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frkurt

frkurt

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since 26/12/2002

543

Everything that starts with B ... 26/12/2007

Boxing Day blues...

Everything that starts with B ... B is for Boxing Day Boxing Day is not a tradition in the United States. If one were to use the term here, one might think of boxing things up to take them back to the stores for a refund - think of the literally millions of items that will go back and be re-stocked for someone else to purchase! I shop mostly online now, so 'boxing day' would mean putting things in a box and taking them to the post office rather than the shops. Still, boxes would be involved. Fortunately, nothing I received this year will need to be returned. Being largely books, CDs, and DVDs, there aren't many things that 'won't fit'. I miss the Boxing Day of Britain, but, not having many British friends over here, there's nothing for it. However, Boxing Day did have a minor significance in my life of late, and that is that it is the anniversary of my signing on to Ciao, five years ago. It is with regret that I am no longer an active participant on Ciao, and I have listed why on my 'About me' tag line. I have documented and reported to Ciao the specifics of the cheating, and they have decided that they would rather not deal with it. Ciao makes their money by generating things that are popular and gain a lot of reads, so they can in turn report these reads to advertisers, who will in turn give money to Ciao based on these figures. The idea that these figures are tainted is anathema, as that would make Ciao complicit in something that was untrue. So, it is best not to investigate it too closely. ...

The Cambridge Illustrated History of Religions (Cambridge Illustrated Histories) - John Bowker 26/06/2007

Picture this!

The Cambridge Illustrated History of Religions (Cambridge Illustrated Histories) - John Bowker I use the Cambridge Illustrated History of Religions in a course I teach on World Religions for my university – it has a good breadth of coverage, good detail, wonderful photography, and a very nice colour layout that makes for easier reading. Editor John Bowker provides an introduction and conclusion as well as one of the topical sections. In the introduction, Bowker writes, ‘There is no known society in which religion has not played a part, and frequently a controlling and creative part. This seems to have been true of the earliest societies, but in their case the history of religions is not easy to write.’ Bowker traces the reconstruction and speculation of prehistoric societies, with illustrations of cave paintings, totem poles, Mayan pyramid structures, Native American costumes, and maps of South America and Oceania to help illustrate the diversity of ways beyond the printed word that different peoples have kept alive the religious traditions handed down to them. ‘The attempt to write history according to laws governing human behaviour had an immensely important influence during much of the twentieth century, because it created those disciplines which called themselves ‘the social science’. This is not, however, the only possible way to explore religion, and Bowker and his fellow authors do stretch their reporting and analysis beyond this framework. Some tap into the common core of ideas that seems to permeate the different religions, and some do anthropological ...

Desire of the Everlasting Hills: The World Before and After Jesus - Thomas Cahill 22/06/2007

The hills are alive...

Desire of the Everlasting Hills: The World Before and After Jesus - Thomas Cahill The hills are alive... Oh wait -- that's another matter. Thomas Cahill's third outing on the hinges of history brings us to Jesus Christ, and appropriately so, for so much of the word 'hinges' on this person (and we'll define that word more closely in a moment) in many, often unknowing ways. Obvious hinges are the calendar which, even when modified to be BCE/CE rather than BC/AD cannot escape the fact that the break is with this phenomenon. Cahill has taken up the task not of showing who Jesus is, either as person (and that can be God-man, special prophet, political activist, or mythological figure) but rather to show some of the differences, a before-and-after, if you will, of what the world was and came to be due to the influence of this person, which obviously requires an examination of the influences on other persons, too. In this respect, the figure of the Apostle Paul is as important as Jesus, together with the other apostles and lesser figures who continued the stories, and developed the communities, that would one day essentially take over the empire. Cahill uses ancient historians, modern scholarship, Biblical texts, and simple logic and reason to show influences and changes brought about by the Jesus Movement/Christianity. Packed with details written in an interesting manner, Cahill manages to interest, challenge and enlighten all at the same time. Cahill addresses issues like the validity and reality of the resurrection with care: ‘At the beginning ...

How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization - Thomas Woods 21/06/2007

Ecclesial Highlights

How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization - Thomas Woods The book 'How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization' was a book I enjoyed reading. It presents an often overlooked idea, the importance of one of the longer-lasting and widely influential institutions in the Western world. It reminded me very much of Thomas Cahill's book, 'How the Irish Saved Civilization', both in content and in tone. Indeed, one of Woods' early chapters deals with some of the same information - the Irish of Cahill's text were primarily the monastic communities, and Woods develops this theme more generally (and more briefly) in his chapter. Author Thomas Woods, Jr. states that one of his intentions is to remedy the generally pervasive attitude toward the Roman Catholic Church these days in historical studies which is either negative or lacking in reference altogether. There are history books (quite often those used by the public school system) that try to downplay the role of the church in Western history or eliminate it altogether. In part this is due to church/state issues and fears on the part of textbook buyers; in part it is also anti-Catholic bias in society that pops up in different ways. I do have a few quibbles with the book. In trying to combat the negativity of much of the tone of the history of the Catholic Church, Woods goes a bit too far in the other direction at times. This is a balancing book, but it is not a balanced book - it is the argument in favour, and as such, overlooks at times the very real responsibility the church ...

How the Irish Saved Civilisation: The Untold Story of Ireland - Thomas Cahill 17/06/2007

An illuminating document...

How the Irish Saved Civilisation: The Untold Story of Ireland - Thomas Cahill Thomas Cahill has undertaken the project of identifying what he considers to be 'hinge civilisations' or 'hinge event' -- he is planning a series of seven books that focus on relatively obscure contributions to civilisation and history without which everything would be vastly different. Other books published thus far in the series include ‘The Gift of the Jews’, ‘The Desire of the Everlasting Hills’ (about the early Christian movement), and ‘Sailing the Wine Red Sea’, about the ancient Greeks. However, this book about the Irish was first. This book details an Irish contribution, largely during the Dark Ages spanning forward through the Carolingian renaissance (yes, there was a smaller renaissance before the Italian one, under the leadership of the possibly-illiterate Charlemagne) and still further into the broader re-awakening in western Europe. This was largely achieved because the Irish monastic communities had taken up the task of being the librarians for the world. Most of the west slipped into the Dark Ages and the eastern Empire became less interested in the Europe, which was being overrun by barbarians. The Irish, from their position of relative safety on the far coast of Europe, were able to maintain an ordered and stable society which was to keep alive much of the scholarship and learning from the Roman Empire. From the secure island, these Celtic Christian scholars set forth all over Western Europe to bring learning and knowledge back to the people. Cahill ...

Doctors of the Church - Bernard McGinn 14/06/2007

A doctor in the house...

Doctors of the Church - Bernard McGinn There is a rare and distinguished title in the church, little used and even less understood--that of Doctor of the Church. To date, only 33 men and women have been accorded the honour of being a Doctor of the Church, and among these are some of the most influential figures of Christianity (most of Christianity as a whole, and not just specifically Roman Catholicism). They include the likes of Augustine, John Chrysostom, Aquinas, and Teresa of Avila. --------------- --------------- --------------- --------------- -------- What is this title? --------------- --------------- --------------- --------------- -------- Doctors of the Church have been so named because they have provided critical insight into the life, practice, spirituality and definition of the church at key historical points, and have done so in such as way as to endeavour to teach and otherwise impart this knowledge to others. These are the great teachers of the church, in word and deed. They are divided into three broad categories. The Patristic Doctors are the notables among the early church fathers, in the post-apostolic age to the close of the early round of church councils. These Patristic Doctors are thirteen in number: Athanasius of Alexandria Ephrem the Syrian Hilary of Poitiers Cyril of Jerusalem Basil of Caesarea Gregory of Nazianzus Ambrose of Milan John Chrysostom Jerome Augustine of Hippo Cyril of Alexandria Peter Chrysologus Leo the Great The next subgrouping is the ...

Live from Sweets Ballroom (Live Recording) - Stan Kenton 11/06/2007

Not so mighty Caesar

Live from Sweets Ballroom (Live Recording) - Stan Kenton Recently I saw Jeremy Sisto in a film in the cinema, and as my movie-going friend and I were dissecting the film afterward, we both were impressed with Sisto’s performance, and tried to recall what we’d seen him in before. I remembered this production of Julius Caesar, but only after a while – Sisto’s role in the other film (a light drama with a comedic edge) is very different from the epic, super-serious Julius Caesar. This production is a good one for a straight-to-television production. It is a four-hour miniseries (the television nomenclature equivalent for ‘epic’). It plays a bit loose with the historic progression, but keeps many of the broad strokes intact – Rome’s trouble under Sulla, Caesar’s early difficulties becoming established, his military alliance and familial partnership with Pompey, destined to falter; the conquest of Gaul and the march back to Rome, the fiery oratory of Cato, and the climactic death in the Senate. Caesar is a complex character, one who defies encapsulation in so short a span as four hours. Given that Caesar was surrounded by many equally intriguing characters, it is little wonder that productions about Caesar often fall victim to a particular interpretation. Sisto’s performance, and Edel’s direction, makes Caesar in some ways a walking statue – and this is not a necessarily inappropriate style. Caesar was very conscious of appearances and public perceptions, and took great pains to always appear in a certain fashion that would ...

The Dead Sea Scrolls - Timothy Lim 07/06/2007

The scrolls, briefly

The Dead Sea Scrolls - Timothy Lim I am a fan of the VSI – Very Short Introduction – Series done by the Oxford University Press. On literally hundreds of subjects, they provide a survey with enough depth and detail to be worthwhile to the non-specialist, a wide enough range to useful for students looking for authoritative information, and good as a general outline of the fields or subjects as preparation for further study. This particular volume on the Dead Sea Scrolls touches on one of my areas of interest that I have been following for over a quarter of a century (and it pains me to realise that I am indeed old enough to have areas of study that reach back that far). When I first encountered information about the scrolls, one controversy about them was over ownership rights and publication rights – there were conspiracy theories about why the scrolls were being withheld, and no such thing as a complete volume of the scrolls. These issues are included in Timothy Lim's text, as that story has become part of the history of the scrolls. Lim also addresses the role of the Dead Sea Scrolls as a cultural icon: 'Many people have heard of the Dead Sea Scrolls, but few know what they are or the significance they have for our understanding of the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible, ancient Judaism, and the origins of Christianity.' The scrolls have been a media sensation for what they are more so than for what they contain; the location where they were found (a mysterious place, the Dead Sea, the site of ancient ...

Theology in Stone: Church Architecture from Byzantium to Berkeley - Richard Kieckhefer 04/06/2007

Ex cathedra

Theology in Stone: Church Architecture from Byzantium to Berkeley - Richard Kieckhefer Perhaps it is because I come from the same background (Western Anglo-Catholic) as the approach from which Richard Kieckhefer comes in this text that I find such a resonance with what he has to say. 'Theology in Stone' looks at various aspects of church design, from the long tradition of church building in Christianity up to the present time. His text begins with four principle factors in basic church design, and then looks in some detail at three particular styles. The four factors highlighted are not typical architectural concerns, but rather wrapped up in spiritual, theological, and aesthetic values. How does the space work? What is the central and centering focus? Is there an aesthetic impact compatible with the intention of the church? How do symbols function and resonate? There are no universal answers to these types of questions. As Kieckhefer states, 'Response to a church [is] conditioned by culture and by cultural interaction.' Response is also related to expectations, usefulness, the people populating the church, and a number of other concerns. However, perhaps most importantly, response to a church is a learned process that generally 'requires informed reflection. The meanings of a church are seldom obvious.' With regard to spatial dynamics and centering focus, Kieckhefer states, the purpose of the building is expressed. The symbolic resonance goes to the meaning of the church, and the aesthetic impact relates to the form. Kieckhefer takes classic church ...

Becket (DVD) 02/06/2007

'Humility is hard on the knees...'

Becket (DVD) One of my favourite films of all time, Becket, has come available, at long last, on DVD. This was a film whose masters were thought lost at once, and potential DVD transfers would have then been substandard – a sorry fate for such a magnificent film, one that garnered a dozen Oscar nominations. I place this film in the same league as ‘A Man for All Seasons’ and what may well be considered in some senses the sequel to Becket, ‘The Lion in Winter.’ The film begins and ends in Becket’s tomb in the Cathedral of Canterbury, not far from where Becket was murdered/martyred. Becket became a folk hero, a canonised saint, and the stuff of myth and legend, as useful in politics as in literature – Chaucer’s famous pilgrims telling their Canterbury tales were on their way to the same location as Henry II paid his penance for the death of Becket. The idea of the separation of church and state is an admittedly modern invention, but even in Becket’s time, the intertwining of religious politics and secular politics was seen to have decided drawbacks. The church in most European settings has historically been a wealthy land-owning institution; in England (for much of its history, in fact a rather poor and beknighted land in many ways), the church rivaled the wealth of the monarch for generations. This sets up a background rivalry for Becket and Henry II while they are both on the same side (Henry II appointed Thomas Becket as his chancellor, a position not dis-similar to being his first, ...

The Nag Hammadi Scriptures: The Definitive International Edition - Marvin Meyer, James Robsinson 31/05/2007

Being in the gnosis..

The Nag Hammadi Scriptures: The Definitive International Edition - Marvin Meyer, James Robsinson This book finds an honoured place on my shelves, next to the older edition of the Nag Hammadi scriptures assembled under the direction of James M. Robinson, who provides the preface (and much underlying research). According to Robinson, `The Nag Hammadi Scriptures is a collection of thirteen papyrus codices - bound books, not scrolls - that were buried near the city of Nag Hammadi in Upper Egypt most likely in the second half of the fourth century CE.' The texts contained here are a fascinating collection, bringing to light literally dozens of texts that had previously been unknown for over a millennium, although about ten of them are in such fragmentary form that it still cannot be said that these have been recovered. It is supposed by many scholars that this is a collection that was buried by Gnostics, but this is not without controversy. This text has as a leader over the title the phrase `The International Edition', for good reason. There have been three different projects, one in English, one in French, and one in German, over the past generation, the fruits of which have been brought together here in one volume. The representatives from each team are James M. Robinson, Wolf-Peter Funk, and Paul-Hubert Poirier, for the English, German, and French research projects respectively. The introduction is provided by Marvin Meyer and Elaine Pagels, both names known to people who study Gnostic and early biblical texts. In the introduction, Meyers and Pagels offer the ...

Six-Pack ABS - Matt Roberts 29/05/2007

'Tis the season to be topless

Six-Pack ABS - Matt Roberts Each spring, as the weather begins to heat up (and I realise that my 20-something metabolism is now another year behind me), I feel the heat of the sun on my layers of clothing, but also wonder about the layers of ‘me’ under those clothes that prevent me from being, well, more revealing. I really don’t relish the idea of people ringing animal control wondering why there is a beached whale. So, each year I fight the battle of the bulge anew; last year was a banner year until I broke my foot and thus couldn’t run any longer. This year, the ankle and foot are still tender, so I am forced to employ a new strategy. Enter this book. Matt Roberts is one of the better known personal trainers in the UK, with many Hollywood connections (he counts Sandra Bullock among his clients). I have no illusions about turning into a Hollywood hunk, but the routines he presents in this book are both do-able as well as effective – after a month, I already can see a noticeable difference. This small book is primarily pictures, which is a DK publishing signature. In it, Roberts presents three different routines, one each to be done each week in an every-other-day pattern. Both incorporate a level 1 and a level 2 number of reps, with a few alternate possibilities to adjust for ease or difficulty. There a few things that would be helpful (warming up on a rowing machine or a cross-trainer is recommended; an exercise inflatable ball is also recommended), but most can be done simply with the body ...

The Economics of Sports (The Addison-Wesley Series in Economics) - Michael A. Leeds, Peter von Allmen 24/05/2007

On the ball...

The Economics of Sports (The Addison-Wesley Series in Economics) - Michael A. Leeds, Peter von Allmen This summer I am teaching for the first time an economics course at the local community college. The reputation of this course is such that many people dread it - some take it multiple times, and find it difficult to relate to the subject. Business A making X number of widgets has to respond to Community B exhibiting a demand curve that goes like this... There's not a lot for people to grab on to for interest in that, even if they are pursuing business degrees. It is all too theoretical. Enter this book. I found `The Economics of Sports', by Michael Leeds and Peter von Allmen while taking a topics class in economics at the graduate level. It presents much of the basic theory that one would cover in an economics course, but puts it all in the context of sports. This is sure to get the attention of many (albeit, alas, not all) of the students in the class much more so than widgets and `Business A'. This book has a decidedly North American slant to it - the primary examples come from Major League Baseball (MLB, and the attendant minor leagues), the National Football League (NFL), the National Hockey League (NHL), and the National Basketball Association (NBA). Within the context of these, topics such as wages and salaries, productivity, internal and external negativities, private vs. public funding, training costs, profit margins, along with simple ideas of supply and demand are covered. The ideas of how a monopoly might work, how reduced competition or restricted trade ...

Nurturing Child and Adolescent Spirituality: Perspectives from the World's Religious Traditions - Karen Marie Yust 22/05/2007

A wide range of possibilities

Nurturing Child and Adolescent Spirituality: Perspectives from the World's Religious Traditions - Karen Marie Yust In the preface, the editors state the question that confronted them at the start of the process for this book - `How do you do justice to the wisdom of multiple religious traditions within a single volume - particularly on a "fuzzy" topic like spirituality?" Even with an idea of being as inclusive as possible, some selectivity had to be put in place - the focus was set on `theological or philosophical perspectives from within religious traditions', those traditions being primarily Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism (with some voices from a few others). This is not intended as a definitive text, but rather as a starting point for conversations between the traditions, cultures, and people. It is unusual in history for cultures to not be concerned about the future (modern political discourse in the West has a very high rate of reference to children and families), and yet the specific concerns of children and adolescents, both in terms of what they need and what they want, are often missing. This is also true in the area of religion and spirituality. `Despite the popular buzz about spirituality, relatively little critical attention has focused on the spiritual lives of children and adolescents. Much of the literature of spirituality has focused instead on adults.' There are various ways in which churches and other religious institutions try to incorporate children and young adults, but they often fall short for various reasons, sometimes due to stereotypes or ...

Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life (Classics of Western Spirituality) 20/05/2007

An amazing spirit...

Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life (Classics of Western Spirituality) William Law was one of the great mystics, clerics, and educators of the Church of England. Born in 1686, he was educated at Cambridge, eventually taking a teaching position there in addition to being ordained in the Church of England. He lost his position at Cambridge for being a Non-Juror (the Church of England being a state religion, clerics and others are required to swear oaths of allegiance to the monarch, and this Law could not do with regard to George I). He wrote the first work, `A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life', one of his best-known works, while in retirement as tutor in the Gibbon household (he was tutor to the father of the historian noted for the work on the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire) in the 1720s. He wrote the second, much shorter work, `The Spirit of Love,' in 1750s. The first is a major work of spiritual practice, rightly deserving the description as a `classic' or `masterpiece'. For a course we teach at my seminary, this book is on the list of spiritual classics one may choose to use for inspiration and spiritual reflection, and for good reason. Influenced by Law's readings from other mystics such as Thomas a Kempis, Johann Tauler and others, this book is full of mystic insight and practical wisdom. It was popular from the start, and remains an enduring classic of post-Reformation spirituality. Law has a fairly ecumenical audience, though he is not without controversy. Law is very much a man of the church, and of a high-liturgy ...
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