Sunday, May 17, 2009
At this point it is hard to believe all the ruckus that was caused by Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, which, when people calmed down, they realized it was closer to hysterical than historical fiction. The novel was a pot stirrer, but the movie fell to the ground like a led balloon, and the Chinese government, showing their commitment to good taste, banned that movie after only a very brief run because it was upsetting their Catholic citizens (weird, since it is a Communist government). Well Angels and Demons is in fact the pre-quel to The Da Vinci Code, the first real Robert Langdon adventure, and frankly it is a much better novel (still nothing great, but better). One only has to suspend one's disbelief in the helicopter scene in that one.
Ron Howard (aka Opie) undaunted by the failure of his first Robert Langdon flick, decided to boldly go where few have gone before, and turn a prequel into a sequel--- which is easier said than done. Yes, Tom Hanks is back, and yes the plot is still filled with historical hooey (to use Tom hanks' words), but this movie is not as deadly dull as its predecessor, in fact it has some interesting moments in it. This one is bound to offend less because :1 ) it doesn't suggest there was a Mrs. Mary; 2) it involves a guild of mad scientists called Illuminati who must have been cowboys as well as they kept carrying around branding irons, an interesting juxtaposition; and 3) it gives one an inside glimpse at the Vatican, even though the Vatican in actuality would not allow Opie to film there. Still Rome and its churches come alive in this film, and that's worth seeing.
This film is briskly paced and whilst it appears to set up a science and religion clash, actually the message of the film seems to be that the two can make nice, even if they aren't yet kissing cousins. The ratings on this film are only at 37% so it appears the critics are in a 'once bitten twice shy' mode after the Da Vinci Code bomb. The difference is that this movie quite literally bombs at the end, but lest I spoil the plot I will simply say this film is better than the usual summer drivel, but don't expect any Oscars coming the way of this two hour thrill ride. It even has a nice twist in the tale at the end, and Howard has been smart enough to eliminate some of the most implausible elements from the Brown novel and streamline things. Yet there remain some imponderables, not the least of which why there is even a Bond girl in this film since clearly Langdon isn't interested and doesn't need her. Oh well, romance in the Vatican would have been a bit of a hard sell anyhow.
If you want to go see an excellent film about now, go to Star Trek. If you are looking for historical or religious Illumination, this film about the Illuminati can in no way provide it. It just shows once more that: 1) Dan Brown is out of his depth; and 2) Ron Howard doesn't understand the history of the Catholic Church either
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
This blog is moving to a new location at the end of this month on the Beliefnet website. Here is the proper address to save under favorites and connect you to this blog---http://blog.beliefnet.com/bibleandculture/. The archives of this blog will indeed be transferred to the new blog site, all 800 or so posts worth.
For the many of you who are friends of this blog, thanks for all the reading and commenting, and keep on keeping on. You will still be able to connect directly to my blog through my website--- www.benwitherington.com. Catch you on the new site when I return from Turkey.
Monday, May 11, 2009
There were many wonderful lesser known folk rock groups in the 70s, some of them Christian, some of them not. I can especially commend to you Batdorf and Rodney, Lazarus, Arrogance, and Aztec Two Step. What we have here in this post is four pretty decent live YouTube clips from Aztec Two Step (aka Rex Fowler and Neal Shulman) performing songs found on their absolutely classic first Aztec Two Step album which is great from start to finish, and recently re-released and remastered. If you liked Jackson Browne, Dan Fogelberg, James Taylor, Kenny Loggins early solo folk work, America, CSN, Poco and the like, you would love some of these fabulous old groups. I'm amazed that some of them can still perform at a pretty high level. Enjoy. BW3
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Just this week my little book of sacred and mundane poems came out, thanks to the hard work of Leah Maines, and I have a deal for you long devoted readers! I will send you free a copy of this new book (you provide me with a self-addressed stamped mailer, sent to my seminary address- SPO Asbury Theo. Seminary, N. Lexington Ave, Wilmore, Ky. 40390). This offer goes out to the first twenty persons to buy the new novel, Roman Numerals which you can now order at deep discount at www.wipfandstock.com.
We will go on the honor system on this one, so if you tell me you ordered it, I will believe it :) Enjoy BW3
Saturday, May 09, 2009
Without question, one of my favorite bands of the 70s was Steely Dan, particularly with Michael McDonald. They have of course recently rebooted themselves. Here you will find one selection from the NY Rock and Soul Review Shows in the 90s, and more recently from my home town of Charlotte in 2006. Enjoy BW3
I was talking to my friend Gordon who was cracking a joke he heard at the Rotary club, where all manner of humor is possible. He said that one of the fellow Rotarians had lost a bet over this last election. To be specific he had said that an African American would become President about the time that swine/pigs flew. Turns out he was a prophet without profit. President Obama had been in office less than 100 days and then we had swine flu, which as I reminded you all has nothing to do with 'eating pork products', though some of you have reacted as if you could catch that darn flu by eaten pulled pork, pork rinds,ribs and the like. IT AIN'T SO,.... I'm just saying...
Now I was over at the Old Kentucky Barbecue Restaurant in Lexington yesterday, and I thought I had tried all manner of barbecue before now, but I discovered something new--- barbecue smoked over apple wood. And it is good!!! Bought a couple of pounds with some cole slaw as a side. Yum!
Need I remind you again that barbecue is: 1) not a sauce you put on food; 2) not a grill in your backyard; 3) not composed of beef of any sort, but is rather 4) slowly smoked pork. I've seen it smoked with hickory (best choice), post oak, mesquite, pecan (I'm deeply conflicted about this one since its a horrible use of the tree if its still manufacturing the raw materials for pecan pies), and apple. Pecan produces the sweetest tasting barbecue, and mesquite the tangiest even without sauce. But this apple wood smoked barbecue is just fine.
Sometimes I find barbecue, and sometimes it finds me. For example, I woke up this morning and had a Google Alert waiting for me in my email box. I was sent notice that Kevin Witherington has opened a branch of the famous Moe's Barbecue Chain in Birmingham Ala. Moe's however originated in Vail, Eagle, and Denver Co.
I am now worried that my relative has been relatively unsmart and managed to surreptiously import Western (read beef) barbecue into the Ole South under the cover of darkness. Here's the link to the story in the Vail paper--http://www.vaildaily.com/article/20090508/BIZ/905089962/1078&ParentProfile=1062.
Folks in Birmingham can be forgiven for already being a bit confused about what real barbecue is, since theirs originally came from Georgia where they put this red, catsup based sauce on it. This in no way enhances the flavor of the hickory smoked pork, and once you start doing things like that to good barbecue its a slippery slope down the road to Western style Barbecue--- can you say beef brisket? Now brisket is not bad, but it ain't real barbecue either.
I have a theory about the Lost Colony in North Carolina. You remember Sir Walter Raleigh and his attempt to settle that fair state in the 17th century. Well, eastern N.C. is where barbecue began in the U.S. of A. and I'm thinking that when Raleigh went back to England for supplies, those colonists just got too darn hungry and when the Okracoke Indians (some think named after Okra and Coke-- two Southern products) started smokin a pig, that smoked the white folks right out of their fort, and they went off to a pig pickin with the Indians, never to be seen again. I wonder if their grill looked something like this???
Last time I saw something like that was in Hawaii, only they had the poor pig buried in the ground (the opposite of pigs flying) sitting on coals and covered with palm leaves. He looked like a refugee from a Palm Sunday procession. Even Hawaiians have enough sense to know that you want pork on your fork when you're eatin' barbecue, although you have to question their eating it along with SPAM!
Stay tuned for further adventures taken from the Barbecue Chronicles where I tell you that someone crazy up in Owensboro Kentucky has been smoking mutton--- yes I said mutton, while looking sheepish :)
Friday, May 08, 2009
Perhaps most bloggers are far too young to remember the dawn of a TV series created by Gene Roddenberry in 1966. Happily, I am not too young. Although there were other heady dramas that had a good run in that era (e.g. 'The Fugitive'), few were longer on plot, ideas, and characterization than the original Star Trek, starring William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, amongst others. More recently there have been various attempts to recreate the magic on the original show on TV, and by way of the movies, but frankly most of the movies were not that memorable and most of the TV shows were sadly completely forgettable. Could anyone and anything reboot the Starship Enterprise in an enterprising way? As it turns out, the answer is yes, J.J. Abrams, now famous as the director of another blockbuster TV series--- 'Lost'.
It is hard of course to do an hommage without it feeling like a rehash, and even harder to do a respectful reboot while still offering a fresh take on things. And yet it has happened, and full marks to Abrams and company for pulling off a near miracle. We have readily recognizable characters from the original show, who are not merely imitating the original characters but in fact developing those characters in fresh and interesting ways. Though you may not recognize any of the fresh faces, save of course Leonard Nimoy playing the older Spock, it matters not. The story and the characters carry the movie. Here too is a movie that is not so dependent on the technology that it requires a special effect a minute to keep the audience enthralled, although there are some special special effects. No is the characters and the dialogue and story line that have the zip in this movie, and they are able to play with the full emotional palette ranging from anger to arrogance to love to hate to humor and much more. This is a movie I would gladly watch many more times and grow weary of it. Indeed, with a PG 13 rating it is basically family friendly (except perhaps one scene)and in fact leaves you wanting more--- the two hours fairly zip by in this movie.
No its not the Klingons who are the bad guys in this reboot, its a rogue Romulan named Nero, which oddly is said to be Spock's first name as well (but then Kirk's middle name also comes from the Roman emperors-- Tiberius) Nero is ticked because he had to watch while his own planet was destroyed, an event for which he blames Spock, wrongly. And so he is bent on revenge, which leaves him bent out of shape, perpetually. The story develops largely as prequel telling us how this crew ended up on the Enterprise 'boldly going where no one has gone before'.
What does Abrams bring to this movie. Well, it definitely has a LOST feel not least because it involves time travel and at least one character meeting himself coming and going, so to speak. Furthermore the future keeps impinging on the past, and can be fixed by going to the past. And then there are the unexpected twists, like Spock as a lover of Uhuru. Who knew? He definitely knows how to get the most out of an ensemble cast. If you were a lover of some of the lesser characters like Chekov and Scotty, you will not be disappointed with their portrayal. In short, this movie has something for both old and new Star Trek fans. May this reboot "live long and prosper."
Tuesday, May 05, 2009
Back by popular demand and in more trouble than you can shake a stick at is Art West, intrepid explorer and Christian archaeologist. In this the second of his adventures Art explores things apocalyptic including Mr. 666 in Egypt Israel, and Turkey, gets himself in a hostage exchange, discovers evidence of the Imperial Cult in Israel, and learns of Grace Levine's impending marriage, and all this before the novel really revs up to high intensity. Who is El Tigre and why is he after Art West. Scheduled for release in early summer, this second in a series of seven archaeological thrillers promises to keep you on the edge of your seat. Here is one of the first reviews....
Stolen treasures, murderous adversaries, intellectual detectives uncovering truths of the deepest value amid middle eastern loves, hatreds, and rivalries -- these are just a few of the things that make this Witherington thriller gripping, fast paced, and philosophically stimulating. Roman Numerals is high stakes intrigue based in the best real world scholarship. It will grab you at the outset, and hold you hostage until the very end! --- Dr. Tom Morris, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy Notre Dame.
Special discounts on the first novel, The Lazarus Effect, will be available if you buy the new novel as well. Stay tuned for more info...... the adventure continues.
Monday, May 04, 2009
The following is an interesting recent discussion of Tom Wright about the importance of post-modernity and the need to get beyond modernity. See what you think BW3
Sunday, May 03, 2009
The pre-pub scholarly reviews of The Indelible Image are beginning to come in. Here is one of the first ones which will be used as a blurb for the book. BW3
"Ben Witherington is a skilled historical exegete who has, probably
uniquely in our generation, pursued his passion for the theological
and ethical message of the New Testament through commentaries on
every one of the New Testament books. Now he has given us a summation
that is even more unusual: a New Testament theology that allows to
every one of those books a voice that really counts. A magnificent
climax to Witherington's work."
Prof. of NT, Emeritus
St. Andrews University,
St. Andrews, Scotland
Saturday, May 02, 2009
We are all familiar with the story of the prodigal son, though that is not a story about religious conversion. Still, one would think there was enough in the Bible to remind us that where there is life, there is hope, when it comes to a person becoming a Christian. And even if someone began in the faith, and then backslide or even repudiated it for a while, why should we assume that such a person is beyond hope, beyond help, beyond a return to the Lord? Now this sort of coming and going is understandable from a human point of view, but it would be hard to explain from a deterministic one (did God really pre-determine a person to be a Christian early in life, then commit apostasyand write books attacking Christianity, then return to the faith?). Whatever your view on such matters the story of A.N. Wilson is both an interesting and compelling one. Here is a link to his story. See what you think, and reflect.