Monday, February 28, 2011

The Miraculous Return of Crowned Princes

“It is also worth noting that the rise of literary scholarship is roughly contemporaneous with the move of the realistic novel to the center of literary experience, and it is not the place of the realistic novel to emphasize invention. The highly inventive writer does not represent everyday reality but rather imagines a new reality, or, to borrow Sidney’s phrase, grows into another nature. Of course, the defender of inventive stories would say that in the deepest and truest sense Spenser or Sidney or Ariosto can hold the mirror up to nature — human nature — as well as Tolstoy or George Eliot. But they do not do so by following the canons of realistic fiction, and so come to be seen, by certain serious-minded critics anyway, as less than fully serious. There’s something undignified and perhaps even irresponsible in cheerfully ignoring probabilities and the furniture of daily life in order to make up stories about winged horses, improbable escapes from the fiercest of prisons, or the miraculous return of crowned princes kidnapped as infants and long thought dead.”

— Alan Jacobs, “The Brightest Heaven of Invention,” in Wayfaring, pp. 57–58

All Well-Bred Persons Were Expected To

“One reason [the term invention disappeared from the vocabulary of literary criticism] involves the development of literary criticism as an academic discipline, something that happened in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Before that, reading and reflecting on literature was something that all well-bred persons were expected to do; it was no more to be taught at university than the habit of drinking port after dinner. Those who sought to bring literary study into the university curriculum needed some justification for their field, needed to show that the study of literature is something far more rigorous and objective than the expression of good taste through the encounter with les belles lettres. It therefore became necessary for literary study to develop quasi-scientific methods of inquiry and to eschew evaluation. The question of whether a poem is good or bad, being a matter of mere taste and not subject to methodological codifying, could safely be left to the poets and book reviewers; scholars had more vital tasks to attend to.”

— Alan Jacobs, “The Brightest Heaven of Invention,” in Wayfaring, p. 57

Monday, February 21, 2011

Best Reason to Own an iPad

From the TUAW post...
The new application contains details on every major league game played from 1952 to 2010. That's more than 115,000 games!
The application uses a combination of a Cover Flow and grid-style interface that makes it easy to browse by team names and by team geographic location. When you are viewing the information on an individual team, you can view each game within a season, plus performance statistics such as batting average and earned run averages for each season as a whole.
These two views only scratch the surface of the statistics that are available within Pennant. Each season can be further broken down into individual games, a view that lets you see the details and player roster for each game. 

The Arduous Work of a Lifetime

Likewise, Wycliffe, for all his faith in the power of boys who drive plows to know their Bibles, makes it clear that Scripture exhibits its clarity only to those who undergo the lengthy intellectual discipline of submitting to its authority: “The faithful whom he calls in meekness and humility of heart, whether they be clergy or laity, male or female, bending the neck of their inner man to the logic and style of Scripture will find in it the power to labour and the wisdom hidden from the proud.” God indeed reveals to the “little children” what is hidden from the “wise and understanding,” but transforming oneself into a little child is the arduous work of a lifetime. Christ’s yoke is easy and his burden light, but we don’t like bending our necks to receive it — and no translation, however it accommodates itself to our language and understanding, can change that.

— Alan Jacobs, “Robert Alter’s Fidelity,” in Wayfaring, pp. 14–15

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


clouds, originally uploaded by wenabell.
Can I say again how much I love my wife? Not just because I think she takes great pictures, but because she is great. I am so thankful for her.

Update: Actually, I just learned that my oldest daughter took this picture. This fact, of course, doesn't change anything of what I wrote above. I do think my wife is both a wonderful photographer and great. I also think my daughter is a wonderful photographer and great.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Buffalo Barbecue Wings

I love buffalo hot wings. I have even developed a taste for Bleu Cheese dressing to go with them; it balances the spicy hot goodness with cool creaminess. Yes.

But, it is a pain to have to go purchase them at restaurants when I have my own perfectly good Weber barbecue. Aren't wings made to be barbecued? Well, yes, I say.

So the quest began earlier this summer for the best buffalo sauce recipe. Google was the starting point. Wow. There are a plethora of recipes out there. How to choose?

Well, start cooking and let the best recipe win. Actually, after trying three different recipes, I concocted my own combination from the others. So, an Abell recipe now exists for buffalo barbecue wings. Below is the process I follow to make them.

First, prepare about 3 pounds of chicken wings, usually 20-25 pieces. If you buy the wings as one piece and not separated for your convenience, cut the wing tips off and split the remainder into the upper wing and lower wing. I am sure there are technical terms for each part of the wing but I don't know what they are. One part looks like a mini-drum stick. It is kind of fun getting them apart, you have to crack the joint using your hands and then cut them. Very barbaric.

Second, toss the raw wings in a large zip-lock bag with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Kosher Salt, Fresh Ground Black Pepper, and Cayenne Pepper. I just eye-ball the amounts, but probably 2 tablespoons of oil and a teaspoon each of the rest. Maybe two teaspoons of the salt. Whatever. Put the well mixed and shaken wings in the fridge.

Third, using a Weber grill, prepare it for a two-zone fire at medium heat. Don't use lighter fluid. Go buy a Weber chimney and light the coals the right way. Your taste buds will thank you. After the charcoal is ash covered, dump the chimney full of coals and push them so that they cover two-thirds of the bottom grate. Put the top grill back on and let the grill sit open for another 10–15 minutes. Scrape the grate clean.

Fourth, place your bare hand about a Coke can height above the fire. If you can hold your hand there for a slow count of six or seven, the fire is ready. Less than six and the fire is still too hot. When the fire is at the right temp, spread the wings out over the coals, being careful not to drip the oil on the coals, which will cause flare ups. If flare ups occur move the affected wings over to the cool side and close the lid. Cook the wings over direct medium heat with the lid closed as much as possible. I never time myself, going a bit by feel here, but cook the wings for a total of about 18–20 minutes. If your fire is too hot it will take less time, so watch that you don’t char your wings. Turn them once about mid-way. When you take them off, they should be a golden brown and meat won’t stick to the bone. Again, keep the lid closed as much as possible.

Fifth, during the 18–20 minutes that the wings are cooking, make the buffalo sauce. Take a stick of real unsalted butter (1/2 cup) and put it in a sauce pan on medium high to melt. Measure out a full cup of Frank’s Louisiana Hot Sauce and whisk it with the melted butter. Buy it at Target rather than Byerly’s for half the price. Then add the following ingredients, whisking them all together...

  • 2 teaspoons cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar (a bit more to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more for more heat)
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon course ground black pepper

Sixth, pull the wings off the grill and put them in a serving bowl. Pour the buffalo sauce over the wings, tossing them to coat.

Seventh, serve them with the best bleu cheese dressing you can find. Enjoy.

Friday, February 11, 2011

One Kingdom or Two?

The last post is a quote from a book I am reading regarding two kingdoms theology, Living in God’s Two Kingdoms, by David VanDrunen. The subtitle is “A Biblical Vision for Christianity and Culture.” That is all well and good, but I am now, shall we say, caught between Charybdis and Scylla. One of my closest friends is staunchly in the two kingdoms camp, and another close friend is just as staunchly in the one kingdom camp.

Yikes. To make matters worse, both of these guys are brilliant. Off the charts brilliant. They are well read, studious, deep thinkers. Needless to say, they are far beyond me; while I am splashing around in the kiddy pool, they are doing triple back flip pikes, or whatever, in the mega deep end. Which makes the whole thing very difficult. They are equally devoted to orthodox Reformed Christianity, they equally love theology, reading, study, teaching, etc. They have both devoted their lives to teaching ministries. Frankly, I would seek out the advice of either or both of these men in a New York minute. Whatever that is. Letterman once said it was the time it took a tourist to get mugged after leaving his hotel, but I digress. See?

So, how do I decide? I am standing in a box canyon, to use another metaphor, walled in on either side by friends who are far more capable theologians and thinkers than I am.

It seems almost silly, then, that the solution is for me to try and read the Scriptures for myself, weigh the evidence, exegete the passages, reason through the arguments, and land on one side or the other.

Maybe I could just do a poll? Should I go with one kingdom or two?

Live As Those Who Belong To It

“Though we still live in this world, with all of its limitations, temptations, and hardships, our true identity even now is as citizens of a heavenly kingdom where Christ sits exalted. We have free access to that world-to-come through prayer and worship, and we should live as those who belong to it. Thus the Christian life should not follow the pattern that the first Adam was supposed to follow. Christians are not to pursue righteous obedience in the world and then, as a consequence, enter the world-to-come. Instead, Christians have been made citizens of the world-to-come by a free gift of grace and now, as a consequence, are to live righteous and obedient lives in this world. Christians do not pick up and continue the task of Adam. Thanks to the finished work of Christ, Christians should view their cultural activities in a radically different way from the way the the first Adam viewed his. We pursue cultural activities in response to the fact that the new creation has already been achieved, not in order to contribute to its achievement.”

—David VanDrunen, Living in God's Two Kingdoms, p. 56

This Explains A Lot (About Me)

more than 95 theses:
James Wellman’s fascinating Evangelical vs. Liberal: The Clash of Christian Cultures in the Pacific Northwest compares and contrasts evangelical and liberal Protestant (or mainline) churches along the Washington and Oregon coasts. Wellman’s study was driven in part by his interest in religion in the Pacific Northwest, a region that boasts the lowest per-capita church affiliation in the nation, with 63 percent of the population not affiliating with any religious institution. Furthermore, this is a region that is predominately urban, very educated, maintains a median income level above the national average, and has in recent years voted overwhelmingly Democratic. Overall, Wellman describes the region as “best delineated by a pragmatic approach that generally distrusts government, lionizes the entrepreneur, nurtures a libertarian and individualistic set of values, and seeks the preservation of the region’s resources and beauty.” All of these factors, Wellman believes, should guarantee the success of liberal Protestant churches. But they have not.
Read the whole post.

Read the article.

Engineering or Humanities?

I have a lot of thoughts about this post and, if I were a good blogger, would write them down. But, I am not a good blogger, so I will only quote a paragraph or two and say that, with regard to engineering and humanities, Wilson is spot on.
Here is the problem in a nutshell. When it comes to higher education, what do we do with our best and brightest? Overwhelmingly, Christian parents of high-achieving kids seek out some kind of technocratic program of study. They seek out the sciences and engineering. This is in part because Americans in general are pragmatic space shuttle builders, but there is an additional attraction here for Christians. What might it be?
We have to begin by comparing contemporary engineering to the contemporary humanities. Christians love the truth, and when you undertake a course of study in engineering, most of what you learn is true. The bridges have to stand, and the airplanes have to fly. The software needs to run. In most liberal arts programs, most of what you learn is false, with some of it being false and stupid. So there’s that.
In the old days, when the study of the liberal arts was Christian, there was a fixed standard that enabled you to navigate them. There is no problem with reading and studying error so long as you have a means of identifying it. You are an intelligent Christian participant in what Adler called the great conversation. The fact that the conversation extended over centuries does not mean that it turns out we are all saying the same thing. You need to know what Plato said in order to take issue. But when you are immersed in this world and all the standards of measurement look like a slide rule in a Salvador Dali painting, the only possible result is a nihilistic relativism.
 Read the whole thing.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Like, Two Months Ago

Snarky JackFM radio spot overheard while driving to a meeting today...
“You can now download the app for your Android phone. Wow. Because you could download the app on an iPhone or iPad, like, two months ago.”

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Lost Opportunity

This is simply a re-post from Alan Jacobs, but it ties nicely with the reality of our opportunities growing thin as time marches on...
“Such wistful desire to evade responsibility exposes the childishness of the adults now preaching the good news of emerging adulthood. They have decided that taking responsibility for other people — spouses, children, employees and subordinates, neighbors, friends, eventually even parents — and relying on them in turn is the heaviest burden that can befall a person. But what if this is instead the means to happiness? Advocates of emerging adulthood share in common with children a proclivity to see the future as nearly infinite and themselves as, for all practical purposes, immortal. In their view of themselves and their world, it is never too late and there is never any rush. But a few-year increase in the average life expectancy has bought us much less time than they think, and it has done nothing to mitigate our potential to make irreversible errors and experience gnawing regret. The indefinite extension of childhood doesn’t even approximate the immortality required to free us from these miseries. In the meantime, putting off all responsibilities and commitments as long as possible to avoid hard realities may only result in missing the opportunity to make these decisions at all.”
The New Atlantis » Slacking as Self-Discovery
Read more than 95 theses

Crawling Around the Cathedral Floor

“I am convinced that poets are toddlers in a cathedral, slobbering on wooden blocks and piling them up in the light of the stained glass. We can hardly make anything beautiful that wasn’t beautiful in the first place. We aren’t writers, but gleeful rearrangers of words whose meanings we can’t begin to know. When we manage to make something pretty, it’s only so because we are ourselves a flourish on a greater canvas. That means there’s no end to the discovery. We may crawl around the cathedral floor for ages before we grow up enough to reach the doorknob and walk outside into a garden of delights. Beyond that, the city, then the rolling hills, then the sea. And when the world of every cell has been limned and painted and sung, we lie back on the grass, satisfied that our work is done. Then, of course, the sun sets and we see above us the dark dome of glittering stars.”

—Andrew Peterson, read his whole post here.