The Casual Vacancy: A Sermon on Poverty

Casual Vacancy

One of my favorite books of all time is Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss. And as much as I love it, the first 200 pages are a bit hard to stomach. We see the main character, Kvothe, stumbling homeless through the streets of Tarbean, orphaned after an attack on his parents, and we keep asking ourselves what the point is. And then, all of a sudden, we see it. And the book doesn’t let up after that moment. Part of me wonders if that process of realization is part of what cemented the book’s pedestal status in my mind.

There’s a moment, about one-fourth of the way through J.K. Rowling’s newest bestseller, The Casual Vacancy, when the story clicked for me. Continue reading →

Prior Incantato: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Part 6

This entry is part 6 of 6 in the series Prior Incantato: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Prior Incantato: In Harry Potter, a spell that can reveal the last spell performed by a particular wand. In other words — magic revisited.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Several months after part 5, here we are at Part 6 (of 7) of my re-read of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. And here I thought I’d knock this thing out in just three short essays. I apologize for the delay, but Jurassic Park knows best when it tells us that “life finds a way”, and that includes interrupting all of our plans to write about wizards.

In this edition, we talk about Ridgebacks, centaurs and the stars. The end of our last session found Harry spying on Severus as he threatens Quirrell for the Sorcerer’s Stone. Or so it seems. Dun dun dun, and so forth. Continue reading →

Faith and Speculative Fiction

Science Fiction

There are typically two types of books that I lean towards when populating my reading list: Sci-fi/Fantasy books or books on theology and Christian living. It’s a strange combination, I suppose, but says a lot about the things I ponder, when I’m not thinking about Batman or cheeseburgers. As an aspiring author, these are actually the two types of writing that I’d like to delve into some day, and there is usually a stark separation between the two (although I’ve shared before how I think this should not always be so).

Over the weekend, there were some interesting discussions going on in a few Christian blogs about the absence of speculative fiction (sci-fi/fantasy/horror, etc.) from the world of Christian publishing. This all seemed to start over at ReveLife with a post about how Science Fiction Goes with the Christian Life, which discusses the myriad of thematic elements that are relevant for Christians in the realm of sci-fi. Personally, I think it raises some good points, especially considering that science fiction’s most powerful ability is to turn the magnifying glass on present culture by way of the future or the seemingly impossible. For reference material, see: Battlestar Galactica, the series. Continue reading →

Harry Potter World

If you don’t like Harry Potter and visit my blog regularly, I apologize, because you’re going to hear me geek out about it endlessly until I go visit the new Harry Potter attraction at Islands of Adventure in August. Last year, Jen and I went to Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure and Disney World for a vacation, and we’re going back again in 2010 just to see the Harry Potter stuff. It’s totally dorky, I know, but I can live with it, especially when I’m doing totally sweet stuff and you aren’t.

Anyway, it’s hard for me not to geek out about it when I see stuff like this YouTube video, where a wand chooses a kid at Ollivander’s. How awesome is that? Continue reading →

Rabbit Hole of Geek

Rabbit HoleFor most of my life, I have been called a geek. And honestly, I can’t even remember when this started. No, it wasn’t when I got those glasses with the rubber handlebars that locked them behind my ears. And no, it wasn’t when I wore my MC Hammer pants to school on a day that was not Halloween. It wasn’t even when my brother and I showed up in matching outfits.

In elementary school, I remember every kid on the street having a Nintendo. It was the normal thing to do. Nobody cared that it was nerdy. Or perhaps nobody had decided that’s what it was called yet. When you’re young, these things are mostly normal, but at some point, everything changes. At some point, a switch is flipped, arbitrary social lines are drawn, and people align themselves where they think they will be happiest. Around this time is when I suppose the whole “geek” thing started for me, even though I wasn’t doing anything differently than I had done it before. Continue reading →

Books That Rule: The Magicians

The MagiciansThese days, I’m often too busy to do all of the things that I love. Between hanging with the wife, writing, watching awesome TV shows, reading and playing video games, one of these items will unfortunately be forgotten. Since ignoring one of those could end in divorce, right now that particular neglected past time is reading. However, every now and then I do get to read something so I try to make it count. In recent months, I’ve read the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins, and I’m currently working through Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson, which is book one of the Malazan Book of the Fallen series.

While those books have made their own impressions and are great reads in their own right, one title that I got to read around the end of last year really stuck with me: The Magicians by Lev Grossman. I suppose I’ve been thinking about this one a lot since I recently heard that Grossman is working on a sequel. Continue reading →

Why I Write: The Power of Story in the Human Narrative

Years ago, when I was traveling to different churches and seeking a job as a youth pastor, I ended up at a fairly conservative Baptist church. I don’t mean to pick on that denomination, but while there on my interview, I was put into a bit of a bind by a particular question I was asked in front of a group of parents and students. “Do you think it’s OK to watch rated R movies?”

The reason this question proved to be so awkward was that it’s loaded with assumptions, and implications for the wrong answer. It also is the kind of question that makes people look at Christians all goofy. Continue reading →

Congratulations, Jack: The Lost Finale

Is it possible to be unsure of whether you liked something or not, but still be satisfied by it? Because after sleeping on it, that’s how I’m feeling about the series finale of Lost, complete with its Desmond Ex Machina, sideways purgatory and creepily Evangelion-like conclusion. Despite all the mythology and ambiguity, the show creators have always maintained that this was a character show, and “The End” certainly lent itself to that end. Continue reading →

Harry Potter and the Magical Existential Island

OK, I really got into last night’s episode of Lost, “What They Died For”. It was a great set-up episode for what is hopefully a banging conclusion to one of my favorite shows on TV. Pacing wise, I’m trying to hold on to faith that the sideways world has a point, because it seems like there still isn’t any importance to it, even this late in the game. In addition, I find it curious that in the time it’s taken Jack and co. to walk to Locke, steal a boat, get captured and released from Widmore, steal a sub and wash ashore, Ben and Richard are still on their way to New Otherton.

But those small quibbles aside, the biggest head scratcher actually came once the final credits rolled. I have to ask, ABC: what was up with the Disney storybook voice in the series finale promo? Continue reading →