Wednesday, February 14, 2007

For the remaining two or three people (if I count myself) who read the stray, monthly or bi-monthly updates: This blog will be on hold while I work on a book about wilderness, which is consuming all of my time. Please check back in two months (mid-April), at which time I will decide whether to go back to more frequent updates or stop altogether (I hope the former).

In the meantime, here's an excerpt from the draft of the writing I'm working on. It is starting as a teaching series, and when that is finished I want to solicit some publishers to see if there's interest in making this a book.

I woke up in the middle of a field, at the bottom of a small bowl-shaped depression, with my head lying in a patch of mud. I woke like someone who has long been asleep. No. That’s not the most accurate way to describe it, for it was like no sleep I’d ever had. I also cannot describe it as “long,” for I had almost no sense of the time that had passed. It felt as much like a day as a hundred years.

But I know of no closer comparison to describe what happened to me, to give some sense of how my mind seemed right then. Perhaps I could say I was like someone who suddenly understood, or like someone no longer drunk.

Still, all these analogies pale in comparison to the change that had been wrought in me. Dreamers, idiots drunks—all these still have thoughts, however surreal, dim or incoherent. I had no solid memories of this hellish Before. An image, or an impression would flash in my mind like seeing a landscape for the brief span of a lightning flash. I could recall only the most vague impressions of danger, or occasionally hunger, pain, heat, cold.

I looked down at myself. I was completely naked. My knees were swollen and covered with very thick skin, as were the palms of my hands. My hair hung down to my waist, matted and filthy. Clearly it had been a long time that I’d been like this. My toes were curled up slightly, the nails long like claws. My joints ached and my body had something of a gnarled shape. I was covered with cuts, bruises, insect bites, sunburn, lice and fleas. My rib cage protruded and my belly lay swollen from malnutrition. The stench, the sudden recognition, the sight of myself was overpowering. My stomach heaved repeatedly, but nothing came out. I tried to stand up, but my legs would not straighten. Even in a partial crouch, I quickly grew dizzy, and fell over. Who was I, and how had I come to this?

Over the next day, as former memories began to slowly return, I pieced together what had happened to me. I remembered the prophecy spoken to warn me, Nebuchadnezzar. That told I would become like a beast. I remember being momentarily effected, terrified even, but later brushing it off as foolishness, or as some kind of riddle whose real meaning had not been revealed yet. What kind of harm could befall the King of Babylon, a man who had attacked the very people whose God now made threats against my rule? I had sacked their royal city and destroyed this God’s holy temple, and could view the remains whenever I wanted.

But I remembered that voice, thundering from heaven as I stood haughtily gazing out on the city, congratulating myself and reveling in my own supposed glory. And immediately afterward lay this void, this missing piece of my life where that last conscious memory didn’t fit together with my re-awakening in the muddy patch of ground.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Not a UFO anymore, unless you want to believe...

I had been following this UFO story from Drudge links. (If you read Drudge, you already have a link. If you don't, you're not going to go there because I add a hyperlink.) I found it curious, if ultimately unconvincing, that there was finally a credible report of lights with no known source. The solution gives me a clue of just how many different things can probably cause mysterious lights.

Fortunately, I live in a city that plays "Coast to Coast" on talk radio. I am sure that these people will claim that the Air Force's response is a coverup, and comes suspiciously late after the incidents.

I work with a guy who told me that the reason some people see UFO's (like his son) and I don't is because I'm "filtered." Apparently I'm on the aliens' list of people who should not be allowed to see them, which I find highly disappointing and grossly unfair. I guess aliens don't believe in equal rights. If the topic ever comes up with this guy again, I want to tell him that I saw one the other day, but just for a split second before it blinked out. "Apparently someone forgot to turn the filter on," I'll explain.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The movie, by the way was Children of Men. I’m not sure quite what to make of it, but being biblically literate, I can say it was at least a unique, post-modern take on the Apocalypse, the Madonna and Christ child. If you’re tempted to accuse me of reading too much symbolism into it, you might recall (or go see it) that when the mother was asked who the father was, she said, “I’m a virgin.” She was joking, but the parallel was confirmed. Clive Owen then becomes a Joseph figure, trying to find anywhere to serve as a suitable manger. Civilized, Caucasian England has no room in the Inn, so a barn must be located in the rejected immigrant society that exists outside its borders. I wasn't sure what significance the Muslim population was supposed to have. Was “the uprising” offering any hope, or merely advocating chaotic violence, or was it just tossed off as a muddled, undefined middle ground that seems politically significant?

This is not a faithful rendition of the P. D. James novel, mind you. Fitting with today’s feminized society, the future hope of mankind was a girl. I won’t mind if some Joan of Arc character saves civilization at some future point in world history, but let’s not reverse the gender of an author’s character merely to be stylishly contemporary.

The religious, while I’m on it, were embodied in the movie version as a couple of strange, superstitious groups hoping to bring salvation through their eccentric rituals. Those with Christian faith are increasingly marginalized, even as their Bible is still mined for literary effect.

Made me wonder what P. D. James thought of the end result.

As a side note, it was nice to see Michelangelo's David and Picasso's Guernica given prominence on the big screen. I haven't seen either of these in real life and am not likely to anytime soon, and I found my attention drawn to nothing else for those fleeting moments.

Ever had an expensive haircut? I felt like my longer hair experiment was going a little awry, didn't look like the right length in places, so I figured I'd let an expert even it up where needed. Went to this place called Panopolous Salons after catching a movie. I didn't really know what they'd charge but wasn't much concerned as long as it came in under $50. I've saved a lot more than that in haircuts since I started letting it grow out, so what would it matter?

The beginning part was pretty impressive. The lady at the desk took my name, another gal took my coat, and a third asked me if I wanted anything to drink. I asked for a coffee (regular, black, thank you), and it came back in a little cup after a few seconds.

I hadn't made an appointment, which I acknowledged with a, "Can you get me in?" I waited a few minutes and then the stylist called me back. She (Joy) washed my hair, and then—God bless her on a day when somehow I had pulled my neck out of joint—she gave me a massage for a few minutes after rinsing. The salon lists all kinds of services you can pay for, including neck massages, so it was unexpected, but it certainly did the trick.

I think any normal person would have laughed to see me come out. She'd put some kind of junk in my hair after she cut it, a "medium curl" product I think it was categorized, with a silly name something like, I kid you not, Boober and Boober. I know, because I asked. I figured if it looked better than my standard $2 a bottle shampoo option, I might want to get some. Then she played with my hair for awhile, and I put my glasses on and she asked me if I could see fairly well without them. I think she was worried that I'd had no idea what she was up to the whole time, and would be aghast, especially since it was my first time at this joint, and I might not have any experience with people paid quite a bit of good money to create an Emperor's New Clothes effect on top of one's head. I told her good, fine, she cleaned up the bits of hair, I paid at the front desk and left a more than adequate tip, and then had a good laugh in the car when I saw my new rug on closer inspection. She'd made it all curly and frizzy, like some kind of wig you might wear for a joke.

I suppose if I were the regular kind of customer at a salon like that I'd have walked around proudly afterward, but I messed it up properly afterwards—or straightened it as the case may be—and now I'll have to see how it looks after a shower.

Anyway, she said it seemed to be layered perfectly and falling nicely, so after I've got the vanity out, maybe I'll actually like it. Otherwise, I'll just give up and go back to short hair.

I recognize this little testimonial doesn't have much context, especially if you don't know me and after a month and all, but a couple people asked if I'd died or stopped writing, so what started out as a stray e-mail become a convenient update. So there you go.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Love You, Dude, but I Need Myspace.

Stumbled across this article about egotism on the internet, which I found fascinating. I probably can’t nod my head too much in knowing agreement, since I have a blog with my name emblazoned in huge capital letters, across the top. But I can at least try to pass the blame. I don’t know how to customize the page layout I chose. So it’s not so much that I’m an egotist, I just borrowed the egotist template.

I’m not really too worried about whether this obscure page is a bad influence on my level of pride. I have come to update it only once in a great while, and I have only modest illusions that it’s an absorbing place to spend time. If an occasional update causes me to stop taking one tiny thing for granted in order to think about it for five minutes, and if I cause two other people to do the same—whether they have the same thoughts or different ones of their own—then I’m satisfied. It’s more in my everyday, non-electronic life that I face the challenge to exercise that underrated but oh-so-attractive trait of humility.

I went to the Twitter website that Michael Kinsley mentions, and it took only a second to get his point. The first person I ran into was Tom Coates, whose last post says that what he’s doing right now is “Finding other people frustrating, irritating, judgmental, superior, condescending and hypocritical.” I wondered if “superior” was just tossed in for good measure. Eight posts before that, he confesses that ”I hate using phones too. Really object to talking to people generally, in fact.” I think he might be missing the irony that he’s telling the entire world of people, or at least those who stumble across him randomly, about his misanthropy.

But that’s where I think computer technology removes irony. Or maybe more accurately, makes it so commonplace that to not have that consumerist, self-assured winking smirk of irony would be anachronistic and naïve.

Think about the idea of community post-internet. At one point, settlers began spreading across this vast, mostly uninhabited country, to some extent threatening the idea of community. While initially dependent on one other for survival, and then for companionship, getting along with and valuing your neighbors became optional once the wilderness was tamed, and technology (like motorcars) made isolation far easier. I’m just spouting assumptions here, the proof of which would be at least book length. Anyway, the farther along we go it seems, the more any concept of neighbor becomes little more than an annoyance. The true sign of arrogance that has diseased almost all of us, myself included, is the underlying thought, “I’m okay with myself, it’s other people that are the problem.” I like how Paul the Apostle turns that upside down: No. Actually, I’m the problem. Start there, and you’ll be surprised how much else just works itself out.

But once we had the luxury to detach ourselves from almost everyone else, something had to take its place, and it’s hard to look around and see that the something has been God. He’s the one who rhetorically implied that we are our brother’s keeper, after all. So the same technological progress that initially gave us the means to be as far away as we care to be, now gives us the means to reconnect, only artificially. What was a letter became a phone call and then an e-mail and then an anonymous posting on a popular website. While most of us have not completely exited the real social world, the internet at least makes us more aware that it is an available option. So when I’m talking to a coworker, I’m undoubtedly influenced by the fact that I just solved a personal problem earlier in the day without ever having to face the person, or use an audible voice, or be anywhere near them.

Where does it go from here? Let me know what you think. Preferably, over coffee. But if nothing else, send me an anonymous e-mail.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Lyrics I like:


You are my sweetest downfall.
I loved you first, I loved you first.
Beneath the sheets of paper lies my truth.
I have to go, I have to go.
Your hair was long when we first met.

Samson went back to bed,
Not much hair left on his head.
He ate a slice of Wonder Bread and went right back to bed.
And history books forgot about us and the Bible didn't mention us.
And the Bible didn't mention us, not even once.

You are my sweetest downfall.
I loved you first, I loved you first.
Beneath the stars came fallin' on our heads.
But they're just old light, they're just old light.
Your hair was long when we first met.

Samson came to my bed,
Told me that my hair was red,
Told me I was beautiful and came into my bed.
Oh I cut his hair myself one night,
A pair of dull scissors in the yellow light,
And he told me that I'd done alright,
And kissed me 'til the mornin' light, the mornin' light.
And he kissed me 'til the mornin' light.

Samson went back to bed,
Not much hair left on his head.
Ate a slice of Wonder Bread and went right back to bed.
Oh, we couldn't bring the columns down,
Yeah we couldn't destroy a single one.
And history books forgot about us,
And the Bible didn't mention us, not even once.

You are my sweetest downfall,
I loved you first.

I don't think there's an intent to make a religious point so much as just drawing from the literary reference to talk about a doomed relationship.

Link to the actual song. Click Music, then the Begin to Hope cassette, and then go two songs forward. Then jump back to the beginning to get the charming songs Fidelity and Better.
Working at the speed of rudeness.

At muy job, the pace of work has led me to taking lots of available shortcuts in communication. Perhaps the best example is that I rarely take the trouble to send an e-mail when the only purpose is to say thank you for something small. If the deserving party is someone I work with on a daily basis, that is. And I'd really rather not get those e-mail either. Yesterday I received 63 e-mails; extremely busy days only go up from there. So that makes me wonder if we can't just assume gratitude.

On the other hand, do I run the risk of offending? And I slightly worry if someday I'll be lumped in with those leper guys who Jesus healed and all but one ran off without saying thank you.

Monday, October 09, 2006

My pastor gave one of the greatest object lessons I’ve ever seen in church on Sunday.

Before he got far into the message, he began handing out money to every man, woman and child present in the service. I thought he was handing out 20-dollar bills, which surprised me a bit, and I immediately began to wonder how he would bring the object lesson back around to everyone returning the money.

When he reached the row in front of me, I saw that he was handing out fifties. So when he got to me, I jokingly asked for three. He said, “Yes you get three: One for you and two for your children.” Then he found out that a couple of people, including my wife, were not currently in the sanctuary, so he gave out bills for those people also.

I also found myself counting heads to figure out how much he’d handed out, and how much money he must have been carrying to insure that his object lesson wouldn’t run short. I was tempted to mug everyone and leave town.

Near the end of his sermon about Jesus’ washing of his disciples’ feet, he said that while he was studying for Sunday, he decided he wanted to find something that would be a similar example to Christ’s service towards others. He mentioned that he could wash all of our feet, except that it would not come across the same since our culture doesn’t do that anymore.

So he said that he realized that the best comparison he could provide would be to give everyone $50 and ask them to keep it. Except that he didn’t want us to just pocket the money and leave it at that. He asked us to take part or all the money and give it to someone in need. If that is yourself, he mentioned, than you can use it for your own needs. The only requirement he made on us was to not refuse the money or give it back to him, and to not just put it in the church offering.

I was astounded. But his explanation certainly rang true with the text. Someone might try to stop him by saying he was going too far, he admitted. Probably, though, the disciples thought the same thing when Jesus wanted to wash their feet.

He took the money out of money. He effectively raised all the questions we ask about money (how much is being given away, can I get a couple of extra bills, could I be dishonest and gain some of this), and then dashed them. I give him a lot of credit for doing something that some of us present might never forget, that we will always be able to look back on and learn from.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

What's the going rate on a one-week wedding ring rental?

My wife was going through the mail, browsing a rent-to-own company's flyer. She pointed out to me that among the merchandise they were featuring was rent-to-own wedding rings.

How impressive would that be? That's about as classy as, I don't know, rent-to-own lingerie or something. Is that the non-commitment route? "Don't scratch it honey, it's only on loan."

I would like to get the statistics on how many marriages founded on an engagement ring rental plan end up lasting compared to general.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Ever taken a spore print of a mushroom? It's pretty easy. You just cut the stem off and put it on a piece of paper for an hour or more. The first time you move it, it becomes readily apparent if you waited long enough for a good print. Waiting too long, you don't get any definition from the ribs.

I remember the first time I had a mushroom with white spores. I put it down on regular paper, and when I checked it later, there was nothing. I figured that maybe the spores were white, and I moved the mushroom to black paper. The results were striking.

Below is an example. The print got injured slightly on moving (I don't have a good fixative), but not too much.

Mushroom experts use the spore color as one factor in making an identification. And you can't judge spore color based on mushroom color. Sometimes they correspond, but not always. It's a surprise each time.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Cursed be the tie that binds us.

You would think that Christians from different denominations and churches would be like Americans from different states running into each other overseas. That if circumstances turned them into acquaintances, they would find their commonality the most significant thing between them.

Sadly, it doesn’t seem to happen that way. The Christians I meet in my job and other places I frequent too often act as if there’s nothing common between us other than being humans—and even that appears to have trivial or dubious value.

I belong to a denomination with a pretty conservative theological tradition, depending on how you want to define “conservative”—let’s just say I’m a long way from Unitarian. So I think it is significant when even I find myself wondering whatever happened to the whole “one Lord, one faith, one baptism—one God and Father of all, who is over all and in all and through all” concept.

I don’t think it is solely a Christian phenomenon to act so isolated. I think it is a general trend in society in our current day—chalk one win for the devil. The parable of the Good Samaritan doesn’t apply anymore, because we have no neighbors. Just a television, a computer, and a modem.

Now we recognize when a person becomes a believer, they have infinitely more reason to recognize the connections between all of us: first among all humans, because we all have souls that will one day be called to reckon; and on a higher level between all fellow Christians.

But we haven’t been made perfect yet, and our flesh doesn’t like this new situation we find ourselves in. We also have this unseen enemy, typically acknowledged as an abstract, philosophical reality but seldom thought about in our everyday lives. This enemy doesn’t want strong relationships among us, and works against it constantly, perennially. So perhaps at times we’re only back at status quo level, matching everyone else around us. Why get involved? I don’t want to put my family at risk, and things could turn ugly. Other people are ugly, nasty, and ultimately—boring.

On the spectrum of attitudes between “doctrinal issues never matter, however large” and “even the most trivial doctrinal differences are crucial,” I wonder sadly if we end up adopting the worst of both sides. We’ve stopped exercising the discernment to identify when doctrinal differences truly should separate us (assumption: never), and simultaneously live as if smaller differences do prevent us from meaningful fellowship. Perhaps we have come to see every church as more or less the same, just placed in different colored packages, and yet with our prejudices and lack of love allow a wall to exist between all others, even at times those within our own group.

I include myself. I can’t remember the last time I addressed an acquaintance or coworker with words that would have been different if the person they were addressed to did not happen to be a fellow disciple.

Would that we could change.
Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"
The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him."
Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."

--Luke 10:36-37

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Ebert has been recuperating now for what, four or five weeks? I think the truth behind this clever PR stunt is that Ebert is actually dying or already died, and initiated a plan to transfer all writing responsibilities and the Answer Man title to his brother, Raul Ebert.

But seriously, I hope he is doing okay. He has done a lot for movies. At least in part due to his influence, some movie store chains now stock widescreen DVDs as their primary format. And with his Great Movies series, scores of moviegoers have been directed to something other than the current week's dubious releases.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Nearly five years after Sept. 11, 2001, US airport security remains obstinately focused on intercepting bad things -- guns, knives, explosives. It is a reactive policy, aimed at preventing the last terrorist plot from being repeated....Of course the Israelis check for bombs and weapons too, but always with the understanding that things don't hijack planes, terrorists do -- and that the best way to detect terrorists is to focus on intercepting not bad things, but bad people.
There are various things I admire about the Israelis. Their efficient, intelligent, no-apologies approach to this problem could be counted as one.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Want to visit a castle? This site lists castles in 47 states, plus D.C.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Pretty cool concept.

The site Pandora lets you type in an artist, and the site then creates a customized playlist based around the sound of that particular artist.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

A Reluctant, Involuntary Education on Evil.

This week's foiled terrorist plans to blow up outgoing British flights in air taught me something. I think that the next time a terrorist attack occurs, it is going to be harder to go through than 9/11.

Last time, the event was totally unforeseen for most people. The immediate reaction for most, I'm guessing, was shock, which is an invaluable defense mechanism for handling trauma.

Also, I viewed the tragedy of 9/11 in terms of a past event. Most tragedies are appropriately viewed that way. Although some may have felt fear or anger primarily—and I read a news poll at that time giving only those options—my internal response was a profound sadness.

But we’re not naïve anymore. In the first moments of learning about 9/11, when I was told by a coworker that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center, I couldn’t even conceive of what that meant. I pictured a small prop plane going off course and causing localized damage to the building. It was a bizarre news sentence, and I had no immediate context to frame it.

Not anymore. When I heard of the airline threat this morning on my way to work, the first emotion I experienced was a flash of fear. We now know quite a bit about the mindset this produces this global danger. We know a lot about how they operate, what they’re capable of, how committed they are to succeed, and how long they’re willing to persevere. And while I subconsciously might have been in lulled into denial about the possibility of a large-scale attack happening again, this morning served as a striking reminder. When people speak of 9/11 as being the day the world changed, they are making reference to tragedies caused by unspeakable evil no longer happening merely as isolated incidents that have limited duration and move into the past. I think most now view terror as an ongoing, present reality.

I have a brother who trims trees for a living. Because of his line of work, he is occasionally asked about fear of heights or vertigo. He once said that the one moment when he was most scared at his job, he wasn’t even in a tree, or in any immediate danger. He had prepared to climb a tree, but decided at the last minute to use the bucket truck. As he cut into the trunk high above ground, the whole tree collapsed—it was infested with ants.

The comment didn’t make much sense to me at the time, but I think I understand it better now. When the threat of danger is a present reality, the body goes into “deal with it” mode, which provides an outlet for nervous energy. But reflecting in calmer moments on what could have happened, reflecting on what came awfully close to what can be described as inevitable, sometimes brings a perspective that fear can easily sneak in on. And so with that instantaneous twinge this morning while riding along the freeway, I acknowledged that what we view as safety and security is a remarkably thin blanket of ordinariness covering the day-to-day, one that can be yanked away at any moment.

Monday, July 31, 2006

I'm reading various pieces (example here) about Colin Farrell having a mullet hairdo in Michael Mann's Miami Vice. I give credit to AP Movie Critic Christy Lemire for at least leaving the question open for debate: "The most striking style statement is Farrell's hair: You'll sit there mentally debating, is that a mullet or not?" It's funny—I found myself doing exactly that at various times during the first part of the movie. Lemire doesn't answer the question, but I will.

It's not a mullet, it only looks like one. A mullet, as most everyone knows, is a haircut that's short on the top and long in the back. Colin Farrel's hair in Miami Vice is long in the back and...long on top. Possibly with extensions adding to the length. But it stays straight and controlled on top, and gets curly and wider in the back, so that's where the confusion comes in.

Does the question merit that much attention? Probably not. But there you go.

As always, I couldn't help admiring Michael Mann's skills as a filmmaker. Like Collateral, he's made a movie that has more style than substance (Heat and The Insider had both in equal measures), but Miami Vice tops Collateral on style, even if it's the other way around, slightly, on story. Miami Vice sets a sustained, coherent tone, and it's clearly not meant to matter whether or not we are always cognizant of the who what and why of everything that is going down.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

When I was younger, I had a great get rich scheme. I suddenly realized that almost nobody in the country would miss a penny, or mind giving one up. So why, I figured, couldn't everyone just send me a single penny?

The only hitch was getting every person in America to send me one. But I still think it's a good idea, or at least an intriguing one. Please send one to the following address...

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Good Samaritan goes to jail.

It is now against the law to feed the homeless in Las Vegas city parks. I wonder if this will lead to civil disobedience with anyone.

Monday, July 17, 2006

No more.

"Citizens of Israel, there are moments in the life of a nation, when it is compelled to look directly into the face of reality and say: no more. And I say to everyone: no more. Israel will not be held hostage—not by terror gangs or by a terrorist authority or by any sovereign state."
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert

Thursday, July 13, 2006

If I could have been a fly on the wall...

Speculation may be useless. Unless it takes the form of a speculative prediction that will eventually be proven one way or the other, it normally goes no farther than a guess.

Still, I've been compelled to imagine what seems to have taken place in Israel after the election of Hamas to govern Palestine. Here's what strongly seems like it may have been said by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert after the Palestinian election, and I'd love to know if I'm even close:

"Gentlemen, Hamas has just been elected as the legitimate governing body over Palestine. They are a terrorist organization, and as such we cannot recognize their legitimacy as a political entity. So here's what we're going to do. We are going to state as much to the world, that we do not recognize the Hamas government. For now, that's all we're going to do. But we will watch. And if Hamas so much as launches one rocket, if they harm or kill even one of our people, we will bring war against them."

The reason I'm tempted to imagine this is when I stop to consider that the current, escalating crisis in Gaza that's currently leading world news came about because one Israeli soldier was kidnapped. When a single, somewhat scrawny looking Jewish soldier was kidnapped, Israel's immediate reaction was to roll tanks into the Gaza strip. But I noticed that they also arrested and detained Hamas cabinet members, which is a highly unusual tactic of war.

I'm torn in my opinion on this conflict. President Clinton has called for the world to recognize Hamas so that we can try diplomacy and try to negotiate. I can see the rationale behind that plea. I only have to look at Ireland, with decades of cyclical violence and no side achieving any lasting results. But on the other hand, I acknowledge that the Islamic extremist attitude is one that makes it hard to draw parallels. I strongly believe that appeasement in this case will probably only embolden the extremist approach to world politics. It demonstrates that going on the offensive will be met with a retreat and a surrendering of current just policies, to try to escape harm. In schoolyard language, it is the bully empowered by the cowardice of his selected victims. It's not protecting the few in hopes that one can save the many.

The case could be legitimately made that fighting terrorists only produces more terrorists. But aside from striving to one day win the war of the mind and reform that mentality—a valuable but uncertain strategy—what's the alternative? To that question, I'm almost afraid to speculate.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Pagan Bias.

For me, the larger issue with media bias is not that the news is relayed to us by journalists with predominantly Democratic rather than Republican perspectives, but that journalists are predominantly secular rather than Christian.

Imagine that a murder takes place, and only one person saw the crime, and that person has to tell the rest of the world what happened. Would you want that person to be someone who would typically side more with the criminal?

That's a simplistic and exaggerated analogy of the mainstream media (MSM). But while there's some range of opinion, the MSM is overwhelmingly secular. And of course, there are issues in news journalism (like medical ethics or social justice) that have a direct connection to a person's worldview. So, we know that there's this vital war going on that doesn't involve just humans, and that there are forces at work that many don't believe exist, or if they do, are mostly irrelevant in the everyday context of life. That raises the question in my mind of whether we always get the whole story, or the right story. And if so, do we typically get the story behind the story?

It's just another reminder that we need to be very discerning, and we need the ability to read between the lines, and perceive the unseen.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Christians are hedgehogs.

I once heard a friend talk about an essay on hedgehogs and foxes, which he said explained how hedgehogs are people who approach research with depth, and foxes are those who are more after breadth. He attributed the essay to Aristotle, I think.

Well, not exactly. My friend's mention of this had long intrigued me, and I finally tracked it down. The original source of the two animals is a line from a poem by the Greek poet Archilochus, and Isaiah Berlin wrote a book about the line (excerpt here). While no one knows for sure the meaning of the line, Berlin posits that Archilochus was likely referring to how one views truth — whether truth can be organized in a single, uniform way, or whether it is a scattered, collection of mostly unrelated things.

Of course, for Christians, we would have to be put down as unapologetic hedgehogs, who see God as the ultimate source of truth. And thus Christians see the related nature of all truth. I’m repeatedly struck by how one idea ties into another; how one thing brings back to mind other things in a long, unbroken chain.

I need to read this book.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

New York Times vs. America and itself.

"The New York Times and other news organizations ought to think long and hard about whether a public's right to know in some cases might override somebody's right to live."
--Tony Snow, White House Press Secretary

"If America is going to wage a new kind of war against terrorism, it must act on all fronts, including the financial one."
--New York Times, 24 September 2001

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Death By Song.

Paris Hilton's first song, "Stars Are Blind," is now out. I think that somewhere this event created a time/space rift in the cultural fabric of the planet, and whole communities could get sucked in. The end of Western civilization edges closer.

The tune was obviously designed to be catchy in a fluff pop way, but the drumbeat sounds like a cheap Casio keyboard, the lyrics are agonizingly banal ("Got a heart and soul in body / Let's see what this love can do / Baby I'm perfect for you") and her voice is so over-synthesized it might as well be a computer program singing.

But hypocritcally, I only expand the marketed-product-posing-as-a-real-person named Paris Hilton by wasting lines talking about it.

No links. Can't bring myself to provide that convenience.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Mary Roche.

I don't really watch television, so I often learn of TV moments at the back end, through conversation.

I just learned about Mary Roche's audition on American Idol, and then located a clip.

The whole thing was getting weirder every second. When she went on to the voices part, she starts to sound like a sound clip from an old classic movie: "You don’t want to know…They're saying…It's time to go home Toto, and no one can ever make fun of us again…All of you look different in person…But you were all in my dream…you, and you and you were too, only you all look different. Oh, don't you believe me?"

To see everything before and after the singing, which has additional bizarre moments (rock band lead singer comment), the link is below. Wait patiently, it loads slowly. Both clips appears to have been slightly edited. When Simon asks her for marks out of ten, she says, "Huh?" That wasn't her response in the longer audition clip.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Peggy Noonan on The Da Vinci Code.

I do not understand the thinking of a studio that would make, for the amusement of a nation 85% to 90% of whose people identify themselves as Christian, a major movie aimed at attacking the central tenets of that faith, and insulting as poor fools its gulled adherents. Why would Tom Hanks lend his prestige to such a film? Why would Ron Howard? They're both already rich and relevant. A desire to seem fresh and in the middle of a big national conversation? But they don't seem young, they seem immature and destructive. And ungracious. They've been given so much by their country and era, such rich rewards and adulation throughout their long careers. This was no way to say thanks.
Peggy Noonan

I don't know. I like what Peggy Noonan has to say, I always enjoy both the ethos and pathos in her writing, but I'm not sure everyone gets it as clear as she lays it out. One of the questions floating around in my head this week with Tom Hanks' "just fiction" comments is whether Hanks is oblivious to the real issues at stake here, or whether he's just being disengenuous and is very clever at spin.
Pagan Proselytizing.

People who have read the novel by Dan Brown are twice as likely to believe its central theme - that Jesus Christ had children by Mary Magdalene, the research found.

The book has been hugely popular in Britain, with 22 per cent of adults having read it, the survey of 1,000 people by Opinion Research Business found.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

------- The Da Vinci Code: Fiction or Fact? ------

"Jesus' establishment as 'the Son of God' was officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicaea."
"Hold on. You're saying Jesus' divinity was the result of a vote?"
"A relatively close vote at that," Teabing added.
The Da Vinci Code (2003) p. 232-3

"What I mean," Teabing countered, "is that almost everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false."
The Da Vinci Code (2003) p. 235

"The film is a work of fiction."
Tom Hanks

"If you are going to take any sort of movie at face value, particularly a huge-budget motion picture like this, you'd be making a very big mistake."
Tom Hanks

I began as a skeptic," Brown said, "As I started researching The Da Vinci Code, I really thought I would disprove a lot of this theory about Mary Magdalene and holy blood and all of that. I became a believer."
Dan Brown

[How much of this novel is based on fact?]
"All of it. The paintings, locations, historical documents, and organizations described in the novel all exist."
Dan Brown

"Well, I've often thought the Bible should have a disclaimer in the front saying this is fiction."
Sir Ian McKellen, video link

"I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins."
Jesus, John 8:24

"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:
'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.'"
Paul, I Corinthians 1:18-19

Saturday, May 13, 2006

New design hopefully solves old problem. No more text getting pushed down by the sidebar. Drawback: No photo or profile until I write them in.
Da Vinci Code editorial.

...Witness the coming of the movie version of "The DaVinci Code." Think of it as the anti-"Passion." In one film, Jesus was Lord; in the other, Jesus was not only merely mortal, he was the center of an elaborate fraud. In one film, Jesus founded his Church at the Last Supper; in the other, the Catholic Church unfolds as a secretive, murderous, thoroughly evil conspiracy. So what's Hollywood's take? The reaction to this movie is almost the exact opposite of what Gibson received.

"If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first."
    John 15:18
Stray thought on Duke rape allegations.

Experts say that the absence of conclusive DNA evidence would not necessarily be a fatal blow to the prosecution's case. They cite a figure stating that 75 percent to 80 percent of rape prosecutions do not involve forensic evidence such as DNA.

"The truth is if you speak to crime lab directors, they will tell you that in only a relatively small number of cases is there any DNA evidence," said Peter Neufeld, co-founder and co-director of the Innocence Project, which uses DNA to free people wrongly imprisoned. "In rape cases, there is an expectation of DNA. But like many expectations, often it is misplaced."

I hate getting half stories. This information doesn't tell us anything conclusively. What's missing is finding out whether these cases with no DNA evidence occur because women do not undergo a DNA test soon enough after the crime, or whether there are reasons that DNA evidence can be missed.

The difference would be huge. On the one hand, I think modern juries too influenced by television shows like CSI have been led to expect that you can't prove a crime without DNA evidence. On the other hand, my unscientific mind can't conceive of a reason why two separate tests for DNA could fail to find a single molecule of an attacker's body on your person. It seems to me that an attacker's body oils, skins cells and sweat would be like invisible ink all over a victim. But maybe in some cases it happens. I wouldn't know.

So I would love to get the full story, but this is the second time I've read this partial information. E-mail me if you have better information. I also e-mailed ABC News.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Crazy sport, that 100-meters. You cross the finish line in 9.77, you're the fastest man alive. You cross the finish line in 9.84, you're merely second place. I had to look at the picture a long time to figure out how Justin Gatlin (left) won. His foot is farther across the finish line, which means that he would have crossed it before the center guy.

Incidentally, the Associated Press account says that Gatlin "surged into the lead in the final 40 meters. Does .07 seconds even qualify as a "surge"?

Friday, April 28, 2006

Nate Bouknight, a real estate developer from East Norriton, Pa., said it now costs him about $60 to fill his Ford Explorer SUV, up about $17 from last month. The vehicle gets about 12 miles to the gallon.

Bouknight said President Bush should do more to ease the high prices, adding he thought the call for an investigation into price gouging was just a sham.
Apparently it never occurred to Nate that the extra gas his SUV requires is as much a factor in prices as the geopolitical situation. But hey, why get into a discussion about supply/demand, the ethics of capitalism and the complex situation surrounding oil and the countries that it comes from? We want our standard of living and convenience undisturbed, and cheap.

Let's turn the statement around, just for fun: "President Bush said Bouknight should do more to ease the high prices, adding he thought the griping about price gouging while driving a recreational vehicle was just a sham." While I fully understand that the President of the United States will always bear the blame for negative pocketbook news just by virtue of his position (if nothing else), I also understand that it is easy to scapegoat without looking at one's own practices. My car gets more than double the gas mileage of Nate's, which could land him a net savings of at least $13 a tank over what he used to pay. If I would move closer to work, I could save at least half again.

It seems a little ironic that many of the same voices who used to endlessly shout the "No war for oil" cliche now accuse Bush of causing oil prices to go up by attacking Iraq. Unless one supports Hollywood's (à la Syriana) murky idea about the U.S. getting into political conflicts so that we can own oil that doesn't belong to us, it is pretty easy to conclude that if our only Middle East motive is petroleum, it doesn't make sense to spend billions on a war that hasn't even begun to turn Iraqi oil acres into US territories, or budge the price of crude oil downward.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Looking for a platform for evangelism, the Rev. Mark Evans paid a visit last year to Susie's Pub, which advertises itself as the "Cleanest Pub in Lockhart." The bar is not far from Evans' congregation, Northwest Community Church.

Evans, 50, asked owner Susan Duncan what her slowest night was. Duncan said Monday, and the result was "Two-Beer Bible Study -- All Welcome," in which the minister pays for two brews for anyone who will sit for an hour of Bible study, beginning with a verse of Scripture.


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