Monthly Archives: February 2010

Books: Mind’s Eye, The Return

mindseye-return300.jpgDuring the last week I read two books by Swedish writer Hakan Nesser. Here is yet another very good Swedish mystery writer.

Nesser’s protagonist is Chief Inspector Van Veeteren. I found nothing special about Veeteren (though I initially thought the same of Henning Mankell’s hero, Kurt Wallander). Perhaps he will grow on me. Nevertheless, the plots were quite engaging.

Both books feature a team of police investigators trying to solve murders (as do Mankell’s books). The Swedes aren’t into the rugged individualist, man-against-the-system types common in American mysteries. In both books, interestingly, the investigation revolves around someone whom Van Veeteren suspects has been falsely convicted and imprisoned for a murder. And in both books, the investigation is set in motion when the accused is killed.

In “Mind’s Eye,” a man is sentenced to a mental institution for killing his wife, and then is brutally killed in his cell. The beginning chapters, about this man’s court case, are utterly fascinating. It’s a complex plot which twists and turns before reaching a satisfying conclusion.

In “The Return,” Leopold Verhaven spends 12 years in prison for killing his wife, is free for a while, and then goes back to prison for another 12 years for killing another woman. On the day he is released from prison the second time, he is murdered. Did someone seek revenge? Or was he murdered by the actual murderer? Did Verhaven–himself a complex, disturbed person–commit one murder, both…or none?

While I was not particularly taken by Van Veeteren, the conclusion to “The Return” surprised me with its uniqueness, and made me want to read more about Veeteren. There’s another Van Veeteren book in English, and no doubt others awaiting translation from the Swedish.

Nesser’s books, like most of my favorite mysteries, are published under the Black Lizard imprint from Vintage Books (part of Random House).

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The Early 70s had the Best Quarterbacks

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I miss football already.

Football-wise, I came of age in the early 1970s. It was probably 1969 when I started caring about pro football, back in 7th grade. And in the next few years, I became a huge fan.

The first team I really cared about was the Minnesota Vikings, a team that would go on to dash my hopes repeatedly, including this year. I loved the way Fran Tarkenton played.

Right now, there’s a lot of discussion about putting Drew Brees in the “elite quarterback” category, whose rarefied atmosphere also includes Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. Three elite quarterbacks.

Today’s elites toil amongst a whole bunch of forgettable QBs. But I can still remember the quarterback for nearly every NFL team from the early 1970s, and there were a lot of really good ones. Here they are, off the top of my head:

Baltimore: Johnny Unitas
NY Jets: Joe Namath
Minnesota: Fran Tarkenton
Kansas City: Len Dawson
Pittsburgh: Terry Bradshaw
New Orleans: Archie Manning
Detroit: Greg Landry
Dallas: Robert Staubach and Craig Morton
Washington: Bill Kilmer and Sonny Jurgenson
Miami: Bob Griese
Oakland: Daryl Lamonica and George Blanda
LA Rams: Roman Gabriel
San Francisco: John Brodie
Cincinnati: Ken Anderson
New England: Steve Grogan
Buffalo: Joe Ferguson
St. Louis Cardinals: Jim Harte
San Diego: John Hadl
Houston: Charley Johnson and Dan Pastorini
Chicago: Bobby Douglas

That’s a pretty impressive group. They make up one-third of the modern-era QBsin the Hall of Fame. A number of them were amazing scramblers–Tarkenton, Manning, Landry, Grogan, Staubach, Griese, Bradshaw. You don’t see much of that today, because coaches and GMs don’t want QBs to risk getting hurt. Wimps.

The only teams whose QB I can’t recall are: Atlanta, NY Giants, Cleveland, Green Bay, and Philly. I couldn’t come close to naming as many quarterbacks in the 1980s, 1990s, or the 2000s.

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Our Annual Super Bowl Party, 2010 Edition

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For several years now, Pam and I have hosted a Super Bowl party. This year’s attendees were a bunch of young adults from Anchor, with a few friends thrown in. Oh, and three preschool boys. Four of them were new this year. Click on the photo for a larger view.

At least three of them were rooting for the Saints. So next year’s list just got a little shorter.

You can see a lot more photos from the party on Facebook.

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Full-Service Bigots Who Hate Everyone

GodBlessHitler.jpgA Gallup World Religion Survey shows that 53% of Americans have a “not too favorable” or worse view of Muslims. That’s not surprising, since we’re at war with a group which tightly identifies itself with Islam.

But the survey also showed that a person who hates Jews is overwhelmingly likely to also hate Muslims. There is no “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” thing going on here. Anti-Semites are full-service bigots, it seems. I would guess that these people also dislike other groups as well (Hispanics, blacks, Asians, gays, Mac users, whatever).

I think it’s pretty clear, too, that people who dislike Muslims don’t necessarily also hate Jews. It just goes the other way.

None of this, when I think about it, is surprising. But I wouldn’t have thought about it apart from this survey.So if you know someone who disparages Jews…this may be a hardcore, all-inclusive bigot.

Then there’s the issue of Muslims who hate Jews…and Jews who hate Muslims…the never-ending story.

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Why Anchor is Such a Cool Church

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Pam and me at Anchor on Super Bowl Sunday.

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The worship team. Terry (far left) hadn’t donned his Marshall Faulk jersey yet. We’re practicing the “We Will Rock You” stomp-stomp-clap, stomp-stomp-clap.

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Lots of Colts fans at Anchor.

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The kids come wandering through the sanctuary during sermon sequel, learning about the Israelites wandering in the wilderness.

Anchor is a great church for a lot of reasons. Super Bowl Sunday showed some of them.

  • We were all encouraged to come to church clad in our Colts stuff, and a good number of us did–jerseys, T-shirts, hoods, jackets. Five of the eight worship team members wore the blue and white.
  • To create a stadium atmosphere, we preceded the first song with the greatest stadium song of all time–“We Will Rock You.” Stomp stomp clap, stomp stomp clap. The congregation did that four times, then sang “We will, we will, rock you” four times. And THEN we started into the first worship song. At Anchor, we want to rock your world!
  • A lot of our people come from dysfunctional family situations. Pastor Tim turned over the sermon to a friend, who gave his testimony of growing up in a dysfunctional home, and of his efforts to deal with his father in reconciliation and forgiveness. Nobody could relate exactly with his situation, but parts of it, I’m sure, touched a great many listeners who also struggle with reconciliation, forgiveness, and what it means to honor parents who, from a worldly standpoint, don’t deserve honor.
  • In place of an adult Sunday school, we have what we call “sermon sequel.” The children leave for an instruction time, but the adults stay put for an informal time of building on the sermon. Almost NOBODY leaves. I doubt that anyone left today. How many churches can say that their Sunday school attendance matches their worship attendance?
  • Halfway through the sermon sequel, the back doors of the sanctuary opened and all the children came wandering in, led by Tara Hallman and a child carrying a crooked staff. They were being taught about Moses and the Israelites wandering in the wilderness. They wandered down the aisle and out a side door at the front of the sanctuary. Just a fun little interlude.
  • When sermon sequel ended and the children had rejoined us, we sang our own version of “When the Saints Go Marching In.”

When the Colts, go marching in,
Oh when the Colts go marching in.
How I’d love to be in Miami,
When the Colts go marching in.

Then we sang one final song, and dismissed. It was another great Sunday at Anchor.

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Books: Four by John Sandford

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I started the year reading four John Sandford novels. Back to back, to back, to back. (Do I need another “to back”? Not sure.)

First came “Dark of the Moon,” Sandford’s first novel starring investigator Virgil Flowers. I found Flowers to be quite an engaging character, even more interesting that the renowned Lucas Davenport from Sandford’s “Prey” series. Flowers actually works for Davenport out of Minneapolis, Minn., and he regularly checks in with Davenport.

I liked “Dark of the Moon” so much–and Flowers so much–that I read the second Flowers book, “Heat Lightning.” It, too, was a winner. And I realized I had drawn a very good mental picture of Flowers:

  • Tall, lanky.
  • Shoulder-length blonde hair.
  • Always wears a T-shirt from a rock group (some well-known, like Sheryl Crow or AC/DC, others obscure groups), accompanied by a blazer and cowboy boots.
  • He’s a preacher’s kid, who thinks about God a lot, but doesn’t actively practice any religion.
  • He’s been married three times.

I realized that, though I’d read at least 15 of the Lucas Davenport novels (out of 19 to date), I didn’t have a clear picture of Davenport. So after reading those two Virgil Flowers books, I thought I should read about Davenport again. As it turns out, I had two on my shelf: “Broken Prey” and “Phantom Prey,” awaiting my attention.

But after reading them, I still don’t have a clear picture of Davenport in my head.

However, all four of these were excellent books, each dealing with a serial killer. Sandford is a master at misdirection, dropping all kinds of clues but still keeping the reader in the dark. He plays fair. Raymond Chandler and Dashell Hammet would wait until the end, when the protagonist would deliver a long speech explaining everything that had happened, including information not previously available to the reader. I don’t like that. With Sandford, the mystery gradually unfolds, and you’re aware of what’s happening as the hero is.

In most books, you don’t know the killer until toward the end. In others, like “Invisible Prey,” you know who they are all along; you’re just waiting for Davenport to figure it out. Then there are books like “Phantom Prey,” where the reader finds out about halfway through (though in that case, plenty of mystery remained). Sandford always does it right.

In brief:

  • “Dark of the Moon” occurs in a small town, with the requisite small-town intrigue where everybody knows everybody else.
  • “Heat Lighting” involves a group of men who were in Vietnam together, and are getting killed one after another.
  • “Broken Prey” involves murders with a connection to a prison hospital. One of his better “Prey” books.
  • “Phantom Prey” involves killings in the Goth community. Has some psychological thriller elements, and I’m not a real fan of that.
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CNN Just Won’t Desert Haiti. Kudos.

CNN deserves a lot of credit for their sustained reporting on Haiti, weeks after the earthquake actually happened. FoxNews has moved on to their political agenda, and I’m not sure MSNBC was ever much interested in Haiti. But CNN is still there, keeping us informed.

I suspect their ratings are suffering as a result. That’s been the experience with disasters in the past. People have ADD when it comes to disasters–they get tired of hearing about it. So rather than lose viewers, TV shows change the subject to appease the fleeting tastes of their consumers. Yesterday’s disaster gets left behind. It’s still a disaster, still news, but it’s not what viewers want anymore.

But CNN has held firm, insisting that Haiti is still an important story.

It’s expensive, too, keeping reporters, camera crews, and producers on location. It’s much cheaper to let Sean Hannity or Keith Olberman pontificate in suit-and-tie from a studio. By comparison, sending reporters into the field costs big bucks. Though you can bet Fox will spend that money to cover, in force, the upcoming National Tea Party Convention. It’s a matter of priorities.

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I Agree with PCWorld

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As James 2:19 states, “Even the demons believe–and tremble.”

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Who Do Ya Turn To? Dad, of Course!

One of my snowblower tires was flat, and I couldn’t get it to inflate. So what to do?

Take it to Dad, of course. Because he can fix anything. That’s what I did a couple nights ago.

Tonight, after practice, I called Dad.

“Wondering if we can stop by to get the tire, since they say snow’s coming tomorrow.”

“Or, you could look in your garage,” Dad said.

He had fixed the tire, then dropped by today and put it back on the snowblower. Ready to go.

That’s one awesome Dad. Which I’ve known for a long, long time.

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My Generation Wearing Dentures

The Super Bowl halftime programmers have been real cautious since the Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction in 2004. Since then, they’ve been booking the oldest rockers they can find, assuming them to be safe.

  • 2005: Paul McCartney
  • 2006: The Rolling Stones
  • 2007: Prince (who was surprisingly good)
  • 2008: Tom Petty
  • 2009: Bruce Springsteen
  • 2010: The Who

No young, skin-showing talent. Certainly no rappers.

I’m just wondering who they’ll find in the years ahead. Here are some suggestions:

  • Three Dog Night? They’re still around. Used to be the biggest band in the world
  • Alice Cooper?
  • AC/DC?
  • Chuck Berry? He’s still kicking. I could hear “Johnny B. Goode” and “Maybellene” again.
  • Aerosmith? (They were there in 2001, with Britney, ‘N Sync, and Mary J. Blige)

Sometime, one of these rockers is gonna have a heart-attack right there at halftime, live before billions of people. In fact, it could be Pete Townsend.

Wikipedia, of course, has a complete list of Super Bowl halftime shows.

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