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By Nathan Bierma

Content & Context

The Books & Culture Weblog

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Timeline: December 2004

"There the wicked cease from troubling; and there the weary be at rest," Job says of the grave in Job 3:17. But in this life, there is no rest for the weary. In fact, one of the news media's cliché s for turmoil in the world is the word unrest, the clunky antonym for rest. Unrest prevailed in Ukraine in December, as thousands demonstrated in Kiev to protest what they saw as a faulty presidential election in their country, amid allegations that one of the candidates had been poisoned

Iraq prepared for next month's elections in the midst of more violence, including a massive suicide bomb in Mosul, while Prime Minister Tony Blair made a surprise visit to Baghdad. Israelis and Palestinians made new plans to talk about their own decades-old unrest. In the United States, a fan sued the not-so-professional basketball players who attacked him in one of sports' worst-ever brawls, and reports of a superstar's steroid use sullied the home run record he stands ready to break. Other achievements lost their luster in December; literally so in the case of Frank Gehry's recently opened concert hall in Los Angeles. Residents, workers and drivers in the vicinity complained of the glare from the inventive structure's many angles, and the city sent sandblasters to dull its surface. But elsewhere, the work of human hands was a cause for triumph and a bridge across divisions; especially in France, where the world's tallest bridge was officially opened.

Renata Tebaldi, one of the greatest opera stars of the 20th century, died in December at the age of 82. British linguist George Campbell, who could speak and write in 44 languages, died at the age of 92. Paul Edwards was the editor of The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, covering everything from "absolute" to "Zoroastrianism." Rollin D. Hotchkiss was a pioneer of genetic research in the 1940s. Pauline Gore was the wife of a longtime Tennessee senator and the mother of a U.S. vice president. As an entrepreneur and philanthropist, Amway co-founder Jay Van Andel remembered his religious roots. Sidonie Goossens, principal harpist of the BBC Symphony Orchestra from 1930 through 1980, died in December at age 105.

Timeline: November 2004


From The Scotsman:

MILLAU, France — IT STANDS taller than the Eiffel Tower, is longer than the Champs Elysees and is destined to become almost as popular a French landmark. The Millau Viaduct, the world's highest bridge, was inaugurated yesterday by the French president, Jacques Chirac. Designed by the British architect Lord Foster, the slender white structure in the Tarn valley will provide a motorway link between Paris and Spain, easing congestion in the Massif Central area. The highest of the 1.5-mile bridge's seven concrete pillars stands at 1,125ft, 62ft higher than the Eiffel Tower. Mr Chirac hailed it as a "marvel of art and architecture", adding: "[It] is a magnificent example, in the long and great French tradition, of audacious works of art, a tradition begun at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries by the great Gustave Eiffel."

From the New York Times:

MAPLEWOOD, N.J.* — There probably isn't an ideal time for a school district to decide to ban all Christmas music from the winter concerts at its schools. But after a month of the Great Christmas Carol Controversy in the South Orange/Maplewood School District, all sides agree on at least one thing: The district picked a particularly dicey time to try. … The issue here is not new. In the early 1990's, after concerns that a high school chorus's concert was essentially a celebration of Christmas, the board adopted a policy … and this year new guidelines were drawn up for its enforcement in student performances. … When the new guidelines were announced on Oct. 29, applying even to instrumental renditions, the controversy was on, fanned by media reports; threatened lawsuits by an Arizona-based religious-right organization, Alliance Defense Fund; and by outrage from at least a part of the local population.

Best of Digest

The Digest department—like this blog as a whole—exists to prove that not everything on the Web is ephemeral and shallow. Here are some of the best counterexamples linked here over the past year:
  • The first two objections to considering Jane Austen as a public theologian are that "she does not seem much interested in things public, and she does not seem much interested in things theological," writes Peter Leithart in his forthcoming book Miniatures and Morals: The Christian Novels of Jane Austen, excerpted in the current First Things. But an exploration of one of Austen's least popular novels, Mansfield Park, reveals Austen's efforts to trace "insidious individualism precisely to the marginalization of the Church in the life of England, the failure of clergy to be the makers of English manners, and the consequent intrusion of other forces as the makers of manners," Leithart says. Austen even hit some Augustinian notes while reflecting on memory and self-awareness. Full story While some of his suggested theological themes seem overextended, Leithart has something to reveal about Austen's work even to her avid readers. (2/16)
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