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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.