into a religion, but conservatives keep excommunicating anyone who doesn’t meet their standards of ideological purity.

I am not telling anyone to shut up and toe the party line—far from it. I want to hear the full diversity of conservative voices. I want to hear arguments and debates. But I want to see us as one movement, not a divided army who shoots their wounded. Just because you don’t agree with someone on every single point doesn’t mean you can’t work with them. Just because you don’t like someone doesn’t mean you can’t find a common goal to work towards.

Keep in mind, the goal is not simply to win, but for our country to be the best it can be. If all you want is for your point of view to win, then any and all tactics are open to you. I, and most young conservatives I know, want to truth to be known, the good to triumph, the right to be allowed to flourish. We want to act with responsibility, dignity, and integrity. We can band together in the midst of disagreements, because we know that what we fight for is bigger than ourselves. I’m fighting for freedom, and I can work with anyone else who wants freedom. I’m working for human dignity and human effort, and anyone who wants the government to stop playing nanny can help. I want life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and I am happy to join hands with others to work for that whenever I can. Freedom and justice are bigger than I am. My likes and dislikes, and my petty debates with others are not worth fighting over.

It’s time to grow up. Move on. Understand your opponent, and learn to fight them instead of wasting your ammunition on your own allies. Someone calls you a name? This isn’t kindergarten, deal with it. Ignore them. Someone says something you disagree with, but doesn’t violate conservative core principles? Brush it off. Debate it if you like, if it’s an appropriate place and time to do so, but stay focused on your endgame. When you find it more important to tear others down in the middle of a losing battle, I do not believe that you really care about the bigger goal. You may say you care about freedom, but if you spend your time tearing down another conservative while that freedom is being jeopardized, I believe that all you’re really concerned about is your own reputation.

Once the bigger battles are won, we can fight over the small stuff. When we’re facing wide-spread socialism, it’s not the time to excommunicate someone over the gold standard. When we’re fighting a reduction of freedom in the name of comfort, it’s not the time to shout at someone because they called you a name. Keep your eyes on the bigger prize.

Grow up, act like adults, and get over yourselves. It’s time to get serious.

Joi Weaver

Thursday, October 30

In honor of the Mars Phoenix, now shutting down in the Martian winter.

The frigid wind whipped the icy sand against her helmet as she rounded the small rock outcropping. She staggered for a moment before regaining her balance and pushed forward. Her communicator crackled.
“Eagle1, you ok out there?”
She activated the transmitter, and responded.
“Everything’s fine out here, Eagle2. Just a few more metres.”
“Better hurry. They’re talking about calling you back. They don’t know if you’ll be able to stay in contact once you get there.”
“The only way they’re getting me to come back is to come after me themselves.”
The signal crackled, and faded. She assumed Williams had signed off, and pressed forward.

A glint sparkled momentarily through the dust. She squinted, and adjusted the polarization of her visor. The Martian landscape was still bare here near the poles: no-one had yet found it profitable to construct a dome this far north. Her communicator crackled again.
“Eagle1, report.”
“Eagle2, I think I’ve found the site. Gotta get closer to check.”
“Eagle1, you have been ordered to return to your vehicle and begin the return to base.”
“With all due respect, Eagle2, screw you.”
“Why is this *crackle* important to you? It’s a beatup piece of junk. Went 90 days, then a few more 2 years later, then silence. Even if you find it, it’s of no use to us. *crackle* obsolete 75 years ago.”

She could now see a small structure half buried in dust and ice. The distant sun glinted sharply off several of its surfaces. Though her suit was fully heated, she felt a chill go down her spine.

“Eagle2, my grandmother was one of the people who used the original primitive network. She loved it. She had friends all over the world. She followed the progress of this one. She used to tell me stories, about how she would get excited to see what this machine was doing each day, to look at the pictures it sent from hundreds of millions of miles away. When she told about how it was settling in to freeze in 2008, and the messages that were posted about it…she still got tears in her eyes. It meant something to her.”

A long silence settled in, and she pushed her way the last few feet. Reaching out a hand, she brushed a bit of dust from the surface, and felt an electric thrill as her gloved fingers came in contact with the ancient artifact.

“*crackle* over a machine?!”
She smiled, as she rested a hand on the cold, ancient metal. “No. It wasn’t the machine. She said the machine was only the place in which the human spirit, human curiousity, and human endeavor dwelt. Here they were, just learning to reach out to each other, but they still wanted the stars. Think of the time and learning and brilliance it took to put this here. And they flung it out into the stars, knowing it would cease, knowing it would die alone on a distant planet…and they did it anyway.”

With a click, she silenced the communicator. She would deal with Base in a minute. She caressed the metal, and smiled.

“We came back for you. “

The wind whistled.


Sunday, September 14

very funny vid! The news media does remind me of hyenas, these days...

Thursday, September 4

Palin: Do NOT mess with the Barracuda!

Again, I don't normally do politics on my blog. But after Sarah Palin's fantastic speech last night, I want to put out a few words. Mostly in response to this bit of silliness:

Most notably, to this paragraph: “It was a very skillfully written, very skillfully delivered speech. But there was not a word about the middle class or health care or how people are going to fill up their gas tanks or a single word about how we’re going to get our kids through college.”

News flash, Senator Biden! Palin was talking TO us, not about us. She didn’t need to use the phrase “middle class” because she’s one of us, she knows us, and she was talking to us, not to some insulated group of Ivy League journalism majors who haven’t worked with their hands in decades, if ever.

Now perhaps you feel the need to talk about the “middle class,” Senator, because you think we might not understand you if you didn’t use that phrase. Maybe you thought we needed you to be our protector in the big bad mean world. Guess what, Senator. We. Don’t. Need. You.

We are middle America. We are Small Town, U.S.A. We’re not interested in Beltway deal-making, speechifying, or interest groups. We don’t want a political savior—we want someone who will ensure that the government stays out of our way and does the job we elected it to do.

If you haven’t yet watched Palin’s speech, go watch it. Word is that the teleprompter was kept running through the applause, and by the middle of the speech was no longer cued up properly. You’d never know it by watching her. She knows what she’s doing.

One of the main critics I’ve heard by pundits on both sides is that she took too many low blows to the Obama campaign. I respectfully disagree. I think “Middle America” is tired of being talked down to, disregarded, and described as bitter gun-clingers. Palin hit back, with a smile, and gave the snobs a taste of their own medicine. That said, she should probably pull a few more punches from now on. But at least now they know she can hit!

And while she made the audience (and me!) clap, cheer, and laugh, she also made us cry—I know I teared up while she talked about John McCain’s service (great line: “There’s only one man in this election who has ever really fought for you.”)

Oh and just so it’s clear—her family is ADORABLE. A husband who seems genuinely happy for her, kids who look bright, clean, and happy (no traces of typical teenage jadedness!). And if you didn’t at least smile when little Piper Palin licked her hand on national tv to slick down her baby brother’s hair, you have no soul.

As Jonah Goldberg has said, "Sarah Palin was put on this earth for two reasons: to kill caribou and kick butt. She's all out of caribou."

Tuesday, August 12

Absolutely fabulous program on Media Lizzy’s show today. You can check out the podcast here:

I am proud of my country, and I love America. Neither popular sentiments nowadays. It’s much “cooler” to be snarky, sarcastic, and critical. And God knows, America has her faults. But America is still the greatest country in the world.

These words still get to me:

O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare of freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America! God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control, Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness And every gain divine!

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood From sea to shining sea!

Thursday, August 7

Most people who read this blog know that while I’m interested in politics and have definite stances on many issues, I don’t really follow things that closely. While I vote Republican, I’m not that thrilled with either party.

But anyone who’s looked at this blog in the past week knows that I’ve become involved with the #DontGo Movement, and

In the past week, I’ve talked with U.S. Congressmen via Twitter, seen these same officials interact with their own constituents on YouTube, and paged through photostreams of press conferences on Twitter.

Anyone else feel like this is something new? Has the GOP finally figured out that the internet is here, and that it’s different from old media in the most fundamental ways? I hope so. I’d hate for this to be a fluke, because it’s too much fun.

Tuesday, August 5

Open letter to my representative.

To the Hon. Gary G. Miller, 42nd District.

Dear Sir;
I am writing to state my extreme frustration with the House; it is unconscionable to leave on a paid vacation after blocking debate about the American energy crisis. While our representives are writing off their gas expenses, the people are paying out the nose, cancelling vacations, etc.
Some members of the House have stayed to continue the energy dialog, but no action that helps the American people can be taken until the House is called back into session. Thousands of Americans are petitioning for this to happen, and I am one of them.
Please do something to help the people you represent. Bring this issue to a vote. Drill now so that we can afford to research alternative energy sources.
Elizabeth J. Weaver

Monday, August 4

In case you haven't heard, many of the House Republicans have given up their paid vacations to work towards a solution for the current energy crisis. The House Democrats left the House, turned off the lights and the mikes, and left town rather than even allow the issues up for debate.

Speaker Pelosi has actually refused to even allow this topic to come up for debate.


They. Can't. Stop. The. Signal.

House representatives are blogging and Twittering from the House floor as they call for Speaker Pelosi to call Congress back for a special session to discuss the energy options available to us. (tried to embed, but YouTube is being dumb)

Follow the action at and

Sign the petition at

We have a voice. We will not be shut up just because someone doesn't want to talk about an issue, just because they are willing to let American gas prices reach $10 per gallon.

We have the willpower and ingenuity to find our way out of this crisis, but if we are not able to even drive our cars, this crisis will not be solved.

Speak out! Call Congress back!

Others are speaking out:

Thursday, July 24

These are just some thoughts, in response to current affairs within the Anglican Communion, the Catholic blogs I've been reading, and the service of prayer for the Anglican Communion recently held in many Anglican churches around the world (the sermon National Apostasy was preached during this service at my church--this astoundingly timely and relevant message can be found here: ). I'm not asking anyone to agree with anything I say here, I'm just thinking on paper, as it were.

If I were free to choose again, I wonder if I would choose differently. If, somehow, I were the person I am now yet had come to that place without committing to a church, would I become a Catholic instead? I think it's likely, but not certain.
In a way, my choice was made the first time I took communion at Blessed Sacrament. That was like a promise, a first kiss. That promise was consummated at my confirmation, and I could no more leave the Anglican Church than I could divorce a spouse. I am no more free to choose another church than a married man is to love any woman but his wife.
And I don't know that I would choose differently, after all. All of the three great sacramental Christian traditions--Anglican, Orthodox, Roman Catholic--lack something. The Roman Catholics and Orthodox lack the focus on and responsibility of the laity that is found in Anglicanism. The Anglicans and Roman Catholics lack the ancient voice of the East that is found in Orthodoxy, as well as many apostolic traditions. The Orthodox and Anglicans lack the successor of Peter, the Rock on which the Church is built. We are all poorer for lack of each other.
Why do so few seem to care about restoring genuine unity in the body of Christ? We either rejoice in the divisions, or we want a false and easy alliance, in which we ignore the differences instead of working towards a common understanding. Where are those whose hearts are broken for the broken body of the Bride of Christ? We would rather complain than pray, write snarky blogs than repent, and enjoy our feelings of persecution than have our hearts broken. May God have mercy on us.
I pray that God will raise up those whose hearts are turned to His Church, and who will work to bind her self-inflicted wounds. I hope and pray that I may live to see the day when we do not have to choose between unity with Rome, Constantinople, and Sarum--I pray for the day when all the traditions retain their distinctive glories, yet are able to partake at God's table together.

Lord, hear our prayer!

Friday, July 11

Cool looking contest here:

Might be worth looking into!

Thursday, May 22

Tuesday, March 11


It CAME. My 3-cd set of a dramatic reading of Beowulf. UNabridged. In the original Old English.
P.S. Hey, would anybody out there be up for a Beowulf party? We could get English translations and follow along with the cd! How cool would that be???

Friday, February 29

New blog!

Ok, trying the whole Classical Ed blog thing again.
Come and comment! Join the blog! Throw tomatoes at it, or something!

Thursday, February 28

Worth reading it all

This article is long, but it is really worthwhile to read the whole thing. trust me.
Part 2 is linked at the end of part 1, or here:

Wednesday, February 27

You Are a Comma

You are open minded and extremely optimistic.

You enjoy almost all facets of life. You can find the good in almost anything.

You keep yourself busy with tons of friends, activities, and interests.

You find it hard to turn down an opportunity, even if you are pressed for time.

Your friends find you fascinating, charming, and easy to talk to.

(But with so many competing interests, you friends do feel like you hardly have time for them.)

You excel in: Inspiring people

You get along best with: The Question Mark

Wednesday, February 20


This story should creep out anyone who's read The Mountains of Madness, by Lovecraft.


Tuesday, February 19

The Origin of the Humor

I was just thinking lately about how senses of humor develop. I don't remember much about my sense of humor as a child, but I'm fairly sure it was based on very bad puns (thanks, Dad!) and very dry elephant jokes (thanks, mom!). I also enjoyed parodies and verbal sparring, but am not so skilled in those fine arts. I hardly ever understood the humor of my peers: I still don't like Friends or Seinfeld. I remember this great sense of joy when I first saw Mystery Science Theater 3000, and thought: "Here are my people." Parody, snark, culture references, and sheer geekdom, all rolled into one hysterically funny show. A similar reaction to Monty Python: surrealism, dry humor, British accents, and deadpan delivery.

And then there was the Internet. Sometimes it seems like the Internet was invented solely so geeks could find each other and take solace in their own culture and comedy. Most of my favorite books and movies I have found from online friends.

So, current sense of humor? I still love puns, and I still crack up over elephant jokes. But to that classic repertoire I've added MST3K, Monty Python, Doctor Who, Douglas Adams, Jasper Fforde, and Dry, mostly British, sarcastic, snarky, referential, surreal, and abstruse. How I love it.

Castro Retires

Of all the commentary I've seen this morning on the announcement, I think (no surprise) that John C. Wright says it best.
Sic semper tyrannis.

Thursday, February 7

More about Mitt

I've been reading the headlines here from work (shh, don't tell!) and thinking. For anyone who missed it, here's the text of Romney's speech to CPAC:
I can't help but wonder if part of Romney's problem in campaigning was that he was too much of a gentleman. He wouldn't stoop to smears like McCain and Huckabee did (Hey, I actually like Huckabee, but he said some very untrue things of Romney), but kept his comments restricted to the issues. He wouldn't press McCain on areas where he knew McCain had flip-flopped. He wouldn't get riled up when McCain provoked him during the debates. All good things, but not so good for campaigning in this day and age.
Even his withdrawal was gentlemanly: he withdrew with no real pressure to do so, and gave a great speech. Here's the end of it, and in my opinion, the highlight:
"And finally, let's consider the greatest challenge facing America – and facing the entire civilized world: the threat of violent, radical Jihad. In one wing of the world of Islam, there is a conviction that all governments should be destroyed and replaced by a religious caliphate. These Jihadists will battle any form of democracy. To them, democracy is blasphemous for it says that citizens, not God shape the law. They find the idea of human equality to be offensive. They hate everything we believe about freedom just as we hate everything they believe about radical Jihad.

"To battle this threat, we have sent the most courageous and brave soldiers in the world. But their numbers have been depleted by the Clinton years when troops were reduced by 500,000, when 80 ships were retired from the Navy, and when our human intelligence was slashed by 25%. We were told that we were getting a peace dividend. We got the dividend, but we didn't get the peace. In the face of evil in radical Jihad and given the inevitable military ambitions of China, we must act to rebuild our military might – raise military spending to 4% of our GDP, purchase the most modern armament, re-shape our fighting forces for the asymmetric demands we now face, and give the veterans the care they deserve.

"Soon, the face of liberalism in America will have a new name. Whether it is Barack or Hillary, the result would be the same if they were to win the Presidency. The opponents of American culture would push the throttle, devising new justifications for judges to depart from the Constitution. Economic neophytes would layer heavier and heavier burdens on employers and families, slowing our economy and opening the way for foreign competition to further erode our lead.

"Even though we face an uphill fight, I know that many in this room are fully behind my campaign. You are with me all the way to the convention. Fight on, just like Ronald Reagan did in 1976. But there is an important difference from 1976: today, we are a nation at war.

"And Barack and Hillary have made their intentions clear regarding Iraq and the war on terror. They would retreat and declare defeat. And the consequence of that would be devastating. It would mean attacks on America, launched from safe havens that make Afghanistan under the Taliban look like child's play. About this, I have no doubt.

"I disagree with Senator McCain on a number of issues, as you know. But I agree with him on doing whatever it takes to be successful in Iraq, on finding and executing Osama bin Laden, and on eliminating Al Qaeda and terror. If I fight on in my campaign, all the way to the convention, I would forestall the launch of a national campaign and make it more likely that Senator Clinton or Obama would win. And in this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign, be a part of aiding a surrender to terror.

"This is not an easy decision for me. I hate to lose. My family, my friends and our supporters – many of you right here in this room – have given a great deal to get me where I have a shot at becoming President. If this were only about me, I would go on. But I entered this race because I love America, and because I love America, I feel I must now stand aside, for our party and for our country.

"I will continue to stand for conservative principles. I will fight alongside you for all the things we believe in. And one of those things is that we cannot allow the next President of the United States to retreat in the face evil extremism.

"It is the common task of each generation – and the burden of liberty – to preserve this country, expand its freedoms and renew its spirit so that its noble past is prologue to its glorious future.

"To this task, accepting this burden, we are all dedicated, and I firmly believe, by the providence of the Almighty, that we will succeed beyond our fondest hope. America must remain, as it has always been, the hope of the Earth.

"Thank you, and God bless America."
So, again....Romney for 2012!!!


Romney is suspending his campaign. SIGH. But I think he's probably doing the right thing, since the conservatives continued to split their votes between Huckabee and romney on Super Tuesday. Maybe next time....Romney for 2012? Sounds good to me!
I'm keeping the Romney banner on my blog until I know for sure who the GOP nominee is.

Tuesday, February 5

A rare politcal post

I almost never talk politics on this blog, but with it being Super Tuesday, I couldn't resist. This comes from Fox News (link here) :

Huckabee’s accusation followed Romney’s remarks to FOX News last week, in which the former Massachusetts governor said: “A vote for Huckabee is a vote for McCain, and if they want John McCain as their nominee … that’s exactly what the vote would do.”

Huckabee then cast Romney’s comment as an attempt to keep voters from going to the polls.

“If you try to discourage people from voting for somebody, what else would you call it? Isn’t voter suppression when you try to keep people from voting a certain way, by anybody’s definition? … Isn’t that voter suppression, suppressing the vote, pushing it down, keeping people from feeling comfortable and going and making a vote? I think that’s exactly what it is,” Huckabee told reporters during a stop in Chattanooga, Tenn., on Monday.
But Romney, speaking in Atlanta, dismissed the charge, saying Huckabee has misused the term.

“First a couple of rules in politics. One, no whining. And Number 2, you get them to vote for you. And so I want them not to vote for Mike Huckabee and not to vote for John McCain and to vote for me. … That’s not voter suppression. That’s known as politics,” Romney said. “I want people to vote, but I want them to vote for me.”

Amen to the "no whining" bit, especially if you saw Huckabee in the last debate. Spending your debate minutes whining about how you aren't getting any time is not effective for winning debates or persuading voters.

Now, if Romney would just direct a little of that towards McCain...he's just too darn polite sometimes.

Tuesday, January 29

This is a meditation I've been working on for several days. I was recently able to spend several lovely rainy hours reading T. S. Eliot on my balcony. That sort of environment is very conducive to odd strains of thought while reading the Four Quartets, and this piece is the result of that. Please feel free to critique!

Reading Eliot in the Rain

I sit out on my balcony, with an old copy of the collected poems of T.S. Eliot. The book is a rather unattractive edition, in a dark teal with a picture of an aging Eliot on the front. The dust jacket has been covered with that plastic that librarians use to make sure that the cover will not stay in place, and will crinkle loudly whenever it is adjusted. The words are difficult, and do not always scan easily. Across the street, a neighbor locks his car doors with a jarring squawk of the remote, making me jump and lose my place.

Time present and time past are both perhaps present on this balcony. I am surrounded by things that are mine, and yet not mine. This book is a used edition that I got at a bookstore; though there are no markings in it, you can tell that it has been read often. I am seated comfortably in an old blue armchair donated to me by my parish priest. Since it is chilly outside, and drizzling rain, I have wrapped myself in two warm blankets. One is a bright blue fleece, a gift from my grandmother who got it for donating money to one of her many charities. The other is a thick brown blanket, with deer on it; it was given to me by my best friend, and yet it always makes me think of my grandfather, now dead for fifteen years. This balcony is attached to my room, in a house that I am leasing from someone I have never met. What I own is what I do not own.

Between the stanzas of the poem I meet one walking whom I had known; some dead master, both one and many. The thinning white hair, the glasses (are they his, or Eliot’s?), both familiar and strange. The college professor who encouraged me to write the first story I ever put to paper, and the poet who guides me through these lines; it does not matter which. He is gone forever beyond recalling. I turn towards him to speak the words of thanks, but my hand meets only the chilly air of a California winter. A bird calls through the rain, the lament of the disconsolate chimera.

O dark dark dark. They all go into the dark, and my father (who looks so much like his father) spends a day walking through the empty house he was raised in, before it is torn down for farmland. I have the cold of Scandinavian ice in my spirit, an inheritance from ancestors I never met who spoke a language that I do not understand. And what they had no speech for, when living, they can tell me, being dead: the communication of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living, especially if that language was Norwegian.

The fog is in the fir trees. The rain comes and goes; sometimes the clouds are a grey sheet, completely featureless. Now and again they break apart, and are blown by the wind, forming and reforming as the sunlight spears through the brief apertures. A blast of wind shakes the bare branches of the trees, and sends a shower of leaves cascading from the roof, scattering onto the driveway. While the light fails on a winter's afternoon, in a secluded cul-de-sac, history is now and California.

A plane descending breaks the air, and time reasserts its presence. My ancestors and the professor take their places beneath the yew tree once again, my father is in Texas, and I am here on a balcony in an old arm chair that makes my legs go to sleep because it has no footrest. The rain is still falling, with that faint scattered roar that seems to fill the senses, and it is time to go back inside, but I cannot bring myself to leave. I close my eyes for a moment, inhaling the scents of rain, smog, and jasmine. There is a stillness between the drops of the rain, and the voice of the waterfall can be heard in the rush of water in the gutter. It is enough. And all shall be well.

Book meme

Shamelessly stolen from Julie at!
  1. Which book do you irrationally cringe away from reading, despite seeing only positive reviews? Well, until last year, it was Pride and Prejudice. But then I finally read it and liked it, so...hmmm. Have to pick a new irrational dislike soon.

  2. If you could bring three characters to life for a social event (afternoon tea, a night of clubbing, perhaps a world cruise), who would they be and what would the event be? Drat, Julie already picked Harry Dresden. I guess mine would be Thursday Next from Jasper Fforde's hilarious books, Dejah Thoris from Burroughs' Mars books, and Gabriel Gale from Chesterton's stories. The afternoon would consist of throwing squashy veggies at over-rated authors (C. Paolini, watch your back!)

  3. (Borrowing shamelessly from the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde): you are told you can’t die until you read the most boring novel on the planet. While this immortality is great for a while, eventually you realise it’s past time to die. Which book would you expect to get you a nice grave? Tale of Two Cities or Great Expectations. I like Dickens, but hey.

  4. Come on, we’ve all been there. Which book have you pretended, or at least hinted, that you’ve read, when in fact you’ve been nowhere near it? Actually, I don't pretend to have read books. I may pretend to remember more about a book than I actually do, but I think that's it.
  5. You’re interviewing for the post of Official Book Advisor to some VIP (who’s not a big reader). What’s the first book you’d recommend and why? (If you feel like you’d have to know the person, go ahead and personalise the VIP). Chesterton's The Everlasting Man. Fascinating overview of history from pagan times forward. Good idea for any VIP to read, regardless of personal theology.

  6. A good fairy comes and grants you one wish: you will have perfect reading comprehension in the foreign language of your choice. Which language do you go with? Hmmm..hard to choose between Latin (so much beautiful stuff) or Greek (Plato in the original! *drools*). Oh the whole though, there's more to read in Latin. And it would get me out of 3 months of Latin homework that I haven't done.

  7. A mischievous fairy comes and says that you must choose one book that you will reread once a year for the rest of your life (you can read other books as well). Which book would you pick? Only one? Well, I already read A Christmas Carol every year, and I'm starting to re-read The Divine Comedy every Easter...i guess maybe Eliot's Four Quartets? I re-read a lot...Books are wonderful friends!

  8. I know that the book blogging community, and its various challenges, have pushed my reading borders. What’s one bookish thing you ‘discovered’ from book blogging (maybe a new genre, or author, or new appreciation for cover art-anything)? Well, I like most genres and styles as it is, so mostly the book bloggers make me aware of single books I haven't read: Eifelheim, World War Z, etc. No, I take it back: classic pulp. My love of classic pulp was instigated by John C. Wright's blog. since reading that blog, I have begun the Lensman series, the Tarzan series, and the Mars books. I love them all!

  9. That good fairy is back for one final visit. Now, she’s granting you your dream library! Describe it. Is everything leather bound? Is it full of first edition hardcovers? Pristine trade paperbacks? Perhaps a few favourite authors have inscribed their works? Go ahead-let your imagination run free. *brain freeze induced by excessive bookyness* Uhh....Well, all the pulp would have two editions: the original and a good pulpy-looking paperback that's readable. I'd have at least one signed edition by each favorite author (my entire Bradbury collection would be autographed). I'd have copies of the classics in their original languages, and in English translations (if someone put Dorothy Sayers' Dante translation and notes with Gustav Dore's drawings, that would be heavenly). Of course it would have stone floors with thick oriental rugs, and those high bookshelves with the rolly ladders. Think the library from Beauty and the Beast, but in rich earth tones instead of icky pastels. And cushy armchairs, deep enough to curl up in. And a fireplace. And big french doors that open up onto a balcony with a mountain view. And a refirgerator, because I'd never leave to go get food. Seriously.

Monday, January 28

A re-post

I am re-posting this, because I want some of my writing groups to see it, and don't feel like moderating comments that far back in the archives
Four years ago, in my friend's English class, the prof was talking about the idea of the sublime, and said that some things, such as elephants running off a cliff into the sea in a rainstorm, could not be sublime. Liz, of course, took this as a challenge, and had our writing group write scenes in which that experience is sublime. Here is mine:

The problem with being granted a sign is that quite often, you need another sign to explain the first one.

So it is with the sign I have been given. I have no doubt that it is, in fact, a sign: it has unmade my thoughts and my heart is aflame. But what the sign signifies is beyond my ability to grasp.
It was a day ripe for signs, an apocalpyse contained in a rainstorm. The air was heavy and pregnant with moisture, yearning for release. The wind was cold and damp, heavily scented with the smell of the sea and rains from distant lands. The clouds hung heavy, barely clearing the ground, and lightning flashed in the distance.

I stood, with the ocean on my right and the trees to my left, looking out along the coast, and admiring the brief reflections that the lightning cast on the water. The waves rippled in the wind, as restless as the air itself. Suddenly, as the storm drew closer, an arc of lightning dashed out from the stormfront and cast itself into the water. The air was full of steam, and my nose prickled with a scent unlike any I had ever smelled. If anyone had been around to see, they would have seen my hair standing around my head like a halo, practically shimmering with electrons. It was then I knew that I must wait, for a sign would be granted.

I'm not sure how long I stood there, the incense of fire and water wafting around me, but it could not have been long, for the steam was still rising from the water when I began to hear it. At first, it was indistinguishable from the thunder. Then it was part of the thunder, a deep rumble in the land. Finally, it become the source from which the thunder rolled, crashing about my head.

As I turned to the trees, I saw them. They moved out of the trees as if they did not see them, and I am not at all sure that they did. I would say that they moved through the trees like ghosts, but it would be more truthful to say that the land and all that was in it were like ghosts in their presence. As they moved across my line of sight, I could see the water in their eyes. It called to them, as it had to me, but they alone knew how to answer the call.

To this day, I do not know whether they were called by the water, or the lightning, or by some force of which both were merely a symptom. But on they came, the lightning reflected in their tusks, ears blowing in the gusting wind. They were silent giants, except for the thunder of their stampeding feet. They did not trumpet to herald the lightning, nor to mourn their passing, but accepted it in a way that I cannot. For as they reached the cliffs that overlooked the sea, they did not slow, nor did they turn to the left or the right, but simply went over the edge of the cliff, into the water. Perhaps my hearing was damaged that day, or perhaps I simply was not listening, but I did not hear a single splash as they entered the water. The size of their bodies should have made a terriffic impact, but I heard nothing. Nothing, except the thunder of their feet, thunder beneath the waves.

I do not expect you to believe that this was a sign. After all, what could be significant about a herd of elephants running off a cliff into the ocean, in the rain? But this was my sign, my grail, and I do not know what it means. But to this day, when I hold a seashell to my ear, I hear a dim thunder beyond the rushing sound of the sea.

Wednesday, January 23

I have fallen in love with this group! (h/t to Anne for telling me about them). They are...well...i guess you could say Renaissance rock, or something like that. This is a video of them doing a lovely version of The Times They Are A-Changing.

Monday, January 14

A much-neglected author

I suspect that many people have heard of the books of Edgar Rice Burroughs, but that relatively few remain who have actually read them. After all, to say that you are reading A Princess of Mars, or God forbid, Tarzan, tends to bring a laugh in reading circles, and outright derision in regular social circles.

But Burroughs is a wonderful pulp writer. (if you think I mean "pulp" in a derogatory sense, go read this essay by Chesterton, then come back and finish reading this post) Tarzan and John Carter are both gentlemen who would rather walk through fire than harm a woman; Dejah Thoris and Jane Porter (poor Jane; she is not the simpering weakling that she has been made out to be) would rather die than break a promise or draw their men away from a clear duty.

Burroughs writes characters who fight epic battles (approximately every three pages: but again, it's pulp, in the best sense) for honor alone, yet leave their enemies alive more often than you would expect (it is dishonorable to kill an enemy who can no longer harm you, after all).

Here is a sample, from the second Tarzan book. Tarzan has won the love of Jane Porter, but she has already promised herself to his cousin Clayton, Lord Greystoke:

"It was not for William Cecil Clayton, Lord Greystoke, that he had denied his birth. It was for the woman whom both he and Clayton had loved, and whom a strange freak of fate had given to Clayton instead of to him.

"That she loved him made the thing doubly difficult to bear, yet he knew that he could have done nothing less than he did do that night within the little railway station in the far Wisconsin woods. To him her happiness was the first consideration of all, and his brief experience with civilization and civilized men had taught him that without money and position life to most of them was unendurable.

"Jane Porter had been born to both, and had Tarzan taken them away from her future husband it would doubtless have plunged her into a life of misery and torture. That she would have spurned Clayton once he had been stripped of both his title and his estates never for once occurred to Tarzan, for he credited to others the same honest loyalty that was so inherent a quality in himself. Nor, in this instance, had he erred. Could any one thing have further bound Jane Porter to her promise to Clayton it would have been in the nature of some such misfortune as this overtaking him."

Not much contemporary literature would be able to contain words like these seriously, without any hint of sarcasm or irony. Duty. Honor. Loyalty. Keeping one's word, even when rashly given. When was the last time you heard these concepts taken seriously in a story? (well, probably Harry Potter, but then we're back to pulp. )

Now, of course the books do fall into some of the sins of their era: there is some racism, especially in Tarzan (though I hasten to add, white folk do not come off too swell, either; Burroughs seems to prefer to take people as individuals rather than groups). The important thing, though, is that they do NOT fall into the errors of today: heroism is glorified, not mocked; honor is expected; courage is praised; and both men and women are expected to act honorably.

Go read the books.

Wednesday, January 9

I just finished reading one of the oddest books I've ever encountered (other books on the list include The High House, Canticle for Leibowitz, the books of Charles Williams and George McDonald, Dune, etc). It is also, like the other books on the list, one of the best books I have ever read. The book is Eifelheim, by Michael Flynn.

The book has a rather bizarre premise; it tends to make people laugh, so let's get it out of the way first. The story is set in 14th century Germany, just before the Black Death hits. A group of aliens appears outside a small village, and are befriended by the local priest.
There. Odd, yes? Very. But the whole thing is presented so believably that it almost feels more like a narrative history than science fiction. One reviewer compared it to "Carl Sagan meets Umberto Eco." That's a very good description of the book, though I would argue that it has more of Eco than Sagan. It is not a fluff book: knowledge of medieval philosophy, theology, cosmology, and science is essential (you can get a good feel for those things by reading C.S. Lewis' The Discarded Image). Some knowledge of current physics and dimension theories is also useful, though not necessary.
The story is a very intense, character-driven work. No-one in the story is without serious flaws, but virtue also comes out in unexpected places. One of the things that impressed me the most was that the author took seriously the translation troubles that would occur between the aliens and the Germans. The aliens manage to construct a rudimentary translator, but even then, the reader can see serious miscommunication happening. (this is one problem with most sci-fi/fantasy--no-one takes the language barrier seriously. The animated movie, Atlantis, was particularly execrable in this regard. At least Stargate came up with something remotely believeable for the movie, though there seems to be no barrier in the tv series) However, the author also finds ways for the two peoples to have productive philosophical and scientific discourse, which often drives the story.
I can hardly recommend this book highly enough. Several of my favorite bloggers have also enjyoed the book (Happy Catholic, for one, and I think John C. Wright as well, though I can't find the post. It may have been a different blogger)