Thursday, March 22, 2012

TR on Character

I came across this essay, Character and Success by Theodore Roosevelt, today while I was looking for something for my wife - George Washington's Rules of Civility. (maybe I'll post that too at some point) Roosevelt, or TR as he often called himself, was among other things an idealist. I've heard that lately Glenn Beck has been giving TR a hard time for some of his policies as President, but leaving that aside, I think Beck or anyone else who cares about the state of the American soul (if countries had souls) would agree that TR's words of wisdom should be widely broadcast and widely heeded. I put a small poster up in my boy's room with a quote from this essay to serve as a reminder of the importance of character. It says:
     "Bodily vigor is good, and vigor of intellect is even better, but far above both is character."

     A good summary, but the whole essay is worth the read. Check it out here:

Monday, March 19, 2012

Off the Cuff Movie Review The Phantom Menace

     Last night we watched the movie that our boys have been waiting to see for a long time - Star Wars "Episode I" The Phantom Menace.  I have talked frequently to my long-suffering wife about how the Prequel movies are plagued with bad writing, wooden acting, logical inconsistencies in the plot lines and other things. Yet I hadn't quite found the right word to sum up these films until now. 

   The Phantom Menace was boring. A majority of the movie was taken up by people standing or sitting about, talking. Dialogue can be exciting, if there is appropriate tension, but in this movie there was no tension. Everyone spoke in calm, measured tones, as if they were discussing the weather instead of the fate of  - oh, wait. The fate of some little planet off on the side of the galaxy. 

     The ultimate indicator of how boring this movie was, however, was my sons' reactions.  They watched it with interest, but they just sat there. Even the big pod racing scene didn't get them off the couch. There was barely a comment or cheer raised when the 'good guys' won at the end. They still like 'Star Wars' - -the original trilogy - but the Phantom Menace left them unimpressed.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Theology of Firefly - Ancient Faith Radio

     I am a fan of Firefly, the ill-fated 2002 Fox TV space-western, and its theatrical follow-on, Serenity. It is the closest thing I have seen in visual media to the pencil-and-paper roleplaying game Traveller, about which I have written in other posts. As one Traveller player put it on a discussion board long ago, "Nothing says Traveller like shotguns in space!"
     Another reason why I enjoyed Firefly was the inclusion of a Christian character in Shepherd Book. Now, the show didn't last long enough to delve into the particulars of Book's denominational background or his theology, but the simple fact that the 'Verse was presented as still having an active, viable place for religion was a surprising change from some other TV sci-fi shows I could mention, and from literary sci-fi as well. I have read a lot of 'classic' sci-fi books, from the fifties and sixties, including Asimov, Heinlein, Piper and Niven. In their works, religion was often a feature of the universe, almost never the subject of the story, but religious images and people were present, and accepted as being consistent with the existence of space ships and ray guns and supercomputers. It seems to me that by the 80's and 90's and beyond, religion had largely been drummed out of sci-fi; the two biggest influences, Star Trek and Star Wars, having only vague awareness of organized religions, and then only as 'quaint native curiosities' to be 'enlightened' by the god Science. 
     Firefly's presenting a regular character of the show as being devoutly religious (Book), and the main character (Malcolm Reynolds) as conflicted by his faith which was crushed by disappointment was unusual, and engaging. 
     So, as I was listening today to Ancient Faith Radio, I came upon this short podcast, The Theology of Firefly. Browncoats, listen and learn!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Wisdom from the Fathers - Irenaeus & Gregory Palamas

     Today's Wisdom from the Fathers comes to us courtesy of Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick, and his blog Roads from Emmaus.

     Irenaeus of Lyons wrote that “the glory of God is a man fully alive.”

Monday, March 12, 2012

Quotations about the Library

A colleague sent the following quotes around to our library staff today. Enjoy.

The Internet may be the world's greatest library, but let's face it - all the books are scattered on the floor.  - D.C. Denison, Boston Globe

Google can bring you back 100,000 answers, a librarian can bring you back the right one.  - Neil Gaiman, author of Sandman and Neverwhere

In the non-stop tsunami of global information, librarians provide us the floaties and teach us how to swim. - Linton Weeks, Washington Post

Does the internet replace the library? Does a calculator replace math class?  Learning how to use the tool is more important than having the tool. -  Dave Peters

The Internet is marvelous, but to claim, as some now do, that it's making libraries obsolete is as silly as saying shoes have made feet unnecessary. - Mark Herring, American Libraries, 2001

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Business of College Education

     My dear wife passed this article along to me, since I work for a university. It is a commentary essay, not a research paper with documented evidence, but it is concerning none the less. Now, nobody's saying this sort of thing goes on where I work, but this is a worrying indicator for those of us who believe that higher education is about educating people.

The Business of Higher Education

A Quote: "These kids are never going to graduate, she confided. They are going to flunk out or quit. Our job as freshmen instructors is to keep them in school for as many semesters as we can so that we can get an extra grant check or two."

     Really?!?  That statement should make every professor and administrator in American higher education wince. But will it?  I can't say. I certainly hope to God that no one where I work takes this attitude, and thankfully, I've heard nothing of the kind.