December 2009

WordPress for Dummies

WordPress for Dummies, by Lisa Sabin-Wilson ★★
Now that I’m doing my own web pages, with a lot of help from my son-in-law Andrew, I’ve decided that I need to grasp some of the nuances of WordPress. Interestingly, many web pages are made by WordPress, as it possesses the best easy blog maker using SQL and PHP protocols. This book is a good introduction to WordPress. Its weakness is that it is both too easy and too hard. Most of the time in the book is spent taking you through all the things you can click on in WordPress which you could generally figure out for yourself. The rest of the book is technical aspects that are not well introduced, and thus not useable. An instance of this is the teaching of modification of CSS formats, which is nice to know, though one is not going to be messing with CSS until they’ve mastered the CSS language. All in all the book is a good but limited introduction to WordPress.

Die Fledermaus: Covent Garden

Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss, conducted by Placido Domingo, Royal Opera Covent Garden ★★★★
Die Fledermaus is a fun opera that we watch most New Year’s Eves, celebrating this New Years’  Eve just a bit early. This production is well done, and Hermann Prey and Kiri Te Kanawa are absolutely marvelous. Of particular note, Te Kanawa spoke mostly English but some German, Prey spoke mostly German but some English and the other spoken parts were a mix, with some French, Italian, and Russian, as well as Hungarian thrown in. The conductor (Domingo) even was able to add some vocal to the opera. You could tell that the singers were enjoying the production, and it works well for New Year’s Eve.

The Shack

The Shack, by Wm. Paul Young ★
I was given this book by a dear friend, who encouraged me to read it and then discuss the book with him. It apparently has been significant in his life. The book is essentially mostly conversations between Mack, and a large black lady, a small Oriental lady, and a blue-collar working man, representing “god”. Mack has a traumatic childhood, followed by the awkward loss of his youngest child, and expresses anger at ‘god’ for his life. ‘God’ then encounters Mack at the shack where Mack’s child Missy was murdered, and Mack engages in a lengthy psychobabble exchange about ‘god’s’ love for everybody, and how  ‘god’ is fond of us.
The book fails in many ways. 1) It attempts at gender-neutrality of God in a way that God never ever described of himself, 2) it is oblivious to the true character of God, his wrath, his morality, his offense at sin, 3) it diminishes mans’ sinfulness, not even speaking of sin, 4) it diminishes God’s authority, making it an interchange between God and man, with a massive Arminian theological flavor 5) it completely misunderstands the nature of Gods’ judgment, assuming that it would represent an angry god or judgmental god. 6) it assumes that relations are the highest good in life, rather than holiness, 7) it expresses distaste for anything institutional or orderly as diminishing Gods’ true expression. In all, the book is a complete failure. The fact that it has achieved such great popularity is quite concerning to me, as many who read it will see God in a new light, a light which is not the God of Scripture at all. There is almost no talk about Scripture in this book, as the relationship doesn’t require a book. It relishes in antinomianism, assuming that Paul’s injunctions about the law suggest that we live by no law at all. Historical movements against “dead” theologizing have usually swung far too far toward completely trashing theology,, but this trend is unfortunately still quite popular if not growing among Christians. It is incomprehensible and saddening how thoroughly the possibility of a theology of God has been abandoned by the new “conservative” Christian. If there is any virtue in this book, it is that it essentially fights a straw-man. It creates a quasi-Christian in Mack who has many false thoughts about God, and anger with God. The weakness of the book is the inability to offer true insights into the nature and character of either man or God. One might ask if the ‘god’ of The Shack is a kinder-gentler ‘god’. In this book, he (she) is, but when looked at with a discerning eye, Young’s ‘god’ ends up as confused as we are. It is only the God of Scripture, described well by the Reformers, that gives us a God that is truly worth loving and giving one’s life to.

Dreamweaver CS3 On Demand

Dreamweaver CS3 On Demand ★★
I needed to quickly learn Dreamweaver since iWeb has become a severe disappointment to me. I decided to simply write my own webpage, and thus have control over everything. This book was no help. The book has its strengths. It is beautifully illustrated and shows in very clear steps how to make certain functions happen. What it doesn’t tell you, is how to use those functions to write a webpage. I presume that the authors assume that you know how to compose a webpage, and are simply switching from another program to Dreamweaver. For a beginner, this book is essentially worthless.

Mad Max Road Warrior Series

Mad Max Road Warrior Series, starring Mel Gibson ★★★
The story of a post-apocalyptic venture in Australia, where motorcycle gangs and mad road rage dudes seek to dominate the diminishing supplies of gasoline available. These movies are best seen in a series and are mostly bizarre episodes of war being engaged from ever more bizarre designs of road, rail, and air vehicles. Mel stars as a cop whose family was murdered by a motorcycle gang, and goes on to ever greater glory in each movie, conquering the bad guys. I’ve seen much better films of a post-apocalyptic nature, and these don’t really do it for me. Thus, three stars.

Going Rogue

Please note well… I am NOT writing about the book Going Rouge!!!!!

Going Rogue, by Sarah Palin ★★★
This book was read by me since Betsy and I had lunch with the ghost-writer, Lynn Vincent. The ghostwriting is excellent, with good flow and easy readability. This is one of the first times I have ever read a contemporary biography, especially of a political official, since politicians tend to make me nauseated, even when I agree with them (Ron Paul is a rare exception). I actually just finished reading Paul’s latest book on End the Fed, and the difference in the way Sarah Palin and Ron Paul think is quite apparent. Sarah remains a “soccer mom”, unsophisticated, the sort of person who would mouth off on public talk radio, full of great ideas. She did make a reasonably good governor, but national politics, with a larger heterogeneity of thought and opinion, tended to overwhelm her. This book helped me to both agree with Sarah while at the same time seeing that she would make a terrible president. The book is best read in skimming mode, since too many details are included, attempting to paint Sarah as an ordinary US citizen, concerned enough to fight to become VP or president of the USA. It also shows a person that doesn’t have the ability to think deeply enough to best serve as the leader of the most powerful nation in the world. This book is not recommended unless you are just deeply interested in Sarah Palin.

The Gods Must Be Crazy

The Gods Must be Crazy I and II ★★★★
It was fitting to watch these films on return from Africa. The first is the story of an African bushman, seeking to get rid of a coke bottle that his tribe thinks is bringing trouble to the tribe, a renegade revolutionary, and his group of bandits, a scientist studying animals of the Kalahari, and a school teacher. Their lives all collide in a most interesting fashion in this film, reflecting the conflict of cultures occurring in Africa.
The Gods Must Be Crazy II is a continuation of the same theme, this time also with multiple stories threading together, one with the bushman trying to find his children, another with elephant tusk poachers, another with a New York female lawyer accidentally stuck in the brush, etc. The story similarly resolves itself.
There is supposedly a GMBC III  which reportedly is not worth watching. These two films are entertaining but not in the top 100 of best films of all time.

The Marriage of Figaro

The Marriage of Figaro, Mozart, Hamburg Opera, (Cult Opera) ★★★★
11DEC09 – This opera is a wonderful classic, performed in traditional style in the 1970s by the Hamburg Opera company. The recording is not perfect in technique, yet the performance is very compelling and well done. This is a version of Figaro worth having in any musical repertoire. The singing was actually performed in German, rather than Italian, the way Mozart originally scripted the opera. This doesn’t seem to distract from the performance. Tom Krause and Edith Mathis are the two true stars in this film, both with superb acting and voices to make the opera a true success.

Conspiracy Theory

Conspiracy Theory, starring Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts ★★★★
This is a film that suggests a plethora of secret activities occurring by various governmental agencies, none aware of what the next is doing. Mel Gibson plays a taxi driver caught up in such an event, involved in psychiatric mind-bending by a government official seeking to terminate various lives by various accidents occurring to them. Gibson then encounters Julia as a lawyer-investigator for the police force, caught in trying to figure out Gibson’s “psychosis” or delusionary patterns from that of actual reality. The movie is fast-paced and doesn’t end as expected. A film that is highly recommended.