December 31, 2012

2012: the blogging year in review

We are now counting down the last hours until 2013, which means that I am again contemplating the "state of the blog," as I do at this time every year.

This year I made 78 posts, including this one—up a few from last year. It's a far cry from the nearly daily blogging habit of the early 2000s, of course. February came close. I'd like to pick out a theme for the year based on my posting trends, but there really was none. (I almost chose "the end of the world," until I realized that Harold Camping's fiasco was in 2011. You're gone and forgotten, Harold.) No drunk moose or monkeys this year—somehow, I managed even to overlook the monkey in the Ikea store a few weeks ago! So I'll give myself good marks for maintaining volume, and take some off for scatterbrained topics. All in all, a C+ year.

I resolved last year to up my reading volume, and I certainly did that. My goal was to read a novel a week, or at least 50 in the year. If I can finish off the one I'm currently reading by tonight, then I'll have an even thirty. That's not bad; in fact, it's about a threefold improvement over last year.

I revived my Stephen King reading project, which had faltered in 2010, by going from The Shining to The Running Man, and I will continue to push through his collected works in 2013. I also took two books off my "incomplete" list that have been there for several years: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Heretics of Dune. (Once I read Chapterhouse: Dune in a week or two, I'll finally have finished all of Frank Herbert's original series. Finally, I made two new discoveries that show some promise for the future: the Saint books by Leslie Charteris (along with the TV series with Roger Moore and the old radio shows with Vincent Price), as well as the Jack Reacher books by Lee Child. I've actually never been much of a mystery reader, apart from Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayer.

You know, it occurs to me that if I converted the Crusty Curmudgeon into a book blog, I'd solve both problems: posting volume, and reading volume. (But that would be boring.)

2013 is a milestone year: September 4 will be the 10th anniversary of the Crusty Curmudgeon. While I'm nowhere nearly as active as I was for the first three or four years, I haven't given up. I don't intend to. I will see you again in the new year, Faithful Readers. All the best for 2013, and God bless you.

December 20, 2012

And that's our show for this evening

See you in the morning, all. Maybe. Sing us out, Vera Lynn.

Listen to the words long written down

Just sing out a 'Te Deum'

(N.B. I don't believe, not really)

Yes, the Bruce Dickinson

Only William Shatner's a Captain Kirk. And Chris Pine.

Armageddon outta here

Apart from laryngitis, I feel fine

Have you ever noticed how much "apocalyptic" and "a capella" sound alike?

Given that the 13th b'ak'tun on the Maya Long Count Calendar ends tomorrow, signifying the end of the world, I thought it would be appropriate that we all go out the way we came in. Screaming.

In the meantime, however, enjoy this evening's selection of soothing, doomicious ditties, which shall be presented this evening automatically and with no further comment, so that I can crawl under my coffee table and practice my fetal position.

Stupid Mayans. Keep your calendar to yourselves, next time.

December 19, 2012

2! Minutes! To miiiiiiidniiiiiight . . .

I was at a friend's place last night, and in the lobby there was a notice that there would be a fire alarm test this Friday (i.e. December 21).

My first thought, natch, was that maybe they should test them a day earlier.  They might come in handy when the Mayapocalypse goes down . . .

December 15, 2012

This is it people . . .

5 more days to the end of the world, according to the Mayan Long Count Calendar.

This is huge—at least as important as Harold Camping's prediction of the end of the world last year.

December 13, 2012

And now . . . this - Dec. 13/12

Oh, deer

A suburban New York City village is considering controlling the rising deer population by darting them with a contraceptive. . . .

Newsday Westchester reports that the project would keep the animals from reproducing for up to three years. The village expects soon to receive state and federal environmental approval for the plan.

[Full Story]

Hmmm. That's a bit of a mystery: where to find an effective, affordable, and shootable cervine population control method?

December 12, 2012

Gross cubed

It's 12/12/12 12:12:12.

Not as fun as last year's 11/11/11 sequential date, but nonetheless it looks cool on your watch. Alas, unless you're too young to be reading this, more than likely you'll never see another numeric coincidence like this in your lifetime: the next one will occur on January 1, 2101.

Of course, no one is going to see that anyway, because in 10 days on 12/21/12, the Mayans are going to rise from the dead and bludgeon the planet into extinction with their calendar.

That is all.

December 06, 2012

On this day

Had he not passed away yesterday, today would be the 92nd birthday of jazz legend Dave Brubeck (1920–2012). His groundbreaking 1959 album Time out was centred around the concept of unusual time signatures, and though unconventional, it soon became a huge bestseller, and arguably is one of the "gateway" albums through which newcomers to jazz approach the genre.

Brubeck was second only to Herbie Hancock on my hierarchy of jazz pianists, and the world is significantly less groovy today. By now you've probably heard more than your fair share of Brubeck clips on the news, but I hope you're not averse to one more take of "Take 5" in his honour:

So it turns out I'm exactly 50 years younger than Dave Brubeck. Well, that's something.

Also today is the 95th anniversary of the Halifax Explosion. On December 6, 1917, the Norwegian steamer Imo collided with the French cargo ship Mont-Blanc in Halifax Harbour. Mont-Blanc subsequently caught fire and then detonated, levelling much of Halifax and killing nearly 2,000 people. At three kilotons, it was the largest man-made explosion in history until the birth of the atomic bomb (by comparison, Little Boy, the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, was 16 kilotons). The shock wave from the blast was heard and felt hundreds of miles away; then-Prime Minister Robert Borden was in Charlottetown, PEI, and he heard it.

Third, this is the 23rd anniversary of the Montreal Massacre, in which the deranged Marc Lepine armed himself, entered L'Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal, and killed 14 women. Despite being a white, Christian male (who was also studying engineering at the time of the murders), I still stubbornly refuse to accept responsibility for Lepine's actions.

Finally, this is the feast day of Saint Nicholas of Myra who, in addition to being the prototype of Santa Claus, was notorious for beating Arius at the Council of Nicaea. Go celebrate the day by slapping out a heretic.

November 03, 2012

Ecce agnus Dei qui tollit peccatum mundi

On Thursday night, I attended the opening performance of John Pielmeyer's 1979 play Agnes of God, the final production of 9th Hour Theatre Company's 2012 season, at the Great Canadian Theatre Company's Irving Greenberg Theatre Centre.1

Sister Agnes (Gabrielle Lazarovitz), a naïve young novice in a Catholic convent, was discovered in her cell, unconscious and covered in blood after giving birth to a baby. The baby was strangled and left in a wastebasket under Agnes' bed. She claims she has no recollection of giving birth—she did not know she was even pregnant (nor, apparently, did any of the other sisters), or even how she became so.

The court has appointed a psychiatrist, Dr. Martha Livingstone (Anna Lewis), to assess Agnes' mental state and determine whether she is fit to stand trial for manslaughter. Mother Superior Miriam Ruth (Janet Rice) is determined to protect Agnes from the influence of the chain-smoking, atheist doctor. She believes Agnes is a complete innocent: she was raised in an isolated house, sheltered from worldly things, before entering the convent at age 17 when her mother died. Miriam believes it is plausible that Agnes has been "touched by God."

Dr. Livingstone, on the other hand, wants to protect Agnes from the influence of the church; an embittered ex-Catholic, she is not certain whether Miriam is looking out for Agnes' best interests first, or the convent's reputation. Beginning with psychoanalysis followed by hypnotism, Livingstone begins to reveal the mystery of whether Agnes is responsible for her baby's death.

9th Hour's mandate is to use the dramatic arts to tell stories that explore questions about faith and spirituality, and Agnes of God certainly does that. This is a play of contrasts: between belief and unbelief (Livingstone the atheist vs. Miriam the faithful, if somewhat modernistic, Catholic), miracles and science (the possibility of a miraculous virgin birth vs. "hysterical parthenogensis"), faith and logic (during one of their truces, Miriam laments to Livingstone that what they've gained in the latter, they've lost in the former), and saints and sinners (neither woman is sure which one Agnes really is). Though Agnes of God has been billed as being about the nature of faith and love, it seems to me that it is more properly about the question of the place of faith in the modern world. I am definitely not sure that I buy into this play's premise that they are antithetical.

Agnes is staged in the GCTC's studio theatre rather than the mainstage (where, coincidentally, it was also opening night for another play featuring an all-female cast). The studio seats about 75, and the seats are arranged around three sides of the stage. This is a big change from the traditional proscenium theatres I have attended in the past: it's a lot more intimate and immersive. It also makes the stage feel somewhat like a courtroom, which seems suitable for this particular work. On the other hand, Anna Lewis' chain-smoking Martha goes through about a dozen herbal cigarettes, and in such a small room, the constant smoky smell is off-putting at times. (It was too much for one attendee.) To be fair, we were warned.

The set is minimalist, consisting of a back wall as well as two gables to define the "room" in which the action takes place. The props are three chairs and three wastebaskets. Stage lights shine either through the gable structures or dirty gels, casting banded or dappled shadows on the stage floor. Together with Stephen Lafond's eerie score (performed by cellist Martain Pearson), the overall effect is quite pleasantly surreal.

All three cast members are on stage for the entire production—no mean feat for a 90-minute play with no intermission. Janet Rice's performance stands out: she is completely convincing as the Mother Superior who appears to be soft-spoken, pleasant, and benevolent at the start, but as the story progresses we realize she's hard as nails and has her own secrets to guard. Gabrielle Lazarovitz, who has a beautiful singing voice for Agnes' Latin chanting, does very well portraying the beatific and seemingly innocent Sister Agnes. But Anna Lewis has the hardest job, with only a couple of short breaks in which she is not engaged in dialogue or monologue (her character also serves as the narrator). She is certainly up to the challenge of such an extended stage presence. As the play progresses, the antagonism between Livingstone and Miriam escalates. The dialogue suggests that there's a lot of bitterness and pent-up rage in the psychiatrist: after all, she's a lapsed Catholic who hates nuns by her own admission. Lewis will have to try harder to convince me. She isn't angry enough. But she does have a few very good moments, for example, when Livingstone suddenly realizes the effect her cigarette smoking is having on Agnes during hypnosis.

Despite a few flaws, this production of Agnes of God is competent, entertaining, and thought-provoking. Director Marc-Andre Charron, the cast, and the crew have put together something they can be proud of. Agnes of God runs until November 10.


1 In the interests of "full disclosure," I was part of the chorus for 9th Hour's inaugural production, "Telling the Story," back in 2010.

October 08, 2012


Yesterday morning, our senior pastor dropped a bombshell during his Thanksgiving sermon: he announced his resignation to accept the presidency of Heritage College and Seminary in Cambridge, Ontario. (The story he told of how he gradually came to this decision was touching. If and when I revive my rather moribund series on the will of God, I may have to find a way to include it.)

Pastor Rick has been a part of our church family for nearly 15 years—only a few months' shorter time than I have been there myself. In fact, he candidated for the pulpit only a week before I moved to Ottawa: in the midst of the infamous 1998 ice storm, no less, which fortunately didn't stop him from moving to Canada from California in the end! He is probably the finest expository teacher I have ever heard in Real Life, and also someone with whom I've had a good "professional" relationship, of a sort, as the computer operator who turns his PowerPoint slides for him a few Sunday evenings per month.

It will be very disappointing to see Pastor Rick go. Heritage's gain is our loss. But I would rather not eulogize his pastorate on Thanksgiving weekend; rather, I'd prefer to list a few things for which I am now profoundly thankful.

  • I am thankful for having met Rick Reed, and that I can count him as a friend.
  • I am thankful for his faithful exposition of the Word of God these past 15 years, and for the way that he preached exactly the message that I needed to hear on several occasions, his encouragement, his devotion to his pastoral duty, his personal integrity, and his Christian humility.
  • I am thankful that the Met's partnership with Heritage means he isn't really gone all that far.
  • I am thankful for the rest of our pastoral staff and the board of elders, whose oversight will ensure that we will weather the coming changes.
  • I am thankful for the wisdom of the elders, whose recommendations of pastoral candidates has always had the overwhelming confidence of the congregation.
  • I am thankful for the Met, a beacon of the Gospel and a locus of biblical faithfulnes in the Ottawa area for 80 years.

It is that last bullet that is most significant. Senior pastors will come and go (Pastor Rick is the eighth), but the church stays, because its head is not in the ever-changing parade of staff, but the unchanging Christ. I am called to fellowship with the local assembly, not to follow a man about the country like a spiritual Deadhead.

On the same day that Rick Reed resigned, I submitted my application for membership in the Met. The work of the Gospel continues here in Ottawa, and I want to be part of it for the long hall. Meanwhile, I think it will be in good hands in Cambridge.

God speed, Pastor Rick.

October 01, 2012

On September and science fiction

It's October 1, which means my eighth stab at a science fiction-free September has, more or less, come to an end. My goal for this September was twofold: first, to focus on nonfiction (which I normally only read in between novels, as time permits), and to finish up some books that I had started earlier in the year. As usual, I fell somewhat short of those goals, but if the point is to get my nose into something other than space opera, can it really be called a failure?

I started the month with Mark Steyn's After America. Steyn's previous book, America Alone, foresaw a future in which the United States alone refused to capitulate to the expansion of Islam. The book was so controversial that excerpts published in Maclean's got him, and the magazine, in trouble with Canada's human rights commissions. After America is a sequel of sorts, in which Steyn argues that even America itself is in decline. Whether you agree or disagree with Mark Steyn's politics, you at least have to admit that he is a treat to read—one of the wittiest columnists now working.

Next, I started in on Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, about the Clutter family murders in Kansas in 1959—the book that originally defined the true-crime genre. It's engaging reading, but I was sidetracked by lighter fare: What Einstein Told His Cook by chemist and food columnist Robert Wolke. I love to cook, and often it's the science behind cooking that interests me most. A lot of the science in this book I knew already, of course, but nonetheless Wolke is an entertaining writer. I look forward to reading the sequel someday.

Then, I got sidetracked again, this time by Ann Coulter's Godless. This time, though, the book was on loan, so it trumped anything I didn't have to return soon. (This would apply also to any SF books I happened to have on reserve; the moratorium isn't absolute, and I'm not going to pass up on a library book just because it's the wrong month.) Like Mark Steyn, Coulter is an effective and witty polemicist, but unfortunately I'm finding Godless more shrill than persuasive.

So that's September. I've still got about half of In Cold Blood and two-thirds of Godless, so I'll see if I can get those two volumes off my nightstand by the end of the week. Then, it's back to Frank Herbert and Stephen King.

September 24, 2012

Yes this was Sam Sniderman (1920-2012)

Sam Sniderman, aka "Sam the Record Man," has died at the ripe old age of 92.

Sniderman opened his first record store in 1937, and the Sam the Record Man chain rose to prominence in the 1960s when the chain opened its flagship Yonge St. store in downtown Toronto. At one time, Sam's was the top music dealer in Canada, before a changing music industry forced the company into bankruptcy a decade ago—unfortunately, the chain predeceased its founder.

Sniderman was also a major promoter of Canadian music, giving records by Canadian artists prominent shelf space and holding concerts in his stores. He was an advocate of Canadian content regulations for radio stations, which gave some Canadian musicians airplay that they might not otherwise have had.

After I discovered popular music in 1984, no trip to the mall was complete without browsing through the stacks at the record stores, whether Sam's or rival chain A&A. But it really wasn't until I first set foot in the flagship store in downtown Toronto, a couple years later, that I fell in love with the retail music business. Its iconic signage, with two giant spinning neon records, was a perfect enticement. Inside, the store had three floors, including a huge ground floor—to this day, it's still the largest music store I've ever set foot in. A friend back home once challenged me to find a copy of Kerry Livgren's solo album Seeds of Change. Guess where I found my copy? If you couldn't buy it at Sam's in Toronto, it didn't exist.

As my tastes in music diversified and matured, I discovered that the Yonge Street store's classical-music section alone was bigger than any entire mall-based outlet. (Of all the music chains, Sam's stores always had the best classical selection; any Ottawans want to make a case for CD Warehouse?) I lived in Toronto for eight months in 1994, only a year after buying my first CD player, and I spent a lot of Saturday afternoons—and money—in Sam's classical CD racks. Even in later years, busing to or from school in Waterloo, I'd take advantage of my stopover in Toronto to hike up to Yonge and do some music shopping. I'm pretty sure that today, 15 years after my life in southern Ontario is a memory, the majority of my classical CD collection was still purchased at the flagship store.

Today, my favourite store ever is gone and the giant spinning discs are a memory. (Is there even any such thing as a record store any more?) Nonetheless, thank you Sam Sniderman—without your fine business, I might be somewhat richer in assets, but my teens and twenties would have been somewhat poorer.

September 06, 2012

(Not)able firsts at the DNC

Amongst the dignitaries on stage last evening in Charlotte for the Democratic National Convention:

  • Elizabeth Warren, Harvard Law School professor, former advisor to President Obama, and Massachusetts senatorial candidate, claims Cherokee ancestry, and has been billed as the "first woman of colour" on the Harvard Law School faculty. In reality, Warren is no more Cherokee than she is Martian; she's been nicknamed "Fauxcahontas" by her critics, and the Indian delegates at the convention want to have a word or two with her.
  • Former president Bill Clinton, once hailed as the "first black president" by author Toni Morrison, because of his good relations with the black community and other superficial considerations, such as a love of jazz. He's no more black than Warren is Indian.
  • Finally, at the end of Clinton's speech, he was joined briefly by President Obama, recently described in a Newsweek cover story as the "first gay president." Go on, guess how gay he actually is. Someday, the U.S. will actually have a gay Democrat for president; I wonder what trumped-up distinction they'll have to resort to for him?

Symbolism, it seems, trumps the reality at the DNC.

August 11, 2012

Of the reading of books there is no end . . .

. . . or so would Solomon have said, if he weren't so busy making 'em.

This being the halfway point of the year—roughly; it's more like the halfway point of the summer—I thought I'd take stock of this year's reading program. As of now, I've completed 14 books and have a further 4 in various stages of incompleteness. This being the eighth month of the year, that's somewhat less than two books per month. But it's also the 32nd week of the year, and so by rights I should be through that many books, and none of these have been particularly long (excepting, perhaps, The Stand).

Methinks I'm often too ambitious. Not with the volume—I think a novel a week is quite achievable, and I've done it before. But I'm trying to balance various genres, pulp vs. literary fiction, and so forth, and I'm finding that my enthusiasm for reading waxes and wanes accordingly. For a guy with a BA in English, for example, my tastes in fiction are decidedly populist: better suited to an airport lounge than a wing chair. And while I'm not in the least apologetic about my tastes, it does mean that when I try to tackle, say, Dickens or Steinbeck, my page count takes a hit.

So I've decided to change tactics in the short term. A while back, I started reading through the complete works of Stephen King, in order, although, as I said back in February,

I have a definite bias towards the first half of King's writing career. This is simply due to the fact that apart from Dreamcatcher and Under the Dome, I haven't read anything of his more recent than 1996's The Green Mile. Somewhere I got it in mind to reread King's works anew from the beginning, and got caught in the 1980s.

So, for the foreseeable future, every other book is going to be by King. Earlier this week, I finished up The Stand, so next on the block will be The Long Walk, the second of the "Bachman books."

In alternating weeks, I plan to read Frank Herbert's six original Dune novels, of which I finished the first today. Last week I watched the 2000 miniseries again, and really enjoyed it; I followed this up with the David Lynch feature from 1984, which only served to remind me that a cast of fine actors and some great source material does not guarantee you a good movie. Nice design, though. In any case, John Harrison and David Lynch inspired me to go ad fontes and reread the novel. I haven't read any in the series in at least 10 years, and in fact I've never read farther than God Emperor of Dune, so at least somewhere in October I will be breaking new ground instead of treading over territory I've covered before.

Speaking of science fiction, it's only a few weeks until September, and my eighth annual moratorium on reading SF. I've decided to do something a little different this year: focus on nonfiction instead of fiction. On my works-in-progress list to the right, Mark Steyn's After America and Truman Capote's In Cold Blood are languishing, so I'll start by finishing them, and then move on to something else. Stephen King's Danse Macabre should be more or less in position to read at that point, too. After that, I'll fill in the rest of the month with whatever I can. My goal is to maximize the number of books I can complete in a single month, rather than hold strictly to the one-book-per-week schedule. I'm also re-reading Augustine's Confessions, so I hope finally to begin blogging a series on the book that I've long wanted to do, and which I hope will lead to regular blogging on a few profound theological or philosophical books each year.

It seems odd to update an all-too-often-neglected blog just to let you all know about my all-too-often-neglected reading habit, but there you go. Happy reading!

July 08, 2012

Ernest Borgnine (1917-2012)

Veteran character actor Ernest Borgnine died today in Los Angeles of renal failure at the ripe old age of 95.

Like most 80s kids, I first saw Borgnine as the co-star of Airwolf. It was only in relatively recent years, when I've had the chance to watch more classic TV and cinema, that I discovered his best work: movies like The Dirty Dozen, The Wild Bunch, The Poseidon Adventure, and selected episodes of McHale's Navy. (He was also in Disney's The Black Hole, for which I have a fondness disproportional to its actual merits.)

95 is a ripe old age for a hard-working actor. Rest in peace, Ernest.

July 01, 2012

Come, all ye bold Canadians, to Canada Day

Happy Canada Day, mes amis. Today is Canada's 145th birthday. I'm actually writing this up on the evening of June 30, but if the weather is agreeable, then by the time you read this, I'll be downtown seeing the sights on and around Parliament Hill (and I'll be viewing this evening's fireworks from a friend's balcony).

Since I started this blog, it has been my tradition to give a brief history of a different Canadian patriotic song each July 1. I believe I hit the point last year where I had done the last song I knew. So I found myself at a bit of a loss this summer for new material.

However, at some point I realized, "Hey, wait a minute—this is 2012. It's the bicentennial year of the beginning of the War of 1812!" After all, surely a major war produced a patriotic song or two . . .

May 18, 2012

Just for the sake of saying something

It's been nearly a month since my last post. Too bad, as I had pretty good momentum for the first four months of 2012.

So, yeah.

Um . . . so when did Google acquire the domain (in addition to .com)?

Carry on.

April 27, 2012

Hazardous Materials: G. A. Riplinger's toxic waste

I have mentioned offhand in the past that I do not own a paper copy of G. .A. Riplinger's influential KJV-only book New Age Bible Versions. I have, however, read the thing: in the early 1990s, a notable online fan of hers made a hypertext file of the book available on his BBS, presumably with the blessing of the author. (As a point of interest, that makes NABV the first ebook I ever downloaded; it would be about a year before I got access to the WWW and discovered Project Gutenberg.) Since I refuse to fatten Riplinger's wallet, the only way I will obtain hard copies of her books is if a) I happen to encounter them in a used bookstore, or b) a KJV-onlyist, concerned with this vital deficiency in my library, offers to remedy it at his own expense.

Well, this week, b) happened—though it wasn't a KJV-onlyist, nor was it NABV. An on-line acquaintance had two copies of Riplinger's more recent missive, Hazardous Materials (Ararat, VA: A.V. Publications, 2008), and offered one to me. It arrived yesterday, and I promised to give it a good home. Although I probably won't get to read it through for a little while, I did spend a few minutes last evening flipping through it. So this post is not a book review, but just a few first impressions based on a surface-level skimming.

April 21, 2012

I don' wanna work

Having a lazy Saturday watching war movies, I didn't leave myself enough time today to return to the Superman radio program and the continuing adventure of Chip Donelli's protection racket.

The busyiness of the Easter season always takes its toll on me for a week or so afterward. But fear not, True Believers! Hopefully the next instalment will "air" tomorrow evening, time permitting.

April 15, 2012

100 years of symbolism

On this day 100 years ago, the RMS Titanic, metaphor for man's arrogance in flaunting their technology in the face of Mother Nature, struck a piece of that aforesaid matron and sank in the North Atlantic, taking 1,500 people to a watery, symbolic end.

At least, according to Our Dumb Century, that's what The Onion's front page read on April 16, 1912. I laughed so hard I decided to appropriate it for myself when the time came.

I don't suffer from Titanimania the way many seem to. Heck, I assume all the teenage girls swooning over Leonardo di Caprio have grown up a little in the 14 years and change since James Cameron's blockbuster. Nonetheless, I decided to commemorate the occasion by watching movies—and no, not that one, in any number of D's.

First, A Night to Remember. It's such an innocuous title for a film about one of the greatest disasters in maritime history. But it's also one of the most historically accurate films about the Titanic. In fact, James Cameron liked it so much, he adapted some parts of it for his own epic. It makes a few minor historical errors: the ship is portrayed as sinking in one piece, rather than splitting apart as the stern rose from the water. However, to the filmmakers' credit, this was not known as the time. It wasn't until Robert Ballard's expedition to the wreck in 1985 that it was known for certain that Titanic lay at the bottom in two pieces.

Other than that, A Night to Remember looks great for a 1958 movie, in glorious black and white. The cast is made up of notable British actors (as you would expect for a British movie) that may be somewhat obscure for a North American audience, but there are a few familiar faces: for example, Honor Blackman (Goldfinger, The Avengers) and David McCallum (The Man from U.N.C.L.E., NCIS).

From the sublime to the ridiculous: 1980s Raise the Titanic. The US military has developed an impenetrable missile shield, but need a rare mineral, byzanium, to power it. The only known source of byzanium was from a Russian mine, extracted clandestinely in 1912 by American miners and smuggled to England to be shipped back to the States. Unfortunately, the miners had the bad luck to ship the byzanium on the Titanic. The Americans decide that the easiest way to obtain the byzanium they need is to raise the Titanic and float it to New York, hiring former Admiral James Sandecker (Jason Robards) and his special projects director, Dirk Pitt (Richard Jordan).

Raise the Titanic is often cited as one of the most notorious bombs in cinematic history: it made back only a fraction of its $40 million budget (a seemingly small amount in an era when movies routinely cost $200 million or more, but still a small fortune for 1980) and was nominated for Worst Picture in the first round of Razzie awards, in 1981. To be fair, the movie has a fair bit to commend it, including fair performances by stars Robards and Jordan, a beautiful model of the Titanic wreck used for effects shots, and one of John Barry's best musical scores. I like Clive Cussler's novels, but they're not high literature; they're adventure potboilers suitable for killing time on long trips. The movie version of Raise the Titanic is no different.

April 10, 2012

And now . . . this - Apr. 10/12

Transgender women will be allowed to participate in the Miss Universe beauty pageant next year, officials announced Tuesday, a week after they ruled a trail-blazing 23-year-old could vie for the crown this year. . . .

The move comes five days after the organization said that Jenna Talackova could compete in the Miss Universe pageant this year. Talackova, a Vancouver resident, underwent a sex change four years ago after being born a male. The advocacy group GLAAD called on the Miss Universe Organization to review her [sic] case, as well as open the competition to transgender women.

[Full Story]

What is the target audience again for a Miss Universe pageant? Because I really can't see the heterosexual male population tuning in to see half-naked dudes.

It seems to be a malaise of the so-called intelligentsia that they uncritically accept that someone is whatever they say they are; unfortunately, this malaise is percolating down to us unwashed masses. Nonetheless, a mutilated man is still not a woman. In time, will a DNA test become a prerequisite to a first date—assuming, that is, we won't get slapped with a human-rights complaint just for asking?

Here we go again . . . again

A Minnesota woman who discovered what she believes to be an image of Jesus in a potato chip said she considers it to be an Easter-time sign of hope.

Carol Isaak, 67, of Newport, said she was snacking on a bag of ripple-style Clancy's brand chips the night before Easter when she noticed a hole in the center of the chip had an unusual, but recognizable, shape, the St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer-Press reported Tuesday.

Isaak said she showed the chip to her husband, Vern, and he immediately agreed the shape looked like Jesus Christ on the cross.

[Full Story]

Mmmm . . . salty and sacriligious.

The real problem with seeing Jesus on a potato chip is, of course, that it's too small to accommodate very many candles, velvet paintings and little statues of Mary.

April 08, 2012

No guilt in life, no fear in death

One more for the day. This is the debut recording of Keith Getty and Stuart Townend's "In Christ Alone," one of the most poignant hymns of the last decade (more or less), taken from the album of the same name by Margaret Becker, Máire Brennan, and Joanne Hogg ( 2002)—an album I love so much I pull it out every Easter. The videographer's sand art is a visually interesting accompaniment to the music.

That's all for now. Have a blessed Easter, everyone.

I know that my redeemer lives

If I've timed this post correctly, I will be singing this song with the church choir right about . . . now.

Where is thy sting, O grave?

A less-known, but still sublime, duet from Handel's Messiah:

It's ironic that we so commonly think of Messiah as a Christmas work: it actually premiered in Dublin at Easter in 1742. This was a benefit performance for, amongst other things, prisoners' debt relief. The funds raised secured the release of 142 prisoners.

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

He is STILL risen indeed

And a very good Easter morning to you all.

April 04, 2012


Spotted recently in the wild:


This unpronounceable and unmemorable letter salad stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Transgendered, Intersex, Queer, Questioning, 2-Spirited and Allies. Yes, really: someone actually thought this dog's breakfast was a necessity to include every variety of non-heterosexuality under the rubric of inclusivity.

Thanks to the wonder of postmodernism, however, the varieties of socially constructed gender identities are now near infinite. I will note, just for the record, that LGBTTIQQ2SA fails to be inclusive of the following groups:

  • deaf gays
  • lesbians of colour
  • people who prefer to hump stuffed animals


March 31, 2012

Superman Saturday: You said you've been threatened by gangsters

After a two-week blogging hiatus, we return with the next instalment of Serial Saturday, and a new adventure for Superman—as well as a new introduction of a familiar name!

Rounding out the four core Daily Planet staffers, Jimmy Olsen makes his first appearance ever on The Adventures of Superman radio program, on April 15, 1940. He was introduced to the Superman comic book in issue #13, about six months later for a handful of appearances, and became a permanent fixture about a decade later after the character was again introduced on the Adventures of Superman television series, portrayed by Jack Larson. Eventually he was also given his own comic title, Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen, beginning in 1954. In addition to Jack Larson, Jimmy has also notably been played by Mark McClure in the Christopher Reeve Superman movies, and by Aaron Ashmore on the TV series Smallville.

Most often labeled a cub reporter or photographer, Jimmy is introduced in this series as a 14-year-old, "red-headed, freckle-faced copy boy." So, without further ado, sit back and enjoy "Donelli's Protection Racket" . . .

March 17, 2012

Superman Saturday: Burnin' down the house

It's Saturday night again. That means it's time to put on a good fire, grab your decoder rings, and gather around the old tabletop radio for another double feature of The Adventures of Superman.

The story so far: Clark Kent is investigating the disappearance of archaeologist and scientist Professor Beecham, with his daughter Elsie. They find him at the professor's rural retreat, Stone House, but not before they are attacked and Elsie is kidnapped by Little Brown Guys of the Aztlàn tribe. The professor has taken a sacred idol from the Aztlàn, a large emerald carved into a figure and inscribed with strange markings that he thinks hold the secret to eternal life.

Elsie escapes with he help of Beecham's manservant, who dies in the rescue, but then the Little Brown Guys blow the professor's safe, steal back the emerald, and make their escape in an autogyro . . .

March 16, 2012

33 > 40

Ivey Conerly and James White have released the much-anticipated follow-up to their previous collaboration, Why I Love Jesus but Reject Islam:

Forty Arabic words from the Quran, Sura 4:157, which claim Jesus' crucifixion never happened, are contrasted with the 33 Greek words of Galatians 2:20.

Well worth the wait, guys!

March 14, 2012

Happy Pi Day

Yes, it's Pi Day once again: March 14. It's a weird day to commemorate—it doesn't lend itself well to cultural enrichment, like drinking beer or talking like a pirate. It just . . . is.

So I thought I'd just note the passing of the day by citing a random bit of mathematical trivia: Danica McKellar, who played Winnie Cooper in The Wonder Years, has a mathematical theorem named after her.

That is all. Three days to beer.

March 10, 2012

Superman Saturday: Don't want no short people 'round here

Welcome! This week we return to the Superman serial "Emerald of the Incas," which we began last week.

The story so far: At the personal request of assistant editor Jay Hamlin, Clark has driven Hamlin's family friend Elsie Beecham to the family estate, Stone House, to see if they can ascertain the whereabouts of her father, Dr. George Haven Beecham, who broke contact and vanished after returning from an archaeological expedition to South America. At Stone House, Clark and Elsie were attacked—first by guard dogs, then a dark-skinned giant. As Superman, Clark made short work of both before he and Elsie entered the house. While Elsie waited in the library, Clark discovered Dr. Beecham hiding in an upstairs room, just before they heard Elsie scream for help . . .

Episode 24: Emerald of the Incas, Part 3 (1940/04/05)


Clark and Beecham rush into the library but find Elsie gone, apparently escaping through a broken door—or being taken. There is no sign of her outside. Dr. Beecham calls for his half-native servant Zingrid, but he too seems to have disappeared. Beecham again accuses Clark of putting Elsie into danger by bringing her to Brentwood.

And, frankly, he's right.1 Elsie's sole function in this story so far is to be the designated screamer. She has been attacked by mastiffs, a giant black man, and assailants unknown who took her hostage, all because Hamlin and Clark decided she had to come along for the ride—and because Clark continually left her alone while he went to investigate something or other. It's not even her fault. She caught the Distress Ball early in the game, and she hasn't been able to pass it on yet.

Anyway, Clark Kent again becomes Superman and takes to the air to search for Elsie. Wondering if the giant man he fought in the previous episode was involved, he checks out the treetop where he left him. Sure enough, the giant is gone. Then, Superman spots a car and, suspecting the driver might have had something to do with the situation, swoops down and yanks the driver right out of the speeding vehicle. The last time Superman went searching for escaping suspects in a car, he mistook a police car for a getaway car. Apparently, he hasn't learned not to make these arbitrary decisions. In spite of that, though, Supe is right—the terrified driver was hired by two "little brown guys" to drive them to Stone House. The "funny business" going on there—meaning the drumming, dogs, and giant—gave him the creeps, so he left in a hurry. Superman takes him for a quick flight just to put the fear of, um, Superman into him. Then, back on the ground outside Stone House, he quickly changes back into his Clark Kent outfit and severely warns him that none of it ever happened. Elsie must have fumbled the Distress Ball on the way out, and the hapless driver caught the intercept.

March 03, 2012

Superman Saturday: Badder than ol' King Kong and meaner than a junkyard dog

This week on Superman Saturday, we begin a new adventure. After the thrills of the mystery of Dyerville, the Man of Tomorrow has high expectations to meet. But we're sure he will rise to them, Faithful Reader: after all, this story involves strange goings-on! Savages! Treasure! And, last but not least, Science!

Listen on . . .

Episode 22: The Emerald of the Incas, Part 1 (1940/04/01)


As Kent is busy writing up a followup to the Dyerville story, he is called into the office of Jay Hamlin, assistant editor. He introduces Clark to Elsie Beecham, a family friend and the daughter of Dr. George Haven Beecham—"explorer, scientist, archaeologist," which is to say, a man of Science! Clark immediately turns on the charm.

Elsie tells them that something has happened to her father. He was supervising an archaeological dig in the South American jungle, but he sent her a strange letter warning her not to meet his boat when he sailed home. Then, she got a phone call from him, in which he sounded very frightened. He instructed her not to contact him; he would be staying in the town of Beechwood, at his Stone House estate, alone except for his "half-breed" servant Zingrid. The previous day, she finally tried to call him, but received no answer. Hamlin instructs Clark to drive Elsie out to Brentwood that evening—which Clark is only too willing to do, after having dinner with her, of course.

February 26, 2012

Superman SaturdaySunday: When the levee breaks, we'll have no place to stay

This week's instalment is a day late: I was watching the recent David Tennant/Patrick Stewart production of Hamlet last evening, and it turned out to be longer than I'd planned. Not that I'm complaining. Anyway, Sunday is just as good a day for lazing around and watching bad old movies, so no harm done. Plus, it's still alliterative!

When we last left our heroes, Clark Kent and Lois Lane were on assignment in the city of Dyerville, population 30,000, which had been experiencing some mysterious disasters. Even while they were there—but for Clark's intervention as Superman—the bridge into town collapsed, and a barge loaded with gasoline tankers nearly plunged over a local waterfall. Then, Dyerville's woes were revealed as the work of none other than Superman's nemesis, the Yellow Mask—who, if he did not receive the sum of one million dollars! by midnight the next day, would destroy the city. His diabolical plan would, no doubt, involve a school of ill-tempered sea bass . . .

February 25, 2012

Saturday in the wild: February 25, 2012

Time once again for this week's roundup of the interesting parts of the blogosphere. So, without further ado . . .

dancingpastthedark listed 15 things about distressing near-death experiences (NDEs). Of particular interest to me was point 5:

NDEs do not play favorites: they appear across demographic bases including age, race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual preference, education, occupation, socioeconomic status, religious background and beliefs, level of religious activity, expectations of afterlife. Despite limited demographic data about distressing NDEs, they appear to have the same universality.

[Read 15 Things We Know About Distressing NDEs]

In other words: Christians are just as likely to experience a hellish vision as anyone else, which suggests to me what I've suspected all along: NDEs aren't actually religious experiences as I would understand it. Psychological, perhaps, but I rather doubt they have any correspondence to a real afterlife.

Epicurious posted a video on making the perfect martini. Personally, I prefer more classic proportions of 2 ounces Bombay Sapphire gin to 3/4 ounces dry Noilly Prat vermouth, instead of the mixologist's proportions. But I share the mixer's lament that the martini has somehow morphed into a vodka drink. (For another, more interesting variation, substitute sake for the vermouth.)

Presumably in honour of the 50th anniversary of John Glenn's first spaceflight earlier this week, Cracked listed 5 famous space missions that almost ended in disaster. Good stuff, though as a fan of the early years of spaceflight, I knew about all but the STS-27 one. Glenn's own flight was hair-raising, as Friendship 7 lost its automatic control system during the first orbit, and then it was thought that the heat shield might be lost during re-entry. Fortunately a sensor was at fault, and Glenn finished the mission without incident.

John Bloom at Desiring God Blog writes about abolitionist William Wilberforce, one of my favourite historical Brits:

But if you had known him at age 20, you wouldn’t have predicted his end. William entered adulthood as a dilettante and socialite. He was naturally warm, gregarious, eloquent, and a great singer—the life of any party. He was an unmotivated student at Cambridge, not helped by the fact that through inheritance he was independently wealthy.

On a lark he ran for a seat in Parliament at age 21. He spent the equivalent of $500,000 of his own money on the campaign and won. Years later, his own assessment was, "the first years I was in Parliament I did nothing—nothing to any purpose. My own distinction was my darling object."

But in 1785, that all changed when William was powerfully converted to Jesus. It was nothing short of a revolution. Life and time and talent, and influence and wealth were to be stewarded and wielded for the cause of Jesus' kingdom. Everything took on a new weight and urgency. Jesus Christ transformed this dissolute aristocratic party boy into a resolute force against evil and for truth in the moral wilderness of his day.

[Read The Darling Object of William Wilberforce]

Finally, the O-Dot is a local satirical blog I recently discovered. It's not the comedic powerhouse that the Onion is, to be sure, but every so often it provides a chuckle. Thursday's story was particularly good:

Little Italy—The vibrant Italian neighbourhood that stretches along Preston Street from Carling to Somerset recently had new "Pay & Pasta" parking meters installed to help draw visitors to the area. A well known location for Italian cuisine, the City Of Ottawa in association with the Preston Street BIA, developed the concept of dispensing pasta last spring as a way to help boost enjoyment for paid parking.

[Read Little Italy Launches New "Pay & Pasta" Parking Meters]


February 24, 2012

F5 #4: Pod people

Welcome to the last installation of Four February Fridays of Fabulous Frivolity (F5 for 2012. I'm going to do something just a little different from the norm this week: rather than blab on about my personal favourite stuff, I'm going to list and recommend a few of my favourite podcasts. And, finally, I'll close this year's series by revealing my one great weakness.

I lamented a few weeks ago that I've evolved from a primarily literary person, to a primarily visual person when it comes taking in information and entertainment: fewer books, more movies. (I'm watching one as I write this, in fact.) Then, I bought my favourite toy in 2007: a 4 GB iPod Nano—which I still have and am in no hurry to upgrade—and my tastes evolved from print to video to audio, as I discovered the wonders of podcasting. I had already started listening to several podcasts, but it was the ability to take them on the go that really opened up the medium for me.

February 21, 2012

Wi-Fi Luddites in Ottawa (Aaaah, they're closing in!)

Oh, brother.

Some west Ottawa parents are speaking out about their concerns with wireless internet connections in their children's school.

For both Ruth Ann Semple and Jessica Van Hees, the unknown is frightening. They believe there is not enough known about the dangers of long-term exposure to Wi-Fi, but the school board plans on making all their schools fully equipped.

"Our children should be dissecting rats, they shouldn't be functioning as lab rats," Van Hees said, "And this constitutes as a massive experiment on children."

[Full Story]

This story twice in a week? I see the stirrings of an extraordinary popular delusion on the horizon. Either that, or CBC is trying to manufacture a crisis.

Remember, folks: a typical Wi-Fi router puts out 0.021 watts in toto of low-energy microwaves. Stand out in the sun and receive more than 100 watts of high-energy light, including ionizing UV radiation. No one is calling to ban the sun.

February 20, 2012

F4 #3: All that jazz

Better late than never! While I knew what I wanted to write about, by Friday afternoon I had no idea what I wanted to say. Fortunately, sitting on it for a day or two made all the difference! The creative floodgates opened, and I managed to scribble out a few words on one of my favourite music genre. (Typing it, on the other hand . . . here I am late Monday night.) And, at the end, I'll reveal, at last, my one weakness.

I have been musically inclined for a long time. I began taking piano lessons when I was about 9 or 10, and then learned to play trumpet in high school, where I also joined the school band in grade 10. Although my piano training was classical, by the time I reached high school they no longer had a concert band program, only a stage band.

High-school band was my first exposure to jazz. Since a stage band is essentially a big band, it was big-band music that we played: from standards by Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman (I still have the trumpet solo to "In the Mood" committed to memory, even though I haven't picked a horn up in 20 years), to more contemporary numbers by Bobby Mintzer, Jay Chattaway and Rick Tait.

My interest in smaller jazz combos came later, and somewhat independently: my school didn't have a jazz combo for a couple more years, and I didn't play in it. (Never could improvise well enough.) It started by rifling the music department's large record collection, which consisted mainly of demo records and big-band albums. However, this eventually led to my sifting through my friend Jean-Yves' more eclectic record library. Though he is older than me, he is the youngest in his musically inclined family (in fact, his sister was my first piano teacher), and he had inherited a lot of hand-me-down albums. Of all us band geeks, he was probably the most musically ambitious—after high school, he became a music teacher and a modest local celebrity as a jazz player. He was always happy enough to show off some new sound he had discovered. So, in the end, I learned piano privately, trumpet in high school, and music appreciation from Jean-Yves' records.

February 18, 2012

Superman Saturday: Dyer Breaker

This week, we begin another exciting episode of The Adventures of Superman, courtesy of a prepackaged cereal product and the miracle of radio!

As promised last week, we see the return of the Yellow Mask, the Action Ace's first radio supervillain. We have already encountered the Yellow Mask, of course: he was the mastermind behind the attempted sabotage of the Silver Clipper and, when Clark Kent foiled that plan, he tried to get his revenge by atomizing the Daily Planet building with an atomic death ray. In the comics by this time, the Ultra-Humanite was already an established enemy of Superman,1 and in one story he, too, attempted to blow up the Planet with an atomic beam. So it would appear that the Yellow Mask is a radio proxy for Ultra, though with somewhat less of the mad-scientistiness and, as we shall soon see, not quite the same megalomanaical pretensions.

For this story, the producers started titling each serial, rather than each individual episode. Not only does it make the stories easier to track, but no doubt it will ease up on the inadvertent spoilers, as well!

So, with further ado, let's drop the needle on this amazing transcription feature, and start with . . .

Episode 18: The Mystery of Dyerville, Part 1 (1940/03/22)


The Wolf and Keno have arrived in Metropolis where, still pursued by the police, they make their way to the Yellow Mask's secret lair. The Wolfe, bitter because the Mask let them cool their heels in prison, tells Keno that he intends to challenge him. The Yellow Mask then reveals himself. He's played by the same actor as his last appearance: he still sounds like Sir Bedevere from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

"This is the last time you'll stand in the way," declares the Mask, "of high voltage."


"That finishes the Wolfe," he adds. Have I mentioned recently that this is a children's program?

Saturday a little bit in the wild: February 18, 2012

For various reasons, I've had not much to do with blogging this week (either posting or reading), so today's instalment of x in the Wild (where Thursday < x < Sunday) has just one brief item.

Tim Challies has announced the selection for the next run of "Reading Classics Together," and it's a doozy:

It is time to embark on a new reading project and it only seems right that we should go to the bestselling and most enduring Christian classic of them all—The Pilgrim’s Progress. This is a book most of us have read at one time or another, or perhaps at many times, but if any book bears repeated readings, this is the one. It is, after all, the most widely-published book in the English language, not to mention one of the most influential and beloved books ever written.

[Reading the Next Classic Together]

I love Bunyan, so I'm definitely in. The fun starts on March 8, so if you want to participate, read Chapter 1 by then. If you don't have a print edition, Tim will be following the format of the version at Christian Classics Ethereal Library. All of Bunyan's major works are available at the Chapel Library site (Pilgrim's Progress can be found in Volume 3). You can also find other formats at Project Gutenberg, and there's a free audiobook at LibriVox, if you prefer to listen. Either way: Enjoy!

Writer's block

Due to an acute case of being at a loss for words, and now that I've crossed the point where the blog entry could be realistically back-dated to yesterday, this week's F5 will be moved to Sunday, when hopefully I can flesh it out past about 50 words.

Which, I guess, makes it less of an F5 than an F4S. Sad, really.

February 16, 2012

Gary Carter (1954-2012)

Gary Carter, famed catcher for the Montreal Expos and New York Mets, has died of brain cancer. He was 57.

Nicknamed "The Kid" for his enthusiasm and cheerfulness, Carter began his career with the Expos in 1974 and played with them until 1984, after which he was traded to the Mets for five years. He played a season each with the SF Giants and LA Dodgers, before returning to Montreal for one more season in 1992. He was inducted in 2003 into the Baseball Hall of Fame, as an Expo.

I saw Carter play in Montreal in 1983, alongside other Expo greats such as Tim Raines, Andre Dawson and Al Oliver. Over the years I developed more of an appreciation for American League rules rather than National League, and evolved into a Toronto Blue Jays fan rather than the Expos. But as long as Gary Carter was playing for them, the 'Spos were my favourite team. RIP Kid.

February 14, 2012

The Luddites ride again

Arguably my favourite moment in the movie X-Men comes toward the end, when Magneto has the X-Men trapped in the Statue of Liberty.

"Fry him," team leader Cyclops orders Storm, who controls weather.

"Oh, yes, a bolt of lightning into a huge copper conductor," retorts Magneto. "I thought you lived at a school?"

I get the same feeling as Magneto when I read this news article:

An Ontario teachers' union is calling for an end to new Wi-Fi setups in the province's 1,400-plus Catholic schools.

The Ontario English Catholic Teacher's Association says computers in all new schools should be hardwired instead of setting up wireless networks.

It also says Wi-Fi should not be installed in any more classrooms.

In a position paper released on Monday, the union—which represents 45,000 teachers—cites research by the World Health Organization.

Last year the global health agency warned about a possible link between radiation from wireless devices such as cellphones and cancer.

[Full Story]

I can only guess that there are no science teachers in the OECTA. There are so many things wrong with this statement that I hardly know where to begin.

February 11, 2012

Superman Saturday: Oooh, give me steam!

After a brief hiatus, Serial Saturday returns—this time, with a short two-episode Superman adventure. As promised last time, we meet up with some old friends: the Wolfe and his sidekick Keno, now officially the first two recurring villains of Supe's rogues' gallery. So, without further ado, on we go with . . .

Episode 16: The Prison Riot (1940/03/18)


At the Daily Planet office, Perry White commends Clark Kent for his story on the North Star Mining Company (from his previous adventure). Lois is on assignment: she's at the nearby San Miguel penitentiary, writing a feature on the modern prison system. Clark recognizes this prison as the one where Keno and the Wolfe were sent after their sabotage attempt on the Silver Clipper passenger train. Perry tells Clark to pick up Lois and bring her back, and so Clark finds himself a rental car and heads out.

While Lois is taking her tour of the prison, however, unrest is brewing, and it is masterminded by none other than the Wolfe himself. He and his henchman Keno plot inconspicuously in the prison yard. A prison break is planned during suppertime, which is only an hour away. While some of the inmates cause a disturbance at the gate, Keno and the Wolfe will slip into the steam plant, from which they will make their escape with the help of their boss, the Yellow Mask.

Whitney Houston (1963-2012)


Although she was never one of my favourite vocalists, it can hardly be denied that Whitney Houston had one of the most powerful and gorgeous voices in pop music in the 1980s. But she allowed her drug habits to destroy her voice and derail the potential of a legendary musical career.

Cause of death is not currently known (or at least not yet public), but it won't surprise me if we soon find out that Houston is yet another young life wrecked by her own excesses. 48 is too young for anyone.

Saturday in the wild: February 11, 2012

Another weekend, another pile of bloggy goodness for y'all to work through. Better late then never!

Xkcd pulled off another laugh-out-loud moment. If this happened to Alex Jones, it would be like the purest of poetic justice.

Douglas Wilson caught the nominally pro-life Ron Paul on the Piers Morgan program recently, flubbing on the "hard case" of rape:

On the pro-life thing, he was asked about abortion in the case of rape. The answer to this, incidentally, is straightforward—when a woman conceives as the result of a rape, there is one guilty party, and two innocent parties. What the pro-aborts want to do is change the ratios—they want one victim instead of two, and they want two perpetrators instead of one. They want the man who took what didn't belong to him to be joined by a woman who imitates him by taking what doesn't belong to her.

In response to this question, Ron Paul said that a woman who is raped should go to an emergency room immediately, and get a shot of estrogen, which would prevent the implantation of a conceived child in the uterine wall. Further, he said that he would administer that shot of estrogen. Piers Morgan, astonished, said that he thought Ron Paul believed life begins at conception. Ron Paul said that he did, but that we don't know at that point whether the woman is pregnant.

This, in effect, was saying that if we don't know if someone is living in a room then it must be okay to fill it up with poison gas. This example might seem beside the point because, if we did that, we would eventually have to carry a dead body out. But, in the case of this small victim, nobody ever needs to know. But, speaking frankly, and just between us, "nobody need ever know" is not exactly a pro-life rallying cry.

[Read Four/Fifths of the Brimstone]

The transcript of this program is also available.

February 10, 2012

F5 #2: The Master of Suspense

Looking back through the various F5 posts I've done over the years, I'm amazed I haven't touched on this particular guilty pleasure yet, although I certainly have mentioned Stephen King by name many times—more, possibly, than anyone other than myself or Jesus. (That is a perfectly unscientific assessment, made with exactly no research or data collection whatsoever. So it's time to give my favourite author his due. And, for the first time, I will reveal my one weakness at the end of this post.

My first Stephen King novel was Christine. I read it in 1984, in grade 9. He was one of my first exposures to contemporary adult fiction, after Agatha Christie and Ian Fleming. It was about a car that killed people. That was the only motivation I needed. At the time it was his newest novel except for Pet Sematary, which meant I had about nine or ten other novels to work through before the next one was published.

February 09, 2012

And now . . . this - Feb. 9/12

An undercover police officer "chased himself round the streets" for 20 minutes after a CCTV operator mistook him for suspect.

The junior officer, who has not been named, was monitoring an area hit by a series of burglaries in an unnamed market town in the country's south.

As the probationary officer from Sussex Police searched for suspects, the camera operator radioed that he had seen someone "acting suspiciously" in the area.

But he failed to realise that it was actually the plain-clothed officer he was watching on the screen, according to details leaked to an industry magazine.

[Full Story]

When the officer found out he'd been on a wild-goose chase for nearly half an hour, he was, naturally quite beside himself. Or so he thought.

February 07, 2012

In other book news

I would be negligent if I allowed the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens to pass without comment: he was born 200 years today, on February 7, 1802.

Dickens was arguably the greatest author of the Victorian period, which also makes him the greatest author I have never read enough of, and want to: I've read A Christmas Carol (who hasn't?), Oliver Twist (required reading), and about the first five chapters of Bleak House—which, coincidentally, I've got on my nightstand for the near future, as I've been meaning to read it for ages.

On the other hand, I've never read either of the typical "required reading" of his works: A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations. So much great literature, so little time.

Beyond that, I'm embarrassed to say I know exactly two other things about Charles Dickens: his writing was about as socially conscious as English literature got during the mid-1800s, and also that he was a passionate public reader. I've heard tell, though the story might be apocryphal, that his dramatic reading style precipitated the strokes that eventually did him in. Certainly toward the end of his life, when he knew his time was coming, he embarked on a "farewell tour" of sorts. May the grim reaper find us all doing what we love when our time comes!

The curse of Karla

Just what is it with this book, anyway?

John le Carré's classic Cold War novel Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, about a Soviet mole working within British intelligence, has been on the top of my list of three "cursed books" for 10 years. This is a list of books that I have tried to finish multiple times but never succeeded. (The other two are Stephen King's The Dark Tower, volume 1, and Mortimer Adler's How to Read a Book—ironically.)

Five times I have borrowed this book from the library—about once every four or five years since 1990. Five times I have returned it unfinished. I seem to always get to the point where George Smiley visits and commiserates with his drunken former secretary, and then the whole project fizzles out.

Unlike the other books on the cursed list, which I have honest trouble getting into, Tinker, Tailor is genuinely enjoyable. I rip my way through the first third, then I'm prevented from finishing by a conspiracy of small circumstances. I'm beginning to think it's an actual curse: the "curse of Karla" (after the codename of the Russian spymaster that recruited the mole). Heh. Not only does he not want Smiley to catch him, he doesn't want me to, either.

To make matters worse, Attempt Number Six is dragging my whole reading program down. I'm now two weeks behind. I'm going to have to make up for lost time with some easy-to-read potboilers. Fortunately, that's why God made Star Trek novels and Agatha Christie.

No comment necessary.

Florence Green, the world's last surviving First World War veteran has died, marking the end of an era in British history.

Mrs. Green passed away in her sleep at a care home in Norfolk just two weeks before her 111th birthday.

The great-grandmother signed up to the Women's Royal Air Force (WRAF) 93 years ago in September 1918, when she was aged just 17.

She was the last surviving person to have served in WWI following the death of British-born sailor Claude Choules in Australia last year.

[Full Story]

Take them for all in all, we shall not look upon their like again.

February 06, 2012

Barack Obama, theologian

Everyone's a theologian, as one of my pastors occasionally says. We all believe something about God. The real question is whether you're a good or bad one.

Barack Obama spoke last Thursday at the annual National Prayer Breakfast, as is traditional for American presidents since Eisenhower. In his speech, he described how his Christian faith drove his policies, particularly his economic ones. For example:

[W]hen I talk about shared responsibility, it's because I genuinely believe that in a time when many folks are struggling, at a time when we have enormous deficits, it's hard for me to ask seniors on a fixed income, or young people with student loans, or middle-class families who can barely pay the bills, to shoulder the burden alone. I think to myself, if I'm willing to give something up as somebody who's been extraordinarily blessed, and give up some of the tax breaks that I enjoy, I actually think that’s going to make economic sense.

But for me as a Christian, it also coincides with Jesus's teaching that "for unto whom much is given, much shall be required." It mirrors the Islamic belief that those who've been blessed have an obligation to use those blessings to help others, or the Jewish doctrine of moderation and consideration for others.1

Long live our noble Queen

Today is the 60th anniversary of the ascendancy of Elizabeth II to the throne of the United Kingdom and the nations of the British Commonwealth, including Canada. Elizabeth became queen on February 6, 1952, upon the death of her father, George VI. It was Canada that first officially issued a proclamation of her accession, the same day. At the time, Elizabeth and her husband, Prince Philip, were visiting Kenya. They immediately returned to England, and she was formally crowned Queen on June 2, 1953.

I am like many, perhaps even most, of Elizabeth's loyal subjects in one regard: in my lifetime, there has never been another monarch of Canada. She is now the second-longest reigning British monarch, after Victoria, and at 85 years old, the oldest ruling monarch in English history. An elected head of state, or a monarchical leader such as the Pope, who tends to ascend later in life, characteristically has a much shorter tenure, and thus it's the office, rather than the person, who becomes the institution. Change will inevitably come, but it will be harder at first to accept.

The lyrics to the Royal Anthem constitute a prayer: that the Queen will be blessed with a long life, and that her reign will be just and free of conflict. On the occasion of 60 years of faithful service to her subjects, we can thank God for answered prayer, but we can still continue to pray: "God save the Queen"!

February 03, 2012

Friday in the wild: February 3, 2011

Friday again! Time to round up the stuff on the blogosphere that made me stop and take notice.

Tim Challies posted his parents' story of their encounter with Francis Schaeffer, whose hundredth birthday would have been this past Tuesday:

Schaeffer and the workers at English L'Abri helped us lay a new foundation for Christian living—the Bible, the Bible, the Bible—known from cover to cover, as the foundation of all life and thought. Unchanging. Absolute. Knowable. Mirroring the unchanging, absolute, knowable God. No more theological chaos. Rest for our souls.

I know many appreciated Francis Schaeffer's philosophical and cultural insights. They were penetrating, timely, and prophetic—certainly what he is best known for. But, for us—primarily, he was our first Sola Scriptura expositor. The absolute biblical certainty behind the philosophical and cultural insights was what changed our lives. And for this, we are eternally grateful.

[Read How Francis Schaeffer Saved My Saved Soul]

Four February Fridays of Fabulous Frivolity . . .4.

Some years ago, I instituted a theme for the month of February: I would dedicate one post each Friday to one of my favourite things. Over the years I've covered such topics as food, literature, movies, even personal grooming.

It's been about three years since I last did this, so I've decided to revive the F5 tradition. Today and the next three Fridays, I'll have a few words about what I like to eat, drink, read, watch, do, or whatever else strikes me. I will also, for the first time on this blog, reveal my one food weakness.

But today we're going to start with . . .

F5 #1: Mmmm. Beer.

I can remember my first beer easily enough: it was my 19th birthday, and my roommate treated me to a pitcher of Labatt's Blue, as well as a rye and Coke or two, and a few B-52s. In the ensuing 22 years, I've grown up a bit and learned to hold my liquor better. But to this day I still have an aversion to both Blue and rye and Coke.

That aversion didn't extend to beer in general, fortunately. It wasn't long before I found Molson Canadian more to my liking. That was satisfactory for a year or so. Then, I started hearing good things about imported beers, and I was curious, and consequently I fell in love with the opposite extreme—Guinness. Draft Guinness, a beer so thick it's opaque, it has a pond-scum head so heavy you can draw a happy face in it and it will stay there until the pint is gone, and drinking it obviates the need for dinner. Of course, a diet of draft Guinness could get to be an expensive habit. Fortunately, at the time, it was still possible to buy bottled Guinness at the beer store (brewed under license by Labatt's), and although it wasn't as thick and rich, it was still mighty tasty.

In the intervening years, I've settled somewhere in the middle: my go-to beer is generally a dark ale of some kind. My brand of choice was Upper Canada Dark Ale for years, until Sleeman bought them out, and I wasn't as impressed. For everyday beer, I have since tended toward Rickard's Red, or Alexander Keith's India Pale Ale. Yes, it's yellow, but it's still an ale. I also recently discovered the Guelph-based Wellington Brewery, whose superb beers suffer not a bit from being so close to Sleeman. Their Wellington County Dark Ale is an occasional treat.

At one time I went to the liquor store on a weekly basis, and picked out two different cans or bottles from the beer cooler, and in that way went through nearly everything the LCBO had to offer. German lagers and British or Irish stouts were good; Dutch lagers, less so. I tried Belgian Trappists' beer, but the first time I tried to open a bottle, the cork blasted out after I'd untwisted the wire cage all of a half-turn. It marked the ceiling, and that made me gun-shy. (I never found the wire cage.) But the threat of injury wasn't enough to dampen my enthusiasm for beer. There are too many varieties in the world, and too little time.

My one weakness: Potato chips

Nothing goes with an everyday beer quite like a bowl of chips, especially regular ones. But when the chips aren't meant to be a buffer for alcohol, I'd rather have flavoured ones. I have a particular soft spot for sour cream and onion. However, in Canada, we also have a range of President's Choice chips, in many interesting and exotic flavours—which, amazingly, almost always taste exactly like what they claim to be. The Buffalo Wings & Blue Cheese variety are the best of the current lot.

January 30, 2012

Francis Schaeffer (1912-1984)

It seems a bit odd to eulogize a man who has been gone for nearly 30 years, but it seemed a fitting way to note the centenary of Francis Schaeffer's birth.

Schaeffer was arguably one of the most influential Christian apologists of the 20th century (along with C. S. Lewis). Although I read several books by Lewis before ever cracking open a volume of Schaeffer, it was the latter that has had a more profound effect on my worldview—especially his books The God Who is There and Escape from Reason, and to a lesser extent Art and the Bible and Pollution and the Death of Man. It was through Schaeffer that I first discovered the value of presuppositional apologetics, and he may have been my first few baby steps toward Reformed theology. And, although he was not a direct influence on my own views, in the late 1970s he was one of the earliest Evangelical pro-life voices, whose influence made opposition to abortion a Protestant, not merely a Roman Catholic, concern.

Also, as I have noted previously in my lightning review of The Church at the End of the 20th Century, although some of his work feels dated today—much of his ministry during his most productive period was with the hippie counterculture of the 60s and 70s—many of the worldview issues he raised back then have come full circle. With the rise of draconian campus speech codes and pointless activism like the recent Occupy movement, perhaps we're in need of a fresh look at Francis Schaeffer.

A sad ending

When this story broke a couple weeks ago, I had a sinking feeling it would not have a happy ending. I would have liked to be wrong:

Greg Etue, husband of CTV Ottawa's Carol Anne Meehan, has been found dead near Killaloe, Ont.

The well-known pharmacist hadn't been seen or heard from since Jan. 16 when he left home in the family van. He had been battling multiple sclerosis and cancer for several years.

Ontario police said they found Etue and the 2008 Pontiac Montana on High Crest Lane in Brudenell around 12:30 p.m. Monday.

Foul play is not suspected.

[Full Story]

Ms. Meehan is an anchor for CTV's 6-o'clock news in Ottawa, so her personal tragedy unfortunately becomes a local news story. Prayers for her, her family and her in-laws.

January 27, 2012

Friday in the wild: January 27, 2012

It's Friday! Here's a compendium of bloggy goodness from the past week.

Scott Adams describes how both Barack Obama and Newt Gingrich set off his "non-believerdar":

It's starting to look as if Newt Gingrich will be the Republican nominee. If so, this might be the first time two non-believers ran against each other for President of the United States.


Oh, that's right: You still think Gingrich and Obama believe what's written in the Christian Bible. I understand why you think that. After all, both men say they believe in god, and they do churchy things. The trouble is that Gingrich and Obama both set off my non-believerdar. (That's like gaydar for non-believers.)

[Read Non-Believerdar]

Adams then goes on to say that he doesn't really believe in "non-believerdar" (or gaydar, or any other -dar)—it's just his feeling that both candidates profess some sort of Christian belief for its utilitarian value in getting votes. And you know what? He might be right. Though I'd probably concede that Gingrich, as a convert to Roman Catholicism, actually believes it to some extent: squishy evangelicalism would play just as well, if not better, in the Bible Belt.

Last week, Alan Shlemon asked on the Stand to Reason blog whether Jesus' apparent silence on homosexuality actually meant anything. This week, he continues the series, asking whether homosexuality really is the worst sin imaginable:

Christians don't just think homosexuality is the worst sin. We act like it too. Christians who rarely cite scripture suddenly invoke Bible verses when the topic comes up. We get uneasy when gay men come to church, but we gladly welcome post-abortive women. We’ll move a lesbian who sits next to other females at youth group, but we won’t separate girls who gossip.

It's no wonder the culture thinks Christians hate homosexuals. We give their behavior a unique status: the worst sin of all. And because homosexuals are committing the supreme evil, we treat them like pariahs.

[Read Is Homosexuality the Worst Sin of All?]

I'll just add that Jesus said there was a sin that was unforgivable (Matt. 12:31), but it's not the sin of which Paul said to the Corinthian church, "such were some of you. But you were washed" (1 Cor. 6:11).

Chris Rosebrough attended the Elephant Room conference this week. Rather, he tried to—but upon arrival was informed that he was no longer welcome and would be arrested if he didn't leave. Nonetheless, he posted on the theological weaselliness1 of "Bishop" T. D. Jakes:

Jakes' full answer was this:

One God—Three Persons. One God—Three Persons, and here is why . . . there . . . I am not crazy about the word persons this is . . . most people who follow me know that that is really. My doctrinal statement is no different from yours except the word. . . .

Driscoll completes Jakes' sentence by filling in that "one word" and its [sic] the word "Manifestations."

[Read Theological Sleightof Hand at the Elephant Room]

"Manifestations" is, of course, the usual way that Oneness advocates try to avoid the traditional Trinitarian language of one God in three distinct Persons. Jakes is trying to play to his audience and sound properly Trinitarian, but he can't get away from his own sect's jargon. As Rosebrough adds: "See what a difference just one word can make?"

On Twitter, James White posed one good question that would settle Jakes' view of the nature of God unambiguously: "Did the Son, as a divine person, distinguishable from the Father, exist as a divine Person prior to the birth in Bethlehem?" I'm not holding my breath.

Credo provided a good reminder that two valuable resources are available for free for the download: an audiobook of J. I. Packer's Knowing God from ChristianAudio, and Timothy George's lectures on the theology of the Reformers. The Packer book, at least, is only available for the remainder of January. Grab it while you can: it tops the list of extrabiblical, Christian books that I recommend to friends.

Desiring God Blog pointed to an article by Richard Pratt on the Ligionier Web site, about how proverbs are not promises:

Now, we need to be clear here. The proverbs commend certain paths to family members because they reflect the ways God ordinarily distributes His blessings. But ordinarily does not mean necessarily. Excellent wives have good reason to expect honor from their husbands and children. Fathers with integrity often enjoy seeing God’s blessings on their children. Parents who train their children in the fear of the Lord follow the path that frequently brings children to saving faith. But excellent wives, faithful husbands, and conscientious parents often endure terrible hardship in their homes because proverbs are not promises. They are adages that direct us toward general principles that must be applied carefully in a fallen world where life is always somewhat out of kilter. As the books of Job and Ecclesiastes illustrate so vividly, we misconstrue the Word of God when we treat proverbs as if they were divine promises.

[Read Broken Homes in the Bible]

And so, until next week, I bid you adieu. Enjoy.


1 I have my doubts weaselliness is a word. But, dang it, it should be.

And now . . . this - Jan. 27/12

A woman plans to marry a partially demolished building in Seattle on Sunday.

Even though cranes have already started demo work at 10th and Union Warehouse, Babylonia Aivaz reports "I'm STILL Getting Married."

"Yes, I'm in love with a 107 year old building!" writes Aivaz on the wedding invite page on facebook.

[Full Story]

There is a positive to this: since the building is on it last legs anyway, by the time "Babylonia" comes to her senses and decides to marry a person, she won't have to fight a messy divorce—who gets the little sheds, and all that.

Amazingly, someone in the media thought this nitwittery was newsworthy. And the affirming, encouraging comments on the Facebook page are hilarious as well, perhaps unintentionally.

How many deaths will it take till he knows that too many people have died?

A lightning review of The Road by Cormac McCarthy (New York: Knopf, 2006). Hardcover, 256 pp.

In the near future, a catastrophe (which I inferred to be a nuclear holocaust, though McCarthy has suggested it was an asteroid strike) has left almost nothing alive and covered everything in blowing ash. Civilization has broken down; only small scavenging bands roam the ruins. Many have resorted to cannibalism.

A man and his son struggle to travel to the ocean with their meagre possessions and small stash of food. They are alone in the world: the boy's mother committed suicide shortly after the disaster. They have a gun, but only two bullets. The man realizes that he is dying, but nonetheless he still wants to reach the coast, protect his son from the evil around him, and assure him that they are the "good guys."

The Road has been described as Cormac McCarthy's masterpiece. I’m struggling to understand why. Its repetitive storyline lacks plot: man and boy are starving, find food, eat food, man and boy are starving. Lather, rinse, repeat. To McCarthy's credit, he has an accurate view of human nature as fundamentally evil. Whether or not civilization would completely crumble as the result of such a disaster thankfully remains to be seen; I do know that more local-scale catastrophes have not resulted in the complete breakdown of society. The Road was a quick read (a couple of hours), but in the end, rather disappointing.

January 22, 2012

Sanctity of Life Sunday in the wild: Jan. 22, 2012

Today is the 39th anniversary of the infamous Roe v. Wade decision of the United States Supreme Court, which legalized abortion on demand citing a supposed right to "privacy." Thus it is also commemorated in many churches as Santity of Life Sunday, as normally the third Sunday of the month would be the one closest. National Sanctity of Human Life Day was originally proclaimed by Ronald Reagan, and the tradition has since been continued by both Presidents Bush, but not either Bill Clinton nor Barack Obama—which really tells you all you need to know about the powers-that-be of the Democratic Party when it comes to the issue of unborn human life. In Canada, our lack of abortion restrictions is due to the R. v. Morgentaler decision of January 28, 1988, not Roe, so Sanctity of Life Sunday may get a nod in Canadian churches, if that. Nonetheless, American policy and tradition tend to have an effect on Canada as well.

Typically at around this time of year, the blogosphere starts to buzz a bit with life issues, and so I've decided to highlight a few of the posts that attracted my own attention over the last few days.

January 21, 2012

Superman Saturday: Beat up a Filipino for truth, justice, and the American way!

Tonight, Superman returns! And not in the bad, Brandon Routh kind of way.1

When we last left our heroes, in September, they were left hanging in the middle of an exciting radio serial. Clark Kent was on the scene of a high-rise fire, when as Superman he rescued secretary June Anderson, trapped in the offices of the North Star Mining Company. While being treated in hospital, she was then stabbed by Bart Penderton and Joseph Dineen, officers of the company. June knew that Penderton and Dineen were swindling investors in the worthless North Star gold mine, and had entrusted the incriminating documentation with her brother, the captain of a munitions freighter, the Madison, currently steaming down the East Coast.

Back at the offices of the Daily Planet, Pemberton posed as a North Star investor and tricked Kent into telling him where the papers were. He and Dineen rushed to intercept the Madison. They forced Captain Anderson into the hold at gunpoint and started a fire that would destroy the Madison, along with the evidence against them. Fortunately, Superman learned he had been tricked, and arrived on the scene just in time to rescue the captain from the hold and the bundle of papers from the safe, moments before the ship went up in a fiery explosion.

Tonight, we conclude the adventure of the North Star mine with the final two episodes, starting with . . .

Additional notes on reading

It's hard to tell sometimes, but I am—or, at least, used to be—a voracious reader.

As a young child, I'd read anything I could get my hands on, from classic literature (The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland) to modern children's literature (Walter Farley, Gordon Korman or Beverly Cleary) to genre fiction (the Bobbsey Twins or Hardy Boys). I'd blitz my way through three mystery novels in a summer afternoon. I'd have to make two trips to the library. My parents would worry for my eyes and suggest that I watch more television.

It's not my fault. They taught me to read before I set foot in a school.

This is a habit that I kept all the way through to the end of high school (having once read the entire curriculum of a grade-13 English course on a school field trip, including the optional books). It was only once I was away from home and at university that I found the pressures of my required curriculum seriously eating into my recreational reading, which was more or less limited to summers and co-op work terms, when I had sufficient free time (or plenty of time on the bus). Paradoxically, transferring to the English department from Engineering made it worse: my reading workload increased, but not necessarily becaue of books I wanted to read.

In my last year, I got sick of this, and in September 1996, I resolved that, come hell or high water, I was going to read one novel per week over and above my required reading for that year. And I managed it, although I don't know what had to give way. Sleep, maybe.

This is a habit that I kept up for a number of years afterward. I wasn't in school, but I was in the workforce, and for a significant number of years I lived and worked on opposite ends of Ottawa—which meant two hours every weekday of otherwise-useless reading time.

And yet, starting in about 2005 or so, my reading volume took a nose dive. I don't know why, but somewhere along the line I stopped being a reader and started being a viewer, getting my entertainment more from movies than books for the first time. And, then, starting in about 2008, I discovered that podcasts had taken over from movies as my primary source of information or entertainment—again, at the expense of the printed word.

This year, I plan on reviving the one-novel-per-week policy. It's been far too long, and there are too many books going unread. My "rules," such as they were back in 1996 and onward, go something like this:

  • Each calendar week, I will start and, if possible, finish a novel.
  • Selections should vary somewhat in style, genre, authorship, etc. from week to week. (For example, don't read two Stephen King novels consecutively, unless there's a good reason.)
  • The week starts on Monday, to allow Saturday and Sunday for catching up, if necessary.
  • If a novel is finished early, use the remaining days of the week to read non-fiction instead of another novel.

These rules served me pretty well, and managed to keep a balance between genres and subjects. I've added one more task to the curriculum: blog something about everything I read. Sometimes this will be a full review (of 1000 words or more), but for the most part will be "lightning" reviews: roughly speaking, whatever I can write in about 250 words and/or half an hour. This isn't meant to be a detailed book review or analysis, so much as a first impression and an excuse to write. I've posted a number of these over the last few weeks, as I work my way through the Christmas reading blitz.

If you'd like to follow along with my reading, the most recent books in my list are in the sidebar, or you can follow the entire year in my Google spreadsheet. If you want to know what I recommend (or don't), I have a master blog post indexing all my reviews: not only books, but also movies and the occasional album as well.

And, of course, in September I'll be doing my usual moratorium on science fiction: this year, I plan to revisit the Canadian literature I didn't get to when I used this theme back in 2005.

Finally, CBC's annual Canada Reads debates will be broadcast February 6-9 on CBC One. For the first time, the annual search for Canada's must-read book focuses on non-fiction. I will be paying attention to the debates, though frankly the selections on the short list don't turn me on (although the thought of Alan Thicke defending Ken Dryden's The Game certainly is intriguing).

Happy reading!