Monday, May 29, 2006


Memorial Day in the US is for the remembrance of those who died fighting for their country. I don't know of anyone related to me who has died in battle, but there've been a few who did serve in the military and saw combat.

My great-great-great-uncle Andrew Kincannon (d. 1829), fought in the battle of King's Mountain (1780) against American Tories and the British.

My great-grandfather Joseph Pope Morgan ("Granpappy", d. 1933) served in the Confederate Army (3rd Mississippi) and was wounded in the battle of Chickamauga.

My step-grandfather Bill Erkelens (d. 1965), flew in bomber biplanes in World War I as the gunner. "How many German planes did you shoot down?" I asked him once, when I was a kid. He said, "Just one," and looked away. Not a good memory.

My uncle Joe Morgan (d. 1966), served in the Pacific Theater in World War II, most notably on the island of Peleliu.

My father, Charles G. Cook (d. 1985), was a bomber pilot (B-17's) during World War II. In 1948, he flew C-47's in the Berlin Airlift. Later, in the early '50's, he was stationed on Guam and was a "typhoon spotter," flying 27 missions into the center of typhoons to gather meteorological data.

My brother, Chuck Cook, was in Vietnam (I think actually Cambodia) as a radio communications specialist.

I'll also mention my wife Amy's illustrious ancestor, Nathaniel Chapman, who was one of the original Minutemen and fought at Bunker Hill. One of his children, John Chapman, became better known as Johnny Appleseed. (JA's half-brother, also named Nathaniel, is Amy's great-great-great-grandfather.)

Me? I gave up my student deferment in 1971; that year my lottery number was 189, and they didn't draft me. According to the rules in place then, if you weren't drafted the first year you were 1-A, you couldn't be drafted later. Although I had grave misgivings about Vietnam (who didn't?), I had no plans to dodge the draft or to declare myself a conscientious objector. If I had, my father might have done me serious harm, and I was more afraid of him than of the Viet Cong. But by the luck of the draw, I was passed by. Nothing to be proud of, but at least no one had to go in my place.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Goodbye, Shelby

Yesterday our long-time family dog, Shelby, was put to sleep at the age of 15. We acquired him in the fall of 1990 as a puppy, when the kids were 7 and 3. Now they are 22 and 18, all grown up, and, as if his work was done, Shelby's body started to give out. He had a good long run as our friend, playmate, and little brother.

He was a mixed-breed dog of medium size, with a beagle-type head and ears, but with a hunter's deep chest and slender hips. It's a pity that none of us have ever been hunters, because he would have excelled at that; he knew how to point, and when he barked (not very often, for he was rather quiet), it was with the hound dog's arooo! and not the yike-yike-yike of the lapdog. Occasionally he would slip through the security system for independent forays, returning hours later with some strange dog's supper dish. And who will ever forget the time when he snuck into the kitchen and ate an entire plate of brownies, with no ill effects? He was the children's special friend, sleeping on their beds until his hips and legs became too fragile to manage even that small hop.

With most species, we share the planet as passengers share the same train (although no doubt the animal creation finds us an unusually loud, smelly, violent, and unruly group to travel with), and God's purpose and plan for them is a complete mystery; neither Scripture, tradition, nor reason give us any clue about the post-mortem fate of creatures, if any. But the species Canis domesticus seems to have evolved alongside Homo sapiens, and their fate — biologically, at least — seems intertwined with ours, their behaviors shaped by human habits.

Even the few hints about our own human destiny do not encourage the view that the Resurrection life is just this world all over again; and yet there must be some kind of continuity at some level. Otherwise talk about "the new creation" would be devoid of content, denoting only "unimaginable beings in some unimaginable mode of existence." Since there must be some continuity, perhaps it is not going too far to hope that these creatures, at least, may find a place in the new heaven and new earth; and that when we awake in newness of life, out of all the other wonders in store for us, one of them might be the sight of our glorified dogs jumping up to lick our faces.

In closing, I append a poem by Robinson Jeffers, called "The House Dog's Grave." Many thanks to Michael Gilleland, who recently included it in his blog.

I've changed my ways a little; I cannot now
Run with you in the evenings along the shore,
Except in a kind of dream; and you, if you dream a moment,
You see me there.

So leave awhile the paw-marks on the front door
Where I used to scratch to go out or in,
And you'd soon open; leave on the kitchen floor
The marks of my drinking-pan.

I cannot lie by your fire as I used to do
On the warm stone,
Nor at the foot of your bed; no, all the nights through
I lie alone.

But your kind thought has laid me less than six feet
Outside your window where firelight so often plays,
And where you sit to read - and I fear often grieving for me -
Every night your lamplight lies on my place.

You, man and woman, live so long, it is hard
To think of you ever dying.
A little dog would get tired, living so long.
I hope that when you are lying

Under the ground like me your lives will appear
As good and joyful as mine.
No, dears, that's too much hope: you are not so well cared for
As I have been.

And never have known the passionate undivided
Fidelities that I knew.
Your minds are perhaps too active, too many-sided...
But to me you were true.

You were never masters, but friends. I was your friend.
I loved you well, and was loved. Deep love endures
To the end and far past the end. If this is my end,
I am not lonely. I am not afraid. I am still yours.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Au lieu de moi

Sorry I've been non-blogging lately, a trend that shows no signs of letting up. (Or is that "every sign of not letting up"? Oh well.)

In place of my own ideas, here's a couple of links from Slate. First, a review of the movie of The DaVinci Code. A quotation:
To my mind, the most ineffable gnostic secret of all is how such hooey has managed to capture the imagination of tens of millions of people all around the world.
Also, please note that Slate now has its own biblioblogger, sort of.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Lost Again

Forget the Gospel of Judas, the DaVinci Code, the Dead Sea Scrolls — the most pored-over, closely read mystery text in the U.S. today is undoubtedly the Blast Door Map from Lost.

We learned one interesting thing last night; the "?" site is the Pearl station. That puts Locke and Eko at least one step ahead of the unknown map-maker, who labeled the site "Purpose unknown." Locke's fear that what they found at the station invalidates his button-pushing mission may (or may not) be addressed by the Latin tag attached to this station on the Map: Nil actum reputa si quid superest agendum, "Nothing is considered done if anything remains to be done."

One reading on the Map should be corrected; although everyone reads Credo nos in fluctu eodem esse (at about 2 o'clock on the map), the word eodem is not there. "I believe we are in a/the wave."

Speculation: I think the Others must live underground and travel by tunnel. I guess we're about to find out.

By the way, if you're not getting enough egghead in your Lost diet, you should know that there is an online Journal of "Lost" Studies.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Books 'n' Records

Just a few notes on what's on the bookshelf/CD player:

Last week I read The Power and the Glory, this week I'm reading The End of the Affair, both for the first time. Where have you been all my life, Graham Greene? ... Over the weekend I read King Dork, by Frank Portman, which was good, although my expectations were slightly higher than the book turned out to be. The kids in this young-adult novel, by the way, don't listen to CDs (it's vinyl instead), nor do they have cell phones, cars, iPods, or any of the other iconic impedimenta of today's youth. And yet it's supposed to take place in the present day? Try around 1985 instead ... The Fiery Furnaces have just come out with Bitter Tea, and I can't recommend it too highly. Just as plot is the backbone of fiction, and draughtsmanship of art, melody is the backbone of music — and no-one these days writes better melodies than FF's Matt Friedberger. The fact that he festoons them with all kinds of collaged sound effects, synth blats and beeps, backwards tapes, and cartoonish keyboard doodles matters not a whit (in fact, I like it): the tunes themselves adhere to the synapses with the delirious speed of ad jingles. But what ad jingle ever had lyrics like

The isolated lady,
an isolated older lady:
a dignified dame who keeps her own counsel,
in love with the out-of-the-way,
identifying with the unfamiliar,
contemptuously turns her back on the wicked world
with its vulgar delusions and correspondingly
scorns its regard.
("Whistle Rhapsody")

Very cool.