The Thunder rolls

As I have confessed in this space, I have pretty much stopped watching basketball, due to the feeling that I always jinx the team I want to win.  Well, the Oklahoma City Thunder–from my home state–are so good that they even overcame me.

When they were down two games to the San Antonio Spurs, a team that had won 20 in a row, I thought I might as well watch them, since they were going to lose anyway.  Well, they didn’t.  They won.  I kept watching.  They won again.  Then won again.   Apparently my curse has been lifted because last night they won game 4–even though they were down 18 at one point in the game–winning the Western Conference and going to the NBA Finals.

The Thunder–Oklahoma’s first professional major-league team– is a good example of how a sports team can be good for a community and a whole state, sparking a sense of unity, confidence, and all kinds of civic virtues.

Thunder finish Spurs, advance to Finals –

A week without this blog

Hello.  Test. Test. Is this thing on?  I think so, now.  After a week!

So the hosting company’s server went down, but then they had trouble transferring the files to a new one, and then they gave me an alphabet soup of technical gibberish in an effort to help me understand what was happening.  . . .

Let’s see if this time the blog stays up for more than minutes at a time.  Try to get on several times during the course of the day and if you can, help spread the word that Cranach is back.

I do appreciate the numerous expressions of concern that I received from many of you.  Some suspected something sinister, that we were being blocked or hacked.  (As someone observed, that post about Islam and Mormonism surely offended both Democrats and Republicans!)  I’m pretty sure, though, that the only sinister force at work is with my hosting company.

I’ve put up a couple of posts, below, that I tried in vain to post all last week.  I don’t think they are too dated.  But we’ll get caught up.

I just hope you didn’t break your habit with this blog.  I hope I didn’t break my habit with this blog.  It was kind of nice not doing it.  I read.  Watched TV.  Went to bed early.  Went to a movie to see “The Avengers.”  But I realize that I need it.  It made surfing the web frustrating when I found something that I couldn’t tell you guys about.

Levon Helm

Levon Helm, the lead singer and drummer of the group so iconic that they just went by the name “The Band,” has died.  They were first known as Bob Dylan’s backup band, but they went off on their own and virtually invented the genre of Americana.  Their Music from Big Pink was one of my favorite albums back in the day.

Here is a fine tribute from an excellent website (the home of, shall we say, Lutheran Anglicans):  Catch a Cannonball (to Take Me on Down the Line): In Memory of Levon Helm | Mockingbird.

And here is Levon Helms singing a cut from Big Pink from 1969:

Colson and me

Chuck Colson has died.  The ruthless political operative for Richard Nixon was imprisoned for Watergate-related offenses.  Crushed by the law, literally, he read C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity and became a Christian.  When he got out of prison, Colson started Prison Fellowship, a ministry to prisoners and their families that has chapters worldwide and that has changed the lives of untold numbers of men and women that society–and the church–had usually rejected.

I myself owe Colson quite a bit, not as I was a prisoner but as a writer.  Colson got interested in “Christian worldview” issues and started a radio program, Breakpoint, that looked at current events and cultural developments through the lens of a Christian analysis.  I had done some writing on Christianity and the arts, and for some reason Breakpoint producer Nancy Pearcey asked me if I would join the stable of writers she was putting together.  That was in 1991, pretty early in my career.   This got me paying attention to the news and keeping up with contemporary culture, whereupon, if I could find an angle, I would write up a brief commentary that Nancy would turn into a radio script.   (By the way, Breakpoint is now in good hands with Eric Metaxis doing the broadcasting.)  This would lead to my doing the same thing as a columnist for World.  And then as a blogger for World.  And then to this blog.   This work also led to longer form studies of Christianity and culture that I published into books.

As one of his writers, I was sometimes invited to meet with Colson, along with  others  in his brain trust to help him think through various issues, and sometimes he would call me over the phone.

So, for better or worse, if it weren’t for Colson, I would probably have just stuck as an English professor to writing about 17th century poetry and never would have gotten into cultural analysis, let alone punditry.   And this blog would almost certainly not exist.  So your reading this post at this very moment is something of a tribute to Chuck Colson.


See Charles Colson, Watergate felon and prison reformer, dies at 80 – Obituaries –

The Art of Words

This is a topic that Lori Lewis asked me to address at her webzine Everyday Opera, trying to help people appreciate all the different literary styles:

“I can’t stand all of those flowery descriptions in classic literature. Why don’t the authors just get to the action?” “I don’t like opera with all of that over-the-top emotion.” “Those old writers are just not realistic!” Those are common complaints, but they deserve an answer.

First of all, literature is an art form that consists of language. Whereas a painter uses daubs of paint, an author uses daubs of words. Whereas a musical composer works with individual musical notes, working them together into complex harmonies, rhythms, and melodies, an author creates the effects of a novel or a poem with individual words.

This is to say, an author can’t just “get to the action” because a story is not just a matter of action. It’s words. Plays, including the dramatic production that is a movie, do consist of action. But even a visualized story generally depends on the language of dialogue, which actors use to create their characters. Purists who want only action might restrict themselves to silent movies. But even silent movies—as with all dramatic scripts—have to be written.

Words are multi-dimensional and can create an infinite number of effects–including the illusion that the words are doing nothing. Those who are impatient with “style” often don’t realize that “realism” is also a style.

continue reading.

Tornado hits my old stomping ground

I was born in Alva, Oklahoma.  I have memories of going to Woodward, the biggest town within an hour’s drive, to go to the movies.  I had to have been younger than five.  Anyway, Woodward was hit by a tornado early yesterday morning, killing five people.

This video is especially eerie.  It’s dark, but when the lightning flashes you get just a glimpse of this massively wide funnel.