Friday, July 20, 2012

Keep On Moving

I'm very happy to announce that Jorjette and I will be heading out to Grantham, PA early next week to move to Messiah College and, more specifically, Naugle Hall. Messiah is pretty great - they have a fantastic Residence Life program, a kick-butt soccer team, they're near a number of East Coast cities, and they have an African elephant skeleton on campus. While moving can be stressful, we're excited to get settled into our new place on campus.

While the summer has been somewhat frustrating in that we didn't have very clear direction on what we would be doing in the fall, it has been a time where I have been reminded of the Lord's faithfulness to me. I suppose that may be easy to say now as I have a clear direction and plans. But even a month ago, when I was jobless and wondering what I would do if nothing worked out by the fall, the Lord was close and I had to continually repeat the ol' Scott Gaier-ism, "my value is in Christ."

That's not to say I have really enjoyed the process. I hated it, actually. It sucks not knowing what you're going to do. But then, in mid-July, I was in talks with two schools that would easily be at the top of my wish-list of schools at which to work. The term over-abundance often came to mind. 

So there you have it. It's onto a new place, new people, new traditions and stories.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Frederick Buechner's "Telling Secrets"

After finishing Frederick Buechner's Telling Secrets, it's safe to say that I have an intellectual crush on this guy. His Telling the Truth was fantastic and I look forward to reading more of his many books. And who knows, maybe I'll try out some of his fiction.

With Telling Secrets, there's much to love. He describes his journey of airing out his (painful) internal self. Through experiences both with his parents and as a parent, he learns that healing can come from the honesty of telling secrets.

As I describe it, his writing sounds cheesy and cliche but that couldn't be further than Buechner's style. His prose draws me in and turns those simple concepts from cliche to profound; not by manipulating words but by being honest and direct.


There are many great thoughts such as...

Telling our secrets - 
"...what we hunger for perhaps more than anything else is to be known in our full humanness, and yet that is often just what we also fear more than anything else. It is important to tell at least from time to time the secret of who we truly and fully are - even if we tell it only to ourselves - because otherwise we run the risk of losing track of who we truly and fully are and little by little come to accept instead the highly edited version which we put forth in hope that the world will find it more acceptable than the real thing" (p. 2).

Finding meaning in struggle -
“Events happen under their own steam as random as rain, which means that God is present in them not as their cause but as the one who even in the hardest and most hair-raising of them offers us the possibility of that new life and healing which I believe is what salvation is” (p. 31).

And our pursuit of Jesus -
"Peter really did not know who Jesus was, did not really know, and neither do any of us really know who Jesus is either. Beyond all we can find to say about him and believe about him, he remains always beyond our grasp, except maybe once in a while the hem of his garment" (p. 85).

Friday, July 6, 2012

An Avengers Pro/Con List

I just caught the new, indie flick The Avengers. You should check out your local art cinema to see if it's playing.

As somewhat of an outsider when it comes to superhero movies, I made a well thought-out pro/con list of this latest blockbuster. The list was internally formulated during the last 53 minutes of the 142 minute movie.

Pro: Robert Downey Jr.
Con: Samuel L. Jackson

Pro: Scarlett Johansson
Con: Scarlett doesn't have a super-power (don't pretend she does)

Pro: Kitschy one-liners said right before, during, or right after kicking a bad dude's butt
Con: Having to sit in a theater where people laugh out loud

Pro: The name Loki from Asguard
Con: The name Lookie at his Ass-guard
(This pro/con could easily be vice versa'd)

Pro: Jeremy Renner
Con: Not The Hurt Locker or The Bourne Legacy

Pro: Perfect fast-paced summer action flic
Con: 142 minutes (Steve, if Dark Knight was a half hour too long, this was an hour too long)

Pro: Did well to meld 6 different superheroes
Con: Too super-humanistic (hey-o!)

Pro: Joss Whedon
Con: Not Christopher Nolan

All joking aside, my very under-developed comic book nerd side enjoyed this one. Still, looking forward to another comic book movie slated for release later this summer.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

My Friend, John Steinbeck

Now that I've finished the Dragon Tattoo series, I'm now onto a different era, genre, and style. I've just started John Steinbeck's Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters. I'd safely say I'm a Steinbeck fan and reading his daily musings while writing what I consider to be my favorite novel is pretty interesting. Translated to today, perhaps it's like the well-done extras found on your favorite DVD. The format includes letters that Steinbeck wrote to his friend and publisher, written in the same book as the original text for East of Eden. Thus far, the subject includes mundane weekend activities with his deepest hopes for the book in the next breath. It's pretty great. Here are a couple quotes.
"Even if I knew nothing would emerge from this book I would still write it. It seems to me that different organisms  must have their separate ways of symbolizing, with sound or gesture, the creative joy - the flowering. And if this is so, men also must have their separate ways - some to laugh and some to build, some to destroy and yes, some even creatively to destroy themselves. There's no explaining this. The joy thing in me has two outlets: one a fine charge of love toward the incredibly desirable body and sweetness of woman, and second - mostly both - the paper and pencil or pen (Steinbeck, 1969, p. 11)."
"Work finished for today and the Hamiltons are in. I do hope they are well in. I've worked long today but happily. And now Elaine [his wife] and I are going to Macy's to look at some grass rugs (Steinbeck, p. 17)."

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Dragons! Tattoos!

"When it comes down to it, this story is not primarily about spies and secret government agencies; it's about violence against women, and the men who enable it"

After a week and a half spent on the beaches here in Southeastern Michigan, I've finished Stieg Larsson's The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest and have thus finished the Dragon Tattoo trilogy. I thoroughly enjoyed the series although I may have to agree with Lehr in thinking the (American) movie outdid the first novel. Here's hoping the next few movies are put into production and live up to the first.

While I agree with the quote up top, I do wonder why, if this is what Stieg was really trying to get at, why he spent a solid 400 pages on spies and government agencies. And his style of writing can be a bother - rather dry and heavily including the smallest of details. I suppose the style is supposed to mirror Salander's (the girl with the dragon tattoo) mind, but it gets tiresome. 

Either way, he highlights the still under-acknowledged issue of violence against women. I'm not sure if this is a counter-balance to the issue or not but Stieg's picture of sexuality is pretty fascinating. The dominance that men taken over women is pretty blatant but Salander's response borders on similar levels of dominance.

As sexuality is often used as a form of power, it's also regarded rather flippantly between many of the main characters. It is a rare instance when sex is partnered with commitment or attachment. Perhaps it is more of my reaction against a looser European view of sexuality, I don't know.

At any rate, and perhaps in contradiction to my style critique, the series is a page-turner and perfect for a summer read. I only wish Stieg were still alive and able to comment on his novels.