Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving in the Church

I had a disquieting experience last Sunday. The church I attend had its Thanksgiving meal after service, and I remarked to a few friends that it was fitting to celebrate Thanksgiving in a church, considering that "Eucharist" means "thanksgiving." I was astonished to find they did not know that. They weren't ignorant, really, though I suspect a Catholic or Orthodox would've been better informed.

So what does it matter? Much or little, depending on your view. It could be regarded as trivia; I've already written about a case of trivializing the Eucharist, and I doubt most Evangelical Protestants would even notice the problem. But even they would likely admit that Thanksgiving alone isn't as good as Thanksgiving with family and friends.

But thanksgiving is an important feature of the Christian life. I suspect if we were truly thankful for the Atonement, we would take the Eucharist more seriously. We have forgotten that ingratitude was involved in the first sin: would Adam and Eve have considered disobeying God if they had been truly grateful for all he had given them? Wasn't ingratitude the hallmark of the Israelites who grumbled against Moses and God?

The holiday season creates special problems. In the US, Thanksgiving leads into the Christmas season, and all the partying hinders proper focus. Are we really thankful now? Will we really focus on preparing ourselves for Advent? Probably not.

Perhaps we could learn from the Catholics and especially the Orthodox. They have a fast before their main feasts (Easter and Christmas), so by the time the feast arrives, they feel proper anticipation. If we did that, all the noise about the commercial aspect of Christmas would wither up: the consumerist orgy probably couldn't survive a good fast.

Or at the very least we could wait until the proper time. Christmas parties begin early in December. What if we followed the older route and waited until Christmas itself? The Christmas season used to run twelve days--from Christmas through Epiphany. That's enough time for some good parties, and as children know, the anticipation is half the fun. Patience produces gratitude, and both should be welcome in the church.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Tales of the Dim Knight

No, not one of my stories, though it's similar. Nor is this the review proper--I meant to do that on Monday, the 22nd, but this has been an even more hectic week than I imagined. So I'm using my amazing powers to reset the post date to Monday. (Yes, that does make me a pre-dater--without dreadlocks, yet! Please don't tell the cops.)

Anyway, this is basically a blurb; I hope to get to the review as such, guest starring the League of Superheroes, of course, in a day or so.

In the meantime, Tales of the Dim Knight is a superhero spoof by Andrea and Adam Graham. (Adam is the primary author, but I believe in ladies first, and he's no lady. Ask anyone.) Click here for the publisher's Dim Knight page. Click here for Laser & Sword Magazine, another Graham product. Click here for the Wikipedia article on salt-cured meat. It has no bearing on the Grahams or their story, but there aren't any articles on them yet.

A brief synopsis: Superhero spoof.

A less brief, more informative synopsis: Clueless superhero fanboy Dave Johnson, a janitor for the FBI, finds himself paired with an alien fashion accessory. It's actually a shape-changing alien named Zolgron. (His mother dressed him funny, too.) Zolgron is being punished for being a cosmic jerk, with the result that he must help out whoever he becomes attached to. He confers numerous super powers on Dave, who becomes even more immersed in superhero fantasies and real-world implications, including increased family and marital problems. Since Dave has a poor learning curve anyway, there's a lot of comical flailing about as he tries to gain legal standing as a superhero, find some crime to fight, and stay married to a woman who thinks he's gone from mildly delusional to full-bore looney.

Will Dave grow up? Will Zolgron finally get out of Purgatory? Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? Okay, you're on your own for the last one, but for the first two, read the book and find out!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Dark World: The Homing Signal

“That’s Darren’s signal,” Dr. Fleming told Lassiter. “Our new friend is somewhere just outside. All going well, he will give up and go home, and Darren can track him. Then we can pay him a visit. I hope he’ll be in a talkative mood.”

“Why doesn’t Darren grab him here and save us a trip?” Lassiter asked.

“First, because the quarry will be on his guard here and thus will be harder to catch. Second, there may be items of interest wherever he’s staying, and I’ll want to examine them.”

“And third, he may have friends who will be watching for him.”

“Unlikely. I admit, however, that I’d like to know in advance whether he really is Edward Henry. That would tell me a lot—and puzzle me even more.”

“Who is Edward Henry?”

“He was a weasel desperately trying to be a successful quack, armed with several unorthodox ideas and a perverse desire to turn them to his advantage. I always suspected his medical degree was a fake, which is why I never called him ‘doctor.’ I knew him briefly when I was making my first discoveries some years ago and a relative of one of his patients called me in to undo some damage. He left town in a hurry, and I didn’t see him again for some years. I almost didn’t recognize him when I did: he had undergone several physical changes, to say nothing of changing his name. But the changes hadn’t gone nearly as far as they have since, and close scrutiny enabled me to identify him. He admitted the truth, though not happily, but I decided to let bygones be bygones, especially as he seemed to have reformed. He still had the same bizarre ideas, but he had somehow made them work—at least for himself. And he was beginning to have some undeniable success with some other people—cases no one else could cure.”

“He sounds like Dr. Newman. Is that how you met him—through Henry?”

“In a manner of speaking,” Dr. Fleming replied, turning away to gaze out the window into the gloom. “I mentioned a name change. When we met the second time, Edward Henry called himself Dr. Adam Newman.”

Another ding.

“And that means Darren is ready for us to follow him and his quarry.”

Next: At Loose Ends

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Dark World: New Nemesis or Old

(The story begins here.)
(The last recap is here.)

“Who's Edward Henry?” Darren whispered. “Not a friend, presumably.”

“Probably not,” Dr. Fleming muttered. “He looks like Edward... But it can't be—not now. I haven't seen him like this for years...” He paused. “He's definitely watching us, though, and that makes him irresistibly interesting to me. I'd rather follow him to see where he goes, but we may be forced to capture him instead. Let's break up the meeting; I'll go out to the car, and Darren can follow. I think he is one of Lassiter's many admirers, so Lassiter and Miss FitzHugh should linger at the table and follow us out after about two minutes.”

Without waiting for a response, he got up from the table and left, paying the bill with a somewhat larger bill and telling the cashier to keep the change. Darren pursued him almost immediately with the air of a man impatient to discuss something, and Lassiter and Clio collected their gear, tidied up the table slightly, and glared after their companions with unfeigned annoyance.

Nonetheless they were evidently in no hurry to leave. Indeed, they seemed to dawdle almost out of spite as they worked their way out of the room. Clio started to leave the building as well, but Lassiter pointed out that she had a room there and it was getting too late for her to wander about outside inconspicuously.

Dr. Fleming entered, interrupting the budding argument. “Come on, Lassiter; we're ready to leave. Miss FitzHugh, I bid you good night. Lock your door and window, and keep your gun handy. We shall call for you at eight.”

Clio scowled but retreated up the stairs, and Lassiter smiled. “She already dislikes you, and you're making it worse.”

“I haven't time to care.”

“You will. She believes in revenge. Just because we had to work together to defeat the Shiny One doesn't excuse you.”

“I'll take my chances. Now let's get out to the car. Darren's waiting.”

Lassiter followed the doctor outside, and he took his usual position in the back. He started briefly when he realized that Darren wasn't all there, but then he settled back as the car set out toward the doctor's lab.

“We can talk, I think,” Dr. Fleming said. “Just not loudly, perhaps. I suspect Edward, or whoever he is, is acting alone.”

“And Darren?”

“Darren has plenty of hunting experience. He's probably a better tracker than you are, and anyway, our new friend seems interested in you, so you can't very well follow him. We'll head for home and make a show of retiring early—I wish I could actually do so, but I'll have to wait. Then we'll see what Darren discovers.”

“I wonder if Rick Shafer knows the guy,” Lassiter mused. “If Darren's right, the two of them were practically taking turns watching us.”

“Kindly refrain from mentioning your lunatic friend. I suppose I owe him my life for bringing you to help me, but I'd rather not think about him just now. I'm likely to have nightmares as it is.”

They made the rest of the trip in silence. The doctor sped up near the end to make sure any pursuers weren't close enough to see them remove the coat and hat that substituted for Darren. They were barely inside when a package the doctor was carrying dinged.

Next: The Homing Signal

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Dark World: Council of War

(The story begins here.)
(The last recap is here.)

“The first order of business,” Dr. Fleming said, “is to pool our experiences and determine our goals. Or are we satisfied with the stories we swapped in the Shiny One's lair?” A quick glance at the others confirmed this, and he continued, “Enemies and problems, then. By my count, excluding people we've merely annoyed but who aren't likely to harm us, we have the dark witch, assorted Nazis, whoever tried to kill Dvorak, possibly Dr. Newman, and some Tehros—at least until they realize that Lassiter isn't changing to a werewolf anymore. It seems to me that the witch is the worst threat, since she can appear without warning practically anywhere and overcome even an armed force.”

“You should leave her to me,” Clio said. “I could deal with her easily.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Because I lack your masculine weakness for women.”

“That doesn't matter,” Darren stated. “Her power is not sexual, at least not primarily, and it would affect you as strongly as any man.”

“What do you mean?” Lassiter demanded. “Of course it's sexual.”

“Spoken like a former wolf,” Dr. Fleming said. “Nevertheless, Darren is right: despite her striking appearance, her attraction is primarily...well, psychological, really, though I'm sure Darren would call it spiritual: she appeals to any perceived void or desire. A little careful introspection will confirm that.”

“And she's the only one on your list that really scares you.”

“She's the only one worth being scared of, except perhaps the murderous mastermind of Dvorak Manor, and we haven't heard from him since he tried to kill us with perhaps the world's largest fragmentation grenade. The other threats we can guard against without much difficulty.”

“None of that matters to me,” Clio stated flatly. “I just want to find Father and bring him back.”

“I doubt you can bring him against his will,” Darren said. “And anyway, we have to deal with at least some of these enemies like it or not.” He glanced back into the dining room toward the entrance and continued casually, “Lassiter, call the waiter over to refill your beer, and examine the man by the door as closely as you can without especially noticing him.”

Lassiter did so, and when he turned back to the group, he frowned with puzzlement. “He looks familiar, somehow, but I can't place him.”

Darren smiled. “I think I can. Remember when you thought you saw Shafer and I thought it was someone else? That's the man I saw.”

“Hardly Shafer's twin,” Clio commented.

“He was concealed by trees and dim light.”

Dr. Fleming studied the man carefully yet inconspicuously for a moment. Then his eyes grew widen and he forced himself to look away. “Edward Henry?” he murmured.

Next: New Nemesis or Old
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