September means back down to earth

September 1, 2015

Welcome to September, everyone!

If you’ve kept up reading this blog for more than a few years, you know what September means: it’s time for my 12th annual Science Fiction Free September. Back in September 2004, I decided that I spent too much of my reading time with science fiction, so I declared a month-long moratorium on the genre, and instead used the time for something I might not read otherwise: classic literature, nonfiction, maybe just even a bunch of books I had started but never got around to finishing. (This year to date I’ve read three SF novels—about half what I’ve read in nonfiction. As the years go by the SFFS has either outlived or fulfilled its purpose, but I keep it up anyway, just for fun!)

This year, my big September reading project will be themed around the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. My primary objective is to complete a very long book that I have had for a number of years, but never gotten farther in than, perhaps, one-tenth. This book is the blockbuster history of Nazi Germany, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, by CBS war correspondent William L. Shirer. This is a popular history rather than an academic one. Shirer was present in Berlin from the Nazis’ coming to power to the first year of WWII, when he left after he heard that the Gestapo was trumping up espionage charges against him.

I actually started two days ago, since my last book finished up conveniently on Saturday night (Dolores Claiborne, the latest in my read-all-the-way-through-Stephen-King project). By page count, I am now 2% of the way in, and if I can figure out how to HTML-ize a progress bar, I’ll add it to the sidebar.

At ths time I have no secondary objectives, but there’s no shortage of unread books in my collection, so I’m sure I’ll work something out.

Advertisements

The anniversary and the moratorium

September 4, 2014

Welcome to September 4. This is the official 11th anniversary of this blog—though it was actually created in July of 2003, the first post went up in September. This has traditionally also been the date on which I rolled out a new look for the Crusty Curmudgeon, though this is something I’ve done very little of in recent years. Ever since they rolled out Blogger 2.0 some years ago, re-skinning a Blogger blog has meant more than just writing up a new HTML template and style sheet. I already know what I want the next iteration of the CC to look like, and plan on learning the new language. Sometime.

September 4 is one of two times of the year that I tend to reflect on the state of the blog, the other being New Year’s Day. Usually I don’t have much to say in September, either than that my writing hasn’t been as prolific as I hoped, but I expect to get better, and despite my decreased output, I’m not going anywhere just yet. So, by way of my twice-yearly status updates: Unfortunately, my blogging hasn’t been as prolific as I would like (though it has increased recently), I expect to post more in coming weeks, and despite my decreased output, the Crusty Curmudgeon is not dead yet. So there.

Read the rest of this entry »


The deaths of Superman

August 20, 2014

You bruise, but you don’t kill, do you . . . Clark? – Batman, Justice League: War

Everybody knows Superman is the Big Blue Boy Scout. Sure, he and Brainiac might level half of Metropolis while duking it out. In the end, though, he’ll find a way to banish the villain without destroying him. Superman doesn’t kill his enemies, except when he absolutely must, and even then it’s a shocking and traumatic experience. Witness, for example, his reaction to killing Zod in Man of Steel, or even accidentally causing Doctor Light’s death in last year’s “Trinity War” story arc.1

However, it wasn’t always that way. Supes began his career as a bruiser, right from Superman #1 in 1939. In one story in that magazine, he kills a military torturer by flinging him over the horizon, then causes the death of an enemy pilot by wrecking his plane in midair.2 The body count just goes up from there.

Read the rest of this entry »


Clark Kent, badass

August 18, 2014

It can’t be easy being Clark Kent.

It’s very easy being Superman. Everyone knows he is an alien, possesses the powers of flight, super-strength, and super-speed, laughs at bullets, and sees through walls. And he doesn’t wear a mask, so everyone assumes he has nothing to hide. Superman can do whatever amazing things he wants, and no one is surprised.

However, when Superman arrived on Earth, he was not quite ready to reveal himself to the world. He assumed the alias of Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter, so he could walk among its citizens unnoticed. Meanwhile, as an employee of a major metropolitan newspaper, he can observe the citizens of his new planet, know when his aid is needed, and has an excuse to get close to the action.

This occasionally—well, pretty frequently, actually—leaves Superman on the horns of a dilemma, or even a trilemma. Danger strikes, and Clark is faced with three options. One, he can dive into a nearby storeroom or phone booth, transform into Superman, and do what he does so well. However, he risks exposure. In the early 1940s, Superman is still a mystery man by choice. Two, he can remain in the guise of Clark Kent, meek everyman, and do nothing. This preserves his secret, and no one really expects better of Clark. Unfortunately, it’s also out of character for someone who has “sworn to devote his existence on Earth to helping those in need,” if he ignores those in need because it’s inconvenient.

Option three—the one we hear so very often in radio’s Adventures of Superman—is to take action as Clark Kent.

Read the rest of this entry »


Friday in the Wild: May 23, 2014

May 23, 2014

This being Friday, once again it is my pleasure to present the various goodness from the Web that made me laugh, pay attention, agree heartily, or just think.

I don’t agree with Douglas Wilson on the finer points of theology, but I enjoy reading his writing; he uses well-pointed sarcasm as an art medium. He makes a very good point in last Saturday’s post about the whole Michael Sam gay-kiss thing, the revulsion of some at the kiss, and the revulsion of the leftist literati at the revulsion:

As to the charge that I am fighting for Christian privilege, the reply is “you bet I am.” When the Christian faith is privileged, then freedom for everyone becomes a possibility. When Christian privilege is made illegal, and its denunciation mandatory, as it has been in our time, the first thing that happens is that we see the essentially coercive nature of unbelief revealed. Unbelievers have never built a free society and they never will. They have been running this one for just a few minutes now, and they are already driving up and down the streets with their Coercion Trucks, loudspeakers blaring that it is past curfew and we are all supposed to go inside now, place our noses on the specially designated freedom wall, and think grateful thoughts about how much Uplift Congress will be able to generate next session. When we wake up in the morning, we can all have a breakfast of liberty gruel, designed by the first lady’s personal nutritionist and national sadist.

[Read The Gaylag Archipelago]

Read the rest of this entry »


Friday in the wild: May 16, 2014

May 16, 2014

Another Friday means another great opportunity to share all sorts of goodness from the Web and blogosphere. Out there, they do FridayFollow; here, we do Friday in the Wild. This week, three articles caught my attention.

Yesterday, May 15, was the 30th anniversary of the death of my personal favourite Christian apologist, Francis A. Schaeffer. (As I write this, I have two of his books, The God Who Is There and The Church at the End of the 20th Century, on loan from the library.) I first read Schaeffer in my university years; he was the first step toward my trying to adopt a comprehensive Christian worldview. Over the years I’ve adopted a certain number of his frequent catchphrases, including “true truth” and “brute fact.” Ray Ortlund at The Gospel Coalition expressed his gratitude for Schaeffer’s ministry:

All my life I’d been exposed to conventional people using conventional methods, and I don’t mean that in a condescending way. I had the privilege of knowing men of true greatness, like my dad. But Schaeffer was just different. He located the gospel within a total Christian worldview. He talked about modern art and films and books. He spoke with prophetic insight about cultural trends. He worked out fresh ways to articulate old truths, even coining new expressions like “true truth.” He had a beard and long hair and dressed like a European. He had Christian radicalism all over him, called for by those radical times. I found him non-ignorable. To this day, I dislike conventionality, partly because I saw in Francis Schaeffer a man who made an impact not by conforming and fitting in but by standing out as the man God made him to be, the man the world needed him to be.

[Read Gratitude for Francis Schaeffer]

Read the rest of this entry »


Friday in the wild: May 9, 2014

May 9, 2014

Hello! This might be a longer installment than usual, simply because I was unable to post last week, so I have about two weeks of interesting (and now, slightly stale) stuff to pass around. Which is fine with me.

First, an intriguing article from The Art of Manliness, which promotes traditional masculine virtues. It’s intriguing not merely because of the subject matter—though as someone who enjoys the occasional glass of whiskey, of course I enjoyed reading about a shared interest—but because the blog owners are Mormons, who would not normally drink alcohol. It’s a guest post. Obviously there’s plenty of room in the tent for varying views on masculinity! (AoM featured articles on cocktails and pipe smoking as well in the past.)

In spite of its sometimes tumultuous history (see the Whiskey Rebellion), whiskey is a drink that men have enjoyed for centuries. Men like Mark Twain, Winston Churchill (often accompanied with a fine cigar), and Clark Gable imbibed regularly. When one thinks of masculine images, you often conjure up a picture of a man in a tweed coat with a glass of whiskey in his hand by the fire. If you’ve ever wanted to be that man and explore this manly tradition, you’re in luck. While we’ve given you a primer on Scotch whisky, today we’re going to broaden that and talk about whiskey as a whole—especially how to enjoy it!

[Read How to Drink Whiskey]

Read the rest of this entry »