Archives for April 2006

Rooms to let, furnished

A hearth with seasoned oak and tinder laid
awaits a spark to set the fuel ablaze,
and on the mantel, blooms that never fade
   defy the count of days.  [Read more…]

Advice to an Englishwoman about to take her tea

By all means you must have your tea. It is tea, not wine, that is the nectar of the gods. The British became the greatest nation on earth by the simple expedient of drinking more tea than the Chinese. They then established the British Empire in order to safeguard the shipping lanes and secure their tea supplies. American cotton, Alsatian iron, Sumatran tin and Aztec gold, all could be left in foreign hands — but tea was a Strategic Commodity and had to be controlled. As, for obviously consequent reasons, did sugar. So by all means drink your tea, and if it is bitter or slightly off, close your eyes and think of England.

The Emperor’s new depth

Sherwood Smith inquires into the matter of ‘writing deep’, and there is evident puzzlement on all hands about what ‘deep’ means. As you might guess from the title of this essai, I am not much taken with the idea of ‘deep’ writing in fiction. I therefore propose to examine the Emperor’s garments one by one, until I find a windcheater that actually, you know, cheats the wind. This turns out to be a longish task, so I shall take it one heading at a time. To begin with:

1. Armchair philosophizing as a substitute for character development.

This, I suspect, is what most adolescents (and nearly all college students) are likely to mean when they call a book ‘deep’. As in: ‘Who-o-o-a . . . that’s, like, so deep.’ Ayn Rand is so deep, and so are Camus and Vonnegut, and various other hardy campus perennials. Adolescence and early adulthood are naturally given to a kind of ill-focused antinomianism, which, having been trained to do so by its elders in the media and academe, readily expresses itself in scorn poured out upon ‘the metaphysics of savages’, as one of those elders notoriously called what other people call ‘common sense’. We are taught early in life that the earth is really round, though ‘obviously’ flat, and that it is really in motion, though ‘obviously’ stationary, and that ‘obviously’ solid matter is really mostly empty space between atoms. All of these teachings are half-truths, and the short half of the truth at that. [Read more…]

Return of the Champions

Queen + Paul Rodgers, live at Pacific Coliseum, Vancouver, 13 April 2006.


Just got back from an overnight trip to Vancouver (via WestJet) to see the last show in the Queen + Paul Rodgers tour. The trip was a string of almost unmitigated annoyances; I did a lot of walking around Vancouver in the rain, because the buses were not running at strategic points and taxis were consequently unobtainable. None of that matters; I saw Queen. [Read more…]

Dinner at Deviant’s Palace, by Tim Powers

Jimmy Akin passes on a tip from Tim Powers on dealing with Jehovah’s Witnesses. It’s an interesting twist on hellfire-and-brimstone preaching, to say the least; at any rate, it’s an interesting twist on hellfire.

I have read only one Tim Powers book, Dinner at Deviant’s Palace, and I cheerfully confess that it sat on my shelf unread for nearly twenty years. I belonged to the Science Fiction Book Club back in the eighties, and they sent me some truly dreadful books. By the time Dinner came round, I was thoroughly browned off by the whole book-club idea, and had pretty much given up reading the selections they sent me. I dropped my membership soon after. And so this bizarre, horrific, but tremendously interesting book slipped through a wormhole in my field of attention, only to surface in the summer of 2005. [Read more…]