Category Archives: Reviews

#371: The Twenty-Twenty Twenty/Twenty

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #371, on the subject of The Twenty-Twenty Twenty/Twenty.

I believe the correct greeting is Happy New Year, as we enter 2021.  That means it is time for us to look back at everything that we published in 2020.

The big deal is the book, in paperback and Kindle format, Why I Believe, a compilation of evidence on the basis of which intelligent people believe in God and in Jesus Christ.  I’m told the hardcover version is out, joining the paperback and Kindle versions, but haven’t seen it yet.

The year began, appropriately, on January 1st with a look back at the previous year, web log post #325:  The 2019 Recap, doing then what we are doing now, providing a quick look at everything from the previous dozen months.

On the first of the year I also published a song, the first of a dozen continuing from the seven of the previous year:

  1. web log post #326:  The Song “Mountain Mountain”;
  2. web log post #328:  The Song “Still Small Voice”;
  3. web log post #334:  The Song “Convinced”;
  4. web log post #337:  The Song “Selfish Love”;
  5. web log post #340:  The Song “A Man Like Paul”;
  6. web log post #341:  The Song “Joined Together”;
  7. web log post #346:  The Song “If We Don’t Tell Them”;
  8. web log post #349:  The Song “I Can’t Resist Your Love”;
  9. web log post #353:  The Song “I Use to Think”;
  10. web log post #356:  The Song “God Said It Is Good”;
  11. web log post #362:  The Song “My Life to You”; and
  12. web log post #366:  The Song “Sometimes”.

That series continues with another song later today.

On the subject of series, there are several others, including both the Faith in Play and RPG-ology monthly series at the Christian Gamers Guild.  These are both indexed, along with other excellent material from other contributing authors, at 2020 at the Christian Gamers Guild Reviewed, posted yesterday.  Thanks to the editorial staff of the French edition of Places to Go, People to Be, a large collection of the original Game Ideas Unlimited articles, thought to be lost when Gaming Outpost closed, have been recovered and are now appearing slightly repolished in these series.  (Quite a few of them plus other articles have been translated into French for their site.) We also finished posting the rest of the novel Versers Versus Versers, along with updated character sheets in the Multiverser Novel Support Pages, and started on the seventh, Re Verse All, which will continue well into the new year.  There were quite a few behind-the-writings web log posts connected to those, but they are indexed in the novel table of contents pages so we won’t burden this entry with them.

There was also the continuation of another series, reminiscences on the history of Christian contemporary and rock music from the early 1980s, which picked up with:

  1. web log post #329:  CCM Guys at the Beginning, a conglomerate of artists from Randy Matthews and Randy Stonehill through Michael W. Smith;
  2. web log post #332:  The Wish of Scott Wesley Brown;
  3. web log post #335:  Bob Bennett’s First Matters;
  4. web log post #342:  Fireworks Times Five, one of the best rock bands of the era;
  5. web log post #345:  Be Ye Glad, one of the best vocal bands of the era;
  6. web log post #358:  DeGarmo and Key, Not a Country Band, another excellent early rock ensemble.

I should mention for the time travel fans that there is indeed a book in the works, possibly with a sequel, but it’s still in the early stages so that’s on the list for the coming year.  Meanwhile, temporal anomalies were not ignored, as we had several posts and pages.

Among the miscellaneous posts this year is one about the fact that my work appears under several slightly different names–Mark, Mark J., M. Joseph, M. J., and Mark Joseph–and the story behind that is explained in web log post #331:  What’s With the Names?  A musician asked a question on a Facebook group, which I answered in web log post #352:  Why No One Cares About Your Songs.

Giving extra confusion to the year, in February my second grandchild, my first grandson, was born, roughly a decade or so after his half-sister.  That was the beginning of a saga that still is not completely resolved, but it was several months before he came home, in time for Halloween.

My book reading slowed drastically, due largely to the fact that my Kindle was smashed and I’ve been trying to get it repaired, but there are a few book reviews (one of a book on writing) at Goodreads.  Also appearing are two republished book reviews, as web log posts #351:  In re:  Evil Star and #368:  In re:  Cry of the Icemark, recovered from the lost Gaming Outpost archives.

We were quiet on the political front until June, when events related to Black Lives Matter prompted the writing of web log post #344:  Is It O.K. Not to Make a Statement?  Some argued that it was not.  We later explained the mail-in ballot system adopted by our home state in web log post #360:  Voting in 2020 in New Jersey, with a follow-up a couple weeks later in web log post #363:  The 2020 Election in New Jersey.

The year ahead looks promising.  There should be another song posted today, with Faith in Play and RPG-ology articles already queued for publication later this month and well into the year ahead, chapters of the novel Re Verse All with their accompanying behind-the-writings peeks standing by, more CCM history, some time travel movies awaiting my attention, and–well, we’ll have to see what appears.  Meanwhile, this is your opportunity to catch anything you missed or re-read anything you forgot.

I would be remiss if I did not thank those who have supported me through Patreon and, and to invite and encourage others to do so.  The Patreon web log is the first place where all new pages are announced, and the place to go for glimpses of what is to come, and even as little as a dollar a month helps me immensely and gets you that information delivered several times a week.  Thank you.

#368: In re: Cry of the Icemark

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #368, on the subject of In re:  Cry of the Icemark.

This was originally published at Gaming Outpost, preserved by the Wayback Machine, and republished here.

To say that Cry of the Icemark is a book for adolescent girls is not to insult it; I am sure that the author, Stuart Hill, intended this as his audience, and that Scholastic Books published it with their peculiar target market in view.  It still qualifies as a fantasy novel, of sorts, and having taken the time to read it I now offer my thoughts on it.

For me, not a member of the target audience, the book took a somewhat slow start.  The cultures which were borrowed wholesale to supply the backgrounds of the characters were too thinly veiled, and the religions both too recognizably real and too dimensionally shallow.  Despite the fact that the thirteen-year-old heroine battles a powerful werewolf in the first chapter, I felt that everything was predictable.  She loses that battle, incidentally, but the werewolf is apparently impressed by the courage with which she surrenders to face death, and lets her live.

That combination of courage and the willingness to accept that people who are different are still people become the real strengths of Thirrin Freer Strong-in-the-Arm Lindenshield.  As her fourteenth birthday dawns, she has befriended the king of the werewolves and a young warlock in the woods, a boy a year older than her with whom an appropriate amount of sexual tension is built.  The very Norse northern kingdom is threatened by an enemy to the south, a vast empire which takes Rome and infects it with the rationalism of the enlightenment.  This, to my mind, was the strongest element in the story, that Thirrin’s world is filled with spirits and legendary creatures come to life, and the enemy invading her country is certain that all such myths are superstitions to be ignored or explained by some other means.  It thus becomes a battle between those who believe in the supernatural reality around us and those who reject everything that science cannot explain, and we find ourselves rooting for the supernaturalists.

At first, the book seems to be broad-minded in its approach to its religious concepts.  Thirrin and her father are clearly Odinites, followers of a religion that leads them to put their lives on the line for the sakes of their people, to see falling nobly in battle as glorious even if it is defeat.  Her tutor from the south, Maggiore, is rather agnostic about all such things, but not to the point of rejecting them outright.  The boy from the woods, Oskan, son of one of the most revered of the witches (there is some teasing about the never-revealed identity of his father), is a sort of Druidic Wiccan, worshipper of the Goddess and skilled in the craft of the woods, including the language of the werewolves.  When we eventually meet Thirrin’s maternal relatives (her mother died when she was young), they follow a Greek religion focused on matriarchy.  This cooperation of various faiths is interesting enough; however, only Oskan has any real power in the story, and by the end of the book there is a tacit understanding that Oskan’s religion is the one everyone respects, whatever they may say formally.

As Thirrin turns fourteen, the empire to the south invades.  Winter is almost upon the land, and her father Redrought Strong-in-the-Arm Lindenshield, Bear of the North, King of the Icemark, is surprised that the famed and undefeated General Scipio Bellorum is sending a force into his territory so close to the snows–which are delayed, creating the real danger that Bellorum’s forces could crush the resistance at the border and lay seige to the capital before anything else could be done.  Redrought places the safety of his people in the hands of his daughter, adding Wildcat of the North to her titles, and instructs that they flee yet farther north to the cities held by her mother’s kin where her aunt rules as their vassal.  He then leads the bulk of his army against the invaders.  His force is slaughtered to a man, but not before destroying the advance guard of his enemy and holding the border long enough for Thirrin to evacuate the capital.  News and proof of the death of her father reach her eventually, making her Queen of the Icemark, responsible to save her land and her people from the powerful invaders.

Thirrin is as good a fighter as any man in the kingdom, and sometimes an inspired tactician, but her true strength proves to be uniting very divided people.  Her initial encounter with the werewolf is reinforced by a kindness she shows him, and this forges an alliance between the Icemark and its hidden residents.  Thanks to Oskan Witch’s Son she forges alliances with the Oak King and the Holly King who rule the forests of the north, and then she gains the support of her mother’s kin.  This, though, is just the start.  Her courage and character carry her to the realm of the Vampire King and beyond that to the northernmost regions of the world where the Giant Leopards do battle against the Ice Trolls, and are surprised to discover that the two-legged creatures in the southern lands who can speak in their language are more than myth.  Humans and cats return to the capital city just as the roads are opening, and so are able to fortify it against the southern army and make their stand there.

The details of the battle are interesting, laced with magic and medieval combat.  Thirrin and her forces hold their own while awaiting the arrival of reinforcements from their allies; Scipio Bellorum presses his advantages while explaining away anything that does not fit his enlightened view of reality.  Each side takes its losses, but the sense is constantly present that Bellorum’s resources are nearly inexhaustible and he can afford to fight this as a war of attrition.  Everything hangs on whether the vampires, ghosts, and werewolves will arrive before the city falls.  The invader also proves that he is without honor but willing to take advantage of the honor of his enemy, offering to face Thirrin in single combat to decide the outcome, and then fleeing and failing to accept defeat when he has been critically wounded.

There is a degree to which the climactic battle is brilliant, but I saw it coming.  Bellorum recognizes that the moon will be full, providing ample light for battle, and believes that a battle at night will prey upon the superstitions of the primitive barbarians he faces.  Thirrin and her people think nothing of superstitions, only of the realities of the supernatural world around them, and so this does not have the impact Bellorum hopes.  However, I suspect my readers see the flaw in Scipio’s plan and the intended surprise that the author brings at this point, when the battle is fought on the night of the full moon.  Suffice it that by the time she turns fifteen, Thirrin Freer Strong-in-the-Arm Lindenshield, Wildcat of the North, Queen of the Icemark, has routed and eviscerated the greatest army in the world, and established peace in her kingdom.

Overall the book was satisfying, and certainly so when viewed as a children’s book.  It is not so well crafted as the Harry Potter series, and the inconsistencies about the religious beliefs embraced by Thirrin detract from it.  However, it was a pleasant read with some excellent battle accounts, clever ideas in magic, and a delightful core character group that made it worth the time.

#351: In re: Evil Star

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #351, on the subject of In re:  Evil Star.

Regis Pannier and his kind staff over at the French edition of Places to Go, People to Be, who frequently translate my gaming articles for distribution to their audience, recently provided me with a link to a section of what is called the Internet Archive, complete with The Wayback Machine (I knew Mister Peabody had invented something useful) in which a very large number of my Game Ideas Unlimited articles have been preserved in whole, and a few more in part, along with some Blogless Lepolt entries (my old Gaming Outpost web log) and a couple of book reviews.  With encouragement from readers I am going to attempt to republish most of this material.  Most of the Game Ideas Unlimited material will go to the current RPG-ology series at the Christian Gamers Guild, although some of it might come here; one of the web log posts (about Harry Potter has been slated for the Faith in Play series early next year, and probably a few articles and particularly the book reviews will be coming here.

This is the first of those, originally published November 5, 2007.

I was handed a reviewer copy of this book, Evil Star by Alexander Horowitz; it is billed as the second book in The Gatekeepers series.  The first, Raven’s Gate, escaped my notice despite being on the New York Times’ Best Seller list at some point.  (That has more to do with my inattention to such lists than with any lack of merit in the book.) It is entirely accidental that I received this book.  It was tossed in the bag with my copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, because the bookstore was celebrating the release of the book and looking for things they had around that they could give away.  The person who gave me this book had no idea that I was a reviewer (he did know I was an author, and had read my novel), and no expectation that I should review it.  However, I read it, and since it was a pre-release “early reader edition” copy I thought I would write a review.

I am sorely tempted to call this series, “Harry Potter Meets Cthulu”.  The connections seem to scream at me.

The hero of the series, Matthew Freeman who prefers to be called Matt, is in this book fourteen years old; that makes him a bit older than Harry was in his second book (he had just turned twelve).  It is not clear to me, however, how old Matt was in the beginning of the first book.  Like Harry, Matt is an orphan, although it seems his parents really did die in a car accident and not until he was eight.  That tale is told, apparently, in the first book.  Like Harry, Matt has powers he does not understand and cannot always control; he was aware of the car accident before it occurred, and he sometimes has similar premonitions here.  He also sometimes causes telekinetic events, but through severe emotional upset, not intention.  He is even described as thin with unkempt dark hair and blue eyes.

The similarities to Harry don’t end there, though.  We are told that there are seven gates, and apparently each book revolves around the effort to keep the next one closed.  first grade math says that means there will be seven books in this series, just as there were in the Potter books.  Matt is the hero, the focus of the stories; his friends, young and old, help him, but in the critical moments he is the one on the line.

In fairness to Horowitz, at least some of these are the tropes of the genre: fantasy books for adolescents have adolescent heroes.  Cry of the Icemark* was similar in some ways.  Matt does not have a group of adolescent friends; he has the friendship of a young adult reporter, and the support of a secret international organization, but he is completely estranged from his peers.  No one is helping him learn to use his powers.  He is not exactly unique; there is much in the book about “the five”, of which he is the first to be identified, and he dreams about the other four trying to reach him.  Still, in this book one of the others does reach him, recognizing him from his own dreams.  He, too, has powers he does not understand, but they are very different powers.

As to Cthulu, he is never mentioned; however, the series revolves around a set of gates through which the “Old Ones” threaten to return to bring darkness to the word, and this book focuses on an ancient newly discovered book which tells how to open one of those gates.  A wealthy reclusive businessman is the evil monster attempting to get the book and open the gate.

I did not feel that Matt was as familiar a character as Harry.  It was a weakness of the book that I had trouble identifying with its hero.  Harry stayed with family members who did not like him, but Matt had an insane former foster mother trying to kill him.  Harry was alone at school but for a couple of friends, but Matt was alone on the streets of the Peruvian slums with a boy with whom he shared no common language.  Harry meets creatures of fantasy and learns to control his power through the mentoring of those more experienced than he, while Matt meets Incan survivors and struggles to work through his own use of his powers.  Where Harry’s powers made us feel that he was special, Matt’s powers make us feel that he is different; we want to be like Harry, but not like Matt.  Even the fact that Harry goes to school in what seems a very ordinary way (despite it being a school for wizards) gives us a point of contact; Matt is behind in his education, because his life is constantly interrupted and he has to move to another school.  It just never felt like Matt was a sympathetic character.

On the other hand, the author takes us on quite an adventure.  Matt is the reluctant hero here; he wants to be a normal boy, but he’s not normal, and fate will not leave him alone.  In his new school he is the outcast, and the fact that he pulls the fire alarm before the explosion that would have killed almost everyone only makes him less accepted.  The Nexus, the organization that is fighting this battle, wants and perhaps needs his help, but he is trying to avoid getting involved–and yet gets pulled half way around the world and into the midst of the trouble as events unfold.  It is not always clear who are the villains and who the allies, and more than once he flees from those who would have helped him.  Scores, maybe hundreds, of people are trying to help him, but at the critical moment he stands alone but for the other, younger, boy.

The book is laced with some wonderful images, many of them descriptions of Peru from its ancient wonders to its modern slums.  If there is a fault here, it lies in the interlacing of fantasy elements–a hidden Incan city, secret passages in those preserved wonders known only to the surviving Incans–with the hard facts.  Even I am not certain where the facts ended and the fantasies began at times.  That is only a fault because of the wonderfully clear portrayals of the realities of Peru, the author’s skill at bringing us into that place, and because (being published by Scholastic) it is targeted at a teen or pre-teen audience who will benefit greatly from the look at that society, if they can sort out the reality from the rest.

The copy I have has a number of errors in it which caught my eye as an editor, which may also have caught the eye of Scholastic’s editors before the finished version went to press.  Most of these are minor typos, a wrong but similar word here or there.  The mistake which most bothered me involved a description of the actions of a minor character, a truck driver on his way to be beaten and robbed.  Before the incident we are told that he is thinking about asking a certain waitress at a certain truck stop out on a date; after the incident we are told that his wife was contacted and gave them important information.  I prefer to think that the author overlooked part of what he was doing, rather than that he perceives married truck drivers commonly asking women out on dates; I hope, at least, that this was a mistake, and that it was corrected before the final copy.

I am tempted to attempt to obtain a copy of the first book.  After all, it is often the case that one book in a series is weaker than the others, and this might be the weaker book.  It is not a bad idea for a series; the Lovecraftian horror concepts are present but not terrifyingly so (although I’m probably not the best judge of that–Lovecraft has never frightened me).  There is madness, there is betrayal, there are evil people working toward evil ends.  Matt does not always emerge victorious, does not always make the best decisions, and is not always eager to do what he must do.  However, he proves the hero through his efforts, and moves an epic story forward a significant chapter.  I wouldn’t expect this to be the stuff of a best seller, but then, such things are determined by factors other than how they appeal to fifty-something author-reviewers.

*A review of Cry of the Icemark had been previously published, and has been saved, and will be copied here within a few weeks.

#325: The 2019 Recap

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #325, on the subject of The 2019 Recap.

Happy New Year to you.  A year ago I continued the tradition of recapitulating in the most sketchy of fashions everything I had published over the previous year, in mark Joseph “young” web log post #278:  The 2018 Recap.  I am back to continue that tradition, as briefly as reasonable, so that if you missed something you can find it, or if you vaguely remember something you want to read again you can hunt it down.  Some of that brevity will be achieved by referencing index pages, other collections of links to articles and installments.

For example, that day also saw the publication of the first Faith in Play article of the year, but all twelve of those plus the dozen RPG-ology series articles are listed, described, and linked in 2019 at the Christian Gamers Guild Reviewed, published yesterday.  There’s some good game stuff there in addition to some good Bible stuff, including links to some articles by other talented gaming writers, and a couple contributions involving me one way or another that were not parts of either series.  Also CGG-related, I finished the Bible study on Revelation and began John in January; we’re still working through John, but thanks to a late-in-the-year problem with Yahoo!Groups that had been hosting us we had to move everything to Groups.IO, and I haven’t managed to fix all the important links yet.

At that point we were also about a quarter of the way through the novel Garden of Versers as we posted a Robert Slade chapter that same day, but that entire novel is indexed there, along with links to the web log posts giving background on the writing process.  In October we launched the sixth novel, Versers Versus Versers, which is heating up in three chapters a week, again indexed along with behind-the-writings posts there, and it will continue in the new year.  There are also links to the support pages, character sheets for the major protagonists and a few antagonists in the stories.  Also related to the novels, in October I invited reader input on which characters should be the focus of the seventh, in #318:  Toward a Seventh Multiverser Novel.

I wrote a few book reviews at Goodreads, which you can find there if you’re interested.  More of my earlier articles were translated for publication at the Places to Go, People to Be French edition.

So let’s turn to the web log posts.

The first one after the recap of the previous year was an answer to a personal question asked impersonally on a public forum:  how did I know I was called to writing and composing?  The answer is found in web log post #279:  My Journey to Becoming a Writer.

I had already begun a miniseries on the Christian contemporary and rock music of the seventies and early eighties–the time when I was working at the radio station and what I remembered from before that.  That series continued (and hopefully will continue this year) with:

Although I didn’t realize it at the time, it is evident that the music dominated the web log this year.  In May I was invited to a sort of conference/convention in Nashville, which I attended and from which I benefited significantly.  I wrote about that in web log post #297:  An Objective Look at The Extreme Tour Objective Session.  While there I talked to several persons in the Christian music industry, and one of them advised me to found my own publishing company and publish my songs.  After considerable consideration I recognized that I have no skills for business, but I could put the songs out there, and so I began with a sort of song-of-the-month miniseries, the first seven songs posted this year:

  1. #301:  The Song “Holocaust”
  2. #307:  The Song “Time Bomb”
  3. #311:  The Song “Passing Through the Portal”
  4. #314:  The Song “Walkin’ In the Woods”
  5. #317:  The Song “That’s When I’ll Believe”
  6. #320:  The Song “Free”
  7. #322:  The Song “Voices”

I admit that I have to some degree soured on law and politics.  Polarization has gotten so bad that moderates are regarded enemies by the extremists on both sides.  However, I tackled a few Supreme Court cases, some issues in taxes including tariffs, a couple election articles, and a couple of recurring issues:

I was hospitalized more than once this year, but the big one was right near the beginning when the emergency room informed me that that pain was a myocardial infarction–in the vernacular, a heart attack.  Many of you supported me in many ways, and so I offered web log post #285:  An Expression of Gratitude.

Most of the game-related material went to the RPG-ology series mentioned at the beginning of this article, and you should visit that index for those.  I did include one role playing game article here as web log post #303:  A Nightmare Game World, a very strange scenario from a dream.

Finally, I did eventually post some time travel analyses, two movies available on Netflix.  The first was a kind of offbeat not quite a love story, Temporal Anomalies in Popular Time Travel Movies unravels When We First Met; the second a Spike Lee film focused on trying to fix the past, Temporal Anomalies in Time Travel Movies unravels See You Yesterday.  For those wondering, I have not yet figured out how I can get access to the new Marvel movie Endgame, as it appears it will not be airing on Netflix and I do not expect to spring for a Disney subscription despite its appeal, at least, not unless the Patreon account grows significantly.

So that’s pretty much what I wrote this year, not counting the fact that I’m working on the second edition of Multiverser, looking for a publisher for a book entitled Why I Believe, and continuing to produce the material to continue the ongoing series into the new year.  We’ll do this again in a dozen months.

#297: An Objective Look at The Extreme Tour Objective Session

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #297, on the subject of An Objective Look at The Extreme Tour Objective Session.

Late last year I received an invitation from someone representing something called The Extreme Tour inviting me to investigate mutually the possibility of participating in their program.  The big piece of the puzzle was something called The Objective Session, a long weekend of meetings in Nashville which they correctly say defies characterization as a convention or conference or retreat or just about any other label we might put on a large gathering of persons for a specific purpose.  The Greeks would probably have called it an ekklesia, which means a gathering of people called together by a common interest, but which we typically translate “church”–and there is a sense in which church is not a bad name for what this is, but it’s very unlike any church I’ve ever attended, and I’ve attended many in many different denominations.

The odd thing was that I could find very little online about either The Extreme Tour or The Objective Session.  Then many events conspired against any hope I might have had of attending–our car’s transmission died to a tune of almost as much as we were still paying for the car, I was hospitalized twice, money was getting tighter.  I wasn’t investigating the trip as diligently as I otherwise might have done because it was beginning to look impossible–but I was still praying about it.

Then with literally less than a week to go the last pieces were falling into place; it transitioned from a ridiculous impossibility to a very difficult possibility.  I posted to all the Christian musicians groups I knew to see if anyone could advise me on this, and got almost no response at all, and none that was informed.  On Tuesday morning I was literally weeping, for reasons I cannot really explain in this post beyond that it had looked as if an opportunity to do something with the music had been placed in front of me and I was going to have to decline it.  That’s a lesson for a different forum, but an hour later the last piece of the puzzle fell into place and the decision was made:  my son Adam and I were going to Nashville to attend The Objective Session.

It was then that we started getting advice from musicians, and it had three things in common.  The first was they were universally against our going.  The second was they knew no more and probably less than I did about the program.  One person asked if I had ever heard of a concert being presented by The Extreme Tour, which was a pretty useless question because I’m pretty sure that of all the concerts I attended and even promoted when I was at the radio station, I knew who presented or sponsored very few of them.  Another person seems to have a very odd view of divine guidance, suggesting that no believer would ever be uncomfortable doing anything that was what God was directing him to do.  The third commonality was that most of them had received invitations and ignored them.

The decision had already been made, so this advice had less impact than it might otherwise have had.  We went.  It was a twelve-hour drive, and over the course of Wednesday night through Monday morning we probably spent between two and three hundred dollars on food, gas, and tolls; lodging at a cheap hotel less than half an hour from the site even in morning traffic was less than two hundred dollars for three nights, although with how intense the event was it probably would have been better for us to have stayed in the area the nights before and after.  Parking at the venue was free for the event, but we made a point of arriving early and not moving the car until we were done, because it was very crowded.  Because we had been invited the meeting itself cost us nothing, and I don’t want to quote the price I heard for tickets for those not invited.

What I want to do in this post is provide information for those who have been invited and don’t know whether it would be worth going.  I’ll give you the short answer up front:  I don’t know what will happen from it, but for us it was worth going.

To fully understand The Objective Session you probably need to understand The Extreme Tour.  Ted Brunn, founder, has one of those testimonies on the order of he should have died and the doctors don’t know why he lived and were themselves using the word “miracle” (fell seven stories and landed on his head on rocks).  At some point he became extremely sensitive to the fact that there are a lot of lost people out there who don’t believe that anyone cares about them, and he began an organization that works with local non-profit groups to put on free shows in places no one wants to perform.  The shows include select artists and talented extreme sports athletes (e.g., skateboarding exhibitions), and the message to the people is that someone does care about them.  All of the performers, as well as all of the staff, are volunteers; the money that the organization collects really does go to the expenses of doing what they do, such as hiring sound equipment for venues.  For some situations they defray costs of performing artists, but this is not an organization designed to make you rich.  It is rather designed to enable you to contribute your talents alongside those of others to take the good news into places you probably could never go alone.

The Objective Session is from their perspective an opportunity for them to meet potential volunteer performers; to facilitate that, they also gather many music professionals from the Nashville area.  Although in spare moments throughout the weekend I tackled the program book, I never finished reading all the names and credentials, and I’m only going to name a few here.  I will also mention that there were said to be six hundred of us in attendance, and I met many of them and have CDs from a few.  Probably the last thing I did was give a couple CDs of my own music to a young artist who was probably the first person I met when I arrived; it seemed the right thing to do at the time, as he wanted to hear the rest of the song I had partly sung the day before, and I was in no condition to attempt to sing it.

I will tell you that from the moment we arrived things were happening.  Because of the fact that we drove eight hundred miles and twelve hours with one break for dinner and gasoline (don’t tell my hemotologist) arriving around noon central time and staying up to reach our hotel twenty minutes outside the city after midnight, so I was immunologically compromised, we left the event a bit early on Friday and Saturday nights.  There are no meal breaks; there are food trucks in the parking lot said to be some of the finest in the city (and the ones I patronized were very good) and they recommend you slip away and bring back food to eat during the meetings.

Let me say I have been to several retreats for Christian musicians over the decades.  This one was what all the others only dreamed of being.  Here are some of the highlights of my experience.

Many of the speakers were excellent.  I apologize that with that intense a schedule I can’t specifically pinpoint what we heard from Wes Yoder (one of the original business names in the CCM world), Tom Jackson (the go-to guy for staging a musical show), or any of the others; I do remember that Dr. Ken Steorts, founding guitarist of Skillet, delved into a Biblical understanding of the function of artists (he has a book on the subject).  I had private meetings with Ezra Boggs and Vince Wilcox for the specific purpose of gaining some career advice, and I attended a songwriting session led by early Petra member Rob Frazier, at which I was invited to sing a portion of my song Free.

There were some things for which there was a charge, or an extra charge, and I took advantage of one, submitting a few of my songs and some biographical information to be distributed to a list of Nashville professionals who wouldn’t take anything like that from a stranger but would take it from people they know at The Extreme Tour.  That was just under two hundred dollars, and I don’t expect to hear the outcome of that for at least a few days, probably a few weeks.  I did not get tapped for a recording contract or management representation.  However, I did not pay the extra to be one of perhaps a dozen performers who played two songs each for a panel of industry judges on Friday and Saturday evenings.  Adam said it sickened him to watch eight strangers critize the performances of these mostly wonderful artists, although I sometimes found myself agreeing with their criticisms as things I would have said.  He felt even worse when I told him that those artists had paid somewhere around five hundred dollars each for the privilege of being so criticized.  However, while we watched a young band called Zoe Imperial absolutely wowed the attendees (and most of us fancy ourselves professional caliber musicians) with a rock/hip-hop blend in a show choreographed and performed as well as anything I’ve seen since Servant, one of the judges, Lamont Compton a.k.a. Supreme, leapt up on stage to offer them a management deal with him, so it does happen.

Recording artist Jennifer Knight playing with kids at inner city picnic

What Ted Brunn hopes will be the real impact, though, is that on Saturday night we were broken into teams and sent to Broadway in Nashville to make music and get attention and talk to people about the hope that is in us.  Because it was so late and my condition was deteriorating I did not attend these, and Adam took me back to the hotel; I’m sorry he missed it, but I did that kind of thing at the Boston Common and the Topsfield Fair decades ago, so I’ve seen it.  On Sunday afternoon we put on a concert (I really just watched) supporting a local church barbecue (O.K., so I also ate a hotdog and some chips) in a field that was supposed to be a park but there were too many shootings there for people to feel safe outside in it ordinarily.  Most of us were to interact with the people, to let them know, once again, that someone cares about them.  I watched a recently signed Universal recording artist attendee dancing with young ghetto children, and a Christian rapper hold a children’s dancing contest on the portable stage someone had loaned the Tour at the last minute when transportation for the stage they were going to use failed.  This organization is really about taking the message to the hopeless, and it was worth every minute of it and the respiratory distress I was still fighting to overcome the night after.

It struck me that this might seem like a lot of effort for the opportunity to play a bunch of free concerts.  I can’t speak to participating on the tour because I haven’t yet done so and have no guarantee that I will be invited.  However, it seems to me that my experience is fairly typical, that most of us play most of our concerts for free, mostly in venues which reach only Christians.  That’s not a problem for me, because my ministry is to be a teacher, which is primarily a ministry to believers, and my music frequently reflects that; but Paul told Timothy to do the work of an evangelist, and there’s good reason to think that that instruction is for all of us, or at least all of us doing any kind of ministry at all, so the opportunity to do for free what you are already doing for free but in front of people who need to hear the message alongside others doing the same might be worth the time and effort.

So to all those who thought it was some kind of scam, I am persuaded otherwise; and to those who wondered whether it would be worth it, I am persuaded that it is.  Probably you won’t get a Nashville management deal or recording contract; those are few and far between.  Maybe you won’t be convinced to volunteer for free concerts in ghettos and such, but you will still benefit, I think probably enormously, from the experience.  Maybe you will get something from it that will move your music and ministry career forward in a significant way.  Maybe that’s not the point of what you’re doing, and maybe you’ll discover what it is God really wants from you.

#285: An Expression of Gratitude

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #285, on the subject of An Expression of Gratitude.

I need to thank a lot of people.

The complications include that I do not know who you all are, and I’m not sure of the propriety either of naming those whose names I have or contacting you personally.

Thus I am thanking you all, however many of you there are, through this web log post.

This arises from the fact that I recently had a myocardial infarction–a heart attack–which put me in the hospital.  I posted that in this Facebook post, and somewhere about twenty responses down I posted again with news of the Friday and Monday procedures, and my Tuesday discharge and such.

Many of you sent what I guess would be called “good wishes”, that is, comments, messages, whatever, hoping that I would get better.  Thank you.  I have done so to a significant degree, although I am still a bit weak and officially convalescing (and my wife has already scolded me for overworking once she knew how much I did yesterday, the day after my discharge, but someone had to get the boys to work and someone had to pick up my prescriptions, and more often than not I find that someone is me, particularly when she is working a string of night shifts, driving herself for the first time since her broken hip, and needing to sleep during the day).  So I am not fully recovered, but I am back at work.

Many of you prayed, and for this I am particularly grateful.  You have, of course, obligated me to let you know about the answers to your prayers so that many of you can give thanks to God for the grace extended through the prayers of many of you (cf. II Corinthians 1:11).  I have largely done that in the Facebook post.  I am not out of the woods entirely–I have a bag of new medications (and of all things the pharmacy couldn’t fill the “aspirin” prescription (chewable baby aspirin–how could they not have that?), so someone has to go back for it today), and I have two appointments for a cardiac stress test and a followup to decide what the test results mean.  Those are in the second week of March.

At least two of you made a point of spreading the word of my debilitation, and of encouraging people who at least know who I am to support me financially during this time.  That has resulted in a few gifts of significant amounts through my account–the first real activity there since it opened, and enough to pay for this bag of prescriptions and a bit more.  I have not seen any new Patreon patrons yet, but Patreon’s notification system is sometimes wonky so I’m going to include mention of that–because I am grateful to those of you who have made an effort to keep me going, and thankful to God that you are there, to those who contributed and to those who encouraged others to do so.

I’ll extend these thanks to those who have been meaning to send a bit of help my direction and simply haven’t yet done so; I know what that’s like, as there are often times when I have something I need to do soon that goes for days or weeks or even months before I manage it.  So thank you for the prayers and support you are going to send in the future.  You really do make a difference.

As the picture says, thank you.

#278: The 2018 Recap

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #278, on the subject of The 2018 Recap.

A year ago I continued a tradition of recapitulating in the most sketchy of fashions everything I had published over the previous year, in mark Joseph “young” web log post #219:  A 2017 Retrospective.  I am back to continue that tradition, as briefly as reasonable.  Some of that brevity will be achieved by referencing index pages, other collections of links to articles and installments.

For example, on the second of January, the same day I published that retrospective here, I also posted another chapter in the series of Multiverser novels, at which point we were at the twenty-third chapter of the fourth book, Spy Verses (which contains one hundred forty-seven short chapters).  We had just published the first of seven behind-the-writings web log posts looking at the writing process, but all of that is indexed at that link.  Also on that same day the Christian Gamers Guild released the second installment of the new series Faith in Play, but all of those articles along with all the articles in the RPG-ology series are listed, briefly described, and linked (along with other excellent articles from other members of the guild) in the just-published Thirteen Months in Review on their site.  That saves recapping here two dozen more titles in the realms of Bible/theology and gaming, many of them excellent.  It should also be mentioned that six days a week I post to the Chaplain’s Bible study list, finishing Revelation probably early next week, and posting “Musings” on Fridays.

Spy Verses wrapped up in October, and was followed by the release of an expansion of Multiverser Novel Support Pages, updated character sheets through the end of that book, and by the end of that month we had begun publishing, several chapters per week, Garden of Versers, which is still going as I write this.

Now would probably be a good time to mention that all of that writing is free to read, supported by reader contributions–that means you–through Patreon or PayPal Me.  If you’ve been following and enjoying any of those series, your encouragement and support through those means goes a long way to keeping them going, along with much else that has been written–and although that may be the bulk of what was written, there is still much else.

Since on January 10th the first of the year’s web log posts on law and politics appeared, we’ll cover those next.

#220:  The Right to Repair presents the new New Jersey law requiring manufacturers of consumer electronics to provide schematics, parts, and tools to owners at reasonable prices, so that those with some knowledge in the field can troubleshoot and repair their own cell phones and other electronics, and none of us need be at the mercy of price-gouging company stores.

#221:  Silence on the Lesbian Front addressed the ramifications of a Supreme Court decision not to hear a case against a Mississippi law permitting merchants to decline wedding services to homosexual weddings.

#222:  The Range War Explodes:  Interstate Water Rights arose at the Supreme Court level when Florida claimed Georgia was using too much of the water that should flow downstream to it.

#225:  Give Me Your Poor talks about our immigrant history, the illusion that it was entirely altruistic, and the question of what we do going forward.

#229:  A Challenge to Winner-Take-All in the Electoral College looks at a federal lawsuit claiming that the standard electoral college election system violates the one-person-one-vote rule.

#230:  No Womb No Say? challenges the notion that men should not have a say in abortion law.

#231:  Benefits of Free-Range Parenting discusses the recent idea that parents who do not closely monitor their kids are not being negligent.

#241:  Deportation of Dangerous Felons considers the Supreme Court case which decided that the law permitting deportation of immigrants for “aggravated felonies” is too vague.

#247:  The Homosexual Wedding Cake Case examines in some detail the decision that protected a baker from legal action against him for refusing service to a homosexual couple, based primarily on the prejudicial language of the lower court decision.

#251:  Voter Unregistration Law examined a somewhat complicated case upholding a law that permits removal of non-responsive voters from the registration lists.

#253:  Political Messages at Polling Places presented the decision that non-specific political clothing and such cannot be banned from polling places.

#255:  On Sveen:  Divorcees, Check Your Beneficiaries examined a convoluted probate case in which a law passed subsequent to a divorce dictated how life insurance policy assets should be distributed.

#259:  Saying No to Public Employee Union Agency Fees is the case the unions feared, in which they were stripped of their ability to charge non-members fees for representation.

#261:  A Small Victory for Pro-Life Advocates hinged on free speech and a California law compelling crisis pregnancy centers to post notices that the state provides free and low-cost abortions.

#270:  New Jersey’s 2018 Election Ballot was the first of two parts on the election in our state, #271:  New Jersey’s 2018 Election Results providing the second part.

#274:  Close Races and Third Parties arose in part from the fact that one of our congressional districts was undecided for several days, and in part from the fact that Maine has enacted a new experimental system which benefits third parties by having voters rank all candidates in order of preference.

One post that not only bridges the space between religion and politics but explains why the two cannot really be separated should be mentioned, #224:  Religious Politics.

My practice of late has been to put my book reviews on Goodreads, and you’ll find quite a few there, but for several reasons I included #223:  In re:  Full Moon Rising, by T. M. Becker as a web log post.  I also copied information from a series of Facebook posts about books I recommended into #263:  The Ten Book Cover Challenge.

There were a few entries in time travel, mostly posted to the Temporal Anomalies section of the site, including Temporal Anomalies in Synchronicity, which is pretty good once you understand what it really is; Temporal Anomalies in Paradox, which is a remarkably convoluted action-packed time travel story; Temporal Anomalies in O Homen Do Futuro a.k.a. The Man From the Future, a wonderfully clever Brazilian film in which the time traveler has to fix what he tried to fix, interacting with himself in the past; and Temporal Anomalies in Abby Sen, an Indian film that is ultimately pretty dull but not without some interesting ideas.

In the miscellaneous realm, we had #227:  Toward Better Subtitles suggesting how to improve the closed captioning on television shows; #228:  Applying the Rules of Grammar encourages writers to understand the rules and the reasons for them before breaking them; and #273:  Maintaining Fictional Character Records gives some details of my way of keeping character information consistent from book to book.

This year we also began a subseries on the roots of Christian Contemporary and Rock Music, starting with #232:  Larry Norman, Visitor in March, and continuing with

  1. #234:  Flip Sides of Ralph Carmichael
  2. #236:  Reign of The Imperials
  3. #238:  Love Song by Love Song
  4. #240:  Should Have Been a Friend of Paul Clark
  5. #242:  Disciple Andraé Crouch
  6. #244:  Missed the Archers
  7. #246:  The Secular Radio Hits
  8. #248:  The Hawkins Family
  9. #250:  Original Worship Leader Ted Sandquist
  10. #252:  Petra Means Rock
  11. #254:  Miscellaneous Early Christian Bands
  12. #256:  Harry Thomas’ Creations Come Alive
  13. #258:  British Invaders Malcolm and Alwyn
  14. #260:  Lamb and Jews for Jesus
  15. #262:  First Lady Honeytree of Christian Music
  16. #264:  How About Danny Taylor?
  17. #266:  Minstrel Barry McGuire
  18. #268:  Voice of the Second Chapter of Acts
  19. #272:  To the Bride Live
  20. #276:  Best Guitarist Phil Keaggy.

Looking at our Bible and Theology posts, the first of the year landed in the end of March, as #233:  Does Hell Exist? attempts to explore how the modern conception of hell compares with the Biblical one; #245:  Unspoken Prayer Requests finds theological problems with asking people to pray without telling them what to pray; and #267:  A Mass Revival Meeting explains what is really necessary to bring about a revival.

There were also a couple of entries related to gaming, including the republication of a lost article as #237:  Morality and Consequences:  Overlooked Roleplay Essentials–the first article I ever wrote to be published on someone else’s web site.  There was also a response to some comments made by #239:  A Departing Member of the Christian Gamers Guild, and a sort of review of a convention appearance, #249:  A 2018 AnimeNEXT Adventure.

A couple previously published pieces appeared in translation in the French edition of Places to Go, People to Be, which you can find indexed under my name there.

So that is a look at what was published online under my name this past year–a couple hundred articles, when you count all the chapters of the books (and more if you count all the Bible study posts).  In the future, well, I have a lot more to write about Christian music, I’m only getting started with Garden of Versers and have another novel, Versers Versus Versers, set up and ready to run, several Faith in Play and RPG-ology articles are in the queue (one publishes today), and there’s a study of the Gospel According to John ready to post and the Gospel According to Mark being prepared to follow it, plus some preliminary notes on Supreme Court cases, an analysis of a time travel movie that’s taking too long to finish, and more.

Again, your support through Patreon or helps make all of it possible.  Thank you for your support and encouragement.

#272: To the Bride Live

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #272, on the subject of To the Bride Live.

There aren’t a lot of albums that I’m going to mention in their own articles; this might in fact be the only one.  That’s partly because this is a collaborative effort–our last two spotlighted artists, Barry McGuire and The Second Chapter of Acts, went on tour together with support from a band called A Band Called David (which supported artists on other tours as well).  It is also because this live album easily falls among the best recordings of its decade, with wonderful performances of great songs and an unrivaled concert ambiance.

By Source, Fair use

However, it is difficult to present much of this album, because very little of it can be found online.  One of the two cuts I had linked in the early notes was removed because the account holder had been cited for multiple copyright violations (although I found another copy of it).  None of my searches uncovered any cuts from this album by The Second Chapter of Acts.  However, they did most of their repertoire to that point, and Barry also sang quite a bit as well as talking to the audience.  His chat about Dolphins is available online (or was as of this writing, although I had to find a different link for it).  He also sang the wonderful song I Walked a Mile.

This was apparently the debut tour for Acts, as Barry, the known figure from his secular successes, introduced them as those three skinny people “not to be confused with the microphone stands”, and told the story we’ve already related about hearing them at Buck Herring’s house after dinner one night.  As they begin presenting their part of the concert, it is obvious that they, unlike some of the secular vocal bands of the era, were every bit as good live as in the studio.

The two-disk album is enjoyable and compelling throughout, a performance and concert experience rivaling any.  If I could have only one album from that decade, this would be it.

The Second Chapter of Acts appeared on other live albums with other artists, but although they always delivered unblemished performances, the presence of Barry McGuire here made it a great concert, a cut above anything else I ever heard.

I recently saw that Barry released a new album in October, 2018.  It might be accompanied by a concert tour.  If you have the opportunity to attend one of his concerts, it’s worth it.


The series to this point has included:

  1. #232:  Larry Norman, Visitor;
  2. #234:  Flip Sides of Ralph Carmichael;
  3. #236:  Reign of the Imperials;
  4. #238:  Love Song by Love Song.
  5. #240:  Should Have Been a Friend of Paul Clark.
  6. #242:  Disciple Andraé Crouch.
  7. #244: Missed The Archers.
  8. #246: The Secular Radio Hits.
  9. #248:  The Hawkins Family.
  10. #250:  Original Worship Leader Ted Sandquist.
  11. #252:  Petra Means Rock.
  12. #254:  Miscellaneous Early Christian Bands.
  13. #256:  Harry Thomas’ Creations Come Alive.
  14. #258:  British Invaders Malcolm and Alwyn.
  15. #260:  Lamb and Jews for Jesus.
  16. #262: First Lady Honeytree of Jesus Music.
  17. #264:  How About Danny Taylor.
  18. #266:  Minstrel Barry McGuire.
  19. #268:  Voice of the Second Chapter of Acts.

#266: Minstrel Barry McGuire

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #266, on the subject of Minstrel Barry McGuire.

I met Barry McGuire thrice; I’ve mentioned that, and I’ll tell you about it, but his history goes back before mine.

Barry might be the first successful secular artist to become a leading contemporary Christian musician.  He was a member of the successful folk group The New Christy Minstrels–not a founding member, but co-wrote their first hit, Green, Green, on which his characteristic voice can be identified on lead vocals.  He went on to appear on stage in the Broadway hit musical Hair, but was best known for his single–which knocked The BeatlesHelp! out of the number one spot–Eve of Destruction.

In 1973 he recorded his first Christian album, Seeds, on Myrrh Records.  I was aware of the album, and am sure I heard it, but don’t recall any titles on the track list.  His signature song Happy Road, recorded in several versions on several disks, was originally released on Lighten Up in 1974 (and the backup vocals might sound familiar, but we’ll get to them).

His most famous studio album was undoubtedly Cosmic Cowboy, whose title song rose on the Contemporary Christian music charts when it was released.  I think most of us didn’t know what it was–Rap was brand new and at that time exclusively black, so a song in which the lead singer talked all the way through had more in common with Country/Western ballads, but the heavily-orchestrated disco-like background music was incongruous with that genre.

About the same time he got a lot of airplay of the title song of a children’s album, Bullfrogs & Butterflies.

I always found that Barry’s studio work did not do him justice.  I met him at a concert somewhere near Boston in probably 1976 or 77, and he impressed me by taking time to talk with me about music ministry; that’s been recounted in web log post #163:  So You Want to Be a Christian Musician, and it inspired me to write my song Mountain, Mountain (Barry is the mountain, not just because he is a large and imposing person and personality).  In March, 1977, I opened for him at a Gordon College banquet we called the March Thaw, but was unable to play the song for him then, and then when I was at the radio station he stopped by one day when he was singing in the area and talked with me on the air, but I didn’t have a guitar (and silly me I should have sung it for him a capella, but I didn’t think of it and didn’t think I would never see him again).

He appeared on the Keith Green tribute album First Love, and reportedly retired but returned to tour with Terry Talbot.  I find no report of him since 2016, but no obituary either.

We’ll have more of Barry after the next entry, because his music for a time was intertwined with another band who recorded with him numerous times but is much better known for its own career.


The series to this point has included:

  1. #232:  Larry Norman, Visitor;
  2. #234:  Flip Sides of Ralph Carmichael;
  3. #236:  Reign of the Imperials;
  4. #238:  Love Song by Love Song.
  5. #240:  Should Have Been a Friend of Paul Clark.
  6. #242:  Disciple Andraé Crouch.
  7. #244: Missed The Archers.
  8. #246: The Secular Radio Hits.
  9. #248:  The Hawkins Family.
  10. #250:  Original Worship Leader Ted Sandquist.
  11. #252:  Petra Means Rock.
  12. #254:  Miscellaneous Early Christian Bands.
  13. #256:  Harry Thomas’ Creations Come Alive.
  14. #258:  British Invaders Malcolm and Alwyn.
  15. #260:  Lamb and Jews for Jesus.
  16. #262: First Lady Honeytree of Jesus Music.
  17. #264:  How About Danny Taylor?.

#263: The Ten Book Cover Challenge

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #263, on the subject of The Ten Book Cover Challenge.

As mentioned, Jeni Heneghan tagged me in a ten-bookcover challenge on Facebook.


I’m starting my list–and I know I’m not really supposeed to say anything about the books, but that seems a bit pointless to me–with one of the books I most enjoyed in recent years, Ian Harac’s Medic.

I had previously read his The Rainbow Connection, and enjoyed that thoroughly, but I think he topped that with this one.

I am also tagging Ian Harac to take up the challenge.  The deal is for ten days post the cover of a book you “love” (take that however you wish) and name someone to do the same.

My Goodreads review is here.

Interestingly, at the time I appear to have liked Rainbow Connection better, but in retrospect Medic is the one that comes to mind.


It’s a busy day, but let me not forget my obligation to Jeni Heneghan, who challenged me to post ten book covers of books liked or something in ten days, and nominate ten people to the same task.  This time I’m going for something non-fiction, The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt.

Haidt explores six facets, what I think if memory serves he calls pillars, which are the bases of our notions of “good”, and how most people in the world use all six but modern liberals use only three, and how this results in very different views of what is right.  It’s perhaps the best exploration of these ideas I have encountered.

Again, my GoodReads review is here.

And I almost forgot:  I nominate Eric Ashley.  I’ve enjoyed many of the books he sent me.


Time to post a book cover (thank you Jeni Heneghan for the invitation).  I said I would try to avoid the obvious Lewis and Tolkien titles, but this is a close friend of theirs, Charles Williams, of whose handful of wonderful books I think my favorite is still the first one I read, Descent Into Hell.

I first read this in college as a course assignment in modern fantasy/sci-fi literature, and was immediately much impressed.  It was probably two or three decades later that I found it again, along with a couple other of his titles (War in Heaven, Greater Trumps), and was not disappointed in the least.

Williams is wonderful at blurring the line between the material and the spiritual, the natural and the supernatural.  His characters interact with each other, whether alive, dead, or imaginary.  This book also gave me some very challenging concepts–such as that bearing each other’s burdens was a real active thing.

And because this book reminds me of someone else who read it in that course who also found it interesting, I’m going to tag Richard Van Norstrand to take up the challenge.  You’re not required to do so much as I do, just over the course of ten days post the covers of ten books you “love” in whatever sense, and invite someone else to do the same.  This is my third.

For what it’s worth, I’m also building a web log post from these, so once the ten have run you can expect a complete summary, largely because I hate these multiple-first-post threads when I want to know what the other posts were.


Back in the early 1970s when I was at Luther College the library had one of those books sales, clearing out old copies.  I wound up standing beside the Dean, Dr. Harm, as he examined a book clearly older than I was, and commented that it was once the classic book in apologetics.  For twenty-five cents, I figured I could afford it.

I’m about 98% certain that the cover and title page gave the name as Evidences of the Christian Religion by William Paley.  I don’t find that title on Goodreads, which apparently finds no editions more than ten years old and calls it by various names of which Evidences of Christianity is the nearest to the original.

I don’t have a review of it posted anywhere.  In fact, it was a ponderous read for a college sophomore, and when I was about three-quarters finished the aforementioned Richard Van Norstrand borrowed it and took it home, only to have his father borrow it from him, and I never saw it again.  Still, I got through the bulk of it.

This was the book in which Paley presents the teleological argument for the existence of God in its most famous form, the watch argument, that if you find a watch you deduce that there must be a watchmaker, and since the universe runs like a watch, there must be a universe maker.

I was impressed by the meticulous way in which Paley presented his argument–no leaps, no skipped steps, no assumptions that the reader will see how to get from A to D without having been told what B and C are.  Part of that no doubt is that writing in the nineteenth century (and I’ve read several other nineteenth and early twentieth century books) he did not have to compete with more concise forms of entertainment–readers expected books to be long, because otherwise they didn’t get their money’s worth.  Yet it was instructive, in that many writers, and perhaps including me, tend to make such leaps and assume the reader understands the intervening reasoning.

I keep swithering concerning who to tag next, but I think I’ll go with Nikolaj Bourguignon.  Odds are he’ll post a lot of books I can’t read (the word for someone who speaks several languages is multilingual, while one who speaks two languages is called bilingual, and one who speaks only one language is called American, and that’s pretty much me–I took French in high school, but can’t even read the French translations of my own articles at the French edition of Places to Go, People to Be).  Still, I know he’s a reader with broad interests, and that will make it interesting.


Almost forgot the book cover on this overladen day, but I’d already selected the book, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

I read the book in high school as part of an English course in science fiction literature, and having more recently re-read it cited it as recently as a couple years ago.

My Goodreads review is here.

In short, this book is everything a great science fiction classic should be.  It tells a compelling story in a futuristic world while making a significant point about contemporary issues.  The primary issue here is censorship, government control of information, and while government control of information doesn’t seem like a significant concern our articles in recent years on freedom of speech might suggest otherwise.

I’m going to invite Rick Maus to play next, because he was in that class and as I mentioned somewhere else in my writing was a member of that Great Meditators Society decades ago (he probably doesn’t even remember it), and it might be interesting to see what books he’s been reading.  The invite is to post ten book covers in ten days (it does not require saying anything about them other than implicitly that these are books you in some sense “love”–that part is just my inability to keep silent) and nominate ten people along the way to do the same.

I’m also adding a tag to the current location of the Freedom of Expression series in which Bradbury is mentioned.


Again with acknowledgement that Jeni Heneghan invited me to participate in this, let’s do the next book cover.  I know I promised not to clutter the list with C. S. Lewis–undoubtedly my favorite author, and I could name easily a dozen from A Horse and His Boy to Perelandra to Mere Christianity to The Great Divorce, but I’m going to go with God in the Dock.

My Goodreads review is here.

The book is a collection of essays and letters previously published in many sources covering a wide variety of subjects, and arguing them intelligently.  You might not always agree with Lewis, but if you haven’t read his arguments you can’t really effectively defend your own positions.

I’ve been meaning to tag Edward Jones to invite him to play.  The game is, post ten covers over ten days of books you “love” in whatever sense you want to take that; it is not required that you say anything about them (I just do, because, well, you know me, I have to talk about stuff).  You are also supposed to invite someone else to do the same each day.  No obligation, of course, but I’m interested in what books you would pick.

(We actually have a copy of a book here that we bought for you some years back and haven’t had the chance to gift.  Maybe if it sits here a bit longer I’ll read it again.)


For today’s book cover I’m stretching the meaning of the word “love” a bit.  By stretching a bit, I mean I hate this book, and I hated it when I read it–but I think it’s an important read, partly for many of its ideas, and partly because people think it says things it doesn’t.  The book is 1984 by George Orwell.

I read his Animal Farm in high school, and found it interesting and entertaining, so when I saw this book I decided it might be more of the same.

Boy, was I mistaken.  It is a bleak story with a horrible ending.

Yet it is compelling, and the world it paints is filled with concepts that are important for us to grasp–notions like doublespeak, when the words you say don’t mean what the words mean.

However, people often think that Orwell predicted the world in which we presently live.  His vision is completely wrong on the critical points.  In the world he presents, the ruling powers control all information, rewriting the records whenever they want history to be different from what it was, and it is impossible to find anything other than the party line.  In our world, the problem is reversed–we have an information explosion, and you can find everything, every position, every opinion, expressed on the Internet, with no one in control, to the point that it is often difficult to know what information is true.  No one controls it.  So Orwell was wrong.

He still tells a compelling story, and no one should cite this book who has not read it, because it doesn’t say what many people claim it says.

I’m going to tag Donald Chroniger next:  you are invited to post ten book covers of books you “love” (however you interpret that) over the next ten days, and invite one person each day to do the same.  You are not required to say anything about the book beyond identifying it.

Have fun.


This is number eight in the book cover challenge Jeni Heneghan invited me to tackle.  I’ve gone with a book by a recently deceased friend, C. J. Henderson, my favorite of his books and the first in the Teddy London series, The Things That Are Not There.

C. J. wrote a lot of Cthulu Mythos stuff, with the blessing of the Lovecraft family, and although the monster here is called Ctala it’s the same kind of being.  Rather than coming from outer space, C. J.’s unimaginable creatures come from parallel dimensions, more credible in the modern age.

The other significant difference, as he shared in our chats at Ubercon, was that whenever his characters faced these incomprehensible evil beings, he found he could not stop them from fighting back.  London in this book is hired by a girl who thinks she is being followed by something–and then the something falls through the window, and he and the office maintenance man struggle to kill it and take it to a doctor to attempt in vain to identify it.  From that point forward they discover that they are on the front line to prevent the opening of a bridge from another dimension whose chief denizen wants to devour all of humanity.  It is a tense and exciting book throughout, and I’ve read it twice and will probably read it again one day.  I’ve read the rest of the series, and although most of them are good, this is far and away the best.

I’m going to tag Harry Lambrianou, because he’s commented on a couple of these book postings so I know he’s following the series and will know what to do.

Oddly, I have no idea what book I’m going to post tomorrow, or who I’m going to tag, so it will be a surprise for all of us.


I decided on today’s book.  The copy I happen to have is actually two books in one cover, but although I’ve read the first ten or so of the series and enjoyed them all, the first book is the one I’m tagging:  Robert Lynn Asprin’s Another Fine Myth.

It comes alone or in this two-book set, or in a five-book volume (I think).  It’s a playful bit of fantasy that tells a good story while at the same time being very tongue-in-cheek about fantasy tropes.  My Goodreads review of it is here.

Looking for someone to tag, I stumble upon Dave Mattingly, who was himself a publisher for a while and even put one of my books in print, so we’ll give him the chance to pick ten covers of books he in some sense “loves”, and name ten people to do the same.


I long debated what the final book on this list of ten should be, and settled on Paul Tillich, A History of Christian Thought:  From Its Judaic and Hellenistic Origins to Existentialism.

It’s certainly not “light reading” by any stretch of the imagination, but it is an excellent source either as a text or a reference for the development of western theology and philosophy from the second century through the Enlightenment.  It gets a bit weak after that, but still covers many of the important names.  My Goodreads review is here.

I’ve got a couple of honorable mentions to post.

First, let me apologize to my (first) cousin (once removed) T. M. Becker (Writer of Young Adult Fantasy).  Her novel Full Moon Rising was truly excellent, as my web log post #223:  In re:  Full Moon Rising asserts.  Honestly, the choice tipped on the fact that I had already posted six fiction titles and only three non-fiction, and I thought that if I couldn’t balance them at least I should get closer.

Also on the “almost made it” list is F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents:  Are They Reliable, a classic which more people should read which also has the virtue of being relatively short.  I chose otherwise mostly because this one is a rather limited subject–an extremely important one which he handles extremely well, but still not as valuable as a reference.

I need to tag one more person, so I’m going to choose Tsiphuneah Becker, to see what sort of books she likes.  In case you’ve not been following, you are invited, without obligation, to post covers of ten books, one a day, over the next ten days.  They should be books you in some sense “love”, and you are not obligated to say anything about them.  You also are asked to post, again one per day, names of ten people to undertake the same challenge.


So that’s the conclusion of the ten-bookcover challenge.  I hope you found an interesting book in that batch.