28 February 2013

+JMJ+

"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 39

Welcome to the first post in our readalong of Pope Benedict XIV's Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week! I don't know about you, but I feel both totally out of my depth and totally safe and snug. While I'm hardly the perfect guide for this theological excursion, I think that we're all competent adventurers here and that we have a trusty map and an infallible compass that will not let us down. So if we all hang in there together, this should be great.

Now let's see exactly what we got ourselves into this time . . .

In the foreword to Part One, I stated that my concern was to present "the figure and message of Jesus." Perhaps it would have been good to assign these two words--figure and message--as a subtitle to the book, in order to clarify its underlying intention . . . The quest for the "historical Jesus," as conducted in mainstream critical exegesis in accordance with its hermeneutical presuppositions, lacks sufficient context to exert any significant historical impact. It is focussed too much on the past for it to make possible a personal relationship with Jesus. In the combination of [a faith-hermeneutic and a historical hermeneutic], I have attempted to develop a way of observing and listening to the Jesus of the Gospels that can indeed lead to personal encounter and that, through collective listening with Jesus's disciples across the ages, can indeed attain sure knowledge of the real historical figure of Jesus.

In words of shorter syllables, what the Holy Father means is that not all ways of interpreting the Gospels are created equal. He doesn't quite go out and say that his style of interpretation--which combines the study of the historical context with properly developed faith in Jesus's person and message--is the best one . . . but I will go out on a limb now and say that it's pretty high on the awesomeness scale.

So what kind of vision is available to us when we examine this period of history in almost microscopic detail, with the eyes of faith in its central figure?

26 February 2013

+JMJ+

Twelve Things about ParaNorman

12. A few years ago, I would have loved this movie's opening scene. If you don't mind a very minor spoiler about the first five minutes (Just checking!), I can explain . . .

The story begins with a zombie chasing a terrified and screechy woman all over a house. But it's not really the story, because the zombie and the woman are in a movie. That is, a movie within the movie. These days, it seems that everything has to be meta. =P Now, I see exactly why this has to be so in the Scream franchise, for example, but it makes an awkward addition to ParaNorman. What is the point of making this movie about its own watching?

11. Norman Babcock is an ordinary boy with the extraordinary ability to see and to communicate with ghosts. Unfortunately, he is also one of those Special Snowflake Freaks who now have their own Shredded Cheddar tag. (The "Freaks" is ironic.) Which is not to say he is unlikeable--because he's actually quite sweet--but that a great weakness of modern storytelling is an inability to create any other kind of hero. Exhibit A is the other tagline for this movie:

"You don't become a hero by being normal."

Am I really still the only one who has a problem with this?

10. Now, there's no getting around the fact that Norman is weird. (The darling!!!) As if it weren't enough that he can talk to ghosts, he sleeps in a bedroom that doubles as a shrine to the undead.

24 February 2013

+JMJ+

"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 38

Apparently, I never know what I've got until it's gone. Last year, it was Westlife; this year, it's Pope Benedict XVI.

With the exception of the encyclical Deus Caritas Est, I didn't bother to read anything the current Holy Father had written during the seven years of his papacy, for a lot of reasons that I now see were as silly as they were punkish. So with exactly four days left before his resignation becomes final and his ring is destroyed, I announce that the next book club pick will be . . .

Jesus of Nazareth
Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection

Surprised? Well, I did say I wanted the next "Two or Three" Book Club pick to be one not originally written in English. =P But I had no idea, either, one month ago, how that random wish would be granted.

Just when I thought this blog couldn't be more unpopular . . . ;-)

20 February 2013

+JMJ+

Reading Diary: Across the Universe by Beth Revis

"Who are you?" I say loudly. For the first time since I woke from my centuries-long slumber, my voice does not crack. They must have done something to my throat. A dull, throbbing ache fills my body.

The boy jumps, a look of guilt or wariness on his face when his eyes focus on me. He looks around as if he's surprised I'm talking to him, but he's the only other person in the room.

"I'm uh . . . I'm Elder. I'm the future, um, leader. Of the ship. Um." He stands up, but I don't, so he sits down again awkwardly.

Future leader of the ship? Why does the
ship need a future leader?

Last year, when I told a friend that I was reading Suzanne Collins's Hunger Games, he couldn't believe I had made it past the first chapter. Collins's prose was so awful, he told me, that the pain of it stopped him whenever he tried to go on. I honestly never developed that problem at any point during my reading of The Hunger Games trilogy; but I had cause to think of it last weekend when the very first page of Across the Universe all but tossed acid-spiked sand in my eyes.

So Beth Revis isn't an amazing prose stylist. How many of us are? I tried to set my aversion aside and to be as fair to the story as possible. After all, it did grow from an interesting "What if?" scenario: the nightmarish, claustrophobic idea that you are trapped in a huge box flying through space, where everything is strictly regulated, from your everyday tasks to the nutrients in your food . . . a concept also known as high school. ;-) Or to certain types, the suburbs. =P And to the supremely bored and entitled, the earth itself. LOL!

Across the Universe is the type of novel that is more fun to read when you're not planning a review at the end of it, but a deconstruction. So let's continue with something else that happens after one of Revis's narrators wakes up from several centuries of cryonic sleep . . .

14 February 2013

+JMJ+

Pages Both Bad and Penitent

A few months ago, I said that I would do less reading and more writing this Lent. Think of the next forty weekdays as the "sequel" to ShredChedFanFicWriMo--if only because I have an unfinished Are You Afraid of the Dark? FF from last November that I'd really like to complete.

Aside from that, who knows? I may even be able to come up with something original. =P

I'm pretty sure that another attempt to produce fiction is the right thing to do, because as soon as I started drafting this post, a million ideas for other posts--fantastic ideas for EPIC posts--jumped to mind in a desperate bid to distract me. I am also certain that in about a week, I will absolutely hate myself for publicly promising more "Bad Pages". LOL!

But there is one other idea that my inner editor has wholeheartedly approved. Here's a hint . . .

12 February 2013

+JMJ+

"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 37

We're done! We're done! We're done at last!!! Aren't you glad??? =D Reading the first four Little House books was a lot of fun, but I'm ready to move on now. At the same time, I'd like to drag this last post out for as long as possible . . . =P

All the days were peaceful after that July day when the grasshoppers flew away.

Rain fell and grass grew again over all the land that they had eaten bare and left brown and ugly. Ragweeds grew faster, and careless weeds, and the big, spreading tumbleweeds like bushes.

Willows and cottonwoods and plum thickets put out leaves again. There would be no fruit, for blossom-time was past. There would be no wheat. But wild hay was growing coarse in low places by the creek. Potatoes lived, and there were fish in the fish trap.

The grasshoppers are gone and everything is back to normal. What could possibly go wrong now? 

Just when I was thinking that it would make sense for fire to follow locusts (not that there's any biblical basis for that), Mr. Nelson came riding in to save their home and help Ma make another moral. Note that it's never ex machina when it's a neighbour. ;-)


02 February 2013

+JMJ+

January/February

What do you think of New Year's resolutions?

I'd never put much stock in them . . . I figured that if you really wanted to do something, then you'd do it . . . Of course, the catch is that I don't actually get down to doing much . . . But I didn't realise that until after I made my first New Year's resolution since childhood and challenged myself to stick to it.

My 2013 began, as a great many of the inspired initiatives of the twenty-first century will prove to have begun, with a Cracked.com column . . .