Wednesday, July 29, 2009

cinema review: Sweet Land (2006)

Sweet Land is a sweet story told well, shot well, and, mostly, acted well. It's about love, racism, discrimination, commitment, and determination. A Norwegian bachelor farmer in Minnesota has a woman recommended to him by the family back home. Turns out, she's German, which makes her highly unpopular as WW1 just finished. She doesn't have the proper papers and is clueless as to how to not offend her new community. The church won't marry them and the state won't even when they jump through all the hoops. Eventually, the give up and declare themselves husband and wife. The leave a powerful legacy that shapes their grandson. It also shapes the viewers of this movie. Enjoy.

Elizabeth Reaser as IngeImage via Wikipedia

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

book report: Notes from the Tilt-a-whirl by N.D. Wilson

Notes from the Tilt-a-whirl by N.D. Wilson read like the carnival ride to me. It started off slow and

A Tilt-A-Whirl.Image via Wikipedia

bumpy then picked up speed and I lost myself in it then it bumpily delivered me to the end, longing for the enjoyable middle part. Wilson uses the imagery of the earth circling the sun and the changing seasons as the inspiration for the Tilt-a-whirl approach to theology in general and the problem of evil in particular. Just as William Young tackled the issue through prose in the The Shack, see my review, so also Wilson uses his first person narrative to touch on aspects of this monstrous theological elephant. Unlike Young, Wilson's writing did not bog down, which is an impressive feat. Wilson is, in fact a very good writer, practically a poet in spots trapped in a narrator's job. His imagery is usually fresh and his turns of phrase often coerced me into re-reading. I'm not claiming omniscience, so if he is a good plagiarizer, so be it, but I liked parts like these. I'm eating my lunch in a graveyard. Human seeds have been planted in neat little rows. Stone stakes label the crop. p.61 His chapters are full of such imagery. He identifies with God as an artist who sets up scenes and creates drama to convey truth. He is an unashamed Calvinist who understands that all of us in creation have a role written for us by the Director. Wilson is also a nature lover and a critic of philosophers, not as one unstudied by them, but as a student who read them. He quotes liberally from them, or summarizes them broadly, in their tussles with evil. He is fond of Nietzsche but not as a guide, but as a clown who makes him laugh. It's not until the end that he acknowledges his debt to G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis.

I don't think his portrayal of the problem of evil was made of straw, yet it was incomplete. I can agree with everything he portrayed and all of his solutions, predestination of a sort, but he avoided the issue of double predestination. Perhaps, that chapter was too bogged down to maintain the whimsical feel of the book and was mercifully edited out, unlike some of Young's chapters in The Shack.

I was happy to come to the Hell chapter near the end of the book. It was here the ride got bumpy again and less enjoyable. He quoted and referred to many, including Lewis, Dante, and Donne, but not Christ. Weird. But I think Wilson prefers Lewis's take in The Great Divorce as opposed to Jesus's "weeping and gnashing of teeth." He had an opportunity to swing for the fences but chose to bunt. Also the imagery of casting in the great drama of the universe was no longer used, but referrals to choice. I would hope he would have at least mentioned election.

Part of my initial bumpiness consisted of his love of the sciences, both terrestrial and astronomical. He's not a scientist, but he loves science, and nature shows. He is enthralled that the moon is the perfect distance between the sun and the earth for total eclipses. However, he is also thrilled that the earth "also would be perfectly sized to brown the moonlight." p. 3. I presume he is speaking of a lunar eclipse. Learn why the moon turns red here. Actually the earth only needs to be bigger than the moon. Little things like this take my trust away from an author. I worried about his grasp of the philosophers. Eventually, I felt at ease with him and joined him on his ride. It can be read in one long sitting like The Shack and it will give you some new metaphors to approach the problem of evil. It's worth the small investment of your time.

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Monday, July 27, 2009

hike report: Mt. Monadnock, New Hampshire

Last year, we hiked Pack Monadnock, because that park allowed dogs, unlike Monadnock. This year, the dog stayed home so we could hike Monadnock Mountain in Jaffrey, NH. If I had known better, I would not have started from the state park campground, which although providing the shortest route to the top, also has one of the steepest routes, the White Dot trail.

If I can get my wife to go again, I think I'd like to try the gentler, Old Halfway House Trail. Of course, it's longer, but I like the company. A new and nice feature on the White Dot trail is the installation of a spring-fed spigot that some Eagle Scouts set up. The park rangers, recommend 2 L of water per person. We might have had that total between the three of us, as well as three apples. It was a warm day and my daughter was thirsty. Something this steep can do that to you under the hot sun.

We enjoyed the summit, eating our gorp and apples, cooling off in the strong breeze, enjoying the company of several dozen. The sky was blue, the view was fabulous, it made my wife and daughter forget the pain of the inclines.

We needed to make time so we could set up at our tent site, so we tore ourselves away and headed down the White Cross trail, also recommended by the ranger. We did enjoy the wild blueberries above the tree line, both going up and coming down.

We rode on our backsides for some parts of the trail down. There were also muddy, boggy parts that involved hop-scotching across. It was one of those jumps that tripped up my dear wife and left her bruised and sore. The trail reconnects with the White Dot after the spring, which we surely could have used. But we made it back to society without dying of thirst. Unfortunately, the camp store closed at 4, too late for us to buy a patch in honor of our accomplishment.

The view was spectacular. I'm so glad we made it to the top.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

campground review: Woodmore Campground, Rindge, NH

This is the 2nd year we stayed at the Woodmore Campground in the Monandnock Region of southwestern New Hampshire. We originally picked this campground for it's policy of allowing pets. We brought our dog, Honey, last year. But, she is such a protective herd dog, she can't let any human or dog near our site without her alarm. Her approach to life can be summed up in this haiku.
I sound the alarm.
That guy comes to kill us all.
Look! Look! Look! Look! Look!

She's actually a terrible watchdog when none of the family are around. She only feels on duty if she can see us. We also learned the hard way that dogs are not allowed at Monadnock State Park, the most hiked mountain in the world. We took her to Pack Monadnock in Miller State Park instead.

Mt. Monadnock from Pack MonadnockImage by boatapple via Flickr

This year, I really wanted to hike Monadnock, so we kenneled Honey but returned to Woodmore. We are mid-week campers when the crowds are light and the owners are not frazzled and the pool is not crowded.

The campground caters to seasonal campers in their luxurious 5th wheels. However, there are several tent/pop-up sites for us plebeians near the lake. A few sites right on the lake are considered rustic and have no electricity or water. We didn't get one of those. But we were happy with our services. We also were put opposite the bath and shower house, which I feared would be really noisy. However, the owners in great springs on the doors so there was no door slamming to disturb our time. The pool is small, but nice, except when small children lose bowel control and parents don't take care of it. The playground is great. We rented a canoe and had a fantastic paddle out to a small island recommended by the staff where we pulled up and swam. I recommend renting for more than one hour. The lake is bigger than you can see from Woodmore's dock. The camp store is well stocked, but if you still can't find what you need, there are several large and small grocers within a couple miles. As always, I recommend bringing ear plugs. If birds don't wake you up, a screaming child in a nearby site might, especially when they want to play at 6:30 in the morning, or a dog trying to scare off chipmunks.

My only complaint with the facility are the attack trees. One bit the rear of my car this year. good thing the camp site was affordable, because this repair won't be.

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Monday, July 13, 2009

How not to evangelize Muslims...

I had never heard of the Acts 17 apologetics ministry to Muslims. They seem to have good ideas. They have a good heart. They have a blog where they like to show videos of their formal debates with Muslims as well as man-on-the-street interviews. I would think, if their agenda is to win people to Christ, then they would accommodate others as much as possible. In this post, they share a video of their attendance and subsequent altercation with security at an Islamic festival in Dearborn, Michigan. I think they let their second citizenship interfere with their primary citizenship.

Indeed, their right to free speech was infringed on. But why fight the battle of their second citizenship, U.S., to lose the war for their first citizenship, heaven? Sadly, it took a Muslim commenter to point out their neglect of common decency and neighborliness. Not a good job my eager brethren. Not good.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Is Sarah Palin insane?

I don't think so.

Sarah Palin speaking in Carson City croped but...Image via Wikipedia

Yes she rambled through a resignation speech. Yes she's only half way through her term as governor. Yes she has racked up a half million dollars in legal fees to defend herself from political opponents and their accusations. Yes her chances for a bigger political stage seem smaller. Her response is basically, so be it. All these facts are also in the same article. Obviously, there is something else going on. She did express pain over the Letterman joke. She also expressed family interests. I think this might be the actual reason for her resignation. It's not necessarily about running for president, though I could be shown very wrong very soon.

If I were in her shoes, as if, I'd look at Trig and all the junk that sucks away time from all politicians and think about choices. I don't think Trig was planned. Yet, she received him as a gift from God despite knowing he had Down Syndrome. I think she might be admitting to herself and her family, the amount of work needed to raise a special needs child in addition to several other growing children, as I've noted other parents' lives before. We already know that oldest daughter Bristol made poor choices and got pregnant out of wedlock. Perhaps, Sarah Palin holds herself guilty for being an absent parent, whether true or not, and therefore part of the reason Bristol made her poor choices. I'm sure I would think that way. Perhaps, she really does want to focus on her family, at least for a little while. If so, more power to her. Parenthood is a gift from God. I hope she enjoys it in her time off. I'd like to believe she is one of those people whose identity is not the same as their job.

ST. PAUL, MN - SEPTEMBER 03: U.S presidential ...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

I read an interesting blog post yesterday exploring this issue of identity and job and their intertwining in our culture and its devastating effects, to which I commend you.
The observer from the future might also note that the roles based on familial relationships—mother, father, wife, husband—along with the labor they require, have been devalued, even sneered at, while society values profoundly impersonal work—science, finance, engineering—which are based on data. It does not matter whether you are a man or women to work with this neutral data. Even positions with a more personal element to them, such as counseling, amount to diagnosing specific problems defined by the research of social scientists. Literature and art, once the expression of what is human, are thought of as the publishing or movie “industries” and are strictly business. Whatever is corporate is impersonal and functional.
I think it was these lines from that post and the news article today that got me thinking this way.

It is my hope, that Sarah Palin might be a rare person who rejects familial devaluation. If so, I think our culture can learn much from her. Usually, though, swimming against the tide is considered crazy.
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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Norbert died too

Two nights ago, a predator, neighbor and I blame the raccoon, tore up our ducks, story here. Only one was left alive in the morning, Norbert, the tough male named after Hagrid's pet dragon.

Action figures of Fang, Hagrid, and Norbert th...Image via Wikipedia

He had many bloody wounds and a lame leg. My son spent time tending to his wounds and giving him water within his reach on the ground. Despite the tender mercies of my son, Norbert died before I got home from work.

My dad duties include undertaker. It's a sad job.

{{Potd/2005-05-18 (en)}}Image via Wikipedia

How will PP respond to this trend of protecting sex offenders?

Lila Rose keeps finding Planned Parenthood clinics around the country that are willing to cover up statutory rape. The latest one in Alabama. Statutory rape is a felony that requires immediate reporting by all the states she has exposed so far. Only one or two clnics have responded by firing their counselors. I think their business too important to them, more than stopping men who exploit teens for sex. I predict they will try to change the law. Why do I think that? In my home state, ultrasounds for babies has been restricted, "an ultrasound of an unborn child can't be done without a medical reason or authorization from a physician." source. update: CareNet not worried.

A fetus in its mother's womb, viewed in a sono...Image via Wikipedia

This law can make it difficult for Pro-life clinics to show women they are carrying another human inside them and not a blob of tissue. The argument for the law is the energy of the pictures could put the child at harm. However, in our country's law, the unwanted baby can be harmed up to delivery.

This leads me to think that statutory rape laws could be at risk as well. If the law is removed, then this bit of PP's business won't be at risk. Last week, a man from New York city was sentenced to 9 months of jail for impregnating a 14 year old girl three times over 6 months and she got three abortions, news story behind subscriber wall at With judges like this, the law seems to be on weak legs as it is.

Jesus never mentions abortion in the four gospels, but he tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Is silence in the abuse of teenage girls more loving? Is silence while the innocents are slaughtered more loving? If Jesus didn't cover every single possible way to sin, does that mean he didn't care? That's why he gave us the Golden Rule. It's simple. If I don't want to be murdered I should speak up for those who are being murdered. If I don't like being exploited I should speak up for the exploited. Come quickly Lord Jesus.