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Posts Tagged ‘Roman Catholic’

3:16 Bible Texts Illuminated”  —  book review
Today’s review is for “3:16 Bible Texts Illuminated” (1991©) written by Donald E. Knuth.  Back in 2011, I read another book by Knuth, titled: “Things A Computer Scientist Rarely Talks About“. (Review here.)  That book, was a discussion about the author’s faith and his prior book, which is being reviewed in this post.  When I retired (in 2017), I was presented with an Amazon gift voucher, which I promised to “waste” on books, music or technology.  In this case, part of it was used to buy this book (along with a number of other Knuth books).
To save everyone the time of reading my earlier review, basically, Knuth wanted to know if one can learn anything unique or unusual about the Bible by doing a stratified (but random) sampling / review of a particular Bible verse.  In theory, if you have a sufficiently large sample to draw from, you can gain “some” knowledge about any topic by analyzing a random sample of the topic’s data.
Because Knuth was not sure this type of investigation would work for literature, Knuth chose a verse he knew would have at least one interesting data point: “Chapter 3 Verse 16”.  The chapter and verse he was confident about was John Chapter 3: Verse 16 – “Yes, God loved the world so much that he gave his only child, so that all people with faith in him can escape destruction, and live forever.
The first problem Knuth encounters is that not all of the books of the Bible have 13 verses in their chapter 3.  To get around this, he simply carried the sample forward the same number (count) of verses and take up wherever that left him.  There were, however, a number of books which were simply to short to use even this method.  In those instances, he simply chooses to drop the book. Knuth ends up with a sampling size of 59 verses.
The second issue was Knuth found scholars did not always (rarely, in fact) agree on what exactly was meant by the writings in the various Bible sources.  Not only were the scholars interpretations differing, so were the texts across the various Bible versions.  There was (is) even disagreement on if some source material is valid and / or should be included in the Bible.
In order to determine why this was happening, Knuth determined to read the Bibles in their original Hebrew / Aramaic and Greek / Latin.  He could then present his own translations as he felt they should be interpreted.  In addition, he felt he needed to translate the verses immediately before and after the target verse to ensure he was accurately relating context as well as the literal meaning.
The method of describing each of the 59 verses itself is interesting.  Each verse is covered in four pages.  Page one provides overall historic, geographic and character background information.  The second page is devoted to a calligraphic representation of the verse.  The final two pages are a word by word breakdown of the verse.  In order to do this in a manner which makes sense, Knuth sometimes adds an analysis of the preceding or following verse(s).  Just a word on the calligraphy.  Knuth approached a friend who happened to be a world renowned typeface designer to assist with the book cover illustration.  The friend (Hermann Zapf), in turn commissioned calligraphers from over 20 countries to provide the “illustration” pages.  This calligraphy, in turn, became part of a formal exhibit which I believe is currently “owned” by the San Francisco Library.  I don’t know if it (the entire exhibit) is ever shown publicly.  I know it was back in 2011, but I was not able to go view it back then.  My loss, I am sure.
So, is this book interesting?  Is it entertaining?  Is it enlightening?  Yes.  Yes, and Yes!  I am a life-long Roman Catholic, but I have never read the Bible through cover to cover.  I tried to a few years back, but had limited knowledge of the names and places and found it rather boring.  I attempted to co-read Isaac Asimov’s “Guide To The Bible“, but even this was of limited value.  I now think I just gave up too soon.  Mea culpa.
Almost every chapter of this book explained something I didn’t know or fully appreciate about the book being covered in that chapter.  Some were simple “interesting”.  Some were “that never occurred to me”.  And, some (a few) were “Wow! I’ve got to go back and read that!”  Anytime I read a book which prompts me to read more or more in-depth, I am grateful to the author.  (I’m still not sure if I’m weird that way…)  In any case, I’m now more determined than ever to read more of Knuth’s books.
In this case: final recommendation – very highly recommended!!  Even if you are not a Biblical scholar or particularly religious, this book will provide insight into one of the greatest books in all of literature.  At less than 270 pages, this is a fast read and the calligraphy is truly beautiful.  Two final notes: 1) in the afterward, Knuth wonders if his selection of “3:16” was not “influenced” and therefor not entirely random.  His conclusion was, with further analysis, it may have been, but was not intentional.  He adds, however, that he enjoyed the process so much he intends to use the methodology for further future study of other verses.  And, 2) I’ve seen in various places this book was copyright in 1990.  My version says 1991 and that’s the year I’m using above.
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On This Day In:
2018 Happy 34th Anniversary, Hil!!
2017 Happy 33rd Anniversary, Hil!!
2016 Happy 32nd Anniversary, Hil!!
2015 Happy Anniversary Hil!!
2014 30th Wedding Anniversary
2013 Number 29 (And Counting)
2012 Hammer ‘N Roses
Happy Anniversary
2011 I Can Hear It Now

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Gabriel” (2007)  —  movie review
Today’s review is for a “religious” based action / martial arts / horror film along the lines of the TV shows “Lucifer” or “Supernatural” or the movie “The Crow“.  This review is probably a lot longer than the movie deserves, so unless you really enjoy my writing, feel free to come back later…  You’ve been warned.
Gabriel” is Australian movie and therefore has (mostly) folks I’ve never heard of in the starring roles: Andy Whitfield as Archangel Gabriel (hero / good-guy), Dwaine Stevenson as fallen Archangel Sammael / Michael (evil villain / bad guy) and Samantha Noble as Jade / Archangel Amietiel (former good-girl / now “love” interest).  I understand Whitfield went on to play the lead in the series: “Spartacus”, but he developed a fatal illness and died before the second year of the series.
Basically, there is a place between heaven and hell where human souls go to await their final judgement.  It wasn’t clear why this was (waiting or judgement) or when it (judgement) was supposed to happen – the end of the “real” world or just some arbitrary time for each person.  Strangely, the “dead” who are there can still “die” and then they are “really” dead and (I guess) don’t go anywhere.  [Exposition to create drama…]  This is the fate of any of the Archangels who happen to die while in this place.  The place is called: “Purgatory”, but it doesn’t seem to be the same place / purgatory I was raised (I am a Roman Catholic) knowing about.  It’s kind of a permanently dark, gloomy and raining Los Angeles.
Anyway, the film is supposed to be a battle between the “good” Archangels and the “bad” Archangels (called: “The Fallen”).  While the battles involve a lot of martial arts, they also have a fair amount of gun and knife action.  It’s not clear how any of this is relevant, you just kind of have to go with it…  Like I said: anyway, the good angels have to kill the bad angels to restore “light” to Purgatory and then they (the good angels) can go back to heaven (the light).
And therein lies the basis of the the film’s problems: none of it (Purgatory) makes any sense and none of the exposition helps make it (the film) make any sense.  The exposition mostly is just an early warning that the plot is going somewhere.
So, is this movie any good?  What about the martial arts scenes?  The religious aspects?  Was it entertaining?  So-so, so-so, more confusing than the plot and only marginally (entertaining).  I think the film was meant to be some type of morality play.  It just didn’t work for me.
Final recommendation: poor to moderate.  The fight choreography was okay.  The acting was kind of okay (sometimes), but almost too over the top, to the point of being a send-up.  The plot (as explained) made no sense.  The ending, also made no sense.  I understand the original movie was well over three hours long and the release version was cut down to just under two hours.  If you like your movies dark (screen black, sound, but you can’t see anything) and foreboding (when you can see something) with a couple of fights thrown in to keep you awake, you should be entertained.  Otherwise, you probably need to give this one a miss.
And one last thought: I should have known better…  I got this movie as part of an “angel” three-pack with “Priest” (a vampire movie) and “Legion” (not yet viewed) for a tenner.  I saw “Priest” in the theater and thought it was ok (even though I don’t usually like – or watch – vampire films).  It starred Paul Bettany, as did “Legion“, so I thought I could “risk” the third movie being a dud.  This movie (“Gabriel“) isn’t really terrible – it’s just not to my taste and the martial arts scenes don’t really save it for me.  And, yeah…  I should have known better.
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On This Day In:
2018 A Gift
2017 Unless You Genuinely Are Small
2016 B1
2015 Five Things
2014 Have Faith
2013 Found In A Mine
2012 Two-Sided Coin
2011 Passionately Scorned Rules

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Book Review:
Last Thursday, I accompanied my wife downtown.  She likes to go to the Farmer’s Market and I like to go to the used bookstore.  While there, I picked up a copy of the book: “Inherit The Wind”  (1955©), written by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, which I found on the $1 shelf.
The book is essentially the script of the play by the same name.  The story is a dramatization (fictionalized) of the Scopes “Monkey” Trial of 1925 in Dayton, Tennessee.  Although the book / play is arguably about the conflict between the theory of evolution and the creation of the universe as stated in the Book of Genesis, the authors claimed the play was actually about the conflict between freedom of speech / thought and “McCarthyism” in the United States in the 1950’s.  (McCarthyism is here defined as the practice of making accusations of subversion or treason without proper regard for evidence.  It also means “the practice of making unfair allegations or using unfair investigative techniques, especially in order to restrict dissent or political criticism.”  In this case, a law prohibiting the teaching of evolution without accounting for the substantial scientific evidence supporting evolution and an absolute dearth of evidence supporting Creationism / Genesis.)
The book is barely 100 pages and is a VERY fast read. It effectively points out the difficulties of trying to use a book of faith as a wall against scientific progress.  Essentially, you end up with a ridiculous speed bump instead of a barrier.  Although I found the book less powerful than the movie, it is still very engaging.  Final recommendation: highly recommended.
Movie Review:
Having read the book, I felt compelled to re-watch the movie: “Inherit The Wind” (1960).  The movie stars Spencer Tracy as Henry Drummond (Clarence Darrow) the defense attorney, Fredric March as Matthew Harrison Brady (William Jennings Bryan) the prosecutor and Gene Kelly as E. K. Hornbeck (H. L. Mencken) the out-of-town-journalist.
This is a “classic” black and white movie and one of my favorite works starring Tracy.  I have watched this movie well over a dozen times in my life and continue to watch it through to the end whenever I stumble on it playing on the TV.  Two other points bear mentioning…  This is my defining memory of March as an actor, which is both good and bad. Good because he is fantastic in the role.  Bad because he is SO good it has biased me against him in the few other roles I’ve seen him in.  March is so good, you almost think he is playing himself – much like John Wayne in “True Grit“.  It is only in seeing him in other roles that you realize it was all an act.  This is, I believe, the classic definition of a great actor.  As much as I love Tracy in this film, I am almost magnetically drawn to viewing and listening to (studying) March when I watch this film.  My second point is for those of you who think of Gene Kelly as purely a gifted “hoofer” (i.e. “Singing In The Rain” and many others), watch this film.  Kelly can act!  His face speaks a million lines and his sarcastic / comedic / cynical timing is impeccable.
Needless to say, the play the movie is based on is a fictionalized version of a real trial and the movie is a dramatized version of the play.  I first saw this movie as a youngster (probably pre-teens) and it had a profound impact on my life as I wanted to become a scientist and discover “Natural” law.  I wanted to be a “free” thinker.  Raised a Roman Catholic, this movie made me question at an early age – not my faith – but the Church and those who proposed an absolute belief in the Church (any church) and the Bible (any “holy” book).  It is only now, years later, that I realize the conflict between faith and science was not the basis for the movie.  As mentioned above, placing the film in historical context, it is actually about the fight against bullying and ostracism of those who are able to (and choose to) think for themselves and who wish to discuss their thoughts openly without fear of harassment (prison).
This is a powerful movie and is well worth watching and discussing with family and friends – at multiple levels.  This is particularly true in an age where there is a new law (wall) being discussed to protect us (America) from the threat of terrorists (“illegals” taking our jobs for lower wages).  As fundamentalists (Christian, Muslim or any other faith) cannot halt the progress of science, American reactionaries cannot halt the progress of macroeconomics.  Left to its own devices, corporate socialism / monopolistic capitalism will drive down the cost of labor just as water seeks its own level unless we, as a people decide as a matter of public policy that enough is enough.
Okay, climbing down from my high-horse, final recommendation: this is a very highly recommended movie.  An excellent story, told with great actors.
Movie Review:
My second movie review today is for: “Reign Of Fire” (2002).  This is a dragons destroy humanity movie starring: Christian Bale as Quinn Abercromby, Matthew McConaughey as Denton Van Zan, Izabella Scorupco as Alex Jensen and Gerard Butler as Creedy (Bale’s character’s best friend).  As a lad, Bale discovers a dragon buried under London.  Somehow, the single dragon begets a million other dragons and they, more or less, destroy human civilization.  There are a few pockets of survival and Bale and Butler are the bosses of one.  Along comes McConaughey, who proposes to destroy the dragons, not merely out-last them by hiding.  And, so, off we go to London to slay the dragon…
This is not a movie which bears much thinking about.  You either watch it and enjoy it, or you think about it and don’t.  I have chosen (frequently) to watch and enjoy.  It is what it is and it’s pretty good at being just that.  As an aside, the most interesting thing from my latest viewing is the way this movie presages “Batman Begins” with the fluttering birds and dragons in Reign being reminiscent of the fluttering bats in Batman and then the dark tunnel / the Bat Cave.  On the other hand, it could just be my recent marathon session of the “Dark Knight Trilogy” has me seeing things which really aren’t there.
Anyway, while it doesn’t stand much thought, it’s a surprisingly viewable movie.  Final recommendation: Strong.
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On This Day In:
2015 Natural Shapes
2014 Seeing The Light
2013 Requirements
2012 Tricked Again
2011 Liberty And Justice For Earth
2010 Home Again, Home Again, Jig-A-De, Jig…

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