Archives for 2014

Literary hospitality

All I know was that the Canadian literary society rushed out, as it were, full of hospitality, wanting to welcome anybody from England – any stray traveller. In the confusion of the moment I was mistaken for a literary man and dragged in to partake of that glorious camaraderie. I didn’t know what to do. I thought of trying to explain that I was a lecturer. But that wouldn’t do because some of them had been to my lecture.

—G. K. Chesterton

A small social experiment

I have never had a Facebook account, partly because I object to their cavalier attitude towards their users’ privacy, partly because I do not like to put up significant content anywhere on the Internet unless I retain ownership of it – which you don’t, on Facebook. I was not surprised, but rather was grimly confirmed in my expectations, when I read about FB’s decision to impose fees for any and all posts that might be deemed ‘commercial’ – including, to take a not at all random example, any post by an author announcing that he has a new book out.

There is a very old rule in the writing game: ‘Money flows towards the author.’ If no money changes hands, of course, the author should be expecting a fat percentage of nothing. If someone is making money off of a writer’s or artist’s work, then the writer or artist ought to be receiving a cut, unless he chooses to waive payment. To post on Facebook is to waive payment, per their terms and conditions; and not to waive payment for some prescribed purpose or period of time, but for all purposes and for ever. So it is a good thing, for us mercenary inkslingers, to have alternatives that allow us to retain ownership of our own work.

This blog is one such alternative. Another, possibly, is Tsū, which professes to pay 90 percent of its advertising revenue to the members who post content there, divided up by a somewhat byzantine algorithm that owes something to multi-level marketing businesses. No matter; the money, what there is of it, is flowing in the right direction. I signed up for an account this afternoon and began to look around. So far I am regarding the place as an interesting curiosity, but we shall see if anything more comes of it.

If any of my 3.6 Loyal Readers have any experience with Tsū, I would be more than happy to hear about it.

Meanwhile, you can find my Tsū page, such as it is, here:

And if you should want to sign up for Tsū yourself, you can do it from that link; which would be peachy, for it may eventually put pennies in my pocket. (Thanks to Nancy Lebovitz for being the first!)

When all else fails, shout?

The novelist with Christian concerns will find in modern life distortions which are repugnant to him, and his problem will be to make these appear as distortions to an audience which is used to seeing them as natural; and he may well be forced to take ever more violent means to get his vision across to this hostile audience. When you can assume that your audience holds the same beliefs you do, you can relax a little and use more normal means of talking to it; when you have to assume that it does not, then you have to make your vision apparent by shock; to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost-blind you draw large and startling figures.

–Flannery O’Connor

Thomas Clark Shearer, 1927-2014

My father died of pneumonia about 2:20 this afternoon, Mountain Standard Time. He was 87, and as I have mentioned previously, in an advanced state of dementia; he had been virtually speechless for over a year.

I hope I may have more to say later, but I do not think I shall be fit to write anything for the next few days.

A reminiscence of my father

The Cremation of Sam McGee

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.

[Read more…]

A brief bulletin

I have been ill with flu and depression, and have got no writing of any value done lately. The most I have been able to do is amuse myself by pottering about with background stuff of at best questionable utility.

In the midst of this, I was woken last night by a phone call: My father, who is 87 and in an advanced state of dementia, is now in hospital with pneumonia. As often happens in such cases, he cannot swallow liquids without aspirating them, so can only be fed or medicated intravenously, and he has water in his lungs. He is not expected to survive.

I would be most grateful if any of my readers were to pray for him, and for my family generally.

Fashion and moral influence

It is said by some, that men will think and act for themselves; that none will disuse spirits or anything else, merely because his neighbors do; and that moral influence is not that powerful engine contended for. Let us examine this. Let me ask the man who would maintain this position most stiffly, what compensation he will accept to go to church some Sunday and sit during the sermon with his wife’s bonnet upon his head? Not a trifle, I’ll venture. And why not? There would be nothing irreligious in it: nothing immoral, nothing uncomfortable. Then why not? It is not because there would be something egregiously unfashionable in it? Then it is the influence of fashion; and what is the influence of fashion, but the influence that other people’s actions have?

—Abraham Lincoln: Address delivered before the Springfield Washington Temperance Society, 1842. Collected Works, vol. I, p. 277.

The ‘Augustinian cogito’

[E]very mind knows and is certain concerning itself.  For men have doubted whether the power to live, to remember, to understand, to will, to think, to know, and to judge is due to air, to fire, or to the brain, or to the blood, or to atoms… or whether the combining or the orderly arrangement of the flesh is capable of producing these effects; one has tried to maintain this opinion, another that opinion.

On the other hand who would doubt that he lives, remembers, understands, wills, thinks, knows, and judges? For even if he doubts, he lives; if he doubts, he remembers why he doubts; if he doubts, he understands that he doubts; if he doubts, he wishes to be certain; if he doubts, he thinks; if he doubts, he knows that he does not know; if he doubts, he judges that he ought not to consent rashly. Whoever then doubts about anything else ought never to doubt about all of these; for if they were not, he would be unable to doubt about anything at all.

—St. Augustine, On the Trinity, book 10, chapter 10

Edward Feser has an interesting discussion of this matter over at his blog, for those philosophically inclined.

Magic vs. sacraments

Magic attempts to use preternatural forces for natural ends. Sacraments use natural matter for supernatural ends.

—Fr. Dan Pattee (as paraphrased by Brian Niemeier)

Fr. Pattee is associate professor of theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville.

Brian Niemeier is a Loyal Reader and a good fellow with a sound head on his shoulders. He demonstrates this last point admirably in his recent blog post, ‘Squirrel Chasing’.

How to Shut Down Tolkien

A talk given by Brandon Rhodes at PyGotham 2014, and in my humble but infallible opinion, a very interesting one. Rhodes has much to say about how to encourage the creative faculties and how to bully them into silence.

There are one or two minor factual errors. Lewis was not the first person to whom Tolkien showed the Silmarillion matter: he had given some of it to R. W. Reynolds (for whom he wrote the ‘Sketch of the Mythology’ about 1926), and his earliest audience had been his wife, Edith. But these are unimportant in this context. Lewis was definitely the critic and catalyst who awoke Tolkien’s full powers and spurred him on through his most productive period. How he did so, and how he almost failed, makes an illuminating story.

Hat tip to Nancy Lebovitz for sending me the link.