I’m currently reviewing the book Popes and Bankers for Thomas Nelson publishers. It’s a history of credit and debt from the Ancient Greeks to the Modern present. Admittedly, I’m only up to the Reformation, but so far it’s a pretty enjoyable read. It combines a laid-back, easy-to-understand style with constant literary allusions and academic snark and sarcasm that paradoxically mocks the “Institution” while obviously speaking from within its intellectual ranks.
But as I said, this book has been published by Thomas Nelson publishers — the house that brings us Max Lucado (read my recent review), John Eldridge, and books such as Rick and Bubba’s Guide to the Almost Nearly Perfect Marriage. In short, this is the publishing house for many of the books that send postmodern Christian twentysomethings into cringing spasms. At times, these criticisms are a bit unwarranted (as in the case of Lucado), but Thomas Nelson unquestionably specializes in light Christian fiction and fare, mainly focusing on devotionals and “Christian” self-help.
One of the elements of punk rock that has always intrigued me is the deep-seated, almost innate sense that something is very, very wrong with the world as it is. On Friday night, my band was privileged to play with a fellow who embodies this attribute as well as anyone I’ve seen.
He plays under the name Homeless Gospel Choir, although he is just one guy. I had pretty much given up on the idea of a one-man punk band after trying to pull it off myself for a couple years with very little success. But the Homeless Gospel Choir succeeds where I failed. He is simultaneously abrasive, funny, and catchy — three attributes that describe a lot of the best punk rock groups out there (think NOFX).
The entanglement of the online v. print literary worlds can be baffling, and these days who doesn’t have an opinion about adapting to the way of the future or preserving the way of the past. Recently, for the first time, I’ve gotten to know a writer, Susan Orlean, first online and then in print. I started following @susanorlean on Twitter because I saw her name listed on some post, somewhere, about the best authors to follow on Twitter. @neilhimself (Neil Gaimon) also made the list as did @MargaretAtwood, both of whom I’ve previously read in print and enjoy following online.
There were others on the list who I have not read and began to follow, but Susan Orlean is different. She is incredibly funny. She has interesting conversations, and not just with other authors. She is down to earth. Every once in a while our literary worlds cross cyber-paths, which is in part what can make Twitter fun.
Before I began to follow her, I’d heard Susan Orlean’s name, but couldn’t have told you what she’d written. When I started following her, I didn’t even know if she wrote fiction, nonfiction, poetry, or one of those fancy hybrid forms. Turns out, she says on her website that she loves “writing shorter pieces for magazines” but she’s now on her 8th book, many of which include portions of shorter columns or articles. From what she tweets, I gather that she travels a lot doing book tours and research. I knew I was hooked on her when she wondered how she’d managed to pack 3 pairs of shoes and no underwear.
Hello friends. I’m writing from Paris where I’ve come to follow up on Sessions’ French pension reform story. We’re really going to nail this thing.
No. That’s not true.
I’m actually on vacation with my wife celebrating our five year wedding anniversary, but while I’m here I wanted to direct your attention to both an excellent blog and, I think, a fairly decent post.
The blog is called “Speaking of Faith Observed” and it is the blog of American Public Radio’s religion-based show “Speaking of Faith,” hosted by Krista Tippett. I recommend both to you. The blog post I want to bring your attention to is my first piece for SOF Observed entitled “Defenders of the Faith.” It’s about embracing extremists and bringing them back into the fold.
That’s all for now. Keep it real stateside.
What could possibly explain the new data plans they rolled out?
I don’t know.
Seriously, if anyone knows, leave a comment on the blog. Because I sure as heck-fire don’t. In fact, I don’t even have anything to say about it. I have a deadline for this post and no material because all but the confundus neurons have stopped firing in my, apparently, pea-sized brain. All I can think about is how AT&T came up with this cockamamie scenario.
What was that meeting like?
“Hey, I’ve got an idea! How ’bout we we start charging 65% of our customers half of what they’ve been paying us for the same exact thing they are already using!” And then some balding, bulge-bellied buffoon shouts, “that’s brilliant,” with a tongue-gurgling attempt at an Irish accent hoping the female executive sitting four leather-clad chairs down will think he’s earned that man-pooch drinking a couple Guinness every night while watching UEFA Champions League matches, not sitting on his fart-stained couch with a kiddie pool full of half-empty PBRs, melted ice and silk undies instructing him to “wash cold,” while the TV burns WWE SO-RAW-YOU’LL-GET-BOTULISM deep enough into his retinae to erase those now painful memories of “the good ole days” back in the frat house at Coasted-Through-College-Cause-Dad-Has-Got-A-Friend-At-AT&T State.
As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; 14 for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. 15 As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; 16 the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. 17 But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children- Psalm 103: 8-17
Writing requires deliberate effort and time, two things which have been lacking in my life over the last few weeks. Something about traveling to the United Kingdom and proposing to your girlfriend seems to have stifled some of my public creative output.
Not that I’m complaining.
My mother worked as a school teacher in Passaic, New Jersey. She needed to be at school by 6:30 am, so she would drop my sister and me off at our grandparents house every morning for an hour before my grandmother would drive us to school. My grandparents were strict Dutch Reformed, that mean there was no TV, no radio, no books or magazines to speak of. Just a stack of blank 8.5×11 paper and a lot of pencils.
In the third grade I created a character called ‘Billy the Boarder’ who I realize now was a knock-off of Bart Simpson (though I wasn’t allowed to watch the Simpsons). I started to draw Billy every morning at my grandmother’s dining room table. Then I started creating little stories starring Billy. Then entire comic books. By the fourth grade I had my own quarterly magazine called ‘Cooked’. It, too, was a knock-off, this time of ‘Cracked,’ in which I would write and illustrate parodies of popular movies and television shows. My mother would photocopy the magazine at her school and I would sell copies to my classmates for fifty cents.
Then I started developing various superheroes and fantasy characters: M.A.S.K. (mad about stopping krime) and Chronicles of the Warriors (think Groo meets Monty Python). I even developed a superhero team consisting of the nine boys in my fifth grade class using our various attributes as superpowers (for example, Michael Osbourne was really skinny, so he became Two-Dimensional Man and I was tall for my age, so I became Giant Man).
I wrote for one hour every morning, 180 days each year, for six years. That adds up to 1,080 hours. I never really thought about this until I read Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.
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