"We are of opinion that instead of letting books grow moldy behind an iron grating, far from the vulgar gaze, it is better to let them wear out by being read." - Jules Verne
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Thursday, October 31, 2019
Museums, parking duty and the point of it all.
This book was originally published in 2017 by Abingdon Press.
I had a week off of school for fall break last week. During that week I had three experiences of a religious bent (beyond my weekly church attendance): 1) I read this book, 2) I helped park cars for my church's annual "Trunk or Treat" that we host for the community, 3) I visited the Creation Museum in Kentucky.
I listed the activities in this order because that is the order of importance on a spiritual level. The Creation Museum is an impressive and beautiful 75,000 square foot facility that, to me, is just the wrong approach to Christianity. It is so bent on proving that every little sentence fragment in Genesis is accurate that it almost entirely misses the point of Christianity. I felt no love or comfort there. It reminded me of the passage from 1 Kings Chapter 19:
"Then he was told, “Go, stand on the mountain at attention before . will pass by.”
have them, but reaching out to others helps the other people and it helps you. I know in my career as a classroom teacher, the more I come at things as a servant and with a tone of forgiveness, generally the better things work. Do I always succeed? Not even close.
Gambrell acknowledges that failure will be all too common on page 206 (almost the very end of this short book):
"Now if, at the end of this book, you are thinking that this living-for-another thing is too hard to keep up, is too hard to maintain 24/7, then you are correct. To live the perfect Christian life of complete humility and servanthood is not difficult...it's impossible.
But we are called to be an example of His life and live in a way that points others to Jesus by our modeling of His character and love."
Sunday, October 27, 2019
I FIND YOUR LACK of FAITH DISTURBING: STAR WARS and the TRIUMPH of GEEK CULTURE (audiobook) by A.D. Jameson
Published in May of 2018 by Macmillan Audio.
Duration: 6 hours, 58 minutes.
Read by Holter Graham.
A.D. Jameson is a student of cinema - not just science fiction and fantasy movies, but of cinema in general. I used the word "student" in the previous sentence carefully because he is not just a fan of movies, he studies the directors, the movements and the ideas behind the movies.
|Photo by DWD|
My own children do not believe me, but there was once a time when the mere sight of a Star Wars t-shirt or bumper sticker was worthy of comment. Now, they are everywhere. My family probably owns more than 20 Star Wars-related t-shirts alone.
A.D. Jameson explores how this happened by focusing on the world of cinema and television. He argues that Star Trek, not the original run on NBC but the re-run episodes running night after night, day after day until everyday, normal TV viewers got used to the idea of spaceships and aliens. When Star Trek was starting to fizzle out, Star Wars came in and made a big splash - the biggest splash in movie history up to that point. When the Star Wars phenomenon started to fade away, Star Trek came back with the movies and then with four different TV shows that spanned 18 years. Many of those shows aired every day (sometimes multiple times per day) because they were syndicated.
Star Wars came back with the troubled (but immensely successful) prequel series. X-Men movies started coming out - another troubled franchise, but it has been going on for 19 years! The Lord of the Rings movies and suddenly it seemed like every movie was a sci-fi, fantasy or a comic book movie.
As I mentioned, Jameson focuses on TV and especially cinema, spending a lot of time arguing that Star Wars fits perfectly well in with its peers from the time period like Bonnie and Clyde and The Godfather. He makes a compelling argument, one that would undoubtedly be argued against by Martin Scorsese when you consider the ruckus he has kicked up with his comments about the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While I was interested in all of this exploration of cinema, the book title gives the reader the impression that "geek culture" was going to be explored in a meaningful way. Culture is more than movies. I assumed that the book was going to explore how we went from being a culture where sci-fi and fantasy were fringe movements in everyday life to the point where the truck in the picture I posted with this review is driven around in central Indiana, but it is largely unexplored.
His comments on Star Trek and its influence on culture as a beacon to where we might one day end up as a society (more open, more accepting) were quite good. It occurred to me that among my many behavioral role models are Jesus and Jean-Luc Picard - and those two don't clash with one another at all.
The audiobook was well-read by Holter Graham. He did such a good job at sounding like he was into the topic that I actually assumed that the author was self-narrating the book until I checked.
I rate this audiobook 4 stars out of 5. I have to take off a star for mostly failing to address one of the themes mentioned in the title. Still, it is a good book. It can be found on Amazon.com here: I FIND YOUR LACK of FAITH DISTURBING: STAR WARS and the TRIUMPH of GEEK CULTURE by A.D. Jameson.
Saturday, October 26, 2019
First published in 1999.
|Composition with Red Blue and Yellow |
by Piet Mondrian. Reacher's favorite piece of art,
according to this novel.
Jack Reacher starts out in the Florida Keys. He is digging swimming pools by hand during the day, working as a bouncer in a strip club at night and drinking lots of bottled water. It is mindless work, but he is getting enjoying that aspect of it. Then, a man from New York City comes to the bar where he is drinking a bottled water and asks if anyone knows Jack Reacher.
Reacher lies and says he never heard of the guy.
Two more guys from New York City find Reacher at the strip club. They are different than the first guy - pushier and rougher. Reacher has to get physical with them. When he finds the first guy dead on the street, he decides to head off to New York City to see if he can figure out who is looking for him.
What he finds, surprises him and takes him back in time in more than one way...
This is an early Reacher novel and it doesn't have the normal rhythms that you find later on (as of today there are 24 books and 18 short stories in the series). It's a good action novel, but it feels a little different than the rest of the series.
I rate this book 4 stars out of 5. This book can be found on Amazon.com here: Tripwire by Lee Child.
Friday, October 25, 2019
Published by Dreamscape Media in 2014.
Read by George Newbern.
Duration: 9 hours, 9 minutes.
|The author, Fredrick Backman|
Ove has determined that the best thing about his life left when his wife passed away. He was filling in that hole in his life, at least a bit, with his work. But, since his forced retirement, he has nothing. So, he is planning his suicide to join his wife.
Then, a tough old homeless cat shows up.
After that, a hipster father with an immigrant wife and two little girls moves in across the way and backs the moving trailer right over Ove's mailbox - a trailer that shouldn't even have been there because the hipster was driving in the no driving area! Why can't people learn basic skills like backing up a trailer and reading signs?
I really hated the first hour of this audiobook. It faithfully tells the story but the reader/listener is missing so much of the back story that is was mostly confusing. There are a lot of flashbacks intermixed with the present-day story and the flashbacks really make Ove a human being that you are interested in.
By the time the I had gotten to the halfway point, I was pretty sure how the story was going to end - but I still had to hear it for it myself. It becomes quite the touching story.
The story was well-read by veteran actor George Newbern (he's one of those faces you recognize from a dozen different movies and shows but you have no idea what his name is). Newbern's long experience as a voice actor for cartoons and video games shows in this audibook. Well done.
I rate this audiobook 5 stars out of 5. It can be found on Amazon.com here: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman.
Thursday, October 17, 2019
Originally published in 1960.
New translation published in 2006.
Read by George Guidall.
Duration: 4 hours, 17 minutes.
Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel's famed book Night is a standard, perhaps THE standard, that all Holocaust literature is judged by. Originally, this was written as an immense memoir in Yiddish, but during the process of translating the book to French, it was pared down to about one-fifth of its original size. The paring down resulted in a more literary work - a work that feels almost fictional because it is so selective as it tells the true story of how Elie Wiesel's childhood, his family, his community and his religious faith was destroyed by the Nazis.
|Slave Laborers liberated by U.S. Army soldiers under the command|
of General Patton. Photo taken by Private H. Miller.
Wiesel is in the picture. He is on the second row from the floor,
the seventh prisoner from the left (by the post)
The trip, in cattle cars, is horrific. The camps are no better, of course. Wiesel and his father are separated from the women in his family at Auschwitz. They never see each other again. Wiesel and his father go from one work detail to another in different camps, slowly retreating away from the Soviet advance. Their only hope is to stay healthy enough to work so that they might be allowed to live until the end of the war...
I read this book because it is read by students in one of the English classes at the high school where I teach. I have never heard a student speak poorly of the book, which is itself a solid endorsement.
The audiobook was read by George Guidall, one of the most experienced audiobook readers of all time. Not only has he won two Audie Awards (the Oscar for audiobook readers), he has also read more than 1,200 audiobooks. Guidall, of course, was quite good in this presentation.
I rate this audiobook 5 stars out of 5. It can be found on Amazon.com here: NIGHT by Elie Wiesel.
Sunday, October 6, 2019
The most likely candidate to win the presidency is an Oregon Senator. He has a winning public personae, but he is a violent, horrible man in reality. He beats a high end prostitute to death simply because he enjoys inflicting violence. His people cover it up. Everyone is shocked when this Senator is found beaten to death. It looks like the prostitute's pimp killed him. When the pimp kills his court-appointed attorney in the lock up, no one will defend him until Amanda Jaffe is convinced to do it.
Once Amanda starts her investigation, it turns out that things are a lot worse than she thought...
I almost stopped reading this book after the first 50 pages or so. There are very few likable characters anywhere in this book. Everyone seems to be outright evil or compromised. The only real positive was that the horrible Senator character died a violent death. Let's face it, that's not much of a positive.
But, I stuck with it and, eventually, this book turns into a solid page-turner. It was a welcome change of pace from the non-fiction I have been reading lately.
I rate this book 4 stars out of 5. It can be found on Amazon.com here: TIES that BIND (Amanda Jaffe #3) by Phillip Margolin.