Scrivener and Ulysses are examples of writing applications that are very different from your usual text editors such as Microsoft Word. They do not stress layout, tables, or other word processor power elements; instead, they focus on text that can be outputted in various ways, depending on your needs.

Scrivener and Ulysses are really something like massive writing apps. They allow you to create projects with multiple sub-documents and, in the case of Scrivener, various file types as research. This is useful if you are creating a book, novel, class, series of lectures, and so on. Everything can be in one place, easily editable, instead of switching between various files and folders.

You can sort of get this effect with folders, but it’s not nearly as fluid or simple. If you use a folder and want to move a section from one chapter to another, for example, you would have to carefully work with 2 documents, switching between them. (Scrivener has a really handy “append” feature for this, by the way.) It’s hard to see the various sections in relation to one another, because Word is oriented around the single document structure. It doesn’t work well with a large document with many sections that require constant navigation.

You could also use Evernote or a similar app that allows for multiple sub-documents, but it’s not a great writing environment for polished material. It doesn’t have pagination and footnotes, for example.

Scrivener and Ulysses are so interesting because they are a genuinely different way of writing, as they consider the scope of the project from the outset, and allow for the creation of these sections of material, such as chapters or sessions.

The raw power of Scrivener and Ulysses to hold lots of sub-documents is part of the challenge to using them. It’s very easy to throw lots of ideas into them, and pretty soon the project is unmanageable. Speaking from experience, this is a terrible temptation and problem. Like a good to-do manager, you should keep the project as lean as possible; just because you can add nearly infinite amounts of data does not mean you should. Be circumspect with your ideas and notes, or be prepared for several days of cleaning up.

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AuthorKevin Taylor

Jerusalem is Alan Moore’s crazed love letter to his life-long hometown of Northampton, England. The massive novel spans much of the town’s history and colorful characters, framed within a particular family across many centuries, an extended vision of the afterlife, and an art show.

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It is useful to compare the novel to Moore’s earlier novel, Voice of the Fire. Both novels focus heavily on vignettes (many chapters and characters are episodic, like individual comic book issues). Both novels focus on Northampton and its ancient and modern history, larger than life characters, the importance of language, characters walking a geographic space and ruminating deep thoughts, and the odd inter-connectedness of things in time and space. Jerusalem goes further in many ways, as it experiments with poetry and drama, and there is a larger plotline connecting Jerusalem that Voice of the Fire does not attempt.

Jerusalem is apocalyptic; it reveals a hidden reality and a hidden truth, that forces are at work to make Northampton (and, presumably, every place) into something redemptive and empowering, despite the realities of poverty, poor civic leadership, ignorance, drugs, and violence. Moore is a long observer of his hometown, and painfully traces its decay and desperation in modern times. As a hippie, he yearns for the creativity of the 1970s and even earlier centuries, for visionaries such as William Blake. He raises thoughtful critiques of modern economies based on this neutral concept of money, the way the poor are consistently downtrodden and without a voice, and the struggle of being artistically creative in such a world. (Moore bravely digs into identity politics, pointing out that it’s always done from a place of privilege, and the poor do not have the luxury of such identities and politics.) All things are deeply connected and never truly lost, which is part of the theme of the book (and an idea he explored in Unearthing, as well as with Doctor Manhattan in Watchmen). This idea of eternalism is significant given the novel’s repeated concern is urban blight and renewal, which destroyed Moore’s own childhood home.

Jerusalem is rooted in a visionary dream, like Dante and Blake. For Moore, there is a higher, Einsteinian plane of existence, outside of our four-dimensional space-time, which enables his larger plot of angels, invisible connections and structures, and the afterlife. But was it all just a dream? There is a feeling of being cheated, that one has spent so long in this upper world that may not exist at all. With all the time the novel spends in the afterlife called Mansoul and the work of the angels in constructing Northampton’s connections to Blake’s heavenly city of Jerusalem, I did expect the novel to climax with some sort of apocalyptic battle, or a final building of Jerusalem that would manifest its hidden realities and bridges. But Moore oddly abandons that ultimate cosmic vision and angelic builders, leaving the novel’s climax with the art show and more current characters. It feels a bit limp after the grandeur of the middle part of the novel; while dabbling for so long in the supernatural and the cosmic, it turns sharply prosaic.

The opening chapters are really lovely prose, evocative and meditative. The larger middle section of the novel dealing with Mansoul and the terrific, mischievous childhood gang (the Dead Dead Gang) are gripping, as is the pun-ridden, linguistic insanity of Lucia Joyce, James Joyce’s mentally ill daughter (“Etes clare tlu ci dottthe-haws missintentified her”: It’s clear to see that he has mis-identified her, p. 893). There are great chapters in different voices, such as a sad, lonely political villain, a deranged actor, and a homeless ghost. There are great elements of forgotten history, including Northampton’s first resident of color, the deathmongers who delivered babies and prepared corpses for burial, the Destructor incinerator, the Northampton castle, council flats, and the linguistic nuances of the Northampton. The glimpses into Moore’s mind are engaging, with lots of presumably autobiographical material. Moore has been a writer for some 40 years, with periods of commercial success with DC Comics and then quieter years as an independent writer, and characters such as Alma Warren and the struggling poet Benedict Perrit trace his struggles to be creative despite resistance, Hollywood, and urban decay. These are fascinating glimpses into his own mind and thoughts on his art.

One of Moore’s consistent interests throughout his career is in words and language, in his understanding of magic as creative linguistic possibility. He has experimented with language before, as in the Voice of the Fire where he writes as a neolothic settler, and he returns to some of these themes here. Language, like magic, imagines reality, constructs reality, and it is language that is the true magic and the true magical power. This shines forth in Mansoul, with its odd turn of phrases (where once must learn to talk anew), and with Lucia Joyce. Moore is a gifted writer, with a tremendous capability for beautiful prose.

The novel has its frustrations. Physically, it’s an unwieldy book to manage, with small print and thin paper that does not make for the best experience (the 3-volume paperback edition may be better in this regard). The cover is fantastic, considering Moore drew it himself and it reflects people and stories from the book, but it’s small and difficult to see; I think it would’ve worked better as the frontispiece across two pages. At times there is a lot of over-explanation, as the mechanics of the afterlife are established (one can travel through time in the afterlife, which enables Moore to explore the history of Northampton through his characters). At times, it does feel like many of the characters are simply mouthpieces for Moore’s own political and economic thoughts. There are similar conclusions spoken by various protagonists about the failures of the modern world, and it all ends up sounding like Moore. There is also a strange moral laxity amid the pages, as Moore wants everyone to be forgiven everything. Yet then where is the basis for Moore’s moral outrage against grasping politicians, the destruction of the Northampton castle, and the constant oppression of the poor Northamptonians who live in the Boroughs?

Jerusalem is a terrific, long read, and one that is fun for new and old Moore fans. It’s not his best work, which is to be found in From Hell, Providence, Watchmen, and The Voice of the Fire. But it is Moore being a mature Alan Moore, thinking deeply about our world, its complexities, its violence, and its losses.

Jerusalem
$20.21
By Alan Moore
Posted
AuthorKevin Taylor

One of the many things that Apple gets right is putting technology into people’s hands to achieve things. We see this in their ads, where people are exercising, making a video, capturing special moments with someone else. The technology is not front and center, but ancillary to the human moments of family, friends, and creating something. There’s that emotional connection that so many feel to their Apple devices, and we get those sorts of connections in great commercials like this one.

You can see the difference in other technology advertisements. The people in ads from Spectrum and Verizon seem lonely, cut off, or distracted by technology. They are in a room with other people, but they are wearing headphones, or they are immersed in a screen by themselves. They are not sharing, connecting, or creating, but escaping. This is what Apple wants to avoid (even if it happens in real life, in restaurants and all sorts of places where kids and adults are tuned out).

I see the difference in the Apple Store as well. Apple employees never demonstrate the technology for you, for example. Instead, they get you to engage with an iPad or MacBook, and let you discover and connect with the device. In contrast, when I was at the Microsoft Store last year, the nice but geeky employee quickly commandeered the Surface Pro from me, and then demonstrated what all it could do. This left me feeling marginalized and helpless. The technology wasn’t empowering me or gaining my confidence, it made me feel small, the way technology in the 1980s and 1990s often did for many people.

Apple has made a conscious shift away from manuals, a technological elite, or a demonstration model. Instead, the focus is on engagement, discovery, fun, and empowering our creativity. This is part of why Apple products, and the Apple Store, are simply fun. Their empower us, as a means to an end, and not an end in and of themselves.

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AuthorKevin Taylor

I’m using Bruce Shelley’s Church History in Plain Language for the second time, and it’s the kind of book you appreciate all over again. (Ryan Reeves was right to recommend this book to me.) There aren’t many introduction to church history books that are as well paced; most are either too simple, with lots of tables and boxes, or too complex (the dreaded Justo Gonzalez volumes, that I and other grad students struggled with). In contrast, Shelley reveals his thoughtful teaching experience in his choices and style. He makes smart assumptions, such as people are more interesting than complicated movements and causes. “Without ignoring ideas, I have tried to wrap thoughts in personalities, because I assume most readers are interested in meeting other people” (p. xii). His writing is crisp and has momentum: “From years of teaching I have also concluded that clarity is the first law of learning” (p. xii). Chapter 1 opens with, “Christianity is the only major religion to have as its central event the humiliation of its God” (p. 3), which is a clear and interesting sentence – who wouldn’t want to read on?

This is not to say the book is without imperfections. He neglects the American civil rights movement completely, which seems odd given the important role churches played in those pivotal decades. His Protestant, evangelical bias also strongly pops up rom time to time, as when he states that the monastic lifestyle is unnatural and flawed (p. 132), or that Scholastic theology reached too far (p. 213). He has little sympathy for medieval or modern Catholicism, and thinks of Christian faith as an inward, spiritual status of grace versus law. I don’t blame him for having a voice and a bias, but a bit more generosity and awareness would be nice. Part of the issue is the success of the book; he has a Protestant, evangelical audience in mind, but it has found a wider readership. Despite these frustrations (which can be thoughtfully addressed as part of the classroom), it remains the best book for introducing church history.

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AuthorKevin Taylor

Recent decades have shown an interest among Biblical scholars in exploring the influence of Greek tragedy on the New Testament and the early church. The influence of Greco-Roman culture, including the idea and power of tragic literature, was pervasive at this time. Although there are no direct quotations of Greek tragedy in the New Testament, nor a direct linkage, that does not mean that tragic motifs and influence are not present. Just as the Greek language and words influence and shape the Bible, it is quite plausible that Greek literature and style would influence the Biblical narrative and its interpretation.

Jeff Jay,’s The Tragic in Mark: A Literary-Historical Interpretation explores tragedy as a “mode” (versus an explicit use of the tragic genre), and argues that “early Jewish narratives that are tragic in mode are actually quite extensive and, furthermore, belong within a broader Jewish effort to compose and accommodate Greek tragedy” (p. 110). There are “fundamental affinities that the story of Jesus shared with tragedy” (p. 17), and Jay builds on Gilbert G. Bilezikian’s The Liberated Gospel: A Comparison of the Gospel of Mark and Greek Tragedy.

Other scholars exploring tragedy and the New Testament are Jo-Ann A. Brant and Courtney Friesen. Brant argues for the presence of Greek tragedy in John’s Gospel (Dialogue and Drama: Elements of Greek Tragedy in the Fourth Gospel). Friesen’s Reading Dionysus: Euripides’ Bacchae and the Cultural Contestations of Greeks, Jews, Romans, and Christians argues for the reception of Euripides’ Bacchae in the ancient world, including the Acts of the Apostles and church fathers. Michael Cover is publishing an upcoming article on Philippians 2:6-11 and Euripides’ Bacchae.

This interest in the Bible and tragedy develops an ongoing relationship between tragedy and Christianity, but from a historical and Biblical perspective, and separate from the influence of Hegel, Balthasar, and Donald MacKinnon.

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AuthorKevin Taylor