Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Vampires are trendy.
150 years ago, I imagine very few people had any concept of "vampire." The concept existed in folklore of many cultures, but doesn't seem to have been a strong motif. In the beginning of the 19th century, some writers began using the folkloric material continuing in fits and starts until Bram Stoker writes the quintessential vampire novel, Dracula at the end of the century. It is quite a powerful and beautiful work by the way, and one I recommend. From that point vampire is ushered into the popular imagination. From there, it was mostly the work of movies, radio and television -- mass media -- to take the vampire and defang it. In spite of Nosferatu, the Hollywood vampire soon became a symbol of camp and mockery. As the world left behind it's belief in good and evil, especially of any kind of supernatural good or evil, the mills of Hollywood mashed and rehashed the legend of the Dracul until it was more of a joke than anything else. Certainly by the time I was growing up, no one really shivered in horror at the thought of the blood drinking undead. There have been many appearances of vampires in popular entertainment, mostly using it as a convenient plot device, like time travel, to bring conflict and suspense to a story. Dark Shadows, Night Stalker, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Need I say more?
But even as the vampire seemed stalled in either black capes or mindless minions of darkness, Anne Rice reinvented the vampire completely with her group of novels that became knows as The Vampire Chronicles. First released in the early 1970's, the core of these stories dwelt in three volumes. Interview with a Vampire, The Vampire LeStat, and Queen of the Damned. I did not discover these until the late 1990's, when I was approaching 40 years of age, and they completely entranced me on several levels. I will come back to this in a bit.
Now as if out of the blue we have Twilight and True Blood, and suddenly vampires are sexier and more hip than ever. I'm not necessarily saying this is bad...I haven't really paid much attention to either one. I just find it fascinating that vampires have suddenly taken on a certain fashionability.
Now Doug Wilson weighs in on why all this hubbub about vampires is bad because it makes light of evil. If a vampire is a symbol of evil then of course we should “honor the symbol” and stop making it all sexy and stuff. Well far be it from me to dare to disagree with Mr. Wilson, who could effortlessly dismember me with his tongue alone, never mind his pen. Far be it from me indeed, but I think he is really missing some pretty big chunks of what we might call “the point.”
Symbols can certainly be enduring, but are seldom static and are constantly subject to re-imagining or even re-purposing. Witness the Christmas Tree, the Easter Egg, and even the cross itself. What is the literary purpose of the vampire as symbol? It is, I think, more complex than an initial cursory look might suggest.
I’ll be coming back to this, in particular to discuss the work of Anne Rice along these lines, and in particular to look at how her work has now transformed into a truly fascinating re-imagining of the gospel stories. She no longer writes vampire books because the process of writing them, and exploring the deeper themes suggested actually led her out of her self proclaimed atheism and back to Jesus and to His church. That’s a fascinating story.
So why am I getting all worked up about this? Mostly because I have found the work of Anne Rice, so easily dismissed because it is about vampires, to have been profoundly influential. Early on I detected in her writing a seeking and searching for truth, and discerned her direction and pointing toward Jesus. I am most gratified that I was right, and I am enjoying watching her publishing her journey, both in essay format and in her fiction.
Look here to read about it and we’ll talk more later.
Friday, September 11, 2009
- Imagine sending the bill for your brake work or your oil changes to your auto insurance company. That's not what insurance is for. Insurance is for crashes. Repair insurance is available, but we call it an extended warranty. Most financial advisors will tell you it's a bad deal. Insurance is for crashes. For repairs, you plan, save or use your credit card.
- Health insurance makes the insurance company the customer, not the patient. The money comes from the insurance company, so the medical provider is much more interested in doing things that make the insurance companies happy. This has to skew things.
- Making the government the insurer really won't help this. It doesn't matter if the government does a good job of it or not. The concept is skewed from the get go.
- Are we citizens, or are we subjects? Should this make a difference in our conduct?
- Self defense is a legal construct. Does it have any biblical basis? In what circumstances?
- On what basis could a Christian ever consider doing violence to another human? Especially since our Great Example seems to have raised victimhood to a moral imperative. Or is this a misunderstanding?
Friday, September 4, 2009
I am seldom sick. When I am, it’s more of a nuisance than anything else. Toward the end of August I got a bit of a taste of what it’s like to be really sick. I was completely knocked on my can for at least 10 days, and I’m still not quite 100%.
It all started in the beginning of the month when my youngest mysteriously came down with some cold-like thing including general misery and a barking cough. Instead of coming out of it in a few days, as is usual, it hung around for her for almost 2 weeks. So after 2 weeks of barking and spewing, it was no wonder when the oldest also was stricken. Not quite as much misery, but lots of coughing. I bugged out for 4 days, heading to Denver on a business trip. I returned home on a Thursday and kept working through Friday afternoon, although in retrospect, I could feel something coming on.
Friday afternoon it dropped on me like a ton of bricks. My fever spiked up to almost 104. I was racked with pain in every muscle in my body, and a remarkable number of places that aren’t muscles. This kept up all through the weekend, with a brief respite Sunday morning, and then slammed me to the mat again late Sunday afternoon. I was taking all the usual over the counter medicines but nothing made a dent. Then in desperation – exhausted from lack of sleep and in amazing pain, I took some hydrocodone (Tylenol with codeine) that I had left over from a minor surgical procedure some time ago. For the surgery, I didn’t really need it. Now, ironically, I most certainly did. I gotta tell you, I LOVE that stuff. When you really need it, the right medicine is the best thing in the world.
I could literally feel the pain ebbing away, and my body relaxing. Suddenly the fever broke and I started sweating profusely. I mean profusely – like running off my body in trickles. It was wonderful. I slept like a baby, only waking at midnight to pop two more pills.
I kept up this regimen for a few days. Did I mention that all through this time I was also coughing? Racking spasming coughs that at times were so bad I almost couldn’t breathe. I had to go to my knees so that I wouldn’t throw my back out from my coughing fit. Even now, my neck is stiff because I think I kinked something in there during one of my monumental hacks. Even as the fever abated, the coughing continued. I tried to work the following Tuesday, and stumbled my way through a training program, but on the way home my fever spiked again and I clearly needed some medical intervention. I was at the doctor’s office the next day and was diagnosed with pneumonia. This is the third time I have had to deal with pneumonia. I should have recognized it without the doctor’s help. Azithromycin did the trick and put me back on track, but it took a few days still before the coughing really began to fade. I’m still coughing up the occasional slug, but they aren’t the dark foreboding green the originally were, nor are they so abundant. God bless antibiotics. They get a bad rap, but as I said, when you need it the right medicine is glorious.
My wife was a beautiful angelic nurse to me through this. And then as I was coming out of it, her coughing got worse and she also was found to have pneumonia. We are such a sharing family! She skipped the flu part, thank goodness, but it even now struggling with the tiredness that comes from not being able to take full breaths. It’s a sluggish feeling from not having enough oxygen. I’m still struggling with that a little, although I can breathe deeply now without tossing up a lung.
As a result of this I lost 10 days and a solid week of income when I can least afford it. I am self-employed and if I don’t work, I don’t get paid. Any opportunity to finish the summer with a nice hike in perfect weather was lost. Time I would have rather spent with my girls went down the drain. Our 23rd wedding anniversary was an afterthought, as we both just felt glad to be alive. I shed about 12 pounds in a week as I had no appetite for the first 6 days and ate very little – but I wouldn’t recommend the plan. It’s a little harsh. The feeling of helplessness and even occasionally some fear that this was more than just a passing treatable sickness is memorable. I don’t care to repeat this again anytime soon. Sickness just hollows out your life. I am more than ever grateful for good health. It’s a tough way to be reminded.
Here's what else I was reminded of...the care and concern of neighbors and friends. Our church family kept track of us, provided meals and other kinds of support. Neighbors checked in and helped how they could. We had to go through it ourselves, but it was good to know that we were not completely alone. Someone outside our house actually cared, even helping take care of our poor orphan children who pretty much had to fend for themselves for 3 or 4 days when both of us were pretty much out of commission. Community ain't now joke. It's a cliche term, but it exists and it's as real as breathing. If you ain't got it, get some.