‘A natural and, perhaps, even necessary component of spirituality’

12:38 pm February 19th, 2015

Out of Wyoming, firm proponent of self-ownership Mama Liberty has weighed in with a thoughtful commentary on “The Testament of James” (here), focusing on what the tale tells us about the nature of organized religion, and its relation to social control.

“Some people got together and figured out how to use the belief or disbelief of people to their own advantage, to gain control over the people themselves,” as she puts it. “It’s been going on for most of recorded history, and probably before that. . . . It is obviously in the best interest of those controllers not to encourage or allow any competing beliefs among those they control, and new or different stories might just become a threat to their power. . . . People are easy to manipulate if they can be convinced that anyone or anything ‘different’ is threatening, that those who do not believe as they do must be less than human.”

Many an American or European reader will doubtless respond to this summary by preening “Not us; we’re enlightened; we tolerate and even welcome religious diversity.”

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For cat people only :-) Or, when kittens take selfies …

9:19 pm February 15th, 2015

(Brunette, again.)

We’re blessed with a bunch of cool and creative cats. They’re a primary source of laughter around here, especially the kittens (well, they’re six months old now, but they’re still pretty entertaining.)

Strider, our gray male kitten (see above) loves to lounge around and help Vin at his computer. So does Sandy (see Vin’s author photo … give it a minute to load) a big cream and orange tomcat that adopted us — he previously belonged to a neighbor, though I suspect he’d furiously deny belonging to anyone. He’s ours to the extent that we let him in when he wants in, and out when he wants out (usually around 4:30 a.m.) and he obviously enjoys our premium food (plus occasional table scraps) so he always arrives with a good appetite. Sandy’s a great hunter and sometimes leaves choice tidbits on our doormat. Well, that’s preferable to the gifts of live mice he’s been known to bring into the house once or twice. ;-)

The female cats/kittens seem to prefer to hang out with me in the “hers” office. More on that some other time, perhaps.

But I digress, back to Strider …

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‘An alternative interpretation of the life and work of Jesus . . .’

11:06 pm February 10th, 2015

The genial John Walker, formerly of Autodesk et al., has posted a new review of “The Testament of James” here:

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“Hunter and his friend Chantal Stevens, ex-military who has agreed to help out in the shop, find themselves in the middle of the quest for one of the most legendary, and considered mythical, rare books of all time. . . .

“A good part of the book is a charming and often humorous look inside the world of rare books, one with which the author is clearly well-acquainted. There is intrigue, a bit of mysticism, and the occasional libertarian zinger aimed at a deserving target. As the story unfolds, an alternative interpretation of the life and work of Jesus and the history of the early Church emerges, which explains why so many players are so desperately seeking the lost book.

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‘A substantial shift in attitudes’

5:22 pm February 5th, 2015

In case anyone is suffering those winter blahs, let’s start with some recent good news: The Huffington Post reports “For the first time in more than 20 years, Americans say it’s more important to protect the right to own guns than it is to control gun ownership.”

A new Pew Research Poll released Dec. 10 revealed “a substantial shift in attitudes since shortly after the Newtown school shootings.”

In a poll taken immediately after the December, 2012, school shootings in Connecticut, public opinion had favored gun control by 7 points — 49 percent to 42 percent.

But while 46 percent still think “gun control” is more important, a 52 percent majority of Americans are now more concerned with protecting the right to own guns — “the first time a majority has held that position since Pew started asking the question in 1993.”

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‘Our entire universe is contained in the mind and the spirit’

5:04 pm February 2nd, 2015

Despite a bit of predictable straying down rabbit trails (which the host admirably tolerates in preference to “over-moderating,”) an interesting discussion developed not long ago beneath the first part of her recent interview with me at Claire Wolfe’s site ( www.backwoodshome.com/blogs/ClaireWolfe/2015/01/03/ ), albeit mostly among people who of necessity (since it had only just come out) hadn’t yet read “The Testament of James.”

“As for entheogens,” one commenter offered, “if there is a real God, I want to know Him. I mean the *real* one, not some chemistry set ‘god’ that comes from a pill or from a fungus filtered through a caribou’s kidneys, or a weed, or some tree bark distillation.

“And if there is no real God, I want to know that too. I want to know what *is*, not just what *seems*. I don’t want to believe in some chemically-induced phantasm that exists only in my addled brain. I’m interested in the God whose existence and reality are in no way dependent upon anyone’s perceptions.”

An interesting goal, given that the world as we know it can exist only as a model re-constructed in our brains by our organizing intelligence, or “minds,” based precisely on our “perceptions,” which are necessarily limited. (Unaided by “artificial” means, can you perceive X-rays? Microwaves? Sounds above the frequency range of human hearing? Then how can you “know” they exist, any more than — barring reliance on your “perceptions” — you can “know” Napoleon lost at Waterloo, or that the battle was ever even fought, or that your mother loves you, or anything else?)

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Don’t forget to look up!

4:51 pm January 30th, 2015
Ring around the moon

Halo around the moon!

(Brunette, here.)

OK, unfortunately the picture doesn’t really do it justice. I stepped outside last night, and could so easily have missed this — the biggest, brightest ring I’ve ever seen around the moon. It’s not unusual to spot halos around the sun, I’ve taken many pics of those … but this felt pretty awe inspiring. :)

So, next time you’re out — day or night — don’t forget to look up!

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Doug French reviews ‘Testament of James’

8:14 pm January 24th, 2015

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Economist, banker and former head of the Ludwig von Mises Institute Doug French offers his take on “The Testament of James” at http://douglasfrench.liberty.me/2015/01/22/book-review-the-testament-of-james/ .

In part, Doug reports: “Peddling used books has a treasure hunt side that is particularly interesting for us bibliophiles and is not only made part of Testament’s plotline, but is included in many of book’s business anecdotes.

“The treasure in question is not an autographed copy of Wolfman Jack’s Have Mercy!, but an ancient manuscript written (or not) by James the Just, oldest brother of Jesus of Nazareth. Shadowy characters aplenty descend upon Books on Benefit after its manager dies under curious circumstances.

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‘Entertaining, funny, and thought-provoking’

2:35 pm January 11th, 2015

Copy Number 120 of the signed, limited hardcover edition of “The Testament of James” is shipping this weekend. Meantime, a few more reviews have arrived.

Oliver Del Signore, webmaster for Backwoods Home magazine, has weighed in with a review at http://www.backwoodshome.com/articles2/delsignore1501.html :

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“. . . Part of what’s ‘a little different’ about the book are the pace and tone. Both are more relaxed, as befits a story that plays out primarily in a bookstore. Add to that well-drawn, interesting characters, and dialogue that not only entertains but challenges you to think about things you’ve ‘known’ all your life, and you have a story that keeps you turning pages. And if you enjoy strong female characters, I think you’ll love Chantal.”

Meantime, award-winning journalist A.D. Hopkins offers his own take, filing the first reader review at: http://www.amazon.com/Testament-Matthew-Hunter-Chantal-Stevens-ebook/dp/B00RNI9UVW :

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Retail sales down, with one intriguing exception

4:19 pm January 8th, 2015

America’s remaining retailers were already pretty well shell-shocked after seven years of Great Recession administered by those geniuses from Goldman Sachs. But store owners got whacked again when they totaled up retail sales for the long Thanksgiving weekend — traditional start of the Christmas shopping season — and found they were down 11 percent from an already lackluster 2013.

Who would have expected otherwise? Investors in America today operate in a high-risk environment. Our overreaching federal government, run by socialist rabble-rousers who have never had to meet payroll in any enterprise as expansive as a corner yogurt stand, can now shut down any enterprise by deciding it endangers some previously unrecognized weed or bug, or somehow generates too much “carbon pollution.” (A term purposely chosen to make you think of black smokestack soot but which has now been redefined, a la George Orwell, to mean colorless, odorless, carbon dioxide — necessary to life on earth. Really. Every time you or the nearest cow exhale, it’s “carbon pollution.” The federal courts say so.)

Survival thus means knowing who to bribe. Of course, we’re not supposed to call it “bribery.” Let’s just say some big “campaign contributions” — and retaining a senator’s sons or sons-in-law to handle “lobbying” and “legal services” — might be wise.

If you wanted to encourage honest investors to open businesses and develop new products and build factories and thus create new jobs in this country, you might want to offer them a high rate of return to compensate them for these risks. Instead, the current policy of our Keynesian pals at the Federal Reserve is to keep rates of return on U.S. investments as close as possible to zero. Brilliant.

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E-book for $5.99

4:03 pm January 8th, 2015

A Kindle (e-book) edition of “The Testament of James / from the Case Files of Matthew Hunter and Chantal Stevens” is now available at http://www.amazon.com/Testament-Matthew-Hunter-Chantal-Stevens-ebook/dp/B00RNI9UVW .

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Ebooks in other formats should follow shortly. As there are no immediate plans to bring out a softcover edition, it’s our hope that this will make the book available to those not yet ready to order the collectible, signed, hardcover edition.