"But one who loves must share the fate of his loved one."


"All will be as it should; that is how the world is made."


"How sad, O gods, how sad is the world at evening..."

— Mikhail Bulgakov, in The Master and Margarita

Retweeting the Reformation

The Economist on how there is nothing new under the sun:
"The media environment that Luther had shown himself so adept at managing had much in common with today's online ecosystem of blogs, social networks and discussion threads. It was a decentralised system whose participants took care of distribution, deciding collectively which messages to amplify through sharing and recommendation. Modern media theorists refer to participants in such systems as a 'networked public', rather than an 'audience', since they do more than just consume information. Luther would pass the text of a new pamphlet to a friendly printer (no money changed hands) and then wait for it to ripple through the network of printing centres across Germany. [...] A popular pamphlet would thus spread quickly without its author's involvement. As with 'Likes' and retweets today, the number of reprints serves as an indicator of a given item's popularity."
Full article...


"That man is born merely for a few, who thinks only of the people of his own generation.  Many thousands of years and many thousands of peoples will come after you; it is to these that you should have regard."

— L. Annæus Seneca


"'He that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?'  [...] You measure your adherence to the first greatest commandment by your adherence to the second.   You can see whether or not you're serious about loving God by whether or not you're serious about giving to your neighbor."

— Douglas Wilson

The 12+ Songs of Christmas

So this is Christmas, or at least it will be.    To help you celebrate, here are 12 songs (give or take half-a-dozen) that should, if applied correctly, assist in putting you in the Christmas spirit.

  1. Sufjan Stevens - Royal David's City. I know it has become somewhat cliche to like Sufjan Stevens. That's neither here nor there to me: I wish to decide on the merits of the case, and you simply won't find a better late-model Christmas album (or albums) than his Songs for Christmas EP collection. I dare you to listen to this song twice and stop there:

    No one can eat just one, so here are three more samples from that collection to choose from:

    Sufjan Stevens - Lo! How A Rose E'er Blooming.

    Sufjan Stevens - Holy, Holy, Holy.

    Sufjan Stevens - Joy To The World.

  2. Elizabeth Poston - Jesus Christ the Apple Tree. As near as I can remember, this is an American (late colonial) poem that got set to music late last century, and somehow became associated with Christmas, especially in the U.K. Most recordings of it that I've found are exceedingly boring, but when done right (as below) it is something to see. When they break into parts at the start of the second verse, well, the Grinch's heart starts its upsizing.

  3. Age of Faith - That Winter's Night. I like this song. This recording is not quite as good as the album version, but it was available. The song sort of looks at the Nativity through a picture window, stopping on the question of what the singer might have done or felt, had he been there that winter's night...

  4. Ralph Stanley - Children, Go Where I Send Thee. Even at this late date, I'm not sure I can pick out all of the numbered groups and identify where exactly they appear in the Bible. It doesn't really matter, though, as Dr. Stanley always brings it back to One.

  5. Vince Guaraldi Trio - Christmas Time Is Here. You mean the Charlie Brown song? Yes. The Charlie Brown song. Jazz and Christmas are sort of like canned tuna and marshmallow cream: you wouldn't think they'd go together, but somehow, it works out.

  6. Andrew Peterson - Matthew's Begats. As two astute social commentators claimed recently, the Indians always used every part of the firework. Likewise, Mr. Peterson sees no reason why the scraps and unused corners of the Christmas story should go to waste.

  7. Heather Dale - The Huron Carol. "Jesous Ahatonhia" (Jesus is born) is, if I understand rightly, a kind of cultural translation of the Christmas story into the Huron Indian language done sometime in the 1600s. That makes it, I'd imagine, the earliest North American Christmas song.

  8. The Innocence Mission - In The Bleak Midwinter. Searched around for decent version of this carol. I finally settled on this one. It's so quiet, empty, and cold, but by the end, the icicles are starting to drip a bit.

  9. Jars of Clay - Christmas for Cowboys. Why have I never heard this before? Jars of Clay covers John Denver. A lonesome song that doesn't take a day off for Christmas.

  10. The California Raisins - Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer. No, America, it won't do to deny it any longer. This happened, and we know it happened. And the sooner we admit that it happened, the sooner the healing can begin. Seriously, though, why is this not available, remastered on DVD?

    Still not willing to come to terms with it? Exhibit B, if it please the court:

    Claymation Christmas - Here We Come A-Waffling.

  11. Muppets - It Feels Like Christmas. I'm still confused on this point: of all of the adaptations of A Christmas Carol that have been produced over the years, why does the one billing itself as a children's comedy seem to be the most moving? Come in, and know this clip better, man!

  12. David Francey - Good Christian Men, Rejoice. Like stepping out into a cold winter morning. This rendition gets your blood moving, and makes you want to get up and take up the song. Now ye hear of endless bliss: Jesus Christ was born for this!

And, as an added bonus, I present (after long searching), a reading of the "Cajun Night Before Christmas", true to the version I heard as a child on a cassette tape of some big Christmas production at my cousin's church in Louisiana. Laissez le bon Noël rouler! (or something to that effect)

  • Trosclair - Cajun Night Before Christmas.


"In geopolitical affairs, 'stability' is a way of dignifying inertia..."

— Mark Steyn

Planning for War

A great article over at "You Are Not So Smart", with more general applications.   Any future plans must take into account the kind of person you are, if they are to have any hope of being successful.   Sometimes, the person we know the least about is ourself.   A few quotes:

  • "[...] the problem isn’t you are a bad manager of your time – you are a bad tactician in the war inside your brain."
  • "In the struggle between should versus want, some people have figured out something crucial – want never goes away."
  • "The trick is to accept the now you will not be the person facing those choices, it will be the future you – a person who can’t be trusted. [...] Now-you must trick future-you into doing what is right for both parties."

Full text...

Don't Look Back In Anger

Great performance, and I've never seen a crowd so into a song.   Noel from Oasis, at a concert in Argentina:


"Life is strange: things only happen once."

Paul Zahl

SQF Radio #6

Why so serious, blog?   What we need around here is some music.   Here's the long-overdue edition number six of SQF Radio.  (As always, the big playlist is here.)

  1. Blitzen Trapper - Jericho.   I'm still on the Trapper Train.   On this one, they trade in referencing the Bible in a roundabout fashion for telling an actual Bible story.   "It went down as a rout / we razed those walls with nothing but a shout...":

  2. Danielson - Did I Step On Your Trumpet?.   If anything, Danielson has gotten a bit more normal over the years.  This is probably the least insane song they've produced.   If you haven't heard, they've got a movie, too.   The interviews in the movie are instructive.   No matter how nutty Danielson gets, people seem to come out of the show talking about Jesus instead of the band.   "Be just who you're made to be / Papa is so mighty pleased with thee."

  3. David Francey - Borderline.   If you've ever seen the sunrise while driving, this song will feel familiar.   I first heard Dave Francey somewhat accidentally (or as accidental as things ever are).  He was doing a live show in-studio on the radio in Cleveland.   The batteries in my MP3-CD player (remember those?) had died, so I had to see what was on.   I've been a fan ever since.   Did I mention I was driving from Alabama to DC, through Cleveland?   (I know, right?)

  4. Kimya Dawson - Tire Swing.    The Juno soundtrack is excellent all-around.   This song shines with simplicity.   Its subject matter (not finding love, always being on the road, etc.) usually gives birth to very, very sad songs, but this song insists on a joyful kind of warmth.  Once you listen to it a few times, you'll be hard-pressed not to sing along.  [Note:  whoever transcribed the lyrics is 98% accurate, but they murder one of the best lines toward the end of the song.   See if you can spot it.]

"I fought the Law, and..."

Paul Walker delivers an excellent talk on Law and Grace:
"The theological name for scorekeeping is justification by works.  It's the way of life governed by the Law.  It's the way of living life as if life were a contest to be won.  It's the way of living life as if life were a battle out of which one must emerge the victor.  It is a way of life which sees life as an accusation against which one must justify oneself.  [...]  Frankly, it is the way of death:  we always lose when we keep score."
Audio from mbird.com:

Download MP3 from mbird.com...

What about Chinese phonebooks?

David Moser, in Mark-Twain-like fashion, takes out his frustration on the Chinese language:
Someone once said that learning Chinese is "a five-year lesson in humility". I used to think this meant that at the end of five years you will have mastered Chinese and learned humility along the way. However, now having studied Chinese for over six years, I have concluded that actually the phrase means that after five years your Chinese will still be abysmal, but at least you will have thoroughly learned humility.
I was once at a luncheon with three Ph.D. students in the Chinese Department at Peking University, all native Chinese (one from Hong Kong). I happened to have a cold that day, and was trying to write a brief note to a friend canceling an appointment that day. I found that I couldn't remember how to write the character [for] "to sneeze". I asked my three friends how to write the character, and to my surprise, all three of them simply shrugged in sheepish embarrassment. Not one of them could correctly produce the character.  Now, Peking University is usually considered the "Harvard of China". Can you imagine three Ph.D. students in English at Harvard forgetting how to write the English word "sneeze"??
The entire essay...


"Just as the automobile abbreviated physical distances, the cell phone is abbreviating emotional distances."

— some poster on technologyreview.com

"Perchance to Dream"

Jonathan Franzen writes (quite a long while back) about the novel as a literary form.   He manages to touch on a number of different things in the process.   There's really a lot here.  Here's a taste:
"Panic grows in the gap between the increasing length of the project and the shrinking time-increments of cultural change:  how to design a craft that can float on history for as long as it takes to build it?  The novelist has more and more to say to readers who have less and less time to read: where to find the energy to engage with a culture in crisis when the crisis consists in the impossibility of engaging with the culture?"
"We live under a tyranny of the literal.  The daily unfolding stories of Steve Forbes, Magic Johnson, Timothy McVeigh, and Hillary Clinton have an intense, iconic presence that relegates to a subordinate shadow-world our own untelevised lives."
"Imagine that human existence is defined by an Ache:  the Ache of our not being, each of us, the center of the universe;  of our desires forever outnumbering our means of satisfying them.   If we see religion and art as the historically preferred methods of coming to terms with this Ache, then what happens to art when our technological and economic systems and even our commercialized religions become sufficiently sophisticated to make each of us the center of our own universe of choices and gratifications?"
 "There's no bubble that can stay unburst."
Full text here...


"You can get the money, you can get the power, but keep your eyes on ...  the final hour."

— Lauryn Hill

Never There

This thing is going to start happening fast, and society is not ready for it.  From an abstract on Kevin Karsch's site:
"We propose a method to realistically insert synthetic objects into existing photographs without requiring access to the scene or any additional scene measurements."
Site, with pictures and video of the method in action...


"[...] we tell ourselves that all these things are normal till we can't remember what we mean." 

— Buddy Miller

Steve Yegge on Services & Platforms

This guy (Steve Yegge) is taking a lot of heat for what he posted (accidentally) about Google, and he has partially retracted it (probably in order to keep his job).   It seems to me, though, that what he said is as right as it's legal to be.  He takes the side of exposing the maximum amount of information and functionality as services, so that people can decide for themselves how best to use a product, including in ways the makers of the product may not have envisioned.
"But when we take the stance that we know how to design the perfect product for everyone, and believe you me, I hear that a lot, then we're being fools. You can attribute it to arrogance, or naivete, or whatever -- it doesn't matter in the end, because it's foolishness. There IS no perfect product for everyone."
Full article (fair warning: he swears somewhat liberally throughout)...

Who is pointing the cameras?

To quote Douglas Wilson, "I can see on camera which side is shooting rockets, and which side is driving the tanks. But which side is pointing the cameras?"  

Ruben Salvadori calls attention to how photographers "massage" reality.

Photojournalism Behind the Scenes [ITA-ENG subs] from Ruben Salvadori on Vimeo.

ht: petapixel.com


"If there are twelve clowns cavorting in the circus ring, and you jump down there to quote some Shakespeare, to the audience you are just the thirteenth clown."

— unknown, by way of Douglas Wilson

We've advanced to squares.

Julie Rehmeyer @ Science News:
"The Harvard graduate student in physics was fascinated by the beautiful and intricate geometric "girih" patterns on the 800-year-old buildings there, and he wanted to know how ancient artisans had created them. He discovered more than just a clever construction method. He also found an entirely unexpected level of mathematical sophistication in the designs, pointing at mathematical ideas that weren't formally developed until hundreds of years later."
I'm not sure how 800 years ago counts as "ancient", but interesting nonetheless.

Full article...


"The things you do often create the things you believe." 

— David McRaney

He goes on to quote Kurt Vonnegut on the same sort of thing:

"We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be."

Passive Resistance

Geoffrey Pullum shows up with a list of names, and all out of grammatical bubblegum:
"Merriam-Webster reports an average of about 13-percent passives in newspapers and magazines (which they note is much lower than the 20-percent rate they find in the classic 1946 essay by Orwell warning against passives). And here we have double that percentage, in the writing of an academic who imagines that she avoids passives! But this is where modern American writing instruction has brought us. Totally unmotivated warnings against sentences that have nothing wrong with them are handed out by people who (unwittingly) often use such sentences more than the people they criticize."
Full article here...

ht: Language Log

Repair will rise again?

Some hardware hacker called "bunnie" on why the days of repairing computers instead of throwing them away and buying newer ones might be coming back / here to stay:
"There will be a rise in repair culture as technology becomes less disposable and more permanent. Replacing worn out computer parts five years from their purchase date won’t seem so silly when the replacement part has virtually the same specifications and price as the old part. This rise in repair culture will create a demand for schematics and spare parts that in turn facilitates the growth of open ecosystems and small businesses."
Link to full article (with charts and graphs!)...

Quote #150

"If you've never stared off into the distance, then your life is a shame."

— Adam Duritz

Quote #149

"[B]e using your money now to invest in other people, not to invest in your future leisure."

— Michael Belote

Which Way Are You Facing?

I found this project very, very interesting.   It provides a way to quantify certain underlying divisions that I've always felt and heard discussed.    Certain states or regions have not only a location in the U.S., but an orientation:   that is, the people there think of themselves as connected with certain other locations.

Here's a link to the big map of new "states", but be sure to check out the interactive map as well.   It lets you see, comparatively, how much time your county spends on the phone with each county in the country.   All sorts of interesting connections emerge.   One I noticed was that on the phone, Alabama is not closely connected with Mississippi.   Over text-messaging, however, it shifts alignment away from Georgia and toward MS.   This fits well with my own anecdotal observations that younger people in Alabama have more interaction with Mississippi (especially the coast) than older people.

Large, publicly-available data-sets are going to start showing us a lot more about ourselves as we go forward.

ht: Strange Maps; Adam Brown

Quote #148

"The cyber-revolution has made it possible for us to deceive ourselves about how close we are [...]"

— Douglas Wilson

Quote #147

"Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by bureaucracy."

— poster on Slashdot.org

Quote #146

"[...] they will govern you, when their time comes, [...] and they will be just such rulers as you make them."


"Don't the Bible say we must love everybody?"
"Oh, the Bible!   To be sure, it says a great many such things; but, then, nobody ever thinks of doing them [...]"

— Harriet Beecher Stowe

Quote #145

"Surely, if each one saw another’s heart,
There would be no commerce,
No sale or bargain pass: all would disperse.
And live apart."

— George Herbert

SQF Radio #5

Let's try something different for the fifth installment of SQF Radio.   Follow the thread.   As always, the big playlist is here.

  1. Sister Rosetta Tharpe - Up Above My Head.   Sister Tharpe lights up that guitar such that Marvin Berry was seen running for the payphone backstage to call his cousin.   You know that new sound you've been lookin' for?   Well listen to this:

  2. Robert Plant & Alison Krauss - Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us.   After listening to a few of Rosetta Tharpe's songs, I realized that the titles sounded familiar.    In fact, they keep showing up in the lyrics of this song, most famously sung by bluegrass ambassador Krauss and Led Zeppelin front-man Plant.   I had no idea who it was about until I made that connection.

  3. Sam Phillips - Five Colors.   While Krauss & Plant sang "Sister Rosetta Comes Before Us" on their album, the song actually belongs to Sam Phillips (T-Bone Burnett's wife, for those diagramming this on a chalkboard at home).    Here's another of her songs (one of my favorites).

  4. Jamey Johnson - Four Walls of Raiford.    C-C-C-Combo Breaker!    I don't know what, if anything, this cover has to do with the previous three items, except that it's awesome.    Doin' Ronnie proud.

Quote #144

"Willpower is insufficient to overcome the natural decay of life. [...]  I believe that “progress” in one area must always come at an overall cost to the system – as long as it comes from within, that is. If I get better in one area, other areas will get worse. [...] If you make a gain through sheer willpower, something else will get worse and offset it."

— Michael Belote

Watch This

Toby Sumpter on men, women, and God's purpose in marriage:
Unity does not rest on uniformity. Unity does not rest on being identical. Rather, unity and life in the world God created actually rests on the goodness of difference: the goodness of the difference between Creator and creation, the difference between heaven and earth, the difference between land and seas, between man and animals, between man and woman. God created the world this way and said it was very good. God created the world and people to share in His glory which did not require a loss of identity on His part, and no true loss of glory at all. Difference is where glory shines. Contrasts light up the world.
Full text...

Quote #143

"Who among us has not had the experience of getting exactly what we wanted only to find that it wasn't what we wanted at all? And who has not feared the worst, only to find that it was all for the best? No, self-interest is revealed to us, not known in advance."


"Marketing has displaced philosophy to become the preeminent integrative science of the modern age."

— John Médaille


This post from John Médaille covers a lot of ground.   Whether you agree with every little point or not, there are plenty of shining moments.   The heart of the essay is in seeking to understand why popular culture has been fascinated of late with the image of the zombie (and don't worry, it isn't all — or even mostly — about zombies):
The image, so silly on its face, resonates with the young because they know, at some intuitive level, that we are already in the midst of the apocalypse, that the world wishes to strip them of their minds and their hearts and make them pure consumers, and relentless consumers of one product, the advertiser’s dream. 
Link to full essay...

Quote #142

"[...] sometimes 'asking tough questions' isn't the biggest challenge; it's accepting the answers and decisively moving on to other areas that render [our] contributions productive and valuable." 

 — Brent Blanchard

Quote #141

"Money usually follows vision. It rarely happens the other way around."

— Andy Stanley

SQF Radio #4

Look out Samson!  Another edition of SQF Radio is upon thee.  As always, the playlist keeps a-growing here..

  1. Mississippi John Hurt - Since I've Laid My Burden Down.    Simple, hopeful, and deep.   Probably going to adapt this one for use as special music in church this Sunday.

  2. Townes Van Zandt - Colorado Bound.   "It's a mighty lonesome feeling...," Townes sings — and brother, he ain't kidding.  

  3. The Decemberists - June Hymn.   This album came out of nowhere for me.   It's one of the best I've heard.   I've liked some of their songs in the past, but this album takes the band into new, country-tinged territory, and I can't stop listening.  

  4. Burlap to Cashmere - Closer to the Edge.   A live performance of a song from their new album.   The vinyl version is on its way to me now as I blog.   Soon, precious, soon...

"The Sacred Script in the Theater of God"

From the archives:  Douglas Wilson addresses the Desiring God 2009 National Conference.   The subject (at an event commemorating the 500th anniversary of John Calvin's birth) is the authority of Scripture.    I thought upon first hearing it (and still think today) that it is probably the most important theological speech given in its decade.   I'd probably still endorse that statement without the "theological" in there.   Have a listen.    

Link to audio (and video, if you swing that way)...

Demetri Martin: "if i"

So, Demetri Martin is what most people would call a stand-up comedian.   You would think that during one of his shows, you'd hear stand-up comedy.   This show, however, is something else entirely.   Along the way through palindromes and unicycles, we get some serious introspection and the beginnings of a meditation on law and grace (though I don't know if Mr. Martin would see it in those terms).   I don't know exactly how to describe it, but in the words of Pedro Sanchez from Napoleon Dynamite, "I'd like to see more of that."  

Here's a link to a Youtube playlist of the whole show.   Be advised, like most "stand-up comedy", this show contains some profanity and "thematic elements".  


Captain of this site's blogroll, Douglas Wilson preached in Tuscaloosa recently, and spoke about seeing the meaning in the recent tornadoes.   Bear with him a while while he sets things up, and he'll then get right to the point.    Well worth a listen.

Page with download / stream links...

Siding w/ Vinyl

Just saw this quote in an Amazon.com review:  "Vinyl is the future of physically packaged music."   Funny thing is, I think I agree.  (I'm currently in the process of buying a record player.   Otherwise, I'm all digital for audio.)

SQF Radio #3

Another week, another SQF Radio post. The blog's soundtrack rolls on with four new songs. A cumulative playlist is available here.

  1. Rev. Dan Smith - Babylon is Falling.    The good Reverend kicks it into high gear with a musical review of the book of Daniel.

  2. Arcade Fire - Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains).   This song captures the feeling of being in town at night.   It's two parts sad to one part sparkly.

  3. Burlap to Cashmere - Build a Wall.   They're back, and the album is due in the next few days.   Don't think I won't be buying it.   This song increases your heart rate instantly.

  4. Carolina Chocolate Drops - Hit 'Em Up Style.    Getting back to a forgotten chapter in roots music's roots.   In this song, CCD functions as sort of a hip-hop jug band.   Awesome.

"The History of Redemption"

Kristopher Koelle's collection of artwork titled "The History of Redemption".

Quote #140

"Thee uses thyself only to learn how to love thy neighbor [...]"
— character in Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin


"[...] perhaps, as God chasteneth whom he loveth, he hath chosen poor Africa in the furnace of affliction, to make her the highest and noblest in that kingdom which he will set up, when every other kingdom has been tried, and failed; for the first shall be last, and the last first."
— Harriet Beecher Stowe

Froggy Things

John Piper:
But God is good. He has his plan and it is not to make this metamorphosis easy. Just certain. There are a thousand lessons to be learned in the process. Nothing is wasted. Life is not on hold waiting for the great coming-out. That's what larvae do in the cocoon. But frogs are public all the way though the foolishness of change.
Full article...

Anonymous Authorities

Mark Mitchell at FPR:
"First, we are learning to obey anonymous authorities. [...]  Second, we are growing accustomed to taking orders from irrational devices. [...]  Finally, because these irrational devices cannot be argued with, we learn to meekly obey."
Full article...

Why not rather untruth?

Throw this article on the pile of other evidence that we are slowly approaching a point where reality can be manufactured seamlessly.   If you haven't read any Malcolm Muggeridge, now's the time to swing by the bookstore and arm yourself.
"Those who watched Boston’s revered Fourth of July celebration Monday night on CBS were treated to spectacular views of fireworks exploding behind the State House, Quincy Market, and home plate at Fenway Park, among other places - great views, until you consider that they were physically impossible."
Full Article...

Tom Waits in Traffic

A Radiolab segment takes on the idea of making deals with yourself when engaged in creative work.   They stray into the subject of Muses, etc.    Have a listen.   I have to say that I can't count the times I've had some thought or other, and intended to come back to it, only to have it appear somewhere else in the culture soon thereafter.   The idea of ideas circling the globe looking for somewhere to land has some power.

Segment audio...

The Seltzer Man

Transcript of an interview with one of the last seltzer water delivery men in New York City:
"That's the year I was born, the bottle's as old as I am. Funny thing about it is that now to this day, the bottles are worth so much that I'd be better pulling out all my bottles out of every customer's house and selling them slowly as antiques and collectibles. At this sad point in time the bottle is unfortunately worth more dead than it is alive."
Read the transcript...

"Ordeal By Golf"

P.G. Wodehouse:
To lose one's temper at golf is foolish. It gets you nothing, not even relief. Imitate the spirit of Marcus Aurelius. "Whatever may befall thee," says that great man in his "Meditations", "it was preordained for thee from everlasting. Nothing happens to anybody which he is not fitted by nature to bear." I like to think that this noble thought came to him after he had sliced a couple of new balls into the woods, and that he jotted it down on the back of his score-card. For there can be no doubt that the man was a golfer, and a bad golfer at that.
Full text of short story...

SQF Radio #2

The second installment of the blog's soundtrack.   Remember, the entire soundtrack is available as a Youtube playlist here.

  1. Zac Brown Band - Fox on the Run.    I'm trying to learn this one right now, but as it turns out, I can't sing four part harmony without three other people.

  2. Matisyahu - Struggla.   If you have something to do that you need to get done, but you don't have the resolve to do it, I'd recommend listening to this.

  3. Blitzen Trapper - Wild Mountain Nation.   I like this band: sue me.   More Biblical imagery in the lyrics, plus some kind of retro groove.

  4. Fleet Foxes - Helplessnes Blues.   Honesty in musical form.   Don't know what else to say about it;  I'll get back to you someday...

Dying Tomcats

Mary Karr's poem "For a Dying Tomcat Who's Relinquished His Former Hissing and Predatory Nature".  Click through to read the whole thing:  it's well worth your time.
[...] Thanks
for that. I’m not one to whom offerings
often get made. You let me feel
how Christ might when I kneel,
weeping in the dark
over the usual maladies: love and its lack.
Read the whole poem...

Quote #139

"[...B]elieving that something is evil does not necessarily make you good."

— Andrew Sullivan

Quote #138

"There are in this world blessed souls, whose sorrows all spring up into joys for others [...]"
— Harriet Beecher Stowe


Full disclosure:  I don't have a land-line, and haven't for quite some time.   Cell phones come with a variety of conveniences, but they have not yet matched the audio quality of old-style copper.   That's one thing I miss.   I often tell people that my phone does everything very well, except make calls.    In junior high school, during the summer, my friends and I would call each other and watch TV together - if something interesting was on - sharing commentary over the phone.   I can't imagine making long calls like that on a cell.     That kind of long-duration, reliable telepresence just isn't possible given the kind of call quality I usually have to work with.

Virginia Heffernan:
Sound signals, so unfaithful to the original they hardly seem to count as reproductions, come through shallow. You can hardly recognize voices. Fragile, fleeting connections shatter in the wind. You don’t know when to talk and when to pause; voices overlap unpleasantly. You no longer have the luxury to listen for over- and undertones; you listen only for content. Calls have become transactional, not expressive.
Full article...

Cartoons as Commentary

Guy Somerset:
What does it say about a nation’s mental capacity that the delivery of well-crafted fiction and shrewd observations can only be injected into the body politic through the most innocuous form imaginable? What sort of satiric societal madhouse can gratify adults’ intellectual needs only through masquerading as children’s programming?
The whole thing...

SQF Radio #1

The first installment of SQF radio, the esteemed soundtrack of the blog.   From now on, all of the music clips posted to the blog will be collected on this Youtube playlist.   Check back to see what gets added.   This week:

  1. Blitzen Trapper - Heaven and Earth.   One of the finest songs I have met in a while.  It had me from the "O" in "Over the Western world...".

  2. The Dubliners - The Little Beggarman.   The tune jumps around so much, you'd think it was drunk.  And it may be.

  3. Ozark Mountain Daredevils - Standin' on the Rock.   Take y'a sip a' this.

  4. Owl City - Air Traffic.   This song tastes like eating clouds while asleep.   Smooth...

That's it.   I'll try to post some more next week.

Russell Brand on Celebrity

It's jarring to see Russell Brand talking seriously for a bit, but some of what he has to say is very interesting (note: some profanity and "thematic elements" in this clip):

An Argument with God

David Plotz, at Slate:
The Bible has brought me no closer to God, if that means either believing in a deity acting in the world or experiencing the transcendent. But perhaps I'm closer to God in the sense that the Bible has put me on high alert. I came to the Bible hoping to be inspired and awed. I have been, sometimes. But mostly I've ended up in a yearlong argument with God.
Full article...

"Where I Learned to Read"

Salvatore Scibona on St. John's College:

In retrospect, I was a sad little boy and a standard-issue, shiftless, egotistical, dejected teen-ager. Everything was going to hell, and then these strangers let me come to their school and showed me how to read. All things considered, every year since has been a more intense and enigmatic joy.

Full article...

Quote #137

"There are more options than compromise or carping."

— Douglas Wilson

The Moth Joke

Norm Macdonald.  That's how it's done:

ht: Mockingbird

Quote #136

"Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the LORD of hosts."

— from Zechariah, chapter 4

The real Francis of Assisi

Mark Galli at CT:
"This saying is carted out whenever someone wants to suggest that Christians talk about the gospel too much, and live the gospel too little. Fair enough—that can be a problem. Much of the rhetorical power of the quotation comes from the assumption that Francis not only said it but lived it.
The problem is that he did not say it. Nor did he live it. And those two contra-facts tell us something about the spirit of our age."

Full article...

Zac Brown Band: Gas Station Jam

ht: a Facebook friend

Talking with people who are suffering

Bruce Feiler tells, from his experience, what a sick person wants to hear, and what they don't:
[...] here are Six Things You Should Never Say to a Friend (or Relative or Colleague) Who’s Sick. And Four Things You Can Always Say.  First, the Nevers.
1. WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP? Most patients I know grow to hate this ubiquitous, if heartfelt question because it puts the burden back on them. [...]
Full article...

ht: Mockingbird

Getting Old

Daniel Wilson writes at The Wall Street Journal:
At some point, you probably stopped to wonder where all the pay phones had gone. You've been heard to say, "May I speak to a human, please?" Perhaps you've even contemplated the deeper questions, like just what in the hell does Twitter do? We think we're afraid of the technology. But we're really afraid of getting old.
Full article...

ht: Mockingbird

Food & Thankfulness

Jason Peters has different tastes in food and drink than I do, but I enjoyed his enthusiasm in this piece, and I appreciate his discussion of appreciation.
But you're not alone, are you. Didn't Jesus say, "Lo! I am with thee always"? You, my friend, are in good company. And you're nobody's fool. You know the uses of careful exegesis. And if irony got the best of you and prevented you from pronouncing a blessing, raise your glass to your companion. That will suffice tonight.
Link to the whole thing...

ht: FPR

Quote #135

"[...] they acted under a strong impression of the ignorance and fallibility of mankind. He that had made them thus fallible, rewarded them for having in their conduct attended to their nature. Let us imitate their caution, if we wish to deserve their fortune [...]"

— Edmund Burke

Quote #134

"The idea of the teacher and scholar as one called upon to preserve and pass on a common cultural and natural birthright has been almost entirely replaced by the idea of the teacher and scholar as a developer of 'human capital' and a bestower of economic advantage."

— Wendell Berry

Adjusting Your Perception

Paul Zahl (Rector at All Saints Episcopal Church in Chevy Chase, MD) preaches on the Bronze Serpent, and adjusting our understanding of difficult circumstances.   This subject goes pretty deep the more you think about it.

"Praise Him"

An excellent poem by Brad Davis.   The conclusion:
Idols cannot save, nor theologies.
Only God, and that is no great comfort.
Link to full poem @ Mockingbird blog...

Fort Morgan, 1864

Fort Morgan, one of two forts guarding Mobile Bay, shortly after its surrender in 1864.

Link to page with high-resolution version...

Top 5 Regrets

A woman who spent years working around dying people lists their top 5 regrets.

The list...

Review: The Book of Mormon

DZ from Mockingbird reviews the musical, The Book of Mormon:
The Book of Mormon perfectly captures our cultural moment, especially with regard to religion. The Mormon setting is a brilliant device, but ultimately just that: a device. Sure, the Latter Days Saints are the butt of more than a few gags here – and I certainly wouldn’t deny that Mormonism itself is targeted – but when the creators and their critics claim that The Book of Mormon is only aimed at religion in general, rather than a few very specific expressions of it, they’re not being entirely honest. Mormonism is largely a red herring (that would be far too easy) and Islam is portrayed as so brutal as to be feared rather than engaged. The Book of Mormon is primarily about Evangelical Protestantism, with perhaps a little Roman Catholicism mixed in for good measure.
Full review...

James Spann on Tornado Lessons

James Spann has written a post on the lessons he takes from the April 27 tornado event.   Roughly, his points are:

  • Stop issuing so many false-alarm warnings.
  • Scrap the siren system.
  • Weather radio needs to be location-aware.
  • TV is being watched on many different devices.
  • Social media is key.
  • Weathermen need to be on-screen.

Read the full article to see his reasons for each.

Conan O'Brien at Dartmouth

Profanity, vulgarity, and tomfoolery, but towards the end:  something to think about.

Fabius & American Leadership

Lee Wishing at World:
Now close your eyes and think about American leadership today. What do you see? Your vision may be less than inspiring if you’ve been watching the news lately. Do you see a Fabius Maximus, a George Washington (known as the "American Fabius"), or some other leader worthy of the title "father"? If not, don’t despair. 
Full article...

"Questioning Evangelism"

Randy Newman (not that Randy Newman) discusses rethinking how to tell other people about the Gospel.

Link to audio...

The Work of the Spirit

Mark Driscoll (Pastor of Mars Hill Church, Seattle) on the work of the Holy Spirit.

Link to audio...

How to talk to Muslims about the Gospel

Thabiti Anyabwile (the Pastor of First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman) presents a very old, but interesting method that many people would never think to use.

Link to audio...


When from the terrors of Nature a people have
      fashion'd and worship a Spirit of Evil,
Blest be the Voice of the Teacher who calls to
'Set yourselves free!'

— from "Kapiolani", by A.L. Tennyson

Hidden Cost of Bailouts

David Skeel, in The Wall Street Journal:
[...] None of this suggests that we should be unhappy with the recent success of General Motors and Chrysler. Their revival is a very encouraging development. But to claim that the car companies would have collapsed if the government hadn't intervened in the way it did, and to suggest that the intervention came at very little cost, is a dangerous misreading of our recent history.
Full article...

Decline and Fall

The Guardian:
So, it may be that the US is about to emerge stronger than ever from the long nightmare of the sub-prime mortgage crisis. The strong financial position of American companies could unleash a wave of new investment over the next couple of years.
Let me put an alternative hypothesis. America in 2011 is Rome in 200AD or Britain on the eve of the first world war: an empire at the zenith of its power but with cracks beginning to show.

"Ballade of Building"

Aelswith who built to the praise of Her
    Whose glory is most plain,
Walkelyn who founded Winchester
    To all men's after gain,
    Builders of Sarum, of Romsey fane,
Princes and priests long gone,
    Knew all that more than this was vain, —
'One stone on another stone.'

Bishop or queen, each labourer
    Builded in half disdain;
'What good', they said, 'though our word make stir
    Trowel and hod and crane?
    For this at best shall the work remain,
To teach one thing alone, —
    The marvel and might that sets with strain
One stone on another stone.'

It is told of the days when great deeds were
    That there was a king in Spain
Planned a church for his sepulchre;
    'Mid pomp of his whole demesne
    The second brick to the first was ta'en:
Then he ceased and from his throne
    Cried: 'Lo, be this the word of a reign,
One stone on another stone.'


Prince, dig and build and set in train
    Works, that thy name be known:
But only, at ending, of this be fain,
    One stone on another stone!

— Charles Williams, from Poems of Conformity.

Hello, World.

"Instruct me, for Thou know'st; Thou from the first
Wast present..."

(The farm is now underway...)

Not so different

Stephen Prothero on the Family Radio debacle:

I know my atheist friends are getting ready to party on May 21, and many Christians are already embarrassed by Camping and his followers. But I’m not convinced the rest of us are all that much different. 
When confronted with facts that disprove their pet theories, for instance, our politicians almost never say, “Nevermind.” They recalculate and equivocate and go about their business. The rest of us do much the same, often preferring in our relationships, our jobs and our worldviews (religious or otherwise) the comfort of the stories we carry around in our heads to the reality of the facts on the ground.

Read the rest...

The New (Old) Paganism

Dr. Peter Jones on the worship of Pachamama:
Bolivia is perhaps the first example of a Marxist state that is religiously, occultically pagan. Is Bolivia a picture of our global future–a spiritual, nature-worshiping collectivist state, where Caesar is Lord?

N.T. Wright on Stephen Hawking

Wright writes:
Hawking is working with a very low-grade and sub-biblical view of 'going to heaven.' Of course, if faced with the fully Christian two-stage view of what happens after death — first, a time 'with Christ' in 'heaven' or 'paradise,' and then, when God renews the whole creation, bodily resurrection — he would no doubt dismiss that as incredible. But I wonder if he has ever even stopped to look properly, with his high-octane intellect, at the evidence for Jesus and the resurrection? I doubt it —
Full article...

Marx v. Christianity

Bill Flax:
Frederick Engels, Karl Marx's sidekick and benefactor, eulogized that Marx’s greatest insight was, "men must first of all eat, drink, have shelter and clothing before they can pursue politics, science, art, religion and the like."
Jesus asserted the opposite disavowing that faith is predicated on bodily well-being, "Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'... But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness" (Matthew 6:31-33).
Full article...

Review: The End of Sexual Identity

Dr. Peter Jones reviews:
So what should Christians do? Paris maintains that we must imitate Jesus, who said to the woman caught in adultery, "You are not condemned. Go on your way, and do not sin again" (123; see John 8). In this biblical text, the sin (adultery) is named and denounced, and forgiveness is granted. Paris misuses Jesus' words because she refuses to name homosexuality as sin. If the judged homosexual person goes on his way without sin ever having been named, he cannot have been granted forgiveness.
Full review...

Tornado Stories

Challen Stephens of The Huntsville Times follows the path of the Hackleburg tornado:
But Braden [...] wouldn't come outside. Kienlen said that Braden told them that this is Alabama, that he wasn't afraid of tornado warnings. "You could feel your ears popping," Kienlen recalled. The wheels from underneath Braden's trailer landed on the shelter door. They worked to let one person squeeze out to clear the exit.
Outside, just a few feet away, Braden lay dead atop the rubble.
Full article...

God & Osama bin Laden

John Piper:
In response to Osama bin Laden’s death, quite a few tweets and blogs have cited the biblical truth that "God does not delight in the death of the wicked." That is true. 
It is also true that God does delight in the death of the wicked. There are things about every death that God approves in themselves and things about every death that God disapproves in themselves.
The rest...

Granderson: "Don't dress your girls like tramps."

CNN's LZ Granderson:
A line needs to be drawn, but not by Abercrombie. Not by Britney Spears. And not by these little girls who don't know better and desperately need their parents to be parents and not 40-year-old BFFs.
The rest...

Time on Rob Bell

The traditionalist reaction is understandable, for Bell's arguments about heaven and hell raise doubts about the core of the Evangelical worldview, changing the common understanding of salvation so much that Christianity becomes more of an ethical habit of mind than a faith based on divine revelation. "When you adopt universalism and erase the distinction between the church and the world," says Mohler, "then you don't need the church, and you don't need Christ, and you don't need the cross.
Full article...

Paglia on Elizabeth Taylor

Camille Paglia on Elizabeth Taylor:
To me, Elizabeth Taylor's importance as an actress was that she represented a kind of womanliness that is now completely impossible to find on the U.S. or U.K. screen. It was rooted in hormonal reality — the vitality of nature. She was single-handedly a living rebuke to postmodernism and post-structuralism, which maintain that gender is merely a social construct.
Full article...