Monday, August 31, 2015

Weekly Links: a Day Late

Good reading from around the Web for your . . . Monday.

I hope you still like reading when it's a Monday.

"Flat Book Cover Design: Why Do So Many of This Year's Book Covers Have the Same Design Style?": a look at trends in literary art.

"Small Surprises in Growing Up":
I blinked at the email, in a sort of shocked pause. My boy is too young to have to register for the draft. Except he isn’t. Not anymore. 

"20 Years Ago This Week: A Look Back at 1995":  a photo essay.

"Fasting for Beginners":
When Jesus returns, fasting will be done. It’s a temporary measure, for this life and age, to enrich our joy in Jesus and prepare our hearts for the next — for seeing him face to face. When he returns, he will not call a fast, but throw a feast; then all holy abstinence will have served its glorious purpose and be seen by all for the stunning gift it was. 
Until then, we will fast.

"Lists of Things that Women Cannot Do: The Problem with John Piper (and Me)":
Whatever happened before, and in, and after the garden of Eden affected relationships between men, women, and God – and we have hard theological work to do to figure out where in that journey we are.
"Not All Conservatives": this is an answer to the article above - I love the conversation they're having on this blog! Well-worth subscribing to.
Complementarianism might be better understood as one expression of gender conservativism. As a response to evangelical feminism, complementarianism developed and flourishes in a specific cultural context, namely a western, white, middle-upper class context; because of this, it will reflect western, white, middle-upper class assumptions about work, economics, and home. The fact that Pastor Piper is even concerned with answering the question “what jobs can a woman do” reflects this.

"How to Weave on a Cardboard Loom": why does this fascinate me? I really don't need another hobby . . .

"Mysteries of Consciousness":
Whatever the case, though, such experiences should chiefly remind us how many and how deep the mysteries of consciousness really are. And the profoundest mystery of consciousness is consciousness itself, because we really have little or no clear idea what it is, or how it could either arise from or ally itself to the material mechanisms of the brain.

"How the Ballpoint Pen Killed Cursive": I love cursive. And now I want a fountain pen.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Friday, August 28, 2015

Book Notes: "Survive the Unthinkable", by Tim Larkin

Several years ago, I had a chance to attend a weekend seminar teaching Target Focused Training, which is the self-protection plan the author of the book I'm reviewing today designed.

My response to a lot of the content of this book, Survive the Unthinkable, can be found in my review of that seminar, but almost five years out, I appreciated having the chance to review the material I studied that weekend by reading this short volume.

Larkin's theory of violence is simple: violence is rarely the answer; but when it is, it's the only answer.

I can't say he's wrong.

Thinking about violence is unpleasant, and the author, Larkin, agrees that it should be unpleasant.  Finding violence unpleasant means that we're normal, well-socialized people. Prevention, walking away . . . that's always the best idea, the best choice.

When it's an available choice.

But when someone who is asocial is perfectly willing to use violence against you, you don't want your socialization to prevent you from fighting back.

Here's a piece of his argument:

If someone is determined to kill you, you must place injury to ensure he can no longer hurt you . . . Violence has no place in everyday life . . . This book is not about becoming a violent person; it is about placing injury on a person who is trying to attack you so that you may survive . . . [violence is] a very narrow tool good for only one thing, and that's shutting down a human being who intends to attack you. But if you are going to place an injury, then you must be prepared to employ it full force . . ."

A lot of this book is dedicated to convincing you that fighting back (even going on the offense!) is good, and required, and not sociopathic. But only when absolutely necessary.  I appreciate both his insistence on violence being a useful tool and also his insistence that it's rarely the right tool. That balance there is important, I think.

The last bit of the book is dedicated to telling you how to be effective in your application of violence. I wish this section was a bit more expansive, but if you pay attention, you'll get a lot of good information. Effective violence doesn't require you to be big and strong. It requires you to have intent and information.

Not a fun topic at all. But a very necessary one.  I've found that since having this training, I've been much less anxious about the possibility of being attacked, simply because it helped me decide how I'd respond. Having already made the decision of what you'd do if takes away uncertainty, and taking away uncertainty really lowers anxiety.

Recommended - not for fun, but for the good information.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. (If you purchase something through the links on this post, I'll receive a very small percentage of the purchase price. See full disclosure in the sidebar of my blog.)

Thursday, August 27, 2015

This is what happens when I try to be good

So, I tried doing a writing exercise from a book I love, "Chapter After Chapter", and the exercise was to take a short period of time and jot down 25 books that you could write.

Well, I cheated, and used at least 10 books that I've already worked on, thought about, plotted a bit, etc.  And a few were really, really generic. But the last 10 or so were really just me, trying to come up with enough ideas that I could tell myself that I'd sincerely done my best to do the writing exercise properly.

And it turns out that I'm a bit nuts. Here's what I came up with at the end of the exercise:

17) I Never Wanted to Be Boethius: On Christianity and Fortune’s Wheel

18) Of Course Someone Made a Still! (Starfleet as It Really Would Have Been)

19) Full of Scorpions: a YA Macbeth with lots of MAGIC

20) Aliens in Exile in Regency London

21) French Wineseller (Vivandiere?) falls in with British Soldier during Napoleonic Wars

22) The Year of Our Lord (a year in the life of a local church, following the liturgical calendar, VERY FICTIONAL AND NOT REAL AT ALL I PROMISE)

23) It’s a Celebrity Wedding but the Real Story is the Two Assistants Falling in Love while they try to make the Party on the Beautiful Island actually Feel Like Paradise to these Crazy Rich People

24) Kids At Christian College Being Stupid and Growing Up and Getting Smarter

Now, of course, I want to read (almost) all of those titles. 

But I'm not sure I'm the one to write them . . . .

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you buy something from Amazon after following the links, I get a very small percentage of the purchase price.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

I'm on Pinterest! (for some reason)

Pinterest, you guys. Who knew?

Yeah, yeah. Everyone but me, apparently. :)

But I'm there now!  Here are a few of the boards I've been putting together:

"Dinnertime!": this one is where I'm collecting recipes. And pinning a few of my own.

"Potluck Ideas": because my church is a potluck church.

"The Castle on the Mountain": for that amazing home/castle/estate my husband I will surely own one day.

"Intergalactic Space Princess": heroine chic. (Guys, this one's my favorite.)

I'm also working on putting together some boards for each of the seasons in the church year, which I hope to have go live starting in Advent.

I hope I see you over there!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Monday, August 24, 2015

Book Notes: "Lizzy & Jane", by Katherine Reay

"Lizzy and Jane", by Katherine Reay, is the author's second novel. (You can read my review of her first book, "Dear Mr. Knightley", here.)

Her first novel was a delightful take on Jean Webster's Daddy Long Legs. (And not so much Austen, as you might suppose. But that was fine with me - there are so many Austen tributes, and rather fewer Webster tributes - and I love Webster.)

"Lizzy and Jane" was harder for me to get into than "Dear Mr. Knightley", but not because the writing was worse. Far from it: the writing was just as wonderful.

It's just that the subject was so very sad.

Cancer is a hard subject. On Saturday, I participated in a cancer fundraising walk, and watching all the survivors list their diagnoses was so moving. One of those survivors is my father. Another is my husband.

Who hasn't been touched by this horrible disease?

And Reay's writing is so good that it felt way too much like real life.

It was hard to make myself want to read about cancer.

And on top of that, I had trouble connecting with the main character.

But I'm glad I kept going, because each of those problems I had with the manuscript ended up being part of the point. Cancer is horrible, and a novel about it would be a bad novel if it didn't get some of that horror across.

And it turned out that the reason the main character was hard to connect with precisely because she was a person who'd cut herself off emotionally, due to her mother's death (from breast cancer) when she was so young.

It was realistic, and in the best of ways.

Properly, the book really came alive in the second half, as the main character herself came alive again: reconnecting with the family, rediscovering her love of making food, and (of course!) falling in love.

Speaking of the romance, one of the things I liked about it was that it wasn't the point of the book. It wasn't even in the book.

And then it was.

And then it was everything.

And I loved that! It's so real life: at one moment, you are just yourself. And the next? You are you-and-him, and then it is just so forevermore.

I liked that a lot.

And now I find I've written almost an entire book review without telling you much about plot or genre. But I hope I've said enough to let you know if you want to read this or not - and I'd lean towards read this.

Because I love reading Christian fiction that doesn't feel fake - even if it feels a little more beautiful than real life. Beauty is something we can all do with having a bit more of.

"Lizzy and Jane", by Katherine Reay? Recommended.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Weekly Links - Self-Discipline, Caring for Others, Mothering, and more!

My weekly round-up of good reading from around the Web:

"Discipline and Adventure":  (congratulations to Anne, for her new blog on Patheos!)
. . . by forcing yourself to do something every day, you can become more interesting than you were the day before. In the discipline, the push, the toil of writing every single solitary day I have discovered first that there are enough words, even for me to have some, and second that I totally love them. Waking up and writing before anything else means that I am set up for the whole day with energy enough for everything else. It’s so amazing. It’s such a pleasure, to have had my mental space transformed by discipline.

"Losing Control of the Vehicle": This sounds like something out of a science fiction novel, but it's real:
Here’s a thought for your next road trip: In the Jeep Cherokee (and probably many other cars, too), when the online diagnostic service is activated, the brake pedal is automatically deactivated, so that the mechanic can test the brakes. If a hacker turns on the diagnostic function while you’re merrily speeding down the highway, the effect would be as if he slashed your brakes.

"How Not to Say the Wrong Thing": I've heard this theory before, but I was glad of the reminder, and I thought this was a really good exposition of the idea:

Draw a circle. This is the center ring. In it, put the name of the person at the center of the current trauma ... 
Here are the rules. The person in the center ring can say anything she wants to anyone, anywhere. She can kvetch and complain and whine and moan and curse the heavens and say, "Life is unfair" and "Why me?" That's the one payoff for being in the center ring. 
Everyone else can say those things too, but only to people in larger rings.

"The Everyday Question of Motherhood":
In motherhood, the Everyday Question is answered every time a child’s concern or need must come before my own. (And as every mother knows, this is most of the time.)

What have you been reading this week?  Share your links in the comments!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Thursday, August 20, 2015

"Leverage" - because TV should be fun

Yes, I'm biased. I prefer my angst in literary form rather than televised form.

When it comes to television, I want to have fun.

And "Leverage" is very, very fun indeed.

It's really an old-fashioned sort of a show. It reminds me of nothing so much as the old Errol Flynn "Robin Hood": no, there never was an outlaw that clever, that charitable, that handsome and witty, but isn't it fun to imagine that there was?

"Leverage" is like that: it's the story of a band of four criminals - a grifter, a hitter, a hacker, a thief - and one mastermind, and how they go about stealing from the rich and wicked in order to defend the rights of the poor and helpless.

The best part of this show is the characters: they're well-drawn and well-acted. I buy the friendships and affection between this mis-matched group of people, and I enjoy the frequent humor.

The biggest downfall of this show for me is not that it's far-fetched: I actually like how fantastical it is.

No, the part that makes me wince is the little bits of reality they can't quite erase. Because if you're a grifter, even if you're grifting for good, you're still lying and stealing. There's still moral harm to your soul and, inevitably, measurable harm to the people you're fooling - and to the occasional bystander. Is it fun to watch hulky Elliot beat up the goons who were menacing an innocent housewife? Yes. Totally.  But what about when he beats up the security guards at the corrupt multi-million dollar corporation? Yes, the corporation is horrible. Yes, Elliot's fighting corruption. But the security guards were just blue-collar guys doing their job, and our hero just put them in the hospital.

The times when "Leverage" is at its best is when it's honest about the damage evil does to human beings. When Hardison and Parker have a careful, elliptical conversation about their childhoods and Parker admits how horrified she is that any other child might end up being, well, being like her . . . that's when the show really shines. Those little moments when they don't actually lie about the cost.

In sum: like most television shows, this one isn't perfect and it has its problems. But the sum of it is good, I think, and it's certainly entertaining.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)