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Sunday, November 28, 2010

"May this house be filled with praise"

Blessed God, we bow in worship
May this house be filled with praise,
As we turn our eyes on Jesus
Dwell upon His earthly days.
With His blood He paid the ransom,
Broke our fetters, set us free,
Blessed Saviour, Thy salvation
Saves for all eternity*.

Voices then we all lift heavenward
To the Lord of all Supreme
And like one of old in Scripture
In the temple in a dream.
Cherubim are there before Him,
Seraphim surround and sing,
O this wonder of all wonders
Jesus now is Lord and King.

This poem was written as a hymn. It may be sung to Galilee, or other tunes. “Jesus Calls Us” is a hymn sung to that tune. Words by Franklin Hunter, 2002, but, according to this source, “released into the public domain.”

*I suggest changing these two lines to:
Blessed Saviour, we should praise You,
Praise for all eternity.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sunspots 289

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:

Science: Wired reports on new analyses of bird song. Birds are said to be be able to improvise parts of their songs.

Nature reports that scientists were able to keep 38 anti-Hydrogen atoms in existence for a short time, which is a remarkable achievement.

Damage to a certain part of the brain can cause people to tell bad jokes, that is, jokes that aren't very funny.

Sports: The University of Connecticut Lady Huskies basketball team may break the UCLA men's team's record, under John Wooden, for consecutive wins during this year, but they almost had their streak ended.

Sports Illustrated on Tim Duncan's legacy (he's still playing, by the way).

The Arts: A church worship leader has decided that the worship team should not just be about the sound, but the visual helps to worship.

Christianity: A writer thinks that the Harry Potter franchise helps combine the best in current culture with Christian living. See here for more by me on the Harry Potter books.

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A desire to be thankful - George MacDonald

I think my thought, and fancy I think thee.—
Lord, wake me up; rend swift my coffin-planks;
I pray thee, let me live—alive and free.
My soul will break forth in melodious thanks,
Aware at last what thou wouldst have it be,
When thy life shall be light in me, and when
My life to thine is answer and amen.

-A Book of Strife in the Form of The Diary of an Old Soul, by George MacDonald. Public Domain. Entry for November 22nd.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Christian Responses to Hitler: Obeying Civil Authority

I am not an expert on history. But I am a Sunday School teacher. This week's Sunday School lesson, in our church, includes Paul's statements, to the Romans, about what sort of attitude they should have towards government. I quote Romans 13:1-7, from the WEB, which is public domain:
13:1 Let every soul be in subjection to the higher authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those who exist are ordained by God. 2 Therefore he who resists the authority, withstands the ordinance of God; and those who withstand will receive to themselves judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to the good work, but to the evil. Do you desire to have no fear of the authority? Do that which is good, and you will have praise from the same, 4 for he is a servant of God to you for good. But if you do that which is evil, be afraid, for he doesn’t bear the sword in vain; for he is a servant of God, an avenger for wrath to him who does evil. 5 Therefore you need to be in subjection, not only because of the wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. 6 For this reason you also pay taxes, for they are servants of God’s service, attending continually on this very thing. 7 Give therefore to everyone what you owe: taxes to whom taxes are due; customs to whom customs; respect to whom respect; honor to whom honor.

My wife, who is in my class, asked me how this related to Hitler. That's a good question. This is my attempt to answer that. The quotation above seems to be saying that Hitler, for one, was ordained by God, and shouldn't have been resisted, at least not by Christians in Germany. In the first place, this principle, namely to submit to authority, was not absolute, even for Paul. In Acts 16, Paul refused to leave prison until the rulers had come personally to apologize to him. (They had arrested him in violation of his rights as a Roman citizen.) With this act, he resisted the order to have him released quietly. Why did Paul say this? We don't know. It is possible that he was acting in his own behalf, and wanted to get back at the authorities because they had violated his rights. It is also possible that he wanted to show, for the sake of the new Christians (the jailer and his household had been converted and baptized) that Christianity was respectable, or that Christ was above earthly authority. We don't know.

In Acts 23, Paul reprimanded the high priest:
23:1 Paul, looking steadfastly at the council, said, “Brothers, I have lived before God in all good conscience until this day.” 2 The high priest, Ananias, commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. 3 Then Paul said to him, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! Do you sit to judge me according to the law, and command me to be struck contrary to the law?” 4 Those who stood by said, “Do you malign God’s high priest?” 5 Paul said, “I didn’t know, brothers, that he was high priest. For it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’” [The Old Testament reference is to Exodus 22:28]
The NIV Study Bible has a text note on verse 5, suggesting that it is possible that Paul's eyesight was poor, and he couldn't tell that it was the high priest, or that someone else was presiding, sitting in the place of the high priest, or that Paul was being sarcastic, or that he refused to recognized the high priest's authority. It seems to me that there is another possibility, and one that also could have occurred in Acts 16. That is that Paul might have sinned -- he wasn't supposed to react to the authorities as he did. In that case, he would have had to confess and repent of his actions. The Bible doesn't indicate the reasons for Paul's actions in either case.

So what was going on here? Does the New Testament contradict itself? I don't think so.

First, I believe that there is a Biblical principle, which is that we should respect and obey those in authority. But that principle is not as important as other moral principles in the Bible, for example the Ten Commandments. Nor is it above the two great commandments from the Old Testament, which Jesus re-affirmed in the New Testament, in Mark 12:28-34, and Matthew 22:34-40. Nor is it above the Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." (Matthew 7:12)

Second, God's authority is over any human authority. If a human authority commands me to do something I shouldn't, for example to commit murder, or to deny Christ as Lord, I should refuse. As Peter said, "We must obey God rather than men." (Acts 5:29)

These two points are different aspects of the same thing.

However, we usually aren't asked, by human authorities, to do something that violates a higher Biblical principle, or that puts human authority above God's. We should prayerfully consider, before refusing to obey a human authority. We should be careful that we aren't wanting to disobey because it would be to our own selfish advantage to do so (for example by cheating on our taxes). We should also be careful that we don't assume, for no good reason, that a political position we don't like is opposed to God's desires.

Third, violent resistance seems to be always, or nearly always, contrary to God's plan for Christians.

So what about Hitler? The rule of Hitler, and the Nazis, seems to have produced situations where Christians had legitimate reasons for refusing to obey civil authority.

Although there is disagreement about Hitler's religious views, mostly because Hitler made statements that seem to be contradictory, it seems likely that Hitler, and the Nazis, wanted to destroy Christianity entirely. Holocaust deniers to the contrary, Hitler and the Nazis did try, and nearly succeeded, in eliminating all the Jews from Germany, and other countries that they conquered. There were Christians, and others, who resisted this. Corrie ten Boom, with other members of her family, deceived the Germans who occupied the Netherlands, in various ways, such as by obtaining ration cards by fraudulent means. They did not carry out violent protest. In this way, they, and other citizens of the Netherlands, were able to get many Jews out of the country. Anne Frank and her family were also kept hidden, and helped, by non-Jewish citizens of the Netherlands, which was against the edicts of the occupying Nazis. Oskar Schindler, and many other people, also helped the Jews, in defiance of Nazi demands. As far as I know, Schindler was not a Christian.

Not all Christians, or those who claimed to be Christians, were opposed to the Nazis. There was a group, known as German Christians, who supported Hitler. This source claims that one reason for this support was that these Christians were opposed to homosexual practices, and to communism, and the Nazis, were, too. Homosexuals and communists (and other groups) were persecuted, and executed, by the Nazis.

There was also a Confessing Church, which was primarily opposed to the theological claims of Nazism, rather than to the Holocaust. The theological claims should have been opposed. Here is one such outrageous claim: "Dr. Zoellner ... has tried to tell me that Christianity consists in faith in Christ as the Son of God. That makes me laugh ... Christianity is not dependent upon the Apostle's Creed .... [but] is represented by the Party .... the German people are now called ... by the Führer to a real Christianity .... The Führer is the herald of a new revelation." (See here. Zoellner was a leader of the Confessing Church.) Karl Barth was also one of its leaders. (Here is an article on Barth's thought, during the early days of the Nazi regime.)

Another leader of the Confessing Church was Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer is the author of several works, translated into English, including The Cost of Discipleship and Ethics, both of them probably among the dozen or so most influential works on Christianity written during the previous century. Bonhoeffer came to believe that active resistance against Hitler was called for. He joined a group that planned to assassinate Hitler. This group did not succeed, and Bonhoeffer was executed, before he reached his 40th birthday. Bonhoeffer realized that he was acting in a way that seemed contrary to his faith, but said that he felt he had to act as he did, and trust God's grace for forgiveness. (See the Wikipedia article on Bonhoeffer for more.)

The Nazi treatment of the Confessing Church, and the error of the German Christians, are instructive. One lesson is that the Church should always keep the State at arms length. In the U.S., there is a danger that conservative churches will become arms of the Republicans, or the Tea Party, and that liberal churches may become arms of the Democrats. Both of these tendencies must and should be opposed. The state, or a political movement, may seem to have goals compatible with a church, but becoming too close together seems to always mean that the church, not the state, compromises its core principles and beliefs. No political party, and few, if any, political movements, have been fully compatible with Christianity.

More on Politics. Ken Schenck, Religion professor at Indiana Wesleyan University, has posted a compilation of Bible verses about social justice.

I have previously mused on the source of political authority in the U. S.

I have posted on what the New Testament says about what Christian attitudes toward government should be.

Summary: We should honor the state, and civil authority, except in extreme circumstances. But we must always put God's moral demands first. For example, we should obey traffic laws, except in emergencies. Poor planning, such as not starting out early enough, does not constitute an emergency.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Video recommendation -- little girl telling the story of Jonah

A seven minute video of a little girl, telling the story of Jonah, which she has pretty much nailed, is available here. Someone taught her well, and she does a great job.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sunspots 288

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:

Science: NPR reports that becoming obese may actually change the instructions passed on to your offspring, so that they, too, are more likely to be obese.

NPR also reports on the difference between how cats drink, and how dogs drink (with slow motion videos).

Politics: Ken Schenck has written an analysis of the morality of various economic systems. Surprise! None of them is perfect. 

Computing: Wired says that Facebook has Google running scared. This article also lets you see some aspects of your Google account -- you probably have one -- that you didn't know about.

Image source (public domain)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

"Religion has no evidence; science does" - Karl Giberson on Jerry Coyne

Karl Giberson, militant Christian, and scientist, writing for the Biologos Forum, has completed (I think) a series on the militant atheism of Jerry Coyne, also a scientist. In this post, he considers the claim that religion uses faith, without evidence, and that science uses evidence, and not faith.

Thanks for reading. Read Giberson.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A report on the Geocentrism Conference

I previously noted here that there was to be a Catholic Conference on Geocentrism, which latter is the idea that the planets rotate around the earth, not the sun. (And probably more non-standard ideas, depending on which flavor of geocentrist you are.)

Todd Wood attended that conference, and has been reporting on his impressions over the past few days. (See here for final report, with links to the previous ones.) As I (and he) expected, he was not convinced, but he did give the conference, and its speakers, a respectful hearing. Most modern scientists would never have attended, let alone been respectful. Based on Wood's report, some of the supposed scientists who are geocentrists don't seem to know what science is all about.

Even though we say that the sun rises in the East, it doesn't. The earth rotates, so that the sun appears to rise. Let's not forget that. There is abundant evidence for it. There is no compelling reason to believe that the Bible is trying to teach anything contrary. It does, as we still do, use language that seems to be geocentric.

Thanks for reading. Read Wood's blog.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis

Connie Willis has won more Hugo and Nebula awards (counting each award, of both types, once) for her novels than any other author. I have read and enjoyed her work for years, and I'm not the only one. Somehow, although I have posted on her seven times before now, I haven't produced a major post on any of her novels. I'm ashamed of myself. In this post, I intend to begin to make up for that lack.

Willis has written four novels about a professor, who is in charge of time travel for historical purposes, that is, to check facts about the past, and to learn something about what life then was really like. Actually, the novels are more about the students (apparently graduate students) who do most of the time traveling, than they are about Mr. Dunworthy, the director of the group. They are set in England, in both the past and the near future, where the time travel supposedly starts. The first such novel is Doomsday Book. This novel won both the Hugo and Nebula awards. It is about Kivrin Engle, who went into the 14th century.

The Wikipedia article on the book gives a good summary of the plot, and other features. I wish to muse on three areas.

First, Willis can detail you almost to death, so if you aren't up to reading details of, for example, what the time travelers were thinking, you probably won't like Willis. But the details are a way of establishing character, setting, and plot. What do I mean, detail? One example, in Doomsday Book, is that Finch, Dunworthy's administrative assistant, has great difficulty getting some supplies, when Oxford University is quarantined because of an epidemic. In particular, he can't find lavatory paper (toilet paper, to North Americans). Over and over, he tries to get some, and can't.

Another detail is that there is an American handbell choir stranded in Oxford, where Dunworthy's group works. The handbell choir keeps coming back into the story, in various ways, and for various reasons. Many authors would not have included them at all.

Another such detail is bureaucracy. Willis's characters seem to be constantly beset by bureaucratic idiocy, described in maddening detail.

Second, Willis can present some fully dimensional characters. Kivrin, Dunworthy, and some of the "contemps" (people visited in the past) are such. The two, detail and character, work together. The troubles of Dunworthy, Kivrin, and others are presented over and over again. Not all of Willis's characters are likable. Some can be downright mean and nasty. But they are well drawn.

Third, one of Willis's characters, in this book, is good. He is unselfishly good. He is the local priest, in the 14th century. He works tirelessly to help the sick and the suffering. He thinks the best of others -- he saw Kivrin come into his time, and is convinced that she is an angel, sent from God to help them fight the Black Death. He is illiterate, and doesn't have the clothes and grooming that some people want in their priest, but he is a servant of God for them. I have prepared a graphic, illustrating a quotation from the book:

Roche praying by Connie Willis

(The graphic serves as a link to the original, on my Flickr photostream, where you can see it at larger size, if you wish.)

Father Roche is not the only really good person in the book. I would say that Dunworthy, who tirelessly fights the university bureaucracy to get Kivrin back to her own time, and Dr. Mary Ahrens, who tirelessly fights to help the sick during the epidemic, also are. So is Kivrin, herself, who comes to identify with, and love unselfishly, the people she meets in a small village in the 14th century.

Thanks for reading. Read Willis.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


metamorphosis: Romans 12:2 illustrated
(The graphic is a link to the original, in my Flickr photostream. Larger sizes should be available there.)

The word here translated as "transformed" is, as you can see, closely related to the processes named metamorphosis. Actually, insects have two kinds of metamorphosis. Grasshoppers, and many others, just get larger and more mature, occasionally shedding their old skin/exoskeleton, after they hatch out of the egg. This is known as incomplete metamorphosis. Butterflies, and many others, have four distinct stages, namely the egg, the caterpillar or grub, the pupa or chrysalis, and the adult. This complete metamorphosis seems to be closer to what Paul is telling us to do. The caterpillar and the butterfly are not very obviously connected to each other, based on their appearance and behavior. But they are connected. The adult comes from the caterpillar, through the pupa. But the adult is a more graceful, freer, more beautiful creature, and it also can reproduce, unlike the caterpillar. I suppose that, if you asked a caterpillar if it wanted to become a pupa, and just sit there silent, without eating, for days, weeks, or months, it would refuse. Yet, I suppose that if you could ask a butterfly if it wanted to go back to being a caterpillar, it would quickly refuse. Similarly, God wants us to be transformed into beings that try do do His will, not ours. It's not very appealing. We want to direct our own lives. But it's best for us, ultimately -- and I'm speaking about here on earth, not some heavenly pie in the sky -- it's more freeing to do what God wants, by choice, than to do what our unredeemed selves want to do.

The word here translated as "transformed" is also used in Matthew's and Mark's accounts of the transfiguration of Jesus, early in His ministry, witnessed by Peter, James and John. The only other use of the word in the Bible is in 2 Corinthians 3:18 "But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord, the Spirit." (WEB)

Note that God's desire for our butterfly selves is that we be transformed into creatures that reflect God's glory. Note also that the tense is present -- God wants this, and it is possible, in this life.

Make it so! Thanks for reading, and looking.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Bible interpretation - the fundamentals

The Bible is a complex book. Some parts of it are difficult to understand. (Mark Twain is supposed to have remarked that it wasn't the parts he didn't understand that bothered him, but the parts that he did. Perhaps he was referring to some of the things Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, where he put forward a radical morality.)

I'm not an expert on Biblical interpretation. But I think there are some principles that we should follow in interpreting the Bible. Here they are:
1) Don't take something literally it if wasn't meant to be. If a phrase is poetry, or irony, or a figure of speech, then it may not have been meant to be taken literally. For example, Psalm 46:2 speaks of not being afraid even though the mountains be moved into the sea. The whole Psalm is poetry, and this phrase seems to have been a figure of speech. See Psalm 114, for another example.

2) Don't use a single verse, phrase, or sentence without considering the context, and what the rest of the Bible says on that subject. For example, in Romans 11:26, Paul says that all Israel will be saved. Does that mean that all Israelis will go to heaven? Almost certainly not. In chapter 10 of the same book, Paul says that his desire is that the Jews be saved. He also calls them a disobedient people. And, more importantly, Paul's message in the entire book, indeed in all his letters, is that salvation comes by faith in Christ as savior, not by birth.

This principle should be applied to many passages in the Old Testament. The Jews were under a different regime than Christians. The Jews were often commanded to destroy other nations. Christians aren't. In fact, based on the New Testament, God seems to deal much less with nations than in the Old, rather now dealing with us as individuals. Various Old Testament laws, for example dietary laws, do not apply to Christians, unless they have individual convictions about these matters. The New Testament makes that clear. (Some moral laws, first introduced in the Old Testament, do apply to Christians, but that's another topic.)

3) Be careful in interpreting prophecy. The New Testament points out some examples of fulfilled prophecy about Jesus. Those, it seems, we can understand. The Old Testament has some examples of the same sort of thing. But be careful about prophecy that has yet to be fulfilled. Very careful.

One of the most quoted prophecies about Jesus is in Isaiah 7:14, where it says that Jesus will be born to a virgin. Notice that I linked to the entire chapter. The reason is that I want you to look at the context. That prophecy, which the New Testament tells us is about Jesus, must not have seemed to be about that at all, to those who first heard it, and perhaps even to Isaiah, who spoke it. It's in the middle of a prophecy to King Ahaz about two enemy nations. Not only that, but it seems to be saying that the boy born to a virgin will, at first, not know the difference between good and evil. How could Ahaz, or even Isaiah, have understood that part of this prophecy would be fulfilled after Ahaz was long dead? And that the fulfillment would be in a Messiah Redeemer? There are many other examples. Revelation, and the other prophecies about Christ's return, may be as obscure as Isaiah 7, at least until their fulfillment. How can we be sure that we really understand what they mean, as, for example, the Left Behind franchise seems to claim? (For a critique of the dispensational interpretation found in those books -- and in many other places -- by a New Testament scholar, see here.) 

4) Don't ignore or reject scripture that you don't like. In fact, I suppose that sections of the Bible that are clear, for example about gossip being a sin, and that we don't like (if we like to gossip) are the ones we should pay the most attention to!

I should carefully consider that some one else's interpretation, be that someone an individual or a denomination with doctrines somewhat different than mine, might be correct. I should consider that God may be trying to discipline or instruct me, through scripture that I don't particularly like.

Thanks for reading! Read the Bible. Carefully and prayerfully.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sunspots 287

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:

Science: Science News reports that scientists have discovered some unique proteins in the immune systems of people who have been infected with the HIV virus for years, but not developed the disease. They don't yet know the mechanism of this immunity.

A blog entitled The New Creationism has posted "The top five challenges for creationist geology."

A Canadian team of scientists have apparently transformed adult skin cells into blood cells. This has tremendous potential in medicine, and by-passes any objections against using embryonic cells in research.

Politics: I didn't know the official name of the state commonly referred to as Rhode Island until the recent election, when voters rejected an attempt to change the name.

Christianity: Ken Schenck wonders, among other things, why US churches (many of them) have national flags prominently displayed.

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Solzhenitsyn on the heart

Solzhenitsyn on the heart

(The photo is a link to my Flickr original photo, which has a larger size. No password is needed to see it.)

Wikipedia's article on Solzhenitsyn is here.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Affirmation in church: also needed

I started a series on affirmation some time ago. The first two posts are here and here. In them, I argued that affirmation is important, and that a failure to affirm anything is one of the things that makes current culture, especially popular media, sick and wrong. (Many things should not be affirmed, of course!)

I believe that conservative Christian churches, of the kind that I am a member of, often fail similarly. We are known for what we are against, not what we are for. And, I'm afraid, the reputation is often deserved.

Yes, we should be against some things. I recently heard a good sermon, one that my church, and I, probably needed. The speaker indicated that there are guidelines in the Bible about what we should not do. He referred to the Ten Commandments. Of the Ten, it is true that only one (Honor your parents) is mostly or entirely positive. The rest are mostly or entirely stated as "You shall not." Another guideline he mentioned is that we should not take up practices that enslave us. We also should not do things that do not edify ourselves, or other Christians. All that is true. But it's not the whole story, and perhaps these same truths need to also be presented in a different way.

Actually, Jesus, Himself, presented them in a different way. He said that the Old Testament could be summed up in two commandments. (See Matthew 22:34-39) Those two commandments are positive. They are not commands to stay away from doing certain things, but commands to do something -- to love God, and our neighbors. The Golden Rule of Matthew 7:12 is also a command to do, and is, in fact, a restatement of the second of the two commandments in Matthew 22.

We need to practice integrity. We need to be virtuous. We need to be holy. We need to be like Christ. Those are all things we can do, with God's help. If doing them is our goal, and the center of our discourse, rather than our goals and discourse being about avoiding certain things, we will be more attractive, and do more good for the Kingdom.

Winning quarterbacks try to not be intercepted or sacked. But that's not all there is to winning. The most reliable way to not be sacked or intercepted is to stay on the bench. Winning means being committed to a cause and a goal. Doing something.

Christianity should be a commitment, and a commitment to do something. We applaud (or should) commitments to a marriage, to raising a family, to caring for those less fortunate than we, to various causes, such as political parties or saving the environment, rigorous training to achieve some goal, such as making a team, getting into medical school, becoming a classroom teacher. We should also applaud a commitment to following Christ. And we should commit to that ourselves. Christianity shouldn't be about putting anyone down. It should be about being lifted up.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Reporting vote counts and God's perspective on time

Even in the 21st century, news stories about elections often say something like "Jones was ahead in the early returns, but, by the time all the precincts had reported, Smith won."

(I'm ignoring absentee ballots, and the like, in this discussion, just as news reports like the above often do.)

That's the way it looked to those who summarized the voting, or who reported the summaries. But, if, as usually happens, the polls closed at the same time in all the precincts, the winner had already been determined. If we assume an entity with a limited omniscience, enough to know how everyone voted, to that entity, the election result is known as soon as the polls are all closed. But election commissions and reporters don't have omniscience, of any kind (although reporters sometimes act as if they did!). To them, the winner is determined only after counting and adding up a significant fraction of the amount, which takes some time.

God is, we are told, outside of time. He is omniscient. He knows what has happened, what is happening, and what will happen. Just as that knowledge does not prevent a voter, me, say, from exercising free will in my choices on the ballot, perhaps even finally making up my mind when I'm in the actual process of voting, God's knowledge of what I will do does not mean that I don't have real choices in deciding what I will do.

That's my view of God's foreknowledge, which is related to, but not the same as predestination. (Not everyone shares my view.) I chose to write this post on November 3rd. I chose to have it posted on the 4th. But God knew, on the 2nd, even the 2nd of October, or the 2nd of November, 1876, that I would do this.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Sunspots 286

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:

Science: Wired reports on a telescope that lets us listen to stars. (Sounds included in report.)

Wired also reports on how breasts are being re-constructed with the patient's own fat cells, and why this procedure may pioneer new methods in reconstructive surgery of all types.

Computing: Wired has published a guide to the various ways of connecting a computer and a TV wirelessly.

Christianity: Why Weekend Fisher made paper snowflakes out of orange paper.

Image source (public domain)

Monday, November 01, 2010

A series I didn't finish reading

A number of years ago, I began reading what was supposed to be a great series, the "A Song of Ice and Fire" novels by George R. R. Martin. The books are Sword and Sorcery fiction. (For more on the plots, characters, and setting, see the first link, which is to the Wikipedia article on the series, which article has links to pages on the individual books. The first book was published in 1996. I probably obtained a paperback copy in 1997 or 1998.)

I read the first two books in the series, and some shorter fiction related to these books. The volumes were well crafted, including the characters, the setting, and the plot. But I decided that I should stop reading them. Too many characters were evil, in too many ways. Too much evil, such as cruelty to slaves, and in war, seemed to be just accepted, with no revulsion towards it. There were some characters who were loyal and hard-working, and who treated others fairly, but they often seemed to be killed by other characters, without such good qualities. So I quit reading. The series didn't seem to affirm much. (I have recently posted on the topic of affirmation, here and here.)

When I began this brief series on affirming, my experience with Mr. Martin's books came to mind. I checked on what the series had become. I was surprised to discover that, although the first four books have sold well -- very well for fantastic literature -- and subsequent volumes have been eagerly anticipated, there has been a hiatus of about five years since the fourth novel was published. Martin and the publisher do not have a release date for the fifth work. The Amazon web site gives the publication date as December 25, 2012, which sounds like an estimate, not a firm date. Or perhaps it's just wishful thinking. Few or no books come out on Christmas day.

See here for a Martin fan's perspective on the hiatus in Martin's series. Here's the Wikipedia page on the fifth volume.

Perhaps it would be best if the series (which is projected to go to seven volumes) is never finished.

Thanks for reading. Read something that affirms some sort of excellence!

*   *   *   *

June 10, 2011. The series is the basis for a TV series on HBO, and the books are again on some best-seller lists. A publication date, next month, has been set for the fifth book, so presumably, this time it's a real date.