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January 2024

Ann Cleeves: Raven Black

My wife and I listened to an audio version of this book on an overnight trip a couple of weeks ago. I picked it from one of several options she gave me (ordinarily she's the one who locates the book and downloads it to her phone) because it is the first of eight novels in a series set in the Shetland Islands, and we've been watching the TV series Shetland, which is based on those books, since it began about then years ago. (I note in passing that this series is only one of several by Ann Cleeves, which come up to a total of several dozen novels, of which the ones I've read are lengthy and complex. I don't understand that level of inventiveness. Granted, Cleeves was born in 1954 and has been at this for a long time. But still.)

We both like the series a great deal, and I recommend it if for no other reason than the gorgeous cinematography of Shetland. So I was curious about the novels. This one is good, an excellent detective story with a complex plot and interesting characters and setting. However, though I am not a connoisseur of detective fiction, and so am subject to correction, I think this one cheats a bit according to what I take to be the traditional rules of the genre. And I can't say any more than that without committing spoilage. 

I was going to remark that Cleeves is not an especially poetic stylist; that is, I didn't find her prose, as a listening experience, noticeably enjoyable for itself. But then I thought that might be unfair: one doesn't, or at least I don't, have the opportunity to savor the language of an audio book, and this is especially true if one is driving a car, as I was for most of this. In that situation I can only try to follow the narrative.

Perhaps if I read her on the page I would have a different view. I tested that conjecture by going to Amazon and reading a few excerpts; it is correct. Here is the opening, poached from Amazon's sample: 

Twenty past one in the morning on New Year’s Day. Magnus knew the time because of the fat clock, his mother’s clock, which squatted on the shelf over the fire. In the corner the raven in the wicker cage muttered and croaked in its sleep. Magnus waited. The room was prepared for visitors, the fire banked with peat and on the table a bottle of whisky and the ginger cake he’d bought in Safeway’s the last time he was in Lerwick. He could feel himself dozing but he didn’t want to go to bed in case someone should call at the house. If there was a light at the window someone might come, full of laughter and drams and stories. For eight years nobody had visited to wish him happy new year, but still he waited just in case.

Outside it was completely silent. There was no sound of wind. In Shetland, when there was no wind it was shocking. People strained their ears and wondered what was missing. Earlier in the day there had been a dusting of snow, then with dusk this was covered by a sheen of frost, every crystal flashing and hard as diamond in the last of the light, and even when it got dark, in the beam from the lighthouse. The cold was another reason for Magnus staying where he was. In the bedroom the ice would be thick on the inside of the window and the sheets would feel chill and damp.

He must have slept. If he’d been awake he’d have heard them coming because there was nothing quiet in their approach. They weren’t creeping up on him. He’d have heard their laughter and the stumbling, seen the wild swaying of the torch beam through the uncurtained window. He was woken by the banging on the door. He came to with a start, knowing he’d been in the middle of a nightmare, but not sure of the details.

‘Come in,’ he shouted. ‘Come in, come in.’ He struggled to his feet, stiff and aching. They must already be in the storm porch. He heard the hiss of their whispers.

The door was pushed open, letting in a blast of freezing air and two young girls, who were as gaudy and brightly coloured as exotic birds. He saw they were drunk.

Magnus is a recluse, not exactly mentally retarded but not very bright, and quite eccentric. He is one of the people who will be suspected of murdering one of the girls. And I'll leave the plot at that. It is, as I mentioned, pretty complex, and involves in a great deal of the history of the main characters. I'll probably read the next one, at least, to watch their further development. 

Raven Black

Of course I already had, from the series, some sense of their personalities and background. Naturally I was constantly comparing the book to the series--favorably for the most part. And a few days later we (re)watched the Shetland episodes which are based on this book. Naturally there are major differences, and in general I thought they were justifiable, though I wondered if some of them were necessary or smart. I've often thought it would be interesting to sit in on the deliberations of directors and writers developing a dramatization of a novel. It must be a pretty difficult thing. The necessity of putting everything into action and dialogue would force some changes, obviously. And others might be dictated by practical necessity.

One striking change, though not an important one, is that the main detective, Jimmy Perez, is played by an actor who is the visual opposite of the book's Perez. He is not, as the name might suggest, an imported Spaniard, but a native Shetlander whose ancestry goes back generations. The name is attributed by family lore to a sailor of the Spanish Armada who was shipwrecked on one of the Shetland islands, married a native, and never went home. And in the book his complexion and hair are dark. But Perez in the series is played by a very blond and fair-skinned actor, Douglas Henshall. Plausibility is addressed by a remark that the current Perez must have inherited his appearance from the maternal line of that first marriage.

I assume that change was a simple result of the choice among available actors. Another, which is more substantial and which I would have liked to see in the series, is the switch of the series from winter to summer, which significantly changes the atmosphere (no pun intended)--consider the opening quoted above, which is very much determined by the season and even by the particular night. It also eliminates a fairly large piece of furniture from the story: a sort of Viking Mardi Gras festival, Up Helly Aa, pronounced something like UP-ayly-AH, accents on the first and last syllables. (If you don't already know, look at a map and you'll see why Shetland has a Viking connection.) Much of the story involves this festival, and a general winteriness, and I speculate that the change was due to practical constraints of filming.

There was something a bit disappointing in this audiobook. The narrator seems to be English, and apart from dialogue reads in an English accent. I think all the actors in the TV series are actual Scots, and I missed that in the reading. Even in the dialogue, I think the narrator is sometimes a little off.  He pronounces the name of the city of Lerwick, for instance, exactly as it's spelled: Ler-wick, "Ler" rhyming with "there." Whereas in the series it's something like "Lerrick," rhyming with "derrick." Or even "Lerrig." Or  something closer to "Layrig." I have learned, beginning some years ago when I listened to an audiobook of one of M.C. Beaton's Hamish Macbeth mysteries, read by a woman who was either Scottish or very skilled at sounding that way, that I very much like the Scottish accent, especially in a woman. And I would have preferred the woman who did the M.C. Beaton book (possibly Davina Porter, but I'm not sure, as I'm not even sure what the title of the book was), or someone like her. (Beaton's career, by the way, makes Cleeves look like a slacker.)

And there's one thing entirely missing from the book that I like very much about the series:  Detective Sergeant Alison McIntosh, known as "Tosh," played by Alison O'Donnell. She is pretty much my favorite character in the series, because I am delighted every time she speaks. And also by a facial expression she uses from time to time, a sort of grimace in which one side of her mouth turns up and the other down; my wife suggested that she might have been cast specifically to make that face. Perhaps she appears in the later books. You can catch a few glimpses of her in this trailer for the current season, which does not include Perez, because of the departure of Douglas Henshall. I learned from something I came across while looking for a suitable clip that there was a Team Tosh composed of viewers who wanted Tosh to be promoted to Perez's position. Had I known about it, I would have signed up.

Some Other Night, Perhaps, Mr. Tchaikovsky

I went to hear the Mobile Symphony last night, and had a very mixed reaction to what I heard. As follows:

Duke Ellington: Suite From The River

I had never heard this piece, a suite from a ballet, before, but I suppose I can say I had some expectations, and that it met them, but that that was not altogether a good thing. My expectations were based on a generally not all that favorable view of jazz-classical mixtures: they tend to suffer from neither-fish-nor-fowl syndrome. The jazzy elements seem stiff, and the classical-y elements limited, and that was more or less my reaction here. I don't want to sound too negative, as it was very enjoyable. But relatively lightweight.

Stravinsky: Suite from The Firebird

The pairing (as they say of food and drink) of this with the Ellington was unfortunate. No doubt it seemed a good idea, but Ellington did not come off well: it was the difference between very enjoyable and magical.

The first Stravinsky I ever heard was The Rite of Spring, most likely when I was a college sophomore taking Dr. Frederick Hyde's music history course at the University of Alabama, ca. 1968. I mention that because Dr. Hyde was a wonderful teacher who deserves to be remembered, and that course was a wonderful experience, which I certainly remember. When I think of him I remember him coming into the classroom struggling with a stack of several dozen LPs, from which he would choose examples to illustrate his lectures. In my perhaps exaggerated memory, there were so many records in the stack that the top ones were always tending to slide off onto the floor. 

I loved The Rite, instantly, and was eager to hear more Stravinsky. The obvious next step was The Firebird. But on one hearing I found it considerably less interesting, almost bland in comparison. And though I've listened to The Rite occasionally over the years, I didn't seek out The Firebird

Well, that's changed now. As of last night, I absolutely love The Firebird. I learned this morning that there are several suites drawn from the score, and this is the 1919 one, apparently the most frequently performed. It is sharp, clear, clean, making use of unusual instrumental techniques--very "modern" in that respect--and yet lyrical, and yet exciting. And I think the Mobile Symphony, whose players are, I assume, not full-time, did it justice. As a recording their performance would no doubt be inferior to the work of big-time orchestras, but last night it had the great advantage of being heard live. And whatever else  might be said about this orchestra, it does not lack energy, which surely has everything to do with its energetic conductor, Scott Speck. I can't recall ever before having the impulse to jump up and yell "Bravo!" at a performance, but I did last night--have the impulse, I mean. I wasn't the only one; there was in fact a standing ovation, which I think is not usual for the second work on the program, especially one without a star soloist. (I didn't actually do it because I didn't want to dump the big coat, hat, and program book in my lap onto the floor.) 

Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto #1

Because I'm so thoroughly in touch with pop culture, I know that "It's not you, it's me," spoken by one member of a romantic relationship to the other as part of the announcement that he/she is breaking up with her/him, is a sort of standing joke. I am resorting to it now in relation to this concerto. I did not enjoy it, but it's not the work, it's me--probably. I can't say why I didn't enjoy it--well, I can say, and I will, but I don't really understand the reaction. I like Tchaikovsky. I like big romantic works with heart-tugging melodies. Granted, the piano concerto is not my favorite genre--I don't think there is one that I would place among my very favorite works--but that doesn't mean I can't enjoy it.

I think it was partly, as with the Ellington, an unfortunate pairing. It was as if I'd had a drink of some of the best whiskey in the world, and, still savoring the aftertaste, tried to eat (drink?) one of those gooey fast-food pseudo-milkshakes. Wrong moment. I was not consciously prejudiced, but something in me rebelled with those first thick, crashing piano chords, accompanied by a famous melody (which was used in a popular song, "Tonight We Love," and I can't keep those words out of my head when I hear the melody).

Part of the problem was the pianist, Maxim Lando, and that began before he ever touched the keys. He came out wearing a shiny gold jacket of the Elvis style, though only waist length. And when he did begin to play, his physical mannerisms were distracting to the point of annoyance: he crouched low over the keyboard in the Glenn Gould style. And those chords were so huge, so crashing, so much more like heavy metal (which I like in its proper place) than I was ready to hear, that I couldn't help blaming the pianist for what is probably the composer's doing. 

And so it went for the entire first movement. The pianist, or the composer, couldn't seem to do anything right for my ears. Things got somewhat better in the second and third movements, and I figured out that I needed to keep my eyes closed to avoid being distracted by the gold lamé (if that's the right word) and the mannerisms. Still, I never really got on board. 

Almost certainly it's not Tchaikovsky or Lando. I'm pretty sure it's me, my frame of mind at the moment. Sometime soon I'll find a recording of the concerto to listen to (I'm not even sure whether I own one) and see if we get along better. Or then again maybe that would be a mistake. Maybe better to wait a while.

In the program notes, Scott Speck has a perfectly reasonable explanation for his choice of these three works.

An unlikely trio of composers. What on earth could have possessed us to combine Peter Tchaikovsky, Igor Stravinsky and Duke Ellington into a single concert? Well, the connections are broader than you might think – and Igor Stravinsky is the key. Stravinsky grew up and spent his most formative musical years in the land of Tchaikovsky – and he spent his last three decades in the land of Ellington.

And he goes on to cite several other connections. Fair enough. It just didn't work for me.

Wodehouse: Ring For Jeeves

I think it's been almost thirty years now since I discovered that the works of P.G. Wodehouse are a wonderful anti-depressant, producing a bubbling levity which I have previously described as feeling the way champagne looks. This effect, though, is sadly brief, and I've been a little concerned that, as with alcohol, steady use might reduce it, so I don't read Wodehouse all that often. 

I'm speaking mainly of the Jeeves and Wooster books, of which there are, I think, fourteen; it's a little difficult to fix the number because the U.S. and U.K. editions differ somewhat. Not wanting to go through them too quickly, I haven't read them all. Certainly they will continue to be delightful on re-reading--I've read Joy In the Morning and Code of the Woosters at least twice. But the happy shock of the first encounter with an especially funny bit can't be repeated. 

Lately, however, I've been thinking that this careful husbandry could be a mistake: being pretty old now, I might, if I'm too dilatory, die or be incapacitated with some of the novels still unread. And that would be very regrettable.

So it was time for another, and Ring For Jeeves was the next one in the approximately chronological order in which I've been reading them. Somewhat to my surprise, it doesn't seem to me to be quite up to the usual mark. When I noticed the publication date--1953--I speculated that this slight lessening in quality--and it is fairly slight--may have had something to do with Wodehouse's situation at the time. World War II had left him somewhat disgraced. Stranded in France in 1940, he had made several broadcasts at the behest of the Nazis, and although they were humorous and not political in content they caused Wodehouse to be reviled as a Nazi collaborator, which naturally cast a shadow over the following years. He had begun the previous Jeeves and Wooster novel, The Mating Season, in 1942, though it was not published until 1949. Ring For Jeeves seems to be the first one written entirely after the war. 

It seems to have been an experiment: it is the only novel to include Jeeves but not Bertie Wooster. Perhaps--this is pure speculation--Wodehouse thought the pattern had become a little stale, and wanted to vary it. The novel takes note of its actual situation in time in a way that I don't recall others doing. There is explicit mention that the time is the early 1950s. Television is acknowledged to exist, and even figures slightly in the action, though it remains offstage.

The plot involves the high taxation of the wealthy and the general leveling which were occurring at the time. Bertie is absent because he is at a school in which the aristocracy are taught the rudiments of taking care of themselves in the new order. Jeeves is in the employ of William Egerton Bamfylde Ossingham Belfry, ninth Earl of Rowcester, pronounced "Roaster."  The Earl, who for most of the book is referred to simply as Bill, is the inheritor of a vast and dilapidated mansion, Rowcester Abbey, which he cannot afford to keep up, and which he is desperate to sell. His sister Monica believes she has a likely buyer, a twice-widowed, rich, and still beautiful American woman, who, as the story opens, is on her way to view the place. But there are complications. Of course. And of course they're zany.

In a desperate move to get hold of some cash so that he can marry the young neighbor Jill Wyvvern--one of Wodehouse's delightful down-to-earth and pretty "girls"--Bill has gone into the bookmaking business, at the suggestion and under the direction of Jeeves. Calling himself Honest Patch Perkins, he frequents the race tracks in disguise: addition to wearing a very loud check coat with bulging voluminous pockets and a crimson tie with blue horseshoes on it which smote the beholder like a blow, he had a large black patch over his left eye and on his upper lip a ginger moustache of the outsize or soupstrainer type.

He seems to have been doing all right until a bet went against him at spectacularly long odds, leaving him owing three thousand pounds, which he does not have, to a Captain C.G. Brabazon-Biggar, a fierce White Hunter stereotype who has spent some large part of his life Out East, with, for some reason, a particular emphasis on Kuala Lumpur. The Captain is also on his way to Rowcester Abbey, in hot pursuit of Honest Patch. And it turns out that both he and Bill have had previous involvement with the rich and beautiful widow. 

Naturally it all gets more and more complicated, with more and more elaborate stratagems and deceptions and narrow escapes when the stratagems go wrong. But it all works out in the end. And Jeeves will be returning to Bertie, who is no longer at the school, under circumstances which I would enjoy relating but must refrain from doing so, for the sake of your enjoyment, on the presumption that you haven't read the book. 

I hope it isn't because I've become jaded that this book seems to sparkle less than others. Bertie's absence is part of that; though Bill is a somewhat similar character, he lacks Bertie's effervescent goofiness. And this makes him less effective as a foil for Jeeves. Perhaps as a consequence, Jeeves himself seems to me a bit overdone. His circumlocutions and literary quotations become at times obtrusive, a little too frequent and lengthy. And I felt that the winding up of the plot threads was a bit rushed. Still, less than the best Wodehouse is very, very good. 

In my limited experience the Blandings books are just as good as the Jeeves and Wooster ones, so I have several of those to look forward to as well. I've only read one novel that was part of neither series, Picadilly Jim, and although it was enjoyable it was not in the class with the others. 


The rich widow is interested in psychical research, and is thrilled by the family lore which holds that an old family ghost, Lady Agatha, wife of Sir Caradoc the Crusader, is sometimes seen in the chapel (ruined, naturally).

A Question About Eliot's "Journey of the Magi"

This poem is now in the public domain. So I've copied it from another site. It is of course appropriate for today, the Feast of the Epiphany in the Catholic calendar. Normally I set off quotations longer than a sentence or so as "block quotes," which means that they're indented on the right, which means, if line breaks are significant, as they are for a poem, they may not appear as they should. Just how they appear may be partly dependent on the browser. To avoid that, I'm not making this a block quote, but will switch typefaces instead. It probably won't look right on your phone anyway, but that's the price you pay for reading on your phone.


T.S. Eliot: Journey of the Magi

'A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.'
And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
and running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.


I've always been a little puzzled by that last line. The last two lines, really. The Magi (or this Magus at least, but I'll keep it plural because he keeps saying "we"), have understood that the coming of the child means the end of the culture or civilization of which they are a part, and in which they have a privileged place. That's the "hard and bitter agony."

But do they know something pretty specific about what is coming? Have they, in some sense, been converted? Why else are their own people now "alien" and "clutching...gods" for whom the Magi seem to have no respect? Surely these people and these gods were their own before their journey, but that no longer seems to be the case. 

And what death would he be "glad of"? His own? That's probably true. But he doesn't say so, and the vagueness of the reference makes me wonder. Is he glad that his culture has received its death warrant and looking forward to its actual death? That seems a little odd, but maybe it's just a measure of his sense of exhaustion. Maybe it's both, just a broad resigned Let's  just get it over with. But it seems to me that there is an intimation of the Child's death, and what it will mean, and why the birth, the necessary first step toward that death, is hard and bitter, but at the same time something to be glad of.


Journey of the Magi, Sassetta (Stefano di Giovanni). Image lifted from The Metropolitan Museum, where you can see a much larger version

Rounding the Next Turn

In 2022 I was thinking seriously about ending this blog. Then I realized that if I kept it going through 2023 it would have run for exactly twenty years, a nice round multiple of ten. (You can read the very first post, from January 4, 2004, here.) I liked that idea, and decided to give it one more year. (I don't recall mentioning that here, but I may have.) So all through the past year I've been seeing December 31, 2023, as the end of the line.

And I was looking forward to it. I was, I am, tired of the almost-constant sense that I need to be preparing the next post. The Total Posts number below sheds some light on that: over twenty years, it's an average of more than three posts every week. 

BlogStatsNotice the daily pageview average. That's not very many, compared to even moderately popular blogs, which get, I think (based on hearsay), several thousand views a day. Hundreds, anyway. And judging by the individual page stats, a majority of the visits are pretty random searches for something for which Google happened to turn up something here. For instance, back in 2012 I did a post called "Getting Started With Kierkegaard." For years afterward that post would get several hits per day from Google. It still shows up in the first page of Google results when you search for that phrase, which is a bit surprising because all the post does is ask for recommendations. I can't be sure, but my guess is that there are no more than a few dozen people, perhaps a hundred, who read the blog regularly. It never caught on in the way that some blogs did back in that heyday of blogging, before Facebook shoved it aside and made it somewhat unfashionable.

But though the Kierkegaard post itself doesn't contain any recommendations, there are some good ones in the comments. And notice the number of comments. That comes to an average of around eleven per post. And that's far lower than the actual number, because the first five or six years of the blog were the most active for commenting, and all those comments were lost when I had to move the blog from Blogger to Typepad, which I think was in 2010. It was unfortunate, and I'm sorry now that I didn't make more of an effort to convert the comments, or at least put them into some kind of archive, because there were some very good conversations there. I remember in particular a long one about Brideshead Revisited, and another about Ayn Rand, which I think was the record-holder for quantity, running over three hundred, if I remember correctly. Apparently the post, which was negative to say the least ("Ayn Rand, Crank"), had attracted the attention of some objectivists, and a vigorous discussion ensued. 

Those conversations have been one of the reasons I continued the blog as long as I have. I only have a few people in my physical vicinity with whom I can talk about the things I like to talk about, so the blog has provided a bit of social and intellectual life, albeit disembodied, that I would not otherwise have had. And it was more than just enjoyable--I have often been informed and challenged by it. At some point in the past ten years or so the amount of conversation declined, which I think, or at least speculate, was in part because of that general displacement of blogging. Or maybe what I was writing just wasn't as interesting. At any rate, that incentive for continuing wasn't quite as strong as it had been.

And though I don't like admitting it to myself I don't have as much energy as I did. I was in my mid-fifties when I started the blog, and am now past the biblical three-score-and-ten expectation for a reasonable lifespan. For the first twelve of those twenty years I was working full-time, and a pretty heavy part-time for another two or three. Yet I wrote some things which I think were reasonably well-thought and well-crafted, and still worth reading, and now I wonder how I did it, as it seems to take more effort now to write anything more than a very casual piece, though I have much more free time (I still put in a few hours on my old job). Words don't seem to flow as readily as they used to. Also, I have some other writing projects that I want to pursue, and have found that the constant need for a new blog post is pretty distracting. 

So my decision was pretty firm, and I had made mental notes for a goodbye post. But then around the end of November I resumed work on that Rilke post, which I had begun and abandoned months ago. And I really enjoyed doing it, and though it's hardly an important contribution to the literary world I felt a sense of accomplishment, which, unlike actual writing, is entirely pleasant. 

My resolution wavered. I realized that I would always want to write that sort of thing, and had no reasonable expectation of being able to publish it anywhere else. I'm in fact a compulsive writer. Light On Dark Water began as an outlet for that compulsion (and as a work-related exercise in learning the basics of HTML etc.). It was not originally a blog, just a static hand-coded web site, which I transferred to the Blogger platform in 2006. When I first set it up I included a tongue-in-cheek FAQ in the form of a self-interview (thanks, Walker Percy):

Why are you doing this?


Putting odds and ends of your writing on the web.

—Oh. Well, on Halloween 2003, a teenaged surfing star named Bethany Hamilton had her arm bitten off by a shark. Several weeks later, when asked if she would return to surfing, she said, “If I don't get back on my board, I'll be in a bad mood forever.”

Bethany Hamilton is now in her thirties and did in fact continue her surfing career; you can read about her on Wikipedia. And I appreciate the inspiration she gave me, which I suppose might surprise her. 

I knew I would still feel something of that bad mood if I gave up the blog. And I would certainly miss the conversation, even if there is less than there once was. As my resolution continued to waver over the past month or so, I remembered that initial sense of compulsion. I continued to change my mind right up until yesterday (I am also pathologically indecisive), when the encouragement of a friend finally tipped the balance in favor of continuing. 

But with a difference: I intend to write only about books and music. No more politics, no more analyzing and lamenting the apparently irreversible decline of our civilization--and even as I type those words I'm fighting the almost-overwhelming urge to go off into remarks about the nature of that decline and the possible destinations toward which our progress is taking us. No more mockery of ridiculous headlines, no more brief posts about this or that odd or amusing item, or complaints about broccoli. No more Church stuff, though the faith will necessarily be present in what I write. I will miss those, but I think giving them up is necessary. Sometime within the next week or so, if I can figure out a good way to do it, I'll add a subtitle to the blog's name: "A Journal of Reading and Listening." And that's what it's going to be, until I either change my mind or stop blogging altogether. 

Now, see, if I were a better writer I would probably not have blathered on like this, to the extent of 1300 words. But I want to post it today, at the beginning of the year, and I don't have time to revise it more carefully because I have to watch Alabama vs. Michigan an hour from now. So thank you for reading this far, and please continue to visit. And converse.

And Happy New Year.