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New York Burning – a Review

Burned at the StakeNew York City, 1741 Worse than the Salem Witch Trials were the reactive trials and horrid executions of slaves in New York city in 1741.  Oh, how thoughts can be twisted to justify unjust cruelty! I got attracted to this topic and author when finishing up my talks on Thomas Jefferson.  Slavery was far more varied and widespread than I had known.  While reading an article by Jill Lepore, professor of History at Harvard, I was so attracted to her easily-readable, comma-laden…

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“Crazy for God” Review

When I’m sorry a book ends, I know it was good. I liked Frank Schaffer’s Crazy for God. His honesty, self-deprecating humor, gentle critiques of his Christian context, and scathing rebuke of those who co-opt Christianity for partisan divisiveness - all make me admire him.
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Academy Award Appreciation

Griping at that 88th Academy Awards obscured the magnificent spectacle it was.  The need to include more minorities, while important to admit and improve, shouldn't distract us from the reason to celebrate marvelous movies. That there is no proportional representation of blacks and other minorities is a problem in the midst of being admitted and addressed.  It is an industry, like America, too slow to include and praise all of us.  It lags and needs to be goaded, yes.  But fixing entrenched racism isn't its…

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The Well-Tuned Brain Reviewed

Doctor Peter Whybrow's 2015 book The Well-Tuned Brain: Neuroscience and the Life Well Lived offers biological and psychological mechanisms for failing societies and successful ones.   Would that we read and heed. He opens quoting John Dewey's test of all political institutions and industrial arrangements: whether "they make to the all-around growth of every member of society."  Who asks such questions these days, and who has answers? He reminds us of our recent context.  Our population has doubled since the 1950's and our economy has increased…

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Reviewing Vern’s Sonnets: “Thanks for Noticing”

I wouldn't have read Thanks for Noticing - The Interpretation of Desire by the Reverend Doctor Vern Barnet were he not my friend from seminary.  Vern was a bold visionary, too much for the staid faculty at our University of Chicago seminary, Meadville/Lombard. His three-volume D. Min. thesis on The Void may have perplexed and overwhelmed them.  True to his brilliant mind and audacious quirks, he brings his encyclopedic knowledge of trans-cultural mytho-religious facts into his penchant to link the sacred and the sexual. I'm…

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Fury Fun Folly

George Miller’s Fury Road, fourth in his Mad Max series and thirty years after the original, is a stunning thrill ride of mostly real stunts against a background of preposterous illogic. It left me exhausted and charged up, but uncaring. I loved the stunts. Fights and crashes seemed realistic. The timing felt right. The use of 3-D and computer-generated tricks weren’t overplayed. Much of it seemed experimental; risky movie-making for an audience used to “anything goes,” when what goes here was real, or at least…

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Debt of Honor (Book Review)

Thinking I spend too much time reading essays, opinions, and information, I dove into a big, fat novel, Tom Clancy’s Debt of Honor.  766 pages later, I wondered why. If I cared about radar technology, war-game theory, economic analysis, etc. I might have a debt of gratitude to Mr. Clancy.  He did a fine job of bringing me the inside scoop on how these things work and how various forces and personalities might use them to launch and end a war. But even in the…

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Passion’s Fog

Passion can fog the mind. We can get so roused or riled we no longer think clear or heed our conscience. We can get so swept up in lust, love or anger we think of nothing else. We can get so full of zeal we barely notice or care what it does to others. I’m not against passion. We need passion to enliven us. Like Rod Stewart’s song says, “Even the president needs some passion, passion.” The mild twinges of passion we get from watching…

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The Da Vinci Code: A Review

Having not read The Da Vinci Code, as has some sixty million readers worldwide, I felt professionally obliged to see the movie.  It did not shock me, but I’m used to these ideas.  (I favor the more radical possibility that Jesus not only loved Mary Magdeline and fathered a child with her, but survived his crucifixion (with her and his mother’s help) and lived on to be a father of children in northern India, where he is buried.)  In the Da Vinci Code, she left…

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