ornament 17 February 2004 ornament


We of the human race love to pat ourselves on the back. Think about it. We have the Academy Awards, in which the Hollywood industry pats itself on the back, and countless other award venues like it. We write resumes that tout all our wonderful experiences, education, and qualifications. We who we write weblogs are always checking our stats to see just how many people are paying attention to what we write.

With all this self back-patting going on, it is not surprising to see it pop up when Amazon.com Canada’s website had a glitch last week which revealed many “anonymous” book reviewers’ names:

John Rechy, author of the best-selling 1963 novel “City of Night” and winner of the PEN-USA West lifetime achievement award, is one of several prominent authors who have apparently pseudonymously written themselves five-star reviews, Amazon’s highest rating. Rechy, who laughed about it when approached, sees it as a means to survival when online stars mean sales.

“That anybody is allowed to come in and anonymously trash a book to me is absurd,” said Rechy, who, having been caught, freely admitted to praising his new book, “The Life and Adventures of Lyle Clemens,” on Amazon under the signature “a reader from Chicago.” “How to strike back? Just go in and rebut every single one of them.”

Rechy is in good company. Walt Whitman and Anthony Burgess both famously reviewed their own books under assumed names. But several modern-day writers said the Internet, where anyone from your mother to your ex-agent can anonymously broadcast an opinion of your work, has created a more urgent need for self-defense.

I’ve always wondered about this when reading Amazon.com’s reviews. If you’ve ever read them, you’ll know that sometimes you find some good, thoughtful reviews. Other times you’ll find the useless ranting of someone who bought the book only to discover that there was not pictures in it.

I doubt most people are deterred by such reviews, but I’m sure the practice will continue. But a good rule of thumb is not to follow a review of a book that is too glowing (with the exception of my “Books That Haunt” series, of course), and dismiss reviews writeeen bye peepul who can’t speul.

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ornament 16 February 2004 ornament

CCM Nausea

I don’t listen to contemporary Christian music (CCM) much. Mostly because there’s little there that’s different from secular music. I know there are exceptions, but for the most part CCM’s quality is poor (I could likewise argue that most top 40 songs and artists are lacking).

Every once in a while, I’ll feel guilty that I’m not supporting CCM and I’ll turn my radio to a station. It’s usually at this point where I’m reminded once again that why I can’t stand it. Case in point: while driving through Cincinnati yesterday, we heard this as the tagline to a CCM radio station: “[name of station]: It’s like Bible study with a beat!”

Bible study with a beat, huh? This tagline played right after a cover of U2’s “Beautiful Day” by a CCM group. Hand me the barf bag. Unfortunately too many people do think that listening to CCM is a substitute (or at least an equivalent) for studying the Bible. The problem is that CCM is 98% “beat,” and Bible study is seldom found.

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ornament 15 February 2004 ornament

Family Restrooms?

I’m all for “family values,” but this I’m not so sure about. While visiting a public restrrom this weekend, I noticed not two, but three choices: Men, Women, and Families. Now I love my family, but I sure as heck do not want to go to the bathroom with them.

My wife suggests (and she’s probably right), that it’s purpose is for changing diapers, etc. Still, why not just call it a changing room? Are there stalls in there? Urinals? I’ll stop speculating now before I freak myself out anymore.

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Weekend Potpourri Popery

Being the valiant romantic that I am, I took the missus to Cincinnati this Valentine’s weekend where we saw the exhibit, Saint Peter and the Vatican: The Legacy of the Popes at the Cincinnati Museum Center. Nothing keeps the spark in your marriage going like a few Papal artifacts, eh?

The exhibit had its ups and downs—the collection was fascinating, but the crowd and the setup took away from the experience (word to the wise: don’t go on a Saturday). The over-hyped Tomb of St. Peter and the skull fragments and fingers of a deceased Popes didn’t garner most of my attention (I was halfway hoping that the skull fragment, a healing relic, might alleviate my neck pain…). It was the exhibits regarding the office of the Papacy that reminded my why I am not a Roman Catholic.

With all due respect to my Catholic friends, I think that the Roman Catholic idea of the primacy of Peter is severely flawed. In the museum, whenever St. Peter was mentioned, it was usually followed by something like “St. Peter, upon whom Christ founded his church,” which was then followed by a citation from Matthew 16:18, “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.

The meaning of this verse has been debated for centuries. Who/what is the rock to which Jesus is referring? Roman Catholics insist that it is Peter himself, after all, in Greek, Peter means “rock” and the same word is used in a pun-like fashion. Many Protestants hold that the “rock” is Peter’s confession just two verses before, “Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’” (Matt. 16:16) Others have postulated that the rock is Jesus himself. The episode took place at Cesearea Phillipi—a town that was basically hewn out of, you guessed it—rock. There are good arguments on all sides, but let’s just for argument’s sake say that the Catholic view is correct.

Even if Peter is given some sort of primacy by Jesus, it does not follow that he is the only person upon which the church will be built. Peter was first a leader in the church at Jerusalem, so why not the Jerusalem Catholic Church? Peter is certainly not given the sole authority to interpret Scripture, status current day Popes enjoy. Paul even rebuked Peter when he was in error (Gal. 2:11-14)—so much for infallibility.

This is not at all to diminish the life and service of the Apostle Peter—he was a much better man than me, and God used him mightily in the formation of the early church. I point out these things merely to say that the Popes who came after Peter took upon themselves much more power than even Peter himself had. The papacy is a facade, a human institution that was built upon the Rock of St. Peter.

I’m not of the evangelical sort who thinks that true Christians are never to be found within the Roman Catholic Church—I believe there are many who will be found faithful to Christ. However, I also believe that the Roman church has erected many barriers to Gospel, the papacy being one such barrier, which are very dangerous to the souls of those within their care.

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ornament 13 February 2004 ornament

Hot Dogs

Ever wonder what they’re made of? Word of advice: when in Hanoi, opt for the hamburger.

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Disease or Morality?

Joe Carter has an excellent discussion on the “Disease Model” v. the “Moral Model” debate. It is alarming how often our theraputic society tries to downgrade sins into disease. When a person is merely “sick,” he or she is just a victim (see also my recent post on Monster).

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Blogs You Should Be Reading

If you’ve never visited Jason Steffens’ blog, Antioch Road, take a few minutes to explore one of my favorite blogs. Steffens is an Iowa attorney who writes a very well-written blog on a variety of topics. He is especially good at keeping up with pro-life issues. Check him out.

While I was searching for fellow Louisville bloggers the other day, I came across Matt Hall, a student at my recent alma mater, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. I was at school with Matt last semester and didn’t even know it—it’s a small world. Anyway, Matt’s blog is superb, especially in discussion of theological matters. I look forward to reading more out of him in the future.

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ornament 12 February 2004 ornament

Kerry Implosion?

Drudge alleges some Clinton-esque behavior in the Kerry camp. The Dems’ show gets wilder and wilder…

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Playing the Campaign Game

While this Washington Times Op/Ed piece by a lieutenant who served with George W. Bush in the Air National Guard should put the issue to rest, it probably won’t. What is so interesting is that such tactics are being raised now. The opposition usually raises aruguments of this kind during September or October to sway the swing voters’ minds.

If President Bush lied about his service, it should be revealed and the consequences suffered. The accusations are specious, however, and it is doubtful that something like this (were it true) would have gotten past the Gore campaign four years ago. If the liberal media are resorting to 30 year old accusations now, do they anything in reserve? I’m sure they’ll come up with something.

I expect the election race this year to be close. Not because Kerry is a good candidate, but because of the polarity of thinking in this country about Bush. Hatred for W runs deep, and for the “Anybody But Bush” crowd, anybody will do.

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ornament 11 February 2004 ornament


Get Firefox

Mozilla Firefox 0.8 is out. No, is isn’t the Soviet plane that Clint Eastwood stole in the 1982 movie FireFox, it’s a web browser. Formerly known as Phoenix, and Firebird, I’ve been using this browser as my primary web browser for over a year. It’s faster, and has better features than Internet Explorer, and you don’t have to think in Russian to use it (as Clint Eastwood did with the airplane). Download it now, pazhalusta!

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