Two Poems Published in On the Rusk

I have two poems,  Ivan  Denisovich and Still Pool, in the latest issue of On the Rusk.

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Returning to my Holmes (A review of The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes)

Sherlock-Holmes-007A review of The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

It’s been so very long since I’ve jumped into the Sherlock Holmes stories and this foray has been so very delightful. It reminds me that deep down, missing detection and deductive reasoning skills notwithstanding, I’m a devoted Sherlockian.

These stories are top notch, showing Holmes in his finest form. And they never grow old. A. C. Doyle’s genius is behind every stroke. It’s also heaping brilliance upon brilliance to have both Mycroft Holmes (Sherlock’s brother) and Moriatry (Sherlock’s reptilian nemesis) introduced in these stories.Though we hear so little of them, they are brilliantly crafted characters.

This book makes me want to move to Victorian England and become a consulting detective with all its peril. And then perhaps write a technical monograph on some obscure subject such as The Footprint Width of Peruvian Newts. It makes me wish there were thousands more canonical Holmes stories.

An unexpected side-effect of my return to the Holmes canon has been an increased respect for the recent BBC Sherlock Holmes series.The nine episodes, as an adaptation, stand up to the scrutiny of an examination of the Holmes canon. Benedict Cumberbatch is a wonderful Sherlock. Mark Gatiss gets Mycroft right. Martin Freeman nails the essence of Watson. Rarely is a TV series so thoroughly vindicated as by the re-reading of this book.

If you haven’t read this book yet, the driving question is: why not?

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Responding to Voddie Baucham on Ferguson

For those who keep up on such things in the Reformed world, both Alan Noble and Thabiti Anyabwile have responded to Voddie Baucham’s blog post on Ferguson.

Both Alan and Thabiti have brought up some good points and outlined some major problems in what Voddie is saying. It should be noted that Thabiti’s post is not necessarily a direct response to Voddie (he’s made his points more widely applicable), but they are clearly written in view of what Voddie wrote.

I will share some summaries/excerpts here:

1. Thabiti acknowledges that sin is the overarching universal problem that is behind racism. However, he  observes that when some people say “the problem is sin”,they actually mean to dismiss the issue and, in a sense, actually dismiss the sin involved. Thabiti wisely advises that we need to avoid the sort of dismissive attitude that shares the theological truth that sin is involved and then says “It’s sin. That’s it. Leave it there. Don’t bother me with empathy, compassion, suffering with those who suffer or anything of the sort. It has nothing to do with injustice or systems or the like. It’s just sin.”

2. Thabiti then sees similar undertones that sometimes spring up in statements like “What people really need is the gospel.”  Again, this is essentially a true statement. Everyone needs the gospel. However, when such a statement is used dismissively in a way that leads to alienating others, it might be we don’t even understand what the gospel is. He says “if we find ourselves making that statement [“What people really need is the gospel”] as a final rejoinder to real life problems, then we had better ask ourselves if we mean it. ”

3. (This one is not directly related to Voddie’s post, but is generally applicable to much of the discourse on the subject) Thabiti then shares how, in some circles, the name “Obama” is used to evade things, as “an escape hatch of all escape hatches. They simply blame President Obama. The situation doesn’t matter. …Say that name at just the right point and–poof!–any real world discussion or problem requiring genuine Christian witness and engagement vanishes from sight.”

4. Alan speaks about Voddie’s statements about the role of fatherlessness in this subject. He concludes that  “even if you accept [Voddie’s] claim that black fathers must become better fathers in order for substantial change to take place in black communities, there is no reason this must take place before addressing systemic racism.”

5. Alan speaks about Voddie’s comments on “black-on-black” crime.  Alan powerfully refutes Voddie’s comments about black-on-black crime and its relation to the subject at hand. Alan says the following “First, [Voddie’s statement] is another false dichotomy. There is no reason we shouldn’t speak out against police abuses just because there are criminals within the black community. Second, this ignores the deep harm that systemic racism causes, some of which encourages the very black-on-black violence he laments. When a community loses trust in law enforcement, they are less inclined to report crime, making them more likely to be victims of crime in the future. ”

6. Alan makes an interesting comment about Voddie’s dislike of treating the problem as a ‘systemic” one. Alan observes that “Baucham would not hesitate to call out systemic prejudice against Christians or the family unit, so he should be able to appreciate the charge that this same system also harbors injustices against minorities.”

These are just little highlights–I suggest reading the articles in their entirety if the subject interests you.

Here I will share the concluding paragraphs of each article

Alan Noble: “What Ferguson has demonstrated in a very public way is the deep divisions between the various ways that Christians understand race in America. While I am glad to see many in the evangelical church speaking out and having important conversations about race, we must be able to imagine a way forward which does not rely on an overly simple view of personal responsibility and causality.”

Thabiti Anyabwile: “I pray we work against any form of escapism that keeps us from being salt and light. I especially pray we work against escapism in the name of “the gospel.” If we would be “gospel people” in the best sense of the phrase, then we must be honest people. We must have that good Samaritan honesty that sees the situation accurately and enters it compassionately. When we’re in the situation, we may have to point out sin, we hope to actually do the work of evangelism, and we may have to point people to the world to come because “inconsolable things” break us in this life. But let none of that be superficial or trite. Let it be true and engaged.”

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Books Finished in November

(6 paper books, 0 e-books, and 3 audio books)

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Biographies and Critical Studies of William Cowper

I just finished reading William Cowper by Norman Nicholson and am currently working through William Cowper: Nature Poet by Roderick Huang.

For future use, I’ve written down some biographies and critical studies on Cowper that they’ve mentioned. Here they are sorted by date with some added information:cowper

  • Memoirs of William Cowper by S. Greathead (1814) [?]
  • The Life of William Cowper by Thomas Taylor (1835) [AO]
  • The Life of William Cowper by Robert Southy (1858) [AO]
  • Cowper by G. Smith – English Men of Letters series (1880) [UoW]
  • The Tour of Cowper, or the Literary and Historical Associations of Olney by T. Wright (1886) [GB]
  • The Life of William Cowper by T. Wright (1892, revised 1921) [AO, UOW]
  • Letters of Lady Hesketh to the Rev. John Johnson, Concerning William Cowper by H. Hesketh (1901) [AO]
  • William Cowper by Hugh l’Anson Fausset (1928) [UOW]
  • The Stricken Deer: Or the Life of Cowper by Lord David Cecil (1929) [UOW]
  • Cowper: A Critical Life by M. Quinlan (1935) [UOW]
  • William Cowper and the Eighteenth Century by Gilbert Thomas (1935, revised 1948) [UOW]
  • William Cowper: Humanitarian by Lodwick C. Hartley (1938) [?]
  • William Cowper of the Inner Temple, Esquire by C. Ryskamp (1959) [UoW]

The square brackets at the end of each entry indicate where the book is available. The abbreviations are as follows:

  • AO =
  • GB = Google Books
  • UOW = University of Windsor Library

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William Cowper’s Card Table

“You will wonder when I tell you that I write upon a card-table; and will be still more surprised when I add, that we breakfast, dine, sup, upon a card-table. In short, it serves all purposes, except the only one for which it was originally designed..[it] is, therefore, preferable to any other that has a slippier surface..[it] is advanced to the honour of assisting me upon my scribbling occasions..[and] proves equally serviceable upon all others..we spill upon it our coffee, our wine, and our ale”cowper (from Letter to John Newton, March 19, 1785)

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Out And About (2014-11-21)


  • A bill to reform the NSA has been defeated. As is usually the case, scare tactics were used by some of its opponents–emotional appeals to the threat of terrorism and ISIS. On the other hand, Rand Paul–who has been very critical of the NSA’s activities–voted against the bill because he believes it doesn’t go far enough and has some concerns about its provisions. Julian Sanchez of the CATO institute has some analysis and concludes that Rand is wrong and this was the best chance at reform.

Civil Rights


  • These videos uses 8 bit video game sequences to teach about philosophy



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How Republicans Used To Talk About Immigration

This is a Republican debate from 1980 between Ronald Reagan and George H. Bush. It’s amazing how things have changed!

G. H. Bush -> “I would like to see something done about the illegal alien problem that would be..sensitive…about human needs”
Ronald Reagan -> “Open the border [with Mexico] both ways”


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