A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Woe for Nineveh

David Warren poses a thought-experiment:

The area and population of the territory the “Caliphate” now controls in Syria and Iraq being currently roughly equal to that controlled by the government of Israel, let us imagine what the “coverage” would be, had the Israelis told all Muslims to run for their lives; had they announced that everything Muslims owned now belonged to the Israeli government; and that any Muslim still found within Israel’s de facto borders after twenty-four hours would be put to the sword. Questions:
  • Do you think this story might make the front page?
  • Do you think the media would seek more information?
  • Do you think the matter might remain news for more than one day?

Now, what sort of coverage did the story actually get when it was muslims acting so to the Christians in Nineheh? "It would seem that for the first time in more than eighteen centuries, there are no Christians in Mosul..."  The Assyrian Church is being harried out of its homeland by the Arab invaders.

Friday, July 18, 2014

A Surprise Visit

The Lehigh Valley Express-Times runs one of those "On This Day in History" things, including 100, 50, and 25 years ago today in the Express and/or the Globe-Times, its ancestral papers.

In today's paper was this:
50 years ago today
1964: Just in from Virginia City: "Dennis Flynn, 15, a patient in Easton Hospital since June 30, is a staunch follower of television's 'Bonanza.' This morning he got a close look at one of the stalwarts of the Ponderosa. Little Joe Cartwright (Michael Landon), youngest of the Ponderosa brothers, strode into the hospital room, sank to one knee beside the bed and told Dennis about big Hoss Cartwright. 'You know how much he weighs?' he said wonderingly. 'Three hundred pounds. And he's six feet four, any way you want to measure him.' There was more talk of the Ponderosa. Then a big brown hand grasped a small white hand. 'Take care of yourself, Dennis,' said Little Joe. The tall tanned visitor then walked to the elevator. Dennis is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Flynn, 518 Folk St. Little Joe was brought to Easton by Ann Brewster, of Hess's department store."
Landon had been making an appearance at Hess' Dept. Store in Allentown, which was in those days the "Macy's" of the Lehigh Valley. The woman who had arranged it knew my mother and mentioned that Dennis was in the hospital with terminal cancer. Landon immediately set out to pay the visit. His picture was taken by the newspaper at Dennis' bedside, but he never so far as I know exploited the visit for publicity. (The article as above and a picture of him kneeling at the bedside ran in a small-town paper that evening. We have a copy of the picture, autographed for Dennis.) Dennis was surprised and delighted by the visit. "Thanks a lot," he said. It was an unaffectedly kind act on Landon's part, and one for which I always afterward had a good opinion of him. He didn't have to do it, and no one would have known if he hadn't.

Bro K obtained a scanned image of the page:

That was fifty years ago today. Dennis would be 64 later this year, but he never reached 16.  He had four more days to live.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Just in Case You Thought It Was Something New

    War always brings with it an increased price of necessary living
commodities. The War of 1812 was no exception to this inflexible consequence.
Sugar reached thirty-five cents a pound, coffee was forty cents, and all classes
of cotton and woolen goods commanded prices as high in proportion. ...

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Life and Times of the Venus Fly-Trap

Co-editors of The Crusader(1964-65)
For this week's literary gem over on the Story Preview page, TOF reaches deep into the receding past and finds clutched in his hot little hands his very first published story: "The Life and Times of the Venus Fly-Trap," which appeared in The Crusader No.1, Fall 1964. That's right, it was TOF's high school literary magazine, in the issue of which he placed not one, but two stories! The fix was in, for he was especially close to one of the two co-editors.  (See right. Note that HS students in those days knew how to dress themselves. We carried brief cases, not back packs. In short, we were going to our "jobs" not to "play.")
"Editors" is too fine a point. The problem was actually to gin up enough material to fill 29 digest-sized pages. It was less a matter of winnowing submissions than it was begging for them. Hence, the two stories in one edition -- just to fill the page count.

The fly-trap story is reproduced in its original splendor. Only an illo has been added to spruce it up.

(The second story in that issue had the unassuming title "Sam" and concerned an individual reincarnated in age after age. Maybe TOF will do that one later.)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

First Way, Some Background

Sr. M. Amelia, IHM
explicator of logical thought,
or else.
Sr. Amelia: And so, class, as we see from Postulate 9 and Axioms 6 and 2, supplements of the same angle are equal. Yes, Billy?
Billy: But, Sister, I don't see how this proves that a point equidistant from the endpoints of a line segment lies on the perpendicular bisector of the line segment!
Sr. Amelia: It doesn't, Billy. That comes later. Now class, let us proceed to showing that the vertical angles of two intersecting lines are equal.
Billy: But, Sister! How will that show that a point equidistant from the endpoints of a line segment lies on the perpendicular bisector of the line segment!
Sr. Amelia: You must have patience, Billy. You can't prove everything all at once, so you must prove something first.
Over on Briggs' place a discussion of the so-called Argument from Motion is being served up piecemeal, literally a paragraph at a time. Thus, by the time the esteemed Statistician to the Stars completes his Herculean labors, the final proof will be obvious, inasmuch as the Second Coming (and/or Heat Death of the Universe) will have taken place and all will see clearly and not as through a glass, darkly.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Dispatches from the Age of Reason

Portions of a true exchange on another form where TOF was amusing himself one day:

Quora Question: Why do people disagree about whether there exists proof of God's existence?

[TOFNote: Notice the question is not whether these proofs are valid or compelling, but only why people disagree about them. However, the Usual Suspects immediately responded with reflex rejection of the conclusion.]

Frank Dauenhauer, literature lover
There can be no disagreement about whether there exists proof of "God's" existence -- because there is none. No proof at all.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Hobby? In the Lobby?

[Although] “the religious right views religion as a fundamental, and indeed essential, part of the human experience, the secular left views it as something more like a hobby.... [For the left, therefore,] “it’s as if a major administrative rule was struck down because it unduly burdened model-train enthusiasts.”
-- Megan McArdle, Bloomberg View blogger
How fitting then that the suit was brought by a place called Hobby Lobby. Were they indeed lobbying for their hobby?  Of course, some viewed the "administrative rule" as one that required people who do not care for model trains to pay for the equipment used by those who do. That is another pair of boots (as the Germans say)!