Friday, April 29, 2011

iShine Bibles NLT

As a blogger for the the Tyndale blogger program, I had the opportunity to review a modern, yet well known and reliable translation of the bible, The New Living Translation NLT. In particular, these two copies were of the NLT is the iShine Bible, a pink, flexible pocket sized bible marketed for tween girls (ages 9-13) and a blue flexible pocket sized bible for tween boys . Believing in the importance of the Good News of the bible, and having faith that the bible is the word of God to the human race, I feel it is essential that the bible is translated into easy to read language that can be understood by all. It is a grave diservice to prohibit or condemn easy to understand translations of the bible as some cults and religions do. There is no reason whatsoever to maintain the antiquated opinion that only the King James version (or other proprietary or antique versions for that matter) have a monopoly on the word of God. After all the KJV is in of itself a translation. Regrettably, the antique English style of the KJV and many other older translations, although poetic, make it prohibitive for many to read and understand the bible's message. So what's the point of having a bible if one can not understand or appreciate it.

The NLT is among one of many respected modern English translations. What makes this iShine bible stand out from other NLTs is that this is a pocket sized bible intended for young girls and boys. There are three fully colored inserts within the bible text focusing on concepts such as: value, purpose and identity. Other than the colored inserts and the attractive duo-tone pink cover for girls and blue for boys, the text/ font size is extremely small and may be too intimidating for a young pre-teen reader. There are no graphics or helpful articles within the text either. Other than the small size making it easy to fit in a backpack or pocket, this bible in particular, is proabably not the best choice for a preteen/ teen. The packaging is appealing, but beyond that, the text is not presented in an appealing easy to read format- which is essential inj order to capture the interest of this age group. For a youne teen/ pre-teen, a study bible in a larger font would be a much better choice.

In general, the only downside to this casual translation is the fact that it may not be as literal as the original texts. But this is perfect for those who wish to have an easy to understand bible. I highly reccomend this translation. It is important to keep in mind that the text is somewhat of a paraphrase- a meaning for meaning, rather than a word for word translation. This bible is perfect for reading and for drawing close to the truths of God, but not exactly the best for an indepth theological study.Supplemetal study articles add indepth information for those readers who wish to have more knowledge. As a blogger I recieved a copy of this bible for the purpose of writing this review and the opiniosn expressed are my own- other than its small easy to carry size, this particular bible is not the most suitable for a young teen.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Live Loved by Max Lucado

Live Loved: Experiencing God's Presence in Everyday Life- A Devotional  by Max Lucado, is a pocketsized, hardcover gift book filled with biblical inspiration on each page.  This green- brown contemporary handy sized gift book would make a great encouraging gift  for anyone- co worker, acquaintance, friend and family member  on any occasion that a greeting card would be appropriate.

In reality, many find that the bible is most likely too large or cumbersome to carry around.  Even if you have one of those thin sized pocket/ check book styled bibles, the text font is probably too tiny too comfortably read.  Unless the bible contains a concordance or you have already highlighted your favorite passages, the most applicable verses are probably not readily available in your time of greatest need. My intent however is not to discourage carrying a bible.  Personally if given the choice I would choose to carry a bible even if it was the size of a dictionary. But, with this pocket sized devotional, relevant biblical verses as well as Lucado's trusted and inspirational commentary is readily available. Even though I am not advocating a replacement for carrying the bible- as I believe there is no substitute for the bible, I believe this inspriartional pocket sized book has relevant uplifting biblical based devotions as well as the verses to go with them, that  this would make a good book to keep handy in a car or purse or pocket.  This devotional is not grouped day by day, one for each of the 365 days of the year.  There are no dates assigned making this flexible for the reader to read at his/ her own pace in any order. As a blogger for booksneeze, I recieved a copy of this book for the purpose of writing this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Surviving on the Word of God

How important is the word of God? Top among the themes of Jesus' parables and teaching, Jesus himself answers this question on a number of occasions by explaining that the word of God is more important than food and water.  In John 6:27 he advises his listeners that it is more important to work for eternal life- which is by far more important than the physical food that sustains the life of our physical bodies. Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 8:3.  In the barren dessert, hungry and tired, tempted and teased by Satan who tried to convince Jesus to turn rocks into bread, Jesus powerfully responded with the mighty weapon- word of God, in Matthew 4:14 that "Man must not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God". Obviously, these passages are not suggesting that food and water are insignificant!  That is certainly not the point.  In fact, there is no doubt that food and water are essential to our physical survival- the continuance of our physical health and well being here on earth. A few days without water- and we would not be able to survive!  There is no doubt of the importance of food and water.  Even Jesus recognised that when he fed thousands of tired, weary hungry listeners on the mount after listening to his teachings.  But the miraculous point that Jesus is making is that there is something far more important to our survival than food and water- of that were possible.... and that is the word of God.  Just think and consider the gravity of that claim that Jesus has made- that the word of God is far more important for survival thamn food and water.  And to take this a step further, our eternal life, and our eternal salvation is far more important thatn our temporary, finate, physical lives here on earth.

With that thought in mind, the importance of eternal life, and our spiritual health over our finate, temporary physical lives, and the significance of the spiritual food of God's word in contrast to food and water that simply nourishes our temporary shells of skin and bone- should allow us to put into perspective the circumstances we face during our lifetimes. With an eternal and spiritual mind-set the significance of physical pain, emotional pain  and suffering during our lifetimes can be viewed from a different perspective- an eternal and spiritual perspective and perhaps, if possible, be appreciated and even used for the greater good.  Though the focus on the unseen, spiritual, eternal world seems counter intuitive in today's modern society, it is in fact the true reality that we should consider according the the ultimate word of God.  Romans 5:3-5 indicates that rather than despair when we meet with hardship we should be rejoicing because God uses pain and suffering to develop our characters and our strength.  James 1:2-4 further explains that we should be excited in the face of suffering and pain because it  tests our faith in such a way that we eventually become stronger and better able to endure.  There is something unique about pain and suffering in the way that it strengthens us spiritually in a way that no other experience can.  It prepares us for eternity and decreases our reliance on this finate and tempporary world.  As 2 Corinthians 4:7-11 states that no matter what we go through- our spirits are not destroyed, but rather we are strengthened.  Spiritually and emotionally, we may lose the physical battle, but spiritually we gain eternal life. Pain can be used for a purpose and in the end it can be used for the greater glory of God. As 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 proclaims, we should not deny the fact that pain and suffering can be used for the greater good.  In fact to deny the usefulness of pain is actually ignorance because even in the face of despair, pressure and even death, such things "happen that we might rely not on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead"!!!!!  Furthermore, why waste our pain? 2Corinthians 1:4-5 says we should use it to help others- and just as God comforts us in our pain and suffering, we should help and comfort others in their pain and suffering as well. At some point, each and every one of us will suffer- some less and some more.  If you are one of those who seem to have a lot to endure, then re-think how you view your hardships, and try to use it for the greater good.  Perhaps you should consider yourself blessed if possible- because just as fire is used to refine gold and other precious metals, harship refines and strengthens our spirits.  We can not deny this one fact- regardless of religious belief or lack thereof, eventually each and every one of us will die- we will indeed sucumb to physical death at some point in the future. In the end our eternal happiness will outweigh the temporary and transient pain we experience here on earth.  No matter what, God's promise to us is this: no matter what we go through in this world, the physical and emotional pain will be nothing compared to the unimaginable happiness and glory we will experience for eternity.

While most of us may not be facing a life threatening crisis at the moment, in  our day to day lives, we should not neglect our spiritual health. Just as we eat every day and drink every day to keep our bodies running, we need to remember our spiritual health as well and mainatin a steady diet of God's word through the bible.  The bible is like God's letter to us, inspired by God.  Without it, we are without direction or discretion as  we are subjected to the philosophies and ideas of the world as dictated by the media and society. As stated on several occasions, Satan is the "god" of this world.

How important is the word of God? The bible answers this question......  We are told to hold to God's word like a treasure in our hearts- Psalm 18:30 and that the word is like a lamp guiding one's feet safely through the darkness Psalm 119:105.  Every word of God is pure- Proverbs 30:5 and remains forever and ever- Isaiah 40:8 and that the word of God will never ever pass away no matter what happens- Matthew 24:35.  The word of God was always there, it always existed John 1:1, and took up flesh in Jesus- John 1:14 The word of God is truth- John 17:17.

Max on Life by Max Lucado

Max on Life: Answers and Insights to Your Most Important Questions by Max Lucado, is a great book for anyone new to Christianity or the bible. As a very popular writer and author of numerous inspirational books,  Max has earned a place among the notable authority figures and apologetic Christian thinkers of the modern age.  Although not as theological as Chesterton or C.S. Lewis, evidently, Max is deemed qualified to write a Q & A type of book addressing the many pressing questions that humanity may have. For those who don't have the patience or literacy to read the apologetic works of Augustine, Aquinas or Lewis, Lucado fills the gap.  Presented in a Question/ Answer type of format, each topic is numbered and the answer is addressed by Max Lucado in his own words. It is as if the reader is having a one on one personal conversation with Max himself, as he addresses common topics and issues such as pain and suffering, money and finances, love and relationships. Topics are grouped into categories and specific issues. Max addressed major issues that plague mankind such as the problem of evil as well as other more day to day issues such as offering advice about hypocrites and gossips that may belong to your bible study group. Some of the questions appear to be trivial or silly, such as if the question as to the geographic location of hell residing "in the center of the Earth"..or .."out in space". (page 228) Some of the questions appear to be simplistic, child-like or naive, but they are addressed in a serious manner by Max, nonetheles.   This book is a great outreach program for the non believer and the new Christian alike.  Clearly, even a casual reading of the bible gospels and letters would reveal the answers contained in this book, but for those readers who are intimidated by the thought of opening up a bible, this is a good source of biblical wisdom and advice. Max Lucado isnot afraid to give biblical based advice to the reader.  As a blogger for booksneeze, I recieved a copy of this book from Thomas Nelson publishers for the purpose of writinh this review.  The opinions expressed are my own/ 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Take Action Bible, NKJV: Together We Can Change the World

The Take Action Bible, NKJV: Together We Can Change the World is yet another themed bible published by Thomas Nelson publishers. The biggest shortcoming to this bible is its small font size and the text format.  In contrast to paragraphs, each bible verse is listed line by line- as mentioned as one of the features "NKJV Ultraslim Bible text", making this bible not the best choice for personal reading.  Because of these textual features, this will not be a bible that I will actually use for reading. Before specifically reviewing this bible in particular,  for those readers unfamiliar with bibles in general some background would be useful. As far as bible translations, there is a spectrum of the ease of reading of a particular translation ranging from beginner/ easy reading levels such as the message and more complex/ literal such as the King James version, and revised standard version. For example, the popular NIV- New International Version, is somewhere in the middle with regard to ease of reading level and undertsanding. The NKJV - New King James Version, in particular, is a bit more literal and is written in somewhat of a higher reading level. Nevertheless, this NKJV is an easy to understand version as well. For those new to the bible entirely, The Message and Living bible as well as NIV versions are easy to read and understand, and are very good options for those who seek to understand the meaning of the bible.

Difficult to read versions such as the Old King James - though very well written, do a disservice to the modern or new bible reader. The antique language is difficult for many in this day to understand on their own and makes it prohibitive for many to understand the truths of the bible. Having known many readers of the KJV, who do not even understand the meaning of what they read- indicates that this is not the best translation for those who really seek to know God's word. What is the point of a bible after all if you can not even undertsand it? For those new to the bible or for those who have a difficult to read translation such as the King James Version, who wish to read the bible and actually understand it, I would suggest one of the bible versions with more modern/ contemporary language. While the NKJV is relatively easy to read, it may present a challange to the literacy level of many modern adults.

Overall, this bible, merits a good rating as it is a good trust worthy translation with many additional informational helps. There are full color insert pages featuring photos and articles, "Take Action" themed ideas and real life stories featuring the difference that real people have made in the world.  The additional articles suppliment the bible text and do not detract from it. I recieved a copy of this bible for the purpose of review. The only thing that would make it better is if it were available in other modern translations as well. I would like to see Thomas Nelson publishers make available their themed bibles in more translations.

The Doppleganger Chronicles: The Secret of Indigo Moon by G.P. Taylor

As a blogger for Tyndale publishers I had the opportunity to review the second book of the  graphic kids' series, The Doppleganger Chronicles: The Secret of Indigo Moon  by G. P. Taylor. This new junior novel series represents the new and popular genre of graphic novels- a hybrid between a full color comic book format and text novel. The ecclectic mix of comic book style cartoon art, illustrations as well paragraphs of text make this book visially appealing as well capturing the interest of the reader. For anyone who enjoys comic books, and graphic novels- I would suggest this book- especially for those who enjoyed the first book in the series. 

The Doppleganger Chronicles series, Doppleganger takes its name from a hybrid mix of the twin heros last name Dopple, and their sidekick's last name Ganger. Although marketed to appeal to ADHD/ short attention spanned readers, my ten year old- and A student who enjoys reading enjoyed this book.  My five year old enjoyed listening to having this book read to him, although he found the pictures a bit spooky.   The artwork is very impressive.  The gothic styled artwork and cartoons are unique for a children's book, and will draw in older readers as well as younger readers. The vivid descriptive details such as when "Erik waded through the waist-high vile liquid that spewed from the roof of the vault" page 241   make this an engaging story in of itself. The mixed media of text and graphics make this a unique book that may even capture the interest of parents as well! In fact, the sophisticated language, sarcasm and irony may be appreciated more adults than by young children. The intended readership of this book is the pre-teen/ younger teenaged reader. I rate this novel five stars, not only for its unique presentation format and the unique, vivid writing style. As a blogger for Tyndale publishers I recieved this book for the purposes of writing this review. The opinions reflected are my own and I was not required to write a positive review.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Secret Under the Bed

The following is based on a dream I once had......... Any resemblence to reality is a coincidence, as this is simply a story based on fictitious events.

I kept a secret under my bed. It was a burden so great, yet a responsibility that I could not escape. Oh how I wished it would be discovered and lifted from me. I wished an intruder would ransack my bedroom or that some prying inquisitive eyes would call the authorities with a search warrant. I could barely keep from revealing the secret. Yet, at the same time, my lips remained sealed and I did my best to conceal my dark secret. I played in my mind in-depth scenarios of subtle ways that I could reveal the secret or to facilitate its discovery.

My days and nights were filled with anxiety. How I wished there was someone, anyone to confide in. But, I felt isolated and alone. While I was away at school or work, was the only time I felt a degree of freedom and peace. Though exhausted, I’d hastily jump out of bed, quickly going through the minimal formalities associated with proper hygiene and rush off to work and school. As the end of the day approached, a feeling of sick dread and anxiety grew. As I watched the clock tick, my skin would become moist and clammy in anticipation of what awaited me at home. Nervously, I’d glance at my watch; my throat tightened and my stomach felt as though it contained a lump of heavy lead. As I walked to my car, the keys would rattle and jingle in my shaking hand. My legs felt weak, as though they would buckle underneath my weight. I’d slip into my car, and with my heart quickly pounding, I’d make my way home. Unable to concentrate on the road, I’d somehow, find myself safely home, not even remembering the trip as if driven by auto-pilot.

During the daytime I was usually withdrawn and anxious. I did not watch tv. I did not listen to music. I engaged in solitary activities: reading, writing, drawing and playing with dolls. I would clean and organize my room and my books and my dolls and my various collections. I had many collections: rocks, stickers, stamps, petrified/ shellacked hermit crabs….. All these things were my expressive outlet- especially writing. I could spend hours, and even an entire night simply writing- filling entire notebooks within a few short hours! This was the age before computers- so I would write and write and write until my fingers were red and callused and sore. I had to finish, I could not leave a piece of work unfinished! Oh, how I lived my life in my room. I lived out my dreams- reenacting a perfect world, and fulfilling my wishes for revenge and my dreams. I created a miniature replica of a town, filled with homes and schools, stores and people. All those little tiny people represented real people. After school from the time I was eight throughout high school, I lived out my life of normalcy and dreams through the fictitious town I created as well as its inhabitants. I found peace by playing within that town. Anything that happened in real life, I would reenact in my small miniature town. No detail was too insignificant to include in my little town replica. In fact, it had its own transportation system, school system, a library and even a newspaper! The newspaper was available both in miniature format as well as larger traditional format- to this day I still have some copies. I enjoyed books and lived my life’s adventures from reading literature and novels. I also enjoyed philosophy, psychology and science as well. Much of my knowledge and experience came from books. I lived life experiences through reading, and made them come to life through my writings, my fantasies and the re-enactment through my dolls. To me this was life!

I looked in the mirror, and could not reconcile the image of the middle aged face staring back at me. Why did I appear so old? It couldn’t be me that I was staring out at, perhaps from lack of sleep my eyes were deceiving me. I was in a constant state of exhaustion. I read books to pass the lonely anxious hours away. I drank coffee and soda all day long to stay awake. I lived a life of quiet solitude, I was always a bit antisocial and distant- mostly keeping to myself. I did not have too many friends, and rarely entertained guests. I was mostly alone with my thoughts, except when I could escape through reading.

I especially dreaded the nighttime when it was time to retire, and loathed the mere site of my bedroom. I would stay up half the night awaiting the early hours of the morning when I was assured that everyone was asleep. At that time I would quickly sneak down the staircase, with my pillow tightly clenched in my right hand, and my blanket, clenched in the other, down to the sofa. Just before daybreak, before anyone would awake, after an hour or two of a pitiful, restless sleep, I would sneak quietly back up the stairs, back into the dreaded bedroom, and slip under the covers of my death tainted bed. I kept an ominous oppressive secret that I could neither share nor reveal, no matter how I prayed that it would be exposed or discovered. Under my bed, beneath the rusted, creaky, metal bed frame of my bed, I kept my grand-father, encased in an oversized shoebox of a coffin. Nestled safely from prying eyes I kept the secret burden of the decaying body of my grand- father. The putrefying stained carpet beneath the weakened, wet corrugated oblong box was safely concealed by the dingy, dusty ruffled bed skirt. The oppressive odor of decay was masked by a mixture of moth balls, bath salts and fresh potpourri. Don’t ask me the details or reasons, of how this came to be, because I don’t know how I came to be in possession of my grandpa. All I know was that I somehow bore the grave responsibility of keeping his remains. Why he was not buried in the consecrated ground of a cemetery, I do not know. My grandpa passed away unexpectedly when I was young, and as an adult, he was still with me. He was there under my bed after all these years. Not once did I look inside the container that encased his lifeless body – which after all these years was encased by layers and layers of sheets, bedding and towels- in an attempt to cover the stench and the fluids of decay. At one time having him with me brought me comfort and security, but now, I simply felt a strong sense of revulsion and an urge to break free and to simply get away- even if it meant running away. Oh how I had loved him in life, and deeply missed him. His unexpected death was as if it were a dream- it was unreal. I remember each and every minute detail of his last day as if it were yesterday. After his death, time seemed to have stopped. My mom as well as sisters, forever remained young as did I. I did not grieve and I did not mourn. I was strong and I simply moved on, barely acknowledging that anything had changed, pretending it didn’t happen yet knowing deep inside he was gone and I’d never see him again. His photos were hung on my wall. His button down dress shirts and his jacket still retained his comforting scent as I had remembered from my youth. His hat was collecting dust where it remained on the hook on the door, and his boots rested on the mat near the door just as they would have remained during his life. His wallet, his keychain, eyeglasses and pens and other personal effects- were safely contained in a small jewelry box on my dresser. I could not part with my grand father nor any of his things, yet at the same time, I felt a mixture of repulsion and trepidation.

I woke up one morning, it was a bright sunny day. I had no plans for the day. That same old tired reflection stared back at me as I half heartedly rubbed a dry toothbrush against my teeth. When I was finished, I let the toothbrush fall from my limp hand into the sink. In slow motion I picked the shirt and pants that had been carelessly dropped on the bathroom floor the previous evening and dressed myself. I was exhausted and did not care about anything. Yet suddenly without any warning or reason, I felt a determination that I had never felt before. As if animated by an unknown force, I quickly went back into my bedroom, taking all of my grand father’s things from the bedroom and hastily piling them in an empty laundry basket. I had an idea that I would carefully package each of the items and mail them to my aunts and sisters or perhaps place them in the attic. Next, I was drawn to my bed, and before I could talk myself out of it, I instinctively reached underneath my bed, and with a firm grip, began tugging as the layers of soiled, stiff and crusted bedding, throwing them carelessly into a pile at the side of my bed. There seemed to be a never ending supply of dusty, worn sheets, blankets, comforters and linens. I bent down bringing my face eye level to the space underneath my bed, in eager dread of what I’d find. With the rough carpet fibers scratching my cheek and ear, giving myself a bad case of rub burn, reaching my outstretched arms, as far as I could reach, under the dusty cavern beneath my bed, I found the remaining cocoon of bedding which I tugged out from underneath with the tips of my fingers. There was no stench of decay, and no stains of body fluids to be found, only years worth of dust that had settled underneath the bed. I sneezed as a puff of grey dust filled the air - as I stared at the dusty linen cocoon that I had unearthed from under my bed frame. I watched the dust particles dance in the sunbeams of light which shone through my bedroom window. With shaking hands, my anxiety mounted as I unraveled the layers of dusty, yellowed sheets, one layer at a time. Finally I reached the last layer of bedding, and after having unrolled it there was nothing at all contained within the bedding. I was puzzled as I confronted the fact that there was nothing at all inside the sheets and no indication that anything, other than just plain sheets had been under my bed after all these years. I felt an overwhelming sense of relief. The nightmare as far as I was concerned was over, there was nothing there and I was satisfied to leave it at that. I had no desire to pursue the issue any further, nor to question what I had imagined had been there. I could finally move on in peace. The only thing remaining of my grand father were the happy and peaceful memories.

The Unusual Yard Sale

The Unusual Yard Sale

It was an ordinary dreary day that started out with the usual routine: getting ready for work on a cloudy Saturday. I received a call, enroute to the office, that my shift had to be cancelled. The minimal explanation that was offered (my partner had called out sick) was insufficient to my satisfaction. No details were provided as to the specific illness and its start nor its duration- all of which helped to feed into my skepticism as to whether the individual was actually ill. No matter how I persuaded, evet to volunteer my services, they insisted they had no use for me that day, and dejectedly, there was nothing more that I could do but turn around and go home. Reluctantly, I changed course, did a u-turn and headed in the direction of home.

As I was driving home, on that overcast cold winter morning, I noticed the old, run down church next to the cemetery that I pass every day on the way to work. That small, scenic, picturesque cobblestone church, with its pointed steeple topped by a simple white cross, and the small cemetery, by its side- a garden of decaying and cracked grey stones, intertwined with weeds and vines- stood in stark contrast to the rest of the surroundings of main street. The old church seemed as if it were plucked out of a previous long gone era and dropped right into the midst of old, run down, 21st century down town architecture. The only thing that separated the church from the nearby liquor stores, Chinese take-out, diners, convenience stores and used car lots, was an antique, four foot, black iron spiked fence that encircled the church and the graveyard. I always slowed down to look at cemeteries. No matter how many times I drove by this old church, it never failed to intrigue me, and as my usual custom, that morning was no exception so I slowed down.

This time I saw some activity going on- reminiscent of a small carnival or flea market, perhaps. My curiosity got the better of me and I actually stopped and pulled into the empty parking lot next to the church to take a better look at what was going on. Perhaps I can find some good books, I thought to myself. I was always interested in books, in particular, I enjoyed literature classics and old textbooks- which were usually plentiful at garage sales and flea markets. I saw people hoisting cumbersome, heavy, oblong boxes through the narrow doorway of the church. I wondered what was in those curious looking boxes and my greed for some books drew me closer. Slowly, I opened my car door, slid out of the driver’s seat, and shut the door behind me.

As I stood outside my car, I could see there was actually a small line of people waiting to enter the church through its narrow doors. There were perhaps two or three to an oblong box. Perhaps this was a church fundraiser, and these strange folk were setting up early for a flea market. I always thought that the vendors at flea markets were weird and uncouth individuals considering the eclectic assortment of used junk they would frequently try to pawn off. For what other opinion could I form of someone who would try and sell half used containers of deodorant, along side unopened McDonald’s happy meal toys, leather belts and old VHS tapes. Either their motives were unethical, or they truly were deluded into believing that there was value in their junk. In most cases the trash would be a more appropriate place to unload their overpriced junk. Perhaps these vendors had come with the high hopes of unloading their garages and attics in an attempt to raise money for some sort of noble endeavor or humanitarian cause. Not everyone had boxes, nevertheless, some were trudging through the narrow doorway with what appeared to be long narrow laundry bags or sleeping bags filled with something- perhaps clothing. Others had hoisted large overflowing dusty cardboard boxes of various goods and trinkets. It was like a gypsy caravan. Finally I made my way to the front door of the church. With all the activity, no one noticed my presence, thankfully I could observe in peace and anonymity.

It was if my eyes were deceiving me, I saw something which made me question as if this were real or that perhaps it was a dream! The oblong boxes were coffins, and the coffins were open. The coffins were not the traditional coffins that you see in a modern funeral service- those would have been too heavy to lift with two people anyway. These “coffins”- for I could not find a better expression to describe these ghastly containers- were constructed of relatively light weight materials: wood, tin and cardboard. They looked like oversized shoe boxes without lids. These makeshift coffins were easily be carried by two pall bearers, with one at either end. The overstuffed sleeping bags and laundry bags were actually the dead, encased in blankets and grungy bedding- some of which were in various stages of decay! Some of the elderly, grey haired woman, perhaps because they lacked the vigor and strength of their youth, simply dragged their bodies into the church. I was repulsed yet drawn at the same time. I stood transfixed in the doorway, unable to move- unable to enter the church threshold, yet unable to leave. I felt compelled to stay yet overcome with a sickly fear that I felt growing inside of being so close to the dead.

Inside the small one-roomed church was a bustle of activity. The surreal atmosphere was a cross between the somber dark gloominess of a funeral home with the fast paced zeal of a flea market and I am sure that there were a small number of health code as well as fire code violations to boot. At least there was one consolation- they weren’t serving any food- that would be too gross. There were guests of all ages crammed into the room- like a typical crowd at a flea market or carnival, I suppose. Along the walls and corners, the vendors were setting up their creepy wares. Specifically, the containers holding the corpses were being propped upright, leaning against the wall for support in strategic locations within the empty church. Apparently all the pews and chairs had been removed from the interior to accommodate this event and the crowds it would draw in. A few plastic fold-up tables were set up- filled with various old books, jewelry, photographs and other trinkets, near each of the displayed propped up bodies. Apparently, the items were set up and displayed with their respective owners that had owned them in life. I wondered if this made the items more valuable. In one corner, I looked with revulsion and shock as I saw two elderly women, casually applying blush and lipstick to the cheeks and lips of a deceased woman propped upright in a wooden box against the wall. Apparently they were cosmetizing the corpse.

Strangely I recognized some people in the crowd from years ago, yet did not acknowledge their presence. Nor did anyone acknowledge mine. They were complete strangers, yet familiar at the same time. Perhaps it was only my imagination, but this room was filled with many faces that were vaguely familiar from my past. Though decades had passed since I had last seen them, miraculously they had not aged whatsoever- still retaining their youth.

But then a strange blind, old man from across the crowded room caught my eye. He seemed familiar yet I did not know who he was. His eyes, appeared to be sealed shut as if the wrinkled, deflated eye lids, were devoid of the usual round orbs. He did not open his eyes, yet he seemed to be able to navigate around the room with ease- and with no need of a walking stick. He knew I was there staring at him from across the room and he casually walked closer. Once we exchanged greeting formalities, he gestured for me to come closer, and I was strangely compelled to obey. As if he were reading my mind he stood directly in front of me positioned his face only inches from my own and I stared straight into his eyes, literally. I could see an opening- as narrow as the width of a thin sheet of paper, between his eyelids. I looked directly into the void as if peering through a keyhole, and saw an unexplainable site. It was as if I had a panoramic 360 degree view inside his skull. I saw what seemed to be an empty expanse of vast darkness. Above, near the top I saw a set of eyes and below I saw a set of two eyes. Four fully formed orbs- fully functioning eyeballs, concealed and recessed deep within the darkness of skull, concealed from view. I could not comprehend what I was seeing. There were two normal eyes on top and two beneath- round white orbs, albeit a bit bloodshot, blue in color with black pupils- normal and functioning in every way, providing the man with perfect 20/20 vision. This was how he could see- so even though he appeared to be blind, he concealed an ingenious method of vision. He turned to the side and I saw above his ear, a gaping hole. The edges had been stitched long ago, and reflected many years of healing and scar tissue. There was no redness and no blood present whatsoever. There was no bandaging applied to cover the wound either- it was just there out in the open. Yet within the two inch ragged hole, the emptiness within his skull was entirely visible. Essentially his head, or to be more accurate, its - head and face was simply an outer shell, and there were none of the usual organs visible within. Medically, the man’s condition was incompatible with life, and in I fact did not know how he was alive.

The next thing I remember is a stern, small voice coming in through the doorway, “Mommy I need my clothes for school!”, called Rose as she swung open the door and stood at the foot of the bed. I woke up instantly.

Dracula in Film: Reflections of an Evolving Society

Dracula in Film: Reflections of an Evolving Society

With the ever growing popularity of vampire and gothic novels, TV shows and movies, the subject of the concept of Dracula- and vampires, is a timely subject.......

Since the creation of Bram Stoker’s most famous fictional character Dracula with the publication of his most famous novel in 1897, both Dracula and the societal culture in which he is placed have represented a duality that movies have since tried to reconcile. The figure of Dracula, and the concept of evil of which he represents, have undergone a spectrum of changes over time. The metamorphosis of Dracula himself, as he is portrayed in films, is a direct reflection of the time and culture of which the film was produced. The vampire and Dracula films, which have been made through the years, present a unique historical perspective of the evolution of changes of both women and sexuality in society. Furthermore, the vampire character, and the heroines as portrayed in a particular film reflect the sexual ideas of the culture of the audience for whom the work is intended.
The original Dracula, as portrayed by Bram Stoker’s novel, is a product of the late Victorian age in which the story was written. In the novel, the distinction between good and evil is clear. Christianity held a place of high importance in the late 1800s. There is no doubt that Stoker’s intent was to represent vampirism as an evil that had to be eradicated. In fact, the evil of Dracula’s curse is equated with Satan, the adversary of the Christian God.
Nevertheless, it is clear that Dracula’s complex character represented many contradictions that have been difficult for society to accept and reconcile. While a gentleman of perfect English manners and intellect that has the capacity to mesmerize and swoon his female victims, he was also a putrid manifestation of corruption and evil. While discrete, sexuality between Dracula and his female victims plays a sublime role in Stoker’s novel. With these characteristics of Dracula in mind, it is not difficult to imagine the difficulty a movie producer might encounter in producing a readily accepted character that supposedly has the ability the mesmerize and charm its victims despite the fact that he is deficient in all the contemporary characteristics of a physically attractive man. Additionally, it is hard to mold together into one character proper manners, personality and intelligence with an uncouth bestial instinct for survival
Since the dawn of the age of film, beginning with the earlier half of the nineteenth century, Stoker’s novel has been altered and adapted into numerous films. Dracula, the novel, presented so many challenges that film makers had to reconcile in order to satisfactorily produce both a character and a story into a movie that would be deemed acceptable to the audience for whom it was aimed. The vampire films: 1931 “Dracula”, the 1970s film, Werner Herzog’s, “Nosferatu the Vampire”, the contemporary 1990s film based Ann Rice’s novel, “Interview With the Vampire”, and the modern cinematic remake of Stoker’s novel “Bram Stoker’s Dracula”, clearly illustrate the ways that Dracula’s changing image reflects that ever changing cultural ideas of good and evil, and of women and sexuality. Each film is unique in the means by which the vampire and women are portrayed, the meaning of evil, and in the expression of sexuality.
In Stoker’s novel, Dracula, the distinction between goodness and evil are very clear. Dracula is the embodiment of evil and evil is equated with Satan. During the time period of which the book was written, the religion of Christianity was an important aspect of Western society. Therefore evil was associated with Satan, as the case with the myth of the vampire. There is no doubt whatsoever that it was Stoker’s intent to portray Dracula as evil with Satanic roots. Upon entering Dracula’s lair in Carfax Abbey, Jonathan Harker noted that “corruption had itself become corrupt” with even the odor described as “stagnant and foul… composed of all the ills of mortality…[with] the pungent, acrid smell of blood…[and] dry miasma” (Stoker, 276) According to the Professor Van Helsing, vampires were “Un-Dead” creatures whose souls were cursed, “growing more debased” (Stoker, 236) in wickedness and evil as their unholy existence continued.
Vampires began when the first vampire, centuries ago, made a pact with the Devil, otherwise referred to by the Professor as the “Evil One” (Stoker 265). To live, the vampire must consume human blood. “He can fatten on the blood of the living” (Stoker, 263) As the case with Lucy when she became infected by Dracula, (and as the case with any other vampire), the only way to free her soul so that it might go to heaven was to kill her Un-Dead vampiric body. After her infection from Count Dracula, she became a hideous, foul “Thing” that had to be destroyed. Yet, just like evil and Satan, the vampire can only be destroyed with the aid of the power of God. “There are things which so afflict him that he has no power… as for things sacred, [the] crucifix… he is nothing”(Stoker, 264) according to Professor Van Helsing. The vampire feared the crucifix, and could only be repelled by the Host, the Christian representation of Jesus’ body. In fact, Van Helsing, Harker and the other men used the Sacred Christian symbols such as the Host and Crucifix to protect themselves upon entering Dracula’s lair.
It is clear that the Victorian stereotypes of women persist throughout Stoker’s novel. Nevertheless women are presented in a respectful light, yet they are within the norm for English Victorian society. Mina and Lucy are both young women who are preoccupied with the concerns of their impending marriages and their fiancés in the beginning of Stoker’s novel. While they are basically represented in the story as victims of Dracula and his curse, they possess respectable personality character traits that are acceptable for women of the Victorian era. Although women were respected their husbands and fathers often believed them that they were in need of protection. Both Mina and Lucy were concerned about scandal and maintaining a respectable reputation. This is evident when Mina takes great effort to cover her bare feet with mud, and Lucy with a cloak during one of Lucy’s sleep walking episodes, lest anyone should see them indecently dressed. Additionally, Mina considered the shock that other woman would feel in reaction to their large and unfeminine appetites. Neither had a desire to challenge the role of women in their society.
Lucy is portrayed as sweet, pure, and lovable innocent girl. Quincey Morris even referred to her as a “little girl” in an endearing manner. Mina is described as sympathetic and motherly, such as the case according to Arthur Holmwood when he looked to Mina for support after Lucy’s death. Despite the fact that Stoker’s novel holds onto the persistent attitudes of the feminine woman, he does not hesitate to attach masculine attributes to the female characters. In fact, the Professor praised Mina’s mental strength in his statement, “Wonderful madam Mina! She has a man’s brain… were he much gifted- and a woman’s heart.” (Stoker, 258). Nevertheless, the Professor at times had a protective attitude toward women, when he insisted that Mina must be protected and could no longer be part of their dangerous quest. Additionally, in his confidential discussions with Lucy when attempting to discover what was making her ill, his attitude was condescending as he questioned her and spoke to her as if she were a child.
It is certainly difficult to correlate sexuality with Count Dracula who was described by Stoker as man with pale skin, “hair growing scantily round the temples, but profusely elsewhere”, massive eyebrows, bushy hair, a mouth that was “fixed and cruel-looking… sharp white teeth” (Stoker, 19), pointed ears, hairy palms and long, yellowed fingernails. Nevertheless, there are some aspects of vampirism that appear to be sexual in nature. The act of biting the victim, and the exchange of blood that must occur suggests an intimate relationship between the vampire and his victim. During Harker’s imprisonment in Dracula’s castle, he described the beautiful, female vampires as both “thrilling and repulsive”, and possessing voluptuousness. Prior to her corruption by Dracula, Lucy was innocent and sweet. After succumbing to the curse of the vampire, as she transformed from her innocent nature and had acquired a “carnal and unspiritual appearance” she became a “devilish mockery” (Stoker, 235) of her former purity with her “pointed teeth, the bloodstained, voluptuous mouth” according Dr. Seward who had loved her greatly. Later in the novel, when Mina falls victim to Dracula, the blood exchange ritual she underwent with Count Dracula in her bedroom during the night appeared to be a perverse mockery of the genuine, pure love shared with her new husband Jonathan Harker. In the cases with Lucy and Mina, the transformation into a vampire transformed purity and innocence into debased wickedness and love into an unwholesome ,sexualized, carnal act of blood exchange.
The 1931 film, “Dracula”, directed by Todd Browning, which featured the actor Bela Lugosi,, represented a simplification of Stoker’s novel in many aspects. Rather than trying to produce a film integrating the complexities of Stoker’s complex character of Dracula, Browning discarded many of the count’s original characteristics and replaced them. Browning’s goal was to make a vampire that was visually and sexually attractive rather than grotesque. The physical attributes of Dracula therefore would be a means by which Dracula could hypnotize and swoon his female victims. In the early days of filmmaking, an audience most likely would not easily accept that a filthy, corpse- like beast could charm and swoon its victims without screaming in terror at his sight. Nor would the audience readily accept such a character. So, for the first time, with Browning’s 1931 film, Dracula, with his well groomed hair, tuxedo and cape, was portrayed as a sophisticated being that could blend well into proper English society. In fact, at their first meeting, long before she became his victim, Lucy was immediately attracted to the handsome, and exotic Count Dracula. In fact she referred to the Count as “fascinating”. Such could never have been the case if Stoker’s Dracula had been physically replicated on film. Additionally, In accordance with Stoker’s Novel, Browning’s Dracula was a man of proper manners. As a host, he welcomed Reinfield (who took the role as solicitor in the movie), into his castle with the well-known statement, “I bid you welcome”. Additionally, he provided a comfortable bed, cheery fire and attended to Reinfield’s needs. The clue that separated the count from ordinary man in the film was his glowing, piercing eyes that were evident in his hypnotic stare.
With the introduction of an attractive Count Dracula, sexuality was introduced into the film. While sexual scenes are entirely omitted from the story, it is alluded to in the fact that during the night, Dracula stealthily goes into the bedroom of his female victims as they sleep and bites them on the neck. The concept of Dracula biting his female victims on the neck seem analogous to an intimate kiss. In fact the actual movie omits the actual biting scene since obvious sexuality in film was not accepted in the early 1930s. Later in the film, Mina is swooned into Dracula’s hypnotic intimate embrace. While sexuality is not blatant in Browning’s film, it is present with Dracula’s handsome appearance, the attractiveness of Lucy and Mina, and the hypnotic embraces and biting of the neck in the bedroom.
The distinction between good and evil is not as clear cut in the film as in Stoker’s book. The evil represented by Dracula in Browning’s film seems analogous to a vague idea of horror that one might feel after reading a spooky story. Evil is not equated with the devil, and there are minimal references either to God or Christianity as being the means by which evil is combated. It is evident; by the way Professor Van Helsing and Dr. Seward methodically plan the means to kill Dracula, that the professor and the doctor basically see scientific and rational reasoning as the salvation to combat the evil of Dracula. This reflects the increasing secularization of 1930s culture as science and the scientific method are embraced instead of religion.
Produced in a society in which women’s rights and liberation were still in their infancy, this 1931 film reflects that fact that woman were not treated as equals to men. In fact women in society were equated with children, because it was believed that they needed men for direction, and protection in life. Consequently, in the film, women play a small role in the film other than as submissive victims. The females portrayed were either the naïve, overprotected young women Mina and Lucy, or the servile weak minded ignorant maids. In fact, after Mina falls ill after succumbing to Dracula’s bite, the men in her life are very condescending in the ways that they repeatedly question her as if she were a small child and not an adult woman. She is not taken seriously, and in response her fiancé tells her to “forget all these bad dreams and think of something cheerful”. Furthermore, it is Dracula who tells the men in Mina’s life not to worry because it was only her overactive imagination in response to the “grim tales” he told of his far off country in order to “amuse” her. Women are also portrayed as subservient to the men in their lives that cannot take responsibility for their own decisions, safety or welfare. On a number of occasions, Mina was ordered to bed or to get back indoors for her own good. Additionally, rather than speak up herself, Mina implores her father to speak to her fiancé on her behalf when Harker tries to convince the others to let him run off to London with Mina to keep her safe. It is clear that this film is a reflection of the cultural attitudes that women were the physically, and intellectually weaker sex. In the absence of religion, in a society that values physical strength and rational thought, where mostly men held position of power in higher education and medicine, women play little role and were treated in a condescending, child like manner.
Clearly, Werner Herzog’s film, “Nosferatu the Vampire”, is a product of the new culture of women’s liberation in of the 1970s in which it was produced. This film contrasts greatly in its portrayal of women from Browning’s film. While upholding the traditional ideas of good vs. evil, and that Dracula and the curse of vampirism is the embodiment of evil, the film deviates from the historically accepted roles of men and women. The character of Lucy challenges the Victorian notion that women are physically weak, submissive and helpless from evil. Furthermore, the film rejects the concept of the male figure as the savior against evil. In contrast, rather than a man, it is a woman who defeats evil and saves the town from the vampire curse.
As with Stoker’s novel, the curse of the vampire and the evil it represents is reinforced and expanded upon by the opening images of the dead, skeletal, decayed corpses, forever entombed in their horrific mask-like faces of death. The numbers of human remains of the victims entombed in the cave-like catacombs are analogous to the thousands of tortured, dead bodies of the victims of the Holocaust. Vampirism is an evil that is equated with a plague; something that is to be feared, rejected and overcome. In contrast to the original novel, to reflect the newly arising feminist movement appearing in modern culture, Jonathan Harker and Lucy switch roles. Harker assumes the role of the helpless victim who succumbs to the vampirism, while Lucy remains strong and seeks to destroy the vampire.
As with the Victorian novel, sexuality in Herzog’s film is very understated. In stark contrast to the debased horrible images in the opening scenes, Lucy is depicted as a beautiful, pure and proper woman, with long hair and dressed in flowing white gowns. In alignment with the sexual repression of the Victorian era, Lucy’s demeanor is stiff and unemotional, yet she is supportive of her husband. Lucy and her husband sleep in separate beds in night clothing that fully covers their bodies.
The inhuman, repulsive physical appearance of Count Dracula, with his sickly white skin, thin, bony fingers, long yellow nails, pointed ears, bald head and rat- like teeth, is a visible reflection of the evil that vampirism represents. Dracula’s lethargic and tired, appearance, and torn, tattered, dusty cape seem analogous to the symptoms experienced by one as he approaches death. Herzog’s conception of the vampire, Count Dracula is entirely different from both Stoker’s and Browning’s idea of Dracula. Unlike Stoker’s lively, vigorous and animated Dracula who began as perfect gentleman host to his guest, with the self-control to suppress the bestial aspects of his vampire nature, such was not the case with Herzog’s Dracula. While Dracula makes some feeble attempts towards acting like a proper host, he is subject to the vampiric disease, which enslaves him to his bestial and evil ways. As Harker takes his place at the dinner table to eat after a long journey to the castle, Dracula hawks over him, staring intently, just as a predator watches his prey. Dracula is unable to control is vampire nature as he impulsively reaches over to Harker when he accidentally cuts his finger, and in an uncouth fashion, sucks the blood. Upon his arrival to Harker’s homeland, the towns’ people succumb to rats, plague and death.
Traditional Christian ideas of God and faith are upheld, as evident in the fact that Dracula fears the crucifix which represent the power of good against evil, Lucy’s prayer to God for forgiveness and finally, the power of the Host, (which represents the body of Christ), to purify the coffins and restrain Harker in his corner after he is infected by the Count. Nevertheless, not all the ideas represented by the Christian religion are embraced. The idea of the male Christ figure that is the savior is rejected. According to the Christian religion, only a man, Jesus Christ, has the capacity to save the world from evil. In contrast, according to Herzog’s film, only “a woman pure of heart”, could save the town from the evil of Nosferatu’s curse. After attending a symbolic “Last Supper” (analogous to Jesus Christ’s Last Supper), with some townspeople who had realized they had fallen victim to the plague, Lucy assumes her special role as she sets off on her quest to seek out and destroy Dracula. Just as Jesus Christ, in accordance with Christianity, sacrificed his life to save the world, Lucy knowingly sacrifices her life to save the town from the vampiric plague. She sacrifices her life to Dracula’s fatal embrace, knowing it is the only way by which she might capture him in the daylight, thereby destroying him. In destroying Dracula, purity and strength of a woman defeats evil. The sunlight, which represented the power of goodness, destroyed the evil Dracula and his vampiric curse, shined upon Lucy illuminating her as she drew her final breath. Ironically at the end of the film, Harker, infected with the vampirism tricks escapes.
In the modern vampire movies of the 1990s, such as the 1990s remake of Stoker’s novel, “Bram Stocker’s Dracula” and “Interview With the Vampire”, there are several deviations from the trends of Stoker’s novel and the two filmmakers Browning, and Herzog. First of all, the notion that vampirism is evil and Satanic is rejected. Consequently, when the vampire is no longer associated with evil or Satan, he becomes humanized and seen as someone with whom to sympathize with. In a secular culture such as our modern American society, religion and Christianity play very little role. Therefore to appeal to modern audiences, less focus is devoted to religious explanations for vampirism in contrast to the earlier films and Stoker’s novel. Therefore it becomes necessary to find an alternative explanation for vampirism other than satanic evil. Furthermore, in a conversation with Armond, an ancient vampire, Louis learns that there is no such thing as God or the Devil, and that vampires are not doomed to Hell.
With the elimination of the idea that the vampire is evil or satanic, the character of the vampire becomes a being that can feel human emotion such as pain, regret and even love. In both of these modern films, it is established from the start that the condition of vampirism is not a result of evil, or choice but circumstance. Through the opening scenes, the audience can learn the sad circumstances, which led these emotional, caring men into the curse of vampirism. In fact the vampires of these film are depicted as loving devoted husbands during their mortal lives, who became victims after they had suffered greatly from the loss of their greatest loves, their wives.
In the case of Louis, the vampire from “Interview With the Vampire”, the loss of his wife and child led him into an unbearable depression, which led him to neglect himself, and left him vulnerable. In fact, according to Louis, “ I was attacked. It might have been anyone- and my invitation was open to sailors, thieves, maniacs, anyone. But it was a vampire.” Count Dracula from “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” became cursed after he renounced God and the Orthodox Church when he learned of the news of his wife’s suicide. The Orthodox priests proclaimed that since Elizabeth committed suicide she was ineligible to enter heaven. As a result, in sadness and anger he announced that he would forever seek vengeance for her death. In fact, in the film Religious Orthodoxy is portrayed as being evil for its responsibility for the vampire curse.
Additionally, as the concept of being a vampire is no longer treated with horror or disgust, vampirism becomes glorified like as exclusive club that must be guarded and protected against any outsiders. In both films, vampires are portrayed as physically attractive and beautiful, possessing great gifts such as strength, everlasting life, intelligence, wisdom and wealth. These vampires spend the movie protecting themselves from outside harm.
With physical attractiveness as one of the striking features of vampirism, along comes the onset of sexuality. In both films, there is heavy emphasis on the sexual aspect of vampirism. Both heterosexuality and homosexuality play a role in both films. When his youth was restored, after feasting on blood, Count Dracula became an attractive man who easily lured Mina to willingly become his lover. There are several intimate scenes between Dracula and Mina in “Bram Stoker’s Dracula”, with images of close contact, and bare skin. Additionally, Mina is depicted wearing suggestive, translucent night clothing as she rushes out during the night to find Lucy during one of her sleep walking episodes. Both Mina and Lucy join in a physical, intimate embrace in the night rain-, which subtly suggests homosexuality. In contrast to the traditional vampire films in which Dracula seeks out a female companion, the heterosexuality is secondary in the “Interview With the Vampire”. The subtle sexuality between the male vampire, Lestat with his male victims is evident during the film when Lestat seduces a young, naïve, and attractive, feminine man. In fact Lestat, with his flowing, curly blond hair, and delicate features is himself is feminized. Women are depicted as threatening and not to be trusted. The young cold and calculating female vampire Claudia murders Lestat. The other female vampires from the theater in Paris are aloof and emotionless. The relationships between the male vampires are stronger physically and emotionally than those between men and women. Woman are no longer portrayed as submissive victims, but rather as active participants in the sexual relationship.
When comparing Stoker’s original novel with the vampire films throughout the years we can see a clear evolution and transformation in the concepts of good and evil and of sexuality. We can see the historical change and growth of the cultural attitudes towards religions, sex and women that has occurred with the last 100 years. Films have ranged from depicting Dracula and the vampire as a grotesque, inhuman, animal-like, undead beast exhibiting no sexual appeal to an attractive, sophisticated being with the capacity to hypnotize and swoon its victims. The role of women in the vampire film originated as the helpless, naïve, and submissive victim to the strong, willful, determined heroine of the modern era. The degradation of the role of Christianity and religion in favor of humanism is also exhibited in the transformation of the condition of vampirism as being associated with Satanic evil which must be combated by God, to the rejection of the idea of evil in favor of the explanation that vampirism is a condition of circumstance.
Society and its ideas of women, sexuality and the role of religion have undergone a spectrum of changes over time which the novel and films about vampires have captured. The films’ portrayal of Dracula, the vampire, and the supporting male and female characters are a direct reflection of the time and culture of which the film was produced. The image of the original creature created by Stoker has been altered by the directors’ imaginations in reaction to the changing cultural concerns of its audience in the areas of sexuality, women and the concept of evil. The plethora of vampire and Dracula films available to today’s modern audiences, which have been made through the years, offer a unique historical perspective of the changes in cultural concerns

Intro to Philosophy

The following represent common issues that have plagued mankind.  Philosophy attempts to answer these issues about the problem of evil, crime and free will.
Crime and Punishment: Is man responsible for his actions?

I. Humanitarian Attitude Towards Crime:

i. Humanitarian Definition of Crime: Crime is an illness, a state of impared functioning. Crime is an illness which must be treated; and the people who commit crime must be cured.

ii. Method of Treating Crime: The Theraputic Paradigm A person who commits crime must not be punished. We must adopt a theraputic attitude towards crime. People who commit crime must be cared for so that their willingness and behavior be treated.

II. C.S. Lewis: The Injustice of Humanitarianismi. Justice: The Justification for Punishment

1. Equitable punishment can only be achieved if the concepts of deserving and justice are realised.

2. There can not be mercy and forgiveness without the idea of deserving. Deserving, mercy and forgiveness can not be given without the idea of wrong. With the idea of wrong, there must be an idea of punishment.

3. Therefore punishment is justified and also neccessary, because it is the recognition of a wrong doing and deserving, which ultimately enables the individual to recieve mercy and forgiveness.

ii. Humanitarianism: Devoid of Justice and Rights

1. If crime is considered an illness, and not a wrong doing, there is no justice, but only a so called cure.

2. If the wrong doing is not punished, but treated as if one would treat an illness, there is no justice. To cure someone of an illness that he "could not help" leaves us without justice. First of all the individual is no longer held responsible for his actions, as a result of this belief the individual is not punished.

3. The individual has no rights with the humanitarian view because the "ill" person is no longer a man, but merely a patient to be treated. He is not considered to be a man of free will, he becomes no differnt from an animal. As a result his treatment is not voluntary, therefore he has no rights. But, his rights are not lost merley in the regards of his choice to accept treatment, but also in the regards of the human quality of exersising free will. Not only this; he has also lost his right to freely repent. Just as an animal is not deemed worthy of forgiveness, the man who commited the crime can no longer be forgiven.

iii. The Abuse and Tyranny of Humanitarianism1. Once an individual commits a crime; his rights are lost. He is no longer a human being, but a sick person who needs a cure.

2. Morality, the concepts of right, wrong and punishment are replaced by narrow minded anamalistic views of human beings. The treatment for a person who commits a crime is no longer any different from the treatment given to an individual who truly has a mental sickness or a wild animal. This is a grave injustice to the dignity of the human person.

The problem of Evil :The Problem Of Evil

I) The Epicurian Paradox

i)Many have come to the conclusion that the existence of evil is incompatible with the existence of God, hence the creation of the Epicurian paradox, created by Epicurus.

ii.)Epicurian Paradox:

1)God is all-powerful.

2)God is perfectly good.

3)Evil exists.

4)If God exists, then there would be no evil.

5)There is evil.

6)Therefore God does not exist.

II)Saint Augustine's Free- Will Defense

God created man with free will having the ability to do good or evil. As a result there is no assurance that man will not choose to do evil. There is no contradiction with the existence of both God and evil. It is logically impossible for God to create free creatures and guarantee that they will never do evil. Among the infinite number of possibilities in an infinite number of possible worlds, God could have chosen a less evil, (or less free) world, yet if man is truly free, God can not stop evil. It would be impossible or illogical for God, who is an all- powerful, omnipotent being, to have created a world in which he controlled the evilness or freeness, for this would remove the gift of free will that he had given to man. The existence of free will without evil is an illogical impossibility. Even though man has the capacity to commit great evil, he also has the capacity to perform great acts of goodness. According to Mackie, God does not eliminate first order evil such as pain because it is a logically necessary component for goods such as sympathy. God could have eliminated second order evils such as cruelty, but to do so would remove freedom of will. If God intervened in every evil, it would erode human responsibility, and the laws of nature.

III)Mackie's Critisism of Saint Augustine's Free- Will Defense

According to Mackie, the choice between robots who always do good or free men who can do good or evil is a false dilemma. There was an "obvious better possibility" in which God could have created beings who always act freely, yet nevertheless, always chooses to do good.

IV)Why God Permits Evil To Exist In the Worldi)Hick's "Soul- Making" Explanation For Evil's Existence: The world is a soul- making place. Man who is made in the image of god, but not in the likeness of God, is an incomplete being who must strive towards the perfect likeness and love of God. Qualities such as love, and courage would not make sense in a world without evil, because the world would be nothing more than a "play pen paradise." The existence of Evil is necessary in order to build character development of man into the likeness of God.

ii)Swinburne Explains The Advantages Of The Existence Of Evil:

according to Swinburne, there are advantages of a world in which free men face challenges, and have the capacity to affect others. The existence of evil, give men the opportunity to perform act which show men at their best. Many evils spur men into action. A world without evils, would be a world without which men could not show sympathy, forgiveness, compassion and self sacrifice. In conclusion, there is no easy proof to show the incompatibility between the existence of evil and God. It is the price of free actions that evil will exist The existence of evil is compatible with the existence of God and God's choice to create creatures with free will.

Free Will: Does it Exist :Does Free Will Exist?

Free Will Versus Determinism

I. Universal Determinism: According to the theory of universal determinism, every thing is governed by causal laws. Therefore if you knew all the properties of the universe(the world), you would be able to infallibly predict all future events. Any present event, including human behavior, is caused by an antecedent cause!

i. The Determinist Argument:

1. Every event must have a cause.

2. Human Actions are events.

3. Therefore, every human action is caused

4. So, determinism must be true.

ii. Evidence For Determinism

1. Science seems to eventually find a cause for everything.

2. We assume in everyday life that everything has a cause; we can not help but believe that every event has a cause. This belief is called the Issue of Universal Causality.

iii. Evidence Against Determinism Common sense tells us that we can change, we feel we are not compelled, we could have acted differently.iv. Soft Determinism: An Alternative? An action may result from having a reason that one could not change, but the reasons themselves are not considered actions. Therefore, as long as we are not coerced, we can have a free action. An act may be entirely determined, yet be free in the sense that it was voluntary and not coerced. Whether we are morally responsible or not, is determined depending on if the behavior is voluntary or involuntary. Refute: This theory is illogical; one can not have moral responsibility if reasons are determined. The libertarian, determinist and free will arguments differ, yet all uphold the paradigm that involuntary actions negate moral responsibility.

II. Free Will

i. The Free Will Argument:

1. The Argument of Moral Responsibility states that if determinism were true, no person would be able to change his actions, therefore no one could ever be held morally responsible for his own actions. Common sense tells us that we can change our actions by our own choice.

2. We can and have overcome our desires and inclinations. Both common sense and fact show that we can actively change our behavior. Determinist reply: We only perceive that we can change our actions and behavior.

3. We do not feel compelled to act. At the time of a decision, we feel we have had other choices. Determinist reply: Such feelings of control are illusions; we are just ignorant of all the irresistible forces acting upon us.

4. At a certain time we feel that we could have chosen to act differently.

Determinist reply: Our behavior is already determined by previous events. Therefore you can not change your behavior.

ii. The Implications of Determinism: Man becomes nothing more than a puppet.

III. Libertarianism: A compromise

i Libertarian Points:

1. We have free will in the sense that given the same previous conditions, one could have acted otherwise.

2. Agent Causality explains that the individual or agent is responsible for all actions even though the self itself, does not change.

3. Actions can be free and uncaused. If actions are caused, they are caused by inner states (the self). These inner states themselves are uncaused and unchanging.

ii. Argument:

1. Behavior and actions seem to be the outcome of personal deliberation.

2. It appears as if actions in fact are the result of such deliberation.

3. While determinists claim that actions are not the result of a person's deliberation, they have been unable to prove that pre-determined conditions actually cause all human behavior.

iii. Implications of Libertarianism While libertarianism avoids the puppet like man of the determinist, man is replaced with an even less human like image; an erratic, jerking phantom who behaves without without rhyme or reason.

The Final Summit by Andy Andrews

For those readers that enjoyed the inspirational fictional story by Andy Andrews, the Traveler's Gift, The Final Summit is a new inspirational novel that follows the life of the hero, David Ponder.  Aged, and overwhelmed with grief after the death of his wife, David learns that his life is not yet over and he still has an important work to accomplish.  His mission is to attend a summit with other individuals who are gifted- refered to as "travelers".  Through a series of unlikely and extraordinary encounters with historical as well as angelic personalities, the reader will be insprired by David's mission to save humanity which is "balanced on a precipice". In his journey, David learns (as well as the reader) that actual biblical events, such as they flood of the book of Geneisis were not simply fables or folk tales but actual world events with significance and purpose.  Although the skeptic or atheistic reader may dismiss  Andy Andrews' book as self serving religious propaganda, his fictional work is inspriational in the fact that it is based on the assumption that the bible is historical as well as the spiritual work of God.  Andrew's draws on historical facts to piece together a credible and motivating fictional piece of work.  For any reader interested in motivtional fiction, this would be a book that will not dissapoint.  As a blogger for booksneeze, I recieved a copy of this book from Thomas Nelson publishers for the purpose of writing this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.. 

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Doppleganger Chronicles: The First Escape By G.P. Taylor

As a blogger for Tyndale publishers I had the opportunity to review the graphic kids' novel, The Doppleganger Chronicles: The First Escape by G. P. Taylor. This new junior novel represents the new and popular genre of graphic novels- a hybrif between a full color comic book format and text novel.  The  ecclectic mix of comic book style cartoon art, illustrations as well paragraphs of text make this book visially appealing as well capturing the interest of the reader.  For anyone who enjoys comic books, and graphic novels- I would suggest this book. 

This particular book is the first of a series, whereas the story  takes place in an orphanage and centers around two twin girls- one who is adopted by a wealthy, eccentric evil spinster, while the other remains behind in the home for wayward girls.  As first of th the Doppleganger Chronicles series, this book focuses on a mystery where the remaining twin must escape to the aid of her sister.  The vivid descriptive details and well developed characters make this an engaging story in of itself.  The mixed media of text and graphics make this a unique book that may even capture the interest of parents as well!  In fact, the sophisticated language, sarcasm and irony may be appreciated more adults than by young children.  The intended readership of this book is the pre-teen/ younger teenaged reader. I rate this novel five starts, not only for its content and story line, but fot the unique presentation format.  As a blogger for Tyndale publishers I recieved this book for the purposes of writing this review.  The opinions reflected are my own and I was not required to write a positive review.