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Showing posts from February, 2012

cinema response: Conspiracy 2001

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I was telling a new acquaintance of mine, a professor of history at Connecticut College, that I've been reading Bloodlands by Timothy Snyder and learned something new about the Holocaust from it. The new thing for me was learning that Hitler's Final Solution went through several iterations before it ended up as execution. I'll get into that more on this blog when I start posting my responses to that depressing book. He recommended the HBO movie, Conspiracy (2001), for a compelling dramatization of the 1942 Wannsee Conference outside Berlin where Heydrich and Eichmann sought consensus from several Nazi government and martial leaders.

The notes of the meeting were supposed to have been destroyed, but one copy, that of, I'm not kidding, Martin Luther, was found, after the war by the Allies. Screenwriter Loring Mandel wrote a dramatization based on those notes, adding the dimension of what the pressure must have been like on those who still held onto shreds of their humani…

A Christian dilemma at Slate: Incestuous twin brothers

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Incestuous twin brothers wonder if they should reveal their secret relationship. - Slate Magazine
I remember some floor mates of mine in college getting very excited when Dear Abby published their fake letter seeking advice on some particularly salacious issue, the details of which I can't recall. This issue in Emily Yoffe's advice column in Slate might very well be cut from the same cloth, yet she chose to publish it and deal with it seriously. I read Ms.Yoffe irregularly and have found, with some regularity, concordance between her opinions and mine. This time, not so much. But I'm more interested in pushing the narrative further, into the church realm. What pastoral advice would a Christian have to give to someone in this situation who has become born again?

I'd say start with Jesus.

Jesus loves you. He has an abundant life for you that begins now and is fulfilled in heaven. He loves you where you are. Period. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only b…

from members into leaders. keep it simple

I suggested this in a Bible study at work and saw it embolden co-workers who did not consider themselves Bible study leader material and I'm seeing it work with high school students I'm working with now. The secret is simplicity, the process to get there took me thirty years.

As an eager Bible student myself, I started out in Emmaus Correspondence Bible courses, which were fill in the blank or prompted writing responses. Then in high school my youth pastor, a former Intervarsity staffer, introduced me to manuscript study in the epistle to the Philippians. I loved it. The bare text and many colors of pens and pencils. It was inductive Bible study on steroids. My youth group small group leader facilitated a great study format, which I liked but didn't appreciate. Our discussion meandered all over the place and did not have any pre-determined take home points. Then I started leading studies in college and after college. I loved studying the Bible and I started buying commenta…

book response: Harriet Tubman - The Moses of Her People

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How does an illiterate escaped slave, Harriet Tubman, help 200 fellow slaves escape their plight from the antebellum southern United States? After reading this biography by her friend Sarah Bradford, I'd say she gives God all the credit. Her Christian faith is very prominent and unashamed, which is a shock to this reader 150 years later, but much appreciated. Bradford wrote the book to raise funds for Harriet's ministry in her old age, providing a rest home for aged former slaves. Regarding Tubman's faith, Bradford writes,
Harriet's religious character I have not yet touched upon. Brought up by parents possessed of strong faith in God, she had never known the time, I imagine, when she did not trust Him, and cling to Him, with an all-abiding confidence. She seemed ever to feel the Divine Presence near, and she talked with God "as a man talketh with his friend." Hers was not the religion of a morning and evening prayer at stated times, but when she felt a need…

rammed earth walls around strawbales

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I read about this rammed earth house in Ontario, In rural Ontario, a high-tech home built of low-tech dirt, and I got thinking about insulation for this kind of construction. It is built as a sandwich 6 inches of polyisocyanurate between 6 inches of compressed earth on each side, in and out. The walls look gorgeous. At a R-7 per inch, polyiso is good insulation, 6'" x 7 =R 42, but to me, couldn't something more natural be used? How about a rammed earth sandwich that surrounds a strawbale? Strawbales have a range of R-values, but let's say 1.5. An 18" thick bale has an R value of 27, but at a much lower price than all that polyiso. Of course the wall nearly doubles in thickness, but those deep window seats would be awesome.

close up of a bedroom wall from the article

exterior shot

in this construction shot you can see the polyiso between the earth walls

I think this looks gorgeous.

cinema response: Chosin (2010)

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The documentary, Chosin, about the escape of UN (mostly US) soldiers from an encirclement by Chinese forces forces us to remember and respect the "Forgotten War." General MacArthur wanted the UN forces to push the communists all the way to the Yellow River on the border with China. But Communist China did not want that to happen so they sent 12 divisions into North Korea. The high command on the defenders side did not want to believe that the Chinese were joining the fight. But then 15,000 soldiers were surrounded around the Chosin reservoir in North Korea. The US took 9,000 casualties. But they fought their way out of the encirclement.

This movie consists of some archival footage as well as clips from the 1952 Hollywood movie, Retreat Hell. I thought the dramatized footage was actually helpful in showing what these former Marines were described. The bulk of the movie consisted of interviews with these survivors. They all encountered hell, and some encountered God as well. I…

book response: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Written by Herself

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February is Black History Month in the United States, which I want to use to read the accounts of those whose experience so different from mine. Many historical texts are now freely available and are starting to fill up my Kindle. This story broke my heart as I read it, and I encourage all Americans to read the accounts, like this, of our own practice of inhumanity. While I get justifiably upset when I read the wicked inhumanity of the Japanese, I tend to forget that their behavior was not unique to their culture. We Americans have committed many inhumane horrors throughout our history, especially in our slave-owning period. Anyone who refers to the American Civil War as the War of Northern Aggression have no idea of the degree wickedness the Confederacy was trying to protect. This account by escaped slave Harriet Ann Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Written by Herself (1861) should be enough for any modern defender of the Confederacy to be ashamed. The book is long, thor…

book response: With the Old Breed by E. B. Sledge (1981)

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I recently finished The War, a Ken Burn's documentary series on World War 2, which was excellent, and my ears pricked up when he mentioned a book by an enlisted Marine, E. B. Sledge, this is my response to that book, With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa. In fact, the library offered me a 2007 reprint with the endorsement of Ken Burns. The documentary mentioned that Sledge suffered from PTSD for most of his life after the war, though his book barely mentions his post-war life, excepting a few mentions of nightmares. His book, although highly valuing the esprit de corps of the Marines and the love for his fellow soldiers, wants us to know the depravity of humanity which he witnessed in the Pacific theater in two significant battles in which no quarter was offered by the Japanese and was barely offered by the US, since most Japanese offering to surrender used it as a ruse for suicide missions. Sledge is honest about his hatred for his enemies even though he seems to be a man of…

book response: The Destructive War by Royster (1993)

I borrowed The Destructive War: William Tecumseh Sherman, Stonewall Jackson, and the Americans by Charles Royster from my public library for my Kindle. I learned many things from the book about the Civil War and two of its generals which I will share below. If only Royster's compelling prose filled more of the books pages than the dry, academic and philosophically meandering that predominates. I will also air out my one other grievance before getting to the historical meat of this book. The editor should have asked Royster to avoid the overuse of the two words "repudiate" and "apotheosis" in the book. I forgot to search "repudiate" on the Kindle before I had to return the book, but it seemed like he used the word or it's cognates a hundred times. Of course he wrote this book over 18 years before Sarah Palin brought "refudiate" to our common lexicon, which makes its progenitor grate on my ears.


Confederate sympathizers like to trumpet the …