Book review:
The Gospel According to Lost

The Gospel According to Lost - coverI’ll admit, I gave up on Lost a while ago. I am the type of person who likes resolution, closure, answers—and Lost is all about mystery, questions, and complications. I thoroughly enjoyed the first few seasons I watched—the storytelling was excellent and the characters intriguing—but I grew frustrated that the mysteries were never solved! In fact, they became more complex as each new layer was revealed. And the amount of time in between seasons made it difficult for me to remember the threads of all the story lines.

But Chris Seay’s book, The Gospel According to Lost, has persuaded me to participate in the show again. Seay makes a convincing case that Lost is not only a good story, but it is a rich tapestry of cultural, philosophical, and religious truths, presented in a totally engaging and potentially life-changing way.

Seay’s book devotes a chapter to each of the main characters—Hurley, Sayid, Kate, Sawyer, Jack, Locke, Mr. Eko, Sun and Jin, Ben, and Jacob. In each chapter he compiles all the significant details revealed about that character’s background over five seasons, which I found incredibly helpful! Seay also points out details I would never have noticed on my own—the ways the characters reflect their Biblical namesakes, the Biblical artwork in some of the flashbacks, the fact that so many of the characters have been hurt by their fathers. In comparing the stories of Lost‘s various characters to characters in the Bible, Seay helps me think about them in new ways. I find myself less frustrated by the lack of resolution and more willing to experience Lost as an ongoing story—like life.

Perhaps Seay says it best in the Prologue of his book:

Lost is not just a television show…. The story, which has blossomed into a marathon of cultural, literary, scientific, and religious allusions, offers to its faithful adherents ideas worth pondering, books worth reading, scientific theories worth exploring, and ideas that very nearly burn a hole in our pockets. Lost, in all its illustrative, complex glory, demands that we dialogue, research, meet ourselves in the characters, and share our latest discoveries with one another.

In fact, isn’t that what we dreamed television would do? Early in its history we envisioned families watching quality programs together, laughing together, learning together. How long was it before those lofty goals diminished into the glorified inanity of shows like Two and a Half Men?

Even the best TV show is no replacement for real relationships and real involvement. But Chris Seay’s book makes me wonder if perhaps a show like Lost can equip us to recognize our own demons, to care for complicated people, and to live in harmony with the One who came “to seek and to save what was lost.” (Luke 19:10)

What do you think? Is that too much to hope for from a TV show? Or am I only trying to justify my preference for staying on the couch instead of making disciples?

Review: I love my Canon ELPH digital camera!

I bought a new Canon PowerShot SD1200IS Digital ELPH camera in preparation for my family vacation this week, and I have to tell you, I love it!

I am by no stretch of the imagination a professional photographer, so this review will not include any technical jargon. I’m sure there are many advanced features of this camera that are very helpful and impressive, but I didn’t need any of them to take fabulous action shots, gorgeous scenics, and flattering portraits this week. The ELPH is that easy to use.

Through the windshield
Through the windshield

I inaugurated my ELPH in the car the morning we left. My first vacation photo was taken through the windshield of my moving Honda. Although I was traveling at highway speeds, the clarity of the shot was excellent, capturing not only the cottony clouds and azure sky, but also the large bug splat on the windshield.

Swans at dusk
Geese at dusk

This second photo was taken later that evening, just before sunset. The geese shown are similar in color to the water, and low light could have made this a muddy, indiscernible image. But the ELPH handled it beautifully and artistically. A few minutes later, it also rendered the Traverse City sunset (below) in all its glowing glory. Although there were no clouds that night to add visual interest and color variations, the ELPH captured the vibrancy that was there. And all I needed to do was push a button.

Sunset on the bay
Sunset on the bay

Throughout the week we dealt with sunny weather, rain, and wind, and I took photos standing still, riding my bike, and kneeling in the sand. They all turned out bright and crisp. Those of you who are familiar with print production realize that a photo that looks nice in a blog post may not be high enough quality or resolution to reproduce as the cover of a coffee table book, and I haven’t tested any of my recent photos as print projects yet, so I can’t speak to that. But I can tell you that my camera was set at the second highest setting—2816 x 2112—and the JPEGs it created are all about 1.5–2.0mb. The highest camera setting is 3648 x 2736, and I would have used that setting, but I wasn’t sure how many images of that size I could fit on my 8gb memory card. (I hadn’t brought my laptop with and would not have been able to offload images to free up space if needed.)

Note the variations of color in sky and sea
Note the variations of color in sky and sea
Clear enough to read the sign

My only dissatisfaction with my new ELPH camera is that I’m required to use Canon’s Image Browser software (included) to download my photos to my computer. My previous camera was a Sony CyberShot, and I liked being able to just plug it into my Mac and have it show up as a disk on my desktop, where I could simply drag the photos I wanted to the appropriate folder. This is a minor complaint, to be sure, but it’s worth mentioning because everything else about the ELPH is so streamlined and simple. UPDATE: I now use iPhoto to organize and store all my photos, and I’ve set my Mac to use iPhoto as the default program whenever I plug in my ELPH.

Interesting lighting captured beautifully
Interesting lighting captured beautifully

The ELPH is conveniently sized to fit in a pocket or purse. Theoretically, you could whip it out, turn it on, and take a shot—all with one hand.

So if you’re looking for a digital camera that’s easy to use and produces beautiful images, take a look at the Canon ELPH. I love mine!

UPDATE: I took my ELPH again in 2010 when I vacationed with my family on Florida’s gulf coast. The blog I posted of that trip is not a review of the camera, but it does show more of what the ELPH can do.

Book review follow-up:
The Shadow of the Wind, audiobook

written by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
translated by Lucia Graves
read by Jonathan Davis

Last week I reviewed The Shadow of the Wind before I had completely finished listening to it, and since closure was something I mentioned I was longing for, I promised I would blog again after finishing the book—so you all can have closure too!

The book ended well, and during those final 90 minutes I thought of one other element that made the audiobook such a rich experience: the background music. Throughout the story there are certain somewhat random moments that are accompanied by a minute or two of piano music that gently fades in and then fades back out again. The music is always perfectly suited to what’s going on in the story at that time, and it enhances the script without ever overpowering it.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that all of these instrumentals are original compositions by the author. In fact, Zafón was a musician before he was a writer. In an interview with Barnes&Noble he says music and books are the two things he can’t live without. I think it’s nice that audiobooks give him a forum for combining these two passions elegantly.

If you’re interested in hearing some of Zafón’s music, there are a few tracks you can download for free from his website. Based on the names of the tracks, I’m assuming these are ones that turn up in the audiobook. Give them a listen and let me know what you think!

 

Book review:
The Shadow of the Wind, audiobook

ShadowOfTheWind

written by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
translated by Lucia Graves
read by Jonathan Davis

I started writing this review last week, when I was about half-way through the 19-hour audiobook. At the time, I was so engrossed in the power of the audio version that I couldn’t imagine that reading the words on paper (the old-fashioned way!) would create the same experience for me. Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s story is captivating—a 10-year-old boy becomes the caretaker of an almost-forgotten book, a book that transports him when he reads it and endangers him when he tries to find out more about its author.

But just as important, Jonathan Davis’ reading of the work is, in a word, perfect. Each character comes to life with a different accent or pitch or rhythm, making me feel as if I’m actually meeting them or watching them on-screen. Zafón gives many of them idiosyncratic phrases, and Davis interprets these with humor and charm. I’m not sure I would have noticed them were I simply reading them on my own.

The translation, too, is artful. The story is set in Spain, and that setting affects how the characters relate to each other. Yet Lucia Graves manages to convey the emotions and meanings in English while maintaining the Spanish flavor and charm. Curious Villager also gives a “shout out” to Graves in her April 18, 2009, review of the book.

This book is so well-written, so well-translated, and so well-read, that a week ago I was wishing it wouldn’t end! But I have to confess that tonight, as I began the last section, I was starting to feel impatient. The story drags on just a little bit too long, I think, with just a little too much tragedy. I’m ready for some closure, and I’m hoping the last 90 minutes restore the wonder and anticipation I was feeling at the very beginning and throughout most of the story.

I’ll let you know how it ends for me! In the meantime, you can read other enthusiastic reviews and a more thorough synopsis at Amazon.com, but for the cheapest audiobook download price you may want to use iTunes.