Last night we heard the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra play Pierre Jalbert's deeply moving In Aeternum, which he wrote as a memorial to his niece who died at birth. Naturally, my thoughts were about Isaac as I listened, running a gamut of emotions, including anger during an intense part of the work with a heartbeat motif running through it—that brought back memories of the doctor who interrupted the family's last moments together to tell them Isaac's heart rate was slowing down.

I had the privilege of speaking briefly with Jalbert afterwards and was able to tell him (though not fully express) how much the music meant to me. You can hear an exerpt of In Aeternum here.

(Some readers of this blog will be interested to know that Jalbert is a native son of Manchester, New Hampshire!)

Having been set up by last night's experience, I was not prepared to handle this morning's news from the United Kingdom: The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecology is recommending active euthanasia for severely disabled newborns(More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, November 5, 2006 at 7:07 am | Edit
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Wild at Heart, by John Eldredge (Thomas Nelson, Nashville, Tennessee, 2001)
Captivating, by John and Stasi Eldredge (Thomas Nelson, Nashville, Tennessee, 2005)

When a good friend lent me Wild at Heart, it took a long time for me to steel myself to read it, for I expected it to make me angry. I've had more than my fill of books, especially from Christian authors, telling men to be authoritative and women to wear makeup and Saran Wrap.

After the first few pages, I was sure I was right, and I was going to hate the book. But I kept reading—something I'm not sure was true of many of those who wrote the negative reviews I read—and became convinced it's a worthwhile book. Oh, there's plenty I found exasperating, a lot I disagree with, and much that's expressed poorly, but Eldredge is asking important questions and has a few good answers. Although it deals with much more than just the church, the book is worth reading if only because it dares reveal church as a place where, all too often, the men are bored and the women are tired—and offers a remedy. Captivating attempts to do for women what Wild at Heart does for men. It is not as good, but still valuable.

(I wonder why it is almost all of my reviews these days seem to boil down to, "This book has some good things to say even though it requires a lot of work to get past the way in which they are presented.") (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, October 26, 2006 at 10:19 am | Edit
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This isn't a review of Tom Wolfe's I Am Charlotte Simmons. I haven't read the book, and am not sure I have the stomach to. But I found Steve Garber's review (thanks to Tom Grosh) and it's well worth reading. It's a little long, so whet your appetite with his conversation with two young women about the book.

One of them found the story of Charlotte's freshman year at college to be frighteningly realistic, while the other recalled plenty of on-campus exceptions to the sex-drug-and-alcohol party crowd: first and second generation Americans, goal-driven students intent on getting into graduate school, people immersed in their field of study, and communities of faith.

I don't know about the book, but the review is simultaneously horrifying and hopeful.
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, August 30, 2006 at 7:10 pm | Edit
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I like supporting small companies and local businesses, including local incarnations of chain stores. Browsing the nearby Borders, scanning the shelves, leafing through physcial books held in my own hands—this experience has a satisfaction that online shopping cannot match, and I know that if I buy all my books online, I risk losing the local experience forever.

Nonetheless, it appears I have unusual tastes in books, music, and other areas, because what is on display at the local store is too often not what I want, and what I want must be ordered. That's where I draw the line: if it must be ordered, I'll do it myself, thank you. That's when I'm especially thankful for and other online retailers. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, August 4, 2006 at 9:11 am | Edit
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I know I’m an independent sort of blogger. My need is to write, and I use the blog format because the LifeType software is so easy to use, is very flexible, and allows comments. The only reason I'm familiar at all with commercial places like LiveJournal, MySpace, and Blogger is that I have to venture into that territory to read some of my friends' blogs. So I'm really clueless about the whole blogging community thing, especially memes and tagging, which generally seem pretty silly to me.


However, a friend has this on her blog, and I like it, so I'm going to do it. I won't tag anyone, but I'd love to read your responses if you want to put them in a comment here, or on your own blog if you have one.

Note: I could answer every one of these points with "The Bible," except possibly #7 (though in some moods, who knows?), but that would be rather pointless, so I'm going to leave it out and consider other books. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, July 27, 2006 at 9:46 am | Edit
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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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