Book Review: The Necessity of Prayer by E. M. Bounds. (Three Stars)

Book Review: The Necessity of Prayer by E. M. Bounds.

Three stars out of five.

More than a century old, this small volume draws on fifty preceding years of ministry by Bound, starting shortly before the Civil War. Yet his thoughts on the state of Christian prayer, preaching and worship still ring true. Bounds addresses attitudes as well as approaches to satisfying prayer.

A good book for individual or group study.

Book Review: Sword Bearer by Teddy Jacobs (Two Stars)

Book Review: Sword Bearer by Teddy Jacobs

Two Stars out of Five

While reading this short (125 page) fantasy novel, I debated whether it deserved three stars or four. Then it stopped. It didn’t finished (it’s the first of a series); it didn’t conclude; it just stopped. I really dislike that. Give the reader some sort of closure. Yes, set hooks for the series if you must, but give the reader some satisfaction for having read this book.

Interesting blend of Harry Potter and LOTR set in a medieval Europe analog. Likeable, clueless hero, who says magic words, sings magic songs, does the right things at the right time. Unerringly and usually un-coached. Boring.

Pleasant style. Clean text. Shows talent. Jacobs will get better.

“Okay” at best.

Book Review: Forge of Heaven by C.J. Cherryh (Three Stars)

Book Review: Forge of Heaven by C.J. Cherryh

Three Stars out of Five

Marak deserves to die; Procyon doesn’t.

Only my previous good experiences with Cherryh impelled me through the first half of the book. Boring, repetitive navel gazing by half a dozen characters about whom the reader cares less as they introduce themselves more fully. The story begins about page 200.

And a good story it is, told with plenty of introspection and emotion (How does introspection differ from navel-gazing? The skill of the writer.) Two excellent, believable “worlds” and a complex, engaging cast. Only three stars because Cherryh could have done better.

This is the second novel recently that I’ve read the second of a series first. Usually the second and subsequent episodes are laden with so much back story that the discerning reader bails. Having significant time elapse between episodes helps.

Marak and Procyon? The first is an immortal idiot who endangers himself paying too much attention to a secondary purpose; the latter a very mortal innocent endangered by forces beyond his understanding or control. I’ll leave you to discover whether either dies.

Unity, Islamic Style

“Someone” in Syria fired rockets into Israel’s Golan Heights this morning. Why do you suppose they did that? Trying to trigger an Israeli response, so all true-blue Moslems will remember who the “real” enemy is?

Treva and I stood on the Golan Heights last year. Had this barrage happened, we’d have been nowhere near it and would have missed a really enjoyable and moving part of our visit to Israel. From the Golan Heights, we could see our hotel in Tiberius across the Sea of Galilee … and Capernaum and the Mount of the Beatitudes. Israel is really small and narrow.

Much of northern Israel is within rocket range of the Golan Heights. That’s why Israel is so sensitive about threats there. The 1973 Yom Kippur War started with a Syrian sneak attack there (and a simultaneous Egyptian thrust into Sinai) during Hebrew and Islamic holy days.

This passes for drumming up unity in that part of the world. You know, “My enemy’s enemy is my friend.”

Dealing with Greeks Shunning Debts

The newly-elected parties in Greece say they’re not going to abide by the austerity measures “forced” on them by the European Central Bank (ECB) as part of their bailout a couple years back. No one likes being responsible.They took Europe’s money; now they’re quibbling about the terms.

ECB needs to hang tough or Portugal, Spain and others will bail, too.

The answer’s simple: you made an agreement. If you don’t abide by it, you’re in default. If you default, you lose your assets go bankrupt. Oh, and don’t expect any future help.

And then do it.

Yes, they may have to kick Greece out of the Euro zone eventually. Would that be a loss? This kind of economic collective depends on the strong economies to bail out the weak, who feel no obligation to change their childish behavior. Therefore, the ECB has to be ready to preempt, i. e., kick out the flagrant violators. Better to let Greece go bankrupt than all of Europe.

This is why England was wise to stay out of the Euro zone.

America, are you paying attention?

Royal Succession, Saudi Style

Don’t expect big changes in Saudi Arabia because King Abdullah died.

First, because his younger brother Salman was already in the driver’s seat. Second, because the al-Saud family runs the country like a family business. The Saudi king is the elected chief executive. Saudi Arabia is close to an absolute monarchy with the caveat that sovereignty rests with the al-Saud family, not the individual king.

Obviously, the elders of the family have already met in a very private majlis confirming the next king: Muqrin bin Abdulaziz. Usually, but not always he’s the next available son of the Old King (Abdul Aziz, founder of Saudi Arabia, also referred to as ibn Saud). But if the next oldest is judged unsuitable, they’ll pick another. That’s how they avoid succession issues and avoid idiots on the throne, a practice certain European monarchies might emulate.

The trick is they’re about out of sons. Oh, there are hundreds of grandsons. The Old King had about a hundred sons and daughters. He took full advantage of Islam’s four wives rule to cement his legacy by Continue reading

“The Raven Chides Blackness”

From a certain point of view snipers are cowards, but so are pilots flying drones from across the world, the president sitting in the Oval Office making life and death decisions with a flick of his pen, or Hollywood moguls who distort reality to sell their viewpoint.

Every day people make decisions who are intentionally far removed from the consequences of those decisions. Or they hide behind their office, rank, status, class, race, party or wealth.

People who wear fur or leather or eat meat but don’t slaughter the animals are cowards. And folks who eat king crab but don’t brave the icy seas to catch them. Or hide in the ballot box electing racist, sexist, ego-maniacal, right- or left-wing, progressive or libertarian idiots. Or buy trees in Brazil to “offset” the carbon their lifestyle spews into the atmosphere. Or fly the flag or wear a cross or crescent or star or arm band or mask and think they’ve made a statement, which offsets their cowardice. Or re-send emails to their like-minded friends as if they were taking some kind of stand.

Have I missed anyone? Think about it, something you do every day is cowardly from someone’s perspective.

“The raven chides blackness” Shakespeare

Welcome to twenty-first century hypocrisy.

Book Review: Hero by Michael Korda (Three Stars)

Book Review: Hero: the Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia by Michael Korda

Three Stars out of Five
Upwards of fifty biographies have been written about T. E. Lawrence (“of Arabia”). This is one of them. Why the author would undertake such an effort almost a century after the events which catapulted Lawrence to fame only he can tell. It’s not a bad biography, though its efforts to “balance” the record is unbalanced by the author’s many self- and family-referential comments.

Lawrence seems to have spent the first half of his life preparing to become a hero, was one for a couple years, then spent the rest of his life stepping in and out of the limelight of his notoriety.

Numerous references to Princess Diana and current culture (“media feeding frenzy” and “drones”) distracts rather than adds. The text is also marred by numerous untranslated French phrases. Surely Korda understands that Americans are uni-lingual. (One phrase, which partly compensates, is l’esprit de l’escalier, referring to the inspiration for the perfect retort too late.)

That said, Lawrence’s story is one worth preserving and retelling. He pioneered modern guerrilla warfare and successful tactics against it, which neither his country nor the United States have followed. He opposed the mess the 1919 Paris Peace Conference made of the Middle East, which planted the seeds of much of the strife and turmoil which now covers the globe. Prior to World War One, “It was a strict rule of desert warfare that women and children of your enemy were spared.” Blowing up Turkish trains signaled the death knell of that distinction. He was an archeologist, a genius of boat design, and a author of distinction.

(Korda also inserts the provocative note that Woodrow Wilson had the opportunity to partly redress the Turkish genocide of the Armenians but passed.)

A tale worth telling … and reading.

Computing for Dummies

Coming to the conclusion that is not a user-friendly email service. (Just abadoned Juno after twenty years.)

Sorry we can’t change and wouldn’t expect any of the others to be any better. Address Groups and Attachments are among the mysteries which I haven’t solved yet. Paradoxically, I thought I’d figured how to make an address group, but it seems that I cannot repeat the feat.

Someone, someday will make a heap of money by developing an internet service and an email service which normal people can use. All the current ones seem designed by Great Experts for Great Experts.

Yes, I know, Apple products are supposed to be designed so any dumb bunny can use them, but I must be an exceptionally dumb rabbit. I have no better luck with my new, but used iPad 3 than Windows or Android-based devices.