I can't recommend the movie Lost in Translation to anyone I know. It's an R-rated film with an uninspiring story and scenes you'd rather not have in your mind. However, we watched it the other day and I enjoyed it very much, because it is set in Japan. It was fun to hear the crosswalk music (not Comin' Through the Rye, which you can hear in Swing Girls, but the tune for the other direction. I would never have noticed it in the movie if we hadn't been to Japan. It was also wonderful to be able to recognize some of the spoken Japanese words, though I was embarrassed by how much katakana I have forgotten.

Because the film is set mostly in Tokyo, it shows many of the parts of Japan I didn't care for, from the garish lights and colors to the pachinko parlors. But even those were reminders of our trip, and thus enjoyable.
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, July 25, 2006 at 8:56 pm | Edit
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If you live in the United States, you may never have a chance to see the movie, Swing Girls. It is presently unavailable in this country, and if you get it in Japan you need either a region-free DVD player or a good friend in the A-V business. But this is the movie to see for the best glimpse into Janet's life in Japan short of spending a very long time in an airplane. You'll see a school that looks very much like hers, from the physical layout to the students' uniforms to their voices and actions. Although the movie was filmed in a different area of Japan, the scenery is much the same. You'll even get to hear the crosswalk music, that famous old Japanese tune, Comin' Through the Rye. I loved the crosswalk music, though Porter thinks it would drive him crazy if he stayed in Japan very long. There's a different tune for crossing in the other direction, but I don't know what it is; it does sound a little more as if it might really be a Japanese song.

Swing Girls is not great art, but it's a fun story with no objectionable parts if your children can't read. If they can, be warned that the English subtitle translation of the Japanese contains a few four-letter words. Whether the Japanese itself was offensive, I don't know.
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, July 25, 2006 at 8:16 pm | Edit
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Home Education Magazine has a great article by Deborah Markus called Being a Cheerful Rebel. Sometimes being a nonconformist feels great, and sometimes it just feels lonely. Sometimes you love explaining your lifestyle choices to others, and sometimes you wish they'd just mind their own business. But ready or not, the questions will come, and Markus has some good suggestions for preparing to meet them. My favorite is

Don't Apologize: Stand strong. If you don't seem firmly convinced of the rightness of your course of action, why should anyone else? Especially someone who's never heard anything but conventional wisdom on the subject, all of which disagrees with you?

St. Peter knew something of the pressures of being outside the mainstream, and he had good advice, too:

Always be preparied to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence; and keep your conscience clear.
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, July 25, 2006 at 10:14 am | Edit
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The Visitation, by Frank Peretti (W Publishing Group, Nashville, Tennessee, 2003)

I believe it was Samuel Goldwyn who said, "If you want to send a message, use Western Union." He had a point. Great writers manage to convey many messages through their works, but people who start writing with a message in mind tend to write mediocre novels.

I find Frank Peretti's stories entertaining, and better than much so-called Christian fiction; certainly worlds better than the popular LaHaye/Jenkins Left Behind series. There's no doubt that his writing style and technique have improved considerably over the years, too. But Peretti always seems to have a particular axe to grind. One of his best books, Monster, still has specific points about evolution/creation and the perils of genetic engineering which he makes rather heavy-handedly. The Visitation suffers from the same problem, and more. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, July 13, 2006 at 10:47 am | Edit
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Okay, so the wider dissemination of lesser-known comic strips is not the greatest use of the Internet, but it's fun. I've featured Baldo before, but now they have an official Baldo website to include, and today's strip is worth broadcasting.

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, July 3, 2006 at 7:10 am | Edit
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We went to the Orlando Science Center last weekend. Because they had three new movies we hadn't seen, we didn't have much time for the exhibits, but that's okay since we know them all pretty well. However, they do have a new traveling exhibit called Invention at Play, at which we spent all the rest of our time, and which is one of the best new exhibits I've seen in a long time, at any science musuem. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, June 2, 2006 at 7:15 am | Edit
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Mere Discipleship: Radical Christianity in a Rebellious World, by Lee C. Camp (Brazos Press, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2003)

Because I believe Mere Discipleship to be an important book for Christians who are seeking more from their faith than "fire insurance," I want to deal with some of its problems first. There was enough that I found really annoying that I want to get some of it out of the way, so anyone who feels as I do will be encouraged to read past that and receive the good therein. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, June 1, 2006 at 10:22 am | Edit
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Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden side of Everything, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner (William Morrow, New York, 2005)

Economist Steven D. Levitt enjoys standing a problem on its head to see what might shake out of its pockets; Freakonomics is an exhibit of his garnered treasures. Levitt takes on anything that piques his interest: from how to detect teachers who cheat on their students' exams to how legalized abortion affected crime rates, from what really broke up the Ku Klux Klan to the financial workings of inner city gangs, from why a swimming pool is more dangerous than a gun to parenting skills and naming trends. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, May 16, 2006 at 12:13 pm | Edit
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Any extravagance around the time of a birthday counts as part of the celebration, and thus comes without guilt. Thus when Porter wanted to attend the Mad Cow Theatre Company's It Was a Very Good Year, part of the Orlando Cabaret Festival, and even suggested we get the special dinner package, who was I to complain? (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, May 6, 2006 at 1:30 pm | Edit
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Chronological stories from our trip to Japan will have to wait until I have more time, but I'll try to fit in an occasionally tidbit here and there.

Many people have heard of the really fancy Japanese toilets, the ones with heated seats and more buttons than a DVD player, including Cover-Up Sound, Wash, and Blow Dry. I haven't had the opportunity to try anything but the warm seat feature (especially nice in unheated bathrooms), but we'd certainly have one if they were readily available at a reasonable price in the United States. I suppose we could special order one for an outrageous sum, but they aren't that wonderful.

It would take not money, but a societal attitude change, to make another of the great Japanese toilets available in the United States: the "squatty potty." Nearly flush with the ground (pardon the pun), these toilets are particularly great for public places, as they are much easier to keep clean than the kind we are accustomed to. They are also surprisingly easy to use. Before I tried one, I couldn't picture using it successfully, but it's really no problem at all.

My favorite Japanese toilet is the kind in Janet's apartment. It's a "normal" toilet with one fabulous feature: the tank lid is a faucet/sink arrangement. Flushing the toilet causes water to pour out of the faucet for handwashing purposes; the water drains into the toilet tank and is used for the next flush. What an economical, ecological idea!
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, March 29, 2006 at 6:22 pm | Edit
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There were any number of reasons why we shouldn't have gone to the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra's A Celtic Fantasy concert last night. We have a huge deadline looming, and delightful out of town company as well. However, a commitment to a friend kept us from taking the logical course and giving away our tickets, and are we glad we didn't miss the performance!

When the OPO brought renowned flutist James Galway to town we enjoyed that concert tremendously. Last nightís Celtic Fantasy, featuring OPO principal flutist Aaron Goldman was every bit as delightful, if not more so. As Galway had done, Aaron played both flute and pennywhistle with grace and beauty and skill. Memo to the Orlando Philharmonic: James Galway is no doubt a very busy and expensive performer. Forget the big names: give us more Aaron Goldman! (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, March 19, 2006 at 11:53 am | Edit
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Forget the green beer. After having discovered genuine Irish ancestors in my heritage, I'm even more convinced that any good celebration of St. Patrick's Day must include singing his very own hymn, usually called St. Patrick's Breastplate or I Bind unto Myself Today. The words are attributed to St. Patrick himself, with the modern, metrical version provided by Cecil Frances Alexander.

The challenge in St. Patrick's for first time singers is finding the flow; the first verse is shorter than the rest, one or two verses (depending on the version) are sung to a different tune, and usually you must turn the page to complete this hymn. (In my favorite hymnal it covers four pages!)

The tunes are Irish and easily singable, however, and the words packed with theology, beauty, and joy. Do yourself and St. Patrick a favor, and honor him on this day by becoming acquainted with this grand and glorious expression of ancient Celtic Christian faith.

The Oremus Hymnal includes the commonly sung verses and page numbers for St. Patrick's Breastplate in a large collection of hymnals.

The Cyber Hymnal includes two additional verses that are rarely sung but give even more of a feel for the ancient Celtic culture out of which which it arose.

This Irish Culture and Customs site has a non-metrical translation of the poem.
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, March 17, 2006 at 6:31 am | Edit
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We should visit restaurants more often when they are closed! My post about the Sake Moon tells how we discovered that fine restaurant because the one at which we had intended to eat was not open. Ironically, our next great discovery came because the Sake Moon was closed when Porter was in the mood for pho(More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, March 14, 2006 at 10:00 pm | Edit
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For many years before he died, my father would come visit us for a month each year around February (usually a good month to exchange Pennsylvania for Florida temporarily). Once a week he would take us to lunch at the Sakura, the best Japanese restaurant in our experience, including the time when all the restaurants of Boston were at hand.

Alas, when we returned from Massachusetts we were able to enjoy only one more meal at the Sakura before it closed. We've spent the last three years searching for a substitute, to no avail. The Asian restaurant that took its place isn't bad, however, and that's where we headed last Monday night. We remembered too late that it is closed on Mondays, but that disappointment quickly turned into a blessing. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, March 14, 2006 at 4:08 pm | Edit
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Affluenza, by John de Graaf, David Wann, and Thomas H. Naylor (Berrett-Koehler, San Francisco, 2001)

affluenza, n. a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety, and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more

Many years ago I was walking through downtown Wayne, Pennsylvania with my father, and we stepped into the Encore bookstore. While browsing, I came upon The Plug-In Drug, Marie Winnís indictment of television. It was a life-changing book. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, February 22, 2006 at 1:31 pm | Edit
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