Saturday, July 30, 2005

Number one reason to never let kids on the internet unsupervised.

Friday, July 29, 2005

As much as I like musicians, things can get a little weird at times.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

In the latest print issue of National Review, the is a very sharply written critique of the Live8 concerts written by Anthony Daniels (aka Theodore Dalrymple-his pen name). To be honest, I haven't seen any single writer write as sharply about contemporary western social issues as well as Daniels.

Daniels begins by noting the character of Mrs Jellyby from Dickens' Bleak House who "was so concerned for the welfare of the natives of Boorioboola-Gha, on the left bank of the Niger, that she quite neglected to look after her own children." This ends up being the heart of his argument, and what I find most persuasive as well, though he addresses a few other interesting points as well. (By way of confession, I very recently attempted to read Bleak House but was unable to engage myself to it and put it down halfway through).

Daniels notes the oddity of rock stars trying to act as moral instructors. "Their profession, after all, has not been a byword for restraint, good sense, or selflessness . . . have not these same musicians therefore the inescapable moral duty to maintain their silence and do all in their power to prevent the further dissemination of their music . . .?" I left out in the middle his anecdote from a prison officer about the effects of rock vs baroque music on his charges.

Back to the main point though: " . . .the live 8 conception of virtue is now very widespread . . .the vast expansion of tertiary education has increased by orders of magnitude the numbers of people who think in sociological abstractions rather than in concrete moral terms. Statistical generalizations are more real to them, and certainly more important, than the trifling moral dilemmas of their own lives. How, after all, can your own sexual conduct compete in significance with the infant mortality rate or lefe expectancy of the inhabitants of Africa?"

This reminds me once again to recommend his book, Life at the Bottom (written under the Dalrymple name), which shows in frightening detail the effects the our modern ideas are having on the inhabitants of modern English cities.
This looks pretty stupid. The guy blasts american Christians for identifying our religion with Ben Franklinisms (fair enough), then judges them on not meeting socialist standards. I get tired of that sort of thing.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Looks like life in Ukraine actually is changing in a small but very nice way. I'm skeptical about any politician, but seeing them actually keep their promises does give me a warm feeling.

Friday, July 22, 2005

A note about Netflix performance. Our turnaround time for videos is highly determined by our local postal schedule. For a while, we were very early on the postal route, which meant that a video in our mailbox could get delivered to the distribution center that day. If it got there early enough, they might even send one back out that same day. Now we're back to afternoons, so they can't get there till the following day at the earliest.

Not really a complaint, just an observation. We've been enjoying watching all the good movies. Also, for those who like gritty crime shows, The Wire is as good as anything I've seen on tv. You do have to watch it all in order, though, as it is a continuous story.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

For all my unmarried readers.


Saturday, July 16, 2005

In case you didn't already know, European politicians are on crack.
The things that happen when I stop paying attention. This makes me so sad and angry. For all of you non-anglicans, I caution you not to say that this makes you glad you aren't in their situation. Let us all pray for our brothers and sisters in Connecticut. While I hope there are great things in store for congegations like St John's down the road, that road seems so utterly distressing.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Just a real quick recollection of something I learned in church yesterday. The HS Sunday School was studying John 18. Many times in the gospels there's a formula that occurs thus, "This happened that the scriptures might be fulfilled . . .", usually followed by a specific OT refernce. In John 18 we get, "this happened that the words Jesus had spoken might be fulfilled . . .". Interesting equivalence there, especially as this is just after Jesus' "I AM" statement to the priests. I assume the major Johannine scholars have mentioned this, but I had never noticed it before.
The RYM trip to Panama City Florida was, for some reason, cancelled. So instead our youth group (that includes me) is going to the beach in North Carolina for a few days.

Before we leave, I guess I should comply with Al's query.

How many books do I own?

I tried counting a couple of months ago and got to around 800 on one floor before I got distracted and gave up. I would guess somewhere around 1200 to 1500 or so.

What's the last book I bought?

Not completely sure. I bought two cheap books at the good will store recently: a John Mortimer collection and a Pete Dexter novel. Dexter was recommended to me by a young reader working at Armadillo grill, but I haven't read him yet. The last thing I got (used) from amazon was Jackie Disaster, another case of getting interested in an author after hearing him interview on NPR. Dezenhall works as a damage control specialist for celebrities.

What's the last book I read?

If you haven't heard me say this before, I try to keep three (and no more) book going at all times, and try to finish all three in a week. My wife wanted me to read a parenting book, so I read Grace Based Parenting. Thought it was about half good, but don't want to take the time to go into that right now. I read Hauerwas' Suffering Presence, a good work on some medical ethics topics. It's a notable not least for the fact that Hauerwas takes the position that human suffering is by design necessarily tragic and thus cannot be solved in a satisfactory way by any particular conception of medicine. I also got to another Harry Potter book. I've enjoyed these, and certainly will want John to enjoy them as well, but I did think this one (unlike the first three) was truly longer than it needed to be. Specifically I thought the first part was much to long.

What are the five books that mean the most to me?

No idea. Of course I put the Bible in it's own category, since I have continued to study it regularly throughout my life and I have not done that with any other books. I think I'll just have to choose some books which seemed to open up new ways of thinking to me. I'll start with the non-fiction.

Helmut Schoeck's book Envy: A Theory of Social Behavior has always struck me as one of the most useful pieces of historical/cultural research I've come accross. As a human attitude envy can be very mysterious because of the fact that those who are experiencing great envy never admit to it. Schoeck gathers and synthesizes a very large collection of data from accross time and the world, probably too much for the taste of modern american researchers who don't seem to like large theories any more. The presentation of how envy controls certain cultural institutions and patterns in different societies I found completely fascinating.

This leads well to the work of two New Testament scholars, Bruce Malina and N T Wright. Mark Horne and several of people had been recommending Wright's work on the gospels to me several years ago. I began reading, iirc, The New Testament and the People of God. It was this book, more than any other, the rekindled my interest in learning about the NT in a serious way, as Wright was the first serious, academic NT scholar I saw who had a perspective I could swallow, though reading him stared changing my perspective around quite a bit. I know a good number of you readers here have read this, but f you haven't, it is well worth the effort. There's a fari amount of philosophy of history at the beginning, but if you find that difficult, just skip to the next section.

Having read some of Wright on understanding the NT in it's historical context, I took upon myself to try teaching a class at my church on that topic. Wanting to be well prepared, I tried to find more books to round out my reading and became entranced by the work of Bruce Malina, who I found had been a big source for Wright. Malina is one of the mor prolific writers of a movement called the Context Group, a group of scholars who attempt to bring a knowledge of ancient history and cultural anthropology to bear on New Testament studies. I began with The New Testament World: Insights From Cultural Anthropology, a work designed as a college textbook (it has study questions in each chapter). Really, from the day I began reading that until now the question of the cultural distance between us and the biblical writers and characters has loomed large for me.There are many other related works on this topic, but the one I mentioned as as good a place to start as any.

One last work for this category, then I'll try to get throgh fiction quickly. In a local used bookstore (the very odd Skylight Exchange), I noticed a book called A Community of Character. I think maybe I had heard of Stan Hauerwas a little, but not necessarily anything memorable, plus he taught at Duke, which made me skeptical at the time, but the topic looked pretty interesting, and it seemed to be closely related to the thought of Alasdair MacIntyre, which I had been reading. Little did I know how much his writing would change me. In a way Hauerwas was similar to Wright in that he was a well eduacted philosopher/theologian with all the proper academic credentials (in his case Yale and Notre Dame), speaking in the language of proper academic cicles (though a bit saltier here), and defending something I can only call authentic christianity. Getting on to Hauerwas would lead to far to many topics (war, peace, ethics, literature, virtue, family, medicine, politics, etc.) so I'll leave off there. Don't have time to write more about MacIntyre or Postman or Tournier or Hayek or Van Til or a host of others who have been important to me.

Since Hauerwas has written elegantly about the role novels can play in learning about virtue, I'll very briefly mention a few novelists who have been important to me. As I think about my taste in novels, it strikes me that I primarily like two things in a novel: that it be educational, and that it be funny. I'll usually settle for either one. Among the writers who have shown a huge amount of erudtion in novel writing are Gene Wolfe, Umberto Eco and Patrick O'Brian. Mark Leyner is very funny in a very peculiar contemporary-cultural-references sort of way. The two writers I found who have mastered writing wise and funny novels are Mark Helprin and Robertson Davies. Not that their books are funny all the time, but they made me laugh often enough, wheras most novels never make me laugh at all.

The folks I'd like to tag are those I have known in that other, "real", world: Christina, Andrea, and Scott. I'll check these off as they participate.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Due to Netflix, I feel like I'm always talking about movies these days. I've seen a lot of truly great movies in the last six months, and a few not so great ones. Tonight we watched Barry Lyndon. The only thing I knew about it before it arrived was that it was an early Stanley Kubrick film. I was quite impressed. I hadn't read the novel, nor anything else by Thackeray, but it seemed like one of the best presentations of a 19th C. novel that I've seen. Seemed to capture the mood quite well throughout. Good sense of melodrama, of moralism, of the attractions and perils of love--all the elements of the victorian novel.
This looks like an interesting film.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

This reminds me of the fact that I originally became a conservative political type because I became convinced that welfare was harmful to those it was supposed to help. I've developed problems with amercican political thought in general (republican included) since then, but I still think this is an important issue to wrestle with.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

I gave in heavily to temptation today: I just paid two local kids to mow the lawn. I have the partial exxcuse that we needed to have it done next week when we will be away (I paid for two mowings), but really it just boils down to how much I hate mowing. Usually my cheapness wins out over my laziness, though. I guess its not really worse than paying the restaurants to make food for us instead of cooking, which we do too often as well.

Monday, July 04, 2005

You never know what people might learn fom actually talking and spending time with each other.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Ever had this dream?

Friday, July 01, 2005

Interesting article about Mark Helprin here. I like his claim that he has never read a work of popular fiction. That explains a lot. For those who haven't read his novels, it's about time you did so.