Books and Quotes

Writing allows us to communicate and preserve our ideas across space and time. It takes many forms including some unimagined just a few years ago, this blog being one. The intent of Books and Quotes is to explore the written word. Join in with your comments and observations. Have a book or an observation you would like discussed? E-mail me!

Location: Rogers, Arkansas

I needed a way to increase my appreciation of life so I decided to start looking for the Good Life ... come along for the ride!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Loving Your Neighbor?

Sin seems like a simple concept. If you do wrong, that is sin. The Christian response should be to repent and refrain from repeating the sin. At one level that works. At another, sin is much more complex and nuance. While it is true that personal repentance and restoration are necessary, dealing with other people in areas where we are prone to sin calls for more than just dealing with our sins and moving on. It requires, in addition to repentance when called for, changing the focus of our concern from our own state to considering the best interests of the other person or persons involved. Lauren Winner is addressing this next step in our relationships in the following quote from Real Sex. She pulls our thinking away from us to others as she challenges us to “…consider others better than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3b)

How do we determine when our behavior toward others is proper? Winner, speaking of sexual ethics to a young woman regarding dating, said the following. The truth in her words apply to many other areas of our lives – gossip about, giving to, and judging others to name a few.

“I’m not sure … that the question you should be asking is At what point, precisely, did I sin? You may want to be asking if your behavior was prudent, loving, or wise. You may want to ask at what point you loved your neighbor.” (Theologian Christopher West puts the question this way: “Is this … behavior an authentic sign of Christ’s love, or is it not?”)

From Real Sex: the Naked Truth About Chastity by Lauren F. Winner

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Dissenting Views

Librarians are supposed to stand for intellectual freedom, diversity of opinion, and providing access to materials that represent all points of view. How can we do that when many of us are intolerant of dissenting views? Allowing our profession to be a bastion of orthodoxy of any kind defeats our purpose.

From “The Loneliness of a Conservative Librarian” by David Durant
The Chronicle of Higher Education, from the issue dated September 30, 2005

Anyone care to speculate how Mr. Durant’s point might apply to the church?

It seems to me that when the church, just like ALA( the American Library Association), endorses any political orthodoxy we are at risk of losing sight of our primary objectives, bringing Christ Jesus to a lost and dying world and living the Christ life in it. That doesn’t mean we should not bring our faith into the political arena just that we should expect our churches to help us do so rather than tell us what party we should support.

The Founding Fathers of our nation had observed the problems a State Religion caused for religion as much as for the state. They recognized how important it was for Americans to exercise their religion freely. In essence they freed the church to be the church. Rather than making one orthodoxy or the other a “test” for our faith, the men who set up our nation allowed faith to drive our politics. The church should be interested in political issues, take part in the political life of our country, and send its members into the political arena armed and supported by sound doctrine and prayer. But, when that participation becomes endorsement and how one votes is a test of how good a Christian one is, the church, as much as ALA, needs to stop being political and start being the organization it was intended to be.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Google and the Luddites?

Google is being sued for copyright infringement. Filed yesterday, the suit made the news today. The New York Times starts its article as follows, “Three authors filed suit against Google yesterday contending that the company's program to create searchable digital copies of the contents of several university libraries constituted "massive copyright infringement."’

Like it or not, the digital library is coming. Some of us will welcome it. Others, like authors and the publishing industry, will either resist it or move with caution toward digitization. We are all going to have to manage it. I think it is a good thing such cases are being tried because these issues must be resolved and the copyright law clarified. As with all changes in technology, the path will not be smooth.

Some two hundred years ago the timesaving inventions in the textile industry in Great Briton lead to smashing the efficient new looms and rioting in the streets. These Luddites lent their name to anyone who opposes technological change. Fear of loss of income, of the uncertain and unfamiliar, of social displacement all played into the violence of the weavers who feared industrialization. Not all of their fears were unfounded but their resistance could not stop the juggernaut of the power loom.

Fears of infringement of copyright and loss of sales on the part of authors and publishers won’t stop the digital revolution. Changes to accepted and cherished institutions like the book store and the library are inevitable. We can either attack entities like Google that are on the forefront of this movement or we can join the movement or we can wait and watch the trends awhile longer. What we can’t do, or do at our own risk, is ignore the issue and hope it goes away. It won’t.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The New Yorker on the Digital Edge

I was listening to Morning Edition on my local NPR station this morning and heard an interesting piece about the newly released, 8 DVD archive of The New Yorker magazine. The set contains all the issues from 1925 to February of 2005. The DVDs have over 4,000 individual magazines in their entirety. This treasure trove sells for only $100 per set, an amazing value for the money. For a closer look visit The New Yorker website.

At the end of the story, the reporter discussed the copyright problems faced in producing this set. Recent Supreme Court decisions allow the archival digitization of the entire magazine where articles appear in their original context under its collective work copyright. Individual articles would have to have permission from the author to be reproduced so collections of J.D. Salanger or John Updike pieces or even partial archives present major difficulties to publishers. By producing a cover to cover copy, not only the significant but the mundane is preserved. You will find the great writers and the cartoons The New Yorker is famous for and you will find the ads, some quite odd after 80 years, and out-of-date announcement magazines include.

Technological advancements over the past 10 years, since the National Geographic produced a similar archive, is also a part of the picture in making this set available to the public. While building on the past, the magazine had to “invent the wheel” in working out the details of the project. From finding two copies of each magazine in good condition to transporting the collection in a truck driven you their own staff to the company who digitized it in Kansas City, the story of the creation of the DVDs is interesting on its own. More publications will undoubtedly follow and The New Yorker will be the first of many.

An interesting sidelight was that The New Yorker maintains a card catalog dating back to 1925 that numbered some 1.2 million cards. It was considered too valuable to transport as there is only one copy of the catalog. The technicians came to the card catalog to digitize this resource. The librarian in charge is spending his time searching the digital product these days and the card catalog is “gathering dust.”

The success of this project must make us wonder what other venerable library fixtures may soon be gathering dust. This may well be a significant step toward the digital library college administrators long for and library staffs feel great ambivalence toward. I think there are four issues in this news release that bear further thought: the copyright implications, the involvement of the publisher in the release of this product, the technological advancements to allow such a massive project to be completed in a timely manner, and the low cost making it affordable to a wide range of consumers. I think we are still some way from a truly digital library but this, and other efforts to offer us an affordable product, are important steps toward that end.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

What Makes Us Valuable?

There is no one of us whose life is too flawed with sin to be used by God. Our value comes not from who or what we are, but from what God makes of us.

Donna, a missionary in South America, quoted in Voices of the Faithful with Beth Moore, compiled by Kim P. Davis

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

On Being Non-Politically Correct

”…large numbers of students either parrot the PC line or (more often) quietly avoid contradicting it. Yet political correctness looks a lot stronger on the surface than it really is. The truth is, its strength (intimidation) is also its weakness – because most people don’t really believe in it. … The gods of secularism and political correctness are nothing compared to the God of Israel. They can only intimidate us if we let them - if we forget who our God is and what He does.”

Matt Kaufman (from "Power PC") quoted in Abby Nye's new book Fish Out of Water: Surviving and Thriving as a Christian on a Secular Campus.

Monday, August 01, 2005

The Sound of Thunder

In Elizabeth Peter’s He Shall Thunder in the Sky*, intrepid Egyptologists, Amelia Peabody Emerson and her family, must deal with the events surrounding the Turkish plot to take Cairo from the English in the opening years of World War I. Peter’s feisty heroin needs all her skills as a criminologist as well as her archaeological ones to survive the 1914-15 season. In the depths of the novel is a reference to jihad to free Egypt from colonial control. It was a timely reminder that the roots of today’s conflict with radical Islam are long and complex.

Having peeked my interest I did a little research on the history of jihad. While the term goes all the way back to the founding of Islam, the jihad called for by modern radicals is far different than that of early thinkers on the Islamic law. Pulling together personal devotion and cultural responsibility with a political agenda that is anti-colonial and anti-western, modern proponents of irregular, terrorist warfare have thrown aside the ancient rules of combat Islam had embraced for more that a millennia. Putting the events of the last decade into an historical context is a start in making sense of the seemingly senseless acts of radical Islamic terrorists. While the logic of such leaders as Osama bin Laden may seem twisted and sick to the western mind, it makes convincingly clear sense to his followers. They classify all who disagree with their beliefs as infidels and apostates who must be removed from power before true Islamists can reclaim what is rightfully theirs.

Who said history was dry and irrelevant? For more on the history of jihad try Michael G. Knapp’s article, "The Concept and Practice of Jihad in Islam" which gives a good survey of the topic (from the U.S. Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania web site). Want to dig deeper? There are many good books on the subject that your local reference librarian will be happy to help you locate.

*The Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters incorporate mystery, romance, and history in a cleaver, entertaining blend. To keep all the characters straight it is advisable to read the books in sequence. He Shall Thunder in the Sky is the 12th in the series and was published in 2000.