Saturday salmagundi

Saturday salmagundi October 20, 2012

Donald Miller completely misses the opportunity that “terror of the blank page” presents for any would-be writer.

He writes:

When it’s time to write, my mind quickly finds a reason not to sit down and face the terror of the blank page.

Normally, these distractions come in the form of odds and ends I convince myself must be taken care of before I sit down to do my work. These odds and ends are usually mundane and hardly more important than the work.

… A good book can be written in the same house as an unmade bed. Or a checkbook out of order. …

Sure, Miller’s advice is smart for anyone who wants to get some writing done. But he’s ignoring the tremendous benefits that can come from avoiding that. Channel that. Harness it. You’ll get the bed made, the checkbook balanced, the laundry folded, and all those other chores taken care of.

The alternative is having your house look like John Scalzi’s “Late Stage Book-Writing Office.” Sure, his book is almost finished, but just look at that mess.

* * * * * * * * *

John Fea: “There are no villains in history.  While people have been created with freedom, and are thus capable of performing villainous or sinful acts, even the most despicable human subject bears the image of God and thus has inherent value in [God’s] eyes.”

Krister Stendahl: “Nobody can come to grips with the drama of history unless he recognizes that most of the evil in this world is done by people who do it for good purposes. Evil is not that popular. If one gathered together a lot of people and said, ‘Let us be evil together,’ it would not go over very well.”

* * * * * * * * *

Libby Anne is blogging her way through a book called Created To Be His Help Meet, by patriarchalist “parenting expert” Debi Pearl. It’s the sort of thing that makes me rethink the title of The World’s Worst Books.

* * * * * * * * *

JBen has reached the 12th chapter of Judges in his blog through The Whole Dang Thing, so I’ll take that as an excuse to repost my condensed version of that story (originally a footnote here):

“Art thou an Ephraimite?”

“Um, uh … No?”

“Prove it. Say ‘shibboleth.’”


Aha! Die Ephraimite!”

“Oh sit.”

* * * * * * * * *

Knock, breathe, shine and seek to mend.”

I don’t know if you know the term “Copyleft.” But the Free Mending Library is not copyrighted, it’s copyleft. Anyone can start their mending library, anywhere. There have been lots of mending libraries before me and I hope there’ll be lots after me.

* * * * * * * * *

Sound advice from Eugene Cho:

Yes, it’s not too early to tell people:

Please don’t dress up in a blackface, yellowface, brownface, or any other costumers that stereotype, denigrate, or mock another culture.

Don’t caricature another real culture. Why? Because we’re a culture and not a costume.

Sadly, somebody who ought to know better won’t heed that advice this year. Again.

* * * * * * * * *

Eugene @ A Life in Juxtaposition reminds Mark Driscoll of Rule No. 1:

Don’t be an asshole. Especially don’t be an asshole to Esther. She deserves better.

* * * * * * * * *

Moses’s blog” is not about the biblical patriarch, but this Moses was named after him, because the orphaned baby elephant was “discovered in reeds by a riverbank.” He’s 7 months old, weighs 220 pounds, and … oh just go and look, Jess Zimmerman has photos. (See also: “Elephant mother reunited with calf.”)

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  • The mending library one is wonderful! I hope lots of people with the correct skills take up the idea.

    Another wonderful thing is this :-)

  • I would suggest that “World’s Worst Books” have subcategories because it is difficult to compare the basic crapness of fiction vs. non-fiction vs. self-help, and that there are so many crap books/authors out there.

    World’s Worst Books: Fiction – Left Behind, entire series.
    World’s Worst Books:  Non-Fiction – David Barton, entire body of work.
    World’s Worst Books:  Self-Help – The Pearls, To Raise Up a Child.

    I differ with you on the self-help category simply because telling a woman to submit to her husband in all things is marginally less evil that straight up saying beat your kids. 

  • D9000

    A help meet for what? (Yes, I know, it just really annoys me that damned illiterate KJV cultists think that ‘help meet’ is a thing).

    Oh, and Marc … the Pearls’ book is even worse than that. It’s ‘To Train Up a Child’. Ugh.

  • Lunch Meat

    Driscoll’s description on Esther is just…weird.

    Beautiful, she allows men to tend to her needs and make her decisions.

    Isn’t that what you want? Isn’t that what you think women are for? Being beautiful and letting men provide and decide for them?

    And his heading above this paragraph is “Esther is painfully normal.” Really? You think all women are like that? You think the average woman just focuses on her makeup so she can land a rich guy? And you aren’t even impressed by her willingness to defy the king in order to save her people? You don’t think that’s noteworthy, or heroic?

    Seriously, I knew this guy was misogynist, but this is just mind-bogglingly confusing. How does his mind work?

    Feminists have tried to cast Esther’s life as a tragic tale of male domination and female liberation. Many evangelicals have ignored her sexual sin and godless behavior to make her into a Daniel-like figure, which is inaccurate. Some have even tried to tie her story in with modern-day, sex-slave trafficking as she was brought before the powerful king as part of his harem. What’s the truth? We will see, as I’m still studying and praying.


  • Mark Driscoll being a dickhead shouldn’t surprise me any more, but even for him it seems at least a little bit weird to blame Esther for 

    1) as a member of an oppressed minority in a large empire, obeying the decrees of the emperor.

    2) doing the opposite of the thing Mark Driscoll condemns Vashti for doing.

    3) doing what her cousin / guardian tells her to do.

    Guy combines everything I hate about Calvinism with everything I hate about bro culture.

  • I must have subconsciously edited that title. Thanks. I’ll credit the correction.

  • Trixie_Belden

    Isn’t that what you want? Isn’t that what you think women are for? Being beautiful and letting men provide and decide for them?

    It’s mind -boggling, isn’t  it?  I distinctly remember that when Mark Driscoll was first brought to my attention he was doing a lot of lecturing and hectoring to women about how men are visually oriented and how wrong it was for a woman to let herself go and not work at being attractive after a woman is married, etc., etc., (I’m pretty sure I recall he even tells women they should try harder to get to the gym or fitness classes more often).  And I am certain that I read an article by him where he complains because his wife had once cut her long hair to make it easier to care for.

    It’s the old “knock their teeth out, then slap them for mumbling” trick  

  •  That really sums it up don’t it?  He’s a douchebag dudebro who’s obnoxiousness just happens to extend to theology… and unfortunately people listen to him. (x.x)

    In fact that I think, is the thing that bugs me most about Mark Driscoll – that people listen to him like he has something worth saying.  He doesn’t.  There is nothing Mark Driscoll is saying that is:

    Unique – Misogyny is sadly commonplace in our society.

    New – It’s also as old as dirt.

    Insightful – Except insofar as providing insight into his own fetid psyche perhaps.

    Worthwhile – Not a single one of his ideas would, if implemented, make the world a better place for anyone except Mark Driscoll.

    That I know who Mark Drsicoll is at all is a problem, imo.

  • World’s Worst Books:  Non-Fiction – David Barton, entire body of work.

    Umm, another correction for you, here….

  • AnonymousSam

    Oof, writing. After months of being completely cut off from my muse (I seriously have been utterly unable to synthesize any new creative idea), I’m finally back to writing. Blank pages are a terror.

  • AnonymousSam

    Oof, writing. After months of being completely cut off from my muse (I seriously have been utterly unable to synthesize any new creative idea), I’m finally back to writing. Blank pages are a terror.

  • Jenny Islander

    I think what really chaps his rear, although he can’t say it because even somebody as arrogantly un-self-aware as Driscoll knows there are things that can’t be said if one wants to sell more books, is that Esther saves the day.  Esther does it.  Not Mordecai.  Not some big dude with a sword. 

    Also there’s the possibility that the Emperor is exactly what Driscoll and his ilk would love to be, minus the socially unacceptable publicly acknowledged multiple sexual liaisons.  Women on every side, all awaiting a crumb of attention, and nobody to tell them that they’re mortal.

  • Jessica_R

    It’s especially cruel as Esther is a story about making the best out of bad circumstances, and how the littlest or the seemingly weakest can be the strongest of all. It speaks volumes that you would need to piss all over that. 

    I have the strong feeling that Driscoll as a teen was flipping through Sports Illustrated and got an erection, and has not forgiven himself since. I’m not saying he’s gay, I don’t think he is, just his paranoid, desperate grasping at a masculinity 80s action movies would find ridiculous comes from a place of deep insecurity. 

  • I have a feeling that Driscoll thinks sex is worse than death and therefore Esther choosing not to get executed in that situation was a sin.

    That or he’s so historically and culturally unaware that he thinks all times were really just  like our times with more dirt and less technology and that ancient peoples thought just like modern peoples so he doesn’t really get her situation. The bit about spending a year in the spa suggests there’s a big chunk of this. Applying modern mindset to archaic stories is something that goes on a lot in RTC land which makes them calling people who try to figure out what it meant at the time modernists ironic.

    Or some combination of the two. Probably some combination of the two.

  • On facing down the blank page.  I could tell stories of exactly that, but what comes to mind is homework.

    I think it was first or second semester ancient Greek and I’d set aside an entire weekend during which I had no obligations to get caught up in it.  I wasn’t going to do anything else until I was caught up in it.  And I tried, really tried.  Did I get caught up in it?  No.  Didn’t touch the stuff, but I got a truly stunning amount of yardwork done.  Perhaps more in that weekend than I had in the past year.

  • For me, the hard thing about the blank page isn’t so much terror… it’s apathy.

    “Starting is haaaaaaaaaaaaaaard.” my brain whines at me.  “I want to play XCOM instead…”  it tells me. 

    Inevitably in order to get started I have to do the same thing I did as a kid when learning to dive:  JUMP THE FRAK IN.

    Sure, I usually end up having to throw out half of the first bits I write, but it’s kind of like sawing a board – the tough part is getting started; once you’ve got a good groove going it gets a lot easier.

    Honestly though, if I had to pick, I prefer writer’s block to an empty page – writer’s block I can always fall back on the old “Then ninjas.  THOUSANDS OF THEM” approach* – and in doing so clear the block.

    An empty page though… the struggle against apathy is a hard one there.


    Same applies to my art really too; which is why it’s Sunday and my current webcomic (which updates Wednesdays) is probably going to be delayed this week, because I’m freaking tired of working on it, and this page** is the first I’ve had to do from scratch in awhile.***

    It’s especially frustrating because unlike most of my other work, I know at least a handful of people are reading it!  Which is terrifying because I know a lot of the art in it is pretty bleh (I mean it’s decent for me; but I suck frankly; not for lack of trying, but yeah, I’m not a good artist, and I hate that.)

    It’s times like this I wish I drank.  (x-x)  I just have to remind myself it’s almost finished… just 2-3 more pages and it’ll all be over.


    *Which is basically to say – write a few pages of non-canonical nonsense to clear out the blockage.  I find if I do that usually whatever’s blocking me is gone by the time i get back to it.

    **Page 13 amusingly enough.

    ***I drew most of the line art last September.  So most of what I’ve been doing until now on this comic has just been coloring/shading/lettering – a fair amount of work itself.

  • Jenora Feuer

    On the blank page:

    I’m the production manager and regular contributor for an APA (Amateur Press Association: sort of a cross between a fanzine and a long-distance writer’s circle, in that you have to actively contribute to remain a member; yes, a few of these still exist).  I’ve long told the story where, with a week to go before the contribution deadline, sitting in front of the computer with pages of story left to write…  I got up and mowed the lawn specifically rather than write.  Late-stage procrastination.

    Amusingly but also very appropriately, the entire reason I joined the APA in question, well before I became co-editor, was that I figured having a hard deadline would actually get me to write rather than just bounce ideas around in my head.

    And with regards to deadlines: Nanowrimo starts in a week and a half…

  • Agh, NaNo. 50,000 words, 30 days. 1666.67 words per day! :O

  • Ugh.  The Terror of the Blank page.  Facing that right now, although its more like the “terror of the voice in my head telling me that it’s all terrible, nothing is working, etc. etc.”

    I think Mark Driscoll reads Esther and thinks “Ah the good old days, when men could just crook a finger and hold American Idol bedroom auditions.  You know it’s in the Bible so it’s gotta be right!

  • Joshua

    You have got to be kidding.

    But, it appears you are not. Could it be any more blatant?

  • EllieMurasaki

    What would they need subtlety for? When Bush’s stealing Florida was challenged in the courts, the Supremes ruled for Bush.

  • That’s why I want the signal boosting. Electoral fraud is a very time-honored strategy in the USA, and it hasn’t gone away just because some antique punch machines in Florida have been junked.

  • Joshua

    As a computer programmer, I think there are some jobs that computers are just not suitable to solve.

    The fact that I could write reasonably secure and very usable voting software is, frankly, not particularly relevant. Everyone, not just programmers, need in principle to be able to understand and audit the voting system. You can’t do that when a computer is involved. It’s just not that hard to count votes, there is no real problem for the computer to solve.

    Unless you want to rig the system, of course. Then computer voting machines are uniquely attractive.

  • Canadians have been hand-counting votes for the better part of a century and I’d say we’ve got it down to a science by now. d(^_^)b

    People like whizz-bang tech, but sometimes low tech just cuts the mustard a lot better.

  •  Normally I love me some gadgetry… but yeah when it comes to votes, the old fashioned method is best imo.