Blog

Chocolate Library

Author’s Note: I first heard of Fortnum and Mason in the BBC version of All Creature’s Great and Small. Their hampers were treasure troves of the sweet, rich, and sumptuous. Back in October, my sister sent me a link to their writing competition. I didn’t win, but I did have a bit of fun assembling my entry. Have a gander!

Meltdown at Carnegie Hall

The stars were out and the stars were in. The hall hummed with conversation of the glamorous and eager, half an ear cocked to their neighbor, the other toward the stage. In the pit of the orchestra, James Doolridge wiped his mouth in dismay.

In his chest beat the tempo which the dervish delighted and the debonair despised, and small wonder! For in his dressing room, midst flowers and adornments from the adoring, a riffled drawer gaped, plundered.

For Doolridge, the strains, the melody, the symphony he guided with motion of hand and rosewood shaft sweetened his ears, but the richness of chocolate, the envelopment of treacle set sweetness upon his lips. The sugar imbibed instilled stanzas as his innards welcomed confection bonanzas. No Mozart was mastered before him, no Beethoven beheld his movement, no Debussy displayed without the lingering languor of chocolate, hastily masticated before returning to rostrum and continuing command. 

And now theft threatened to leave the last portion of the performance to pieces; his muse, plucked from his vanity, not long for the barbarous ministrations of a detractor he did not doubt, would not aid him in tending orchestral efforts.

Even as the hiss passed through backstage, muffled by curtain on the cusp of rising, “Thirty seconds! Places!” and Doolridge ascended his stand, his mind whirled. Was it the clarinetist, the scarlet-maned woman of simpering smile melting to glowering glare when he demanded she arise and move down one chair? Could it have been the concertmaster, bowed but unbroken before Doolridge’s shoe catching his violin case in hasty chocolate chase before the overture began? Or Vincent Van Veers, his assistant anxious for opportunity to co-opt a community and be the youngest conductor at Carnegie in years?

Introspection mingled with introduction, his arms raising in automatic attention, but as bows were set, the horns glinted and raised, James Doolridge was stricken with thought.

To apoplectic memory flew the percussionists sneer, the half-muttered comment loud enough to tickle one Doolridge ear, “’Give a fool two sticks and he calls himself a drummer?’ Check your pocketbook, grant him only one, and behold! A conductor.”

And was that a smirk on the villainous veneer, one curl of the lip over collar of lace? Where smudge of melted chocolate and gold tinted glittering grin, fresh in finkly face?

The orchestra and audience shared a high gasp, as conductor landed on timpani with an indecorous crash. Baton and mallet clashed in irregular rhythm and the guilty soon fought with all desperation within him.

Cast from conduction for conduct unconducive, Doolridge flounced off in fury. He consoled himself with what confections he’d buy, sending the energy into study, into examination, and soon before jury. One might feel sadness at seeing one so musically inclined turn to the tricks and trade of law-as-defined. Fear not, gentle reader, for he is not unhappy, though if he does not curtail his chocolate consumption, one Doolridge Esq. will soon be disbarred.

If You Don’t Write Fanmail, Start

Sir Ian Holm died.

I should have sent him a note saying I liked him as Bilbo in the Lord of the Rings films. And Fifth Element. And one of the audio versions of the Lord of the Rings. And in Day After Tomorrow, admonishing his colleagues to not waste fine scotch delaying the inevitable but instead enjoy it in the face of oblivion.

Dave Madden died. He played a wise-cracking, curmudgeonly, grumpy, sarcastic, Jesus-loving, story-telling janitor in the radio theater Adventures in Odyssey. He wasn’t my favorite character in my childhood, but once I grew up and listened again to the episodes, the humor then clicked for me. And since I’m now a janitor, well, I feel a kinship to the character. I never wrote Dave Madden fan mail.

Continue reading “If You Don’t Write Fanmail, Start”

Don’t Stop Writing Fan Mail

It’s been so long since I’ve let poetry bubble up I’d forgotten what it was like to evoke emotion. To be honest, I don’t know as my words have had such an effect as this before.

Back in the days when I decided to be bold and try new things, I read in the paper about a local kickstarted pizza cart, Pizzeria La Sorrentina, near the car museum. I was (and still am) a foodie and was inspired to write an honest, albeit gushing, review on their Facebook page.

I never did that before. Oh, sure, I’d like a friend’s page about their small business or band, but they were always people I knew in person. With every bite of the pizza, I wanted more and more to meet Daisuke Matsumoto, the Japanese gentleman who studied pizza in Italy to not just learn how to make pizza but to become wonderful at it. I realized he was (and is) excellent at making pizza. His passion pours into every knead and stretch of dough. For me, paying sixteen bucks for what some would consider a “small” pizza is worth every single cent.

Continue reading “Don’t Stop Writing Fan Mail”

The Horse and His Boy

Which is your favorite Chronicles of Narnia book?

Mine is The Horse and His Boy.

I didn’t know why. Growing up, I wanted to be Peter and kill wolves and rule Narnia as High King. I also wanted to be the oldest. And command armies. But even when I finished reading The Last Battle, still struggling to accept it as the completion of the series, my thoughts still trailed to the story of an orphan slave and a talking horse. I found more concepts there with which I identify than the rest of the series.

Continue reading “The Horse and His Boy”

Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music microReview

IMG_20180703_151541296

When we take the words “art,” “music,” “movies,” “radio,” etc. and tack “Christian” before each one, the expectations toward each medium change drastically depending on the reader.

Phil Long once mused to me he wished more Christian music festivals left out the “Christian” in their title. “Why not just call it a ‘music festival?’” Thinking it over, I could see his point. How do we create music to appeal to everyone, not just a specific audience which already knows and believes in the gospel presented? How to explore the medium without being limited by producing what everyone expects to be “Christian?” What of the explorations in song and music of contemporary issues, of non-kosher things the average Christian and Non-Christian experience in day-to-day life? There the hard balance is sought.

Brant Hansen and his producer Sherri Lynn interviewed Gregory Allen Thornbury on their Oddcast awhile back. Thornbury recently wrote Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music? The book is about Larry Norman, one of the pioneers of Christian Rock music. Norman sought the hard balance all his life. Thornbury details Norman’s struggles against the Christian anti-rock music movement, the influence he had on many secular artists, the yearning to produce quality music without turning to bland, everything’s-hunky-dory themes as many Christian songs seem to follow, and so on.

As important as he was, the book also explores his many failings and humanity. He, like many other artists of the 60s and 70s, was not shy about criticizing the government as well as church culture, adding to the friction. Scandals involving his friends and family dragged his reputation down. He argued with his closest allies, resulting in long feuds at times.

Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music? is an important account of a man hoping for change, bringing change, and struggling with fallen human nature in himself and in others. Anyone seeking to create art and spread the gospel thereby could do well to read it.

Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music? Larry Norman and the Perils of Christian Rock was written by Gregory Alan Thornbury, published and printed by Convergent Books in 2018, and it contains 292 pages.

 

A Hobbit, A Wardrobe, and a Great War microReview

Joseph laconte.pngGrowing up like a lot of boys, I liked to play at war with my friends. Limited access to toy guns did little to inhibit our imagination in many games of Nazis vs. Allies or Secret Agents vs. Terrorist. Seeing my first war film in high school didn’t prevent me from drawing isometric battlefields of tanks and artillery during drawing time in fourth grade.

In time, with exposure to films such as The Patriot or Saving Private Ryan, I witnessed more brutal portrayals of war. College and later university brought me to professors and fellow students who decried war, even as the events around September 11th, 2001 transpired and the fallout spread in nationalism and patriotism. Soon as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq dragged on, and articles appeared about lies and scandal surrounding our government’s reasons for engaging in these conflicts, I grew disillusioned.

J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis both fought in one of the most defining wars of history. In the early 1900s, a world, buoyed by staggering technological progress, strode toward conflict. Its confidence could be found in the idea that all these advancements in technological and scientific fields would ensure mankind was not only changing but improving irreversibly toward perfection.

The destruction of this myth in the cataclysm of World War I sent an entire generation of philosophers, writers, artists, etc. into a bleak agnosticism. Small wonder after voices from church pulpits on both sides urged the soldiers on in a holy struggle where God was on their side against the foe.

So what was so different about the experiences of Tolkien and Lewis? Both served and experienced horror and terror and witnessed some of the worst consequences of fallen human nature. Yet, their epics The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia, as well as their other writings, contain strong Christian allegories, faith in the face of great odds, heroism from the average and unexpected individual, etc.

Joseph Laconte explores in brief how their war experiences affected their lives and relationships afterwards as well as their writing. His work is a taste, a summary, and in parts biography. He sets the scenes well and touches upon the relevant history and the social situations of the day with brevity. I first heard of this book on the Brant and Sherri Oddcast.

 A Hobbit, A Wardrobe, and a Great War: How J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis Rediscovered Faith, Friendship, and Heroism in the Cataclysm of 1914-1918 was written by Joseph Loconte, published and printed by Nelson Books in 2015, and it contains 235 pages.

Miracles microReview

IMG_20180328_215232427

I confess I find it hard to believe in modern-day miracles. I suppose it’s because few of them happen to the people I know in real life. Trustworthy people with whom I have a personal relationship are more believable than the ones I read about.

I’m not saying miracles don’t happen, nor that they didn’t happen. The entirety of my faith hinges upon the greatest series of miracles leading to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. These days, I subconsciously take the Jesus-works-in-subtle-ways road. As in, He’ll touch a heart here to send a check there and answer a prayer that way. As in, He’ll use someone’s pre-Christian experiences to minister to others in the best way, redeeming their past for the future He desires. Subtle.

But God isn’t always so subtle in his miracles even now, according to Eric Metaxas. In Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life, he explores the small and great, the old and the new in a variety of works of God which are deemed “miraculous.”

Metaxas writes with the non-believer and the theologian in mind. For those who say, “Life itself is a miracle,” he agrees and touches upon what makes it so. The first half of his book reads like a work by Lee Strobel, more in the vein of The Case for Creator or The Case for Christ. The rebuttals toward “the universe happened by chance” or “Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead” are familiar.

However, these arguments are a necessary foundation. Not only does he establish what a miracle is, but he also discusses what a miracle is supposed to achieve. Metaxas cannot do either without basing it on biblical narrative and analysis of miracles in scripture.

The second half of the book is divided into sections. Each section contains several stories of a type of miracle. The type of miracle is defined in a forward covering each separate section. Anything from miraculous healing to a staunch non-believer turning to Christianity in a conversion miracle to encountering angels obvious and angels disguised. It is a trove of anecdotes very much like those found in a Chicken Soup series book.

Overall, it is a solid exploration which left me with a lot to consider.

Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life was written by Eric Metaxas, published and reprinted by Penguin Books on October 13, 2015 and it contains 352 pages.

 

Blessed Are the Misfits microReview

Blast are the MessfitsGrowing up, my family and I would visit my Nana in Port Angeles. Sunday mornings, we trooped with her to church and I’d be the visitor from out of town in a Sunday School class. On one occasion, the teacher taught about Noah’s ark and how all those who accepted Jesus were basically on Noah’s ark.

Post lesson, one of the nice lady teachers asked me, “Do you feel like you’re on Noah’s ark?”

“No.” I said.

“Well, do you want to pray so you are?” She smiled a kind smile.

“No.” I looked around nervously.

Now, understand this: I was about seven years old. Let me project for you what literal seven-year-old me was thinking at the time.

“Lady, we’re in a class room. In a church. We’re not on a boat, much less Noah’s ark. So, no, I don’t feel like I’m on Noah’s ark. If I pray and ask to be on Noah’s ark, I believe you and I’ll be on Noah’s ark. I don’t like boats. So forget it.” Continue reading “Blessed Are the Misfits microReview”

Escape from Camp 14 microReview

51kyU734ymLEscape from Camp 14: One Man’s Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West is the fascinating, raw story of a man born in captivity. Treated as worthless but for the hard labor he performed, Shin Dong-hyuk grew up in believing he had no worth. His life, his mind, his psychology were all formed into a twisted, feral persona.

It led to him falsely accusing his mother and brother of murder in exchange for more food. Believing Shin knew more than he was letting on, the guards hung him by his hands and feet from the ceiling. Then, they lit a fire beneath him. Demanding he reveal all that he knew, they let out the ropes that held him aloft until his back began to burn from the flames. He tried to shift out of the way. The guards plunged a steel hook into his torso to hold him still.

To this day, he bears the mental and physical scars.

Continue reading “Escape from Camp 14 microReview”

Hand Me Down

Growing up as an only son had its advantages.

Besides the usual exclusive guy time with Dad, I received certain hand-me-downs. I have his first multi-tool. The blade is dull, the pliers slide mechanism worn, and he’s long since purchased the latest model. Memory tweaks whenever I take it out, though. I remember his excitement when he first got it. He was so proud; I think I was ten and appropriately awestruck by the little attachments which folded out and promised a myriad of possibilities.

There are hand-me-downs which I coveted and are never coming to me. One is a red and black checked shirt. Picture the usual lumberjacky-type number you see in cologne commercials and you’ve got it. Many are the times which Dad came in from the shop, wood shavings clinging to the sleeves, waving a new wooden piece of art he’d just created for Mum or one of us with a new tool he unwrapped for Christmas or his birthday. I remember us kids attempting to be helpful and brushing the wood chips off. I remember Mum yelping and saying, “Not on the rug! Brush off in the laundry room!”

The other prospective heirloom was a white sweater with a black, blue, brown, and white geometric pattern banding the torso. One section of the design puts me in mind of the night sky, starless, fireworks exploding over pale mountains. It also reminds me of J.R.R. Tolkein’s artwork in The Father Christmas Letters. My early years in Maine are twenty-six years behind me and yet his sweater is one of my cherished memories from that foggy time. He brought it cross-country and wore it during winter months. I think we found a hole in it once and his face took on a rare, sheepish quality, “Power drill,” he explained.

My sisters and I would get into arguments over who got the iconic clothing. I think my little sister snagged the checked shirt. The sweater disappeared and my mother informed me of its new, unknown residence in a landfill somewhere, so ratty and pitted it had become.

I grumped. My little sister did something more productive and learned to knit. She offered to make me some half gloves since I’d lost mine. “And I can make them look like Dad’s old sweater!”

Wait, what?

She did. By gummy, she did.

The Half Gloves of Sweater Homage
Photo Credit AMEC

There’s a type of knitting called “steganographic knitting” out there where people conceal coded messages within the stitches. Now, you won’t find any codes in the stitches of these gloves, but you can bet whenever I wear them, I will read “Dad” throughout the pattern.