What I Read the Week of August 12

This is the start of a new feature on this blog. Having just decided to stop writing word study posts every month, I’ve immediately come up with a new “placeholder” idea, something to guarantee content from this place at least once a week. Perhaps I’ll grow tired of this eventually as well, but it’s feeling much more interesting at the moment than the “Words of the Day” were. I find articles to read on the internet almost every day. Often I share them on Facebook or Twitter, but it would be much more convenient to share them all to one place. This also allows me to comment on the various subjects, to state plainly what I liked or didn’t like in each article — bearing in mind that I will mostly share things of which I generally approve. Whenever I share links, a desired outcome is for some kind of discussion to begin. That’s been pretty rare, which has left me wondering just how communicative I’ve been with my sharing. It seemed natural to combine my reading with my writing in these posts. They will appear every Sunday, if it’s at all possible, and I will continue trying to write original content later in the week as often as possible. But here’s some of the stuff I read this week.

Eight days ago, Mitt Romney selected Rep. Paul Ryan to be his running mate in this year’s presidential election. The opinions about this choice came quickly and have been all over the map, as you’d expect. Only time will tell whether or not Romney/Ryan can wage a good, successful campaign. But in general, I’ve found reasons to be optimistic. The big issue of this election is the economic condition of the country, and I’m becoming convinced that Romney and Ryan are the team to help fix our problems in that area. My optimism has been aided by a few editorials in the Wall Street Journal this week, including this one from Monday, by Kimberley A. Strassel. She interprets the selection of Ryan as a way to communicate the seriousness of the Romney campaign and their willingness to run on real policies, not just nice words for the voters and vicious smears on opponents. Additionally, she points out that Ryan has successfully worked with Democrats and convinced independents to keep reelecting him, in a district that voted for Obama in 2008. He has done this not through compromise, but by communicating a conservative political philosophy in an appealing way. I look forward to more of that communication in the months to come.

The closing ceremony for the London Summer Olympics was last Sunday night. I found it generally garish and tedious, sprinkled with just a few nice moments. Rebecca Cusey, writing in her Patheos blog, crystallized some of the show’s problems for me. Reflecting on London in light of Beijing four years ago, this year’s closing ceremony felt rather insecure to me. England was not in the financial condition to compete with what China accomplished. I think Cusey is dead-on that the show was trying to shove individuality in our faces as a contrast with the massive, impersonal Chinese show. To put it briefly and bluntly, I felt that Western culture was presented in a very bad light.

In other, less recent news, the Higgs Boson was discovered last month. An article for Christ and Pop Culture on the subject by Jason Morehead accomplished two impressive feats: one, explaining the Higgs in a way that is pretty easy to understand, and two, making a case for why the discovery is worthwhile. Morehead emphasizes the practical or technological benefits that could eventually result (showing how other important discoveries seemed to have no practical benefits at first), but I especially like how he closes the article. Christians can look at science as a way to marvel at what God has created and to get a better idea of how small we are. Yes, the money that built the Large Hadron Collider could have been used to feed the poor, but that money was not wasted.

In July, Reverse Shot‘s Michael Koresky wrote a review of Alfred Hitchcock’s movie Vertigo. I read it on Monday. In between, the Sight & Sound Greatest Films Poll results were unveiled, with Vertigo claiming the number one spot for the first time. This wonderfully celebratory review is exactly the kind of thing I’d like to see more of now, rather than what will more likely be written: essays on why Vertigo should not be number one. Even if that doesn’t happen, the Reverse Shot review is one of the best I’ve read on the film. It celebrates all the myriad ways the film succeeds — particularly the music, camera movement, visual symbolism, and James Stewart’s performance. It’s the kind of criticism I enjoy the most, because it encourages the reader to engage with the work of art in a more meaningful way.

Speaking of critics, an article by Dwight Garner, which appears in today’s New York Times Magazine but appeared online four days ago, makes an excellent defense of them. Professional critics have been attacked for various reasons, and with the expansion of the internet their whole reason for being has been called into question. Garner praises their job and its continued importance. Criticism is a profession that appeals to me, so it’s great for me to read stuff like this.

Another profession that many people find hard to respect nowadays is the pop singer. Santi White, better known as Santigold, doesn’t necessarily fit that description, but her latest album shows a great deal of pop’s influence. The singer was interviewed by Ryan Hamm for RELEVANT Magazine. I love what she has to say about the current state of pop, its shallowness and the reliance on hit singles, as well as the state of American culture in general (“We’re becoming a nation of idiots,” as she put it).

I’ve wondered before about the possibility of a work of art transcending its maker. Daniel A. Siedell, in his Patheos blog, wrote a response this week to a New York Times article questioning how bad people can make good art. Siedell’s answer is very theological, and also very good, I think. A work of art is not a simple expression of opinion or worldview. It is a reaching into the artist’s heart and soul, which are ultimately mysterious even to the artist. The artist never has complete control over what his or her art expresses. Thus, art serves a spiritual function: laying bare how little we know about ourselves, and showing the promise of being “fully known” at a later time.

Last but not least, Religion Dispatches article by Rob Goodman lacerates what he calls “selfish reading” of the Bible. Not only does Goodman criticize Christian leaders like Rick Warren, Bruce Wilkinson and Joel Osteen for sucking out lessons of shallow self-improvement from complex biblical stories, but he also gives examples of much more fruitful Bible reading, exploring the complexity and the foreignness of certain passages. Having worked in Christian retail, I can say that Warren is far from the first person to look at Daniel chapter one and see a diet plan. So the message is timely and incisive.

I read other articles this week, but these were the ones I felt I needed to share. I hope you enjoy them.

One response to “What I Read the Week of August 12

  1. Pingback: What I Read the Week of August 26 « infinitecrescendo·

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