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Hot freeware offering: King James Bible

The King James Bible was translated into English at that language’s height of poetic power and expression, during the Shakespearean period, and it remains the definitive translation to this day. Modern versions of the Bible have mostly succeeded only in, at best, producing a sorry, gray, sterile shadow of the original or, at worst, falsifying the its content outright in order to gratify contemporary social prejudices.

It has been rationally argued that one really ought to read the Bible in the straightforward, simple modern vernacular — that what we now feel as the deep and splendid grandeur of the King James version merely obscures its plain and crucial meaning. I can’t bring myself to buy this. The King James’s sublimity, its heightened poetic diction, seem to me eminently appropriate and even necessary for today’s readers: we require something of the sort if we are to distinguish it from the massive churning sea of informal, irreverent popular culture that characterizes our own age.

Now you can download the King James Bible, free, in a 32-bit electronic edition that comes with a variety of reference resources including Easton’s Bible Dictionary, the Matthew Henry Commentary, Hitchcock’s Bible Name Dictionary, Nave’s Topics, and Torry’s Topics. The program also offers Microsoft Word and Internet support, font and color customization, and links to 12,000 “topics, parables, prophecies, and maps.” For Windows 95, 98, or NT.

An outcry against civil forfeiture

Current civil asset forfeiture law allows authorities full discretion to confiscate property upon mere suspicion — and owners of such property are not eligible for appointed legal counsel. And, contrary to a fundamental principle of American jurisprudence, it is the burden of the accused to prove his or her innocence. In New York, a suspected drunk driver’s car can now be appropriated by police and held even before arraignment or conviction — and, in some cases, even AFTER criminal acquittal.

Traverse an arrestingly designed introductory page to reach the site of the up-and-coming Liberty Project, a nonprofit, unaffiliated organization that addresses the increasing abuses of personal rights resulting from encroaching law enforcement powers. Read about proposals to reform asset confiscation laws, and, if you have a story of your own to tell, use this forum to make yourself heard.

Here there be dragons

That watery pursuit known variously as qu yuan, Asian longboat racing, Thai swan boat racing, and Chinese dragon boat racing is the raison d’etre of Alvin Wang’s International Dragon Boat Racing Home Page. Popular for some reason in Canada as well as throughout Asia, this ancient sport would probably be considered a bit off the beaten track by many non-Asian U.S. citizens, but the brightly colored, dragon-headed boats are simply irresistible. Wang’s site includes schedules and coverage of races around the world, as well as a list of suppliers who can outfit you with everything you need to become an active participant. Elsewhere, an exhaustive dragon-boating Training Manual provides a solid practical introduction to the sport. Rowing crew in high school was never this much fun.

Y2K prep for the rest of us

Most Y2K advice, on the Web or elsewhere, makes me more panicky rather than less. Y2K Kitchen is an exception; it’s what I’d have to call a Y2K preparation site for the rest of us. There are no instructions here on how to freeze-dry half a ton of grain; rather, there are tips on how to construct a decent, palatable meal from the ordinary canned goods that represent most normal people’s best stab at long-term provisioning. As the site’s designer explains, “I’m not going to store 300 pounds of wheat. I don’t have a manual grinder and I won’t have an oven that works if the power goes off, so I won’t be baking bread. I doubt the average family shopper will buy wheat either. We ordinary folks need to prepare for the year 2000 by adding to our normal shopping lists. It can’t be too hard or it won’t get done.” Besides a developing collection of recipes, there’s a more general guide outlining the requirements for designing Y2K-practical meals, along with a miscellany of other resources.

Memento mori

The Victorians thought it was a good idea to keep death in mind as much as possible: if you were constantly reminded of the approach of the next world, you’d be that much more likely to watch your moral step so as to prepare for it properly in this one. Hence the peculiar phenomenon in Victorian decor known as the “memento mori,” or reminder of death: skulls, death masks, marble casts of the limbs of infants who didn’t make it. Few today would countenance such things being displayed in the living room or study — this is an age in which even cancer patients are blamed by some for not thinking positive enough thoughts. Depending upon your personal outlook, though, you may still consider an occasional contemplation of one’s own death to be morally salutary, philosophically thought-provoking, or just titillating in a black-humor sort of way. This site is for you; it’s a “death clock” that uses your basic demographics to calculate the statistically projected day of your death. Peripheral offerings include a downloadable screen saver (for the hardcore Victorians among us, I presume), an amusing “dead letter office” area (the most idiotic e-mails received by the site), and an “obituaries” department featuring a limited selection of celebrity death days.