Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Matthew Paul Turner grew up in an ultra-conservative Baptist church and eventually became an editor of CCM, the "Contemporary Christian Music" magazine, and this is a book about that. More accurately, it's a collection of vignettes arranged chronologically that are well-written but don't quite cohere -- perhaps coherence is overrated? In any case, I found I had to finish it once I started, and (although I'm biased because of my own background) I found Turner to be much better at the apt turn of phrase and general likability than Steve Almond (author of Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life). However, I want more. This book goes out of its way to detail a terrible incident in which the publisher of CCM forced Turner to interrogate Amy Grant about her divorce and not to leave till he extracted an "apology." The thing is, that's about the only story about Turner being an editor. That incident can't be entirely typical -- if it was, I have a hard time understanding why he was even in that job for any period of time and also how he could survive with his faith intact in any form. His faith is intact at the end of the book, although changed to be sure -- but the book never gets deep enough to let us see what and why. There's moments of deliberate vulnerability that make this book special, but I still feel like I have no idea why Turner lives life the way he does, and what the whole CCM thing means to him, if there's anything good in that industry at all. Another area is the whole way youth groups talk about abstinence and CCM singers are almost forced to be white-washed tombs by the system. That's fascinating and tragic, but the alternative system offered by the mainstream media doesn't seem to be more successful. The thing is, the warts-and-all Christianity you have here is funny and right-on with its depiction, but the alternatives are not put to the same test. I'm sure Turner has this in him, it's just the book seems like it was forced to be "funny vignettes like Blue Like Jazz" and it does not feel complete. Well, Turner has other books out there and I will be reading them -- he has a gift as an author. I just think it's better to think of this book as a long magazine article than as anything approaching a "real" book. It's a blog post, not a manifesto or complete philosophy. I'd just like to know, how DO you put it all together then?
Oh, and Turner's blog "Jesus Needs New PR" is great too, possibly suffering from the same incompleteness, but I don't expect completeness from a blog.
Saturday, September 25, 2010
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
If you put eggs under a UV light they will glow scarlet. The same pigment is what makes earthworms purplish, and it is very light sensitive, meaning it's why earthworms fry in the sunlight (say, after a good rain when they come out).
More at this link. I sense a future biochemistry demo!
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
-- The Magician's Nephew is surprisingly funny.
-- The Last Battle is ... not.
-- There's a point where an animal dies during the Last Battle that is just so sad that it snuck up on me and choked me up. Lewis was walking quite a line here, in that he was writing about death for kids. I tend to therefore give him a break when my own 21st-century sensibilities think he went a little too far one way or another. One thing about the story is that it certainly moves right along, too.
-- Speaking of balance, you shouldn't mention the depiction of Emeth without the depiction of Tash, nor the depiction of Tash without the depiction of Emeth. Either character by itself is incomplete, you need both, and be skeptical of any critic or pastor who quotes one without the other.
-- The Last Battle becomes a lot better of a book if you don't take it as allegory, but if you take it like Lewis insisted you should take it, as a story of God at work in a different world in a different way. In a world in which God's son is manifest as a lion and physically present, then a deception can be built on that manifestation to destroy and corrupt. Interesting to think about what that means for why God seems so invisible/distant (to modernists, at least).
Friday, September 17, 2010
Peter Barham, a physics instructor and food science lecturer, describes his hobby of combining cooking with science in this book. It explained quite a few things I did not know, and I've been teaching biochemistry for almost a decade. On top of that, it gave me test questions and an idea for a new lower-division course about biochemistry with labs in the kitchen. The book is straightforwardly written and generally does a good job simplifying complex situations. I especially like the way Barham describes the trade-offs that make certain kinds of cooking (puff pastry, souffles, etc.) so tricky, and then he describes how to avoid those trade-offs. An easy souffle? I think I'll have to try that one myself.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Monday, September 13, 2010
"Christianity has abandoned its intellectual traditions, ceding that ground to anybody in a white coat. Where it has tried to muster courage, it has too often tended to become irrational and shrill. Meanwhile, a great age in true science, an absolute catalog of wonders, passes by unnoticed."
She lists some wonders in the last question and mentions cosmology and the microbiology of gut bacteria. I agree!
Friday, September 10, 2010
Here's a great quote:
The tsunami of cheap credit that rolled across the planet between 2002 and 2007 has just now created a new opportunity for travel: financial-disaster tourism. The credit wasn’t just money, it was temptation. It offered entire societies the chance to reveal aspects of their characters they could not normally afford to indulge. Entire countries were told, “The lights are out, you can do whatever you want to do and no one will ever know.” What they wanted to do with money in the dark varied. Americans wanted to own homes far larger than they could afford, and to allow the strong to exploit the weak. Icelanders wanted to stop fishing and become investment bankers, and to allow their alpha males to reveal a theretofore suppressed megalomania. The Germans wanted to be even more German; the Irish wanted to stop being Irish. All these different societies were touched by the same event, but each responded to it in its own peculiar way. No response was as peculiar as the Greeks’, however: anyone who had spent even a few days talking to people in charge of the place could see that. But to see just how peculiar it was, you had to come to this monastery.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
In particular, Kugel brings out the A-B sentence form of Biblical poetry, and brings out some of the signficance of this particular form. This surprised me in that it has deep ramifications even for the natural theology that's always on the back burner in my reading. Also, I never realized just how deep "wisdom" literature is, which also has impacts on my writing ideas. So, I'll just say "more to come."