Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Minute by Minute

This post at Mere Inklings is an interesting meditation on the length of a sermon, noting that in a number of churches the pastor expects to go about half an hour or as long as 45 minutes. This happens primarily because those churches follow a Sunday morning worship model that sees the sermon as filling the same role as an academic lecture.

Personally, my sermons usually roll into the finish line at about 20-25 minutes. I can't promise my congregation that I'll never preach a longer sermon, but I do promise them that I will end my sermon when I have said what I think God has called and led me to say. And usually that's about 20 or 25 minutes, although in different settings I will preach for a shorter time.

The sermon is not the most important part of Sunday morning; it is one piece of the experience of worshiping God together. Some Sundays a line from one of the hymns matters much more than my words. Some Sundays the Scripture itself speaks much more than I do. So the idea that if I don't preach for a proper amount of time my people will never develop in their faith journeys doesn't have a very solid foundation as I view church. I'm more interested in making my sermon good -- and sometimes, that means less is much, much more.

Monday, September 27, 2021

Still Runnin'

As much crap as the internet throws up, it's nice to know that Homestar's still on the jorb.

Friday, September 24, 2021

Stone's Throw, Mike Lupica

Mike Lupica's success at reviving Robert B. Parker's Sunny Randall series led the late author's estate and publisher to hand him the Jesse Stone novels once Reed Farrell Coleman's turn was finished. Lupica had shown himself better able to move in Parker's world, in addition to being a better mimic of Parker's style.

Lupica also returned Jesse to a previous flirtation with Sunny and established them in a relationship of a sort, building on the developments he'd made in his Randall novels. Robert B. Parker himself was rather tediously enamored with relationships in which the principals couldn't be together but couldn't be apart either, and he often wasted a lot of pages on that kind of dance during his novels from the mid-90s forward. Despite a number of straight-up duds, Coleman had added the welcome wrinkle of making Jesse sober, and Lupica continued it.

A land deal in Paradise could mean a lot of money with a casino development, but there's also strong opposition. The mayor counts himself as one of the opposed, but he doesn't have many levers to pull to thwart the third-party sale of the land. Nevertheless, he's thrown every block he can and delayed things long enough so that when he's found dead Jesse has no shortage of suspects. Add in the environmentalist group that may be willing to take extreme measures and the ongoing dissolution of the mayor's marriage, and about the only thing Jesse is sure of in Stone's Throw is that he and his department didn't do it.

Fool's Paradise was a promising debut for Lupica, but Throw unfortunately revives several other things from Parker's own time with Stone that were better left in the past. One is to send Jesse and Sunny back through the relationship spin cycle, this time because she has a relationship she's not sure is as over as she thought it was. As mentioned above, Parker wore this path smooth and here it brings nothing to the story.

Another major blunder is the return of the Native American mob enforcer Wilson Cromartie, or Crow. Parker created the character for 1999's Trouble in Paradise as a part of a heist crew in a weak TV-movie-level story and brought him back in 2008's Stranger in Paradise, an even weaker entry. Jesse's dependable assistant chief Molly Crane inexplicably had a one-night stand with Crow in this second book and Lupica dawdles around with both of them in a couple of viewpoint sequences where they reflect on that time -- Crow wondering what made him desire Molly and Molly wondering whether she can resist a second tryst.

Add these meanderings to a sloppily-built and confusing story -- was this attack made by the first pair of cardboard-cutout thugs or the second one, and what's the point anyway -- and Stone's Throw calls back more to Parker's later and lesser Stone outings than his earlier ones. It's definitely a move away from Coleman's wordy and often fumbling grasp of Paradise and its people, but not necessarily in the right direction.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021


The extra helpings of disastrous screwups that are being dealt out by our current presidential administration have brought pundits to employ some truly dark language and evoke very very troubled times for our nation.

I refer, of course, to the Carter administration. Our oldest living former President set benchmarks for futility and error. Some were errors that were thrust upon him by circumstance, such as the Iranian hostage crisis, and the errors came from choosing a lousy option from a range of lousy options. Carter did seem to have a knack for picking those lousy options from the ”more lousy” end of the group, but he didn’t have very many good choices before him. Other errors he committed all on his own. He also gets dinged for not handling lunkhead relatives in the best way, such as his brother Billy.

I think the comparison is unfair. For one, President Carter’s approval of the botched raid to rescue some of those hostages signaled that he was actively interested in getting Americans out of unfriendly territory. He didn’t have a very good plan to do so, but he did think a U.S. president ought to do more than shrug when U.S. citizens — according to the Constitution, the people he works for —were surrounded by unfriendly and violent persons with more than a passing interest in doing them harm.

For another, the current president’s lunkhead relative is his son Hunter. As mentioned, former President Carter’s lunkhead relative was Billy. From Hunter we’re getting half-million dollar paintings made by a guy with zero history in the art world. From Billy we got beer. And although I was way too young to have tasted it, one look at Billy Carter tells you he knew a little something about beer.

On the other hand, even if “Billy Beer” was a direct product from skunk central it’d have to be better than one of Hunter Biden’s paintings.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Test Pattern

Apologies for the un-content. All OK; just been busy. I'm given to understand Ambien can be a good short-term substitute in my absence.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

But You Can Judge the Cover...

About a week ago I remarked upon the review of an interesting book about the development of book indices. I was dismayed that our cousins across the pond could already enjoy this journey while we would have to wait until February. The British edition was already on sale from Amazon's UK site and could be ordered, so I decided to experiment and do so. After all, the internet has taught us that we are entitled to whatever we want immediately, and I am nothing if not a dutiful student.

It's very likely to be a non-repeated event. The cost of the book itself wasn't much more than the planned US edition but those Limey so-and-sos insisted that someone be paid to ship the book to me. My Amazon Prime talisman was no match for their nefarious claims of distance, oceans and whatnot and so the eventual price wound up weighing much more. At least I think it was a matter of weight, since all of the numbers they used referred to pounds. But the conversion tables may be off, because this book weighs nowhere near the 27 pounds Amazon's UK site labeled it as.

In any event, it arrived in less than a week -- O modern world that has such shipping in it -- and I noticed how different the UK edition cover -- on the left -- was than what is shown as the US cover -- on the right. UK publisher Allen Lane created their cover with some oldish-looking type over a detail from a 1480 German woodcut titled, "Learning to Read." US publisher W. W. Norton & Company provides a dust jacket that is simultaneously boring and ugly. It resembles a design software tutorial in how to color type complete with the click buttons for each color in the corner, overlaid on a background left over from the creation of reflective highway signs.

I read a blasphemous internet article once that suggested when one considered one's books solely for decorating purposes (therein the blasphemy), they actually looked better without their dust jackets than with them. W. W. Norton & Company earns no applause for creating this example of when that writer was very likely correct.

Monday, September 13, 2021

If You Want to Defeat Your Enemy Sing His Song

The above title is taken from the 1987 Icicle Works album and it came to mind when I read this entry at Ted Gioia's Substack that talks about the connection between music and the way it may have motivated and fueled human rights movements. Since it's one of his free articles I'll just suggest that you read it if you're interested in learning more of the possible connections.

Substack, like most internet platforms, has its ups and downs. I've sampled more than a few that would weigh against it if it were required to justify its existence. But so far the extensive output from Gioia is tugging the marker in the good direction.

Sunday, September 12, 2021


The Women's Final at the US Open Tennis championships was held yesterday, which was a busy day of local sports, so I didn't get to watch any video until today. The two young ladies playing -- Emma Raducanu of Great Britain and Leylah Fernandez of Canada -- put on a top match. Raducanu was the faveorite, having not lost a set all tournament, but Fernandez did not go away quietly. They've faced each other before in junior matches at a number of tournaments.

They were gracious towards each other -- they're both likeable and probably like each other -- and grateful to the New York tennis fans. Raducanu noted the presence of Virginia Wade, the last Englishwoman to win a tennis major (Wimbledon '77 -- quite possibly before Emma's parents were born). Fernandez was equally gracious and grateful for the fans, taking note of the day she was playing, Sept. 11, and lauding her hosts' resilience.

Raducanu cracked up when the PA system borrowed the Boston tradition recently adopted by English soccer fans of singing along to Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline." Fernandez, seen over Raducanu's shoulder during her winner's interview, smiled and nodded in a "You bet we will" manner when the victor mentioned the possibility of more meetings between the two.

Sports that's an entertaining diversion between two fierce competitors each offering honor to her opponent and understanding gratitude towards the audience. What a splendid idea.

Thursday, September 9, 2021


“If these governors won’t help us beat the pandemic, I will use my powers as president to get them out of the way,” Biden said.

You twerp, you were practically alive when they wrote the Constitution and you ought to be able to find at least one of the neurons that was around back then to remember YOU CAN'T DO THAT.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Idea, Strangely Intriguing

At first I thought an entire article on the topic of the history of book indexes a very unusual one, which wouldn't really hold much interest. But writing in Prospect, Michael Delgado not only corrects my mistaken assumption, he points to a book on the subject as he reviews Dennis Duncan's Index, A History of The.

And in reading about Duncan's book I find myself interested enough in the topic of indices that the existence of a whole book on the concept and its history does not seem at all amiss. My only delay in adding it to my reading stack is that it does not seem as though it will be in print in the states until February. You may find my response to that injustice under the heading "Cursing, caused by U.S. publishing dates, later than British."

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Funny Nature

Finalists have been chosen in the 2021 Comedy Wildlife Photo awards, and can be found here.

I have to say, my favorite is the one that looks to me like a kangaroo performing Hamlet. Although the two squirrels that are giving a credible imitation of Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey's leaping scene in Dirty Dancing run a close second.

Friday, September 3, 2021

London’s Clogging

Sherman and the boys are traveling from their nice little lagoon to London for sightseeing. But if you’re traveling with them, I suggest switching itineraries upon arrival.