Tagged: book reviews

Ideas, Ideas

I am nearing a fairly big transition in life. I’ll be finished taking courses and moving on to whatever comes next. But I must confess, besides conversation, I do love thinking. As most of you witnessed, these shootings and our apparently resultant inability to calmly discuss them have set my mind ablaze. One conclusion I have drawn is that perhaps books are the way forward. If we need time to calm down, perhaps we can put our thoughts on paper, and then share them with each other and let each other digest them at our own pace. Perhaps.

My book will be called, “In Time of Peace: How Splitting the Atom Erased the Founder’s Words.” Or some such thing which explores whether my hunch is right that those men lived in a world with a different sense of up and down.

But I have other ideas too. What I don’t have is time to research them all. So, I want to share them with you and see if I get any bites. Of the following topics which intrigue me, do you any find intriguing?

First up – I do not believe the Hebrew or Greek texts of the Bible use any symbols whatsoever. It is generally accepted that they do not have punctuation. It is accepted that they do not contain arabic numerals–that’s seven hundred years later. But they also do not contain Hebrew or Greek numerals either when they mention numbers (IE – they always spell out the word o-n-e, and never put 1 or I or the equivalent). But in the Greek, there is a subscript iota on some omegas, which most scholars do not care to suggest was vocalized. I propose that the omega with the subscript iota was, in fact, uniquely vocalized, and not just in the Bible of course, but in all the written Greek texts of that era–but I need to do more research. (My overall point is that I believe the entire Bible was spoken out loud and that we can confirm this fact by demonstrating that the way the written languages worked back then–different from English today–was to try to capture the sounds with ink. (IE – We don’t vocalize punctuation–well Victor Borge does.) Maybe this one is just me. But I’ve long wondered, as I’ve heard many of you wonder, why everything happened back when it happened and I think I’ve stumbled upon one way to satisfactorily answer that curiosity.)

Next – I have a research comedy in me. I want to admit that I know nothing about women and that this bothers me. So, instead of getting to know you all in person, I devise a plan to use all my newfound library skills to research what “women” are by analyzing how they are represented in the best sellers of the years 2012-2016. I’m thinking I’ll determine which are the 25 best selling books of those five years–regardless the genre–and then analyze the female characters’ speech, actions, and descriptions of them in order to see if I can figure you all out.

Next – I want to philosophically explore the effect of literacy on community. The more I’ve read, the more I’ve withdrawn. I am not the only one who’s been affected in a such a way by the written word. The disjoint comes when I admit that the Bible is really in favor of listening to those in my community as well as observing nature, so I feel like my reading is limiting what the LORD has to say to me. This is troubling.

One more – I have observed at my black church that they use the word “survive” a lot. At first I didn’t think anything of it, but as H- gets older, I kind of squirm in my seat when I hear the adults teach, “You’ve got to survive.” No one ever taught me to merely survive. They taught me to thrive. And to be frank, I’ve always loved the Air Force’s simple slogan, “Aim High.” So I think there is merit to using my cross-cultural experiences to draw out that cultures are different down to their core teachings. And I think that we whites need to listen better, because we do do some things better than other cultures, and yet, YET, the way forward is not simple, not by a long shot. (The answer I’ve received upon stating this difference is, “Well, you’re not black. It’s different for you than us.”) Even suggesting that I think whites do something better makes me sound bigoted–which I am not. But I do mean that teaching children to thrive is about something different than setting up false expectations. Ultimately, however, the only way to get there is together.

You in?

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He Read the Wrong Heller

That’s what you’re thinking, isn’t it? After you read my amendment proposal, you thought I misunderstood what I was supposed to read. You’re saying, “His friend clearly suggested the supreme court case involving Heller, then he goes and tracks down Joseph Heller’s classic Catch-22. Moron.”

Trouble is, I have read Catch-22, but, in fact, I have also read the opinions behind the latest second amendment decision of our highest court. And yes, I still maintain that my proposed amendment is both the solution to the issue and at the same time draws out the actual issue that has been raised by the school shootings of the recent past.

I previously wrote that I believe the school shootings raise the issue of whether the atom bombs dropped in WWII have fundamentally and irrevocably altered life. In other words, I believe it is time to fully address that life is not the same as it was before the bombs. The Law now wrangles a different sort of chaos. (One easy example that comes to mind is how jumping on an atom bomb does nothing for our friends–unlike stepping in front of a bullet or jumping on a grenade etc. Even Christ’s, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends,” must needs be seen in new light.)

Another way I could have put my belief, perhaps an easier to understand way, is that since officially ending WWII we have not declared war according to our law–the U.S. Constitution–and I wonder, “Is this because we believe we are forevermore in time of war?”

In my thought experiment wherein I’m pretending to interpret the ratified then challenged Amendment XXVIII’s language of, “In time of peace, arms shall no longer be secured by the people,” I see that the most difficult part to interpret, and the most essential, is the “in time of peace.” I believe we would find that when the founders used the phrase in the third amendment, they meant there was distinction between time of war and time of peace.

Do we?

I look around and conclude, “No. No we don’t. We do not believe in the distinction.” And by my thinking, no distinction means we believe that we are in time of war.

But I’m a veteran. Not just any veteran, a veteran officer. My oath is lifelong, regardless the source of my income. So I can’t help but see war, no different than hammers can’t help but see objects to strike. But you? You’re not a veteran.

What do you see? What do you believe?

Review of Philosophy of Law and Jurisprudence (Part of The Great Ideas Program [Itself a guided reading of The Great Books of the Western World]) by Mortimer J. Adler and Peter Wolff

“When your old-ass parent is like, ‘I don’t know how to send an iMessage,’ and you’re just like, ‘Give me the fucking phone and let me handle it.’ Sadly, that’s what we have to do with our government; our parents don’t know how to use a fucking democracy, so we have to.” – David Hogg, Survivor of Marjory Stoneman Douglas schooting

Thank you, young man. I want to thank you for two reasons. First, thank you for delighting me. Second, thank you for saving me time.

Regarding delight: ask anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you that I love analogies. (Maybe you will understand me better if I write, “I ♥ analogies.” #celebrateilliteracy #icantreedorrite.) I love them because they somehow make communication crystal clear.

Regarding time: because you used an analogy, I do not have to ask clarifying questions to get at the heart of what you want to say. In other words, you have made my duty simpler. So, again, thank you for saving me time.

The analogy you provided is perfectly coherent, and undeniably clear. But do not think for a moment that through it you have demonstrated that you know up from down. I’ll grant that you are an expert at pressing “send”. Against my instincts, I’ll even grant that you are an expert at using a democracy. I will not, however, grant that you can see the truth.

The truth is that democracy is not something that is used, it is something that is built. More clearly, democracy is not the hammer, it is the house.

****

Philosophy of Law and JurisprudenceThe preface to Philosophy of Law and Jurisprudence includes two true accounts of people stranded at sea after shipwrecks. Inevitably decisions must be made as to who should get to live at least a little bit longer. And, yes, cannibalism is sometimes the best option.

Against this backdrop, the authors present Western Civilization’s history of thought about the “law”. The book isn’t very long at all. Though, I will admit that to the likes of David Hogg and friends, compared to 140 characters, the work may seem unending. To old-ass parents, however, the ability to coherently, if not comprehensively, paint the broad-strokes of the past 2500 years’ discussion of Western thought as related to the law seems a pretty incomparable feat.

Beginning with Aeschylus, we are presented with the law as found in the infamous Greek tragedies as captured in fictions surrounding the Trojan War. In short, revenge is shown for what it is–unending. The only solution to the eternal problem is given in the institution of the court, the law.

Plato, in turn, takes the law and states that it has the purpose of promoting virtue, through persuasion and coercion.

Aristotle answers the new question which arises from Plato’s idea, which is, “What is this thing that men should be persuaded and coerced to be?” In short, after delineating natural law (killing is bad) from man-made law (speeding is bad), Aristotle offers that the man-made law must be for the common good and be properly made.

The Old and New Testaments are treated next, under the question, “Why is there any need for divine law?”

We next return to Aristotle and Plutarch, to include Solon, and see outlined the three functions of the law. The law must be made, enforced, and applied. Here we see the makings of our own three branches of government, the legislative, executive, and judicial.

Aquinas seems to be one of the first to notice that up until his time none of his predecessors really even didactically defined the term in question, that being, the law.

  • Plato, for example gets close but misses when he writes, “…there is one among these cords which every man ought to grasp and never let go, but to pull with it against all the rest; and this is the sacred and golden cord of reason, called by us the common law of the State.”
  • Aristotle, for his part, says, “law has compulsive power, while it is at the same time a rule proceeding from a sort of practical wisdom and reason.”
  • The emperor Justinian wrote, “Whatsoever pleases the sovereign has the force of the law.”

Finally, we read Aquinas’ definition, being, “[law] is nothing other than an ordinance of reason for the common good, made by him who has care of the community, and promulgated.”

Aquinas is also the author from which we find the complicated but enlightening idea that an unjust law is an impossibility, instead it is merely a counterfeit law.

Hobbes is the man responsible for creating the notion that the commonwealth, the group, should be thought of as a new being–which he calls the Leviathan. In his system, there are essentially three commands/points. First, right to life is the only inalienable right. Second, to achieve life, one must give up all rights and liberties (with the assumption that all others follow suit) and third, men must perform the covenants that they make. The tricky part of Hobbes is that there is no law without the Leviathan. And the Leviathan cannot be against itself. Put another way, for Hobbes it is irrelevant that I think a law unreasonable.

Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice receives the next chapter’s attention because of the covenant involving one character’s willingness to underwrite his debt with “a pound of flesh.” In other words, Shakespeare brings out that mindless obedience to covenants may not be best.

Montesquieu takes up the law with the phrase, “the Spirit of Laws,” as he promotes the notion Shakespeare observed, that is that there does not seem to be one hard and fast law. Specifically he advocates that the particular and distinct circumstances–especially the climate wherein the particular culture (or Leviathan if you will) exists–must be taken into account as the law is created, enforced, and applied.

Rousseau adds to the discussion by providing the sound reasoning that the law sets men free. Rousseau is also one of the first to argue that the law, as it sets us free, is primarily concerned with protection of property as property is the freedom most easily taken away.

Kant, while approaching the law from the perspective opposite Montesquieu (science), picks up the property notion and explains that to even say that we have a right to property requires a second person. And therein he defends the importance of property ownership as a measure of the law.

Next we view the American Constitution through the eyes of its inadequate predecessor, the Articles of Confederation. This will always be a worthy exercise.

Hegel then exposes the significance of understanding there is most assuredly a difference between the history of laws and the philosophy of law. He wrote, “A particular law may be shown to be wholly grounded in and consistent with the circumstances and existing legally established institutions, and yet it may be wrong and irrational in its essential character.” He is also responsible for spreading the notion that the philosophical task (in this case, answering either, “What is the law?” or “What is right?”) has not begun until the ideas are actualized.

Finally, the book ends with discussion of Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. This is due to the final courtroom melodrama which is about as morally difficult as anything yet written and demonstrates that the question, “What is the law?” has not yet been conclusively answered.

Despite our current predicament, this little history lesson may be enough to demonstrate that the American system was very well thought out–not by grieving, angry teenagers but by parents who could tell the difference between hammer and house.

****

But you already knew that, Mr. Hogg, didn’t you?

Review of mother! by Darren Aronofsky

Logan was the first movie I saw in the theater after one year away, over one year ago. Hoping to love it, I instead almost left the theater. Children being violently wounded on-screen? Shouldn’t there be a line?

Now with mother!, I feel like a bit of a hypocrite. It is a terrific film–but it puts the graphic, on-screen adult-on-child violence in Logan to shame in a way that I cannot yet reconcile.

Bluntly, Mr. Aronofsky’s motion picture is not for kids. But it is for adults, especially Christians.

Many of you know that I study ancient languages. In brief, you may be intrigued to learn that the naming conventions become tricky quickly. For example, you’ve likely heard of the Hebrew language. Maybe you’ve even heard that distinct from Modern Hebrew is Biblical Hebrew.

If you’re uncommonly interested in such things, you may be aware that within Biblical Hebrew there are designations for both Early and Late Biblical Hebrew–the difference being mostly related to vocabulary as opposed to grammar. Not surprisingly, Late Biblical Hebrew’s vocabulary shows influences from the surrounding culture’s languages. C’est la vie.

Most of you, however, will not know that there is something before Early Biblical Hebrew, that is clearly related to it, but which dates before it. The scholars who discuss this more ancient Hebrew variant call it Paleo-Hebrew.

See what’s going on?

This language is not exactly Hebrew, but it’s also not exactly a different language, nor dialect for that matter. It probably sounded like Early Biblical Hebrew, but the letters looked different. So to try and capture this complicated relationship, the prefix “paleo” is applied. (Sometimes it is also more simply labeled Old Hebrew.)

mother!, then, is likewise Mr. Aronofsky’s telling of, not the Bible’s story, but the Paleo-Bible’s story–except that there is no such thing, until now. And that is what makes the movie so phenomenal.

It has many of the elements of the Bible; for example, Father is the name of the creative storytelling poet who longs to be loved, and his newborn son is unintentionally killed by Father’s fanatical fans–who then eat the dead baby in some kind of cultic memorial ritual.

Oh boy.

I’m telling you too much. You’re not going to watch it.

Review of Phantom Thread, By Paul Thomas Anderson

Michael Mann still owns pacing–he always will. But director Paul Thomas Anderson owns something else. What is it? I have not found the word yet. But when I do, it will describe the way Phantom Thread is not about dresses. It will also convey the way this motion picture about some dressmaker makes me want to wake up early every morning. Oh, and this word will describe how without Mr. Anderson spending any precious time on patronizing summaries, technical explanations, or unambiguous declarations, I felt like I learned something–something that I might have otherwise missed. I wonder, what will you learn?

Review of The Fiery Heart by Richelle Mead (A Bloodline Novel)

Fiery Heart

The most fitting way to describe this book is by telling the truth. It is both good and bad.

You may be wondering how I ever stumbled upon Richelle Mead’s The Fiery Heart. The answer: one semester of translating Hebrew and Greek. I mentioned to a friend that over the break I just wanted to read something easy and preferably out of the norm for my tastes. I was thinking sci-fi or fantasy. I thought that that conversation bore no fruit, so I drove to the bookstore where I picked up Octavia Butler’s supposedly sci-fi story Kindredchosen literally by its cover. Sci-fi written by a black woman, who knew? (Review coming soon).

Kindred

Anyhow, the next morning I found Mrs. Read’s vampire tale on my windshield and decided to follow the rabbit. Like I said, it’s good and bad. The following sentences should demonstrate what I mean.

There was just her and the feel of her lips, the exquisite way they managed to be soft and fierce at the same time.

I admit that one caught my attention. It is on page three, and it caught my attention because while I was in college, I took an ethics class. (Oh the fondness of that memory.) There was a lady in the class who had some very odd tendencies, and one friend and I identified these tendencies and exploited them. We were classically behaving as “little shits.” In short, while we ate lunch before class, we would decide which of her tendencies we would adopt and then impose them on the classroom discussions at will. One of our innocent classmate’s tendencies was to answer in opposites. You can imagine the fun we had as we concluded any ethical analysis with, “I guess, what I’m trying to say is, I think it’s both right and wrong.” And the best part was that the woman would resoundingly answer, “That’s how I feel!”

Back to blood boilers and dhampirs (thought I’m still not sure exactly what those are). As I read Mrs. Mead’s novel, I kept noticing this tendency to invoke contradictions in the name of good writing. I didn’t start keeping track until about half-way through the book, but here are a string of them. They occurred about every forty-ish pages.

Her long, dark hair spilled over her shoulders, and there was a fire in her brown eyes that was both dangerous (wait for it) and alluring.

And another.

Even through my jeans, that touch was provocative and made me think of all the times he’d run his hands over my legs. It was agonizing…(drumroll please) and exquisite.

Another.

Time stopped having meaning. It seemed like both an eternity and (How short? Please, I can’t wait a moment longer!) a heartbeat before I was cognizant of my surroundings again.

More bluntly.

This isn’t the same as you running off to a witch’s tea party! This is life and (Let me guess…) death. (YES! I was right.)

Last one, for effect. The speaker is talking to the human girl who is dating the vampire boy.

And that’s the thing, I think…the real reason I’m not that weirded out by you two. It goes against all sound logic, but somehow, you two together…it (Anyone else’s head feel warm?) just (Oh boy. I’m not feeling so good anymore. Bathroom please.) works. (Hurrrl. Now, retract tongue.)

Besides these juxtapositions of contradictory and ultimately inconsequential platitudes, the book contains two hundred plus pages of foreplay and a disappointing sex scene, prescription drug use, illicit drug use, and a whole host of other unsavory behaviors (all by eighteen year old’s) which in and of themselves certainly need no help being normalized into our degrading civilization. Oh, and there was a lot of mouth’s crushing together. Considering the nature of vampire teeth, that seems dangerous. And life-giving.

It’s Just Us, Daddy, Written by Pete Deakon and Illustrated by Kaelyn Williams Now Available On Kindle. Buy it!

coverfrontBuy it today for $2.99 by clicking here or on the images. And even if you don’t have $2.99 to spare, please, please add a review so that balance is restored to the force.coverback

That is Patently Untrue–A Review of Matt Damon’s Opening Claim in The Martian Trailer

“Every human being has a basic instinct to help each other out…this instinct is found in every culture without exception.”

From his dissection of the card player’s hands in Rounders, to his dissertation on clubbing baby seals in Good Will Hunting, to his explanation that he knows which vehicle in the parking lot is most likely to have a gun in it in Bourne Identity and more, in just about all of his films Mr. Damon has proven he can memorize and deliver long, dry, and yet convincing speeches that seem like they might trip up other acting professionals. And that’s fine and dandy. I like those movies and I like his characters in those movies. But I don’t know if anyone likes to hear what he has to say after he clocks out, and it seems like the two are beginning to merge. Recently, he’s starred in films that sacrifice entertainment value in favor of agendas, films like the one about fracking. Soooo dramatic. And they’re probably filled with science. Again, whatever.

A year or so ago a couple handed me the book The Martian because they knew I had applied to be an emigrant to Mars. I read it and reviewed it here. This book is now a major motion picture. And all of this is very interesting to me and probably every other independent author, as its author published the book by his own self years before it got picked up by a major publisher and now Hollywood. It looks like Mr. Weir self-published it in 2011, three years before the big boys picked it up in 2014. So it seems that five years after self-publishing a quality book any one of us could watch A-listers act out our story on the big screen. That’s neat. Anyhow, back to the point. The book has nothing to do with making a statement about “every culture” of humans. Anyone that disagrees with this is flat out wrong and I would argue hasn’t read the book. And yet somehow (I picture a lot of whining and temper tantrums and threats to walk out of the room) Matt Damon opens the preview to what looks like a fantastic new space movie with this bogus notion that every culture has a basic instinct to help each other out. I can buy every human does on an individual level. There’s books about that. But the simple fact is there are plenty of cultures who don’t rescue people who find themselves stranded on Mars or mountain tops or the side of the highway. What’s worse is there are plenty of cultures who actively believe in kidnapping people for money or political statements. These cultures are generally those not labeled The West.

I buy and promote the truth that if we’re talking about the level of the soul, then we’re all just people making our way through this world and will more times than not help each other when able. But it is not true that in groups (cultures) we’re all the same and without quantifiable, measurable differences that can be labeled “better” or “worse”–no matter how hard we wish for it.

Quick Note

With a full-time job again, I don’t have time to work, come up with fiction blog posts, and write fiction books. That said, I recently received what I would call the divine inspiration I have been waiting for regarding my next book, so until it is complete, the only posts you’ll likely see will be book/movie reviews or “daughter project” ones. But the new book is going to be great.

One thing I have learned from my two short novels that I hope to put to practice with the new book is that while I was thinking, “Let them test the waters”, the truth is I prefer to settle into a long book if I’m going to read a book at all, and I don’t think I’m alone in that. Whereas my books are similar to a movie’s two-hour run-time, a book differs from a movie in that it is something I want to build a relationship with. So this next book is going to be long. And that makes me smile. And it’s going to have violence and sex just the way you want it. And that should make you smile. Suckers!

Review of The Message Of The Cross, by Derek Tidball

When I read a book or watch a movie I am on the look out for the one thing upon which the book or film is centered. Sometimes this one thing can be an entire scene, but more often than not, I find that it is one line. As an illustration, I would argue that the entire movie Monster’s Ball was built to make Halle Berry’s guttural “I want you to make me feel good. Can you make me feel good?” confession as powerful as it was.

Which brings me to this book I received from a pastor’s personal stash. It’s all about both the symbolism and (possible) reality of Jesus of Nazareth’s crucifixion. The author, Tidball, is a pastor and the book certainly carries his preaching voice throughout. This is mostly annoying. On the whole, there are all sorts of quasi-theological points and what have you, but unless you’re a Christian looking to invest some time acquiring answers to some very particular questions, I don’t think this book has much value–save one point.

With an emphasis on an “everyone is on their own journey” attitude, one thing that keeps me very interested in Christianity is its prophetic aspect. I wrote earlier about discovering the money-changer showdown prior to the arrest and crucifixion was at the temple, the same one that was destroyed as Jesus seems to have prophesied, the same one whose site is still being fought over today in the middle east.

Likewise, Tidball’s single scene or line in The Cross is found in Genesis 22:6. He calls to our attention that during the infamous Old Testament scene where Abraham unquestioningly follows god’s command to sacrifice his first and only son, the Bible has it that Abraham places the wood for the burnt offering on his son Isaac’s back for him to carry up the mountain. Boom!

Or crickets.

Remember that we’re talking about stories here. Remember also that words are not things, but the way we attempt to describe things.

So you’re telling me that the one true god’s chosen people–meant to be a beacon of hope for the world–out of whom some say the savior of the world was birthed had as their founding father and exemplar a man who obeyed this god’s command to sacrifice his son up to the point of the down-stroke of the knife; you’re telling me that the son walked with wood on his back at some point during the event? And then, thousands of years after this story had taken root, you’re telling me that a man who claimed to be the savior of the world carried wood on his back as he willfully submitted to his own sacrificial execution? In my book, that’s a pretty powerful and difficult to deny theme, a theme that might actively contribute to the claim that one story reigns as the greatest story ever told.

Unfortunately, in my own life of late I can admit that the Christian god has been at the least hiding, at the most absent in certain tribulations. And yet Isaac carried wood on his back long before Rome invented crucifixion or a father god sacrificed his own son.

I don’t know what to do with information like this, but I will say that I find it to be the most pleasant and empowering thing to think on, so I will continue to do so.