Thursday, September 25, 2008

Go Cornel!

Last night's appearance of Cornel West on the Colbert Report had me roaring with laughter. Cornel looks much older then when I saw him a year or two ago, but he's still got his quick wit and verbal ability to run circles around someone while at the same time making an important point.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Reimagining Church

What a disappointment! I got up early this morning to read Frank Viola’s Reimagining Church: Pursuing the Dream of Organic Christianity. Len Sweet had raved about it on one of his recent Napkin Scribble podcasts and, based on that, I’d hoped there would be some material I could use in the theology section of my dissertation. I would have done better to continue sleeping.

The intention of Viola’s book – to show how the institutional church and denominationalism has moved away from the organic approach to faith that Jesus and his early followers took and how we need to regain much of what’s been lost—was a good one. Viola’s analysis of first century Christianity—much of which I got the impression was a paraphrase of an earlier book he wrote with George Barna – seems fairly accurate and is clear. But, although Viola presents himself as having moved outside of any institutional trappings, his work is steeped in conservative evangelicalism. Pastors are always ‘he’, two chapters are devoted to issues of congregational and denominational ‘covering’, and Viola clearly privileges first century Christianity as normative for all later centuries. If the Bible doesn’t know of it, then it shouldn’t be is Viola’s implication in chapter after chapter. I have great respect for first century Christianity and believes that there are things to be learned by reexamining premodern approaches to faith but I also realize that we live surrounded by a different, postmodern worldview and so have to respond to God’s call in ways that differ from those of early Christians.

Should Christians move beyond denominationalism and modern institutionalism? Probably we should and actually, if statistics are accurate, we’re already beginning to do so. Are there practices from preConstantinian Christianity that we should reexamine and rebuild into our lives? Of course there are. But we need to do so in new, creative ways, ways that folks like Shane Claiborne seem to know much more about than Frank Viola ever will

From Spin to Axis

For the last two months, I’ve been working my way through Spin, Robert Charles Wilson’s Hugo Award winning book, and its sequel, Axis. Both are great reads. The first, focusing on earth after it’s been surrounded by a barrier and the stars go out, also delves into how people react to major changes in life that seem outside of their control and the relationship of earth and time in our lives.

Axis takes up where Spin leaves off, introducing us to Equatoria, which can be reached through the Arch portal that Tyler Dupree (the narrator of Spin) and Diane Lawton go through toward the end of Spin. Except for one character from Spin who appears briefly in Axis, we’re introduced to a whole new cast of characters who are making their own guesses about who/what the hypotheticals are (if they exist at all) and how to respond to them. At times Axis reads like a good thriller, at times it’s a love story, and at times it’s a fantasy-- and almost all the way through it’s also a compelling, nuanced study in human psychology.

I’m not sure when Vortex, the last book in the trilogy, is due out, but I’ll be looking forward to it. And luckily, in the meanwhile, there’s Brisingr, the last volume in Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance trilogy, to read!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Eliasson's Waterfalls

Late yesterday afternoon we headed down to the South Street Seaport to take a boat tour of Olafur Eliasson's "Waterfalls", the four tinker-toy type scaffolding structures that stand on the East River --at the Brooklyn Bridge and Pier 35 (near the Manhattan Bridge), between Piers 4 and 5 (near the Brooklyn Heights Promenade), and near the Governors Island ferry station. Each has a cascade of water pouring down somewhere between 90 and 120 feet from the top of the scaffolding.

Part of what I wondered about as I went to see the structures was whether or not we'd be able to experience them as art. Becca and Kathy had briefly seen Christo's "The Gates" in Central Park a few years ago and we were all still trying to fit that into any kind of artistic understanding, so my expectations weren't high. When it came to "Waterfalls", however, I'd read that what Eliasson was trying to do was to create an experimental setup that would engage us with water in new ways, making water explicit rather than letting us take it for granted. Since I love being anywhere on, in, or near water, I thought it would be easier to engage my senses in this exhibit.

It didn't happen though. The noise of the water falling just blended in with the noise of the traffic on the roads and the waterways. And the structures that pumped the water up to their heights just looked like much of the other scaffolding and building projects elsewhere in the city. The only one of the four falls that engaged me at all was the one under the Brooklyn bridge. As we got closer to it, we could see folks standing up on the walkway in the bridge trying to look down at the waterfalls. The scaffolding there seemed to become part of the bridge's design and to complement and complicate the bridge's structure.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Fall Equinox Friday

Over at RevGalBlogPals, Songbird wrote: “It's that time of year, at least north of the equator. The windows are still open, but the darned furnace comes on early in the morning. My husband went out for a walk after an early supper and came home in full darkness. And yes, where we live, leaves are beginning to turn. As this vivid season begins, tell us five favorite things about fall:”

1) A fragrance: In my neighborhood at this time of the year, some folks (including us) are still grilling, while others have begun to use their fireplaces. The combined smell of wood burning and food grilling—not quite the same as food cooked over a campfire—reminds me of fall.

2) A color: the blazing scarlet red of Japanese maples at this time of year.

3) An item of clothing: It’d be a toss up between a fleecy and my fingerless gloves, that I just got out this morning.

4) An activity: sitting on the front porch watching it grow dark, listening to the kids hanging out on the street and the noise from the football game down the block, and greeting people who go by.

5) A special day: One of the wonderful things about fall is that there are no ‘special’ days. The school and church years have already started, none of the kids have birthdays yet, and there are no major holidays. Once in a while—if there’s no major soccer tournament or church gathering planned—there’s just a simple, quiet, ordinary autumn weekend. How I love those!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Rage Against the Machine

I've had little patience watching the Republican National Convention despite the ways in which Sarah Palin has made the Republican ticket more interesting (not more appealing or well-trained,mind you, just more interesting). But here's a clip from a musical group for whom I do have respect singing a cappella outside the convention on September 2nd:

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Virtual Worlds

Thisi s a great short introduction to all the virtuals worlds out there in the metaverse:

Digital Terms

As part of my dissertation research, I’ve been spending several days reading stuff about different generations and their usage of computers and the internet. I’ve found books such as with good analysis of the computer usage of Millenials—such as Palfrey and Gasser’s Born Digital- and I’ve carefully analyzed the 2005 Pew Report on “the Internet and American Life”—but I’m still searching for more detailed distinctions in computer usage than just the terms ‘digital natives’ and ‘digital immigrants.’ What terms, for example, exist to distinguish a digital immigrant whose only use of online connectivity is to access email from a digital immigrant who participates in online meetings, uses Skype for phone calls, and plays one or more MMORPG? I can’t find any. And who has studied the differences in the way that older members of the Builder generation differ in their response to the computer from younger Builders, and older Boomers from younger Boomers? There’s got to be research out there somewhere on this stuff, but I just can’t seem to locate it.