Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Said Dave Barry...

David "Dave" Barry (born July 3, 1947) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American author and columnist, who wrote a nationally syndicated humor column for The Miami Herald from 1983 to 2005. He has also written numerous books of humor and parody, as well as comedic novels.

Cartoonist Jim Hunt

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Elīna Garanča, George Bizet and the Song of Solomon

Elīna Garanča  as Carmen
Photo WXXI

Had George Bizet seen the Latvian beauty, Elīna Garanča, performing Carmen in Richard Eyre’s stunning Metropolitan Opera 2010 production he would probably shouted "Voilà!" (Yess! in French)

For she looks, behaves and sings like Carmen. Here is a sample from the wonderful performance - and what a voice!

"Carmen, I'm like a man gone made for you."

We all realize very soon that private Don José (Roberto Alagna) has absolutely no chance of surviving the seductive charms of this femme fatale. After all, toreador Escamillo (Teddy Tahu Rhodes) is Ole! Ole! all over and not just in the bullfight ring. There is no comparison between the handsome Spanish hero and the humble army deserter Don José.

Carmen is not only showing her female power over men by cruelly tearing Don José's heart from pure Micaëla (Barbara Frittoli) - the guy is willing to abandon everything in this life just to be with her. For a woman she is as God created them.

Matter of life and death for Bizet
It is, of course, not entirely correct to say that George Bizet (1838-1875) was born to compose Carmen. He surely did many other things during his short life. But Carmen is his main achievement and he invested everything on it as he seemed fit bravely ignoring the modesty requirements of his time. When the critics crushed the opera after its first performances in Opéra-Comique in Paris 1874 Bizet just got ill - he withered away and died. Carmen was his life.

Bizet never witnessed the enormous fame his life work would gain in Europe and especially in the USA. Today Carmen is the most frequently performed opera and people just love it. Many who have never set their foot in an opera house keep humming along with the familiar and catchy Habanera or their spirits are lifted by marching along the beat of the spectacular Le toréador .

Art with deep message about love
So if this is George Bizet's greatest life achievement - and it is - so what did he achieve? A bit entertainment for the rich folks?

The performance of Elīna Garanča gives the answer: Carmen is a real woman and not just a figment of imagination.

With subtle looks and not always so subtle gestures and moves she gives a magnificent mezzo-soprano performance of a woman who is playing with love and thinks she is in control of it.

There are such women - not all as beautiful and seductive as Elīna Garanča but as effective with the tools they have to control men and their hearts. Oh yes, there are such women.

Thus, George Bizet's opera is not just high art and as such great entertainment but it has a serious message underlined by his own death soon after the première.

The Bible puts the same message that makes Carmen such a truthful opera in this way: "love is strong as death"

Song of Solomon
I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, that ye stir not up nor awake my love, until he please."

"Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved? I raised thee up under the apple tree; there thy mother brought thee forth; there she brought thee forth that bore thee."

"Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm; for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave; the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame."

"Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it; if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned."
Song of Solomon 8:4-7 KJ21

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Not even Solomon in all his glory

Spring flowers in Jerusalem

Sermon of Mount Matthew 6

25"Therefore I say unto you, take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
 26Behold the fowls of the air, for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
 27"Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
 28And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow. They toil not, neither do they spin,
 29and yet I say unto you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

 30Therefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall He not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
 31Therefore take no thought, saying, `What shall we eat?' or `What shall we drink?' or `Wherewith shall we be clothed?'
 32(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek.) For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
 33But seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.
 34"Take therefore no thought for the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Richard Dawkins, Alister and Joanna McGrath

From the Veritas forum

"I would place Dawkins (and Dennete) in the broad tradition of naturalist explanation of religion that includes Feuerbach, Marx, and Freud. Whatever the benefits of religions might be, these writers believe that they arise entirely inside human minds. No spiritual realities exist outside us. Natural explanations may be given of the origins of belief in God. In the end, this is a circular argument, which presupposes its conclusions. It begins from the assumption that there is no God and then proceeds to show that an explanation of God can be offered which is entirely consistent with this."

Alister McGrath and Joanna Collicut McGrath
The Dawkins Delusion? Atheist Fundamentalism and the Denial of the Divine

Check out more on the book at

"World-renowned scientist Richard Dawkins writes in The God Delusion: "If this book works as I intend, religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down." The volume has received wide coverage, fueled much passionate debate and caused not a little confusion. Alister McGrath, along with his wife Joanna, are ideal to evaluate Dawkins's ideas. Once an atheist himself, he gained a doctorate in molecular biophysics before going on to become a leading Christian theologian. He wonders how two people, who have reflected at length on substantially the same world, could possibly have come to such different conclusions about God. McGrath subjects Dawkins's critique of faith to rigorous scrutiny. His exhilarating, meticulously argued response deals with questions such as Is faith intellectual nonsense? Are science and religion locked in a battle to the death? Can the roots of Christianity be explained away scientifically? Is Christianity simply a force for evil? This book will be warmly received by those looking for a reliable assessment of The God Delusion and the many questions it raises--including, above all, the relevance of faith and the quest for meaning."
From an approving review

Friday, March 9, 2012

Life in the Great Ice Age

Michael and Beverly Oard (1993)
Master Books, Green Forest, Arkansas

"In this colorful novel, your whole family will learn what life was like during the Ice Age after the Flood. Packed full of scientific facts that can be used to defend creation and the Flood, and oppose evolution. Read through this book as a devotional with your children! (Supplemental study guide also available.)"

"Fun way for the whole family to learn how the Bible explains the Ice Age—a colorful novel!"

"A companion study guide to Life in the Great Ice Age. Perfect for high school and small groups!"
(Quoted from the Answers in Genesis page.)

I know personally a Christian family belonging to a strict Bible belt Baptist church. Because the public schools teach godless evolution and present all sorts of other subjects and values that do not conform with Biblical teaching and Christian life-style, they decided to let their children attend a special home-school set up by concerned parents.

The "education" in this well-meaning school was for the children like growing in a barrel. The classes were small and both students and teachers came from guaranteed Christian background. There were daily Bible teachings, devotionals and also some secular subjects were taught such as Math or English.

I could well imagine that the Baptist minister leading that local church and initiating and encouraging this safe Christian education for the children would love to have used the teaching materials provided by Beverly and Michael about what the Bible teaches about the Ice Age.

The results of this safe Christian education and strict pastor-guided family life was total catastrophe. Because the faith of the teachers was more important than their professionalism the kids could hardly read and write proper English after finishing their years of education. They rebelled - of course they rebelled - and hit the worst things this bad world can offer to teenagers. They do not want to hear a word about Jesus and are living both physically and mentally as far from their parents as they can.

Truth makes you free
Life in the Great Ice Age looks innocent and guaranteed Christian and everything good...

It is a wolf in sheep's clothing.

This line of education promotes separatism, obscurantism, false information about the Bible (which knows nothing about Ice Age or Mammoths) and the nature (Ice Age caused by the Flood of Noah)

When such nonsense is offered to the children in the context of devotionals and Bible reading the parents and teachers will have a very lovely bright eyed group of children listening every word, trusting every lie, relying on the authority as God has built them.

Once they grow up they shake off both the lies that Bevelry and Michael Oard are teaching and the Bible associated with it. Some stay in but those who find the truth will be free.

It is not an easy road, to be free from such an overwhelming heritage.

Jesus loves children
"Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in My name, receiveth Me.

 But whoso shall cause one of these little ones who believe in Me to fall, it were better for him that a millstone were hung about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea."
Matthew 18:4-6 KJ21

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Grand Canyon and Young Earth Creationists

Sunset looking east from Yaki Point - S Rim
Grand Canyon National Park - Arizona

The Grand Canyon National Park website includes much information also about the Geologic formations in this masterpiece of God's creation.

"The Grand Canyon of the Colorado River is a world-renowned showplace of geology. Geologic studies in the park began with the work of Newberry in 1858, and continue today. The Grand Canyon’s excellent display of layered rock is invaluable in unraveling the region’s geologic history. Extensive carving of the plateaus allows for the detailed study of the Earth's movements. Processes of stream erosion and vulcanism are also easily seen and studied."

Grand Canyon is well-known to all US school kids and natural part of the school curriculum, it is favourite visiting place for families on vacation and often depicted in the media from movies to TV documentaries. In short, one of those places that everyone knows something about.

As such Grand Canyon is a direct challenge to the American Christians and others who hold the view that God created the world around 4000 before the birth of Christ.

So what to do?

Well, with practical skills and energy and courage the people in the Creation, Evolution and Science Ministries take the bull from its horns and challenge the prevailing teaching about the way Grand Canyon was created and about its age.

The website offers guided Christian Rim and Raft tours to the torrents of Colorado river. They have built a Grand Canyon observatory where the truth about the world is demonstrated and published numerous papers to show that talk about the ancient age of the canyon is a mistake.

The arguments against scientific dating and for Biblical date are presented in popular way in several articles on this page that also takes a generic hit at Darwinism.

The general idea is that waters did actually dig the Grand Canyon as people say but that they were the waters of the Great Flood described in the Book of Genesis.

This is not so new idea as the early 19th century debate on the uniform theories of one the founders of modern Geology, Sir Charles Lyell that first suggested much greater age for the Earth than the Ussher chronology inidcated.  These included similar hypotheses of catastrophic floods called Fluvialism. According to these ideas there were several floods shaping the surface of the Earth and the last and biggest one was the Great Flood of the Bible.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Forrest Gump (1994) and the Feather of Destiny

Forrest Gump was the top grossing  film in North America in 1994. Directed by Robert Zemeckis (1051) of Back to the Future and Who Framed Roger Rabbit fame. Deservedly, Zemeckis received the Academy Award for Best Director for Forrest Gump.

This is an unforgettable movie much because of the director and because of Tom Hanks (Forrest), Robin Wright (Jenny), Gary Sinise (Lieutenant Dan Tailor), Mykelti Williamson (Bubba) and the other actors, special effects experts, cameramen and crew. (Did I forget someone?)

But mostly it is unforgettable because of its contents rather loosely based on the book by the same name written by the American writer Winston Groom (1944). Groom was born in Alabama and intimately knows the places and folks where the movie Forrest Gump was largely filmed.

The Feather of Destiny
feather falling  feather landed
From the opening scene of Forrest Gump

The feather is leading visual and symbolic theme in Forrest Gump. The movie begins with the camera following a seemingly random flight of a feather which is then picked by Forrest and it ends with the feather flying in the wind.

This is movie magic, powerful imagery and conveys a subtle but clear message about life of the Vietnam generation living in the United States of America. 

The flying feather conveys a feeling of life that is rather randomly pushed by the anonymous forces of Destiny and how people react in the midst of all this that is happening to them and to the people near them. 

The freely flying feather does not suggest purpose in human experience. It places emphasis on the external events into which Forrest Gump rather randomly wanders as by chance. The situations are often comic and depicted in truly hilarious ways but always with dignity and underlying seriousness. Even when poking fun on the Shroud of Veronica.

The way Tom Hanks act Forrest is a valuable and lasting statement  about the value of every human being and the dignity of even the simplest and most naive people among us. Hanks performance emphasizes the humanity and surprising depth of feeling and morality of also mentally handicapped. And the potential of physically handicapped to influence even someone like Elvis Presley!

The Feather of Destiny theme is repeated also in words, for as his mother used to say, life is like a box of chocolates. So run, Forrest, run and when something goes wrong take it easy, for stupid is and stupid does...

Destiny or guidance
But is life really like the random box of chocolates, humans driven by the winds of Destiny?

For the movie itself is carefully planned and guides Forrest from significant event to another allowing us to see the fundamental human values that are guiding his life.

Even the theme is a feather driven in the wind the realization is a carefully crafted life of a human being surviving and flourishing and inspiring others to survive and flourish.

So... personally I believe that also our real life outside the movie theatres is not randomly driven by the winds of Fate.

It is also not carefully crafted by some invisible Movie Director as if we have no role in it.

The Son of God does not rule us over our will but rather wants to walk with us through the tribunals, losses and victories of life, in health and sickness, in war and peace, in life and death. As our true Friend.

Power of love
What I personally like most about the movie Forrest Gump is the value it gives to the power of love.

Forrest at Jenny's tomb