Back

Blake I. Collier | The Dirty Deacon

Contributor for Mockingbird | Co-creator of Son of Byford | Contributor for Christ & Pop Culture
1860609.fcaef04.10af6736cdd54c3ba9f0d7ababea0ebe

2009

Favorite Horror Moments

Day Twenty-One - Drag Me To Hell (2009) - The Seance.

This film was a welcome return to Raimi’s rather humorous and farcical take on horror films and this scene is so iconically Raimi in its content and filming technique.

This ain’t no place for no hero…

a spacey soul/funk instrumental version of Ghostface Killah’s “Cherchez La Ghost” from Supreme Clientele.

2012: The End of the World…Week 47

Strawfoot - How We Prospered

Even though their last album was quite good in its own right, this album is significantly better.  It is more cohesive musically and thematically.  From the first song to the last, this album presents music that is engaging both lyrically and musically.  Marcus Eder’s vocals are less twangy and have a fuller edge to them which improves the overall sound of the band.  It worked for Chasing Locusts, but it would not have fit well with the atmosphere of this album.  They also allowed the electric guitars to have more of a premiere place in the songs as well, but they do it in such a way where it does not overpower the acoustic and bluegrass elements.  “Invisible Man” is the most effortless example of the combination of both of these elements into a sonic unity.  It has power and grabs your attention from the beginning.  This is a pleasing record and one which I will probably include in my top albums for the year. 

There are a couple of songs that really stretch the overall sound of the band: “Independence Day” and “Churchyard Cough.” “Independence Day” sounds more like something from a singer-songwriter’s solo album.  It is simple, but dark and effective.  Easily the best song on this album overall.  The lyrics mix allusions of American past and familial conflict that shows an intensity not found in most work by singer-songwriters.  “Churchyard Cough” made me do a double take on the first listen because it sounded like it had been ripped directly from a Flogging Molly album.  The vocals were almost indistinguishable from Dave King and I automatically fell for this rather short, frantic song.  Neither one of these songs would have been expected from Strawfoot but were a welcomed addition and a sign of talent and willingness to stretch themselves and the image of their band.  Spectacular album and looking forward to seeing where they go from here.

Apocalyptic Rating: 9 out of 10 (Oh come and sit beside me, I’ll share a dreadful tale)

Brought to you by

Introverts in the Church: Finding our Place in an Extroverted Culture, by Adam S. McHugh, 2009.
This book was recommended to me by a friend at church and the very subject was intriguing and wholly personal to my own demeanor.  I have always known myself to be introverted, but didn’t fully realize how that really affected my identity.  If McHugh is accurate in his discussion of what being introverted is, how they tick and what that means living in an extroverted culture, then I am profoundly introverted.  Not every single little description fit me to the tee, but the larger picture that was painted described my understanding of my own personality quite vividly.  Even putting words to things I have noticed and felt, but never could explain.  It is comforting to see a subject that is so largely overlooked in our society today being tackled and applied to the church as well.  I am introverted and the subject never came to my mind…must be comfortable (and resigned?) with the fact that we are living in an overly extroverted world, where quantitative words rule over qualitative silences.
Hi, my name is Blake. And I am an introvert. 
McHugh covers a wide range of issues that surround the larger culture (and their subsequent manifestations in the American church) and how they exclude the introverted personality.  Everything from formation of relationships, to group work, to speaking is analyzed with the introvert in view.  What McHugh does well is point out the obvious lack of attention paid to those with the introverted personality and how it seems that the trajectory of the modern American society makes those of us who are not extroverted feel like something is wrong with us, like our personality is off, instead of just beautifully and divinely designed…differently.  He does a great job of placing church, evangelism and discipleship in the language and voice of the introverted personality.  I, personally, found his explanation of the introversion and our gifts to be encouraging and, instead of thinking myself weird or eccentric, I can view myself as just filling a need that is not found to be elemental to the extrovert. 
As helpful as I think this book is, McHugh does, at times, seem to equate or turn the introverted mind and personality into some form of mystical Christianity.  Now, I love reading Christian mystics and monks and find that they are often maligned because they don’t fit perfectly into a dogmatic mold that, especially Protestants, has a set theology and program, even though when we are at our most honest, we know that all of the teaching, training and schooling will lead us to nothing more than bended knee and trembling in the presence of a glorious Father.  But, some of the ways he mentioned for churches to work towards including introverts, seem, to me, to be a bit of an over-correction.  I, personally, may lean towards those practices and the liturgy of more traditional services, but I don’t necessarily find this to be mandatory in the space of the church life.  But I did appreciate McHugh’s ideas about forming a church worship and experience around including elements that make both extroverts and introverts uncomfortable in order to stretch them in a beneficial way.
The only other problem I had with the book overall was the fact that I felt he didn’t address the issues inherent in being an introvert that could lead to sin and broken relationships.  He covered a lot of those things throughout the book, but I think he would have been better off in devoting a whole chapter towards thoughtfully, honestly and compassionately laying out where the introvert goes wrong and where they desperately need the grace of God to come in and transform those elements of their personality that are not God-honoring.  I know, in my own life, I can tell how being an introvert allows for sin to come up fairly naturally in my own life.  And I know that as much as I love being the way I am, its probably not all good to be that way.  I think his book would have done wonders if he had been a little more critical of the introvert’s personality—not to malign us or reinforce our feeling of second-class status—so that we may be both encourage and exhorted to depend on God who, both, made us with these distinct personalities, but wants us to be who we were truly meant to be in the economy of grace.
I highly recommend this book for all of the introverts, like me, out there, because it does encourage us to look for how we are to fit into a larger culture and into the whole of the body of believers.
Introverts in the Church: Finding our Place in an Extroverted Culture, by Adam S. McHugh, 2009.
This book was recommended to me by a friend at church and the very subject was intriguing and wholly personal to my own demeanor.  I have always known myself to be introverted, but didn’t fully realize how that really affected my identity.  If McHugh is accurate in his discussion of what being introverted is, how they tick and what that means living in an extroverted culture, then I am profoundly introverted.  Not every single little description fit me to the tee, but the larger picture that was painted described my understanding of my own personality quite vividly.  Even putting words to things I have noticed and felt, but never could explain.  It is comforting to see a subject that is so largely overlooked in our society today being tackled and applied to the church as well.  I am introverted and the subject never came to my mind…must be comfortable (and resigned?) with the fact that we are living in an overly extroverted world, where quantitative words rule over qualitative silences.
Hi, my name is Blake. And I am an introvert. 
McHugh covers a wide range of issues that surround the larger culture (and their subsequent manifestations in the American church) and how they exclude the introverted personality.  Everything from formation of relationships, to group work, to speaking is analyzed with the introvert in view.  What McHugh does well is point out the obvious lack of attention paid to those with the introverted personality and how it seems that the trajectory of the modern American society makes those of us who are not extroverted feel like something is wrong with us, like our personality is off, instead of just beautifully and divinely designed…differently.  He does a great job of placing church, evangelism and discipleship in the language and voice of the introverted personality.  I, personally, found his explanation of the introversion and our gifts to be encouraging and, instead of thinking myself weird or eccentric, I can view myself as just filling a need that is not found to be elemental to the extrovert. 
As helpful as I think this book is, McHugh does, at times, seem to equate or turn the introverted mind and personality into some form of mystical Christianity.  Now, I love reading Christian mystics and monks and find that they are often maligned because they don’t fit perfectly into a dogmatic mold that, especially Protestants, has a set theology and program, even though when we are at our most honest, we know that all of the teaching, training and schooling will lead us to nothing more than bended knee and trembling in the presence of a glorious Father.  But, some of the ways he mentioned for churches to work towards including introverts, seem, to me, to be a bit of an over-correction.  I, personally, may lean towards those practices and the liturgy of more traditional services, but I don’t necessarily find this to be mandatory in the space of the church life.  But I did appreciate McHugh’s ideas about forming a church worship and experience around including elements that make both extroverts and introverts uncomfortable in order to stretch them in a beneficial way.
The only other problem I had with the book overall was the fact that I felt he didn’t address the issues inherent in being an introvert that could lead to sin and broken relationships.  He covered a lot of those things throughout the book, but I think he would have been better off in devoting a whole chapter towards thoughtfully, honestly and compassionately laying out where the introvert goes wrong and where they desperately need the grace of God to come in and transform those elements of their personality that are not God-honoring.  I know, in my own life, I can tell how being an introvert allows for sin to come up fairly naturally in my own life.  And I know that as much as I love being the way I am, its probably not all good to be that way.  I think his book would have done wonders if he had been a little more critical of the introvert’s personality—not to malign us or reinforce our feeling of second-class status—so that we may be both encourage and exhorted to depend on God who, both, made us with these distinct personalities, but wants us to be who we were truly meant to be in the economy of grace.
I highly recommend this book for all of the introverts, like me, out there, because it does encourage us to look for how we are to fit into a larger culture and into the whole of the body of believers.
Introverts in the Church: Finding our Place in an Extroverted Culture, by Adam S. McHugh, 2009.
This book was recommended to me by a friend at church and the very subject was intriguing and wholly personal to my own demeanor.  I have always known myself to be introverted, but didn’t fully realize how that really affected my identity.  If McHugh is accurate in his discussion of what being introverted is, how they tick and what that means living in an extroverted culture, then I am profoundly introverted.  Not every single little description fit me to the tee, but the larger picture that was painted described my understanding of my own personality quite vividly.  Even putting words to things I have noticed and felt, but never could explain.  It is comforting to see a subject that is so largely overlooked in our society today being tackled and applied to the church as well.  I am introverted and the subject never came to my mind…must be comfortable (and resigned?) with the fact that we are living in an overly extroverted world, where quantitative words rule over qualitative silences.
Hi, my name is Blake. And I am an introvert. 
McHugh covers a wide range of issues that surround the larger culture (and their subsequent manifestations in the American church) and how they exclude the introverted personality.  Everything from formation of relationships, to group work, to speaking is analyzed with the introvert in view.  What McHugh does well is point out the obvious lack of attention paid to those with the introverted personality and how it seems that the trajectory of the modern American society makes those of us who are not extroverted feel like something is wrong with us, like our personality is off, instead of just beautifully and divinely designed…differently.  He does a great job of placing church, evangelism and discipleship in the language and voice of the introverted personality.  I, personally, found his explanation of the introversion and our gifts to be encouraging and, instead of thinking myself weird or eccentric, I can view myself as just filling a need that is not found to be elemental to the extrovert. 
As helpful as I think this book is, McHugh does, at times, seem to equate or turn the introverted mind and personality into some form of mystical Christianity.  Now, I love reading Christian mystics and monks and find that they are often maligned because they don’t fit perfectly into a dogmatic mold that, especially Protestants, has a set theology and program, even though when we are at our most honest, we know that all of the teaching, training and schooling will lead us to nothing more than bended knee and trembling in the presence of a glorious Father.  But, some of the ways he mentioned for churches to work towards including introverts, seem, to me, to be a bit of an over-correction.  I, personally, may lean towards those practices and the liturgy of more traditional services, but I don’t necessarily find this to be mandatory in the space of the church life.  But I did appreciate McHugh’s ideas about forming a church worship and experience around including elements that make both extroverts and introverts uncomfortable in order to stretch them in a beneficial way.
The only other problem I had with the book overall was the fact that I felt he didn’t address the issues inherent in being an introvert that could lead to sin and broken relationships.  He covered a lot of those things throughout the book, but I think he would have been better off in devoting a whole chapter towards thoughtfully, honestly and compassionately laying out where the introvert goes wrong and where they desperately need the grace of God to come in and transform those elements of their personality that are not God-honoring.  I know, in my own life, I can tell how being an introvert allows for sin to come up fairly naturally in my own life.  And I know that as much as I love being the way I am, its probably not all good to be that way.  I think his book would have done wonders if he had been a little more critical of the introvert’s personality—not to malign us or reinforce our feeling of second-class status—so that we may be both encourage and exhorted to depend on God who, both, made us with these distinct personalities, but wants us to be who we were truly meant to be in the economy of grace.
I highly recommend this book for all of the introverts, like me, out there, because it does encourage us to look for how we are to fit into a larger culture and into the whole of the body of believers.

Introverts in the Church: Finding our Place in an Extroverted Culture, by Adam S. McHugh, 2009.

This book was recommended to me by a friend at church and the very subject was intriguing and wholly personal to my own demeanor.  I have always known myself to be introverted, but didn’t fully realize how that really affected my identity.  If McHugh is accurate in his discussion of what being introverted is, how they tick and what that means living in an extroverted culture, then I am profoundly introverted.  Not every single little description fit me to the tee, but the larger picture that was painted described my understanding of my own personality quite vividly.  Even putting words to things I have noticed and felt, but never could explain.  It is comforting to see a subject that is so largely overlooked in our society today being tackled and applied to the church as well.  I am introverted and the subject never came to my mind…must be comfortable (and resigned?) with the fact that we are living in an overly extroverted world, where quantitative words rule over qualitative silences.

Hi, my name is Blake. And I am an introvert.

McHugh covers a wide range of issues that surround the larger culture (and their subsequent manifestations in the American church) and how they exclude the introverted personality.  Everything from formation of relationships, to group work, to speaking is analyzed with the introvert in view.  What McHugh does well is point out the obvious lack of attention paid to those with the introverted personality and how it seems that the trajectory of the modern American society makes those of us who are not extroverted feel like something is wrong with us, like our personality is off, instead of just beautifully and divinely designed…differently.  He does a great job of placing church, evangelism and discipleship in the language and voice of the introverted personality.  I, personally, found his explanation of the introversion and our gifts to be encouraging and, instead of thinking myself weird or eccentric, I can view myself as just filling a need that is not found to be elemental to the extrovert. 

As helpful as I think this book is, McHugh does, at times, seem to equate or turn the introverted mind and personality into some form of mystical Christianity.  Now, I love reading Christian mystics and monks and find that they are often maligned because they don’t fit perfectly into a dogmatic mold that, especially Protestants, has a set theology and program, even though when we are at our most honest, we know that all of the teaching, training and schooling will lead us to nothing more than bended knee and trembling in the presence of a glorious Father.  But, some of the ways he mentioned for churches to work towards including introverts, seem, to me, to be a bit of an over-correction.  I, personally, may lean towards those practices and the liturgy of more traditional services, but I don’t necessarily find this to be mandatory in the space of the church life.  But I did appreciate McHugh’s ideas about forming a church worship and experience around including elements that make both extroverts and introverts uncomfortable in order to stretch them in a beneficial way.

The only other problem I had with the book overall was the fact that I felt he didn’t address the issues inherent in being an introvert that could lead to sin and broken relationships.  He covered a lot of those things throughout the book, but I think he would have been better off in devoting a whole chapter towards thoughtfully, honestly and compassionately laying out where the introvert goes wrong and where they desperately need the grace of God to come in and transform those elements of their personality that are not God-honoring.  I know, in my own life, I can tell how being an introvert allows for sin to come up fairly naturally in my own life.  And I know that as much as I love being the way I am, its probably not all good to be that way.  I think his book would have done wonders if he had been a little more critical of the introvert’s personality—not to malign us or reinforce our feeling of second-class status—so that we may be both encourage and exhorted to depend on God who, both, made us with these distinct personalities, but wants us to be who we were truly meant to be in the economy of grace.

I highly recommend this book for all of the introverts, like me, out there, because it does encourage us to look for how we are to fit into a larger culture and into the whole of the body of believers.

2012: The End of the World…Week 44

Those Poor Bastards - Country Bullshit (Reissue) EP

Like they announce on the first track, this EP is full of country-tinged music that is “raw and bleeding.”  Easily showing their influences firmly in the traditional roots of folk and outlaw country, they conjure up the styles and ghosts of Williams, Haggard, Jennings and Cash.  Full of hell and damnation and a world where God is nothing more than an unforgiving and cranky deity.  Where their earlier material (including this EP) has not quite developed the dramatic flair and nihilistic flavor of their later work, this EP does not make the listener feel near as defiled and allows for a little bit of levity in spots, which is something they have increasingly forgotten as they have moved on in their career.  “The Accident” and “Black Dog Yodel” easily take precedence on this short album.  In these songs we find a perfect mixture of Those Poor Bastards’ ability to make a largely traditional country song while not forsaking their dark gothic americana roots and influences.  “Radio Country” (which is a later addition to the reissue of the Country Bullshit EP) is a short and simple song about the state of country music.  I may agree with the sentiments on it, but it is not the most enthralling song; neither is the hidden demo of “The Bright Side” that was unnecessarily tacked on to the end of it. 

Those Poor Bastards - Abominations EP

This EP, however, is successful from beginning to end.  As the cover somewhat implies, this is a group of songs that is meant for a Halloween playlist.  Only the first song, “Nightmare World,” surpasses the 2 minute mark.  It is a necessarily song in that it rightly sets the tone for the rest of the album.  It describes the world that the listener is stepping into, a world of abominations, ghosts, the unredeemed, the hell-driven, etc.  The remaining four tracks delve into focused stories within this world.  Residents are haunted by unrelenting ghosts, men lose their churches and their faiths with it, and trees take on a life of their own.  Every song matches the tone and atmosphere of the others to create a dark and oppressively frightening world in which everything that could happen, most likely will happen.  I am not sure but what this may be my favorite work of this band.

Apocalyptic Rating: 8 out of 10 (Mainly because of the Abominations EP, it was suited perfectly for Halloween)

Brought to you by

Day Thirty-One: Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre [Harpoon] (2009) - dir. Julius Kemp
One of the reviewers of the this film described it as Texas Chain Saw Massacre on a whale boat.  While I get the comparison, this film is nowhere near as well shot as Hooper’s film.  Admittedly, its not often that you get to see a death by harpoon gun. However, if the audience is really paying attention, they will recognize that there is no real story, no matter how simple it is, to back up the actual massacre. 
A group of foreigners gather together at at port in Reykjavik, Iceland in order to go whale watching.  Once they get on the water, an accident happens which kills the captain and they radio for a nearby whale boat to pick them up.  Unfortunately, this whale boat is manned by a psychotic family who likes to kill people.  Yeah, that is the whole story.  Not much to it. 
Considering there is not much to the film as far as the story is concerned, the film is not near as bad as one would expect.  The cinematography is quite good and the acting is better than most slasher films that have ever been made, but not a whole lot of the decisions made by the people make any sense whatsoever.  Everything being considered the film really wasn’t bad overall.
And because I am warn out from the month and running out of motivation to write any more on a film that doesn’t really require a lot of thought, I am just going to allow this film to slip by as pure entertainment.  I don’t think I could really drag much meaning out of it in the first place.  I am just glad to be done with the month; it makes for a long and busy month!  Thanks for tuning in all month.  I hope you got just as much out of this series of films as I did.
Day Thirty-One: Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre [Harpoon] (2009) - dir. Julius Kemp
One of the reviewers of the this film described it as Texas Chain Saw Massacre on a whale boat.  While I get the comparison, this film is nowhere near as well shot as Hooper’s film.  Admittedly, its not often that you get to see a death by harpoon gun. However, if the audience is really paying attention, they will recognize that there is no real story, no matter how simple it is, to back up the actual massacre. 
A group of foreigners gather together at at port in Reykjavik, Iceland in order to go whale watching.  Once they get on the water, an accident happens which kills the captain and they radio for a nearby whale boat to pick them up.  Unfortunately, this whale boat is manned by a psychotic family who likes to kill people.  Yeah, that is the whole story.  Not much to it. 
Considering there is not much to the film as far as the story is concerned, the film is not near as bad as one would expect.  The cinematography is quite good and the acting is better than most slasher films that have ever been made, but not a whole lot of the decisions made by the people make any sense whatsoever.  Everything being considered the film really wasn’t bad overall.
And because I am warn out from the month and running out of motivation to write any more on a film that doesn’t really require a lot of thought, I am just going to allow this film to slip by as pure entertainment.  I don’t think I could really drag much meaning out of it in the first place.  I am just glad to be done with the month; it makes for a long and busy month!  Thanks for tuning in all month.  I hope you got just as much out of this series of films as I did.
Day Thirty-One: Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre [Harpoon] (2009) - dir. Julius Kemp
One of the reviewers of the this film described it as Texas Chain Saw Massacre on a whale boat.  While I get the comparison, this film is nowhere near as well shot as Hooper’s film.  Admittedly, its not often that you get to see a death by harpoon gun. However, if the audience is really paying attention, they will recognize that there is no real story, no matter how simple it is, to back up the actual massacre. 
A group of foreigners gather together at at port in Reykjavik, Iceland in order to go whale watching.  Once they get on the water, an accident happens which kills the captain and they radio for a nearby whale boat to pick them up.  Unfortunately, this whale boat is manned by a psychotic family who likes to kill people.  Yeah, that is the whole story.  Not much to it. 
Considering there is not much to the film as far as the story is concerned, the film is not near as bad as one would expect.  The cinematography is quite good and the acting is better than most slasher films that have ever been made, but not a whole lot of the decisions made by the people make any sense whatsoever.  Everything being considered the film really wasn’t bad overall.
And because I am warn out from the month and running out of motivation to write any more on a film that doesn’t really require a lot of thought, I am just going to allow this film to slip by as pure entertainment.  I don’t think I could really drag much meaning out of it in the first place.  I am just glad to be done with the month; it makes for a long and busy month!  Thanks for tuning in all month.  I hope you got just as much out of this series of films as I did.

Day Thirty-One: Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre [Harpoon] (2009) - dir. Julius Kemp

One of the reviewers of the this film described it as Texas Chain Saw Massacre on a whale boat.  While I get the comparison, this film is nowhere near as well shot as Hooper’s film.  Admittedly, its not often that you get to see a death by harpoon gun. However, if the audience is really paying attention, they will recognize that there is no real story, no matter how simple it is, to back up the actual massacre. 

A group of foreigners gather together at at port in Reykjavik, Iceland in order to go whale watching.  Once they get on the water, an accident happens which kills the captain and they radio for a nearby whale boat to pick them up.  Unfortunately, this whale boat is manned by a psychotic family who likes to kill people.  Yeah, that is the whole story.  Not much to it. 

Considering there is not much to the film as far as the story is concerned, the film is not near as bad as one would expect.  The cinematography is quite good and the acting is better than most slasher films that have ever been made, but not a whole lot of the decisions made by the people make any sense whatsoever.  Everything being considered the film really wasn’t bad overall.

And because I am warn out from the month and running out of motivation to write any more on a film that doesn’t really require a lot of thought, I am just going to allow this film to slip by as pure entertainment.  I don’t think I could really drag much meaning out of it in the first place.  I am just glad to be done with the month; it makes for a long and busy month!  Thanks for tuning in all month.  I hope you got just as much out of this series of films as I did.

2012: The End of the World…Week 37

The Builders and The Butchers - Salvation is a Deep, Dark Well

All of the greatness that was showcased in their debut album is present on this, their sophomore release, except their is a growth or, dare I say, maturity that reveals itself on this release that wasn’t present on the last.  Whereas their debut looked as if they were throwing caution to the wind and just kicking back and having fun, this one feels like more time was spent on the compositions; like they felt the pressure of the sophomore slump.  The percussion is still largely present on this album but there are a few tracks where it takes a backseat to the other instruments and to Sollee’s vocals (and some haunting female vocals, as well).  Don’t worry, the heavy romps are still present on this album, but they are cleaner and more contained than they had been previously.  This is The Builders and The Butchers showing us that they, actually, do care about the art of making music and not just about having a blast out on the back porch.

This album is even more impressive with the recognition that it only took the band ten days to record it.  I assume their was plenty of preparation leading up to those ten days, but it is impressive nonetheless.  The stories that haunt these songs seem even darker than the batch from the last album; it seems like there is even less hope present here and more recognition of the depravity of man inherent in the actions of the characters that pepper this album.  A lotta devil talk and only a few mentions of salvation, but it never seems to be without a point, without a moral.  Basically this album shows the proper response to morality by showing what happens when they are thrown to the wayside.  It is only at the end where we get what sounds like the spirituals to counter the first two thirds of the album.  However, even the spirituals feel as if something is slowly rotting beneath them. 

In the end, this album seems more compelling, musically pleasing, and more full.  Where the last album lambasted us with percussion, this one just batters us a bit, yet we begin to enjoy it.  It is also good to see Ryan Sollee getting a chance to showcase his voice without the oppressive percussion overpowering it.  This album really does make you believe that the road to salvation is not near as easy of a road as Joel Osteen or any of the televangelists might make you think.  That’s something to be praised in and of itself.

Apocalyptic Rating: 8 out 10 (I sink slowly down as the tide’s rolling in and everything fades to black)

Brought to you by

Whose Community? Which Interpretation?: Philosophical Hermeneutics for the Church, by Merold Westphal, 2009.
I do greatly agree with one of the points that Westphal brings up over and over again in this book, that the caricature of postmodernism, that it relies on an “anything goes” mentality, is an oversimplification of a much deeper system of thought. I found Westphal’s prose to be challenging and entertaining all at the same time. He clearly and simply explains the main elements and history of postmodernism. And, then, he seeks to apply postmodern hermeneutical thought to the church and the Christian community. The first half of this book was quite accessible and easy to read and he does a wonderful job of pointing out how theologians, preachers and laymen all practice postmodern techniques, but that they are extremely well hidden in modernist rhetoric. I found there was a lot of agreement between Westphal and Van Til in their development of interpretation. Though Van Til argued it in the negative, that non-believers presupposed the non-existence of God and, therefore, they interpreted all facts within that presupposition, Westphal applies it to the positive aspect, that believers presuppose the existence of the Biblical God and interpreted all facts in light of that.
Westphal is correct that within human constraints there is no fact without interpretation. We all interpret within our present community and society and culture and time. To say we have discovered un-interpreted, blunt fact is a lie. Van Til would say that this is exactly why we should base our presuppositions on the God of the Bible who reveals Himself to us so that we may trust in his consistency and sovereignty. However, Westphal brings up the point of how we are to know the consistency of God if all of our interpretations of Scripture are bound within limited, finite constraints. I have never been so conflicted in reading a book. Westphal makes some incredibly sound and challenging points about how we know what we know (epistemology). He makes a case for ecumenism within a balanced accounting of political liberalism and communitarianism, among other things, as a result of his postmodern understanding of what accounts for proper Biblical hermeneutic. While his points are cogent and interesting, part of me finds it hard to agree. He states that there is no perfect human system of theology (because all theology is bound within in human constraints), so he states that all proponents of all theological positions should encounter and listen to other systems in order to learn from and interact with the text. There are only better interpretations, but never an absolute theological system. While I agree that there is no perfect theological system (because we are human) and I agree with the ecumenical spirit of his argument, it still seems to beg the question of how to decided what are the “best theological systems.” It would seem, ultimately, someone with the least bias would have to delineate since we cannot completely trust the accuracy of our singular interpretations. But how do I know that their interpretation of the systems would result in an accurate estimating of what “best” contends to be. Once again, it seems that Westphal forgets to incorporate the sin nature into the mix. People lie all the time. Sometimes they will pick someone’s position just because they agree with them, but that does not mean it is a “better interpretation.” Yes, we need to be mindful that our interpretation is flawed and that we are constantly presupposing our conclusions. However, I tend to side with Van Til who says we should constantly strive to place our presuppositions on the God of the Bible and the Spirit will work towards guiding our often incorrect and willfully wrong interpretations of life, Scripture and God. I found myself shaking my head up and down and side to side almost simultaneously, because he would say something so interesting and insightful and then, in the very next sentence, say something that was out of left field. It was a strange combination of factors that went into reading this book.
Overall, I found it to be enlightening and it did cause me to step back and understand what the intricacies of interpretation were, however at some point it seemed so self-defeating and it felt like the argument was pressing toward an agenda that the author had instead of allowing it to travel where it led to. The second half of the book became increasingly harder to read and the arguments became more conflicted in my mind. I couldn’t help but agree, but, at the same time, I felt like there were flaws in his argument but that I was unprepared to see what they were. Nonetheless, for anyone who is strong in their faith, I would easily recommend this book for their consideration. For those who are just starting out, I think you should log in some time with the Bible before you even take a look at this book.
Whose Community? Which Interpretation?: Philosophical Hermeneutics for the Church, by Merold Westphal, 2009.
I do greatly agree with one of the points that Westphal brings up over and over again in this book, that the caricature of postmodernism, that it relies on an “anything goes” mentality, is an oversimplification of a much deeper system of thought. I found Westphal’s prose to be challenging and entertaining all at the same time. He clearly and simply explains the main elements and history of postmodernism. And, then, he seeks to apply postmodern hermeneutical thought to the church and the Christian community. The first half of this book was quite accessible and easy to read and he does a wonderful job of pointing out how theologians, preachers and laymen all practice postmodern techniques, but that they are extremely well hidden in modernist rhetoric. I found there was a lot of agreement between Westphal and Van Til in their development of interpretation. Though Van Til argued it in the negative, that non-believers presupposed the non-existence of God and, therefore, they interpreted all facts within that presupposition, Westphal applies it to the positive aspect, that believers presuppose the existence of the Biblical God and interpreted all facts in light of that.
Westphal is correct that within human constraints there is no fact without interpretation. We all interpret within our present community and society and culture and time. To say we have discovered un-interpreted, blunt fact is a lie. Van Til would say that this is exactly why we should base our presuppositions on the God of the Bible who reveals Himself to us so that we may trust in his consistency and sovereignty. However, Westphal brings up the point of how we are to know the consistency of God if all of our interpretations of Scripture are bound within limited, finite constraints. I have never been so conflicted in reading a book. Westphal makes some incredibly sound and challenging points about how we know what we know (epistemology). He makes a case for ecumenism within a balanced accounting of political liberalism and communitarianism, among other things, as a result of his postmodern understanding of what accounts for proper Biblical hermeneutic. While his points are cogent and interesting, part of me finds it hard to agree. He states that there is no perfect human system of theology (because all theology is bound within in human constraints), so he states that all proponents of all theological positions should encounter and listen to other systems in order to learn from and interact with the text. There are only better interpretations, but never an absolute theological system. While I agree that there is no perfect theological system (because we are human) and I agree with the ecumenical spirit of his argument, it still seems to beg the question of how to decided what are the “best theological systems.” It would seem, ultimately, someone with the least bias would have to delineate since we cannot completely trust the accuracy of our singular interpretations. But how do I know that their interpretation of the systems would result in an accurate estimating of what “best” contends to be. Once again, it seems that Westphal forgets to incorporate the sin nature into the mix. People lie all the time. Sometimes they will pick someone’s position just because they agree with them, but that does not mean it is a “better interpretation.” Yes, we need to be mindful that our interpretation is flawed and that we are constantly presupposing our conclusions. However, I tend to side with Van Til who says we should constantly strive to place our presuppositions on the God of the Bible and the Spirit will work towards guiding our often incorrect and willfully wrong interpretations of life, Scripture and God. I found myself shaking my head up and down and side to side almost simultaneously, because he would say something so interesting and insightful and then, in the very next sentence, say something that was out of left field. It was a strange combination of factors that went into reading this book.
Overall, I found it to be enlightening and it did cause me to step back and understand what the intricacies of interpretation were, however at some point it seemed so self-defeating and it felt like the argument was pressing toward an agenda that the author had instead of allowing it to travel where it led to. The second half of the book became increasingly harder to read and the arguments became more conflicted in my mind. I couldn’t help but agree, but, at the same time, I felt like there were flaws in his argument but that I was unprepared to see what they were. Nonetheless, for anyone who is strong in their faith, I would easily recommend this book for their consideration. For those who are just starting out, I think you should log in some time with the Bible before you even take a look at this book.

Whose Community? Which Interpretation?: Philosophical Hermeneutics for the Church, by Merold Westphal, 2009.

I do greatly agree with one of the points that Westphal brings up over and over again in this book, that the caricature of postmodernism, that it relies on an “anything goes” mentality, is an oversimplification of a much deeper system of thought. I found Westphal’s prose to be challenging and entertaining all at the same time. He clearly and simply explains the main elements and history of postmodernism. And, then, he seeks to apply postmodern hermeneutical thought to the church and the Christian community. The first half of this book was quite accessible and easy to read and he does a wonderful job of pointing out how theologians, preachers and laymen all practice postmodern techniques, but that they are extremely well hidden in modernist rhetoric. I found there was a lot of agreement between Westphal and Van Til in their development of interpretation. Though Van Til argued it in the negative, that non-believers presupposed the non-existence of God and, therefore, they interpreted all facts within that presupposition, Westphal applies it to the positive aspect, that believers presuppose the existence of the Biblical God and interpreted all facts in light of that.

Westphal is correct that within human constraints there is no fact without interpretation. We all interpret within our present community and society and culture and time. To say we have discovered un-interpreted, blunt fact is a lie. Van Til would say that this is exactly why we should base our presuppositions on the God of the Bible who reveals Himself to us so that we may trust in his consistency and sovereignty. However, Westphal brings up the point of how we are to know the consistency of God if all of our interpretations of Scripture are bound within limited, finite constraints. I have never been so conflicted in reading a book. Westphal makes some incredibly sound and challenging points about how we know what we know (epistemology). He makes a case for ecumenism within a balanced accounting of political liberalism and communitarianism, among other things, as a result of his postmodern understanding of what accounts for proper Biblical hermeneutic. While his points are cogent and interesting, part of me finds it hard to agree. He states that there is no perfect human system of theology (because all theology is bound within in human constraints), so he states that all proponents of all theological positions should encounter and listen to other systems in order to learn from and interact with the text. There are only better interpretations, but never an absolute theological system. While I agree that there is no perfect theological system (because we are human) and I agree with the ecumenical spirit of his argument, it still seems to beg the question of how to decided what are the “best theological systems.” It would seem, ultimately, someone with the least bias would have to delineate since we cannot completely trust the accuracy of our singular interpretations. But how do I know that their interpretation of the systems would result in an accurate estimating of what “best” contends to be. Once again, it seems that Westphal forgets to incorporate the sin nature into the mix. People lie all the time. Sometimes they will pick someone’s position just because they agree with them, but that does not mean it is a “better interpretation.” Yes, we need to be mindful that our interpretation is flawed and that we are constantly presupposing our conclusions. However, I tend to side with Van Til who says we should constantly strive to place our presuppositions on the God of the Bible and the Spirit will work towards guiding our often incorrect and willfully wrong interpretations of life, Scripture and God. I found myself shaking my head up and down and side to side almost simultaneously, because he would say something so interesting and insightful and then, in the very next sentence, say something that was out of left field. It was a strange combination of factors that went into reading this book.

Overall, I found it to be enlightening and it did cause me to step back and understand what the intricacies of interpretation were, however at some point it seemed so self-defeating and it felt like the argument was pressing toward an agenda that the author had instead of allowing it to travel where it led to. The second half of the book became increasingly harder to read and the arguments became more conflicted in my mind. I couldn’t help but agree, but, at the same time, I felt like there were flaws in his argument but that I was unprepared to see what they were. Nonetheless, for anyone who is strong in their faith, I would easily recommend this book for their consideration. For those who are just starting out, I think you should log in some time with the Bible before you even take a look at this book.

Eating the Dinosaur, by Chuck Klosterman, 2009.
No one speaks of such relatively insignificant concepts as profoundly as Klosterman does.  If you read one of my earlier posts about a conversation I had with a tempestuous Starbucks barista about the finer points of Klosterman’s writing, then you know that he is either loved or hated and there is little in between.  As a cultural critic, I find his observations smart and creative.  Yes, he is a pretentious ass.  Yes, you probably will not agree with some (if not most) of his thoughts on culture.  But at the end of the day, you have to give him props for how he can find such significant and profound connections between seemingly pointless and contrary topics (e.g. David Koresh and Kurt Cobain).  I enjoy his books because he is witty and he has a style of writing that is likable even at its most annoying, content-wise. 
This book is not near as good as Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs (which had me rolling), but it has some interesting topics that got me thinking.  One even that gave me an idea for another short story.  Even though nothing really can be learned from this book of any real use, the activity of reading it gave me joy.  And that is enough reason to like Klosterman.  He is fun to read.
Eating the Dinosaur, by Chuck Klosterman, 2009.
No one speaks of such relatively insignificant concepts as profoundly as Klosterman does.  If you read one of my earlier posts about a conversation I had with a tempestuous Starbucks barista about the finer points of Klosterman’s writing, then you know that he is either loved or hated and there is little in between.  As a cultural critic, I find his observations smart and creative.  Yes, he is a pretentious ass.  Yes, you probably will not agree with some (if not most) of his thoughts on culture.  But at the end of the day, you have to give him props for how he can find such significant and profound connections between seemingly pointless and contrary topics (e.g. David Koresh and Kurt Cobain).  I enjoy his books because he is witty and he has a style of writing that is likable even at its most annoying, content-wise. 
This book is not near as good as Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs (which had me rolling), but it has some interesting topics that got me thinking.  One even that gave me an idea for another short story.  Even though nothing really can be learned from this book of any real use, the activity of reading it gave me joy.  And that is enough reason to like Klosterman.  He is fun to read.
Eating the Dinosaur, by Chuck Klosterman, 2009.
No one speaks of such relatively insignificant concepts as profoundly as Klosterman does.  If you read one of my earlier posts about a conversation I had with a tempestuous Starbucks barista about the finer points of Klosterman’s writing, then you know that he is either loved or hated and there is little in between.  As a cultural critic, I find his observations smart and creative.  Yes, he is a pretentious ass.  Yes, you probably will not agree with some (if not most) of his thoughts on culture.  But at the end of the day, you have to give him props for how he can find such significant and profound connections between seemingly pointless and contrary topics (e.g. David Koresh and Kurt Cobain).  I enjoy his books because he is witty and he has a style of writing that is likable even at its most annoying, content-wise. 
This book is not near as good as Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs (which had me rolling), but it has some interesting topics that got me thinking.  One even that gave me an idea for another short story.  Even though nothing really can be learned from this book of any real use, the activity of reading it gave me joy.  And that is enough reason to like Klosterman.  He is fun to read.

Eating the Dinosaur, by Chuck Klosterman, 2009.

No one speaks of such relatively insignificant concepts as profoundly as Klosterman does.  If you read one of my earlier posts about a conversation I had with a tempestuous Starbucks barista about the finer points of Klosterman’s writing, then you know that he is either loved or hated and there is little in between.  As a cultural critic, I find his observations smart and creative.  Yes, he is a pretentious ass.  Yes, you probably will not agree with some (if not most) of his thoughts on culture.  But at the end of the day, you have to give him props for how he can find such significant and profound connections between seemingly pointless and contrary topics (e.g. David Koresh and Kurt Cobain).  I enjoy his books because he is witty and he has a style of writing that is likable even at its most annoying, content-wise. 

This book is not near as good as Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs (which had me rolling), but it has some interesting topics that got me thinking.  One even that gave me an idea for another short story.  Even though nothing really can be learned from this book of any real use, the activity of reading it gave me joy.  And that is enough reason to like Klosterman.  He is fun to read.

The Girl Who Played With Fire, by Stieg Larsson, 2009.
It has been over a year since I have read The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and I was extremely impressed with the first book of the Larsson trilogy.  It was a largely character-driven mystery thriller with a nice little surprise ending.  Having, already, indulged myself in, both, the Swedish and American cinematic adaptations of the first book, set out to begin the second installment to see if it could live up to its larger-than-life predecessor and to see what kind of tricks Larsson could pull out of his sleeve.  What I was not prepared for was largely a different tone for the second book.  The first book surrounded a missing member of a nasty, dysfunctional wealthy family.  Most of the story surrounded around it and the interactions of Blomkquist and Salander as they worked to solved the mystery.  We only begin to see the foundation for the bulk of the plot development in the second book.  Fire starts out in a similar fashion to the first book with a new case about sex trafficking that a young reporter, under the tutelage of Blomkquist, was trying to solve.  The reader naturally believes that this will be the trajectory and the main drive of the story, however, not too much farther into the book, an event happens which instantly switches that trajectory.  The sex trafficking takes a back seat (which, indeed, is probably one of the weakest aspects of this book) to the manhunt of Lisbeth Salander as she is charged with the murder of three people. 
We find our lead characters a year later from the events of the book.  Blomkquist is trying to get a hold of Salander but she wants nothing to do with him.  The friendship (plus benefits) that developed in the first book are in dire straits.  The two lead characters never actually interact with each other except through written communication throughout the whole book until the very end.  The second book delivers, simply because it busts open the background of the rather enigmatic life of Lisbeth Salander.  The readers find out most of everything about her past and it turns out that it is actually her life and the connections within that are what propel the narrative.  There are some wonderfully written scenes in this book including my favorite which involves a boxer and an enormous and nearly invincible German giant.  I am extremely excited to see the Swedish film adaptation now and, especially, excited to see what David Fincher can do with this material, as his crack at Dragon Tattoo was easily the best of the two films made from the book. 
However, there does seem to be a weakness, ultimately, within these books so far.  Though they are largely character-driven, it doesn’t ever seem as if the two main characters grow at all.  Two books in and I can still guess exactly what Blomkquist and Salander will do in the situation.  By now, the reader knows the characters well and the lack of development on their part seems to be a massive failure of Larsson if he, in fact, wanted to write books with interesting and dynamic characters.  I found myself, while reading this book, not giving a crap about Blomkquist as a character and I found less interest in Salander and more interest in how her life weaved its way through the plot of the second book.  In the end, Blomkquist is largely forgettable as a character and Salander seems to have the same static nature as Hugh Laurie’s Dr. House.  It’s the same stuff, different episode. 
In the end, I still greatly enjoyed the book and the nice pace of the story.  There were some great twists and turns and some wonderfully written scenes that will be exciting to see plastered on the big screen.  However, I fear that at the end of the day, Larsson’s characters will continue to lose their interest for me going into the third book when I get to it.  If only he had planned out dynamic characters like he planned out his dynamic plots, then these books would be considered great literature. 
The Girl Who Played With Fire, by Stieg Larsson, 2009.
It has been over a year since I have read The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and I was extremely impressed with the first book of the Larsson trilogy.  It was a largely character-driven mystery thriller with a nice little surprise ending.  Having, already, indulged myself in, both, the Swedish and American cinematic adaptations of the first book, set out to begin the second installment to see if it could live up to its larger-than-life predecessor and to see what kind of tricks Larsson could pull out of his sleeve.  What I was not prepared for was largely a different tone for the second book.  The first book surrounded a missing member of a nasty, dysfunctional wealthy family.  Most of the story surrounded around it and the interactions of Blomkquist and Salander as they worked to solved the mystery.  We only begin to see the foundation for the bulk of the plot development in the second book.  Fire starts out in a similar fashion to the first book with a new case about sex trafficking that a young reporter, under the tutelage of Blomkquist, was trying to solve.  The reader naturally believes that this will be the trajectory and the main drive of the story, however, not too much farther into the book, an event happens which instantly switches that trajectory.  The sex trafficking takes a back seat (which, indeed, is probably one of the weakest aspects of this book) to the manhunt of Lisbeth Salander as she is charged with the murder of three people. 
We find our lead characters a year later from the events of the book.  Blomkquist is trying to get a hold of Salander but she wants nothing to do with him.  The friendship (plus benefits) that developed in the first book are in dire straits.  The two lead characters never actually interact with each other except through written communication throughout the whole book until the very end.  The second book delivers, simply because it busts open the background of the rather enigmatic life of Lisbeth Salander.  The readers find out most of everything about her past and it turns out that it is actually her life and the connections within that are what propel the narrative.  There are some wonderfully written scenes in this book including my favorite which involves a boxer and an enormous and nearly invincible German giant.  I am extremely excited to see the Swedish film adaptation now and, especially, excited to see what David Fincher can do with this material, as his crack at Dragon Tattoo was easily the best of the two films made from the book. 
However, there does seem to be a weakness, ultimately, within these books so far.  Though they are largely character-driven, it doesn’t ever seem as if the two main characters grow at all.  Two books in and I can still guess exactly what Blomkquist and Salander will do in the situation.  By now, the reader knows the characters well and the lack of development on their part seems to be a massive failure of Larsson if he, in fact, wanted to write books with interesting and dynamic characters.  I found myself, while reading this book, not giving a crap about Blomkquist as a character and I found less interest in Salander and more interest in how her life weaved its way through the plot of the second book.  In the end, Blomkquist is largely forgettable as a character and Salander seems to have the same static nature as Hugh Laurie’s Dr. House.  It’s the same stuff, different episode. 
In the end, I still greatly enjoyed the book and the nice pace of the story.  There were some great twists and turns and some wonderfully written scenes that will be exciting to see plastered on the big screen.  However, I fear that at the end of the day, Larsson’s characters will continue to lose their interest for me going into the third book when I get to it.  If only he had planned out dynamic characters like he planned out his dynamic plots, then these books would be considered great literature. 
The Girl Who Played With Fire, by Stieg Larsson, 2009.
It has been over a year since I have read The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and I was extremely impressed with the first book of the Larsson trilogy.  It was a largely character-driven mystery thriller with a nice little surprise ending.  Having, already, indulged myself in, both, the Swedish and American cinematic adaptations of the first book, set out to begin the second installment to see if it could live up to its larger-than-life predecessor and to see what kind of tricks Larsson could pull out of his sleeve.  What I was not prepared for was largely a different tone for the second book.  The first book surrounded a missing member of a nasty, dysfunctional wealthy family.  Most of the story surrounded around it and the interactions of Blomkquist and Salander as they worked to solved the mystery.  We only begin to see the foundation for the bulk of the plot development in the second book.  Fire starts out in a similar fashion to the first book with a new case about sex trafficking that a young reporter, under the tutelage of Blomkquist, was trying to solve.  The reader naturally believes that this will be the trajectory and the main drive of the story, however, not too much farther into the book, an event happens which instantly switches that trajectory.  The sex trafficking takes a back seat (which, indeed, is probably one of the weakest aspects of this book) to the manhunt of Lisbeth Salander as she is charged with the murder of three people. 
We find our lead characters a year later from the events of the book.  Blomkquist is trying to get a hold of Salander but she wants nothing to do with him.  The friendship (plus benefits) that developed in the first book are in dire straits.  The two lead characters never actually interact with each other except through written communication throughout the whole book until the very end.  The second book delivers, simply because it busts open the background of the rather enigmatic life of Lisbeth Salander.  The readers find out most of everything about her past and it turns out that it is actually her life and the connections within that are what propel the narrative.  There are some wonderfully written scenes in this book including my favorite which involves a boxer and an enormous and nearly invincible German giant.  I am extremely excited to see the Swedish film adaptation now and, especially, excited to see what David Fincher can do with this material, as his crack at Dragon Tattoo was easily the best of the two films made from the book. 
However, there does seem to be a weakness, ultimately, within these books so far.  Though they are largely character-driven, it doesn’t ever seem as if the two main characters grow at all.  Two books in and I can still guess exactly what Blomkquist and Salander will do in the situation.  By now, the reader knows the characters well and the lack of development on their part seems to be a massive failure of Larsson if he, in fact, wanted to write books with interesting and dynamic characters.  I found myself, while reading this book, not giving a crap about Blomkquist as a character and I found less interest in Salander and more interest in how her life weaved its way through the plot of the second book.  In the end, Blomkquist is largely forgettable as a character and Salander seems to have the same static nature as Hugh Laurie’s Dr. House.  It’s the same stuff, different episode. 
In the end, I still greatly enjoyed the book and the nice pace of the story.  There were some great twists and turns and some wonderfully written scenes that will be exciting to see plastered on the big screen.  However, I fear that at the end of the day, Larsson’s characters will continue to lose their interest for me going into the third book when I get to it.  If only he had planned out dynamic characters like he planned out his dynamic plots, then these books would be considered great literature. 

The Girl Who Played With Fire, by Stieg Larsson, 2009.

It has been over a year since I have read The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and I was extremely impressed with the first book of the Larsson trilogy.  It was a largely character-driven mystery thriller with a nice little surprise ending.  Having, already, indulged myself in, both, the Swedish and American cinematic adaptations of the first book, set out to begin the second installment to see if it could live up to its larger-than-life predecessor and to see what kind of tricks Larsson could pull out of his sleeve.  What I was not prepared for was largely a different tone for the second book.  The first book surrounded a missing member of a nasty, dysfunctional wealthy family.  Most of the story surrounded around it and the interactions of Blomkquist and Salander as they worked to solved the mystery.  We only begin to see the foundation for the bulk of the plot development in the second book.  Fire starts out in a similar fashion to the first book with a new case about sex trafficking that a young reporter, under the tutelage of Blomkquist, was trying to solve.  The reader naturally believes that this will be the trajectory and the main drive of the story, however, not too much farther into the book, an event happens which instantly switches that trajectory.  The sex trafficking takes a back seat (which, indeed, is probably one of the weakest aspects of this book) to the manhunt of Lisbeth Salander as she is charged with the murder of three people. 

We find our lead characters a year later from the events of the book.  Blomkquist is trying to get a hold of Salander but she wants nothing to do with him.  The friendship (plus benefits) that developed in the first book are in dire straits.  The two lead characters never actually interact with each other except through written communication throughout the whole book until the very end.  The second book delivers, simply because it busts open the background of the rather enigmatic life of Lisbeth Salander.  The readers find out most of everything about her past and it turns out that it is actually her life and the connections within that are what propel the narrative.  There are some wonderfully written scenes in this book including my favorite which involves a boxer and an enormous and nearly invincible German giant.  I am extremely excited to see the Swedish film adaptation now and, especially, excited to see what David Fincher can do with this material, as his crack at Dragon Tattoo was easily the best of the two films made from the book. 

However, there does seem to be a weakness, ultimately, within these books so far.  Though they are largely character-driven, it doesn’t ever seem as if the two main characters grow at all.  Two books in and I can still guess exactly what Blomkquist and Salander will do in the situation.  By now, the reader knows the characters well and the lack of development on their part seems to be a massive failure of Larsson if he, in fact, wanted to write books with interesting and dynamic characters.  I found myself, while reading this book, not giving a crap about Blomkquist as a character and I found less interest in Salander and more interest in how her life weaved its way through the plot of the second book.  In the end, Blomkquist is largely forgettable as a character and Salander seems to have the same static nature as Hugh Laurie’s Dr. House.  It’s the same stuff, different episode. 

In the end, I still greatly enjoyed the book and the nice pace of the story.  There were some great twists and turns and some wonderfully written scenes that will be exciting to see plastered on the big screen.  However, I fear that at the end of the day, Larsson’s characters will continue to lose their interest for me going into the third book when I get to it.  If only he had planned out dynamic characters like he planned out his dynamic plots, then these books would be considered great literature. 

Glory Road: The Journeys of 10 African-Americans into Reformed Christianity, ed. by Anthony J. Carter, 2009.
All ten of these testimonies were enlightening in understanding how these ten men, who are African-American, came to embrace a theological system that has been accused, and very accurately so, of being the framework that whites in America used to oppress black people into slavery.  All of these men recognize this fact and bear the weight of that fact, but recognize also that those who did embrace both doctrinal election and slavery were twisting the Scriptures to justify an unjust act.  Proper understanding of the doctrines of grace lead to the freeing of man in Christ.  Each one of these men declares the power of these doctrines over their life and the freedom that came from them.  They also, all, had a calling to bringing strong doctrinal teaching to their own specific cultures so that they could impact a black Christian culture that has, in their opinion, missed the mark, theologically and evangelically, since the Civil Rights movement era.  These stories makes interesting vignettes as these men are fighting on both sides; against the charge of a theological Uncle-Tomism on one side and against a largely white evangelical church that still, at least practically, embraces segregation on most Sunday mornings.  The thing that strengthens all of their resolve is their dependency on God and the Bible. 
The older generation of African-American reformed believers represented here had a much stricter and stronger aversion, it seems, to most aspects of what has come to be known, and often stereotyped, as the “black church” in America.  Ken Jones’ testimony was the most telling of this as he displayed his work at Greater Union Baptist Church and it seemed that his dedication to Reformed theology led to him ditching most of the elements of the “black church” often alienating a good portion of his congregation in the process.  I found this odd, though there is no doubt he had great conviction in the act, that there were not, at least a few elements that could be reformed within the theological limitations instead of displaced.  Part of me understands his reasoning, but the other part just questions at what part completely, it seems, displacing a whole cultural product benefits in the end.  I am not sure I can answer this question, but I can at least look at the stories of the younger generation of African-American reformed believers and see more of a struggle with the issue at hand.  I am not saying Jones was wrong, but it just seemed harsh to an extreme.  Beyond that basic concept, I had very little else that I found troubling about the book altogether. 
I found the Afterword to be a solid conclusion by Anthony J. Carter describing the three features that were common among all of these men: being black, being Reformed and, most importantly, being Christian.  Carter displayed the feelings of all the men in stating:
We are black; there is no mistaking that.  We are Reformed, and make no mistake about that.  But these two distinctions have relevance only insofar as they are understood in light of the fact that we are Christian.  C.H. Spurgeon said, “I am never ashamed to avow myself a Calvinist; I do not hesitate to take the name of Baptist; but if I am asked what my creed is, I reply, ‘It is Jesus Christ.’”  We are proud to be Americans.  We are equally proud to be African-American.  We even more thank God that our theology is the biblically-grounded, historically consistent theology of the Reformation.  But if you ask us our faith, if you ask us our creed, if you want the sum of our lives: It is Jesus Christ.  It is Jesus Christ.
Glory Road: The Journeys of 10 African-Americans into Reformed Christianity, ed. by Anthony J. Carter, 2009.
All ten of these testimonies were enlightening in understanding how these ten men, who are African-American, came to embrace a theological system that has been accused, and very accurately so, of being the framework that whites in America used to oppress black people into slavery.  All of these men recognize this fact and bear the weight of that fact, but recognize also that those who did embrace both doctrinal election and slavery were twisting the Scriptures to justify an unjust act.  Proper understanding of the doctrines of grace lead to the freeing of man in Christ.  Each one of these men declares the power of these doctrines over their life and the freedom that came from them.  They also, all, had a calling to bringing strong doctrinal teaching to their own specific cultures so that they could impact a black Christian culture that has, in their opinion, missed the mark, theologically and evangelically, since the Civil Rights movement era.  These stories makes interesting vignettes as these men are fighting on both sides; against the charge of a theological Uncle-Tomism on one side and against a largely white evangelical church that still, at least practically, embraces segregation on most Sunday mornings.  The thing that strengthens all of their resolve is their dependency on God and the Bible. 
The older generation of African-American reformed believers represented here had a much stricter and stronger aversion, it seems, to most aspects of what has come to be known, and often stereotyped, as the “black church” in America.  Ken Jones’ testimony was the most telling of this as he displayed his work at Greater Union Baptist Church and it seemed that his dedication to Reformed theology led to him ditching most of the elements of the “black church” often alienating a good portion of his congregation in the process.  I found this odd, though there is no doubt he had great conviction in the act, that there were not, at least a few elements that could be reformed within the theological limitations instead of displaced.  Part of me understands his reasoning, but the other part just questions at what part completely, it seems, displacing a whole cultural product benefits in the end.  I am not sure I can answer this question, but I can at least look at the stories of the younger generation of African-American reformed believers and see more of a struggle with the issue at hand.  I am not saying Jones was wrong, but it just seemed harsh to an extreme.  Beyond that basic concept, I had very little else that I found troubling about the book altogether. 
I found the Afterword to be a solid conclusion by Anthony J. Carter describing the three features that were common among all of these men: being black, being Reformed and, most importantly, being Christian.  Carter displayed the feelings of all the men in stating:
We are black; there is no mistaking that.  We are Reformed, and make no mistake about that.  But these two distinctions have relevance only insofar as they are understood in light of the fact that we are Christian.  C.H. Spurgeon said, “I am never ashamed to avow myself a Calvinist; I do not hesitate to take the name of Baptist; but if I am asked what my creed is, I reply, ‘It is Jesus Christ.’”  We are proud to be Americans.  We are equally proud to be African-American.  We even more thank God that our theology is the biblically-grounded, historically consistent theology of the Reformation.  But if you ask us our faith, if you ask us our creed, if you want the sum of our lives: It is Jesus Christ.  It is Jesus Christ.
Glory Road: The Journeys of 10 African-Americans into Reformed Christianity, ed. by Anthony J. Carter, 2009.
All ten of these testimonies were enlightening in understanding how these ten men, who are African-American, came to embrace a theological system that has been accused, and very accurately so, of being the framework that whites in America used to oppress black people into slavery.  All of these men recognize this fact and bear the weight of that fact, but recognize also that those who did embrace both doctrinal election and slavery were twisting the Scriptures to justify an unjust act.  Proper understanding of the doctrines of grace lead to the freeing of man in Christ.  Each one of these men declares the power of these doctrines over their life and the freedom that came from them.  They also, all, had a calling to bringing strong doctrinal teaching to their own specific cultures so that they could impact a black Christian culture that has, in their opinion, missed the mark, theologically and evangelically, since the Civil Rights movement era.  These stories makes interesting vignettes as these men are fighting on both sides; against the charge of a theological Uncle-Tomism on one side and against a largely white evangelical church that still, at least practically, embraces segregation on most Sunday mornings.  The thing that strengthens all of their resolve is their dependency on God and the Bible. 
The older generation of African-American reformed believers represented here had a much stricter and stronger aversion, it seems, to most aspects of what has come to be known, and often stereotyped, as the “black church” in America.  Ken Jones’ testimony was the most telling of this as he displayed his work at Greater Union Baptist Church and it seemed that his dedication to Reformed theology led to him ditching most of the elements of the “black church” often alienating a good portion of his congregation in the process.  I found this odd, though there is no doubt he had great conviction in the act, that there were not, at least a few elements that could be reformed within the theological limitations instead of displaced.  Part of me understands his reasoning, but the other part just questions at what part completely, it seems, displacing a whole cultural product benefits in the end.  I am not sure I can answer this question, but I can at least look at the stories of the younger generation of African-American reformed believers and see more of a struggle with the issue at hand.  I am not saying Jones was wrong, but it just seemed harsh to an extreme.  Beyond that basic concept, I had very little else that I found troubling about the book altogether. 
I found the Afterword to be a solid conclusion by Anthony J. Carter describing the three features that were common among all of these men: being black, being Reformed and, most importantly, being Christian.  Carter displayed the feelings of all the men in stating:
We are black; there is no mistaking that.  We are Reformed, and make no mistake about that.  But these two distinctions have relevance only insofar as they are understood in light of the fact that we are Christian.  C.H. Spurgeon said, “I am never ashamed to avow myself a Calvinist; I do not hesitate to take the name of Baptist; but if I am asked what my creed is, I reply, ‘It is Jesus Christ.’”  We are proud to be Americans.  We are equally proud to be African-American.  We even more thank God that our theology is the biblically-grounded, historically consistent theology of the Reformation.  But if you ask us our faith, if you ask us our creed, if you want the sum of our lives: It is Jesus Christ.  It is Jesus Christ.

Glory Road: The Journeys of 10 African-Americans into Reformed Christianity, ed. by Anthony J. Carter, 2009.

All ten of these testimonies were enlightening in understanding how these ten men, who are African-American, came to embrace a theological system that has been accused, and very accurately so, of being the framework that whites in America used to oppress black people into slavery.  All of these men recognize this fact and bear the weight of that fact, but recognize also that those who did embrace both doctrinal election and slavery were twisting the Scriptures to justify an unjust act.  Proper understanding of the doctrines of grace lead to the freeing of man in Christ.  Each one of these men declares the power of these doctrines over their life and the freedom that came from them.  They also, all, had a calling to bringing strong doctrinal teaching to their own specific cultures so that they could impact a black Christian culture that has, in their opinion, missed the mark, theologically and evangelically, since the Civil Rights movement era.  These stories makes interesting vignettes as these men are fighting on both sides; against the charge of a theological Uncle-Tomism on one side and against a largely white evangelical church that still, at least practically, embraces segregation on most Sunday mornings.  The thing that strengthens all of their resolve is their dependency on God and the Bible. 

The older generation of African-American reformed believers represented here had a much stricter and stronger aversion, it seems, to most aspects of what has come to be known, and often stereotyped, as the “black church” in America.  Ken Jones’ testimony was the most telling of this as he displayed his work at Greater Union Baptist Church and it seemed that his dedication to Reformed theology led to him ditching most of the elements of the “black church” often alienating a good portion of his congregation in the process.  I found this odd, though there is no doubt he had great conviction in the act, that there were not, at least a few elements that could be reformed within the theological limitations instead of displaced.  Part of me understands his reasoning, but the other part just questions at what part completely, it seems, displacing a whole cultural product benefits in the end.  I am not sure I can answer this question, but I can at least look at the stories of the younger generation of African-American reformed believers and see more of a struggle with the issue at hand.  I am not saying Jones was wrong, but it just seemed harsh to an extreme.  Beyond that basic concept, I had very little else that I found troubling about the book altogether. 

I found the Afterword to be a solid conclusion by Anthony J. Carter describing the three features that were common among all of these men: being black, being Reformed and, most importantly, being Christian.  Carter displayed the feelings of all the men in stating:

We are black; there is no mistaking that.  We are Reformed, and make no mistake about that.  But these two distinctions have relevance only insofar as they are understood in light of the fact that we are Christian.  C.H. Spurgeon said, “I am never ashamed to avow myself a Calvinist; I do not hesitate to take the name of Baptist; but if I am asked what my creed is, I reply, ‘It is Jesus Christ.’”  We are proud to be Americans.  We are equally proud to be African-American.  We even more thank God that our theology is the biblically-grounded, historically consistent theology of the Reformation.  But if you ask us our faith, if you ask us our creed, if you want the sum of our lives: It is Jesus Christ.  It is Jesus Christ.

The Human Centipede (First Sequence) (2009) - dir. Tom Six; starring Dieter Laser, Ashley C. Williams
Depraved. Sick. Demented. All those words fit this movie plus some others.  I haven’t felt this dirty after watching a movie ever.  The movie surrounds a couple of New Yorkers who are touring Europe and find themselves stranded on a road in the wilderness in Germany.  They find a house with a rather strange man residing in it.  He proceeds to drug their water (never seen that before!) and tie them to hospital beds along with another victim.  Turns out this man is a great surgeon who worked on separating Siamese twins, but, now, he wants to tie three people together.  If you haven’t seen the film or heard anything about it then you should be able to figure out how he surgically ties them together by the image of the centipede.  Yeah, so, that’s the film and you can only imagine the multiple sick shocking moments in it.
Besides the rather upfront, blunt subject matter, the film was surprisingly well shot.  It reminded me of several European horror films of days past.  Between the two leading ladies in the film, only one showed any signs of real acting talent and most of her acting was done with her eyes (for obvious reasons).  There was even a strangely serious and philosophical moment towards the end of the film, however it was fairly hard to take it seriously within the context of a rather strange and sick storyline.  Would I watch it again? No.  Am I glad that I watched it? Ummmm, Yes? Maybe?  Would I still take it over torture porn films (Saw 2-15 or Final Destination 2-15)?  Without any hesitation. 
The Human Centipede (First Sequence) (2009) - dir. Tom Six; starring Dieter Laser, Ashley C. Williams
Depraved. Sick. Demented. All those words fit this movie plus some others.  I haven’t felt this dirty after watching a movie ever.  The movie surrounds a couple of New Yorkers who are touring Europe and find themselves stranded on a road in the wilderness in Germany.  They find a house with a rather strange man residing in it.  He proceeds to drug their water (never seen that before!) and tie them to hospital beds along with another victim.  Turns out this man is a great surgeon who worked on separating Siamese twins, but, now, he wants to tie three people together.  If you haven’t seen the film or heard anything about it then you should be able to figure out how he surgically ties them together by the image of the centipede.  Yeah, so, that’s the film and you can only imagine the multiple sick shocking moments in it.
Besides the rather upfront, blunt subject matter, the film was surprisingly well shot.  It reminded me of several European horror films of days past.  Between the two leading ladies in the film, only one showed any signs of real acting talent and most of her acting was done with her eyes (for obvious reasons).  There was even a strangely serious and philosophical moment towards the end of the film, however it was fairly hard to take it seriously within the context of a rather strange and sick storyline.  Would I watch it again? No.  Am I glad that I watched it? Ummmm, Yes? Maybe?  Would I still take it over torture porn films (Saw 2-15 or Final Destination 2-15)?  Without any hesitation. 

The Human Centipede (First Sequence) (2009) - dir. Tom Six; starring Dieter Laser, Ashley C. Williams

Depraved. Sick. Demented. All those words fit this movie plus some others.  I haven’t felt this dirty after watching a movie ever.  The movie surrounds a couple of New Yorkers who are touring Europe and find themselves stranded on a road in the wilderness in Germany.  They find a house with a rather strange man residing in it.  He proceeds to drug their water (never seen that before!) and tie them to hospital beds along with another victim.  Turns out this man is a great surgeon who worked on separating Siamese twins, but, now, he wants to tie three people together.  If you haven’t seen the film or heard anything about it then you should be able to figure out how he surgically ties them together by the image of the centipede.  Yeah, so, that’s the film and you can only imagine the multiple sick shocking moments in it.

Besides the rather upfront, blunt subject matter, the film was surprisingly well shot.  It reminded me of several European horror films of days past.  Between the two leading ladies in the film, only one showed any signs of real acting talent and most of her acting was done with her eyes (for obvious reasons).  There was even a strangely serious and philosophical moment towards the end of the film, however it was fairly hard to take it seriously within the context of a rather strange and sick storyline.  Would I watch it again? No.  Am I glad that I watched it? Ummmm, Yes? Maybe?  Would I still take it over torture porn films (Saw 2-15 or Final Destination 2-15)?  Without any hesitation. 

The Cusack Chronicles: 2012 (2009)
When I first heard about this film, I was thinking, “Great, another disaster film with little to no storyline and based on some thinly veiled scientific explanation.  Not gonna see it.”  Then I saw the preview and there was John Cusack driving a limousine (reprising his role in Identity?) down a crumbling road, weaving around falling buildings, it was at that point that I realized that I had been suckered in to going to see this film.  This was mainly for the simple fact of seeing John Cusack playing lead male in a summer blockbuster film.  If you had asked me if Cusack would have ever taken a script for a summer blockbuster, I would have told you no.  He is just too eccentric to simplistic summer blockbuster male leads.  However, I was once again proven wrong and to my surprise he makes a formidable blockbuster star.  I can’t say that about 2012, though. 
From the same guy that directed The Day After Tomorrow (which I found to be surprisingly entertaining), this apocalyptic tale about the end of the Mayan calendar has a lot of possibility but it ends up killing itself with its own pretension.  All of the character interactions could have been intriguing, but instead the writers went for cliches instead of realistic dialogue.  The scientific explanations are laughable at best and ultimately leave the film impotent in making any kind of serious point.  The highlight of the film, however, revolved around Cusack’s and Harrelson’s characters who were by far the most interesting and even they were tamer than they should have been.  That being said, there is nothing better than seeing Cusack crawl out of a crack in a landing strip in order to run towards a moving plane while the ground is crumbling behind him.  Great scene, made the movie worth watching right there!
The Cusack Chronicles: 2012 (2009)
When I first heard about this film, I was thinking, “Great, another disaster film with little to no storyline and based on some thinly veiled scientific explanation.  Not gonna see it.”  Then I saw the preview and there was John Cusack driving a limousine (reprising his role in Identity?) down a crumbling road, weaving around falling buildings, it was at that point that I realized that I had been suckered in to going to see this film.  This was mainly for the simple fact of seeing John Cusack playing lead male in a summer blockbuster film.  If you had asked me if Cusack would have ever taken a script for a summer blockbuster, I would have told you no.  He is just too eccentric to simplistic summer blockbuster male leads.  However, I was once again proven wrong and to my surprise he makes a formidable blockbuster star.  I can’t say that about 2012, though. 
From the same guy that directed The Day After Tomorrow (which I found to be surprisingly entertaining), this apocalyptic tale about the end of the Mayan calendar has a lot of possibility but it ends up killing itself with its own pretension.  All of the character interactions could have been intriguing, but instead the writers went for cliches instead of realistic dialogue.  The scientific explanations are laughable at best and ultimately leave the film impotent in making any kind of serious point.  The highlight of the film, however, revolved around Cusack’s and Harrelson’s characters who were by far the most interesting and even they were tamer than they should have been.  That being said, there is nothing better than seeing Cusack crawl out of a crack in a landing strip in order to run towards a moving plane while the ground is crumbling behind him.  Great scene, made the movie worth watching right there!
The Cusack Chronicles: 2012 (2009)
When I first heard about this film, I was thinking, “Great, another disaster film with little to no storyline and based on some thinly veiled scientific explanation.  Not gonna see it.”  Then I saw the preview and there was John Cusack driving a limousine (reprising his role in Identity?) down a crumbling road, weaving around falling buildings, it was at that point that I realized that I had been suckered in to going to see this film.  This was mainly for the simple fact of seeing John Cusack playing lead male in a summer blockbuster film.  If you had asked me if Cusack would have ever taken a script for a summer blockbuster, I would have told you no.  He is just too eccentric to simplistic summer blockbuster male leads.  However, I was once again proven wrong and to my surprise he makes a formidable blockbuster star.  I can’t say that about 2012, though. 
From the same guy that directed The Day After Tomorrow (which I found to be surprisingly entertaining), this apocalyptic tale about the end of the Mayan calendar has a lot of possibility but it ends up killing itself with its own pretension.  All of the character interactions could have been intriguing, but instead the writers went for cliches instead of realistic dialogue.  The scientific explanations are laughable at best and ultimately leave the film impotent in making any kind of serious point.  The highlight of the film, however, revolved around Cusack’s and Harrelson’s characters who were by far the most interesting and even they were tamer than they should have been.  That being said, there is nothing better than seeing Cusack crawl out of a crack in a landing strip in order to run towards a moving plane while the ground is crumbling behind him.  Great scene, made the movie worth watching right there!

The Cusack Chronicles: 2012 (2009)

When I first heard about this film, I was thinking, “Great, another disaster film with little to no storyline and based on some thinly veiled scientific explanation.  Not gonna see it.”  Then I saw the preview and there was John Cusack driving a limousine (reprising his role in Identity?) down a crumbling road, weaving around falling buildings, it was at that point that I realized that I had been suckered in to going to see this film.  This was mainly for the simple fact of seeing John Cusack playing lead male in a summer blockbuster film.  If you had asked me if Cusack would have ever taken a script for a summer blockbuster, I would have told you no.  He is just too eccentric to simplistic summer blockbuster male leads.  However, I was once again proven wrong and to my surprise he makes a formidable blockbuster star.  I can’t say that about 2012, though. 

From the same guy that directed The Day After Tomorrow (which I found to be surprisingly entertaining), this apocalyptic tale about the end of the Mayan calendar has a lot of possibility but it ends up killing itself with its own pretension.  All of the character interactions could have been intriguing, but instead the writers went for cliches instead of realistic dialogue.  The scientific explanations are laughable at best and ultimately leave the film impotent in making any kind of serious point.  The highlight of the film, however, revolved around Cusack’s and Harrelson’s characters who were by far the most interesting and even they were tamer than they should have been.  That being said, there is nothing better than seeing Cusack crawl out of a crack in a landing strip in order to run towards a moving plane while the ground is crumbling behind him.  Great scene, made the movie worth watching right there!

After.Life (2009)
The reason why I picked this rather recent flick was because it starred Liam Neeson who I find to be a fine actor and Christina Ricci, whom I have a strange appeal for (and never have figured out why).  This film has all of the markings of a throw-away Twilight Zone episode, you know, the ones that no one really recalls but watches anyways to get to the great ones during those New Year’s Sci-Fi Channel marathons.  I really like the style of the film and I really like the claustrophobia of it, but, in the end, it is to know avail.  It tries too hard to be a philosophical manifesto on the nature of death and our fear and eventual acceptance of it, that it forgets that it is still just a story.
None of the acting is exceptional, but not horrible either.  The story is not compelling, but not cliched sensationalism either.  I think, honestly, the main problem with this film is that it is too much in the middle in every aspect and that makes it relatively boring.  I really wanted to like it because the concept was something worthy to be dealt with, but I didn’t really get anything to think about and I didn’t really have any reason to care or empathize with any of the characters.  In the end, the best summation of the film is: death is boring.
After.Life (2009)
The reason why I picked this rather recent flick was because it starred Liam Neeson who I find to be a fine actor and Christina Ricci, whom I have a strange appeal for (and never have figured out why).  This film has all of the markings of a throw-away Twilight Zone episode, you know, the ones that no one really recalls but watches anyways to get to the great ones during those New Year’s Sci-Fi Channel marathons.  I really like the style of the film and I really like the claustrophobia of it, but, in the end, it is to know avail.  It tries too hard to be a philosophical manifesto on the nature of death and our fear and eventual acceptance of it, that it forgets that it is still just a story.
None of the acting is exceptional, but not horrible either.  The story is not compelling, but not cliched sensationalism either.  I think, honestly, the main problem with this film is that it is too much in the middle in every aspect and that makes it relatively boring.  I really wanted to like it because the concept was something worthy to be dealt with, but I didn’t really get anything to think about and I didn’t really have any reason to care or empathize with any of the characters.  In the end, the best summation of the film is: death is boring.

After.Life (2009)

The reason why I picked this rather recent flick was because it starred Liam Neeson who I find to be a fine actor and Christina Ricci, whom I have a strange appeal for (and never have figured out why).  This film has all of the markings of a throw-away Twilight Zone episode, you know, the ones that no one really recalls but watches anyways to get to the great ones during those New Year’s Sci-Fi Channel marathons.  I really like the style of the film and I really like the claustrophobia of it, but, in the end, it is to know avail.  It tries too hard to be a philosophical manifesto on the nature of death and our fear and eventual acceptance of it, that it forgets that it is still just a story.

None of the acting is exceptional, but not horrible either.  The story is not compelling, but not cliched sensationalism either.  I think, honestly, the main problem with this film is that it is too much in the middle in every aspect and that makes it relatively boring.  I really wanted to like it because the concept was something worthy to be dealt with, but I didn’t really get anything to think about and I didn’t really have any reason to care or empathize with any of the characters.  In the end, the best summation of the film is: death is boring.