Tuesday 27 February 2024
I reviewed an advance reader copy, meaning it wasn’t in its final form. My copy had no illustrations, just captions where the illustrations should go. So I cannot comment on their quality, though there were a good number of them and they’re placed to illustrate interesting aspects of the text.
The author used a decent number of quotes from ancient texts in addition to numerous Old and New Testament quotes. He often tied things together with modern examples which I found a bit jarring but might help a general audience better understand the thought process of ancient peoples.
The book has some great aims and asks some excellent questions. These are questions that cannot be fully answered, as sources are limited, but it was frustrating at times how short the discussion was. The author might give a few possible answers but little or sometimes no reasoning on why these answers should be considered.
For example, in the 3rd chapter he questions why Romans would join the new Christian church when it was so radically different from what they were used to. He mentions 4 possibilities: the intriguing idea of monotheism, the promise of eternal life, that the new faith blended religion, philosophy and morality in a way others didn’t, and the concept of loving everyone. He mentions these but has no follow-up discussion about them and simply ends the chapter. Also strange is the absence of Christianity’s idea of equality as one of those possibilities. Many early adopters of Christianity were rich upper class women (women whose houses were gifted to the church to become buildings of worship upon their deaths). While upper class women had more agency than many in ancient Rome, the Christian faith gave them power over belief in ways other religions denied them. The author does cover the stratification of Roman society and how Christians tried to upend that with their idea of everyone being treated equally within the church in a later chapter, but he never posits this as a reason why lower class individuals might have joined the church in the first place. Even in his conclusion, when he again considers the question of what made Christianity so compelling, he neglects to mention it in favour of purely spiritual answers.
Despite my desire to see more discussion, the book is excellent at giving a good idea of how differently ancient peoples thought about concepts like religion. It was very useful learning how Greeks and Romans worshipped. I also appreciated learning more about how early Christian practice was different from the Jewish faith it sprang from. I highlighted numerous passages in the book that I thought were worth reflecting on. Christianity has changed a lot from those early years, so it was interesting seeing what the first Christians believed and how they followed Christ.
Consider this a great introduction to the topic of how early Christians practiced and how their worship and thought patterns differed from those of the people around them. It’s a fairly short, easy to read book that will give you a lot to think about.
Tuesday 20 February 2024
This is a strange but thoughtful movie about life and death and what we got out of those experiences. It’s a reminder to be in the moment, to appreciate what you have.
The interviewer, Will, played by Winston Duke, is an interesting character. He’s clearly upset that he has to replace one of his subjects and his experience on earth was apparently negative. It’s unclear what he’s looking for in his new subject, so there’s an interesting mix of souls trying to cater to what they think he wants and being true to themselves.
Emma, played by Zazie Beetz, does a brilliant job of showing how every moment is precious - even minor, otherwise forgettable ones. That if you really LOOK around you, you’ll see the good in the world. She questions the process and gets the most out of the time allotted.
It’s a thought-provoking film that had me crying in a few scenes.
There are a lot of unexplained aspects of the film, where this takes place for example. Expect to be moved by several scenes and left unsettled by the ending.
Tuesday 13 February 2024
I’m planning another research trip which is eating up the majority of my time. I haven’t been taking on many review requests as a result. Haven’t been reading much fiction at all. Last year I only read 28 books, 18 of which were fiction. Two of those were graphic novels, three more were Dante’s Divine Comedy (are those fiction? poetry? religious philosophy? not really sure). I keep thinking I can read on my trips, but the stress involved means I REALLY do not have the concentration required. So I’ve gravitated to watching more movies and TV shows.
I read an article recently by a professor lamenting that kids these days haven’t learned the skill of reading. That the instant gratification of social media has lowered attention spans and that schools haven’t focused on the skill that is sitting still and concentrating on a single task. I’m realizing that sitting still is a skill to be cultivated. And I think a lot of us have lost it.
I also think I need to prioritize pleasure reading more. Accomplishing tasks is great and research is wonderful, but all stress and no down time make for people who don’t handle the challenges of life very well. The world keeps telling us that we need to earn money from everything we do, that all our hobbies should be second or third jobs. I have found that when I review all the movies I watch I don’t enjoy them as much. There is real work involved in thinking critically about media. This blog started out as a way to market myself and my writing. I know how hard it is to find good media, and how hard it is to be seen, so for years this blog’s been about pointing out books and movies I thought were interesting and worth checking out.
So this blog’s been declining in terms of content. I post book reviews when I have them. I’ve got a religious book review coming soon, and a few science fiction books I’ve received advance reading copies of. This year will probably be another lean year. Hopefully I’ll have more time for leisure reading come autumn, after my trip.
I’m currently reading Cascade Failure by L. M. Sagas, and it’s very tense. I’m enjoying it a lot. And managing to read a couple of chapters before my brain tells me to get back to research.
Tuesday 6 February 2024
An epic coming-of-age fantasy adventure for young and old readers alike!
In “The Elementalists” fantasy books set, you will embark on an adventurous journey into a universe where ordinary teenagers discover incredible powers. Across four epic fantasy books, readers are taken into a world where magic is full of possibility, friendship is unbreakable, and courage glows in the face of challenges.
Tuesday 23 January 2024
After being transferred to be the new head of security on a mining colony on Io, Marshal William O’Niel must decide if he wants to toe the line or bust the drug ring he uncovers.
The special effects are really good. The station looks dirty and lived in, with a claustrophobic mix of large spaces broken down into small cubicles and living quarters. It’s very much a realistic - and rather horrifying - guess at what a company town would look like. Little private space, little regard for the workers, lots of emphasis on productivity and profit for the company.
There’s a realistic 3 day transfer time from the orbiting space station and the planet, which the story uses to good effect. The tech is all so outdated watching them write emails and watch video messages is kind of painful, though it was futuristic stuff for the early 80s.
The extended final fight was entertaining. I question some of the structural integrity of the complex and the mine’s ability to continue operating after some important sections of the base were destroyed though. Oddly the massive damage to the base isn’t commented on by anyone in the film.
While it’s not the best film set in space, it was entertaining and embodies a lot of the themes later 80s films would focus on.
Tuesday 16 January 2024
After a co-worker suddenly leaves, Mark S. is promoted to team lead of data refinement. His first task is to help the team’s replacement, Helly, with her adjustment to severed life.
But Helly doesn’t want to work at Lumen and it’s truly bizarre office culture. And she will do whatever it takes to get out.
This is an absolutely brilliant show on Apple TV. It’s slow moving and takes its time letting you get to know the core characters and their issues. It asks some great questions about memory, work, and work-life balance. Having seen it twice now, it’s also a show that gets better upon rewatch as you can pay attention to smaller details you missed the first time around.
The story is bizarre in all the best ways. There’s so much that’s simply ODD about Lumen and the office. The show has a lot of bright lights and long white corridors. It’s also got some creative photography choices, making good use of reflections and cramped spaces. There’s a sweet office romance between 2 older men (one of whom is played by Christopher Walken). A lot of 60s inspired sets and parties. A new age guru, and more.
The season has an electrifying finale that poses a lot of new questions and deepens the mysteries around the company.
I hope the series gets all the seasons it needs to tell its story as planned.
Tuesday 9 January 2024
This is the 9th book in the Wayward Children series and is best read in sequence. It takes place a bit before and directly after the events of Where the Drowned Girls Go and Lost in the Moment and Found. It’s worth rereading those if you don’t remember what happened.
Antsy’s an interesting character. She’s 9 years old in the body of a 16 year old, with no idea of how to act around kids her visible age. Seeing her face her past and giving real resolution to her story in Lost in the Moment and Found, was wonderful.
I loved Sumi in this story. She can be a bit much but acts like a real mother hen crossed with a real no nonsense attitude. She has some of the most insightful lines in the book.
Despite the rules of the school, a quest is at hand. As a novella it only takes a few hours to read, but has a very satisfying story arc.
If you’ve read the prior novellas in the series, this is a strong follow-up. If you haven’t, I can’t recommend the series enough.