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Welcome to the online home of Tim Challies, blogger, author, and book reviewer.
March 01, 2008
Our church is hosting its first ever conference today, and I was supposed to help out. I was looking forward to serving there and just doing whatever needed to be done. But it wasn’t mean to be. Just around the stroke of midnight, both Aileen and Michaela came down with some awful strain of the flu and both were up pretty well all night. I didn’t fare much better, what with changing bedding, rinsing out buckets, and all the other joyous tasks befalling those whose family members are sick. It looks like they are both over the worst of it, so hopefully whatever it was is short-lived!
My brain is pretty well convinced that it’s time for bed and I certainly don’t have it in me to write anything intelligent or profound. Instead, I’ll provide some miscellania—a compendium of weird and wonderful things that, for one reason or another, I’ve decided to bookmark this week.
A Great Review (of an Awful Movie)
I greatly enjoyed reading Christianity Today’s review of the new film “Semi-Pro” (starring Will Ferrell). It does a great job dismantling what sounds like an exceptionally poor (and immoral) movie, and this from a publication that, in my judgment, can sometimes be a tad soft on bad movies.
It’s not simply that Semi-Pro is bad, it’s that it has the appearance of a film actively doing everything in its power to be rotten as it can possibly be. At one point in the film, after making a cruel joke at the expense of another person’s feelings, Harrelson’s character takes an emotional step backward and questions/confesses, “Still not funny?” No Woody, not by a long shot.
Despite a riotous cast and a battery of what should be hilarious cameos, Semi-Pro shoots and misses the mark by a wide margin. Even the usually reliable Ferrell falls flat, prompting one to wonder if this film is uniquely bad or if Ferrell’s brand of humor has finally reached its critical mass.
“Is there such a thing as an F minus?” one reviewer asked me as we filed out of the theater. If there is, it was invented for films such as this. Semi-Pro is the sort of film you’d describe as laughably bad except for the fact that you wouldn’t want anyone to get the wrong idea by seeing the film’s title and the word laughter together in the same sentence.
Semi-Pro has utterly no redeeming value, spiritual or otherwise.
An Interview with Warren Buffett
A couple of days ago I read a Q&A with Warren Buffett. Students from Emory’s Goizueta Business School and McCombs School of Business at UT Austin had been invited to visit Mr. Buffett for a session and one of the students recorded the answers. Though there were quite a few interesting points in the interview, one of them really stood out to me. Buffett was asked this: “Given your business success, your immense fortune, and your celebrity status, how do you stay so down to earth and humble? Are there specific people or lessons you have learned throughout your life that enable you to maintain this outlook?” Here is a part of his reply, focusing on the money he has given away in his lifetime:
“I have never given away a dime that has any meaning on how I live. There are people that go to church and they put money in the offering plate that truly makes a difference in how they will live their lives, what they will eat, what presents they will buy for their children. There’s no reason to get puffed up over things you didn’t control.”
I was reminded immediately of the biblical story of the widow giving her last pennies to God while rich men blew trumpets to announce their greater but still lesser gifts. It is always interesting to hear of the world’s wealthiest people giving away billions of dollars, but Buffett realizes that his gift of billions have nowhere near the impact of a much smaller gift from a much poorer person. The gifts that God seems to treasure are those that are sacrificial rather than those that come from the overflow. Buffett seems to have some awareness of this.
The day of the Oscars I noticed a story describing what the Hollywood superstars go through so they can look their absolute best on Oscar night. The story was fascinating, hilarious and horrifying all at once. It’s amazing the physical standards our society holds up for these people. We expect them to look absolutely perfect. We don’t really care how they act before and after, as long as they look good. So the celebrities do their best to deliver in what must always be a losing game. Here are some of the things they do to themselves so they look their best on the red carpet:
- The most crowded waiting room pre-Oscars is at the Beverly Hills clinic of celebrity skin specialist Sonya Dakar - where stars line up for her signature £1,000 facial. Madonna is said to have headed there for a treatment last year which includes a diamond scrub (using diamond particles to exfoliate the skin), an exfoliating skin peel, green tea face mask and red-and-blue UV light therapy to prevent acne.
- It seems there was a tiny bump of fat which stuck out over the back of her dress. Rather than change her outfit, she dialled Manhattan dermatologist Dr Patricia Wexler, who says “it was easier to do a little liposuction than to fix the dress.”
- Reese Witherspoon once had some Oscar gold sprayed into her hair. Top LA stylist Mark Townsend used Vavoom Gold Heat, a dry oil spray containing real gold. That way, Reese really sparkled on TV.
- Another popular pre-Oscars trick is the Suddenly Slimmer body wrap. Stars are wrapped in bandages soaked in a special mineral solution (said to remove toxins) and then jump on an exercise machine for one hour. The inches are guaranteed not to come back unless they gain weight.
- “Most of the women in LA have been on the Master Cleanse (that’s lemonade with cayenne pepper and maple syrup, a saltwater drink and laxative tea) all week.”
- While last year everyone clamoured for the best “eyebrow specialist,” this year it’s all about having your own “eyelash expert.”
- The drugs Inderal or Atenolol are popular as they “slow down your heart so, when you’re up there on stage, you don’t get palpitations and become sweaty.”
It’s easy to laugh at these people when we see what they go through, but really the problem is with us and our crazy culture. We are the ones who make such absurd and unrealistic demands.
Escape the Trap
“Escape the Trap” is a small booklet designed to give “men and boys a biblical basis for winning their battles with sexual temptation and pornography.” I read through it and found it to do a good job of describing the personal, relational and spiritual dangers of pornography and pornographic addiction. Sadly, such material is badly needed both within the church and outside of it. Thankfully, there are some good resources for people seeking to overcome or avoid such temptation. This booklet is one more example.
A friend forwarded an excellent article from The Weekly Standard. David Gelernter, writing about feminism and the English language, asks “Can the damage to our mother tongue be undone?” He laments the gender-neutralizing of the language and the damage it does to our ability to express ourselves smoothly and easily. Here are a few choice quotes:
- “How can I teach my students to write decently when the English language has become a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Academic-Industrial Complex?”
- “When students have been ordered since first grade to put “he or she” in spots where “he” would mean exactly the same thing, and “firefighter” where “fireman” would mean exactly the same thing? How can we then tell them, “Make every word, every syllable count!” They may be ignorant but they’re not stupid. The well-aimed torpedo of Feminist English has sunk the whole process of teaching students to write. The small minority of born writers will always get by, inventing their own rules as they go. But we used to expect every educated citizen to write decently—and that goal is out the window.”
- “The fixed idea forced by language rapists upon a whole generation of students, that “he” can refer only to a male, is (in short) wrong. It is applied with nonsensical inconsistency, too. The same feminist warriors who would never write “he” where “he or she” will do would also never write “the author or authoress” where “the author” will do.”
- “We have accepted, implicitly, a hit-and-run vandalizing of English—the richest, most expressive language in the world. Languages such as French are shaped and guided by official boards of big shots. But English used to be a language of the people, by the people, for the people. “The living language is like a cowpath,” wrote White; “it is the creation of the cows themselves, who, having created it, follow it or depart from it according to their whims or their needs.” We have allowed our academic overlords to plow up White’s cow-path and replace it with a steel-and-concrete highway, hemmed in by guardrails and heavily patrolled by police.”