Welcome to the Third Annual Ralphies — Second Annual Codex Edition. Following the example of Ed Cook (see his posts on music, film and books), traditionally a number of other bloggers follow suit and offer their own “Ralphies.” This year Mark Goodacre and Chris Brady has thus far compiled (or at least started to) some of their favorite music, books, and films of 2006.
What follows is my own list. While I have tried to honour Ed’s template, I find it difficult to narrow lists like these down to one top pick, so I have includes some runner-ups.
Best SONG of the year: Hmmm.. this is a tough one. I, like Ed, quite like Gnarls Barkley‘s Moby-esque song “Crazy” (From St. Elsewhere; Watch on YouTube; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com), though I’m not sure it is quite “Song of the Year” material. The same goes for the new U2 song (with Greenday), “The Saints Are Coming” (From U218 Singles; Watch on YouTube; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com), as well as The Killers song “When You Were Young” (From Sam’s Town; Watch on YouTube; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com).
While this may surprise some, my best song for 2006 is KT Tunstall‘s “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree” (From Eye to the Telescope; Watch on YouTube; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com). This is a very catchy song, though what makes me pick it as my best of 2006 is my respect for her musical abilities. Make sure to watch the live version.
The best Canadian song of the year is the Barenaked Ladies, “Easy” (From Barenaked Ladies Are Me; Watch on YouTube; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com).
Best CD of the year: While all of the songs noted above are on good albums, I would probably have to vote for The Killers, Sam’s Town as my best of 2006 (Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com) since there are a number of excellent songs on the CD.
Best MUSIC VIDEOof the year: I really like the Red Hot Chilli Peppers video for “Dani California” (From Stadium Arcadium; Watch on YouTube; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com). Watching it is a flashback through all the rock and roll fads from the 50′s to today — and the song isn’t half bad as well!
Best MOVIE of the year: This is always tough one for me. Like Ed, there are many movies I enjoyed (e.g., Nacho Libre,Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, X-Men: The Last Stand, Mission Impossible III, Flags of Our Fathers, and even Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby was worth watching just for the â€œDear Lord Baby Jesusâ€? scene!), but they’re not really “Film of the Year” material.
In terms of movies released in 2006, my vote for best movie of 2006 would be The Departed (Martin Scorsese; IMDB; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com). This is a great gangster film and all of the actors had great performances, especially Jack Nicholson. Second runner up would be Casino Royale (Martin Campbell; IMDB), which did for Bond what Batman Begins did for the Batman franchise last year.
Honourable mention goes to Thank You for Not Smoking (Jason Reitman, 2005 [I watched it in 2006]; IMDB; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com). In addition, I found Blood of My Brother: A Story of Death in Iraq (Andrew Berends, 2005 [I watched it in 2006]; IMDB; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com) to be quite interesting for its portrayal of life in Iraq.
Instead of any of those movies, I’m picking Hoodwinked! (Cory and Todd Edwards; IMDB; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com) as my favourite kid’s movie of 2006. I found this deconstruction of Little Red Riding Hood quite amusing. While some have slammed its animation as cheap, I kind of like the minimalist CGI animation — after all, it is supposed to look like a cartoon isn’t it?!
Worst MOVIE of the year: This is an easy one for me this year. I mistakenly rented Black Dahlia (Ulli Lommel; IMDB) thinking it was Brian De Palma’s The Black Dahlia(IMDB; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com). Never before have I appreciated the significance of a definite article! Lommel’s film was a B-film at its worst. Calling it a “B-film” is an insult to other B-Films! This straight -to-DVD movie truly was one of the most vile, disgusting films I have ever (partially) viewed. I didn’t finish watching it and was quite appreciative when the video store let me exchange it for a different video free of charge.
Best TV SHOW of the Year: Since we are talking about the entire year, I have to include 24 (Fox) as one of the best shows on television. I am looking forward to January 14, 2007 when this year’s season begins. That being said, top honours goes to Battlestar Galactica (SciFi). I love science fiction and I find this new series quite well-written.
Best NONFICTION BOOK of the year: This is a tough one since I have read quite a few non-fiction books this year. My top pick is by fellow Canadian, William S. Morrow. His book, Protest Against God: The Eclipse of a Biblical Tradition (Hebrew Bible Monographs 4; Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2006; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com) is a fascinating study of why the biblical tradition of lament or protest against God was suppressed and marginalized.
While I can’t say that I have read it cover-to-cover, the top biblical commentary in 2006 is Ralph Klein’s commentary, 1 Chronicles (Hermeneia; Fortress, 2006; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com). This is a superb commentary on this often neglected biblical book.
If I look outside my primary areas of research, then I would pick U2 by U2 (HarperEntertainment, 2006; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com) as one of the best of 2006.
Best FICTION BOOK of the year: I haven’t read a tonne of fiction this year, but I would say that Anne Rice’s Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt: A Novel (Knopf, 2005 [I read it in 2006]; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com) was one of my favourites (see my post on it here). I also read a number of novels by Dean Koontz, which I found to be guilty pleasures.
Well, that’s about all I can muster right now, so I’ll see you at next year’s Ralphies!
U2 frontman Bono is being awarded an honorary knighthood by the Queen, according to the British Embassy in Dublin. The BBC News article noted, however, that because Paul Hewson (aka Bono) is not a British national, he will not be able to use the title “Sir.”
By now everyone has heard about Bono’s latest “Red Campaign” to raise awareness and money for AIDs relief in Africa. It’s been everywhere — in the news, and more importantly, on Oprah (if you haven’t heard about it yet, then check out this website). This campaign is meant to mobilize first world consumers by providing “red” buying options for which their manufacturer will donate some of their profits to AIDs relief. The website emphasizes that this isn’t a charity, but more of a business model. So now you can go and purchase red shirts from The Gap, a red iPod from Apple, a red phone from Motorola, and “red” sneakers from Converse, and know that when you purchase such an item some of the profits would go to AIDs relief in Africa.
Now, one one level I don’t think this is a bad campaign. In our consumer-oriented, image-obsessed society people who perhaps wouldn’t give otherwise will buy themselves a new toy (read: iPod) or designer apparel and at least some money is being raised for a good cause. But I think it is a horrible shame that charities have to use so many gimmicks to get people to donate some money to a worthy cause. Why can’t people just give?
My Edmonton colleague across town at The King’s University College, Stephen Martin, has raised some other questions about the appropriateness of this campaign. Here is an excerpt of his post on the Red campaign:
So here’s my question: insofar as global capitalism is the nurturing soil of the empire that maintains Africa’s people in bondage, is Bono not engaging in a massive legitimation of savage capitalism, and thereby assuaging the conscience of the Beast? Are not The Gap, American Express, and the like analogous to the cult parodied in Revelation 13 as the “False Prophet” who compels people to obtain a special mark, else they can neither buy nor sell? Can “ethical” capitalism save the world from the effects of “savage” capitalism? It reminds me of that other argument about [usually our] “righteous” and “just” violence saving the world from [usually their] “terrorist” violence.
I encourage you to read the entire post; it is quite provocative to say the least. He definitely raises questions about the appropriateness of “getting into bed” with advanced capitalism, though I know that Bono will metaphorically “sleep” with (almost?) anyone if it helps raise support for an important cause. That being said, Martin’s concluding paragraph is worth reproducing:
George Grant used to warn his students “when you sleep with Nietzsche, it’s always you that end up pregnant.” Could the same be said of transnational capitalists? If so, I hope Bono’s using protection. He’ll be in my prayers. In the meantime I’ll say no thanks to the red iPod (and the measly ten bucks Apple will send to Africa on my behalf) and look at more constructive avenues.
I can’t afford an iPod, no matter what colour! So I guess I will just have to donate some money “gimmick free.” (And I would encourage you to do so by whatever means possible).
Cinema Blend is reporting a rumour that Paul Verhoeven, director and Jesus-Seminar member, is planning on making a Jesus film. I have heard this rumour before, but it seems that this rumour may have some basis in reality:
The rumor comes from the frequently unreliable guys at WENN, so donâ€™t believe it until someone else confirms it, but it is true that there has long been talk of Paul working on such a film. The working title once rumored for it was Christ, the Man, and apparently thereâ€™s now some movement on the whole thing again. The current incarnation is supposed tell Jesusâ€™s story as if heâ€™s not a god made man flesh but instead just a dude. Verhoeven plans to completely ignore all the superstitious mumbo jumbo surrounding him and focus on Big J as a guy navigating the complex political and social landscape of his time.
It seems that the boobs, guns, and gore director has an insatiable interest in the Christ figure. Heâ€™s a member of the Jesus Seminar, a group of scholars who use historical methods to determine who Jesus was. One problem though. Heâ€™s afraid itâ€™ll get him lynched.
He reportedly tells Empire Magazine, “My scriptwriter told me not to do the movie in the United States because they (Christians) might shoot me. It’s not a joke at all. I took that very seriously. So I took his advice and decided to write a book about it first.”
I can’t find any corroboration for this rumour, but I don’t think Verhoeven really has to fear for his life.
The TV Land cable network has put together a list of the 100 greatest catchphrases in television. There will be a countdown special, “The 100 Greatest TV Quotes & Catch Phrases,” over five days starting December 11.
You can see the whole list here. Here are some of my favourites:
A suburban Los Angeles company offered to donate 4,000 of the foot-tall dolls, which quote Bible verses, for distribution to needy children this holiday season. The battery-powered Jesus is one of several dolls manufactured by one2believe, a division of the Valencia-based Beverly Hills Teddy Bear Co., based on Biblical figures.
But the charity balked because of the dolls’ religious nature.
Toys are donated to kids based on financial need and “we don’t know anything about their background, their religious affiliations,” said Bill Grein, vice president of Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, in Quantico, Va.
As a government entity, Marines “don’t profess one religion over another,” Grein said Tuesday. “We can’t take a chance on sending a talking Jesus doll to a Jewish family or a Muslim family.”
Michael La Roe, director of business development for both companies, said the charity’s decision left him “surprised and disappointed.”
“The idea was for them to be three-dimensional teaching tools for kids,” La Roe said. “I believe as a churchgoing person, anyone can benefit from hearing the words of the Bible.”
This doll was featured in my previous post “Jesus Junk and Christian Kitsch 7 – Jesus Kitsch” and has fully articulated limbs, including hands and fingers that can gasp and hold. This “Messenger of Faith” comes with hand-sewn cloth outfits and sandals and quotes over a minute of Bible verses (John 3:16; Mark 12:30-31; John 3:3, 15:5, 20:29 — listen for yourself).
To top it all off, this Jesus looks kind of buff! While Talmida thinks the doll looks like George Michael, I think he looks more like country star Billy Ray Cyrus.
It appears that Microsoft has committed a marketing faux pas with the name of their iPod competitor Zune — at least for Hebrew speakers. An ITWorld news article, “Microsoft Zune: Doesn’t sound sweet to everyone,” reports that the word “Zune” sounds like the modern Hebrew word for “f*ck.”
The word in question is ×–Ö´×™Ö¼Öµ×Ÿ, ziyyen, which originally meant something like “to arm,” while the related noun is ×–Ö·×™Ö´×Ÿ, zayin, “weapon.” In Hebrew slang this word became used to refer to intercourse, i.e., “to slip someone your weapon,” with “weapon” being slang for penis. The nominal related to the verb which in vulgar Hebrew is equivalent to the F-word is ×–Ö´×™Ö¼×•Ö¼×Ÿ, ziyyun.
Here is an excerpt from the article:
Hebrew linguists are divided over Zune. Tsila Ratner, the head of Hebrew courses in the Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies at University College London, says Zune is an unsuitable name for a product. However, Haggit Inbar-Littas, a 30-year veteran Hebrew teacher with the London Jewish Cultural Center, says while the name is “ridiculous” and close to the bad word, it’s unlikely to be mistaken.
Microsoft breaks the controversy down to pronunciation. “While we do acknowledge the similarity in pronunciation to Hebrew zi-yun, that is not the intended meaning of the name Zune,” according to a Microsoft statement. Bloggers have picked up on the difference — one humorously writing that if you say Zune to rhyme with iTunes, out pops the profanity.
I’m not so sure that the words really sound much alike, though I am not a native Hebrew speaker. I would be curious what my readers who do speak modern Hebrew think.
Inside Higher Ed recently reported on the findings of a survey regarding the religiosity of college and university professors in the United States. The study was conducted by by two sociologists, Neil Gross of Harvard University and Solon Simmons of George Mason University, and was for a presentation sponsored by the Social Science Research Council.
Here are some excerpts from the Higher Ed article:
Listen to many critics of higher education, and you would think that faith had been long ago banished from the quad â€” or at least all those quads not at places like Notre Dame or Liberty or Yeshiva.
It turns out though, that there are plenty of believers on college faculties. Professors may be more skeptical of God and religion than Americans on average, but academic views and practices on religion are diverse, believers outnumber atheists and agnostics, and plenty of professors can be found regularly attending religious services.
On the question of belief in God, the study notes the â€œcommon perceptionâ€? that professors are atheists and suggests that this view is simply not true. The following statistics show how professors aligned themselves:
Professors and Belief in God
Positions of Belief
% of Professors
I donâ€™t believe in God.
I donâ€™t know whether there is a God and I donâ€™t believe there is any way to find out.
I donâ€™t believe in a personal God, but I do believe in a Higher Power of some kind.
I find myself believing in God some of the time, but not at others.
While I have my doubts, I feel that I do believe in God.
I know God really exists and I have no doubts about it.
While the study found no sector of higher education without believers, there are significant differences by type of institution and discipline. Faculty members at religious colleges made up about 14 percent of the sample in the survey and they were more likely to believe in God. While 52 percent of professors in non-religiously affiliated colleges believe in God either despite doubts or without doubt, 69 percent of those at religious colleges feel that way. Professors are most likely to be atheists or agnostics at elite doctoral institutions (37 percent) and less likely to be non-believers at community colleges (15 percent).In terms of disciplines, professors in psychology and biology are the least likely to believe in God (about 61 percent in each field are atheists or agnostics), with mechanical engineering not far behind at 50 percent. Professors most likely to say that they have no doubt that God exists are in accounting (63 percent), elementary education (57 percent), finance (49 percent), marketing (47 percent) and nursing (44 percent).
The survey found a â€œsurprisingly highâ€? proportion â€” 19 percent â€” of the professoriate that identifies as â€œborn-again Christian,â€? and they are not restricted to religious colleges. While very few professors (about 1 percent) have this identity at elite doctoral institutions, the share at secular institutions over all is 17 percent.
This is quite interesting. I imagine that the results would be a bit different for Canada, with a less belief — especially in the major public universities as compared to private institutions.
The ForteanTimes (a magazine devoted to the world of strange phenomenon) has an interesting article entitled, “Flying Saucers From Hell” by Dr David Clarke, lecturer at Sheffield Universityâ€™s Centre for English Cultural Tradition. Here is an excerpt:
On the one hand there is a group of evangelicals â€“ mainly Americans, such as Dr Billy Graham â€“ who have said the UFO occupants may be angels sent by God to watch over us. The best-known exponent of this idea is the Presbyterian minister Rev Barry Downing, author of Flying Saucers and the Bible. Downing appears to be open minded about aliens as part of Godâ€™s creation and to look to the scriptures for evidence of early ET contacts.
At the opposite end of the spectrum are some members of the Christian Orthodox Church who find it impossible to accept that there is any goodness in the elusive and contradictory nature of UFO behaviour. The most extreme expression of this view is that there can be no ETs because life on other planets is not mentioned in the Bible. Itâ€™s a point of view that leads its proponents to a further conclusion: if there are no aliens in the Bible and the UFO occupants arenâ€™t angels, then UFOs can only be demonic in origin.
I personally don’t have any strong opinions about extra-terrestrials; I have never met or seen any — at least not that I am aware of! I find the view that they are angels or demons kind of silly, but that’s just my academic skepticism kicking in.
If you are interested in this sort of stuff I encourage you to read the entire article (you’ll have to register).
Even better, you can download an MP3 of a free public lecture that was given a couple years ago at Taylor on the same subject: “God and ET: Christian Reflections on UFOs and Little Green Men” by Randal Rauser, Assistant Professor of Historical Theology, Taylor Seminary (click here to download).