Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Jepp, Who Defied the Stars - a Review

For centuries, human beings have disagreed about our destinies. Is the world only chaos, full of random choices, yet free ones? Is there freedom? Or are we bound to a fate written before our birth, written in a book that cannot be changed? Is God in control – or are we in control – or both?
That’s the question tackled in Katherine Marsh’s novel, Jepp, Who Defied the Stars. As the years have passed, I’ve grown less interested in YA fiction (though I continue to write it), but when I saw the title on a library shelf, it sounded too promising to pass up. Also, I love unlikely heroes, and Jepp seems certainly, ha, short, on the heroic potential.

 A teenage dwarf living in 16th Century Europe, Jepp is immediately a distinct and unique voice, mixing old-fashioned, somewhat archaic language with simple, clear thinking. Living in the small town of Astraveld, he is raised to believe the stars decree a man’s fate. In this, he is similar to the author, who was raised in a family that focused strongly on astrology. But Jepp mixes the astrology with Christianity, and frequently uses Biblical allusions, something refreshing in a 21st Century novel.

“There is no luck,” [Don] confided. “There are only the stars, Jepp. That is where our fortune or lack of it resides.

“Not with God?”

“God made the stars….But it is the celestial bodies that make us.”

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Maybe It's Better

We live on a hill, surrounded by rolling and dipping hills and a tree-fringe and a hedge of blue mountains on the skyline. It had been raining gray skies for the last three days, and when the snow came, it was so quick it looked like streams of white cotton. It was only an hour before the ground was coated, invisible beneath a pale shroud.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Dramatized Addison Walk

Your average Christian is going to know who C.S. Lewis is.

Your slightly less average Christian will know who J.R.R. Tolkien is.

A rather odd Christian will know that Lewis and Tolkien knew one another and were members of an Oxford-based club, the Inklings.

It takes a really weird Christian to know that Tolkien was one of the major influences on Jack Lewis's conversion.

Congratulations, you are now a really weird Christian. And if you want to be a fanatic, C.S. Lewis was nicknamed after a childhood neighbor's dog, Jack. (This calls to mind a certain Indiana Jones).

Monday, January 7, 2013

North, South, and Hobbit

I finally got around to uploading some violin covers to YouTube. The first my sister, Sarah, filmed back in the summer - we were at the park during a festival (my band Night Crossing had just performed) and I thought the water would be a great setting. It's the theme I've Seen Hell from the BBC period drama North and South (I highly recommend it).

The second was another opportunity I didn't want to miss. I only get dressed up once in a blue moon, so I decided that I should go ahead and film The Hobbit music while I was ready for my godbrother's wedding. I didn't really know the songs by heart, but it'll have to do until I can cajole Sarah into playing with me later. Sorry for the blinkiness - I hate contacts.


Friday, January 4, 2013

Top 5's of 2012

Because I'm usually half a step behind the times, and generally wish I lived five hundred years ago, many of these things didn't come out in 2012, but that's when I discovered them.


Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Prophet, Martyr, Spy – by the wonderful Eric Metaxas. This book not only tells the amazing story of German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, but it also paints in vivid detail Hitler’s sneaky political alliance with “the church” and what the real Church was doing behind the scenes. Disturbing parallels with modern America.

Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery - also by Metaxas. I didn’t know very much about Wilberforce until I read this book, but now I think he’s one of the greatest influences on Western civilization in the last four hundred years. And a Christian.

The Fellowship of the Ring – by J.R.R. Tolkien. Yeah, yeah, I’ve read it before, but this is the first time I’ve really read it with the spiritual eyes open. Tremendous book. I'm halfway through The Two Towers, and I'm savoring every moment. Interestingly enough, I just found out that the copy we own (see pic) is the Ballantine second edition - and it has a weird misprint. If you happen to have several thousand dollars laying around, I'd be willing to negotiate.

Orthodoxy - by G.K. Chesterton. Simply foundational stuff. I loved this book. So many moments where one thinks "Gosh! It's so obvious, so obviously true, but I never thought of it. Amazing."

Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl - by N.D. Wilson. To come clean, I've only watched the bookumentary so far, but that was amazing. I won't quite look at anything the same way. Since, according to Shelfari, I've read about eighty books this year, it's quite an achievement. Along with Orthodoxy, it's had a major impact on my thinking.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Subjects with Objects

A bit late to be doing this, but this is a really neat project. DKM is a poet, a poet with a mission. In this article on The Rabbit Room, he explains:

"Several years ago, public spaces painter Jonathan Richter invited me to create pieces with him for a gallery show. Richter spends evenings in public spaces (mostly pubs) painting an ongoing series of off-kilter, spontaneous portraits. These paintings give off a vaguely disturbing, surreal aura, sometimes seeming fraught with a subconscious and archetypal symbolism, other times feeling like fragments from the watery language of dreams. At any rate, Richter is quick to say that the pieces in this series are not created with forethought or planning. Rather they emerge from the process itself, from the layering of paint, the subjects sometimes achieving a definite shape only towards the end of the physical process. Once the paint has dried, Richter turns the paintings over to me. I meditate on the images, mulling the portraits for however long it takes to begin to tease out their secrets such that I can express something of their essence in a line or two of poetic prose. There’s something about this process of filtering a work through two imaginations that seems to put a finer edge on it. Like double-distilling a vodka....

"Some reveal their secrets within a few minutes time. Others take hours, even days before the meaning begins to emerge. I return over and over to the clearing where I sit and wait for something to step into the open and give me a clear line of sight....

"...I can’t help but believe that what I do believe is more wildly and frighteningly and wonderfully romantic than any merely emotional or sensational experience the romantics would have deemed romantic. Is it not more wildly romantic to operate from a premise that every facet, detail, and pattern in creation, even those that we perceive as random, are fraught with meaning far beyond our ability to comprehend? To believe that the stars are singing? To believe that the objective evidence points to the conclusion that we are living in an actual fairy tale?...

"Romanticism is dead. Long live romance."

DKM and Jonathan Richter only have a few more hours to complete their $7,500 goal. If they don't, all the money pledged so far will be returned. There are eight hours left. I've donated thirty dollars, which means I'll be getting a signed copy of the book, unless they don't get funding. I WANT a copy. Go here to help them out.


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year

A bit late, but I wanted to wish everybody a happy new year. There are many CDs themed on Christmas, many more on Easter, and possibly even a few on Hanukah, but there's only one I've ever discovered that's about New Year's, and that's Eric Peters's latest offering: Birds of Relocation. Last night at our family gathering, we covertly played it while everyone was involved in Balderdash or Spoons, on our campaign to make Christian music cool. (Just for today, the CD is 20% off, and worth every penny.) But anyway, here are a few words that are far better than any I've ever written.

This is the year that something changes but nothing ever does
This is the year that all my failures turn into a pile of dust
This is the year, with fallen faces, we learn we’re not enough
This is the year to hold each other up

Oh, oh, oh it’s a new year
Oh, oh, oh it’s a brand new light
Oh, oh, oh can you believe it?
It’s the skies that we dream of

This is the year when laughter douses charred and burnt-out dreams
This is the year when wrens return to nest in storm-blown trees
Is this the year of relocation from boughs of old despair?
This is the year to perch on hope’s repair

I was pale and weary sad, tired of ghost debates
A slave to voices old and vile, bitter bones in the grave
But this is the year, it’s the year that something changes
This is the year, the year that something changes

Oh, oh, oh it’s a new year
Oh, oh, oh it’s a brand new light
Oh, oh, oh can you believe it?
It’s the skies that we dream of

Have a blessed and joyful new year.

Dream of the skies,