Building Community

The outcome of the 2020 election is still up in the air, but whether we’re enduring President Biden (and then—Heaven help us—President Harris) in a couple of months or still partying under President Trump‘s second term, it’s important for conservatives and traditionalists to consider what comes nextAnother four years of Trump would be an extension of our current reprieve from progressives dominating the executive, but there’s no guarantees that a Republican will hold the White House after 2024.

As such, we need to begin planning and preparing for the worst immediately.  Indeed, many Americans have already done so, and I’ve spoken with many conservatives who believe the worst is yet to come.

Aside from stockpiling and gardening—and generally moving towards greater degrees of self-sufficiency—one important aspect to consider is community building.  By that I do not mean the kind of Leftist, Obama Era pabulum in which we’re all “community organizers” mobilizing nihilistic welfare queens into a low-information progressive voting bloc.  Rather, I mean genuine community building—the formation of those multitudinous, invisible bonds that bind a people together.

Doing so may very well be the most important step Christians, conservatives, and traditionalists can take to survive for the long-term.

Read More »

Red-Pilled Bible Study

Last night I attended a men’s monthly Bible study at a church in Lamar.  My neighbors had been inviting me for a couple of months, but when that mythical third Monday would roll around, I’d always have some outstanding obligation (mainly rehearsal for the Spooktacular).  Since I’m running for Town Council again in January, I figured it would be good to feed my soul and my political ambitions simultaneously (they also brought sub sandwiches, so I was pretty well-fed holistically by the time I left).

The evening was spiritually, culturally, and politically encouraging.  These men were fired up for Jesus, our country, and Trump, in that order.  After everybody caught up a bit and after some introductions (I was the new guy at the meeting), the conversation gradually turned to politics, starting (I believe) with the necessity for a border wall, and Biden’s hare-brained pledge to tear it down.

From there, it was a free-ranging discussion, including vigorous airings of grievances; laments for the state of our nation; pledges to resist excessive government mandates; and repeated admonitions to trust in God.  Our Scripture reading was Psalm 138.  The Psalm is a reminder that God is in control, and will support us in our hour of need.  Here’s verse 7, from the New King James Version:

7Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me;
You will stretch out Your hand
Against the wrath of my enemies,
And Your right hand will save me.

Read More »

The Joy of Hymnals II: The Cokesbury Worship Hymnal

This week I’ve been teaching and learning a great deal about George Frideric Handel, the great German composer who became, over his long life, a great British one.  In discussing Handel and other Baroque composers with my students, we also veered into the world of hymns.

Hymns were and are important in Protestant congregations as simple, memorable tunes with theologically rich texts.  Hymn melodies are often based on folk tunes or popular compositions.  In some cases, such as the lovely Christmas carolSilent Night,” the text is written first, then set to music (indeed, most hymns, being based on Scripture, evolved this way).  Sometimes the tune is written, then an enterprising poet sets the text.  Such was the case with Isaac Watts, who set his text for “Joy to the World” to a Handel melody.  And, of course, there are hymns written and composed by the same person.

In talking about hymns, I brought to my students a slender little hymnal in my small collection of them, The Cokesbury Worship Hymnal.  From what I can gather, my copy was published in or after 1966, when the copyright from 1938 was renewed.  There is a stamp on the inside front cover stating that the hymn book once belonged to Carteret Street Methodist Church, which I thought was in Charleston, but appears to be in Beaufort, South Carolina.  The hymnal includes 296 hymns, with fifty responsive readings—a good collection, but slim by the standards of a pewback hymnal.

Read More »

Monday Morning Movie Review: Interview with the Vampire (1994)

It’s Halloween Week, and—appropriately and chillingly enough—today’s post marks my 666th consecutive post.  Yikes!  What better way to observe this unfortunately demonic milestone than with a review of 1994’s Interview with the Vampire?

The film itself is a frame story, with Cajun vampire Louis de Pointe du Lac (Brad Pitt) sharing his “life” story with a reporter (Christian Slater).  Louis had intended on feeding on the reporter, but decides instead to grant him the interview of a lifetime—the titular interview with a vampire.

Louis’s story begins in colonial Louisiana, when it was a Spanish colony (the territory traded hands between French and Spanish rule).  Louis’s wife and child died, sending Louis into a self-destructive spiral of risky behavior—drunken brawls, prostitutes, the works.  All he wants is death.

Into this mix comes Lestat (Tom Cruise), a flamboyant, nihilistic, haughty, obsessive vampire.  Lestat “turns” Louis, inducting him into the world of the living dead.  Louis immediately recoils at the implications of this new “life,” particularly the feeding upon humans for sustenance.

He instead attempts to live on the blood of rats and other animals, but his slaves grow suspicious when their master stops eating, and cattle and other creatures end up dead.  Lestat does not share Louis’s sense of restraint and humanity—indeed, Lestat is fascinated by Louis’s dogged persistence in maintaining what humanity he has left—and instead views humans as mere cattle.  Louis finally breaks, feeding upon his loyal house slave, Yvette, and then encourages his slaves to destroy his mansion as he flees into the night.

Lestat, naturally, is enraged at the loss of their home and their wealth, but the two find new accommodations in New Orleans.  A plague is sweeping through the city, and a distraught Louis stumbles upon a young girl trying to awaken her mother, who has died from the plague.  In a fit of hunger and shame, Louis feeds upon the child, and leaves her for dead.

Upon returning to their shared flat, Louis is horrified to find Lestat with the young girl.  Lestat feeds the young girl some of his blood, thus turning her into a five-year old vampire.

Claudia (Kirsten Dunst) becomes a voracious, childlike pupil of Lestat, and something like a daughter to both Lestat and Louis.  They dress her in finery, give her piano lessons (she feeds upon her teacher at one point, horrifyingly and humorously), and generally dote over her.  But as time marches on, Claudia’s mind develops, though her body is perpetually trapped at five-years old.

That perpetual childish body drives Claudia increasingly mad, as she yearns to be grow and develop into a woman.  She grows to despise Lestat, who dresses her “like a doll,” and draws closer to Louis.  Eventually, Claudia and Louis escape Lestat’s obsessive, controlling nature, and flee to Europe, where they encounter other vampires in Paris—with fatal consequences.

I won’t reveal any more of the plot there, but the film does an incredible job of creating investment in and sympathy for these characters.  Louis never fully embraces the vampiric life, and yearns for his lost humanity—and mortality.  Lestat is flamboyant—he reminded me a great deal of Milo—and wicked, even by vampire standards.

But the most interesting and tragic figure is Claudia, capably played by a very young Kirsten Dunst.  Claudia is “saved” from death, but is thereby denied any chance at a real life.  Her very existence is a travesty, and is considered by the European vampires to be taboo and dangerous.  Claudia’s own mental deterioration and rage clearly illustrate why.

Vampires are interesting and terrifying figures in folklore, and they are inherently demonic:  they represent a horrible inversion of Christ.  Christ died for our sins and shed His Blood for our salvation.  When we accept Christ, we are covered in His Blood, and our sins are washed away.  There is redemption and new life—eternal life—in Christ’s Sacrifice.

But vampires offer a perverted undead—an “un-life”—through their blood.  It is a form of immortality, but one that is entirely tied to this world, and completely separated from God.  Thus, the vampire is an eternal nihilist.  The implicit bargain of the vampire is a Devil’s Bargain:  enjoy as much of the world as you want, but you can never truly leave it.  The vampire is also damned—a common theme in vampire movies and books—and can only hope for Hell, or walking the Earth for all eternity, like Cain (who is often considered the father of vampires).

As for the film itself, I highly recommend it.  Anne Rice’s books about vampires quite good, too, and the film does justice to the source material.  It’s also fun seeing a pale Tom Cruise running around in flouncy eighteenth-century garb.

Tip The Portly Politico

Support quality commentary on politics, education, culture, and the arts with your one-time donation.

1.00 $

TBT: Climate Hysteria Robs Us of Joy

In casting about for a good TBT this week, I stumbled upon this post—which really should have ended up in one of my “Forgotten Posts” editions of Lazy Sunday—about the foolishness of climate hysteria, and the arrogance of thinking we can really have a concrete impact on the environment at the macro-level.

Don’t get me wrong:  I enjoy God’s Creation, and I think stewardship of His Creation is incredibly important.  We shouldn’t go around adopting baby sea turtles.  But driving to work everyday isn’t going to affect the environment or the climate in any discernible way.

In fact, it’s funny—climate change doesn’t even seem like a serious issue anymore (who even remembers Greta Thunberg now?).  As soon as the elites went hard for The Virus hysteria, they immediately had us using disposable plastic crap and Styrofoam containers again.  Even the whole message of The Age of The Virus was “Consume”—stay home, eat takeout, watch trash TV.

That puts the lie to the climate change nonsense.  I’ll repeat my admonition from one year ago today:  “Eat, drink, and be merry—and have lots of babies.”

Here is 22 October 2019’s “Climate Hysteria Robs Us of Joy“:

Growing up, I received my fair share of public school climate indoctrination.  My generation cut its teeth on Captain Planet, the eco-propaganda cartoon that, among other things, scolded Americans for using too many resources and having too many babies.  Fast forward to today, and those arguments are mainstream.

In fact, I remember my dad telling me that Captain Planet was Ted Turner‘s ham-fisted attempt at indoctrinating kids—one of the first times I vividly remember learning that the elites were lying to us.  The finger-wagging, puritanical nagging of environmentalists further pushed me away from eco-hysteria.

Still, we were always taught that the oceans were dying, that fresh water was scarce, etc.  Well, thanks to Quora, some easy math shows us that God’s Creation is abundant enough.

Quora user posed the question (to paraphrase):  if everyone drank a glass of water from the ocean (let’s assume it’s been desalinated), how would it affect the sea level?

Geoffrey Widdison’s answer goes through the math:  if everyone—including babies! (around 7.7 billion people)—took a twelve-ounce glass of water from the ocean simultaneously, “the water level would drop by 0.0000000075 meters, or about 7.5 nanometers. That’s about 1/1000 the size of a red blood cell.”  Another contributor, Vilmos Shepard, writes that this scenario “would lower the ocean by less than a wavelength of light.”

As Widdison writes in his response, “within a day or two, we’d all sweat, breathe and urinate that water back out, and it would eventually end up back in the oceans. The water cycle is a hard thing to beat.”  Indeed.

The more I learn about Creation, the more I appreciate that there’s not much we can do to affect or alter the macro-level environment.  We can make tweaks and marginal improvements—such as improving desalination of sea water, transporting water more efficiently, picking up trash, etc.—but it’s foolish to think we alone can break or fix the environment.  Creation is incredibly abundant and robust.

Barring massive nuclear warfare, our everyday actions are not going to destroy the planet.  I’m not saying we should casually throw our old tires into the river—we should be good stewards of Creation—but it’s wasted effort to agonize over our carbon footprint.  If the enviro-cultists and eco-hipsters really cared, they’d live in the country, instead of cramming themselves into energy-guzzling urban hellscapes.

Eat, drink, and be merry—and have lots of babies.  Don’t curtail your enjoyment of the bounty of God’s Creation just because Ted Turner and Greta Thunberg are insane and deluded.  Yes,  yes—dispose of your old electronics and used motor oil properly (we’re trying have a society here), but we shouldn’t lose sleep over eating a steak.

ocean

Tip The Portly Politico

Support quality commentary on politics, education, culture, and the arts with your one-time donation.

1.00 $

TBT: The Joy of Hymnals

It being October, I tend to focus on the spookiness of the season.  I love Halloween, ghost stories, and scary movies, but it’s important not to get too bogged down in the chills.

So as I was going through posts from October 2019, I stumbled upon one of my old favorites:  “The Joy of Hymnals.”  My small church roped me into playing piano for Sunday morning services maybe two years ago, and it quickly rekindled an old love of hymns and hymnals.

Hymnals are my favorite items to find in old second-hand shops and antique stores (the latter of which often selling them at an egregious markup).  It’s fun to see which hymns do—and, more importantly, don’t—show up in any given hymnal.  I particularly like slender volumes, the kind that were meant for carrying from service to service or camp meeting to camp meeting, and which tend to possess hymns from the canon, if such a thing exists, of hymnody.

I even recorded and released a very lo-fi EP, The Lo-Fi Hymnal, which consists of crude recordings of my Sunday morning playing.  That short collection also includes a PDF version of today’s TBT feature.

Here is “The Joy of Hymnals“:

Read More »

Lazy Sunday LXXXIII: Space, Part II

Since the dawn of this blog, space exploration has been a perennial theme.  But it’s been awhile since I’ve featured space-based posts for Lazy Sunday.  The last one was way back with “Lazy Sunday XII: Space,” which I wrote in May 2019.

With that, and after writing “Music Among the Stars,” it seemed like an intergalactically good time to revisit some more recent posts about the vastness of space:

  • Touring the Solar System in Rural Maine” – This blog post is probably one of my favorites of all time.  It’s about the The Maine Solar System Model, a scale model of the Solar System along a 95-mile stretch of Highway 1 in Maine.  Ever since finding out about it, I’ve wanted to drive that route and document it for the blog (and for fun).  A few more SubscribeStar subscribers and I might be able to afford it!
  • Galaxy Quest” & “Galaxy Quest II: Cox Blogged” – These twin posts from November 2019 deal with the sheer vastness of the Universe—of God’s Creation.  The second post links to and quotes from a couple of pieces, “Other” and “Heaven and Space, shared interest,” from my blogger and IRL friend Bette Cox, a prolific writer.  Bette gives a wonderful sense of the overwhelming magnitude of words like infinity and eternity.
  • World Space Weeks Starts Today” – I learned last fall that the first full week in October is World Space Week.  This post explores that week-long celebration, as well Gustav Holst’s “Jupiter” movement from The Planets.
  • Music Among the Stars“- This post is about the golden records aboard Voyager 1, but it’s mostly about singing praises to God, the Creator of the Universe.  It’s apparently a much-beloved post, so check it out!

That’s it for another Lazy Sunday.  Here’s hoping yours is out of this world!

Happy Sunday!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

Donate to The Portly Politico

Support quality commentary on politics, education, culture, and the arts with your one-time donation.

$5.00

Gardening

We’re back into the full swing of things after the glorious three-day weekend.  As I noted in various weekend posts, I spent much of the Labor Day holiday gardening.  My house was starting to look haunted, the weeds were growing so high:

Flower Beds - Before

My girlfriend took the weeding with gusto, while I raked out pine straw and debris.  I also pulled and cut some gargantuan weeds from my woefully neglected grapevines (which are, nevertheless, producing big, fat grapes).  After a couple of hours the beds were much improved:

Flower Beds - During

As with many home improvement projects, there’s the tedious part—in this case, weed-pulling—and then there’s the fun part.  For us, the fun part was going to Home Depot and Lowe’s to find plants to beautify the beds.  Over the course of two days, we found some beautiful options, including some colorful mums.

Read More »

Music Among the Stars

Back in 1977, NASA launched Voyager I, which is some 14 million miles from Earth.  The super nerds behind the mission stowed two golden records on board.  Those golden records included various selections to represent life on Earth, from “Johnny B. Goode” to nature sounds to classical music.

Over the Labor Day weekend a colleague e-mailed me Classical Archivesweekend newsletter, which includes some musings about why humans developed the ability to create—and their interest in—music.  The newsletter features the blog posts “Can E.T. Carry a Tune?” and “Music for Extraterrestrials… Sampling the Music Selected for NASA’s Voyager I.”

The former explores the possible deep origins of humanity’s music-making abilities.  It posits several theories developed from evolutionary biology.  As  a Christian, I find these explanations ultimately wanting, though they each make interesting points (the second proposed theory, for example, suggests “that music arose because it was a social glue that helped our ancestors bond with one another and with a group”).  Music serves many purposes, even if those purposes are not strictly utilitarian (and even then music can serve that function, such as coordinating workers’ movements via work songs).

Chiefly, though, music is intended to praise God.  Like the other arts, music is God’s grant of a small sliver of His Creative potential to His Creation—Tolkien’s “sub-creation” of Middle Earth serving as a prime literary example.  The highest form of musical expression, then, lifts up songs of praise to God.

Read More »