Friday Faves: Trumpet Trees

It’s pretty warm in Florida right now. Last week, while nearly the entire rest lower 48 was digging out from under ice, we had a cool snap with high temperatures in the upper sixties. This weekend, it’s going to be even warmer, with temperatures in the 80s. I’m not really a fan of 80s in February, so I’m kind of looking forward to our next “cold” front.

With spring just around the corner (Can y’all believe March 1st only 3 days away?), there’s a familiar site emerging around these parts. Every time I walk outside or drive around town, I am treated to the dazzling spectacle of pink or golden trumpet trees in full bloom, and I love it.

Aren’t they beautiful?

Truth is, we won’t really transition into perpetual daily warm temperatures until May. Temperatures will continue to waffle up and down for the next couple of months. Right now, walks outside are still pleasant due to more breeze and slightly less humidity. So I’m taking this opportunity to enjoy the early signs of spring.

Happy Friday, All!

Friday Faves: My Anniversary Cake.

We’re celebrating our anniversary this week; 27 years and counting. We almost never buy one another anniversary gifts. We prefer instead to channel that money into having an enjoyable experience together. We have a nice dinner, maybe go spend one night in a nice hotel somewhere, etc. In fact, that’s almost always our modus operandi for every occasion except Christmas. We tend prize experiences over buying things that gather dust and take up space. Our kids usually just say, “Happy Anniversary!” and then promptly set about their day. In other words, it’s a low key event around here.

However this year, the most amazing food blogger you’ve never heard of decided to surprise us with a very delicious and very cute cake. It was a 6″ vanilla cake with boysenberry filling and a lemon buttercream frosting topped with blackberries and mint leaves.

Being grateful for the love, rather than worrying about the fact that eating cake cuts directly against my current fitness goals, was the challenge. I rose to it, and I’m glad I did because this was a really good cake. It was an original recipe, too, which made it taste even better.

Happy Friday, all!

Word Nerd Wednesday: Problematize

Yes. Apparently, problematize is a word. I don’t like this word, and I like its meaning and implications even less, but I don’t choose words here solely on the basis of how they make me feel. The goal here, if I can manage it, is to learn something along the way. For those of you already familiar with the word, indulge me in my ignorance, and I hope the combination of my snark and enlightenment don’t bore you to death.

Before we get into the implications of the word and why the concept makes my head ache, we should define the term. So here goes, from the Oxford English dictionary:

Problematize:

verB

  • Make into or regard as a problem requiring a solution.

    Example: ‘he problematized the concept of history’

Maybe I’m over thinking this, but when I saw this word used, and gave a bit of thought to its implications,  it occurred that our entire social fabric has been torn in pieces precisely because of this tendency. It has permeated every sector of our society and culture. We have problematized everything and the result has been disastrous.

Everything is a problem now. The names of our founding fathers on schools and government buildings has been problematized. Being white has been problematized. Being black is a problem, as is being a woman, a man or a child. Being a Christian is a major problem to a lot of people.

The Cambridge dictionary blog even discussed whether dictionaries, words, or indeed, language itself, is problematic:

However, English is the language of a culture that does often associate the colour white with things that are pure, with no dirt or no faults – with being “as white as snow.” And the culture also often associates the colour black with bad things, so there are many idiomatic expressions that use these positive and negative senses of the words white and black. (For example, white knight, someone who buys a company to save it, and black knight, someone who tries to take over a business when the owner doesn’t want to sell it.)

Since ancient times, many human cultures have associated day/light/white with perfection and goodness, and night/dark/black with danger and evil. That is not itself a racist thing. What is racist is taking this association of whiteness with purity and blackness with evil, and applying it to people – when people who happen to be paler see themselves as better than people who happen to be darker, and then use their power to treat darker people unfairly or cruelly.

The use of the words white and black to describe people’s skin (and yellow and red, which are offensive, and brown, which is often now used in a positive way to include Latinx people) developed independently from the use of colour words in idioms. But idioms that didn’t originally have anything to do with perceived race feel, to many people, as though they do – particularly the ones that associate a colour with either purity or evil. So it really doesn’t matter where an idiom came from: what matters is how it makes our fellow humans feel when they hear it. It is perfectly possible to find other words and phrases to express our ideas so that we avoid offending people. The language is rich enough.

Note that despite starting out with a relatively sane explanation of meanings and context and calling some common sense to this increasingly senseless hand wringing over nothing, they eventually capitulate. It doesn’t matter that these words and phrases are completely devoid of racial overtones. it only matters that some people feeeeel as if they do. And that, is a problem.

That’s the thing about problematizing things. Ever-shifting standards that reflect the whims and emotions of whomever, whenever, is a never ending source of angst and grief. We really need to get off of this merry go round.

Truly, there are plenty of genuine problems to solve without problematizing the benign because we’re too lazy, unimaginative, and entitled to make the hard choices required to actually change things for the better.

True change requires that we change as individuals, and most Americans are fully invested in the lie that things will get better if they can force you and I to change, to their benefit of course, while they contribute nothing but opinions, supervision and Twitter activism.

Happy Wednesday?

 

Reel Talk: Run, Hide, Fight

One of my favorite conservative media outlets is The Daily Wire, which is run by YouTube commentator Ben Shapiro. His Daily Wire partner, Jeremy Boreing, is a former Hollywood guy and evangelical whose worldview simply didn’t mesh with the dominant Hollywood culture, so he left. One of their stated goals, besides championing free speech, is reconsidering the conservative decision to cede the culture to the left.

One of the ways they propose to rectify this, is by using their knowledge and understanding of the film industry to produce feature films. Their first release, Run, Hide, Fight was recently released through the Daily Wire. Viewers lauded it on Rotten Tomatoes, while critics panned it. Politics has indeed infected every facet of American life. The official trailer is below, and my thoughts about the film will follow.

My general conclusion is that as a garden variety shoot ’em up action film, it was pretty well done. The acting was good, and the stunts and effects were done well enough also. It is a very violent, gruesome film, so be warned. The premise is that disgruntled students plan an elaborate armed heist to take control of their rural high school, and kill as many students as possible in the process.

The hero, 18-year-old Zoe, played by Isabel May, is an angry troubled girl, still reeling from the loss of her mother. Despite her father’s best efforts, she is impossibly hard to reach, and is basically ticking off time until she graduates, goes off to college, and leaves their home town for good. One of the things Zoe has allowed her father to teach her is how to hunt, shoot, and respect nature.

I’ll be honest. When I first saw the trailer for this movie, it bothered me that the hero was a girl. Not because I have an inherent problem with the hero being a girl, but because I hated that The Daily Wire felt the need to make the hero female. I understood why they did it, so I accepted it, but this was a lost opportunity. One of the ways -in my opinion- you fight back in the culture war is not only by making high quality films, but by using those films to challenge the dominant narrative. Since men have been all but eliminated as heroes in the minds of most movie watchers, making the hero a boy would have been to toss a live round right back into the middle of the current trend.

I’ll wrap this review up with another missed opportunity, but I think it’s fair to point out some of the things that I liked about the film. The acknowledgement that most school lock down plans put students more in harms way, not less, was subtle but unmistakable. The jabs at the social media juggernauts that often drive people over the edge, motivating them to do less than honorable acts solely for the sake of an audience, was also astute.

The other missed opportunity I noticed was to not to jump on the “nearly every couple in the film is interracial” bandwagon. Before I go farther, I want to be clear. I have absolutely no objections to interracial couplings. I am a firm believe in vetting potential suitors for faith, character, and work ethic before ethnic background unless that is something of supreme importance to you. If it is, I respect it. I truly just do not care about that one way or the other. I am a firm believer in the family of God trumping temporal characteristics.

However, I also don’t like being propagandized and pushed to view something as desirable and normative when it is neither strongly desired nor normative for most people. Don’t tell me what to think! Again, since the entirety of Hollywood is on this particular bandwagon, I was a bit disappointed that the Daily Wire guys didn’t make a conscious choice not to go there. Why not have the captain of the football team asked the blonde head cheerleader to prom, in more of a throwback to the days when films were a little less overtly political? Why does Zoe’s love interest have to be a black kid? I didn’t dislike the characters, but I was looking for this film to back away from current trends, not lean into them. I don’t see any other way to gain ground in the culture war, for those who purport to care about that.

Overall, it was a decent film, if you don’t mind the violence and you are not *triggered* by a graphic portrayal of school shooters. It didn’t however, appear to me to produce any kind of serious effort to reject Hollywood’s narrative trajectory. Actually, it was just the opposite.

3 out of 5 stars.

Word Nerd Wednesday: Aseity

We recently spent several days exclusively studying theology, and had a grand time doing so. Over the course of that time, I was introduced a word that I’d never heard before, which rarely happens to me. To be sure, I was intimately familiar with the concept, I’d just never heard the word before. So, today’s Word Nerd Wednesday installment is the word aseity.

Aseity: the quality or state of being self-derived or self-originated specifically : the absolute self-sufficiency, independence, and autonomy of God.

I don’t really have much more to offer about this word. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, but I do think that aseity is a really cool word.

Happy Wednesday.

Live Not by Lies

Live Not by Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents, by Rod Dreher. Published in 2020. Hardcover, 304 pages.

I’ve been a reader of Rod Dreher’s blog at The American Conservative for the past five years. During that time, my reaction to his Internet commentary has run the gamut. Some of his columns I connect with in hearty agreement, hastily share with friends, and use as springboards for engaging and edifying conversations. Others of his columns confound me, while others annoy me so much that I click away, refusing to read further.

I’ve concluded that this is the nature of writing and publishing one’s thoughts about the day’s happenings in real time to a “live audience”. Internet commentary, whether of the instant variety such as Twitter, or long form such as blogging, is inherently more emotionally charged than a book. Books require more from all involved. Both author and reader have to exert more of themselves to the writing experience; more thought, more analysis, more contemplation of the ideas presented and received.

I’ve also concluded that this distinction is the reason why I enjoy Rod Dreher’s books so much more than his columns. Whether it’s Crunchy Cons, The Benedict Option, or in this case, Live Not By Lies, he does a much better job connecting with this reader through his books than on the Internet.

Live Not by Lies is exactly what its subtitle suggests; a manual for Christian dissidents. It feels, in many ways, like a follow up to The Benedict Option, which strongly exhorts believers to embrace a return to intimate, local faith communities operating outside of a dominant culture that is increasingly hostile to Christian faith and morality. He doesn’t suggest that we necessarily run off and build communes, as he has been accused of doing. Rather, that we construct places of refuge from the daily vexation of our souls.

But once we form these communities, what do we do within them? More importantly, how do we continue to live and work in the truth when and if the ability to do that comes at a price we’ve never had to pay here in America? We do that, first and foremost, by refusing to live by lies. The books titular exhortation was originally penned by Soviet dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn in a 1974 essay of the same title. He was arrested by Soviet secret police on the day of its writing. In it, Solzhenitsyn lists a relatively simply outline for refusing to live by lies, even though he knew it wouldn’t produce life lived on flowery beds of ease:

Some, at first, will lose their jobs. For young people who want to live with truth, this will, in the beginning, complicate their young lives very much, because the required recitations are stuffed with lies, and it is necessary to make a choice.

But there are no loopholes for anybody who wants to be honest. On any given day any one of us will be confronted with at least one of the above-mentioned choices even in the most secure of the technical sciences. Either truth or falsehood: Toward spiritual independence or toward spiritual servitude.

And he who is not sufficiently courageous even to defend his soul—don’t let him be proud of his “progressive” views, don’t let him boast that he is an academician or a people’s artist, a merited figure, or a general—let him say to himself: I am in the herd, and a coward. It’s all the same to me as long as I’m fed and warm.

It is with Solzhenitsyn in mind that Rod Dreher sets out a roadmap for the terrain we must navigate in 2021 as we resolve not to live by lies. Our current cultural trajectory is one that diverges from the one in which Soviet dissidents lived, and Dreher takes an excellent turn at describing the glaring signs pointing to a kind of totalitarianism that believers need to brace and prepare for:

The Western world has become post-Christian, with large numbers of those born after 1980 rejecting religious faith. This means that they will not only oppose Christians when we stand up for our principles—in particular, in defense of the traditional family, of male and female gender roles, and of the sanctity of human life—but also they will not even understand why they should tolerate dissent based in religious belief.

He later warns:

The foundation of totalitarianism is an ideology made of lies. The system depends for its existence on a people’s fear of challenging the lies. Said the writer, “Our way must be: Never knowingly support lies!” You may not have the strength to stand up in public and say what you really believe, but you can at least refuse to affirm what you do not believe. You may not be able to overthrow totalitarianism, but you can find within yourself and your community the means to live in the dignity of truth. If we must live under the dictatorship of lies, the writer said, then our response must be: “Let their rule hold not through me!”

Dreher encourages his readers to keep the faith, and not lose hope, but to also be wise and observant of the times in which we live. Portions of his book bring to mind Christ’s admonition to his followers to be “wise and serpents, yet harmful as doves.”

There is a lot of well-tilled ground here for those who have been attentive to the increasing influence and encroaching power of big tech companies, the academic ideological cathedral, and woke corporations wielding their power to influence debate in the public square. Nevertheless, there was information here that I was not aware of and was grateful to be more fully informed.

The compilation of all of these things, combined with concrete strategies and encouragement to stand strong make this a good read.

4 out of 5 stars.

 

 

 

 

 

Word Nerd Wednesday: Unplug

The topic of this week’s post has absolutely nothing to do with staking out a political position. Certain things are, or used to be, bedrock American principles regardless of whether one stands on the right or left sides of the aisle.

One thing has become infinitely clear however, giving lip service to the principles of liberty isn’t really enough anymore. Being willing to put our inconvenience where our mouths are demands action. Which is why it is important that we be willing to unplug. This post, of course, refers to word as defined by the Urban Dictionary:

Unplug: To take yourself off any social media outlets, such as Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, etc. for a few days. To unplug the computer and enjoy real life interactions with live people such as your family and friends. To live life without computer related devices.

Of course, the unplugging I’m referring to is the kind that lasts much longer than a few days. It’s a willingness to recapture the saner parts of life as it was lived before, even if those parts were far less convenient.

Calling your distant Aunt Gertrude at least once a month, rather than depending on Facebook as a means of connection. Sending photos to you family either hard copy, or even via text message. Of course, this necessarily means that only the people you care most about will view your personal photos, but isn’t that better anyway?

The Instagram app that I kept for the sake of viewing pictures of distant relatives? Off the phone. I can always use the browser on my computer every couple of weeks to catch up, but no more free data mining for Facebook. I have been suggesting to people that they direct message all of the contacts they’ve developed a real relationship with on social media, trade contact info, delete those accounts (or at least drop the apps), and start communicating via email or even -gasp!- voice calls and snail mail!

For me, the biggest hindrance to cancelling my Prime account was the notion of 1) having to wait more than two days to receive certain items, and 2) paying for shipping. But you know what? The advantage of refusing to support mega corps that wage political warfare, destroy vendors as well as small brick and mortar businesses and screw print authors is that I’ll shop less. Additionally, the $12 a month I’m saving on the Prime membership will pay for shipping on the vastly reduced numbers of items I’m ordering.

Again, this is not a matter of taking sides politically. Either the “American Dream” which prioritizes free speech and the flourishing of the individual, and encourages entrepreneurship, is worth paying a few extra pennies to encourage, or it isn’t.

In the current zeitgeist, voicing my support for the things that matters means I need to unplug.

Quotable Literary Quote

Note well, that this was originally penned in 1910:

And now, as this book is drawing to a close, I will whisper in the reader’s ear a horrible suspicion that has sometimes haunted me: the suspicion that Hudge [the Progressive] and Gudge [the Conservative] are secretly in partnership. That the quarrel they keep up in public is very much of a put-up job, and that the way in which they perpetually play into each other’s hands is not an everlasting coincidence.

I do not know whether the partnership of Hudge and Gudge is conscious or unconscious. I only know that between them they still keep the common man homeless.

G.K. Chesterton wrote this over a century ago. Politics as a hope for what ails humanity is death to soul of men and idolatry to the Christian believer.

Just my .02, if you were wondering what I think about all of this.

hat tip: Will S.