Things That Make Me Smile No. 226: Art and Music

The Atelier des Lumières museum in Paris, France, offers a fascinating and immersive experience in art while still staying true to the artist’s vision. This video, made during their Van Gogh exhibit, gives some sense of their program, but is amazing all on its own.

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5 Interesting Links for 09-04-2020

Note: Videos may auto start with sound so be prepared.

Nature (Art)

This giant troll sculpture is impressive, as is knowing what it’s made of. I also enjoyed the glimpse into the philosophy and approach behind the construction. (Via Pinterest)

Management (Business)

Author and publisher Kristine Kathryn Rusch discusses the economic impact of COVID-19, both what we already know and what may still come. She gives some suggestions for making sure you’re in the best place possible to survive this.

Marine Animals (Evacuation)

The severity of California fires led to many evacuation orders, but the animals in the University of California at Santa Cruz’s Long Marine Laboratory posed some real challenges. Their trainers and the marine research community stepped up to get them to safety.

Fantasy (Fiction)

Boiled Bones and Black Eggs by Nghi Vo offers an evocative, fantastical world in this work of short fiction. The dead cross over the lives of the living, and while some take on the burden to move these ghosts along, the task is not always easy.

Solar Power (Innovation)

Cobb EMC, a not-for-profit electric cooperative in Marietta, Georgia, proved their understanding of alternative energy sources by building a garden with “smartflowers” to supply the power grid and a free ChargePoint station for electric car users. The flower petals are solar panels that follow the sun, then store away while the garden offers information about them to entertain while cars are charging. Learn more, and see the flowers in motion, in the article.

Trainee, Seeds Among the Stars, Book 2, Twitter Sharable

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Berry on Top by Valerie Comer

Berry on Top by Valerie Comer

From practically the first moment, this book brings on the tension between the main characters, Liz and Mason. At first, we only know something happened between them traumatic enough to make Liz abandon her life and her family to teach English in another country. They both shy away from thinking about it, leaving the reader with only hints brimming with possibilities, none of them good. Once the answer is revealed, it was not as bad as I suspected, but it doesn’t show their younger selves in a good light either. On the other hand, it means the present offers a chance to prove they’ve matured.

Characters are a strength in Valerie Comer’s writing, and Berry on Top is no different. The pain of knowing what happened, and hiding it from everyone, is real. It has consequences and wears on more than just their relationship. I enjoyed seeing them work out the complications of their circumstances while opening to new feelings. Sometimes I became frustrated, in a good way, when others made snap judgements of Liz because they didn’t know the full story. I wanted to defend her but could not.

Nor are the main characters the only ones to play a central part. Mason comes with twins who are as different from each other as they are adorable. Kids are never just part of the background for this author, and this time is true to that pattern with the kids complicating everything for their father and Liz.

One of the fun aspects of reading Valerie Comer’s romances is figuring out how these characters fit into the series and into the author’s shared universe. I recognized Liz early on, though not her exact place until her brother came into the picture. Similarly, there are seemingly random mentions that bring back key moments from the earlier books, gifts for long-term readers.

The question of forgiveness is the main theme, with Mason asking Liz for some at the same time he encourages her to forgive God. This is an inspirational romance and lives up to the faith aspects. Mason is not proud of his past for all it led to having the twins in his life. He connected with God some time ago and wants Liz to share in the strength and comfort he’s found there.

Liz grew up surrounded by faith. She has many biblical passages memorized even, but the words mean nothing to her. She’s closed herself off because God failed to protect her from that time in her past. The story has some black moments as she finds her way back to God and to Mason. Her distrust and anger are too strong to brush aside easily. I appreciated her growth path a lot because she came to accept responsibility for her part in what happened rather than pushing it off on anyone else.

The discussions of faith with various members of Green Acres and others on this journey offer some biblical interpretation I appreciated as much as the characters. When exploring the concept of absolution, especially, the characters’ discussion offered a possible solution for a theological sticking point of mine.

The question of habitual religion versus faith is another good question this book explores. Liz is a good example of this in the beginning, where she holds onto the trappings of her faith but has thrown away her belief in any of it. Her growth path involves, at least in part, relearning the meaning behind the ritual.

Still, faith and forgiveness are not enough. The novel really puts the characters through a wringer with personal, political, theological, and even weather-based disasters getting in the way. There’s no question they suffer for this second chance. And having been through all of that, when they do come together, it’s with faith in God and their love for each other as a shield against the doubts they’d lived with for so long. The book could have been much longer to explore the story. As it is, there are scenes (one in particular) that are offered only in summary when seeing them unfold would have been wonderful. Even with that piece existing only in summary, the book is well worth the time to read it.

I’ve come to expect a strong, Christian romance from Valerie Comer, one that explores the hard questions about faith and gets me thinking. This one is no different in those aspects while offering a new story with different problems. I am satisfied with the read and still pondering its questions almost a week later.

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Things That Make Me Smile No. 225: Animation

This 1976 animated “march of the dinosaurs” reminds me of seeing Disney’s Fantasia when I was young, an amusing connection as it turns out. I did some research only to discover this piece is part of a parody of that 1940 feature film. This 14-minute extract is a fantastical reinterpretation of evolution through adaptation set to Maurice Ravel’s Bolero from Bruno Bozzetto’s Allegro Non Troppo.

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Things That Make Me Smile No.224: A Jazzy Blues Composition

A friend of mine shared this 1968 jazzy blues composition recently, and it struck my fancy. I figured you might feel the same. Enjoy.

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