Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A pair of book recommendations

Normally I would only recommend books or music to specific people who(m?) I know would enjoy them, but I have two book recommendations that I think just about anyone who might come across this blog would enjoy.

1. What Americans Really Believe, by Rodney Stark. I haven't actually read this one yet -- only skimmed it -- but it looks really interesting. It's based on results from the Baylor Religion Survey, but written in a very lay-friendly manner. Many of the chapters bust myths. For instance, the survey found that megachurches actually offer more intimate community than small congregations do. Who knew? I've written much more on the Survey and the book here, but I think it's a nice, fairly light, entertaining read.

2. Red Letter Christians, by Tony Campolo. I got to hear Tony Campolo speak on campus last week, and my memory of him as one of the best speakers I've ever heard was reaffirmed. In this book (which I just finished), he tackles a bunch of issues and viewpoints generally more emphasized by "liberals" (as opposed to the religious right). He makes the point that Christians need to realize that, as my friend Mike loves to say, Jesus is neither a Republican nor a Democrat. 

For instance, Campolo says the Bible certainly emphasizes the sanctity of life, but notes that that issue doesn't stop at birth -- that the idea not only applies to abortion, but other issues regarding poverty. My big nitpick is that in the book, he seems to assume that the Church can't solve issues regarding poverty, because we don't/won't give enough, and so the government must tackle those for us. He tempered that in the speech I heard, urging Christians to help more in addition to supporting programs for those less fortunate.

I don't necessarily agree with everything he writes in the book, but he certainly made me re-examine my thoughts (and what the Bible has to say) on a lot of issues, and I think the same would apply for just about anyone I know reading this. So check it out!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Disaster Movie of the Week...

Hey guys, I wanted to update you on why there haven't been any installments of my "Disaster Movie of the Week" Review. We cleaned out the $5 bin at Walmart!! We kept hoping they would get more, but it seems they have not in the last couple months. As soon as we find some more, we'll get that going again. Stay tuned!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Joseph's third birthday

While most of Texas was worried about where Hurricane Ike was headed a week or so ago, we were driving from Waco to Austin to celebrate our nephew Joseph's third birthday (and also my mom's birthday!).

Thankfully, the weather didn't hit us bad (Waco officially got 1/4 of a inch of rain, and Austin saw only blue skies all day) and we had a good time. Hope y'all enjoy the pictures! (Also, this video of Joseph and Elizabeth talking to Orbit.)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

How to write an article for a magazine

So my friend Andrew challenged me to write a blog post about "how to write an article for a magazine." As most of you probably know, I've spent the past year as an editor/writer for Baylor Magazine after 3.5 years at AAA World magazine in Philly.

I don't pretend to be an expert on magazine writing -- heck, one of the few journalism classes I didn't take at Baylor was "magazine writing" -- but the best key I've found to a good feature article is letting the subject(s) tell the story.

My two most recent features, "Concerning the Soul" (Baylor Magazine, Summer '08) and "The Art of Football" (BM, Fall '08) are good examples of that. The Spiritual Life story required several hours of interviews with a number of people, while the Briles story came almost entirely from one sit-down interview with the subject. But in both cases, I prepared questions that covered all the possible angles I might want to include in the story, did the interview, then wove the answers together by interspersing my own text to connect one quote to another, filling in any necessary blanks or holes.

Sometimes that text is needed to cover something the interviewees didn't describe, and sometimes it's just to summarize their text. It's also frequently just for transition from one topic to another.

That's the best way I know to explain it. For me, the interview is the hard part; once I've got that done, the rest of it usually writes itself -- particuarly if the subject interviews well. Hope that helps!

I guess I might as well tag on the links to my features from the latest issue of the magazine. Here ya go; happy reading!
  • The Art of Football -- my first-ever cover story! A feature on new head football coach Art Briles.
  • In Their Own Words -- I compiled this selection of journal entries and looks back from students who went on Baylor-sponsored mission trips this summer. Pretty powerful, I think (their experiences, not my work).

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Hurricane Ike

Just because this is a quick way to update folks all over... Hurricane Ike was not fun for Texas, but Waco seems to have been generally spared beyond getting some rain.

We headed out for Austin this morning around 9 to be with my sister to celebrate my nephew and my mom's birthdays as previously planned. Drove through some rain and some stiff winds the first hour of the trip, but the second half was smooth sailing. I'm not sure it rained a drop in Austin. We got back tonight around 9, and our house seems fine.

My mom left Houston Thursday afternoon to stay with my sister, slightly ahead of plans. A neighbor checked out my mom's house for her (inside and out) this afternoon. Some water blew in under the front door (it's not sealed well and has been a problem even in lesser storms), and the fence is probably down (the neighbor didn't say, and it was weak). But other than that, I think it's generally fine (though without power, like most of Houston). She'll probably head back to Houston in the next couple days to take care of stuff (she left in a hurry, so the fridge is full of food, and the cat is still there), but then if they're going to be without power for awhile, I hope she'll
either head back to Austin or Waco. They're warning that it could be as much as a month before all of the area gets power back.

So, that's our situation. Hope all is well with you and yours.