It’s not a Real Place (I Think)

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I was chatting yesterday with our esteemed colleague, Jan-o, who publishes ghost stories on her blog ( She outdid herself yesterday with a collection of stories about places people visited, but which later turned out not to exist. Like, they’d been there, but there was no there anymore. Most distressing.

There is a place I sometimes dream of. I can easily prove it doesn’t exist, but the dreams are very consistent. I could draw a map of it. Let me try to describe it to you.

At the north end of Main Street in our town is a golf course: the street simply stops in front of it, separated from the landscape by a guard rail.

In the dream there is no golf course, just woodlands, most of it sloping downhill. To the left of the guardrail is a narrow path that will take you down the hill: all the way down to a railroad cut with high banks and streams on either side of the tracks.

If you follow the tracks, the high banks of the cut gradually give way to a flat marshland of dazzling beauty. It extends in every direction as far as the eye can see. Here and there are artifacts of the old days of the railroad: broken-down sheds, broken-down flatcars, stuff like that. And occasionally a slow train comes through, and they will stop for you if you want to get aboard and ride.

In one dream I went down there to catch turtles and found–of all people!–Father Brown (complete with priest’s cassock and umbrella) doing the same. We had a nice chat about turtles until his bishop came along and shooed him back to work. Funny place to run into a bishop.

This country is the same whenever I dream of it. I know what to expect. I like it.

I reason that somehow my mind has put it together out of bits and pieces collected from the real world and assembled into a new pattern. I can tell you where I’ve seen old grey freight cars stuck out in the middle of an expanse of knee-high yellow grass. And our town has an old railroad cut with high banks on either side: used to go down there to catch polliwogs. My dreamscape seems to have been cobbled together out of these familiar elements.

Great cobbling job, though. You’d swear it was real.

How about it? Anybody else out there–do you have dreams like these? Inquiring minds want to know.

Welcome Back, Joshua (and Just a Few Thoughts on Other Things)

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For those of you who haven’t read the comments, our esteemed colleague Joshua has returned to us. It turns out he just felt like taking a break from social media. Dude, that’s all right–but next time, just mention it to somebody. So we don’t have to worry about the corny-virus getting you.

May was cruising along swimmingly until this past week. I don’t know about the virus, but this blog’s curve got flattened, but good. Yesterday was the lowest viewership we’ve had in years. The whole week was pretty poor, and wiped out May’s chance of being our first 12,000-view month.

Thing is, I am totally mystified as to what causes this. If only I knew! Then I could avoid it. Not even Byron the Quokka was able to get this week kick-started. Was it something I said?

I missed the new Father Brown season. In the first episode, the priest gives a wink and a nod to a lesbian relationship; and the second episode, which we turned off some ten minutes into the show, was shaping up to be about your friendly neighborhood abortionist with a heart of gold.

Our problem is not just that we follow false prophets. We also follow insane and stupid prophets and never, ever gain by it. What do we get for turning our culture inside-out to accommodate transgender wackos? Absolutely nothing–and we incur a spiritual pollution, to boot.

Are we capable of learning from our errors? Are we able to hear warnings? Are we able to see it when things go very, very wrong?

Heaven help us if we aren’t.



My Newswithviews Column, March 12 (‘Never Give In’)

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They’re ruining it–why?

Some of you will realize that this was published here last week as a blog post, and that I’ve just expanded it a little for Newswithviews.

Never Give In – Never Give Up

Well, why not? I feel strongly about being subjected to spiritual and cultural pollution, and I can’t help thinking there’s a lot more of that sentiment out there than people dare express.

Leftism soils and debases everything–yes, everything–it touches.

‘Morning Has Broken’

I never knew this was a hymn, way back when Cat Stevens was singing it as a hit song and you heard it on the radio. But then I heard it sung as a hymn on a “Father Brown” episode, of all places–and here it is for you: Morning Has Broken, sung by Orla Fallon. And it’s fitting that the sight of God’s handiwork should move us to grateful prayer.

An Edifying TV Series

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I had just about given up on the BBC as a source of edifying story-telling, when along came The Father Brown Mysteries ( It’s got the acting, it’s got the writing, and it’s a treat for the eye. But more than that, it’s got a solid Christian message.

Mark Williams stars as Father Brown, the character originally created by G.K. Chesterton. The series is very loosely based on Chesterton’s detective stories. They’ve made Father Brown a humble parish priest in the little town of Kembleford, tucked into the lovely countryside of England in the early 1950s. The original Father Brown traveled around a lot, but this Father Brown’s mysteries come up to his doorstep.

What’s so great about a parish priest solving murders, week after week? Although he never fails to solve the mystery (and some of them are quite cleverly conceived),  Father Brown never, never loses sight of his primary mission–to bring people closer to God. Especially people who have gone astray–even murderers.

Sure, it exasperates the local police inspector always to be the caboose with this meddling priest as the locomotive of the mystery-solving train. It would bug him even more, if he ever realized that solving the mystery isn’t even Father Brown’s top priority: he remains, under all circumstances, a man of God.

The writers very wisely set their stories in the not-so-distant past so that no one can demand that Father Brown start crusading for transgender rights or any such wicked nonsense as that. Sorry, nobody did that in 1952.

Father Brown’s tools are common sense, an understanding heart, love and compassion for the sinners under his care, an unshakeable commitment to serving God, a wry sense of humor, and humility. In episode after episode, he brings these tools to bear; and watching him work is not only a pleasure, but an inspiration. Like, wow, look at that! Godliness really is the most useful thing in the world–we could use a lot more of it.

Although most of the mysteries are murder mysteries, there’s no reveling in gory details. The overall tone is gentle, understated–rather like Father Brown himself.

We don’t have TV, so we bought the episodes on youtube, Seasons 1-3, and Season 4 on The show has been running since 2013, and we’re very glad to know that Season 5 will soon be available.

There isn’t much television like this, so grab it while you can.

How Not to Commit a Murder

[Warning: this essay contains spoilers. Sorry, but I can’t make my point without them.]

My wife and I love murder mysteries; but I can’t help being amused whenever a famous and well-regarded author resorts to an impractical and wholly unreliable method of doing someone in.

G.K. Chesterton, in one of his Father Brown stories, has the murderer climb to the top of a very high church steeple and, from there, hurl a hammer earthward–expertly conking his victim to Kingdom Come.

Ngaio Marsh, in one of her Roderick Alleyn mysteries, has the murderer standing on a high cliff. Seeing his victim moving around in a pool below, he picks up a great big stone that requires both hands to lift, raises it over his head, and scores a bulls-eye on his target’s hapless skull.

Could you do that? Really, these murderers were wasted in civilian life. Either of them could have made a fortune playing basketball. I play basketball regularly, and on a really good day (which doesn’t happen all that often), with thousands of practice shots under my belt, using a nice, aerodynamically stable basketball aimed at a basket which is always in the same place and never moves, I might make half my shots from the three-point line–a much shorter distance than that traveled by either the hammer or the stone, with a moving target.

If it were me, I’d need a whole wheelbarrow-full of hammers and I’d miss over and over again. The victim would be well-advised to run away before I got lucky with a hammer. Ditto the big, hefty stone.

I suppose you can get away with this if you’re Ngaio Marsh or G.K. Chesterton. You or I would have nothing to show for it but a rejection slip and maybe a catty comment from an editor who’d had her fill of stories such as these. “Why didn’t the killer just hide a rabid sea lion in the trunk of the victim’s car, which would bite him when he opened it? Or simply arrange to bean him with a golf ball from 100 yards away?”

The same rule holds for any other kind of fiction, including fantasy.

Don’t ask your fictional character to do something that you couldn’t do yourself in 20 dozen tries.