Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Emerging Church Article

This interesting article by Scot McKnight on the emerging church is both affirming and challenging of the "movement". McKnight issues some great warnings - for example, he is clear on his convictions concerning the need for evangelism which some emerging people lose sight of in their desire to be inclusive. In similar vein, he points to the need for emerging Christians to maintain their missional and ecclesial focus alongside a social one. Maybe its just that I often agree with his views and find some emerging writers to have crossed the line into liberal heresy...

Monday, January 29, 2007

Holiday Reading

It's been an excellent season of holiday reading 2006-07 - plenty of variety within the admittedly narrow reading parameters in which I operate!

Destiny's Children - Stephen Baxter

I recently discovered this phenomenal Sci-Fi author via his book Evolution. Baxter writes within a strong evolutionary context which is consistently fascinating - for example across his works you'll find him asserting that human beings developed big brains because they needed the evolutionary advantage that social skills gave them in cooperative activity - physically they couldn't compete - so his real point is that humanity didn't survive because they had big brains - but rather that they developed big brains in order to survive. Not particularly new, until you find in later books he postulates some human societies (for example in closed Ark ships) where big brains become a liability and so evolution demands regression.

Anyway, I read the 3rd and 4th books in the Destiny's Children series. The 3rd book, Transcendent, was an interesting study on the human quest for redemption - following 2 parallel story lines - the first describing the tortured family life of a man who will in time save the world; the second telling the story of a young girl who participates in a future humanity's quest to redeem humanity's past by "witnessing" the pain of every human who has ever lived. Fascinating pretext - of course, she is watching the life of the man in storyline #1. Excellent series. 9/10.

Pride of Carthage - D A Durham

I enjoyed this compelling historical novel on the life of Hannibal Barca of Carthage (a city state in North Africa now part of Tunisia) - an inspired Carthaginian general who came within an inch of bringing Rome to its knees. The characterisation in this book is really first rate. Not only Hannibal but his family, others within his retinue and the Romans who opposed him. Reminded me how much I enjoy good quality historical fiction. 9/10.

Murder in La Mut - Raymond Feist and Joel Rosenberg

I quite like these Riftwar spinoffs, albeit that I am not a big fan of the collaborative writing ventures these celebrated authors use to spin out ta series! A fun book with a well constructed plot and likeable characters (always the key in these fantasy books). 7/10.

The Roses of Roazon - Cherith Baldry

There were aspects of the fantasy novel that I really enjoyed: the riches to rags to riches story of a relatively minor character, Bertrand; the messianic allusions surrounding the pacifist Duke Joscelin; the underlying spiritual themes - a spirituality of love and grace supplanting a harsh judgmentalism. In the end, it just went a bit far for me - especially, the homosexual love story! 6/10.

The Wee Free Men - Terry Pratchett

Supposedly this book is (a) A Disc World novel and (b) A Children's book. I can't agree with either proposition! For a start it doesn't read like a Disc World novel - Death doesn't even make a cameo appearance! Secondly, I would have thought it too advanced for a child! I did like it a lot - its a really subversive fairy tale about a young girl who becomes a witch with the aid of the "wee free men" who are super hilarious elves who speak in broad Scots accents and live for fighting, stealing and drinking (especially Sheep's linament). Quote of the book (which kinda illustrates the subversive nature of the work):

Miss Tick [Mystic...] sniffed. "You could say this advice is priceless," she said. "Are you listening?" "Yes," said Tiffany. "Good. Now...if you trust in yourself..." "Yes?" "...and believe in your dreams..." "Yes?" "...and follow your star..." Miss Tick went on. "Yes?" "'ll still get beaten by people who spent their their time working hard and learning things and weren't so lazy. Good-bye."

Priceless indeed. Supposedly, its going to be made into a movie. It will be a lot of fun if it is. 8/10.

JPod - Douglas Coupland

I do like satire in small doses - and this is a great example. An hilarious read about a group of software engineers whose surnames all begin with J (a weird HR policy has made it so...). So much borax poked at so many institutions of modern (and particularly digital) society. The book is highly cynical, even for Coupland. In fact, its so cynical that he appears in the book! He doesn't save himself from self-criticism by characters that you've come to like despite the fact that they are miserable, unproductive losers. There are some really funny plotlines in this book - the militant lesbian who has an affair with the main character's mother and then converts midway through the book to the compliant, plastic surgery coveting, girlfriend of a Chinese smuggler/gangster/interior designer; the plot to sabotage a Playstation game with a homicidal Ronald MacDonald character; the asinine competitions the JPod have in the office when they get bored of real work (which is often) eg. writing EBay ads selling themselves (you get to read the ads...). 9/10.

So that's it - my holiday reading. A rewarding mix of my main reading fare - Sci Fi/Fantasy leavened with some well written satire and historic fiction. All available from the library!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Sport of Kings

How much difference can one man make? If you're Ricki Herbert quite a lot it seems. The Football Kingz down and out (you knew it from the start when they added the onanic "z" to their name) with 4 games to go. Then the worst happens and the franchise falls apart and the coach goes down with the ship. Helter skelter negotiations just to see if a team can be put on the field. And what happens? In comes national coach Ricki Herbert and 4 games later its 3 wins and 1 draw from the last 4 games and a creditable last, just one point behind the next best.

I've been making a difference myself this week with a new sport:

At first glance you might think its tennis. And I suppose it is of a sort - there's just no tennis ball required. I like to think of it as big game hunting - the bigger the quarry, the more satisfying the result. But this is no ordinary tennis racquet. For a start its battery powered - just 2 AA's to open a whole new vista of sporting opportunity. Then there's the strings - except they're not really strings at all - more like a metal lattice - a finely woven metallic crochet with a simple lattice on either side. I suppose you could hit a ball with it but it has a deeper, more primal use.

The racquet is activated by a small switch on the handle which sends an electrical current into the inner most web of metallic strands...and you're ready to serve and volley...backhand or cross court and most importantly the FLY ball...

Welcome to the 21st century fly swat! The unsuspecting fly is approached carefully with the racquet extended - too late it tries to fly away, straight into the waiting mini forcefield. A satisfying crack (rather like the retort of a cap gun) signals success. If you're swatting at night, the sound FX are enhanced by a blue electrical spark. Does it get any better? All for $9.99 (batteries not included)

Ah truly the sport of kings...the king of the flies...

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Summer Hols!

This Christmas the Jones family did something different: we went camping! Some scoffed at the wisdom of camping with a soon-to-be-two-year-old; others wondered at the fortitude of the wife for such activities (especially in her "condition"). But the pioneering spirit of the Jones forebears won through and a great time was had by all...

We headed north to Matauri Bay on the east coast, north of Keri Keri, on 29 December 2006. The trip wasn't too bad despite holiday delays around the small towns on the way up - the sooner the new highway is finished the better.

We arrived at the turnoff and began the descent to the coast - its a beautiful view with the Cavalli Islands in the background.

Its here you'll find the wreck of the Rainbow Warrior - the final resting place of the Greenpeace boat bombed by terrorists authorised by the French government.

Our campsite was right at the foot of this hill - on top is the Rainbow Warrior memorial with a map directing you out into the Cavalli Islands.

As you can see, the weather was idyllic and our 2 tent complex was nice and cosy in the summer heat. We had 2 tents: one for sleeping; the other for food and essential equipment like large blow-up dolphins.

Rhys did so well in his new environment. He loved the beach - building sandcastles and enjoying wave jumping with Daddy! Now when we go near a beach he yells "beach" or something close to it. Pretty much it was business as usual for the little man (and his Mama).

Rhys was a little hard to keep track of! He loved playing with the kids in nearby tents who were all a bit big for him. Often he'd be spotted heading off to the other side of the camp - when asked for his destination he'd say "Hannah" or words to that effect. Yes he was keen to spend time with his friends Isabella and Hannah Dunn. It has to be said his parents were also quite content spending time with the Dunns (Reuben and Vania) as well (using their BBQ and sharing illicit contraband smuggled north). Old friends Gary and Charmayne Johnstone were also there (Vania's parents). A highlight was the Tuatua sandwiches cooked straight off the beach! Here's Isabella feeding her aged grandfather who seems to have lost the power of feeding himself:

All in all, a wonderful time away - a very refreshing 5 days of sun, sea, sandcastles, shellfish, friends and learning to be a family.