184: Readers Tell Us About Cool Comics, Guardian Angels, Good Reads & Heroes

    Thank you, readers! We keep asking you to “tell us what you think” — and you keep telling us in a myriad of ways. We’ve had such an overflowing response — that we’re planning to share more of these gems next Friday. We’ve got a lot of great stories and surprises in store next week — including an in-depth interview with Brian McLaren as he launches one of the most important books of his writing career.
    But, today — this is your page and here’s the news you’ve been sharing with us …

    We’ve taken a special interest in the rebirth of comics, graphic novels and super heroes, because so many spiritual themes are reflected in this rapidly expanding genre.
    Kurt Kolka is the creator of the Christian superhero known as the Cardinal and he’s a regular ReadTheSpirit reader, as well. In addition, he’s an important figure in trying to help independent comic artists keep in touch, especially those artists who feel a religious calling in their work. He moved his long-time hero into an online home late last year and sent us an Email this week:
    “I am celebrating. This is the sixth month of the Cardinal online strip,” he said. He also explained that he’s placing more print editions of the Cardinal comics in stores — but, this time, each comic book includes information about how to find the Cardinal’s new online home.
    We wish him well!

    And this comic-related Email is waaay coool! Steve Sheinkin, the New York-based historian and the creator of the wonderful Jewish superhero Rabbi Harvey of the Wild West, has taken a clever new step in the realm of online media.
    Get this! Steve has published two graphic novels of Rabbi Harvey’s adventures, which we’ve praised here at ReadTheSpirit. But he hasn’t stopped there. He has just published an online review — by the comic character Rabbi Harvey — of another graphic novel, “The Rabbi’s Cat,” Volume 2.
    Check it out. This is so new, we’re not entirely sure how these links will work on your computer.
    Click Here to visit JBooks, the Online Jewish Book Community, where you should find a link to Rabbi Harvey’s review. OR, Click Here to jump immediately to Rabbi Harvey’s review, which may take a moment on a slow computer connection. You’ll see comic book pages, which you can “flip,” pop up against a gray background.


    OK, now! Here’s a word of warning: Please, don’t stampede over to Facebook and flood me with angels — but I do want to thank Australian reader Christian Smith. He’s got tastes in movies that parallel our own here at ReadTheSpirit and he’s sent along some intriguing comments about film and culture in the past.
    He’s also got a sharp eye for cool stuff on Facebook — and sent me both a Guardian Angel (the “Cloud Angel” image you see at right here) and then a Marvel Superhero, too. If you’re not familiar with these forms of social greeting, get involved in Facebook and check out the options. There are zillions of things to “give” to people — many of them with uplifting and spiritual themes behind them.
    Another word of warning: I follow our ReadTheSpirit principles and tend to “friend” everybody who stops by my Facebook site and asks me to confirm a friendship. Occasionally, I even wind up in strange groups. A week or so ago, a reader invited me into a group that somehow honors a particularly beloved substitute teacher at a high school somewhere — although I’ve never met this guy.
    And, sorry, I try to decline gifts that involve long-term care of online creatures, heavy-duty political slogans, binge drinking or R-rated activities in general — although I’m sure these playful invitations are well intended. Generally, I stick to far tamer gifts like “angels” and “flair” and “super heroes.”

    Our readers often ask how we keep up with the rapid pace of publishing with hundreds of new book titles crowding into stores every season. Well, one useful “listening post” is the social-networking site for people who love to read and rate books, called GoodReads.
    If you go through the free sign-up process, you can “friend” other readers and you receive emails when they’ve finished a new book. One friend in particular who catches my eye any time she’s filed a fresh review is Beckie Supiano, a well-read journalist who writes intriguing reviews when she finishes a book.
    Here’s a sample of one of Beckie’s recent reviews of “Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth and Happiness.” When Beckie filed the review in GoodReads — I got an email alerting me to what she’d written about the book:

    Human beings do not act rationally in their own best interest. We are particularly ill-equipped to do so when it comes to decisions that are complicated and made infrequently — which tend to be our more important choices. From this starting point, the authors of “Nudge” suggest a program of what they call Libertarian Paternalism in which private companies and the government guide people in making good decisions.
    This does not mean making people’s choices for them, but making the best option more likely to be chosen, and is meant as a compromise between the Democrats’ tendency to offer mandates and the Republicans’ notion that success is measured in the number of possible options.
    The authors, University of Chicago professors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, outline possible nudges to help people save money, build healthier lifestyles and protect the environment. … The book is well-organized and written with clarity and a fair bit of humor, albeit of a particularly nerdy sort. Thaler and Sunstein’s argument is interesting, well-made and potentially quite valuable. It’s an enjoyable read — proof positive anything can be made interesting when tackled in the right style.

    We not only thank Beckie for sharing what she’s reading — but this also is a great chance to let you know about this online gem: GoodReads.


    Right now, we’re working on the second volume of “Interfaith Heroes,” the annual volume of 31 inspiring stories about men and women who have crossed religious boundaries to build stronger, peaceful communities. Daniel Buttry, the international peacemaker for American Baptist Churches, once again is the driving force behind this project — helping the Interfaith Heroes core team pull together this new list of 31 heroes. (Some famous names will be honored again in January 2009, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose national holiday falls in January in the U.S.)
    The companion book is terrific for small-group study. It’s packed with information about how to form diverse discussion groups, establish interfaith partnerships — plus each of the 31 profiles comes with questions to prompt discussion.

    But here’s what’s newsworthy! Readers continue to send us occasional nominations. Here’s an example:
    Reader Molly Mayfield Barbee nominated Patricia Smith Melton, the founder of “Peace X Peace” (pronounced “peace-by-peace”), a network of women who feel a spiritual calling to help heal the world in many ways. Many people have never heard of this emerging group, but Molly describes the group’s founder in terms that certainly connect with our mission at ReadTheSpirit.
     We can’t reveal the 2009 heroes until far closer to the January celebration of “Interfaith Heroes Month,” but here’s a short excerpt from Molly’s nomination to give you an idea of how this process works. Molly wrote that her nominee “inspires thousands of Peace X Peace members around the world with her message that when women come together across distance, cultural barriers and conflicting beliefs — and really authentically connect — they hold the power to change the world right in those relationships. She believes that ordinary people are extraordinary.”
    Again — we’re not saying that Molly’s nomination (or any of your nominations) have made it into the final list for January 2009 — but we are thanking and acknowledging people who have sent us such inspiring notes.

     Among our old friends at ReadTheSpirit is Steve Olweean, who isn’t a household name — unless you enjoy attending cross-cultural, interfaith conferences in various parts of the world. Steve’s a noted scholar himself who organizes conferences attended by a Who’s Who of spiritual activists from various disciplines. Sufi mystics rub shoulders with psychiatrists, painters mingle with priests and imams compare notes with school teachers.
    Click on the Common Bond logo above and you’ll jump to a Web page explaining Steve’s latest event: “Engaging the Other,” September 4 to 7 in San Francisco, California. Among the confirmed presenters are Huston Smith, Marianne Williamson and, intriguingly, Reps. Dennis Kucinich and John Conyers.
    What I’ve enjoyed about Steve’s conferences is their intimacy. People who attend have various opportunities to chat with participants and presenters. We wish him well with this upcoming event — and thank him for Emailing us to let more ReadTheSpirit friends on the West Coast know about this opportunity.

    Please, just as these readers have done in a variety of ways — tell us what you think. We’re reachable on Facebook, GoodReads, Amazon and via other social sites as well, including YouTube and Digg. You can click on the “Comment” link below — or Email ReadTheSpirit Editor David Crumm directly.

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