I’m pretty tired.

I’ve been sitting here trying to think of something to type. Honestly, not much has been going on. No, that’s a lie. I’ve been extremely busy this past week. I don’t know if I was home at night once. I’ve met old friends, had meetings, run out of gas, had play rehearsals. Later in the week I have to go to a community Christmas celebration in Elizabeth, another play my niece is in, a political party, The Bridge… I am hanging out with a youth on the weekend, I have to travel to PA to inspect and plot out things for our Retreat in March. So much to do. It’s all a blur to me. Thank God for my Treo, for if I did not have that calendar at my side every day I would be lost and not know where I need to be next.

I am reading a new book, Irresistable Revolution by Shane Claiborne. I’m a little over 1/2 way done with it. Should be finished tomorrow. It’s an incredible book. I definitely recommend it. I also just finished The Jewish War by Flavius Josephus. Another amazing (true) story. I’ll have to write about both books in a future post. Honestly, tonight, I am too exhausted to write anything of substance. I’m just waiting for a friend to get out of a meeting and come back online to talk. And then I will sleep.

And so, in response to having nothing particularly important to say tonight, I leave you with probably one of the greatest YouTube clips ever… two grizzly bears fighting.


The Space Trilogy

I apologize for the length of this post, but it contains herein the review of three separate, yet combined, books. If you care to read through its entirety, I hope you shall enjoy it.

I just finished the last book in CS LewisSpace Trilogy. It was a pretty good series overall. I enjoyed it. I’m not too big into fiction books as a rule. Only certain ones really appeal to me. I picked up this trilogy, though, on recommendation from a friend. He specifically said I needed to read the second in the series, Perelandra, but I figured that it would be better if I were to go through the entirety of the story so as to better understand each part. I was correct. Each story builds on the previous, and the latter stories refer heavily upon the former.

Warning, the following descriptions and reviews may, though I have attempted to limit them, contain story plot spoilers.

Out of the Silent Planet:
The first in the Space Trilogy, Out of the Silent Planet, introduces us to our hero, Dr Elwin Ransom who, by wills other than his own, finds himself on an interplanetary voyage to Mars, or as he later learns is called by proper name: Malacandra. I would say that this is my second favorite in the trilogy. Right from the first chapter it captures your interest and makes you wonder what is going on and longing for more information as quickly as possible. Lewis’ description of Malacandra and it’s inhabitants paints an amazing picture for the imagination to run with. His attention to detail is thorough and he describes everything with finite proficiency. I felt like I was on Mars and that I was right there with Ransom on his experiences and journeys. On Malacandra, Ransom is held captive by his earthly kidnappers, Devine and Dr Weston. He knows they have some malicious scheme for him, but cannot figure out the details. He knows he must escape right away or face certain death. He sees his chance and takes it, and upon realizing his freedom Ransom is introduced to beautiful countryside quite different than that he is used to on Earth. He is introduced to a variety of hnauhrossa, séroni, pfifltriggi, and even the mysterious eldila. He spends months upon months in the company of the different hnau, learning their language and ways. Eventually he is brought before the great eldila of Malacandra: the Oyarsa. The Oyarsa questions Ransom on why he is on his planet and tries to learn of happenings on Earth, or as it is properly known, Thulcandra. Thulcandra, in the Old Solar language, translates as “The Silent Planet.” All of the planets in the solar system have open communications between them. The Oyarsa of each handra (planet) freely communicate and share knowledge and wisdom with each other as they are not locally bound to the individual planets they represent. Well, all except one. No word has been heard from the Silent Planet, Thulcandra, Earth, for age upon age upon age. It all started thousands of millenia ago when the Oyarsa of Thulcandra fell into darkness and became known as “the bent one.” He waged war on Malacandra and destroyed most of the hnau inhabiting it. He was imprisoned on Thulcandra, not to exit beyond the bounds of its moon, and then turned his dark focus on Thulcandra itself and plunged the inhabitants into evil, corrupting every one and everything on the planet. It was because of Maleldil, who rules over the Oyarsa that any hope is left in it’s redemption. Maleldil, several thousand years ago came down to Thulcandra and became a hnau of the Earthly kind and performed a great sacrificial redemptive work to break the power of the bent one. And now, the Oyarsa of Malacandra feels that this meeting with Ransom is orchestrated by Maleldil himself as the beginnings of the final stages of the restoration of Thulcandra and the reopening of communication throughout the solar system. Ransom is sent home to await things that will soon take place as his story in this interplanetary struggle is just starting.

Perelandra is my favorite in the Space Trilogy. I felt that Malacandra would be a more desirable place to visit as compared to Perelandra, and I did have clearer picture of what Lewis was describing in Out of the Silent Planet, but the storyline of Perelandra is simply astounding. Perelandra, or as we know it, Venus, is a new planetary civilization. Earth is an older planet, in the prime of its story. Mars is the eldest of the three, in its twilight hours. Perelandra continues the story of Dr Ransom, who several years after his return from Malacandra is contacted by the great Oyarsa of Mars and sent to Perelandra on an imperative mission. He knows not what the mission is, but he goes nonetheless, though his travel this time is guided by the eldila themselves instead of by the bent will of Dr Weston and company. On Perelandra he finds a strange terrain, completely unEarth-like. After a long adjustment period he notices that Perelandra is vastly more unpopulated as compared to Malacandra. In fact, in his searches he can find only one hnau on the entire surface. Later he discovers that there are, in fact, only two hnau – the king and the lady. It is the Lady he encounters and befriends. The king is missing and has been for quite some time. In his time on Perelandra he discovers that Venus is a type of picture of Earth in the Garden of Eden, for there had been no corruption of the world of Perelandra and the Adam and Eve of this land were still so new that they had no children. He is intrigued by the innocence and life-outlook of the lady and thinks of what it was like on Earth in the pre-Fall world. Soon he discovers his purpose in being there. It isn’t long before he notices a familiar rocket ship landed on the islands of Perelandra. Dr Weston had arrived in the very same type of vessel Ransom was kidnapped in en route to Malacandra. Weston, though, is not the same man he was before. He seems to have been totally given over to the bent Oyarsa of Thulcandra and has been sent to bring the same corruption and Fall of Earth to Perelandra. With haste he begins his assault on the Perelandrean Eve – the Lady. His deceitfulness and word-twistings are so subtle and clever and crafty that Ransom finds himself frustrated with combating it. The Lady seems resistant yet intrigued by Weston’s demoniacally inspired taunts. The mental battle ensue for days and weeks. Ransom’s very being and will is tested as his physical limitations are stretched to the point of breaking against Weston’s eldillically powered shell of a body. The battle leaves the mental field and enters a physical brawl across land and water and deep within the black caverns of Perelandra. Whoever wins the conflict will determine the fate of the future generations of Perelandra. The story ends with a great meeting of the found King, the Lady Queen, the beasts of Perelandra, the Oyarsa of Malacandra, and the Oyarsa of Perelandra. The celebration of the inauguration of the king and queen and the transfer of the rule of Perelandra from the Oyarsa to the royal couple lasts a full year, and in the end the body of Ransom is sent back to his home on Thulcandra. The reason I love this story is the underlying theology of it all. The question posed is, “What would have happened if the first human beings had not fallen?” What would our modern world look like? What would the relation of man and woman and beast and nature be in an unspoiled Earth? It offers some suggestion, but make no mistake this is fiction. The questions posed are enough to make you think and think and think some more about the fabric of our own beings and to make you grow as a result as you search for answers.

That Hideous Strength:
That Hideous Strength is the last of the Space Trilogy saga and, unfortunately, my least favorite of the series. The story takes place back on Earth. Dr Ransom is not the focus of this book. Our main characters are Mark and Jane Studdock. Mark is an official in a local university with a longing to belong to any “inner circle.” Jane, his wife has a gift of vision and dreams which prove to show real and true actual events happening around her of which she could never know in and of herself. Mark gets entangled with the NICE (National Institute for Coordinated Experiments) with the promise of wealth and acceptance. He quickly escalates within the ranks of NICE and delves deeper and deeper into the dark bowels of its secrets, though he is unaware the real reason that NICE is entertaining his company. As it turns out, NICE is being run by the fallen eldila of Thulcandra in an attempt to destroy the human race and bring the Earth’s corruption to a fuller reality. On the other side, there is a small company who resides in the mansion at St Anne’s who is hard at work to thwart the evil of NICE. Jane finds herself in their company and her dreams give great insight to things that must soon take place. All this happens within the first six chapters of the book along with long and detailed histories of the characters and events leading to where we are now. I will say that the first six chapters were a bit rough to get through. There was much “political” description of land acquisitions, totalitarianism, and vague talk that made it hard to tolerate. The chapters that followed, however picked up and brought life back to the story. It is found in these later chapters that the Director of the St Anne’s community is none other than Dr Elwin Ransom himself. From this point on he plays a somewhat major role in the story, though he is never the main focus. The final battle between St Anne’s and NICE reintroduces us to Malacandra and Perelandra (as we now know the Oyéresu are identified solely by the names of their planets) as well as three new Oyéresu: Viritrilbia (Mercury), Lurga (Saturn), and mighty Glund (Jupiter). Another famous historical figure is raised to new life in order to combat the great evil eldila who control NICE and bring their dark plot to an end, though you will have to read for yourself to see who he is and how he executes his righteous judgment on the fallen members of NICE. The story ends fairly abruptly, I felt. We are told that Ransom desires to go back to Venus with Perelandra and that Mark and Jane are reunited and that all is well, though we never see any of this happen. It is only implied. The ending happened so abruptly, actually, that I half missed it. I did not realize the story was over before I heard the closing credits from Audible.

Overall, the grand story was a good one. I enjoyed it. I read the audiobook version of these stories. They were narrated by Geoffrey Howard, who does an amazing job making the audio come to life. The story Perelandra alone is worth the purchase of the trilogy. You really do need all three parts to get a full view of what is going on, even if you intend to only read one.

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The Assault on Reason

https://i0.wp.com/rochesterturning.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/05/assault_on_reason.jpgI (somewhat) recently finished reading Al Gore‘s The Assault on Reason. It’s not my normal style of book to read, but I must say that I enjoyed it. It opened my eyes to a great many things, but more importantly got me asking some very important questions.

I will admit, though, that there were some points in the book that made me think it should have been titled, The Assault on George W Bush in Some Areas Relating to Reasons and Others Not Quite Related. I mean it was a full on attack of the President and his administration. I should have expected as much, though, since it is written by a left-wing Democrat. I would expect, now, as much in reciprocation from books written by right-wing Republicans.

The book spoke much of propaganda and how it was used in the past, for example by the Nazis, to subdue the minds of a nation. It even went so far as to imply, whether directly or indirectly would be up to the speculation of the reader, how the current Bush administration would use Nazi-like propagation tactics to get their goals and agendas to be accepted by the American public. What amused me was how much of this book I felt was left-wing propaganda used to promote their own agenda and ideals all while it condemned the whole propaganda concept in the same breath.

If you can get past the obvious bias and agenda the book has, there are some incredible concepts and philosophies that Al Gore presents. The areas of the book, not directly attacking the President, but conveying the current state of our nation in areas relating to reason and rationality were fascinating and had me captivated. Gore made some amazing points and shows how the corporate mind-power that our nation employs as compared to our founding fathers has taken a drastic and shocking decrease. He shows how quickly a democracy can turn into a dictatorship and how many of our freedoms as American have been stripped away or perverted over the past several decades. Beyond his attacks of the President, Gore attacks other institutions, such as American’s sickening overindulgence of television consumption, and shows how this too plays a detrimental role in the knowledge and skill and reasoning of our nation.

And yet, after every amazing philosophical or logical debate on the state of our union, he goes back to an attack on the Bush administration, some with obvious links and some with, what I feel, were very weak links of attachment. It was almost, in my mind, that he was trying too hard to link Bush to every evil our country experiences today. I will say though, that if even half of his points and examples about the Bush administration are true and without bias, there is significant need to worry about the direction our nation is heading.

The image “https://i0.wp.com/www.augie.edu/news/images/Gore_Al.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.Still, despite the agonizing attacks on the President and the Republican party and despite the obvious agenda and biases presented, the book was very informative, if purely from a philosophical point, and makes you ask questions on what is really going on in our country. It makes you realize the importance of education, true education, and why simple things like reading and writing are so crucial to a society’s survival. It speaks much of the national discourse and the sharing of ideas and concepts. It talks of how all have a part to play in the ongoing discussion of our existence.

The final chapter is a huge essay of promotion for the Internet and Net Neutrality and keeping the means of communication open for the masses to take part in our national discourse – a topic visited over and over again throughout the book’s many chapters. As a tech geek, this last chapter got me quite excited as Mr Gore presented the Internet and the whole Web 2.0 phenomenon as one of the answers, yet still not the definitive answer, to the assault on reason prevalent in our society today. He showed the value of the Internet for the sharing of ideas and communication and the ongoing discussion that was so valuable at our country’s founding.

If you can get past the bias and the agenda presented over and over again and appreciate it for the ideas and questions it raises, then The Assault on Reason is a book you definitely want to read. It challenged me greatly and I believe I learned much from it. I read this book via audio book from Audible.com. It was narrated by Will Patton, who did a phenomenal job of it. His unique voice and mannerisms are one of the things that make him a great movie actor that I enjoy seeing, and I was quite excited when I found it was he that would narrate the 10 hours of audio book I was about to consume. I definitely recommend The Assault on Reason as a great book that any one, American or not, should read as to better understand the value of knowledge and, more importantly, communication.

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The Areas of My Expertise

I have, in recent times, completed the book The Areas of My Expertise by John Hodgman, or as it is called with the title fully expanded:

An Almanac of Complete World Knowledge Compiled with Instructive Annotation and Arranged in Useful Order by Me, John Hodgman, a Professional Writer, in the Areas of My Expertise, which Include: Matters Historical; Matters Literary; Matters Cryptozoological; Hobo Matters; Food, Drink, & Cheese (a Kind of Food); Squirrels & Lobsters & Eels; Haircuts; Utopia; What Will Happen in the Future; and Most Other Subjects; Illustrated with a Reasonable Number of Tables and Figures, and Featuring the Best of “Were You Aware of It?”, John Hodgman’s Long-Running Newspaper Novelty Column of Strange Facts and Oddities of the Bizarre.

It was an interesting book indeed. Actually, perhaps it is not fair to call it a book. John Hodgman himself refers to it as an almanac. Now we all know John Hodgman from the Apple commercials. He’s the “Hi, I’m a PC” guy. And we all know him from Comedy Central on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Safe to say he’s a funny guy, though his humor is not a direct joke-telling-and-making-you-laugh kind of humor. His humor is subtle and witty and quite clever, if I say so myself. And he starts out with it right away in this book. He even starts out by talking about everything he will talk about in the book and concluding it all by adding, “and I’ve made it all up.” Brilliant.

I “read” this book as an audiobook from Audible.com, as I read most books. The audiobook was narrated by Hodgman himself with the added bonus of Jonathan Coulton for comical additions and musical accompaniment. Jonathan Coulton, you may know, is the brilliant mind who brought us such great musical hits as Code Monkey. His addition to the audio recording was just great and really made listening even more fun.

As for the actual content of the almanac, never in my life could I have imagined the vast wealth of knowledge contained in the mind of Mr Hodgman. Never could I have grasped the complexities of the seedy side of the back-stage areas of the Mall of America. Never could I have understood the legendary stories of the hobos and their monarchs. Neither would I have possibly imagined the rich true history of the 51 United States and it’s Presidents. And if it weren’t for this book, I would never have known the sad story of the Furry Old Lobster (song by Jonathan Coulton). And there is so much more useful world knowledge to take in, I fear I would not do it justice to try to describe it all in blog-form.

If you want a fun book describing a completely alternate reality form of the world you know, you just may be looking for John Hodgman’s The Areas of My Expertise. I highly recommend the audiobook version as John’s wit and candor really bring the words to life, and Johnathan Coulton’s musical accompaniment provide for some great fun.

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