Things I like that should become Christmas presents. For me, or your friend. BOOKS

Books about Christmas

Song of the Stars

by Sally Lloyd-Jones

I admit that I have not read this one yet. I have however read large portions of Sally Lloyd-Jones’ Jesus Storybook Bible and found it charming and theologically engaging. My wife and I made gifts of the JSB to little children we know last Christmas.

This edition of the Jesus Storybook Bible comes with a CD of David Suchet (!) reading the entire book. Parfait!

We got this for the older kids last year and the reviews are in: “It’s awesome, Uncle Mickey!”

I picked up a copy for myself the other day. Psyched to check it out.

In the Fullness of Time

by Paul L Maier

Here’s another I haven’t read. I am a fan of Paul L Maier’s other work, particularly his historical novel Pontius Pilate. I’ve added this to my wish list ūüėČ

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Andrew Peterson
The Wingfeather Saga

I think we may read these next Christmas. Peterson is one talented guy. I love his music – I put it on repeat at work nearly every day. His Matthew’s Begats song was the centerpiece of my wife and my (first) advent together.

This is his children’s fantasy book series!

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What we’ll be reading this Christmas

I am very excited to read Calvin Miller’s Singer Trilogy as part of Advent this year. I peeked at the first few pages and it is beautiful!

We’ve already read one story, Port in the Storm, from the George MacDonald short story collection. My wife is a huge ¬† fan of his (and a true fan; she was like, “Oh, I didn’t know CS Lewis liked him.”).

This

Federation

I don’t know what this is. Looks cool though.

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Notable books I read in 2012

The Seven-Per-Cent Solution

Here is the book I’m currently reading. I am a huge Sherlock Holmes fan. I’m about two years of obsessing away from graduating to Sherlockian. The original sixty stories cannot be touched. As far as homages, pastiches, and fan pieces go, this is near the top of the heap. Nicolas Meyer (who would go on to direct the film version I have not seen yet, as well as Wrath of Khan and The Undiscovered Country) writes this convincingly in the voice of Watson. A fun romp through the overly fogged streets of late 19th century London and the mysterious train lines through Europe, this is a great book for those frosty days after Christmas.

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Who I Am

by Pete Townshend

Of course I’ve also read Pete Townshend’s autobiography this year. I had been anticipating this book for as long I’ve been a Who fan. I started listening to the band around 1998 or so. Townshend had announced this volume way back then, having been commissioned with its writing a few years earlier still.

I enjoyed it quite a bit, though it’s not the revelatory masterpiece I was hoping for. Maybe he’s got nothing left to reveal. Or maybe I’m growing out of it (I hope I die I before I get old!) I think the real problem I have with the book is that I was expecting Townshend to be a great writer of books given his unmatched excellence in the field of writing songs. Well, music and books are two very different things.

All the same, I can’t imagine having not read it. This is a must for Who fans and should prove fascinating for those interested in general Rock history.

It’s filled with stories chronicling the inception of classic songs (the Sally Simpson episode is particularly interesting). I noticed that Townshend casually quoted his songs quite a lot. There was never any presentation to indicate his songs were being quoted. He would simply tell a story and, within the prose, a familiar phrase would appear. This would pass a casual fan right by. A Who fan was instantly clued in that he’s revealing the source of this or that song. That aspect was very fun.

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Supergods

by Grant Morrison

Part history of comics, part freewheeling autobiography, Morrison’s stunning and mostly riveting book comes with a hearty Geeks of Christ recommendation.

Morrison and I obviously disagree on some things (drug use, pantheism, etc). What we can unite on is a surprisingly large volume of topics. Our primary acceptance of comics as the new Myth sets us both on our respective spiritual journeys. My journey led me to Christ. His to … nowhere good, from what I gather.

Nevertheless, this book offers a wonderful insight into the depth of meaning inserted into comic books by their creators and the inspirations they can give their readers.

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Redshirts

by John Scalzi

Scalzi understands Star Trek. His send-up reveals just how silly my favorite sci-fi franchise can be.

I wouldn’t recommend this one for kids, unfortunately. If it weren’t for several uses of the f-word and some sexual situations, this would be perfect for young Trek fans. These scenes are particularly annoying because it feels as though they’re shoved into a story that doesn’t require any of that. Ah well…still, I enjoyed this book a great deal and recommend it to grown fans of Star Trek.

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Charles Dickens

Jane Austen

Elizabeth Gaskell

Boxed sets/Vintage Editions

Here’s the Classics section. I dug into some Austen and Dickens earlier this year. I also read Cranford, which was edited by Mr Dickens for his friend Elizabeth Gaskell. Of these, A Tale of Two Cities stands out. This isn’t a literary blog, so I’ll only post the links to these gorgeous boxed-set/vintage editions available now.

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Sherlock Holmes

Boxed Set

The New Annotated Editions

While we’re on the topic of gorgeous boxed-sets…

Here is a fun slipcase for the complete Sherlock Holmes collection. And, here’s one of my favorite ways to enjoy the stories of the famous sleuth: The New Annoted Sherlock Holmes. These are a blast to flip through, to read the stories in, or to study. I own the third volume and hope to add the first and second to my library someday. The presentation is just so pretty too! I can never decide if I want to leave the slip cover on or off. It’s one of those, y’know.

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The Eventful History of the Mutiny and Piratical Seizure of the HMS Bounty

 

I read this account of the infamous Mutiny on the Bounty expecting the version that novelized the events. Turns out, that was written entertainingly by Nordhoff and Hall. This one is a much more straightforward reporting of the events.

As ever, my favorite parts are of the unlikely survival of the forsaken Captain Bligh in the dinghy that will return him to the western world.

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Frederick Buechner

Telling the Truth

Godric

 

Memoirs Collection

The Sacred Journey

Now & Then

Telling Secrets

I cannot assemble a list of recommendations and exclude Buechner.

Those frantic days before Christmas need calming. Reflection, conversation, and celebration are more appropriate than rushing and hunting down sales. Of course, I’m guilty of ruining Christmas with financial and commercial desperation. I do not need that stuff though. I have more. And Christmas is as good a time as any (perhaps better) to reconnect with that quiet part of yourself, the part that admits fears, doubts, and wishes for second chances. That part is the part of you that can worship better, because it is that part that the Holy Spirit comes into. He enters you through the truth. That part of yourself is the part that loves salvation because it knows just what it’s been saved from.

Buechner is the writer who can deliver me to that part of myself. I don’t naturally reflect. I need encouragement. No other stranger has ever moved me to explore the depths of my own self and the heights of my self with Christ more than Buechner.

I cannot compile a list of recommendations without vigorously pointing you toward my own favorite writer, Frederick Buechner.

I have included links to his most famous novel, Godric, and what may be his most famous non-fiction book, Telling the Truth. I’ve also linked each of the three parts of his memoirs.

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It’s Federation Day!

SOLAR NEWS NETWORK HARD COPY EXTRACT 10.11.2161
IT’S¬†FEDERATION DAY!
5 sign new UFP Constitution
SAN FRANCISCO,¬†Earth¬†(SNN)¬†‚Äď Declaring it a landmark day in the¬†history¬†of each of their¬†worlds, five envoys today breathed life into the fledgling¬†United Federation of Planets¬†with the signing of the new organization’s Constitution amid much pomp and circumstance.
“We are truly entering a brave new world of peace, exploration and security with the establishment of this Federation, declared¬†Earth¬†ambassador¬†Thomas Vanderbilt, whose remarks were echoed by representatives from¬†Vulcan,¬†Andor,¬†Tellar, and¬†Alpha Centauri.
“Following the end of your world’s¬†war¬†with the unseen¬†Romulan¬†enemy, such a union as we create here today is the most logical course of action any of our¬†peoples¬†can take,” added Ambassador¬†T’Jan¬†of Vulcan.
UESPA¬†Maj. Gen.¬†Georges E. Picard, an aide to Vanderbilt, noted afterward the irony of the conference ‚Äď which met in exactly the same fashion as the founders of the Earth’s old¬†United Nations, who came together only¬†215 years earlier¬†in the same city in the aftermath of the horrors of¬†another costly war.*
“What is occurring here today is one sign that some good can come of such a scourge,” Picard noted.
“We defy anyone, even the Romulans, to test our resolve now for collective security,” declared AmbassadorNatha Kell¬†of Tellar, while¬†Sarahd¬†of Andor spoke of future greatness for the infant union and predicted rapid expansion. Ambassador¬†Titus Oleet¬†signed for the newly independent¬†Centauri system.
Today’s events were but the ceremonial endgame for the often-tumultuous negotiations, which began in earnest after the defeat of hostile forces at¬†Cheron¬†effectively ended the¬†Romulan War¬†only a little more than ayear ago. Even today, some sources reported a later fracas involving the¬†Tellarite¬†Kell and Sarahd.
Although those taking part today waived off revealing many specific details, the five after signing immediately convened the first-ever meeting of the UFP Council long enough to elect Vanderbilt as president, with Sarahd as vice president.
Also, the Council sources unanimously voted to continue meeting in San Francisco, with an all-new building in the design stages near the historic old Presidio fort and Golden Gate Bridge. Council sources predicted at least three months would be needed before the fledgling UFP bureaucracy would be ready for business.

Star Trek : Mudd’s Women

Mudd’s a pimp. Plain and simple. He’s carting these women around to cash in on them. He’s a jerk.

On his way to deliver the ladies to their prospective husbands, Mudd gets into a bit of space danger and the Enterprise rescues him. The rescue cost the Enterprise a great deal: their (di)lithium crystal circuits are blown.

Detouring to Rigel XII, to benefit from its lithium mines, the crew of the Enterprise gets a chance to learn more about Mudd and his scheme, and to be enchanted by his lovely companions.

Kirk wants to prosecute the creep.

The women want to dump the husbands they were going to marry and go with the miners instead.

Mudd wants to keep the secret of their beauty a secret.

When the Enterprise arrives at Rigel XII, the lonely miners are pretty excited to meet the women that want to marry them.

For some reason.

But once the miners start marrying the beauties, things change. They start to lose their beauty. (Or, in Magda’s case, her hair gets messed up!) Turns out, Mudd had been giving the ladies a special Venus pill that helped that maintain their beauty.

The head miner was pretty ticked and wanted a refund. The woman he was set to marry hollers at him about how all men are the same and he should want to marry her for more than her beauty.

So she grabs another pill and returns to her pretty state.

But she didn’t take a real Venus pill. Kirk reveals that he switched it out with a false one, a placebo. Where does her physical beauty come from? Her self-confidence.

Groan

I know this is a beloved episode. I couldn’t stand it.

This was actually the first time I saw it, this one being banned when I was a kid. ( Banned by my father for, what I assume, equal parts moral objection and personal annoyance at lighthearted stuff on Star Trek. We skipped Tribbles for the latter reason.)

I noticed some holes.


Didn’t the miners wonder why these three gorgeous women were having trouble finding husbands? I know this a take-off on the old West trope of delivering pretty wives from the East and the trip not going exactly as planned. So there is a bit of logical leniency given to an update of such an old theme. But not enough leniency can be given for this to work satisfactorily for me.

When the Venus pill wears off, their hair and make-up get messed up? This is just the product of restrictive budgets on a new TV show with a shaky audience base and a bizarre premise. I get that. Still. I’m watching this show saying, “Can’t they just borrow somebody’s make-up?”

The following is less a plot hole thing and more a time vortex thing. Three-time Trek actor Gene Dynarski appears have simply changed the color of his facial hair to convince audiences that he ages normally. I’m not buying it. He’s on the Venus pill.

In Mudd’s Women, The Mark of Gideon, and 11001001

“Oh! The sound of male ego! You travel halfway across the galaxy, and it’s still the same song.”

Let’s get to this whole “your confidence makes you beautiful” thing.

There’s an obvious problem here. Eve demands to be valued for more than her looks. Then, when forced to take the pill, she’s pretty again. Only the prettiness is sourced from her own self-appointed value. The problem is that even her inner confidence seems to think that her only value is in her looks!

The placebo works only because her confidence is high. So I’m thinking if she has a lot of confidence and takes the pill, she should look the same, only feel good about herself. Instead her looks change, suddenly interesting the miner Childress.

I know there’s a thing about your external beauty reflecting, or hosting, your inner. I do not think that’s what’s going on here. Here’s the effects of Eve taking the pill:

  • Childress likes her again
  • Mudd’s sale is a success
  • Eve doesn’t have to figure out the tricky combination of being self-confident and ugly.

“I will love myself for who am I. And…oh! I’m pretty again! Neat!”

Feels like a cop-out to me. Her self-confidence was never tested. And Childress’ interest in her was never proven to be anything beyond lust. He had about three minutes with the ugly Eve, got yelled at, and then got to marry the pretty version.

“I read once that a commander has to act like a paragon of virtue. I never met a paragon.”

It comes down to image. Eve was unsatisfied with Childress’ image of her. So she rightfully asserted herself. But then her own image of herself was a bit wonky too, since it became realized in exactly the same form as her lusty miner husband-to-be’s.

Why bother announcing a new positive self-image if you’re just going to conform to what somebody else wants you to be?

Her self-image was still coming from men. That’s the problem with self-image. It can never be entirely sourced in you. You want to be beautiful just for you, not for anyone else. Yet the image of what you want to be comes from somewhere. It comes from someplace other than your own head.

So be careful where your image comes from.

“Men will always be men. No matter where they are.”

I used to daydream as a kid. Believe it or not this grown man writing about Star Trek and Doctor Who used to daydream. I would pretend to be Green Lantern when I was really little; Fred Astaire when I was even littler. And when I was a teenager, I pretended to be Pete Townshend.

I would swing my arms (still do sometimes), shout out angry young man songs (still do that too), and threaten to smash the first guitar I ever owned (providing, of course, that a second guitar was already in my possession).

I felt silly doing this, so I tried to do my own rock thing. I still swung my arms around and longed for a chance to smash a guitar. But these actions were now simply homages, not shameless copying.

After all, I was my own person.

Even in trying to distance myself from copping another’s personality, I was still being influenced – and strongly – by something from not inside myself. Even if I had dropped the smashing guitars and windmilling bit and just stuck to playing rock and roll, I still would have used A-chords and I still would have played them upon a piece of wood with long thin bands of metal affixed to it. I couldn’t possibly just start from scratch and really be my own person. Rock and roll is only complex enough to handle four or five different personality types. They’re all just riffs on the same few archetypes.

I digress…

“Being a rock star is a bit different from having self-confidence,” you say.

“Yeah, but only a bit,” I sneer. (My testy rock and roll persona seems to have reemerged…)

But truly, the differences between having self-confidence and daydreaming about being a rock star are not very great in my mind. Both admit dissatisfaction with your present self and both make a goal of becoming a version of yourself that’s based on external (ie, not from your own mind) appearances and attitudes.

In other words, you’re getting your you-ness from somewhere.

So.

Be careful where your image comes from.

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