Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Here’s an odd one, but so wonderful (in my opinion).

I love grapefruit. They are so incredibly tasty, juicy and wonderful. I esspecially love the smell of pink grapefruit. It makes me happy.

What inspires this? I happened to be walking through the mall the other day looking for a barber when I discovered that Bath and Body Works was having a mega sale. I love good smells, so I went in to see if I could find something nice but not girly. I came out with grapefruit-scented soap. Just using it gives me an extra moment of pleasure each day.

Another great way to get your grapefruit fix: Jelly Bellies:

Advertisements

It’s been far too long, and the world is too full of good things not to share them. 

Today I’ve been thinking about a short story by James Baldwin called “Sonny’s Blues”, because it relates to a paper I just turned in for my world literature class (in an obscure way that not even I care about). 

[click here to see full text]

I first read this story a little over a year ago in a class required for my English minor. It surprised me by becoming my favorite thing we read that semester. 

As the story opens, the narrator’s brother–Sonny–has finally been busted for using/dealing heroin. We don’t meet Sonny yet because he goes to drug rehab. Not normally the kind of story that grabs my attention. 

The real story is about Sonny after he comes home. The narrator doesn’t trust him because of his past. Sonny has a hard time getting past other people’s perception of him, and we come to find out that Sonny still isn’t sure that he can beat this demon.

Baldwin brilliantly bypasses the question of whether or not Sonny overcomes his addiction. Instead, he focuses on the social problem: drug abuse. He doesn’t offer solutions, which we would like, but instead explores how it has affected Sonny’s life, humanizing the problem. At first I didn’t like this. I wanted to pass judgement against heroin use as pure evil, something detestable. It is, but Baldwin’s treatment of the issue reminds us that behind these “societal” problems are real people who have to struggle to overcome them personally.

Powerful, emotional, and thought provoking, Baldwin’s careful prose is a joy to read and rewards the thoughtful reader with a satisfying, enlightening, and thought-provoking ending. Highly recommended.

This is a fabulous movie. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Based on a true story, Gregory Peck plays Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty, and Irish monk trapped in the Vatican during the Nazi occupation of Rome. Unwilling to turn his back on anyone in need of help, he agrees to assist escaped prisoners of war avoid the Gestapo. Going against the Pope’s official position and even against his private council, O’Flaherty organizes an “underground railroad” in Rome to keep escapees safe. 

His actions first annoy Col. Herbert Kappler, head of the S.S. in rome. Then they infuriate him. Eventually, with immense pressure from Berlin, he becomes obsessive about stopping the monk. 

Gregory Peck (Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird) gives an outstanding performance as a devout, talented, witty, and athletic (yes, athletic) priest of the Vatican. Christopher Plummer (Capt. Von Trapp in The Sound of Music) plays a chillingly realistic German commander: the perfect family man and the perfect murderer. The interplay between the two actors is gripping.

The ending is incredible, intense, unexpected, and best of all: true. With just the right mix of action, drama, emotion, humor, morals, and old fashioned good vs. evil, this film is sure to please anybody. A real classic, worthy of this blog.

——

Rating: PG  (For war violence. Nothing graphic. Nothing glorified.)

Details: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0086251/

Buy: http://www.amazon.com/Scarlet-Black-Gregory-Peck/dp/B00008J2PG (~$9.99)

I just read a fabulous article from the Wall Street Journal about the current economic crisis: Click here to see article

How ironic that it is a Frenchman today that touts the virtues that America itself has seemed to forget in the midst of it’s political battles. It was also a Frenchman (DeTocqueville) who, in 1835 published a book about the very same economic principles. He praised America for wisely allowing the principle of self-interest to run its course within certain bounds.

In 1776, the United States signed the Declaration of Independence, espousing the highest ideas for human freedom, for a government’s true role: to protect the rights of the citizens, and pledging the “lives…fortunes…and sacred honor” of it’s best citizens, the founders, to make it come true. That same year, Adam Smith published his master work: “The Wealth of Nations.” Coincidence? I don’t think so.

I’m in a class right now that is in the middle of exploring the implications of our economy on our freedom and vice versa. Adam Smith suggested an impractical economy with zero government involvement: the Free Market. We live (theoretically) under capitalism, which has a limited role for government, essentially to maintain a predictable environment that facilitates honest business transactions.

DeTocqueville summarized the power of the Americans’ implementation of Adam Smith’s observations: by giving individuals freedom to pursue their own self-interest, they tend to act (collectively) in ways that promote the well-being of the entire society. Individuals gravitate to the place where they can best contribute to society. Trading freely, everyone can acquire more goods than they could alone. Because of everyone’s specialization, the entire economy produces more than it otherwise could. Resources are allocated efficiently. All of this happens without planning and without government encroaching on individual freedoms. In fact, government involvement can actually harm the system.

Take Fannie Mae for example. The following article (from the NY Times in 1999) reported on the precursors to our current economic crisis: Click here to see the article.

In summary, Fannie Mae took new interest in sub-prime loans. The Clinton administration wanted to extend home-ownership to minority groups. They used economic pressure to do it and broke the economic system in the process. Lenders had previously refused to extend “sub-prime” loans without a significant hike to their interest rates. This made it harder for people with poor credit to get a loan (including a disproportionate segment of minority groups). However, in a Capitalist system where lenders want to make money and compete for these loans, they only loan money to people that company statisticians can guarantee a profit on. Capitalistic, Fannie Mae would have bought loans as many loans as could guarantee a profit. Lenders thus lend on sound terms that benefit the company and thus benefit the whole economy. But, for political reasons, the basic Capitalistic principle of “self-interest” was violated in 1999. Because Fannie Mae is federally subsidized, part of their “self-interest” is preserving that federal subsidy. Clinton pressured them to buy sub-prime loans even though it was not in their direct, monetary self-interest. The administration didn’t see implications of their actions. Because Fannie Mae would buy sub-prime loans that were not a safe investment, lenders began extending non-secure credit to millions. It was in their self-interest to do so because Fannie Mae would buy the loans immediately, eliminating the lenders’ risk. The market quickly floods with new loans, lenders encourage EVERYONE to take out sub-prime loans at the beyond their income, the housing market booms as people buy houses, and housing costs increase. But sooner or later statistics catch up with us and we discover the reason why Fannie Mae didn’t buy sub-prime loans in the first place. Eventually, the house of cards falls betraying the best interests of the entire country, the entire economy. It happens because government involvement alters a company’s perception of today’s self-interest, betraying our entire economy.

Bottom line: government involvement (for political reasons) influenced a very large company to work counter to what its own self-interest, buying loans that statisticians could predict would not turn on a profit, and in doing so it left our entire economy to suffer the current economic crisis.

The unseen price of the same involvement is increased government power. As the government pulls power power to itself to prevent the crisis it’s own involvement created, it has greater potential to encroach on personal freedoms–in the name of preserving the economy–which will encroach on peoples’ freedom to act in their own self-interest, which distrubs the economy…you can see the cycle.

So what is bright and beautiful in this apparently dismal assessment? What justifies this political opinion being posted on this blog?

This is the bright spot: The principles on which both our nation and our economy are based support and strengthen each other. When our nation protects economic freedom to pursue individual self-interest, it protects and strengthens our freedoms. When we protect our personal freedoms, we protect our national economy. The principles of a capitalistic economy and a free society support and strengthen each other. If we really want to protect our economy and keep it both strong and stable, we can find the power to do that in the fundamental principles of our founding: government is created only to protect individual rights. If we confine our government and our leaders to their proscribed roles, we also protect our economic freedom. Each strengthening the other, we protect ourselves from the fate of Rome, Napolean’s France, and Cromwell’s England.

And both of these principles found themselves established in 1776. Coincidence? Yeah, right.

I want to share my favorite book. You know it must be something magnificent to top my list of books. I won’t spoil the plot, just give my thoughts and feelings about it so will want to read it too. 🙂

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

Front Cover: The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane was written by Kate Dicamillo, author of The Tale of Despereaux, which won the Newberry Medal. The story is simple and straightforward. Uncomplicated enough for a child, but deep enough to attract even an adult’s fragmentary attention.

Edward Tulane is a rabbit. He isn’t just any rabbit though. Edward is a very expensive china rabbit with real fur on his ears and whiskers on his nose. His wardrobe was tailored in France, and the miniature pocket watch in his coat pocket actually works. And Edward is very, very proud of himself.

As the story opens, Edward is owned and loved by a little girl, but Edward loves only himself. And then Edward goes on a journey.

Kate Dicamillo has created a genuine masterpiece in this book. The story is not about a china rabbit. It is not really a child’s story. In a way, it’s almost not fiction. The real point, the focus of the book is so real and so genuine that you forget about the china rabbit. You forget that it’s a picture book. You might even forget that you’re reading a book. The plot, while direct, simple, and honest, slowly weaves a profound, emotional climax.

My friend’s brother-in-law read the book to his kids. His wife told me that when they got near the end, he was crying. “Stupid book,” he said, wiping away the tears, “These people aren’t even real.”

What I take out of the book is very personal for me. While at the beginning I feel no connection to the arrogant rabbit, by the end I’ve seen his journey run far beyond the range of my personal experience. It’s hard to explain this part when I don’t want to spoil the plot for you, my friends reading this. I think what I will do is write two posts. This is simply to tell you that you absolutely must read the book. The other will contain my thoughts and feelings reading it, which you can compare to what you take from it.

So read this book. It takes only two hours. I have a hardcover copy which I bought to share, if you want to borrow it. If you’re not in Provo or not currently speaking to me, check the library, check the bookstore, whatever it takes. Find the book and read it. When you have, you might enjoy my more detailed comments.

~nate

Recently, I’ve been listening to Pandora while I work. Pandora is great because it quickly learns what music I want to listen to, so I can leave it alone to play nice background music while I work. Better yet, once it knows what I like, it introduces me to new songs, similar to what I like.

If you’ve never tried Pandora, you should. Go to pandora.com and sign up for a free account.

As much as I like Pandora, it isn’t “bright and beautiful” in its own right, and therefore not worth a post on my blog.

Listening to Pandora, I’ve found music that moved and inspired me, great stuff. I bookmark it but never have anyone to share it with. Out of my tremendous urge to share several bits of great music this post was born.

Abraham’s Theme by Vangelis This is a fabulous song from the movie Chariots of Fire. It plays during the scene where Abraham loses his first race (to Eric Little). The movie is wonderful and inspiring, and this little song is my favorite. from the movie.

Ending (Open Your Eyes) by Evening Ocean I was just about to block Evening Ocean from my radio station for disrupting my inner yang, but then this song came on and tickled my eardrums. Love it.

Dawn by Omar Lopez No idea where this song came from. Listen to this guy on his electric violin (yes, they make such a thing). I’ve listened to some of his other stuff, and it’s good enough, but this is my favorite.

Walk With You by Ryan Farish Sorry, that’s not a link. Unfortunately, Napster’s music sampling service doesn’t have samples of my favorite songs. Ryan Farish has a wide variety of instrumental music in many styles. Naturally, I prefer some over others. Three of my favorites are “Walk With You,” “Sunshine in the Rain,” and “Watch the Sky.” I can’t make links to the samples, so if you want to hear the full songs in all their glory, try adding a “Ryan Farish” radio station to Pandora.

That’s all I’ll do for today. Next time I have the itch to share music with you, I might save myself some time and let you find the tunes on your own.

~nate

This is the first post on my new blog, and so I feel obligated to explain myself and state my reasons for creating a blog in the first place.

My dad had suggested that I begin a blog for some time, but I felt that I had nothing to contribute. Admittedly, I’m not a fan of blogging pure noise. Without a purpose, I felt no need to blog.

Then, one day while in China, I discovered an amazing collection of photos at wunderground.com. One user in particular had incredible photos from Jordan, in the Middle East. He said that his purpose in taking and posting those photographs was to find beauty in the troubled Middle East and show it to everyone. I wanted to share with someone. Yet, being alone in China, there was nobody to share it with.

And I thought that young photographer’s goal was a worthy one, to find beauty and share it with everyone. As I sat there, inspired and glowing with my new discovery, but without someone else to light on fire, I realized I wanted to start this blog.

My purpose with this blog is to share the best, the brightest, and the most incredible of the good things on Earth. Whenever I find anything enlightening or uplifting, whenever I find something that inspires me to be something better, I’ll post it here for everyone to enjoy.

The name for my blog, “All Things Bright and Beautiful” comes from Cecil Alexander’s poem, which has become a popular Christian hymn, which describes my purpose beautifully:

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful:
The Lord God made them all.

He gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell
How great is God Almighty,
Who has made all things well.
(see full text)

Today, I want to share the photos at Weather Underground. With 600 new photos posted every day, you’ll never see them all. But I’ll point you to the editor’s picks, the gallery for the best and brightest of the beauty nature has to offer us. Click here to see today’s “editors’ picks.”

Here are a few examples of the “wunder photos” on their website:

Morning Sunburst

Vivid Thunder

Sunrise Lighthouse