Grassroots News

Mixed Media
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If getting your news from one website is good, then getting your news from hundreds of websites must be better. That’s the thinking behind news aggregators—immensely popular websites that pull together stories from all over the world and present them on a single page.

The most famous aggregator is Google News. Selecting the “news” button on Google’s main page gives you dozens of links divided into subtopics such as national and international news, sports, science, and technology.

In Google’s case, news stories are chosen by editors. Other aggregators, however, list headlines suggested by users themselves. Of these, the two most popular are www.digg.com and www.fark.com.

Digg is part news site, part social networking site. Visitors to Digg can submit headlines, vote on the articles’ relevance, and comment on them. In the spirit of democracy, the stories that receive the most votes appear on the front page of the site.

If Digg is democratic, Fark is anarchic. Headlines are submitted by users and selected by moderators not only for their newsworthiness, but for wit and originality. (One recent example: “Bear in Alaska bites woman. Did she taste bad? I dunno, Alaska.”)

Fark is most notable, however, for its comments section. Members of the site love to engage in wide-ranging debates about the news stories listed. Not all of the debate is civil or informative, but discussion threads about current events, politics, and religion are often filled with unexpected and impressive insights.

In particular, religious discussions on Fark present an opportunity for Christians to interact with atheists, agnostics, and secular humanists. If you do so, however, expect to be challenged, taunted, and tested. Fark—like the real world—is messy and filled with diverse and strong opinions.

Of course, to paraphrase Matthew, if anyone doesn’t welcome you or listen to what you say, you can always click away from that website and shake its dust off your feet.

The Night of the Gun: A Reporter Investigates the Darkest Story of His Life—His Own

by David Carrreviewed by Wayne Brouwer

Recent fictitious biographies have sold millions. Journalist Carr feared similar lapses of memory or heroic self-posturing would portray him as better than he actually was. Seeking out people whom he hurt and folks who walked with him through his darkest times of addiction, self-destruction and recovery, Carr interviewed them on camera to provide multiple witnesses and a closer reading of the truth. What emerged is a powerful, “can’t put it down” book of middle-class suburban addictions and the painful road to finding hope. (Simon & Schuster)

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

by David Wroblewskireviewed by Sandy Swartzentruber

Edgar Sawtelle is a boy born mute, but his story is achingly eloquent. Edgar’s grandfather creates and trains a new breed of dog that brims with intelligence, compassion, and loyalty. Edgar grows up among these dogs and develops a deep connection with them. When his father dies suddenly, Edgar’s world spins out of control with only the dogs to ground him. Inspired by Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet, this extraordinarily moving novel for adults is among the best I’ve read in a long, long time. (Ecco/HarperCollins)

Handel: Messiah

by The Sixteenreviewed by Randy Engle

Hallelujah! A new Messiah recording! Harry Christophers has conducted Handel’s Messiah hundreds of times in his career, with this recording representing his collective insights of the work. Informed, disciplined, yet never dull, the music soars with talented soloists and an impeccably trained chorus. The altos’ “He Was Despised” does indeed acquaint us with grief. Messiah’s text is purely biblical, and therein lies its power. Christophers understands this power, and wisely gets the music and the messengers in line to tell the story. (Coro 16062)

Revelation

by Third Dayreviewed by Robert N. Hosack

Third Day is one of the most popular Christian acts of the last decade. Their new studio release, Revelation, helps confirm their position as CCM’s top rock band. Recorded on the West Coast, this 13-song album, created under the energetic production values of Howard Benson (P.O.D., Relient K), boldly returns 3D to its Southern rock roots. While marked by formulaic lyrics, 3D can be depended on to provide reliable and relatable verses that speak to the struggles of everyday believers. “Call My Name” reveals classic evangelical spiritual devotion. (Essential Records)

The Willoughbys

by Lois Lowryreviewed by Sonya VanderVeen Feddema

In Lowry’s humorous parody of classic children’s literature, the lives of the four Willoughby children “proceeded in exactly the way lives proceeded in old-fashioned stories.” While the children decide to become worthy orphans by getting rid of their parents, the parents plot to get rid of them. Recalling such classics as Hansel and Gretel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Anne of Green Gables, and A Christmas Carol, Lowry dishes up a satisfying tale full of misadventures with a happy conclusion. (Houghton Mifflin)

The Joys of Love

by Madeleine L’Englereviewed by Sandy Swartzentruber

Written in the 1940s and unpublished until 2008, The Joys of Love doesn’t rise to the level of L’Engle’s best work, but it’s an intriguing peek into her early years. Elizabeth Jerrold, a character modeled after L’Engle herself, works with a summer theatre company in New England. She’s awkward, bright, and attractive to two very different men, both of whom teach her a lot about herself. Though the novel feels old-fashioned, L’Engle’s fans will encounter enough of the author’s signature charm to make the read worthwhile. (Farrar Straus Giroux)

The Lowdown

Last-Minute Gift Ideas

Journaling as a Spiritual Practice, by Helen Cepero, is a fine gift for those who journal and those who would like to. (InterVarsity)

The Dawn of Grace, a new album from reunited group Sixpence None the Richer, offers Christmas music for the indie crowd. (La Face)

A pureNRG Christmas, the holiday CD from Christian tween group pureNRG, makes a great alternative for Hannah Montana fans. (Word)

Hiking in Israel, a guide to Israel’s best hiking routes, might be perfect for someone planning a trip this year. (Toby)

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