Going Offline

This column was published on UPI’s Religion and Spirituality Forum on June 25, 2007.
In the middle of the night, on the Thursday before Holy Week this year, my internet service provider went out of business, quietly and without warning. I checked my email before going to bed, and when I got up the next morning, my computer wouldn’t connect to the internet. At work later that morning I discovered no website at the old url; a phone call connected me to a simple message: “your internet service provider is out of business. Have a nice day.”

Here is a shocking question for someone accustomed to seamless connectivity: what do you do when you lose your ability to surf the web, to send and receive emails, to participate in the electronic age? Continue reading

Book Review: A Thousand Splendid Suns

This column, which ran on UPI’s Religion and Spirituality Forum, is written with gratitude to Gene Hewitt, who gave me both of Khaled Hosseini’s novels and who took me to a staged production of The Kite Runner at San Jose State University. Everyone’s lives should be filled with such literate and kind-hearted friends.

Like most fans of Khaled Hosseini’s debut novel The Kite Runner, I was afraid to pick up his newly-released second novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns. I was among the millions of readers around the world who found myself slightly dehydrated from the shedding of tears while reading The Kite Runner’s tale of redemption and forgiveness set against the horrors of war and the struggles of immigration. It has been a few years since I read The Kite Runner, and the story still haunts me.

Two weeks ago a friend of mine gave me A Thousand Splendid Suns and I began to read the book completely expecting to be disappointed. I was sure that Khaled Hosseini’s second novel either would be a The Kite Runner sung in a different key, or it would be pathetic nonsense, having us all wish that Hosseini had taken up Harper Lee as a role model, and returned to his medical practice.

But I was not disappointed. Continue reading

Tintin and the Moral World of Hergé

This column was published on June 4, 2007 on UPI’s Religion and Spirituality forum.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007 was a day that came and went without too much incident nearly two weeks ago. This much I remember: I took my son to work with me so that my wife could recover from a minor bit of outpatient surgery and I had a relatively productive day despite the fact that my son is just a month shy of his second birthday and likes to climb bookshelves.

I wish I had known that May 22 of this year was the centennial anniversary of the author who, more than any other, has shaped my moral character.

Georges Remi, the son of a children’s clothier, was born a hundred years ago in Belgium. He began his literary career working for a fascist magazine where, under the nom de plume Hergé, he introduced the world to my childhood hero—OK, I should be honest here: he’s still my hero—Tintin. Continue reading