Sunday, May 28, 2006

University of Cincinnati

Join me in congratulating Noah on his admission to UC in the linguistics program! As those of you who read here often or who know me and Noah know this is a big deal. He's very excited about the future - working at Trader Joe's and going to school in the fall. He'll be living with friends in an apartment. He told me that he hopes to study Arabic, Sanskrit and Acadian. Oh and Spanish first. Lol.

Nice sense of closure for homeschool and all those years of non-traditional education. Selah.

Weighing in on Da Vinci Code

Book Reviews

I included a link to the book reviews so that we might not forget the source material of the movie. Jon and I heard Dan Brown speak at a local book store (Books and Co.) in Dayton the week DVC went number one on the NYTimes Best seller list. Dan was engaging, humble and entertaining. My husband had read the book (I hadn't yet) and he asked Dan directly: Do you believe this story? In other words, did Dan believe the primary narrative about Mary Magdalene, the priory of Scion and so on?

He did.

And it's that that has stuck with me these last several years.

I've read dozens of debunking articles on both sides of the theological and historical aisles. We've got evangelicals and liberals all decrying the inaccuracies of Dan's book. Fair enough.

But what stands out to me instead in both book and movie is the power of the narrative that Dan wove. That narrative captured the imagination of a nation! Dan Brown was credited (at one point) with saving the publishing industry single-handedly (have you ever seen such an explosion of books prompted by one title?).

So why the abiding fascination with "mere story"? What is it that drives people to read not just Dan's book, but articles, other books explaining his book, websites and more? And what is it that makes people hate the film?

Ron Howard has a style that many critics find annoying. I don't. That may be the first reason I liked the film. I always enjoy seeing the visions in my head realized on screen and for me, Ron Howard and cast did so more than adequately.

But secondly, I liked the film because I really liked the book. I don't love Dan's writing style (though he has the one page, two person dialog down to a science!). What I loved was the twisting, turning plot (not unlike Shogun but not so arduously long) that unseated complacent "we hold the truth" gate-keepers of Christian doctrine. Dan Brown suggested, even asserted, that the whole truth wasn't locked up in the Bible or the "unbroken line" of popes. There may be more to this Jesus tradition than we've been led to accept and believe.

My contention is that where religion and conspiracy co-mingle, the non-religious everywhere experience a collective smirk. The attempts to prop up Christian dogma as damningly true just don't sit well with everyone, much to the chagrin of committed believers.

Enter Dan Brown with a book that blew the doors off of fiction and made the whole world talk about faith and science, art and history, conspiracy and hope... And what is the primary response in the "boycott the movie" emails I receive, in the articles I read? Lots of work being done to examine the historicity of the claims and debunk them. Comments like "We shouldn't worry about this book because none of it is true."

Feels like everyone sort of missed the point.

What would be more interesting to examine is the phenomenon of the book. The Christian religion became a topic worth discussing for a little while again. And this time, room was made at the table for a powerful tale that the religious don't like, want to destroy, prove untrue. Perhaps Christians are nervous!

Maybe they feel their market-share is threatened.

I can't help but wonder if the original stories (Gospel narratives) had been written in a time when books were more easily published, what might have happened to them? Might we ask what they excluded, included falsely and whether or not the author had an agenda? Would there be boycotts of John's Gospel in favor of Luke's? How many articles, books and emails would debunk any one of the Gospel's claims as historically inaccurate? Would the writers then miss the message because of an obsession with verifying the events cited?

Jesus is back on the front burner for a little while. I like that.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

When the SS murdered God

UPI column

I was moved by both Elie Weisel on Oprah this week and my journey through Reading Lolita in Tehran as I wrote this week's column. My editor suggests a part two for next week. In a way this week's column is a part two to last week's. I took Dave's suggestion and began right where I left off: God matters.


P.S. Tonight, Jon and I went to see "The Da Vinci Code" and can add our praise for the movie. RottenTomatoes gives MI:3 a 70% and DVC a 20%. Someone is smoking crack... Flip them around and you'll have my ratings. If I get some time, I'll give a brief review tomorrow. If you liked the book, it's well worth seeing the movie, is how I'd sum up my reaction.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

What books are you reading this summer?

Whatcha readin'? I'm interested in anything you plan to read, have read, think I should read, or think I should avoid! :) I've finally got two minutes to rub together in terms of book material after a laborious semester of doctrine.

I just finished Generous Or+hodoxy by Brian McLaren and am halfway through Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi. I want to give my impressions of Brian's book some time later this week and especially am looking forward to writing about Nafisi's book. She really turns the thumb screws on Islamic extremism and I'm amazed that more people haven't been urging the reading of her book in the quarters I hang out. I highly recommend it for those who are trying to sort out how to feel about Islam, Iran and the relationship to the west. Let's just say that my deepest concerns are confirmed by her insights. And her writing is brilliant.

Next on my list is Night by Elie Weisel (who will be on Oprah today) and then another Brian book The Secret Message of Jesus.

After that, I'll be due for some fiction. Any hot tips? I'd also love to hear about other theology books (addict here) that I might not have thought about for awhile or that you really liked.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

American Idol

Who are you going to vote for?

After tonight's performance, I'm rooting for Taylor. I think Kat has a career no matter who wins.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Home from the Springs

Sorry I've been out of commission, but I'm just not that sorry. :) My four best friends from high school invited me out to Palm Springs to spend a "Girls Getaway" weekend with them and I just got back.

Weather in the 90s (yes!), new flavors of martinis, a beautiful pool, palm trees, fabulous dinners at exotic restaurants and talking non-stop start to finish.

I hope to reflect a bit more on the power and value of seeing friends who knew you when you were young. Deeply affirming and in many ways healing for me.

In the mean time, though, I need to catch up on the 100 emails sitting in my inbox.

More soon.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

What's the matter with God?

UPI Column

Thanks especially to Dave and Rebecca on pomoxian (yahoo group for theological discussion) for their interaction about this topic. I've modified the post I made there for UPI.

:) Julie

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Religious Fiction?

Noah, who works at Barnes and Noble, told me today that about once a month, the staff has to go "find the Bibles" because someone thinks it's funny to move them all to the religious fiction section of the store.

For some reason, I think I could party with that intrepid re-shelver. :)

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

My crazy believe-they-can-do-anything kids

I have these crazy kids. One of them is working two jobs (Trader Joe's and Barnes and Noble - is that cool or what?) and is also trying to do final rehearsals for "The Tempest" downtown in the high school Shakespeare Company. We just sent off his college app to University of Cincinnati. The next child (daughter) is working a new job (ice cream place), volunteers at the local elementary school, has to prepare for finals in high school and is also rehearsing for "The Tempest." Johannah and Noah are both in the same show. Neither seem to be sleeping, unless we count sleeping upright on the couch when the TV is on.

My next one in line (Jacob) has plans to go to South America for a year with American Field Service (AFS) and so has embarked on the study of Spanish... eagerly. He is using a grammar book, dictionary, CDs and enthusiasm. He is also raising $9000 to pay for it by mowing his little hands off (has several mowing jobs) and is also baking cookies up a storm as well. He, too, has his usual end-of-the-year commitments for homeschool and seems unable to stand upright for very long periods of time.

Then Liam just finished his lacrosse season and has taken to running laps in our large backyard, turning tricks on the trampoline and throwing the lacrosse ball with who ever will risk launching the hard ball with the lacrosse stick. We are also making plans to move into the zoo for large chunks of time (where he'd live if I'd let him).

Caitrin is playing her violin for whoever will listen to four variations of "Twinkle, twinkle," and she is evaluating new musical styles. Salsa is the latest (I attest to this fact as she just plugged and unplugged the iPod from my ear to hear her favorite new dance track). She has the most carefree life of all including too many hours on Disney channel and an equal number of hours out of doors dancing, singing and performing for an audience of none.

We don't look like a traditional homeschool, but we have the most enthusiastic learners. I feel lucky to be around these kids who think all subjects are fair game and who go after what they love with such gusto.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Making God our 'American Idol'

UPI column

This was a fun week for writing. :)


Pop Culture Time Out: American Idol


We're hooked but we didn't vote this week and what a mistake!

Chris is GONE... and America is shocked. I guess that teaches us not to vote, right? I mean the presidential election taught us that once. Now we need to apply that lesson to the bigger contest - aka: who gets to rack up more money for Simon Fuller?

Who do you want to win now that we're down to three? I'm rooting for Katharine, but would be fine with Taylor. He seems to have the biggest fan base having never been in the bottom two or three.

Reality TV just got interesting again.

On a side note: can Terry win Survivor? :) I think so.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Why college may not matter

Five Reasons to Skip College (MSNBC)

Jon and I often joke that the more advanced the degree, the less money you'll earn. Jon has his M.A. and when we lived in CA, the high school graduates who went into contracting outearned us five to one most times! We have seen similar results in our educated pool, with our peer group in the MA category struggling to find jobs that really pay while the entrepreneurs seem to vault past us into triple figure incomes.

What I enjoyed about this article is that I like that it correlated intelligence with income. One of the oddest parts of my business is that I don't have an English degree, am not now studying for an MA in composition, haven't published a single novel or book with an "official publishing house" and I haven't trained to teach nor have I been certified to teach writing.

Instead, what I did is I got busy writing (every day for years in every venue I could find) and at the same time, studied the needs of the homeschool market. I applied my skills to that niche and voila - business! In fact, I think that my lack of English degree has uniquely suited me to my chosen career. I have been able to do "garage-band" writing - a sort of computer genius in the basement kind of teaching.

Rather than let the system define what constitutes real writing or real teaching of writing, I've been busy doing the writing and the teaching to find out what actually works. I haven't had to unlearn anything! And I've discovered some real problems with the "system" as it is currently defined by working outside of it.

While I haven't earned the kind of income my contractor friends routinely pull in, I am still in awe of what I do earn since every single penny comes from the joint creativity of Jon's techie skills (all learned without a degree, too, btw) and my writing/teaching package. I tripled my income last year.

So I like what that article says and thought I'd "pass it on." :)

Friday, May 05, 2006

Mission Impossible: III

Or: See Tom Run

Tom Cruise says that if you're going to do a movie like this (meaning, if he's going to do a movie that is a shoe-in for the green splat at, you may as well do as many of your own stunts as possible. He wanted to be sure we all knew he did many stunts.

I'm here to verify that Tom Cruise in fact did all his own running. That's right - he ran past cars, in front of busses and trucks, from the insides of ugly warehouses to waiting helicopters, through the halls of the Vatican museum, down a charming old world neighborhood of Shanghai and more! Not once did I spot a stunt man running for Tom.

If you like to see Tom run, this is the movie for you.

If you like action, read the Da Vinci Code.

Now, for those hoping to see some hot love action, a warning. Each exchange of lines between Tom and what's-her-name takes about ten minutes with five minutes of silence as characters use method acting to well-up with the requisite tears. They pause so long, you can take care of business in the middle of lines! Like this:

Tom to his wife: I need you to.....

Exit theater, read a chapter of the Da Vinci Code, pee, get popcorn... trust me.

Sincere wife who is a sexy nurse (huh?) named Julia: I...

Read another chapter, refill popcorn, text message your homies...


Where is Pierce Brosnan when you need him? At least he knew that his Bond lines were the height of cheese--so you laugh at the audacity of the gorgeous man to utter them anyway as though they were ridiculous and serious at once. Tom mistook the MI:3 lines for Shakespeare. Poor dear. Perhaps Rome confused him. (Did you know we were in Rome when he was filming?)

One wonderful benefit to an otherwise pointless flick: Philip Seymour Hoffman gets his!! For Heath Ledger fans, I have to admit, the moment of his demise was delicious.


Concession: There is a lot of action, obviously. But there were so many missing action scenes that I left wishing for moments barely alluded to yet critical "to the mission" which is why it felt so, I don't know, vacant of real, heart-pounding action. Blowing things up does not make suspense.

Gadgets were sufficiently cool, however. :)

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Staring down my fundamentalist fears

UPI column

Well, the final is over (it went well!) and summer is here (at least technically speaking as far as school goes).

I had to write the UPI column before I can get back to writing and posting here. And then I've got a transcript to write for Noah (he's applying to University of Cincinnati!) and several big writing projects for my business (Brave Writer - my online writing resource for homeschoolers).

This particular column (linked above) was written specifically for a friend who reads here. :) Hugs to you on the journey. It's worth it.


Monday, May 01, 2006

It is so tempting to come on today and rant

about Islam, God, evangelicalism, messy houses, violence and sex, a lack of decent produce at the local market, tent caterpillars and why I gain weight rather than lose it when I start a running program...

All because I want to avoid studying four centuries of doctrine for tomorrow night's final (6:30-9:00 p.m. est).

So, to make sure I don't squander the two hours my house is literally empty of human voices (one kid at work, one mowing the lawn, one plundering the refrigerator of his best friend's house while playing lacrosse and two at the YMCA swimming and running respectively), I will be committing to laptop Word docs all I know about the doctrine of God and the human person from the last four centuries, hoping the final question asks us what everyone had to say about God... after all, it's stunning that Someone so careful not to reveal Self would be the occupation of thousands of pages of reflection!

So cramming serious big ideas onto Word docs is in order. (We get to use our laptops while taking the exam - is that not so 21st century?)

Anywho, I have about a jillion things to say on this blog and will get to them Wednesday and beyond... after I knock back a few glasses of wine Tuesday night and watch American Idol.

For those who pray: pray for me. For those who don't pray: pray for me anyway - to Gods known and unknown and even those gods who don't want to be known (as a friend's son sorta said... ).