December 31, 2001

Best Books Read in 2001

Category: Literature :: Permalink

Here are some of the books I enjoyed most during 2001:

Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto EcoAll Things Bright and Beautiful by James HerriotThrough New Eyes by James B. Jordan
A Practical and Theological Commentary by James B. JordanBlessed Are the Hungry by Peter J. LeithartRediscovering the Centrality of the Church
The Unknown Shore by Patrick O'BrianMy Name is Asher Lev by Chaim PotokThe Gift of Asher Lev by Chaim Potok
The Pleasures of God by John PiperFuture Grace by John PiperOut to Canaan by Jan Karon
The Call of Grace by Norman ShepherdThe Hobbit by J. R. R. TolkienThe Aeneid by Virgil, translated by Robert Fitzgerald
Joy at the End of the Tether by Douglas WilsonPeace by Gene WolfeThe Crown and the Fire by N. T. Wright
What Saint Paul Really Said by N. T. WrightThe Lord and His Prayer by N. T. WrightThe Anubis Gates by Tim Powers

I’d also have to add Larry Woiwode’s Silent Passengers, a collection of short stories. Oh, yeah, and then there was also….

Does this describe me? Um … yes. Thanks to Jim for the link.

Posted by John Barach @ 3:29 pm | Discuss (0)

Wolfe on Tolkien

Category: Literature :: Permalink

Here’s an article by Gene Wolfe on The Lord of the Rings, entitled “The Best Introduction to the Mountains“:

It is said with some truth that there is no progress without loss; and it is always said, by those who wish to destroy good things, that progress requires it. No great insight or experience of the world is necessary to see that such people really care nothing for progress. They wish to destroy for their profit, and they, being clever, try to persuade us that progress and change are synonymous.

Posted by John Barach @ 2:40 pm | Discuss (0)
December 28, 2001

Why Did John Baptize?

Category: Bible - NT - John,Bible - NT - Mark,Bible - NT - Matthew :: Permalink

Today, I worked on a sermon on John 1:19-28. In that passage, Jerusalem sends a fact-finding committee to John the Baptizer to inquire about his identity and about his baptism. I’ve preached on this passage before, but this time I spent a lot of time thinking about the significance of John’s baptism. After all, the Pharisees don’t merely ask why John is baptizing. They ask why he’s baptizing since he’s not the Messiah or Elijah or the Prophet.

Joel‘s essay, “Baptism in Matthew and Mark,” was very helpful. Joel writes:

When John, Jesus, and the early church used water in ritual and symbolic actions, they did so within the already existent symbolic world of Judaism with its stories of floods and water-crossings, its rituals of washing and purification, and its prophecies of the outpoured Spirit and deserts made green.

He also shows the connection between the return from exile and John calling Israel to the wilderness, the Old Covenant washings, and the forgiveness of sins. Interestingly enough,

If John is calling Israel back to the wilderness, it can only be for a new exodus; but then Israel must now be living in bondage to new oppressors. Surprisingly, perhaps, these oppressors do not appear to be Rome in John’s mind, but the leadership of Israel herself. After all, what else could a washing of purification be, but a way of saying that Israel’s God was now offering through John’s ministry the purification and forgiveness that the Temple and other official rites had once promised?

Wonderful stuff! Thanks, Joel! And thanks, too, Bill, for reminding me of it. It was just what I was looking for.

Posted by John Barach @ 12:51 am | Discuss (0)
December 27, 2001

Big Question

Category: Miscellaneous :: Permalink

So here’s the big question for tonight. Whenever I’m loading my page — and this is probably true when you’re loading my blog too — there’s a little message that appears for a moment down at the bottom: “Error on page.” What error? Where is it? How do I find it? Any experienced bloggers know?

While I’m asking, here’s another question for the experienced bloggers: How come I don’t have access to my archives? I’ve got a place for them, but no links to them. (The lightbulb is coming on: This is probably the error, isn’t it?)

Posted by John Barach @ 12:07 am | Discuss (0)
December 24, 2001


Category: Miscellaneous :: Permalink

Thanks, Rick, for the link. Thanks, too, Mark. So does that mean there are actually people reading this blog? Scary.

Posted by John Barach @ 11:47 pm | Discuss (0)


Category: Movies :: Permalink

Hey, look at that! For once the blurbs on the video cover aren't weird! I actually agree with them!

Well, now that I’ve mentioned Blue and White, I suppose it’s fitting for me to rave about Red (1994), the third in Kieslowski’s Three Colors trilogy, which I saw tonight. In Red, a young model named Valentine (Irene Jacob) accidentally hits a dog which belongs to a retired and rather unpleasant judge. Their growing friendship intersects at a couple of points with the failing romance between Auguste, a young law student who lives across the street from Valentine, and a woman who lives somewhere near the judge. But Valentine and Auguste themselves consistently fail to meet. One might call the movie an “almost romance.” And the ending is satisfying and full of possibility.

Interestingly enough, the main characters from Blue and White also show up at one point in the movie. As well, all three movies show an old woman, bent nearly double, trying to deposit a bottle in a large garbage bin (or maybe it’s a recycling bin?) but being barely able to get it in the hole, which is a little too high for her to reach.

I quoted part of what Denis Haack said earlier, but I’ll give the whole quotation now: “Like the image of the tangle of electric wires stretched between houses and tenement buildings which appears on the screen, Kieslowski is reminding an individualistic world that relationship and community are not only essential, but inescapable.” Red is supposed to be the film about fraternity, but one could easily say that the whole trilogy is about love. We live in community, and, like the recurring old woman, we need to help and to be helped.

One catch with this “almost romance”? It reminds me that I’m single — on Christmas Eve, no less! Ah, well. I’m off to finish up The Devil in a Forest, drink some tea, unwrap a present or two, and head to bed. Gotta preach in the morning! Merry Christmas, everybody!

Posted by John Barach @ 11:26 pm | Discuss (0)

Sam Phillips and Songwriting

Category: Music :: Permalink

Sam Phillips's new CD, Fan Dance.

The other day, when I was out doing some Christmas shopping, I stopped in A&B Sound and listened to Sam Phillips’s new album, Fan Dance. I’d liked some of her earlier albums, and I’ve always enjoyed T-Bone Burnett’s work so I thought I’d give this one a try. I enjoyed the music a lot. It’s quirky, and she uses a variety of instruments. On one song, “Wasting My Time,” she’s backed up by solo cello. It sounds great!

Lyrically, however, the songs are disappointing. Most of them seem to be free-association, stream-of-consciousness stuff, a combination of words with very little coherence. It reminded me a bit of a song I once wrote with Tim Gallant:

A million blackbirds fly in the night
You don’t understand me
I look in the mirror and you die of fright
You don’t understand me
The sun keeps shining, except when it’s too bright
You don’t understand me
A million reasons to see you tonight
You don’t understand me

You don’t understand me
Not a word I say
You don’t understand me
See the tourist parade

And so forth. It was a long time ago. As I recall, we were deliberately parodying the obscure lyrics of people like Phillips, but it actually turned out to be one of the best songs we wrote together. Which may say something about the other songs, come to think of it. At any rate, I don’t know if I’ll be picking up Sam Phillips’s new CD yet or not. Anyone else heard it?

Posted by John Barach @ 4:37 pm | Discuss (0)


Category: Movies :: Permalink

While I wait for Bill to work on a Christmas sermon with me, here’s another post.

Here's the cover of the video, aiming to sell a thoughtful movie to thoughtless louts, attracted to Julie DelpyIn a previous post, I mentioned that I had seen Blue, the first in Kieslowski’s Three Colors trilogy. I’ve now seen the second in the trilogy, White (1994), starring Zbigniew Zanachowski and Julie Delpy. White wasn’t as enigmatic as Blue and moved a little more quickly.

There were some very nice touches. For instance, in Blue, Julie is looking for a particular lawyer and steps into a courtroom for a moment. We hear just a snippet of the proceedings, a man protesting against the lack of equality. Will the court refuse to hear his case because he doesn’t speak French? White is the film about equality, and it begins in that courtroom with Karol protesting his wife’s desire to divorce him. He says those lines from Blue, and in the background, we see Julie step into the courtroom and then leave.

I enjoyed White and the plot was perhaps more intriguing than that of Blue, but the movie as a whole disappointed me. Maybe it was because I was expecting something as profound as the ending of Blue and didn’t see it. I’m also not completely satisfied with my ideas about how this movie spoke about equality. Still, I’ll have to go on to watch Red next.

Oh, by the way, disregard that blurb from Cosmopolitan on the cover of the video: “Intoxicating, Erotic Treat!” That’s probably what they’d say about ice cream, too. It hardly sums up the movie! (Nor, for that matter, does The New Yorker‘s comment, “Mysterious … Sexy!,” come close to capturing Blue.)

Posted by John Barach @ 4:26 pm | Discuss (0)
December 23, 2001


Category: Movies :: Permalink

I gather that the template problem yesterday was widespread. Other bloggers reported the same thing. Whatever it was, it appears to be fixed now.

Here's the cover of the video. This is my first shot at doing something like this on my blog!

Saturday night, after I finished editing Sunday morning’s sermon, I watched Blue (1993), directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski and starring Juliette Binoche. It’s the first in Kieslowski’s Three Colors trilogy, based on the three colours of the French flag and the virtues they symbolize (blue-liberté, white-egalité, red-fraternité).

Binoche stars as Julie, and the movie opens with the death of her daughter Anna and her husband Philippe in a car accident. Julie responds to the loss by trying to get rid of all the memories and attachments to the past and starting a new life in Paris. She isolates herself, trying to stay uninvolved in the lives of the others around her. Still, she is unable to stay completely cold. Philippe had been a composer (though there’s been a rumor that it was Julie herself who wrote the music), and Julie is haunted by his (her?) music.

According to the director’s overarching plan, Blue is about liberty, and there is liberty in the film. Julie would like to be free of all attachments, free of all emotions, free of all involvement with others. But as the film progresses, that kind of liberty gives way to love. Kieslowski makes profound use of 1 Cor. 13 as he shows the necessity of the kind of entanglements Julie has tried to escape. As Denis Haack says in his review in Critique, to which you really ought to subscribe, “Kieslowski is reminding an individualistic world that relationship and community are not only essential, but inescapable.”

The story unfolds slowly, with careful attention to detail. At first I had difficulty surrendering to it. There’s very little dialogue — deliberately, I suspect: Julie’s wordlessness reflects her relationshiplessness — and I suppose I also had to get used to the subtitles (the movie is in French).

Now I’m gonna have to watch the remaining two films in the trilogy….

Posted by John Barach @ 1:24 pm | Discuss (0)
December 22, 2001

Missing Template

Category: Miscellaneous :: Permalink

Odd. Just as I thought I was learning how to work the blog, the strangest thing has happened. Now when I go to edit the template, it shows up completely blank. I must have a template there: the page appears, after all. But why can’t I edit it. Or even see it? Hmmm.

Posted by John Barach @ 12:58 pm | Discuss (0)
December 21, 2001

Hanging Computer

Category: Miscellaneous :: Permalink

Well, it looks as if the new blog is underway. Right now, every time I try to make any more changes, it seems as if the computer hangs, so maybe that’s a sign that I should stop editing and just let it sit for a while.

Speaking of which, I should also go and sit … and read another few chapters of Gene Wolfe’s The Devil in a Forest, which I’ve been enjoying. Seems to be the most straightforward Wolfe I’ve read!

Posted by John Barach @ 11:19 pm | Discuss (0)

Keeping Up With Bill

Category: Miscellaneous :: Permalink

So … what am I doing now? Oh, that’s right. I’m making a blog in a desperate attempt to keep up with the DeJongs. Let’s see if I can figure out how to do this!  [Update Feb. 2008: This link no longer will take you to Bill DeJong’s first attempt at a blog.]

Posted by John Barach @ 9:40 pm | Discuss (0)