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Owl Post 11-28-12

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Purchasing Joy:

Through the weekend that follows Thanksgiving I have been maintaining a page that provides a round-up of Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals that are of particular interest to Christians. This is something I have done for several years now, yet every year I do it with a bit of a guilty conscience. There are both benefits and drawbacks to publicizing deals like these. On the one hand, it is a means of connecting Christian retailers with people who may be interested in taking advantage of a few pre-Christmas deals, but on the other hand it may just feed the consumerism that is rampant both outside the church and within.

Eating Poorly, Sleeping Well: Mockingjay and the End of Progress:

There are dystopian novel plots that resolve, and there are those that do not. Commercial success demands resolution, which is a great reason why Collins will have to overcome a credibility barrier with adolescents and young adults if she ever wants to match The Hunger Games trilogy’s sales with future works. Peeta?? Come on – all pulp bestselling authors know that the dark, masculine hunter is supposed to win out in adolescent-lit love triangle. Anyone writing a conventional dystopian epic knows that readers like resolution, and let’s face it, Panem’s new government doesn’t seem particularly promising. Katniss fails in her assassination attempt, which honestly changes the prospective climax into a major letdown. Most people seemed disappointed by the ending in some way or another, but it’s also safe to say that the third book is the most honest – since it alone in the series doesn’t have to appeal to anyone commercially (they’re all buying it anyways), Collins is free to present her undistilled vision for her literature. Even in the raw, oft-disappointing power of Collins’s vision of her characters as weak, suffering, or powerless, audiences still try to recover conventional meanings of glory from her work. “Real or not real?”, the poster at left reads. “Tick, tock, this is a clock”, a poster from Catching Fire reads. And yet, there are no deep musing on Time in this trilogy, no thematic explorations of reality in the way those two posters would suggest. Similarly, the clichéd love triangle disappoints many readers at the end, and the naive theme of political revolution takes an obvious backseat to Katniss’s own internal trauma. Whatever Collins is presenting us with, it’s certainly not the easy romance and suspense which drew people into The Hunger Games, and neither can it be described by simple catchphrases which, quite frankly, are more situational and fun for Collins than universal or philosophical points. Instead, it’s the plot itself that articulates her vision.

Newly Unemployed Newlyweds and Billy Joel’s Fiery Optimism:

I’ve recently become fixated on fire – in both its noun and verb form. This preoccupation began when, three days after returning from my honeymoon, ten days into my marriage, I was fired from my position as a first-time 5th and 6th grade teacher. This jarring turn of events has (much like the beginnings of a B-rated rom-com) led to some soul searching. After weeks of crosswords, wedding thank you notes, episodes of Gilmore Girls, and intermittent moments of panic, I’ve landed on Billy Joel’s 1989 hit “We Didn’t Start theFire” as an unexpected spring of inspiration.

Don’t Sanitize the Psalms:

In some churches, if our public worship and prayers echoed what we find in the Psalms we might find ourselves called before the church board for correction. Unlike the stoic legalist or safe churchman, the psalmist expressed the full range of emotions in worship. He felt no need to pretend that he had it all together. He did not limit himself to safe clichés about God.

A Sigh of Relief: The Avett Brothers and Anne Steele Get Honest:

Peace can be uncomfortably paradoxical. I’ve found that a vast majority of the conversations I have during the week beat around the bush–and the lack of substance only perpetuates existing anxiety. Art has proved to be exceedingly helpful, in that it often points me to an inescapable truth: when feeling stuck, the worst possible thing to do is hide. But we want to hide. Nothing about displaying fears and insecurities seems the least bit freeing.

In their new album, The Carpenter, The Avett Brothers continue their wonderfully raw and beautiful articulation of real life.

Previously on Parenthood, Pt 4: It’s Scary, It’s Really Scary:

Remember that I introduced this series of posts by looking at an earlier episode poignantly titled “Everything is not OK ,” a title that spoke to Adam’s relentless positivity in the face of his wife Kristina’s suffering. Since then Adam has slowly come to grips with the realities of Kristina’s breast cancer, but the most recent episode (#7, “Together”) portrays his continued futile attempts to keep everything “under control” as he says: “I’ve got this taken care of.” The thing is, Kristina isn’t the only one suffering. Adam is, too. His attempts to keep everything at work and at home under control/business-as-usual are basically unconscious efforts to distract himself from the pain. Ironically, he is killing himself by doing so.

Do Pro-Life Policies Even Matter?

One of the persistent myths in the abortion debate is that the pro-life movement doesn’t actually do much to help save lives. You’ll sometimes hear this complaint from pro-lifers themselves who have cynically concluded that pro-life legislation and pro-life legislators don’t accomplish anything that matters to unborn babies. On the other side, pro-choice advocates will claim that the pro-life cause is all about controlling women and regulating sex and don’t do anything to reduce the number of abortions anyway. If there is one thing cynics on both sides can agree on it’s that pro-life policies don’t work.

Please check out my new podcast on Trek.fm, Literary Treks. It is devoted to all things Star Trek in literature; novels, comics and reference books. We talk to authors, have book and comic news as well as cover books in-depth. So give us a listen.

Books · Christianity · ebooks · Government · Kevin DeYoung · Klout · Politics · Science · Space · Star Wars · Television · Tim Challies

Owl Post 4-26-2012

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 Farewell, the New Frontier:

As the space shuttle Discovery flew three times around Washington, a final salute before landing at Dulles airport for retirement in a museum, thousands on the ground gazed upward with marvel and pride. Yet what they were witnessing, for all its elegance, was a funeral march.

Turned off from politics? That’s exactly what the politicians want:

If you asked Americans to identify the most noticeable change in U.S. politics over the past two decades, they’d probably answer that politics has become more polarized and that this has made it harder for the government to address the problems the country faces.

On Books and True Ownership:

I have a love-hate relationship with e-books. Among the issues I’ve grappled with most is that of ownership: Which option offers the greater sense or reality of ownership? Is there greater ownership in having a physical copy of a book I can hold in my hand and file on my bookcase, or in having that book available to me anywhere in the world in electronic format? There is a kind of trade-off here.

What Your Klout Score Really Means:

Last spring Sam Fiorella was recruited for a VP position at a large Toronto marketing agency. With 15 years of experience consulting for major brands like AOL, Ford, and Kraft, Fiorella felt confident in his qualifications. But midway through the interview, he was caught off guard when his interviewer asked him for his Klout score. Fiorella hesitated awkwardly before confessing that he had no idea what a Klout score was.

America’s foolish detour into shopping malls:

These land-devouring, car-dependent malls were invented 60 years ago, with Seattle among the pioneers. Now they are in terminal decline. There was a better idea in Kansas City, but unfortunately it was eclipsed by our mania for malls.

Primetime Mystery: Where Did All the TV Viewers Go?

Here’s the wow-quote of the day, from Jeff Gaspin, the head of entertainment at NBC, explaining to The New York Times, with remarkable clarity and certainty, that watching TV shows on-demand is more satisfying than watching them live.

“The commercials broke the tension … I hate to say this to the AMC executives and everybody else in the business, but I will never watch ‘Walking Dead’ live again.”

The Old Testament Is a Story of Providence:

The story of the Old Testament is nothing if not a story of divine providence. On every page, in every promise, behind every prophecy is the sure hand of God. He sustains all things, directs all things, plans all things, ordains all things, superintends all things, works all things after the counsel of his will.

Raise your hand if you’re offended by politicians and church leaders using the Bible like a wax nose. On the left bank, there is the well-worn battery of references to Jesus and the rich young ruler, the command to “render unto Caesar,” and the last judgment where the sheep and goats are separated. As theWashington Post poses the question: “Jesus said, ‘Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ In a time of economic turmoil and record poverty levels, are tax cuts for the wealthy moral?”
Books · Christianity · Descendants · Don Carson · Elephant Room · Gender · George Clooney · Justin Taylor · Kevin DeYoung · Marilynne Robinson · Marines · Movies · Technology · Thabiti Anyabwile · Tim Raymond · Timothy Keller · War

Owl Post: 2-3-2012

More great links from this week. Hope you enjoy!


Searching for Paradise in the Descendants:

“Ever since the events of Genesis 3, we’ve hungered to return home. It’s the impulse that sent explorers out to the ends of the earth. It’s what Ponce de Leon looked for in Florida, what Cortez searched for amongst the Aztecs, and what sent Cheng Ho out from China into the Indian Ocean. It was promised to Israel as a land of milk and honey, and promised again to the church as the city of God.” Link

The Elephant Room:

“There was a lot of controversy and fall out from this years Elephant Room; (if you don’t know what I’m talking about you can check it out here. This has added to the number of links for this section. So here are some the best that I read this last week.” Tim Raymond, Justin TaylorKevin DeYoungThabiti Anyabwileand Don Carson and Tim Keller 

Respecting the (Enemy) Dead:

“Much has been made lately of the video circulated the Web that purportedly shows U.S. Marines urinating on dead men, presumably Taliban fighters killed by the Marines.” Link 

West Toward Home:

“IN HER NOVELS AND in her nonfiction essays, Marilynne Robinson’s questions are always roughly the same: Who are we, and where did we come from? The first is a matter of metaphysics, the second of history. At least since the publication of her first collection of essays, The Death of Adam (1998), Robinson has been making it her business to remind us that these questions are not yet settled.” Link

Citing Attacks, Christians Fear Losing Freedoms:

“CAIRO – From her home in a labyrinth of stonewalled alleyways, Samia Ramsis holds a key chain bearing the face of the Virgin Mary as she sits in her yellow pajamas on the morning of Orthodox Christmas.” Link

Watch Your Conjunctions in Parenting:

“I love you, but you need to obey.” 

Every English-speaking parent has said that phrase at some point or another. It’s our attempt as parents to express commitment to our children even as we require them to obey: “I love you despite anything you do, but you also need to obey what I tell you.” Link

The Coming Tech Boom…Or Babel:

“There’s a technological transformation coming that will revolutionize this century the way the telephone, electricity and automobiles altered the one before.” Link

Gender Liberation:

“Numerous stories have emerged recently about parents who have chosen to raise their children as “gender neutral.” The parents have received widespread criticism with many questioning whether they have a political motive and are just using their children to enforce their own agendas.” Link

The Media’s Abortion Blinders:

IN the most recent Gallup poll on abortion, as many Americans described themselves as pro-life as called themselves pro-choice. A combined 58 percent of Americans stated that abortion should either be “illegal in all circumstances” or “legal in only a few circumstances.” These results do not vary appreciably by gender: in the first Gallup poll to show a slight pro-life majority, conducted in May 2009, half of American women described themselves as pro-life. Link