Archive for April 17th, 2011

17
Apr
11

‎4.17.2011 … Palm Sunday … Beautiful day …

Lent, Palm Sunday, faith and spirituality:  Saw Palm Sunday in a different light this year …

So we are a long way from our prettified Church images of children in pastel outfits singing the hymn: “Tell me the stories of Jesus… Into the city I’d follow, waving a branch of the palm tree high in my hand.”  Interestingly, the mounting tension of Palm Sunday was captured pretty well in the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar’s catchy song, “Hosanna, Heysanna.”

via Palm Sunday – read Mark 11:1-11.

faith and spirituality: 

It was the worst news I could get as an atheist: my agnostic wife had decided to become a Christian. Two words shot through my mind. The first was an expletive; the second was “divorce.”

I thought she was going to turn into a self-righteous holy roller. But over the following months, I was intrigued by the positive changes in her character and values. Finally, I decided to take my journalism and legal training (I was legal editor of the Chicago Tribune) and systematically investigate whether there was any credibility to Christianity.

Maybe, I figured, I could extricate her from this cult.

I quickly determined that the alleged resurrection of Jesus was the key. Anyone can claim to be divine, but if Jesus backed up his claim by returning from the dead, then that was awfully good evidence he was telling the truth.

For nearly two years, I explored the minutia of the historical data on whether Easter was myth or reality. I didn’t merely accept the New Testament at face value; I was determined only to consider facts that were well-supported historically. As my investigation unfolded, my atheism began to buckle.

Was Jesus really executed? In my opinion, the evidence is so strong that even atheist historianGerd Lüdemann said his death by crucifixion was “indisputable.”

Was Jesus’ tomb empty? Scholar William Lane Craig points out that its location was known to Christians and non-Christians alike. So if it hadn’t been empty, it would have been impossible for a movement founded on the resurrection to have exploded into existence in the same city where Jesus had been publicly executed just a few weeks before.

Besides, even Jesus’ opponents implicitly admitted the tomb was vacant by saying that his body had been stolen. But nobody had a motive for taking the body, especially the disciples. They wouldn’t have been willing to die brutal martyrs’ deaths if they knew this was all a lie.

Did anyone see Jesus alive again? I have identified at least eight ancient sources, both inside and outside the New Testament, that in my view confirm the apostles’ conviction that they encountered the resurrected Christ. Repeatedly, these sources stood strong when I tried to discredit them.

Could these encounters have been hallucinations? No way, experts told me. Hallucinations occur in individual brains, like dreams, yet, according to the Bible, Jesus appeared to groups of people on three different occasions – including 500 at once!

Was this some other sort of vision, perhaps prompted by the apostles’ grief over their leader’s execution? This wouldn’t explain the dramatic conversion of Saul, an opponent of Christians, or James, the once-skeptical half-brother of Jesus.

Neither was primed for a vision, yet each saw the risen Jesus and later died proclaiming he had appeared to him. Besides, if these were visions, the body would still have been in the tomb.

Was the resurrection simply the recasting of ancient mythology, akin to the fanciful tales of Osiris or Mithras? If you want to see a historian laugh out loud, bring up that kind of pop-culture nonsense.

One by one, my objections evaporated. I read books by skeptics, but their counter-arguments crumbled under the weight of the historical data. No wonder atheists so often come up short in scholarly debates over the resurrection.

In the end, after I had thoroughly investigated the matter, I reached an unexpected conclusion: it would actually take more faith to maintain my atheism than to become a follower of Jesus.

And that’s why I’m now celebrating my 30th Easter as a Christian. Not because of wishful thinking, the fear of death, or the need for a psychological crutch, but because of the facts.

via How Easter Killed My Faith in Atheism – Speakeasy – WSJ.

Maira Kalman, exhibits, NYC:  Another reason to go to NYC!

For anyone planning a trip to New York City over the upcoming holidays–or already there: Make sure you visit Maira Kalman’s quirkily charming, provocative exhibit, Various Illuminations (of a Crazy World), at the beautiful Jewish Museum, up until July 31, 2011. The museum sells quite a bit of Mairana, as I call it, so while you’re there you can buy have a shower curtain imprinted with her famous New Yorker cover of the Stans of New York City, all her books, and a bag for your loot, printed with her painting of the famous 1939 poster produced by the British government at the outset of World War II: Keep Calm and Carry On.

Sometimes I think of Maira as having been a co-Mom, even though I didn’t meet her until my boys were past toddlerhood. Over the years–well into their years–I read them her Max stories over and over again; they couldn’t hear them often enough. Sayonara Mrs. Kackleman, Max Makes a Milion, Max in Hollywood, Ooh-La-La: Max in Love (in Paris of course)–they are among our cherished possessions.

As a grown up, I’ve returned many times to the pages of The Principles of Uncertainty. Many people got to know Maira through her blog, And the Pursuit of Happiness, for the New York Times. I heard Maira lecture recently at the museum; she said that she was smitten with Lincoln, though Franklin’s face is on the cover of her collection of those blog posts. She feels she would have made Lincoln a much better wife than that crazy Mary Todd.

via Slow Love Life: MAIRA KALMAN EXHIBIT IN NYC.

faith and spirituality, Christianity, Bible, translations:

Christianity, needless to say, is awash in translated variety, a trend begun in the middle of the 20th century as new translation upon new translation flowed from the publishing houses in search not only for a final replacement of the King James Version, but also of soaring profits. Meaning became unrelated to the sounds. Hebrew and Greek are even no longer ordination requirements for clergy in many Christian denominations. The Word is divorced from the words in the original languages. A preacher of the Word no longer needs to be able to read the words! This accounts, I believe, for much of the slide into emotive Gnosticism, today’s heresy of choice, which declares, “I am saved by what I know and I know only what I feel.” (This can be heard in the soppy, “I am so in love with Jesus.” Yuck.) Everyone, and anyone, can be an expert about feelings. Meaning, divorced from the sounds, finds its roots “wherever.”

All this is by way of an introduction of a consideration, to be offered in my next post, of the pending arrival in English-speaking Catholicism of a new translation of the Missal. Much is at stake, as I hope to show.

via Hopelens Blog.

Davidson, Dean Rusk, random:  Great story about Dean Rusk and Davidson.

The title comes from a chapter in Dean Rusk’s As I Saw It (Norton, 1990)–the chapter about his student years at Davidson College.  I had not read the chapter before and at the urging of an alumnus, finally pulled the book off the library shelf.

The Bank of Davidson a few years after Rusk graduated

Rusk writes with humor -and honesty about his experiences.  He claims the “poor man” title …

via Poor Man’s Princeton — Around the D.

Alexander Hamilton, history, tv:  Might have to watch this PBS show …

ALEXANDER HAMILTON was never president. Indeed, he probably could not have been, for he was the only founding father born outside of what became the United States. (I can’t imagine that the Caribbean hell hole called Nevis where Hamilton, an illegitimate child, was born even issued birth certificates. Birthers?)

By contrast, three of the men who cast Hamilton’s life into relief were presidents:

George Washington, who was Hamilton’s aegis for much of his career,

James Madison, who began as Hamilton’s intellectual ally in writing the Federalist Papers but later turned into Hamilton’s enemy, and

Thomas Jefferson, who, with Madison, became the ideological and personal antithesis to Hamilton in the early years of the nation.

Perhaps this is why many of us know less about Hamilton than about these others. For a strong case can be made that Hamilton was in many ways the most “soulful” of the founders and the one with the most nuanced and farsighted vision for America. Indeed, America today almost certainly—as futile as this thought experiment admittedly is—conforms to Hamilton’s vision much more than to Jefferson’s.

America is a cosmopolitan, commercial and industrial place (as Hamilton envisioned), not an agrarian land of yeoman farmers untouched by the corrupting influence of banks and brokers (as Jefferson wanted). It has long since banned slavery, as Hamilton always thought it should, but as Jefferson and Madison, among other southerners, dared not contemplate.

Indeed, a list of Hamilton’s legacies—first Treasury secretary, founder of  “Wall Street” and American central banking, founder of the Coast Guard, visionary of capitalism and governmental checks and balances—inevitably shortchanges his overall impact. In everything but title he really was America’s first and most important prime minister.

So I was thrilled to watch a new documentary about Hamilton that finally gives the man his due. To be aired on PBS on April 11th, “Rediscovering Alexander Hamilton” by Michael Pack and Richard Brookhiser (who also did “Rediscovering George Washington”) brings the man to life in some creatively contemporary ways.

via Alexander Hamilton: Hamiltonian America | The Economist.

graphics, advertising:  

In 2010 Old Spice dominated the airwaves and the Internet with its slick new brand of sexy, funny ads. That’s why Wieden+Kennedy, the ad agency behind these unforgettable spots, made our list of Most Innovative Companies.

Now we bring to you, in striking comics format, The Amazingly True Tale of the Old Spice Campaign.

via The Amazingly True Tale of the Old Spice Campaign | Slideshows.

innovation:  I would have one of these if I had not given up soda … forever …

WHEN NIKE executive Daniel Birnbaum became CEO of the sleepy 104-year-old SodaStream International in 2007, his kids were less than thrilled. “My 12-year-old was in tears. Nike was part of his identity,” says Birnbaum, a Queens, New York, native. “Here I was going to this company that people did not know existed, and it was not exactly the most proud place to work.” Birnbaum has since transformed the “aerating liquid apparatus” company into a sexy soda-maker brand taking over granite countertops across the globe. After a year in which the Israel-based company surpassed $150 million in revenue, gained distribution in 4,000 U.S. retail stores, and had a hot IPO, FAST COMPANY talked to Birnbaum about saving energy, why Coke and Pepsi should be nervous, and actress Tori Spelling’s (water) drinking problem.

via SodaStream’s DIY Pepsi Machine | Fast Company.

politics, Gang of Six:

Perhaps more troublesome for Mr. Chambliss have been critics at home like Erick Erickson, a conservative blogger, Atlanta radio talk-show host and CNN contributor. “Is Saxby Chambliss Becoming a Democrat?” Mr. Erickson asked in a recent blog post.

For many actual Democrats, Mr. Chambliss remains negatively defined by his 2002 defeat of Senator Max Cleland, a triple-amputee veteran of Vietnam, after a campaign that included an ad picturing Mr. Cleland with Osama bin Laden. Mr. Chambliss’s work on the Gang of Six has done as much as anything to soften attitudes.

via ‘Gang of Six’ in the Senate Seeking a Plan on Debt – NYTimes.com.

technology, art, 3D imaging:

Ron van der Ende must have the patience of a Torah scribe. His artwork, shown above, might vaguely resemble a photograph or at least a damn good paint by numbers, but it’s actually made entirely out of reclaimed wood veneers — each an astonishingly scant 3 millimeters thick.

All those colors? They’re the wood’s original paint job.

It gets crazier. All those colors? They’re the wood’s original paint job; Van der Ende, who hails from the Netherlands, doesn’t use a lick of extra pigment. Instead, he hoards wood the way a painter collects paint tubes, stalking the dumpsters of Rotterdam for doors, cupboards, planks — whatever he can find. That way, he’s always got plenty of colors on hand. (On the rare occasion he can’t find the right color, he visits a warehouse near Rotterdam that stores more than 7,000 old doors. “An afternoon in there with a good flashlight will usually get me exactly what I need,” he tells Co. in an email.)

via Dumpster Diving Artist Creates Trippy 3-D Drawings From Wood Scraps [Slideshow] | Co.Design.

productivity, creativity:

By framing the making of creativity as a game that takes place inside a playground of our own making, we widen the conversation about innovation and design dramatically.

via Nussbaum: 3 Reasons You Should Treat Creativity Like A Game | Co.Design.

innovation:  I need these tires … we always have flats!

Bicycle tire tubes need to stay firmly inflated against the inner surface of the tires themselves to ensure safe, rugged riding. But in the unlucky event of a puncture, that same pressure will only stretch the hole wider — even when it’s closed with sealant. Michelin’s new line of ProTek Max inner tubes employ a radical design to avoid this problem: The air pressure inside actually compresses a puncture closed, instead of blowing it further open.

via Michelin’s Self-Healing Bike Tires Ensure Flats Never Happen | Co.Design.

movies, Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, Objectivism:  The movie is being universally canned …

The 1957 tome which champions Objectivism–Rand’s controversial philosophy–has managed to find its way to the big-screen despite numerous challenges along the way. But at last, thanks to John Aglialoro, who bought the rights to the book in 1992 and has been trying to get it on-screen ever since, Atlas Shrugged: Part 1 is here.

(More on TIME.com: Wanna marry an Objectivist? See the Ayn Rand fan dating site)

And so far, critics aren’t liking it. Here is just a sample of what critics are saying about the film adaptation:

via Sorry, Objectivists: ‘Atlas Shrugged’ Movie Gets Pummeled By Critics – TIME NewsFeed.

IT’S April 15th, tax day! (But not this year; this year, it’s Emancipation Day, which is worth observing if anything is.) And probably not coincidentally, the movie adaptation of Ayn Rand’s widely-loved and loathed novel “Atlas Shrugged” opens today at theatres nationwide. So what could be more appropriate and entertainingly polarising than a discussion of Ayn Rand’s views on taxation?

Ayn Rand’s position on government finance is unusual, to say the least. Rand was not an anarchist and believed in the possibility of a legitimate state, but did not believe in taxation. This left her in the odd and almost certainly untenable position of advocating a minimal state financed voluntarily. In her essay “Government Financing in a Free Society”, Rand wrote:

In a fully free society, taxation—or, to be exact, payment for governmental services—would be voluntary. Since the proper services of a government—the police, the armed forces, the law courts—are demonstrably needed by individual citizens and affect their interests directly, the citizens would (and should) be willing to pay for such services, as they pay for insurance.

This is faintly ridiculous. From one side, the libertarian anarchist will agree that people are willing to pay for these services, but that a government monopoly in their provision will lead only to inefficiency and abuse. From the other side, the liberal statist will defend the government provision of the public goods Rand mentions, but will quite rightly argue that Rand seems not to grasp perhaps the main reason government coercion is needed, especially if one believes, as Rand does, that individuals ought to act in their rational self-interest.

via Taxes and government: Ayn Rand on tax day | The Economist.

The film version being released to theatres today is updated to modern times, but the underlying theme is as timely as ever. It was produced on a tiny $20 million budget, and whether the other parts are completed most likely depends upon whether Part I can sell enough movie tickets and DVDs (and cable rights etc.) to keep the momentum going.

Leftist media outlets are using a mixture of ridicule and silence in order to minimise the impact of the film on the general public. Young minds (and superficial minds) in particular tend to be overly influenced by what is seen as “hot” or “the in thing.”

via Al Fin.




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