Thursday, September 30, 2010

Bits and Tidbits, September 2010

Monday, September 20, 2010

Important reading

This post from Scot McKnight's "Jesus Creed" blog is, I think, vitally-important reading for all Christians today: Beck's Black Robe Brigade (by John Fea).

John Fea, Professor of History at Messiah College in Pennsylvania, has written a helpful reflection on the intersection of American history (or some parts of it) with faith and politics. Fea's assertion, which I believe is true far too frequently, is that we are regularly being presented with claims and conclusions that are based on parts of history, and/or that are based on simple answers to questions that are far from simple (if they can even be answered at all).

The issues discussed in the aforementioned post are very real and present issues that are coming soon to a town near you (if not to a church you belong to!). It is worthwhile to be aware of all of the questions asked in that post, lest we fall into blind or ignorant acceptance of cultural/political half-truths.

This dovetails with ideas that I've been reflecting on, and intend on posting about, centering around the question, "Who are you quoting?" (Look for that in the next couple of weeks, hopefully.)

Fea has a forthcoming book, Was America Founded as a Christian Nation? A historical introduction which is due out in February (pre-orders are available through Amazon-- see the link for the book).

Friday, September 17, 2010

Smart folks I know...

I thought it might be nice to do a round-up of some of my buddies who are bloggers. I highly recommend the following:
  • Barlow Farms. A friend and former neighbor covers just about all the bases. Jon lived in the same apartment complex while we were in seminary, and I got to know him enough to recognize that, when he had something to say, it was worth hearing.
  • The Nesting Place. An old acquaintance blogs on (extraordinarily creative) home decorating. "Nester" (aka Myquiline, in the offline world) and I were Young Life leaders together in another age.
  • In Light of the Gospel. A fellow pastor looks at important questions, ideas, and people. James is the pastor of a church about 20 minutes from mine, and he and I have gotten to be friends over the last several years.
  • Half-Pint House. A friend blogs about everyday life. Megan and I became friends through her blog first; interestingly, I began reading it because (at that time) her family was preparing to move to St. Louis to begin studies at Covenant Seminary, where I was then a student. She and her husband Craig (who is a highly-capable blogger in his own right, at Second Drafts) became some of our very good friends.
  • Traveling. A sent-out missionary reflects on where theology, culture, and life intersect. Bethany was one of my youth group students for about four years, so I get to claim some degree of spiritual influence on her; now she returns the favor in spades.
  • Scribo Facio Noto. A classmate challenges the status quo of church and ministry. Matt and I shared a lot of common ground while in seminary, and I continue to find that we still do.

Here's a disclaimer: every one of these folks has tons more traffic than I do, so I'm surely only linking to them because I can claim to know them. But all of their blogs are worth reading.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Something tells me I'm into something good...

If you didn't catch any of the new series Parenthood last year, you missed a gem. A capable ensemble cast tackles the topic pretty well, and doesn't pull punches (too much, at least).

Story-wise, there is a lot of depth and some profundity to find. One of the aspects I appreciated about the show was that they faced some real and substantial issues head-on: inter-racial couples, separation and divorce, learning disabilities, and teen rebellion were a few. They also didn't mind admitting frequently that there are always consequences to choices, and sometimes the consequences are severe.

At another level, we found the acting and direction to be of better-than-average quality as well. It's refreshing to find a show that, a) isn't presented as "reality"; b) doesn't rely on sexual innuendo or slapstick comedy and laughtracks; and c) doesn't revolve around some sort of behind-the-scenes legal or medical angle.

There are some disappointments. It's a little far-fetched how much this large extended family is able to prioritize things like a nephew's baseball game. And there are occasionally scenes that are suggestive enough that we'll make sure the kids aren't sneaking a peek.

But how can you NOT like a show that ends its first season with Craig T. Nelson (yes, "Coach") singing Herman's Hermits' "Something Tells Me I'm into Something Good" while playing the ukelele?

Parenthood starts season #2 tonight on NBC. You still have time to watch the last episode of season 1 online, if you hurry.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

9/11 commercials

American Airlines (one of the two, with United, whose planes were hijacked) aired this ad after 9/11. It's a good ad, seeking to rebuild confidence without boasting or downplaying a tragedy.

United Airlines aired this ad following 9/11; theirs was very different from American's but also good in similar goals. (I've always liked how United uses Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue in different ways in their ads.)

Here's a commercial that Anheiser-Busch made in acknowledgement of 9/11; allegedly, they aired it only once because they didn't want to profit financially from it.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Books for August 2010

My reading is picking back up, and I managed to get a couple of books finished (or "finished for now") last month...

  • Free Culture by Lawrence Lessig. This book, a fascinating look at copyright and intellectual property law and where it needs to go, is great. Lessig is one of the authorities on the subject, and also one of the big promoters behind Creative Commons, a licensing approach that solves many of the problems faced in today's intellectual property climate. Two incidental comments about this book: first, it's available for free in an eBook (PDF) format from Lessig's website; second, it marks the first book for me read entirely in eBook format, which I read on the iBooks app of my iPad. (9)
  • Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition. I didn't read the whole thing, but just the new parts (I've owned the 14th and 15th editions as well). There is some great new content about electronic formatting and publication, which is invaluable to me at this point. This book is a must-have reference if you do any serious writing or editing. (9)
  • Shopgirl by Steve Martin. I've talked about my appreciation for the talented Martin before, and generally he doesn't disappoint in this novella. There are some scenes that are charged with enough adult-themed content to make some people uncomfortable, and some language that is a bit coarse. What I appreciate about Martin, though, is how honest his writing is: he's able to capture in words emotions, circumstances, and descriptions that are so difficult to articulate; and he portrays life in these scenes in a truthful manner. If you liked the movie Good Will Hunting you would probably like Shopgirl. I read it in one evening. (8+)