September 2009

The Little Prince

The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry ★★★
This is a fairly short book that I read in-flight to Cameroon. It was written by a French pilot, who was once grounded while flying over the Sahara Desert in the 1930s. He eventually died in WWII. The book has achieved near cult status, in part owing to many implications which could be drawn from the story. I’m not sure if the author was hinting at deep profoundness when he wrote the book, though his suggestion that it’s a story mostly for adults tends to hint at that. The story is of a pilot who crashes in the desert, meets a little man (prince) who asks him lots of questions. The little prince then goes into detail describing his own planet, and various other planets that he has visited in the universe before falling to earth. In then follows the little Princes’ impression of earth.
This book was an interesting read, encouraging a focus on appreciating the little things, like a rose. It was not so good of a book at inspiring an ideology. For example, the little prince was responsible for keeping his plant in good order and for preventing the overgrowth of baobabs, by uprooting them early, and if not uprooted, they will overgrow the planet. Yet, the baobabs are simply trees. Does he mean that we offer preference for one plant over another on our earth? He disdains planets that have egotistical kings and greedy business people, but is he suggesting a generality? I hope not. Always mentioned was his preoccupation for getting back to his small world to tend for a single flower, which was supposed to be the only one in the universe, except that there was an abundance of them on earth. So, what is he implying? Environmental implications? Societal implications? Economic, capitalistic implications? I suppose that a person who most loves this story would imply that I simply do not understand. Yet, that in itself is a form of wanton arrogance, as perhaps I understand all too well what the author’s intentions were. The back cover suggests that I am supposed to learn what is really important in life through this little story. But, it hasn’t happened. Perhaps my greatest dismay is that relations with others are important, yet the little prince seemed to control the entire exchange between the pilot and himself. Even the little prince could not tell what was most important in life. Was it his flower, or was it the sheep he desired on his planet, though it might eat his flower? In fact, the little prince seems to imply that he himself was most important. So, we’ll let the little prince return to his own planet, and spend our time on earth using other means as to what is best in life. Just ask Conan the Barbarian!


Fidelio, Hamburg Opera, Cult Opera Series ★★★★★
Though the music is absolutely spectacular and fitting of Beethoven at his best, the opera also shows the problems that Beethoven had at writing opera, in that the staging is quite awkward, making it challenging for any opera company to produce. This opera is a “reality” opera filmed in a real Spanish prison rather than on the stage. The singing is absolutely spectacular, with an awesome cast, including a very young Lucia Popp as Marcelline. The recording has a slightly tinny ring to it, as though you were listening to an old RCA recording from the 1950s. This opera was produced in 1968. In spite of all the faults, it was so well done, that it deserves 5 stars.

Don’t Let the Goats Eat the Loquat Trees

Don’t Let the Goats Eat the Loquat Trees, by Dr. Thomas Hale ★★★★
I really wanted to give this book 5-stars as I truly enjoyed reading it. Thomas Hale is a wonderful writer, mixing an entertaining style with a storyline that is quite fascinating. I truly appreciated his frank, honest style, which seemed to hit home with the experiences that I had in Bangladesh, with the overwhelming number of patients, the extreme poverty, the prejudices against Western medicine, the personal struggles, the struggles with natives, and their own peculiarities. He never paints himself as the miracle doctor and seems to spend more time describing his failures than his successes. The book starts out as a chronological narrative for several chapters, which left me ready to put it down. He describes himself and his wife as not having a clue as to exactly where they were going, or under what conditions they would be living. The first thought was that I was reading the story of a quasi-clueless but deeply altruistic missionary dragging God along as the magic puppy-dog who bales him out of every trouble created by dumb decisions. This book ended up being anything but that and reflected a very pragmatic, hard-working surgeon who had a very real sense of what he could expect and accomplish in Nepal. Much of the book was written in non-chronological order, but with chapters divided into various topics, such as the living conditions, certain events, and philosophical reflections. I enjoyed the chapters where he vignetted various patients.  So, my criticisms. 1) I get a flavor for his character but read almost nothing of his wife, kids, other doctors, or other people involved in his life. 2) He speaks some of Christ, but little about the intention to bring Christ to the Nepalis. I am not certain whether his motivations were altruistic vs. Christ-oriented. 3) The final few chapters entail rhetoric of a Malthusian nature, with him fretting over population growth and food supply and wealth distribution. It seemed like a chapter right out of the clueless mutterings of Tony Campolo, Thomas Sines, or Ron Sider. Overlooking the criticisms, this is a fun book to read and reflective of what it is really like to be a missionary surgeon. I hope that someone like Dr. Kelley offers an autobiography of their own experiences in the field, which certainly would be as enthralling, but leading toward a more appreciative conservatism and reflective of a work of God in the mission field.

The Blues Brothers

The Blues Brothers, starring John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd ★★★★
I give this movie four stars a touch reluctantly since it is really gutter cinema-photography, about which I have ranted in the past. There are no real sexual smut, just bad language, and antics of very bad behavior. The film is quite dated, and most of the jokes are worn out. In spite of all that, it is a funny film, leaving you in suspense as to the outcome, if you don’t remember it from the last time you watched it. John Belushi gets out of prison and immediately gets in trouble from the law again, spending his time with his brother running from the law, while simultaneously trying to re-start their band and raise money for the convent school in which they were raised. Special effects are quite plentiful, such as when they drive their car through a mall, destroying everything, followed by multiple police cars, all of which were destroyed. Having lived in Chicago, it was nice to see the town again.

An Introduction to the New Testament

An Introduction to the New Testament, by DA Carson and DJ Moo ★★★★
This textbook is a companion volume to a previously reviewed text on the Old Testament. The book is primarily encyclopedic in its approach, with heavy referencing. It follows a consistent format, as it deals with each book of the New Testament. The writing is in a deeply orthodox, conservative style, respecting the opus of books compiled as the NT. The discussions usually were of an academic vein, defending the canon and words of Scripture, rather than deconstructing it, as is popular, even among many so-called conservative scholars. It is a dense read, over 700 pages, but a pleasure and worth it.

Orpheus in der Unterwelt

Orpheus in der Unterwelt, by Jacques Offenbach, Hamburg Opera ★★★★
This opera is part of a set, whose review you will be seeing in completion in the next six months, titled Cult Opera. These are operas filmed at the Hamburg Opera, in color, and meant for television. Regardless, they are very well done, with modest but adequate staging, and superb performers. The opera is a comic opera spoof by Offenbach on the Orpheus motif, and a touch raucous, thus, not suited for young children, who wouldn’t be watching this opera anyway. It is a fun opera to watch, and gives the viewer the lighter side of opera, though laced with much speaking. This production ranks with the other Orpheus opera productions that I have. This opera does not have many available productions on DVD, so it’s difficult to compare with other Aufführungen. That’s too bad. I still prefer Les Contes d’Hoffman as my favorite Offenbach opera, but this ranks high.

The Wisdom of Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes

The Wisdom of Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes, an introduction to Wisdom Literature, by Derek Kidner ★★★★
Derek Kidner is one of the great Hebrew scholars of the late 20th century and has written a number of commentaries on Psalms, Proverbs, and wisdom literature. This book provides a summary of information. It is organized by a chapter discussing the themes of a respective book, followed by a chapter of discussion of the current textual criticisms of the book. In the end, a summary chapter of the global impact and value of these three books is discussed. There are three appendices, the first discussing the existent knowledge of contemporary wisdom literature of the mid-east, the second discussing Ecclesiasticus, and the third the Wisdom of Solomon. The book is solid conservative scholarship, though mildly dense to read, and more encyclopedic than devotional. This is a good read, but not the first book I’d pick up on the subject.

Adventures with Russ and Jon

Dates 28,29AUG- Mowich, Wonderland Trail Attempt, 31AUG-02SEPT Century Drive, Crater Lake Loop Success
I had planned on 9 days to do the Wonderland loop, starting at Mowich Lake. All looked good at the start. . .

Unfortunately, it started to rain the first night, and we were rather wet by the second day. After lengthy and careful consideration, realizing that the rain was not going to let up, we decided to abandon ship.

Otherwise, we would have never seen the mountain, even when the weather let up a bit. Therefore, we headed home and decided to do some cycle riding. We decided to do a loop around Mt. Batchelor (Century Loop) as well as a ride I failed last year, from Diamond Lake around Crater Lake, and back to Diamond Lake. The weather was fantastic for both rides. The first (Century Drive) was 54 miles, but only 764 ft. elevation gain. In spite of that, I wasn’t feeling the best a few days before and seemed to be killed by the hills.

Thus, I was quite worried about the Crater Lake loop, which is nothing but climbing. We drove down to Diamond Lake and camped there. The next day, we attacked with vigor. I didn’t think I was going to make it but took up a slow pace, and five hours later, 64 miles, and 6000 ft. elevation gain, arrived back at Diamond Lake with big grins on our faces. It was wonderful being able to finally complete the loop.

My bike again did a fantastic job of keeping us going. Traffic was light, and we met only one other rider, a retired school teacher from Phoenix, AZ with a titanium bicycle. He was getting some end-of-season riding in. Sounds like a great thing to do in retirement. This ride around Crater Lake is a classic that I wouldn’t mind repeating from time to time.