Tom Pittman's WebLog

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2013 September 26 -- Latin Blunder

Y'all know I care about translation accuracy. You also know my high regard for the scientific accuracy in WIRED magazine (not!). Well, here's another thing they bungled. It's an article on some indie film director -- yeah, only a remote connection to anything digital: he does dystopian sci-fi themes -- and the author mentions
Around his neck ... [he] wears a talisman bearing the Latin phrase DOMINUS CUSTODIAT UNUM ("May God bless you and keep you").
I never studied Latin formally, but I know enough to know that the given translation differs rather substantially from the given Latin. I tried Googling the Latin phrase, which sometimes works for popular Latin phrases, but not this time. All I got were a dozen or so direct quotes of the whole sentence, including the bogus translation, either from the WIRED article, or else the same line (Latin + English) in the promotional blurb of the vendor's commercial product, none of them criticizing the translation.

"May the LORD bless you and keep you" is a quote from the Bible, Num.6:24, which is easy enough to find the Latin text for online:

benedicat tibi Dominus et custodiat te...
Notice that there is no "God" (Latin "Deus") in the talisman, but a common Jewish habit is to substitute euphemisms for references to deity. With only slightly more effort, one can also Google "Latin unum" and learn that it's the neuter form of the numeral one, as in "E pluribus unum" ("One from many"). The neuter form of the numeral suggests that it refers to an inanimate object, not a person ("you") at all. There is no blessing ("benedicat") and no "and" ("et") and no "you" ("tibi" and "te" are two different cases for the Latin pronoun) in our given Latin.

I would guess a better translation might be: "May the Lord protect one thing," but that doesn't fly so well as a good-luck charm. Considering that good-luck charms are pretty worthless anyway, I guess that's a wash.
 

2013 September 25 -- Sherlock Exonerated

WebLogs are an interesting phenomenon, you never know who is going to read what I wrote and offer a comment on it. Four years ago I commented on the perception (not mine) that Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes was a cruel jerk. After carefully (re-)reading all his stories I could find, I came to the conclusion that there was no basis in the text for that perception. This week somebody saw my posting and disagreed. I asked for particulars, and they chose to focus instead on what they perceived as rudeness in me. I'm fine with that, I need to know if people think I'm out of line.

In this case it appears, however, that being a jerk consists in nothing more than being right about some objective facts in the company of people who hold contrary (that is, objectively wrong) opinions. That is not in the same league with the kind of cruelty I observed in the faux-Holmes play that day, for I do not consider being right an issue of politeness at all. Unfortunately, I do not have access to the script so that I can point to the lines that gave me the impression they played him for a jerk, so I'm not in a position to prove my observation.

The difference in opinion on what counts as insult is an important social dynamic. Y'all already know how critical I see the Thinker/Feeler divide in personal relationships (see Relationshipism and related links) vs Truth and getting things done. I think it curious that the last post on my blog before leaving to visit my sister four years ago explored what it means to "be right" in verbal combat. Of course Sherlock is right, and the other people in his presence are less so -- otherwise he would not be invited (or disinvited, as the case may be) to solve their case. That's not an insult, it's what he's there for! But Feelers cannot cope with the inherent disaffirmation that being wrong brings down on them. Rather than fixing the problem (changing their position to be on the side of truth) they prefer to equalize the guilt (I call it "The Prisoner Exchange") in this case by accusing the guy who is right of being insulting.

In the spirit of mystery stories (see "the second narrative" in "Murder Mystery As Divine Justice") I offer now an explanation of what really happened. Arthur Conan Doyle was a Thinker. Feelers tell stories about relationships, Thinkers tell stories about facts. Sherlock was all about facts. When Feelers read stories about facts, they might see themselves not in Sherlock's shoes (because they are not that kind of person) but in the shoes of one of the other people around him, the people who got it wrong and whom Sherlock is telling the facts to, and who are thereby being disaffirmed. This is offensive to a Feeler, so they build up a mental image of Sherlock as a jerk. Modern writers are pretty much all Feelers (the Thinkers all go into technology or other fact-based careers), so whoever it was that wrote that play I saw had this negative image of Sherlock, and wrote into his character all kinds of additional negativity that was never there in Conan Doyle's Sherlock.

My nameless correspondent is obviously a Feeler. Feelers' highest value is affirmation, so it's really hard to get them to tell you the truth -- until they get angry (which they usually deny, so I call it "not-angry"). In addition to all the helpful remarks, this one started calling me "rude, insulting, dismissive, and trivialize" while becoming ever more rude, insulting, dismissive, and trivializing. So I suppose they (she? The domain website appears to be a solo effort by a single woman) this person was angry and getting more so. My opinions almost always change as a result of thoughtful dialog, but not often in the ways the other person hopes to coerce. That tends to make Judgers angry. Although I benefit from the ensuing truth, I do not try to make people angry, nor do I want to be party to it. The dialog was over.

Well not quite. This person also took offense at my somewhat incomplete gender analysis, despite that I was careful to use only gender-neutral pronouns. The website (which I did not spend much time looking at) portrays a misogynist attitute toward women, which seemed sort of sad if done by a "liberated" woman, but is not uncommon among guys. Whatever. Anyway, this person's final email expressed "fear it would undermine ... in some way" which (as y'all know) I take the 2nd-person pronouns in a false and groundless accusation to represent a first-person confession. I then ran an experiment which confirmed my analysis. [Postscript added Oct.7]
 

2013 September 24 -- Politics in Fiction

Last month I mentioned reading something other than Koontz. It was a modernist mystery my sister sent me. The British author seems to have written for a British audience, because he uses a lot of words not familiar to Americans. Many of them are obviously brand names (you can tell, because they are capitalized) in what would be called "product placement" in a movie (that's a euphemism for "commercial ad"), but there are also references to garments and other things, most of them not in my American dictionary (but Google is pretty good for that kind of thing). My sister liked it because he spent a lot of ink explaining esoterica -- in this case, the underground river system in London -- which is one of the things I liked about the "Man on Wire" flick I mentioned yesterday.

Unfortunately, he also spent a lot of ink on political issues, mostly blaming the rain, which was the centerpiece of his story, on global warming (GW), which he blamed on President Bush refusing to sign the Kyoto treaty. The guy is a writer, not a scientist, so he cannot be expected to understand why it is all bogus science, but it does not take a PhD in rocket science to see that GW is a partisan thing invented by the left-wing bigots to bash President Bush, who otherwise did pretty much everything they wanted except kill their babies. But you cannot expect a Brit to know that an American President is not permitted to ratify a treaty without Senate approval. Bush did not have that approval.

More significantly, the GW partisan predictions were not met in actual temperature rise. If Bush had Senate approval, and if he had signed the treaty, and if we had implemented the drastic measures it called for, the left-wing bigots would have claimed that Kyoto had performed as predicted. Now it's obvious (except to the left-wing bigots) that Kyoto was irrelevant and their alarmism unfounded. Furthermore, the right-wing bigots could have blamed the current economy on Kyoto, which would also be false. Or maybe it would be worse, but we don't know. The Bush/Obama deficits are certainly sufficient to damage the economy, and Obama has not learned anything.

The common-sense Thatcher conservatives lost control of the British government for 13 years beginning in 1997, which means that the majority British sentiment at the time this book was published (in 2004) favored the socialist (left-wing) politics of Tony Blair. The book merely reflects the political preferences of his culture. Maybe author Christopher Fowler waffles as much as his fellow citizens, maybe not, but I'm unlikely to want to find out. I guess the politics was more to my sister's liking than mine: she voted for Obama.
 

2013 September 23 -- Passionate Calling

A lot of the library movies (and even more of the free downloads from Archive.org) I have watched are real duds, but occasionally I see a real gem. Twice now, only a week apart. The remarkable thing is that they both were in French with English subtitles. "Man on Wire" had some English speakers, but several of the participants spoke no English, so their contributions were translated for us. Others -- including wire-walker Philippe Petit himself -- spoke with a heavy French accent.

But what made it for me was the passion he put into his trade. In one of the two shorts on the same disk, Philippe used terms usually reserved for God's calling. "I did not choose the towers," he said, "they chose me." He obviously thinks everybody should feel that kind of passion for what they do, and I agree. I do too, but I don't have the public acclaim that he got for doing something so public, so patently dangerous.

Oh well.

It's sad that people like that miss the Caller. I know how he feels, but I have Somebody to thank. He does not. That's sad.

Oh well.
 

2013 September 16 -- Accurate Translation

I have forgotten far more French than I remember ("use it or lose it"), but it was kind of fun listening to the dialog while watching the English subtitles. It reminds me of when I was in Paris in the late 60s, where some theaters showed American movies dubbed in French, while others showed them with French subtitles. I went for the latter, then practiced my French by reading the subtitles while listening to the English, the reverse of this DVD flick. The USA was embroiled in VietNam, and a lot of the movies were hippie-anti-establishment. In one case the English song under the opening credits droned on about fornicating a nun, but the French subtitles were much more restrained and invited only to "kiss" the nun. Half the audience roared with laughter. The other half knew only French or only English, and had no idea what was so funny.

Anyway, this recent flick was about a guy with "locked-in syndrome" where he was fully conscious, but completely paralyzed. All he could move was one eyelid, so the therapist sat there and recited the alphabet in frequency order. In English that would begin "E - T..." but in French the frequency is slightly different, "uh - ess - ah - air... (E - S - A - R...). When the guy blinked, she'd stop and write down that letter. After two or three letters into a word, she'd guess at the word, and if correct ("one blink for yes, two for no"), then start over for the next word. He wrote a whole book that way, and the movie was a dramatization of that book.

What was interesting, from a translation perspective, was the first few sentences that he composed this way, the subtitles gave a letter-by-letter spelling of the words. I think the first letter he selected for the first sentence was "J" (pronounced "zhee" in French, but the subtitle showed "I" and the therapist (correctly guessed the pronoun "I" -- in French she said "je"). I was a little startled, but assumed I had not been paying attention. The next word began "V" (subtitled "W") followed by "E" (subtitled "A") but I don't remember my French alphabet that well, so I still had not realized that they were translating not the French letters, but the English spelling of the English word for what he was working on in French ("veux" is French for "want", spelled out for us as "W - A... want? 'I want'"). One blink confirmed it. The third word confirmed my analysis: She clearly stopped on "M" but the subtitles showed "D", then "O" (subtitled "E" but definitely not the first letter in the sequence). The word came out "dead" (French "mort" pronounced "more"). The guy wanted to die. That was his first sentence, but she was not about to let him.

The point is, the subtitles altered the letters being pronounced so they spelled out English-equivalent words, so the English speaking viewer understood the meaning of what was going on, not the exact spelling of the French words. If we know the spelling of French words, then why bother with subtitles at all? Similarly, the people who argue for "accuracy" in Bible translation have got it all wrong. The most accurate Bible translation is not the one that does the least translation (like the literalistic word-substitution versions such as NASB and every other Bible with "S" in its initials), but the one which correctly captures in English the sense that the original Hebrew or Greek reader would have understood. The subtitles in this movie were accurate, not literal. There is a difference. Literalistic word-substitution is not translating.

The movie is "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" and it's a gripping story.
 

2013 September 12 -- His "Law" Is Too Small (Part 2)

There is another way in which Tullian Tchividjian's "Law" is too small. Everything God does is Good, and God made the Law, so it is Good. Not in some hostile and temporary way as Tchividjian imagines it, but God's Law is in every way good.

Missionary physician Paul Brand wrote a marvelous book (ghosted by Philip Yancey) Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, in which he gives different parts of the human body metaphorical significance for understanding the Body of Christ, or more generally, Christian truth. One remarkable chapter relates the "rigid and unyielding" bones of our skeleton to the "rigid and unyielding" commands of God's Law. Brand was stationed for a while in a hospital where war veterans came for treatment. One had lost a bone of an arm shattered by a grenade or some such, and had been fitted with an external metal prosthetic (this was long before they did surgical bone replacements); his arm flopped uselessly until the prosthetic gave it rigidity. Just as the rigid and unyielding bones of our skeleton free us to do what we were made to do, so the Law of God frees us to do what we were made to be.

About the same time I was reading Brand, a research scientist at Bell Labs came as a seminar speaker at the university where I was working on my PhD. Bell Labs had a shirt-and-tie dress code, which he, as an anarchic fresh-out recent student rebelled against. So he wore jeans and T-shirts -- until he discovered that the secretary pool was not doing his work. When he respected them by dressing properly, they started getting his work done. Like Brand's skeletal bones, compliance with the "rigid and unyielding" dress code freed him to do the work he was being paid to do there.

God's Law is a positive Good, not merely a negative and harsh school teacher to tell us we are wrong (although it is that, when we need it), but also a positive benefit to enable society to function properly. The whole Law, Jesus said (and the Apostle Paul repeated), is summarized in two commandments, first to love God above all else, and then to love your neighbor as yourself. When we do this consistently, everybody gets along great. When we choose to do otherwise, innocent people get hurt. The Christian life that Jesus taught, is not to depend on God's grace to cover all our sins while we go on doing whatever feels good (nevermind who gets hurt), but to treat everybody exactly how we want to be treated. Sometimes that has implications that are not obvious, so we have particular commands to point us to the proper understanding of it. "This do," Jesus said, "and live." It was not intended to be an impossible goal, but something that everybody can do -- and indeed we must do it in Heaven, for otherwise Heaven would not be Heaven. If you don't like doing it now, what makes you think you will like it any better in Heaven?

Maybe not Tchividjian himself, but most of the people sitting in his pews hearing him preach on Sunday morning truly believe as Tchividjian claims to believe, "I can't [do it]. Neither can you. What I can say is that Jesus' blood covers all my efforts..." We can't do it, so don't even try, just let Jesus unconditionally wash away all our sins, past, present and future. You won't find that message in the Bible, but rather,

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? -- Rom.6:1, oNIV
You can do it. Jesus and Paul expect you to do it. Mistakes happen, but fix them and Stop sinning. With God helping you, you can do it.

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2013 September 11 -- His "Law" Is Too Small

Billy Graham founded the magazine ChristianityToday some 50-odd years ago to be a flagship periodical for Evangelical thinking. I have been reading it for not much less than that. Their news lacks the right-wing slant of WORLD magazine, but like most dead-tree publications these days, they are more about opinion than news. And like all the other opinions, I can do better myself, without their help. Oh well.

Six months ago, one of their main (opinion) articles presented "The Gospel in One Word" (Love) by a fellow who didn't read his Bible very carefully. What else is new. I sent off an email to the editor complaining about it, and in the subsequent dialog I mentioned that the guy was obviously not a Lutheran, because he found the word "love" in the First and Second Great Commandments, and therefore claimed it proved that the gospel is about love. Of course it proves no such thing. First, the commandments are about our love, while the gospel is said to be about God's love. But Lutherans in particular distinguish "Law" and "Gospel" as the two main themes of Scripture, and in their thinking the commandments are Law, not Gospel.

Perhaps as a consequence (or maybe it was already in the pipeline, I don't know) this month's CT features an opinion piece by a different pastor, titled "God's Word in Two Words" -- you guessed it: Law and Gospel.

The problem is, every reduction of Scripture is wrong.

Reducing the gospel to one word misses out on all that Paul says in defining the gospel, and -- especially if that reduction is "love" -- totally ignores all that Scripture teaches about how Jesus' own specially trained disciples understood it. I am too much of an inerrantist to believe that crock. Jesus did not err in what he taught his disciples, and they did not err in their implementation of it after his ascension, and Luke and Paul and the evangelists did not err in explaining it to us. Not one of them ever said "the gospel is about love," nor anything remotely like it. 20 times in the book of Acts we are given the content of somebody telling unbelievers what they must do become Christians, and not once did they ever mention love. Four more times we are told what Paul said in court to unbelievers -- not really an evangelistic situation, he's on trial for his life and must follow the courtroom rules -- and still not once did he ever mention "love." In fact the word does not even occur in Acts.

Reducing of all of Scripture to two words fares no better. Tullian Tchividjian is recently the senior pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, and one does not become pastor of a famous church by being stupid. He reads his Bible, and he did not say much really contrary to Scripture so much as he left too much unsaid, so as to give a wrong interpretation. The problem with his interpretation might be (ahem) reduced to the simple line, His "Law" Is Too Small.

The easy way to see the problem is to compare how people in the pews understand a gospel of "unconditional grace" (Tchividjian's term) with how that understanding might fare in Tchividjian's own home in the example he himself cited:

When one of our kids throws a temper tantrum, thereby breaking one of the rules, we can send her to her room and take away some of her priviledges. But while this may rightly produce sorrow at the revelation of her sin, it does not have the power to remove her sin. In other words, the law can crush her, but it cannot cure her... If Kim and I don't follow up the law with the gospel, Genna would be left without hope.
I'm not sure I understand the nature of this hopelessness, unless being sent to her room is an eternal punishment from which she can never recover by being good. Somehow I doubt her parents are that cruel, because the (ahem) law of the state forbids it. She can learn to not throw tantrums, and many children do in fact learn such things without anything like "gospel" given to them -- indeed they learn better if the tantrum is punished rather than rewarded with "unconditional grace." Tantrums are a learned behavior: children learn that making a nuisance of themselves achieves certain desired ends. If the desired ends do not follow, they don't learn the behavior. Unconditional grace (forgiveness apart from repentance, which I cannot find in Scripture, see my essay "As God Forgave Us") may be part of his problem, but he does not clearly tell us what kind of "gospel" he offers his daughter. That's a problem with reductions: you don't know what the (reduced) words mean.

But let us suppose that Tchividjian treats his daughter exactly the same as his parishoners expect God to treat them after hearing his sermon. They sin, we all sin from time to time, Tchividjian admits it, and it is the capstone of his essay. Genna throws her tantrum. The "Law" which according to Tchividjian is only condemnation, pronounces her guilt. The parishoner who beat his wife before coming to church, understands that he has sinned. But nobody throws him in jail, the wife and Tchividjian alike announce to him God's unconditional forgiveness -- no promise to do better required, no consequences, no damnation to Hell, just "unconditional grace." So what happens? He goes home, refreshed by the Gospel and by God's unconditional forgiveness, and beats his wife again. In Tchividjian's home, that would be like Genna throwing a tantrum, and being duly scolded (the "Law") and then unconditionally forgiven (the "Gospel"), she continues throwing her tantrum without interruption. Ah, but he doesn't do it that way! That's the "gospel" he preaches and writes about in CT, but he cannot live it in his own home, nor does it make his daughter good. What makes her good is the desire to be good. Sometimes that is motivated by the fear of punishment, and sometimes by the promise of reward. Unconditional forgiveness merely encourages continued sin -- and that is exactly how everybody who learns from Tchividjian's sermon (without reading Romans 6, nowhere mentioned in his essay) understands it.

The gospel in Scripture is rather different. So is the law. The law in Scripture tells us how to behave so that people don't get hurt, and so that we properly acknowledge God as Creator. If we fail to do it, people get hurt, and Scripture can help by pointing to the failings. God cannot allow people like that into His perfect Heaven (it wouldn't be Heaven if people continued to be hurt), so there's another place for them. The gospel (the Greek word in the Bible means "good news") is that Christ died to erase the past karma, so we can live that sinless life God demands and expects of everybody in Heaven. But we still must stop sinning. That's what Jesus told the woman taken in adultery, "Stop sinning." That's what the word "repent" means. It does not forgive past sins -- only the blood of Jesus on the cross does that -- but the Holy Spirit can help us want to stop sinning. If you don't want to do that, well, you probably wouldn't like it in Heaven, and God certainly cannot allow you in. You did not earn God's grace, but there definitely is a condition on it, which is that you stop sinning. With God's help, you can do that, and God commands it. Besides, it's a good idea. Genna needs to stop throwing tantrums. Maybe she already did, in the real world of Tchividjian's home.

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2013 September 10 -- Marketing, and Other Kinds of Relationship

A family member turned hostile on me earlier this year. Her grandson was hitting me up for funding a mission trip, and I mistook him for a guy. Silly me! Guys don't go on mission trips, it's a church activity, and the churches in America are run by and for the exclusive benefit of Feelers (see Relationshipism and related links), not real guys. And because Feelers are skillful at finding insults where none are intended, his grandmother turned into a Mama Bear. Mama bears, as y'all know, are extremely hostile while protecting their baby bear cubs against all threats, real and imagined. My efforts at reconciliation were rebuffed. Sometimes I feel so alone.

Anyway. I had this check I was going to send for his mission trip when she told me to have no more contact with her side of the family, so I sent it to the mission agency anyway, and told them to use it for somebody else, somebody willing to tell me how they used it -- or else return it "no harm, no foul." I did not expect them to refuse the money. Pretty soon I got an email from another young lady, telling me about her upcoming mission trip. She was so juiced from the trip that she now plans to join the agency full-time. Yesterday she sent me her fund-raising appeal. I know that's what it is, because the PDF document name is "SupportLetter". She's too young to have learned the deceptive euphemisms used by other missionaries.

You don't have to read my blog very long before you know what I think of PrettyDarnFoolish documents. Let me list for you here their advantages and liabilities:

Advantages

1. The author controls the appearance.

2. There are no other advantages
 

Liabilities

1. The author controls the appearance. That means the person trying to read it cannot adjust its appearance to fit their screen or vision requirements. You cannot search the document unless the author chooses to let you, and then only in the lame tools offered by the viewing software.

2. Nevermind what Adobe marketers thought the "P" in PDF stands for, PDF files are not portable. Any software, any computer can read plain-text documents and email, but only proprietary software can read PDF. Good luck if it runs on your computer. Half the PDF files that come my way won't even open in the latest Adobe reader available for this computer.

3. Proprietary software always has security flaws. Because the Adobe PDF viewer failed my security audit, it must be sandboxed. I must never allow it to run when my computer is online, nor when it is running mission-critical programs that must not be crashed. This week I am doing that.

4. PDF files are big and clunky and slooow and hard to navigate. Some HTML web pages are designed by control freaks who prefer PDF, so they don't fit my screen and are big and clunky and slow, but HTML is text, and I can always save it off as text (except in "modern" OSX computers, which are pretty lame) to read with more powerful software. PDF can be text also, but everybody encrypts their files, to make it slow and unportable. Go figure.
 

Maybe PDF documents (like 4-color glossy brochures) make the sender look good to other potential donors, but they have the reverse effect with me. As if I had disposable income to spend in that manner. But she's a Feeler, so I can't say any of this to her. Feelers are skillful at finding insults where none are intended.

Sometimes I feel so alone.
 

2013 September 7 -- The Almost-Male Version

They set these flicks in the 1800s because there was very little civilized law at that time -- especially in the so-called "wild west". What would today send a guy to jail for arson or assult with a deadly weapon, back then could only be defended by a faster draw or by fisticuffs, which is much higher in the "coolness factor" than boring courtroom scenes. That's why Steven Seagal prefers martial arts. It's high fantasy, all fake. You can tell, because the credits always list a choreographer. Yup, in musicals that's the person who arranges the dance so it flows smoothly. In martial arts flicks, they have the same job, arranging the dance -- I mean fight (same thing) -- so everything flows smoothly.

These are "family" movies, so nobody is supposed to get hurt (except for the nice old man, who is bullied off his property by the cowards in bedsheets. You can tell they are cowards (like modern Muslims), because they are afraid to show their faces in public while committing shameful acts of bullying. In modern times the only cowards are the ones with a death wish, because the public won't put up with such shameful acts in the USA. So they must kill themselves in the act, or spend the rest of their lives in the world's best schools for training criminals, otherwise known as prison. Yes, the bad guys do get caught, which is so much more boring than the way they did it 150 years ago. Which is why they placed the movie back then.

The movie did not have a satisfying end, because the bad guys got away with their evil deeds. That's even worse than a Christmas movie. In a true masculine (Thinker) version, justice is served. But the movie industry (like the churches in America) is dominated by Feelers who don't know or don't care about Truth and Justice ("and the American Way,"  because comics were -- perhaps still are, but I don't know -- dominated by real men ;-)
 

2013 September 2 -- Feminazi Fiction

The flick came in a collection of B-movie sci-fi, but there was no science in the fiction of this particular opus, except maybe for the fact that the sci-fi community is more eager than most people to willfully ignore the science regarding gender differences. But fantasy is more fun than science. Sword fights are more fun -- both to film, and (I suppose, but not for me) to watch -- than self-sacrifice.

The whole premise is wrong. Women do not throw off the yoke of their male oppressors by violence. Actually nobody does. The American revolution succeeded only because the Brits didn't really care. The Russian revolution merely replaced the oppression of the Czar with the (worse) oppression of Stalin. Cuba replaced the mildly disagreeable Batista with the iron fist of Castro. Did anybody mention Mao? Come to think of it, the hated tax that the American colonials threw off was a tiny fraction of the "not one dime" new tax Obama has laid on low-income people. Like the rise of modern science, oppression ceases when Christian values pervade the culture, and not otherwise. Women's rights were not even on the table until the Apostle Paul put them there. The pride and anger shown by the amazon warrior in this flick are vices, not virtues.

Have you ever noticed that the macho guys in movies always wear heavy protective clothing, but the fighter women always wear as little as possible? If these were really about feminine liberation, there would be no significant difference in their apparel. The fact is, there is a difference, and everybody knows it. Guys want to see flesh, so the flicks show it. Fighting women is an opportunity to show flesh. Women have a different agenda. We men may have difficulty figuring out what their agenda is, but everybody knows it's different from men's, and even in fiction, the movies don't lie about that. When the women run in movies, they always fall down; guys don't. Always. Even the feminists acknowledge, by their gender-specific anger, that there is a difference.

Everybody in this flick spoke English with a Spanish accent (confirmed in the the credits, which gave them all Spanish names, with at least one Madrid company name), but at least it wasn't dubbed. The dubbed voices in the spaghetti flicks (Italian names in the credits, and similarly the Japanese: there were several of both in this collection) are flat monotones, like the actors reading their lines in post-production don't care about the action. After all, it's not their faces on the screen.
 

2013 August 16 -- Koontz Oddity

I finished the Koontz novel I mentioned last week, and it was different from his usual anti-government fare, in that the hero was a cop -- but his superior and most of the other cops were not Good Guys. More remarkably, it had a strong religious component -- like most modern horror, the supernatural is demonic, there is no Jesus Christ or angels to overcome the baddies, just a little magic that magically appears in the youngest child. The two clergy featured in the story were somewhat like the other cops, having deviated from the Faith in some way or another. The theological foundation of the story is pop-Catholic, and he does not criticize the Church, only its fallen ministers, which suggests that Koontz himself is of Catholic faith (confirmed in Wiki). Unlike Evangelicals, the Catholics do not encourage their adherents to become aggressive in the knowledge of their faith, so Koontz' religious views as exemplified in this story are somewhat bizarre.

It's a family story, kind of like the author is doing a tribute to his own family. The hero's wife is spotless and the childish blemishes of the children are minimal. The worst of them is the middle child (the one who "bamboozled" her math teacher) who picks on her younger sister and is herself bamboozled by fantasy aspirations, suggesting that Koontz is starting to see feminine fantasy as negatively as I do.

Anyway, as I said, the next novel is not Koontz.
 

2013 August 15 -- Total Quality

I did a lot of work for a company that was the top of their industry. Where do you grow from there? One of the things they did was bring in a consultant to train their people on "Total Quality Management." Quality, they said, "is conformance to specifications." That's not exactly obvious until you think about it.

So I'm watching this video with the usual corporate logo commercials at the front  -- one learns to skip over them -- but it also had an optional short introduction in which some talking head (perhaps the producer, I didn't catch it) was bragging about the quality of their animation and telling us how to adjust the TV for best viewing. Generally, when somebody needs to tell you about a virtue that should have been obvious, it's because it's not there at all for you to see it. In his case, I don't think he understood "quality." Or TVs, for that matter. It's been a looong time since they made TV sets that you could adjust anything more than the channel and sound volume. But quality I understand.

The implicit specification for a video is that you get to watch the movie with minimum hassle. Second, because this is in your own home where you are the king of the castle, you want to be able to stop and restart, fast-forward over the commercials (best: not have commercials that you need to skip over) and (in case you missed some part) back up and watch a particularly good scene over again in instant replay. The budget movies that have been released to the public domain (you can also download them from Archive.org) come on the highest-quality DVDs: I can even pop out the disk and shut down the computer (on a PC it's called "hibernate" and none of the lesser computers -- Apple's OSX comes to mind -- can do it) in the middle of the movie, then start it back up the next day and resume where you left off. The greedy studio mavens have inserted some kind of copy protection that disables that feature, so usually I need to write down where I left off, then jump to it when I want to restart. This video exhibited that same lower quality. Even lower, because there were a bunch of commercials at the front I needed to skip over before jumping could happen. They are not the movie which the specification says I get to watch, so they detract from the total quality. This particular flick was even worse than most, because they managed to disable the instant-replay ability. The story was good (no vampires or undead, no potty language or naked people), just lower quality than it might have been. Even the old VCR tapes had higher quality (conformance to specification) than this DVD.

There are more important things in life than no-hassle movies, but most of the time they are more honest about their quality.
 

2013 August 13 -- Mo' Corn

The lady at church was offering me a bag of fresh corn. I don't normally buy fresh corn (it's the only recipe in my sister's cookbook I didn't actually cook), but I also try to cultivate an attitude of gratitude (see my recent essay "Accepting the Body God Gave Us"), so I accepted. It has got to be the finest corn around, because the local experts in corn gastronomy won't touch the grocery corn, but every one of these had been bitten into. The preparation of corn on the cob is a little more effort than I normally go to, but the experts were right: it was yummy, much tastier (and probably better for me) than hot dogs and can soup. At my age "healthy" might be irrelevant, but flavor rocks.
 

2013 August 10 -- Reality

It was a vile flick, every third word out of the main character's mouth should have been bleeped. Somewhat more interesting was the "Making of" flick on the same DVD, in which one of the principals -- perhaps the director, but I didn't catch it (and I really don't care) -- was bragging about how his flick was better than the usual vampile/horror movie, because you didn't see any supernatural until halfway through. He pointed out that Stephen King novels are like that, you get to know and identify with the characters before the horror starts. He seemed to think it made the horror more real. He knew his own main characters were "jerks" (his word), but didn't think it interfered with the audience identification. He was wrong. Not only did I not like any of the "good guys" (including his jerks), I despise vampire flicks in general. So after this little insight gave way to interviews with the "2nd 2nd Assistant Director" and how he got into filmmaking by doing tours at Universal, I turned the whole thing off and went back to reading.

Dean Koontz is no Stephen King, and his more recent novels need some working over with toilet paper, but at least not like that flick. I'm not much into horror -- too much like fantasy -- so before I take any more Koontz novels home, I'll have to scrutinize the cover blurb and/or whatever reviews I can find on the internet to filter out the crud. But I got two back-to-back. He doesn't spend much time letting the reader get to know the people before the horror sets in.

The "Afterword" in Demon Seed explained that he was young and inexperienced when he first wrote it, so this was (in his opinion) a more credible rewrite. However, like Michael Crichton's Prey (see my review), Koontz does not understand the technology very well. Or maybe he understands it, but abandonned verisimilitude for dramatic effect (as they say in the movies). At least there are no undead or ghosts. He explained that he did sci-fi early in his career, before switching to horror.

Now I'm reading one that seems more explicitly a ghost story. At least that's what the jacket blurb calls it. I'm only a third of the way through it, so I'll withhold final judgment. There is one eerie phrase in the book that almost exactly matches the title of the movie, perhaps the movie makers did that on purpose. Anyway, Koontz is a successful author, which means he's raking the cash in (Wiki says $25 million per year), so his life style is appropriately comfortable. You can tell, because his later fiction (both of these novels) is about rich people. One line I thought revealing, relating to a private math tutor they brought in for the kids:

Not only was math a waste of time, it was also immensely boring, so [the 11-year-old girl] pretended to understand what dear Professor Sinyavski prattled on about, and she pretended actually to listen to the sweet man. Mostly she had him bamboozled...
If she had him bamboozled, then he was incompetent and deserved neither the title nor the job. If you understand the math, then you get right answers on the tests; if you don't, you don't. Unlike fiction, the figures don't lie, and you cannot "bamboozle" your way through to a passing grade -- unless the teacher also doesn't understand it, or doesn't care. I did some math tutoring myself, and I could tell when the student had done his homework and when he had not, solely on how well he solved problems on the board. Math is like that, it's harder than so-called "hard science," and there's no way to fake it in front of somebody who knows the subject. It may be boring, but it's not a waste of time. Unless the teacher is incompetent. Obviously Dean Koontz doesn't know any more about math than he does about computer technology. I can tell, because I do know both subjects, and you cannot fake either skill. It doesn't seem to be an important part of the plot, so I'll just let this mistake ride.

The next novel won't be Koontz.
 

2013 August 6 -- Telling Your Story

When I had a lot more income to give away, I got myself on a number of "major donor" lists. The revenue departments of these ministries have a business model that encourages them to engage their donors in "relationships". Maybe that works for the average guy with more dollars than sense, but it usually just turns me off. I try to pay more attention to what God is telling me to do with the money He has entrusted to my care, than what the money-hungry fundraisers say.

One these organizations works with college students. Most of what they do is probably OK, but a recent mailing from them got up my behindside. Their theme is "Telling His Story by Telling Yours." The problem is, it's unBiblical.

I won't say it doesn't get converts. Perhaps it does -- especially in today's post-modern culture. The essense of post-modernism is that there is no such thing as true or false, just personal stories and power plays. The "Telling Your Story" program accepts that nonsense as valid and plays into it. Another common phrase in the same framework is "People don't care how much you know until the know how much you care." It resonates with church people, because they all are MBTI Feelers. Their highest value is "relationship" by which they mean affirmation, "caring" for each other (at least on the surface). Of course you can never know what's true in that environment. Feelers don't care what's true. Like the bishop in that forgetable disaster flick, hope is more important than the truth. The American churches are run by and for the exclusive benefit of Feelers, Thinkers need not apply. So the Thinkers stay home.

I'm not one of those Feelers. Half of the people in this country are Thinkers, not Feelers. We are not welcome in the churches unless we agree to check our brains at the door. If all the gospel I ever heard was people "telling their story," I would probably be an atheist today. The atheists say they care about the truth. Most of them do, nevermind that they don't know what's true. Science is (or at least was) about what is true. Curiously, so is the Bible, but you'd never get a Feeler to tell you that. They want to believe it, but like the bishop, they don't really care. So you want to tell your story? Great! It's your story, it doesn't matter if it's true, it's your truth, I have mine, everybody has their own truth, all different. What hogwash! If you go to a theater for a $10 flick, and you hand the cashier a $20, you expect $10 in change, not $5 or $2. It doesn't matter that in "his truth" or in "his story" $5 + $10 = $20, the real truth is that $10 + $10 = $20, and nobody can tell you different. Even if you are a card-carrying post-modern, some things are absolutely true. Math is one of them, at least when you are buying and selling using your own money. There are other absolutes, although it might be inconvenient to accept them.

The Bible is about absolute Truth, the Real World out there, and the eternal universe beyond it. Like that woman answering the bishop, "you are talking about our lives here." Jesus trained 12 men to be his church leaders after he was gone. Did he fail to teach them properly? If he's God Incarnate, then he knew exactly what they should be saying when they evangelized the world, and he knew exactly how to teach them to do that. I believe nothing less of him. So it is very instructive to look at what they did when they evangelized. There are 20 instances in the book of Acts where somebody was speaking to one or more unbelievers to encourage them to become Christians, and we know by direct quotation what was said. In ALL 20 instances, not once did anyone "tell his story." Not once did anybody say "God loves you." Not once! Why is that? Did the Apostles screw up? Did Jesus bungle his training sessions? I don't think so. The church grew by leaps and bounds during that time, far faster than what happens when we tell people "our story" or that God loves them.

I think we Americans are the ones who have screwed up. We need to get back to the message that Peter and Stephen and Philip and Paul preached. When Paul preached to pagans, he started with the Creator God. The atheists today may ridicule a Creation message, but it's because we Christians have not done our homework. Neither have they. Check it out: There is no primary evidence for evolution, only people who don't know any better repeating pseudo-scientific old wives tales. Check it out. Guys (Thinkers, most of them male) care about the truth, but you need the truth to give to them.

The mailing from this ministry did mention a few verses in Acts where Paul "told his story," but they neglected to report what was going on at that time. Four times Paul was on trial for his life (perhaps more) but those four times we are told what he said, and those four times he told his story in court. He was making a defense for his own life using the proper form of legal defense in court, not preaching the gospel the way he preferred. When you are on trial, you say what your lawyer tells you to say -- the truth of course, but you must fit the legal requirements of the court. When Paul was not in chains and not on trial, he gave a completely different message.

There is another problem with evangelism by "telling your story." Jesus taught that anyone who wanted to be his disciple "must deny himself." Telling my story puts the focus on me. That's not self-denial, it's self aggrandizing. It may be fun to be the center of attention, but it's not Christian.

PermaLink, with additional comments
 

2013 August 5 -- The Bishop Was Wrong

Hallmark used to be the (ahem) hallmark of greeting cards, but their quality has deteriorated so far that it's no longer worth my time to go to their store when I'm looking for something to send. Wal-Mart may be moving in the same direction, but they still have better cards -- and at lower prices! Perhaps as a plug for their flagging Xmas card business (they no longer sell cards proclaiming the reason for the season) Hallmark some time back started doing syrupy Christmas TV specials -- you know the kind: somebody makes a ridiculous wish at the beginning, then they get what they wanted at the end and everybody lives happily ever after. The local library has dozens of these flicks, perhaps all donated, because none of them are worth watching. Or maybe the librarians, women all of them, like that sort of thing.

Yesterday I was watching a double-feature made-for-TV flick with the Hallmark logo. It wasn't a Christmas flick, and most of the people on the luxury liner died -- including the lover of the guy who got back with his wife at the end. That's not a spoiler, all these syrupy flicks are about wish fulfillment, where everybody (at least the principles) they all live happily ever after. Even the bad guy got his wish (to die and presumably, but he didn't say so, to embrace the 70 virgins in Paradise). OK, maybe there were no virgins where he went, but he did say he wanted to die, and the flick had it happen in a fiery enferno. Definitely more satisfying than a Christmas flick with the same corporate logo, but not by much. Close on the heels of 9/11 it might have been politically correct to consign middle-eastern bad guys to the flames of the underworld; I doubt Hallmark is so patriotic today after nine more years of moral downward spiral, now accelerating under the most hostile USA government ever.

But that's not the point of today's post. True to Hallmark's increasingly anti-Christian hostility and that of most movies, the only religious person shown was a bishop of dubious faith. But he had a telling line near the end:

Hope is sometimes more important than the truth.
The woman's response was (like the High Priest Caiaphas) more true than she (or the writers) intended:
Save it for your sermons, bishop, you are talking about our lives here.
The bishop should be talking about our lives -- including our eternal lives, which nobody (not even most "Christians" most of the time) care about any more -- and the Truth is far more important than any faked sense of hope. But not to Feelers. This is trying hard to be a Feeler flick without accepting the Feeler religion. sigh

Speaking of hope, at the Biblical "threescore and ten" age (nobody knows what that means any more, even if their preferred Bible is KJV, where it occurs) I am nearing my own place of hopelessness. Who is going to hire somebody my age? Who is going to believe what I have to say enough to fund it? Who is going to buy my software? I was asking God if I should just accept the (apparently hopeless) truth and cash in my chips, but then it came like a sign from Heaven, as the old gospel song put it, "This world is not my home," and my place here in the State of Misery is still only temporary. Maybe next year in California or Texas or (literally) God only knows where. There's nothing to hold me here now except this job I need to finish. Hope is important only if it rests on the truth, and not knowing is not the same as knowing not. God can still do something with me. I don't know where this is going, but I still have work to do and money to buy groceries with.
 

2013 July 31 -- Beating the Reaper

The Christians are not the only ones engaging in wish-thinking fantasies. The editorial in WORLD magazine earlier this month mentioned a guy trying to stave off death by imagining that by 2045 he will be able to down-load his brain into an affordable robot (which can be easily replaced as it wears out), and thus effectively live forever. Ignoring for the moment the Darwinistic hokum underlying this fantasy, let's look at the numbers. IF (1) Moore's Law continues unabated and even accelerates for the next 30 years, and IF (2) the human brain is not significantly more complex than we presently understand, and IF (3) somebody figures out how to read out all 100 TRILLION synapses from the human brain ALL AT ONCE, yeah maybe the technology is there to do it.

(3) is the easiest to debunk. Right now, the most we know about brain activity is how much blood is flowing to which regions (because they show up warmer on a brain scan), which tells us more or less which regions are thinking at a particular moment. Under a microscope, we can study a frog or worm nerve and see what happens to the synapses at one end when you stimulate the other end -- but the frog dies in the process of extracting that nerve. There is no known way to examine the chemical reactions of individual synapses inside the brain. We can poke wires into the brain and measure electrical activity in the region of those wires, but the wires damage other nerves, and probably also all the nerves in the area being tested. Like quantum physics, there is no way to measure what is going on non-destructively. Suppose we did figure out how to focus some kind of X-ray down to the microscopic size of an individual synapse, and then did a CAT-scan of the brain at that resolution. And let's say we can run this scan exceedingly fast, a billion samples per second (video encoding is currently about ten million samples per second), it would take 100,000 seconds -- more than 24 hours -- to run the entire scan. Who's going to sit still that long? Worse: the brain is on all the time, so while you are scanning this part, that part over there is changing, and when you get to that part, this part will be different: putting the parts together will have temporal dislocations. To get a consistent download, you must do it all at once, in less time than it takes a synapse to fire, something like a millisecond or less. That requires a bandwidth exceeding what is physically possible with X-rays, let alone the circuits to collect the data as it streams out.

(2) is mostly Darwinistic hokum. Charles Darwin supposed that the living cell was an amorphous blob of protoplasm, easily formed by chance and natural causes from basic chemicals. 150 years later we know a lot more about how things work, and they are incredibly complex. A half-century after they figured out the structure of DNA, we still have only a foggy idea what all the bits do. For a while the Darwinists imagined that most of it was amorphous "junk DNA" but as of the last couple years we know better. We don't know what all those bits do, but they seem to be important for making things work. Historically, things get complicated faster than we can study them. That means there will likely be more brain complexity known to be just beyond our reach 30 years from now than there is today.

(1) Moore's Law is the observation made almost 50 years ago that electronic technology doubles performance for cost at a steady rate. Computers became affordable to ordinary people around the end of the 1970s. An affordable desktop computer in 1980 had about the speed and power of a multi-million-dollar super-computer 30 years ealier. The speed and power of a multi-million-dollar super-computer in 1980 is now available (30 years later) as a modestly priced desktop model. At that same rate, the multi-million-dollar super-computer of today (think: "Blue Gene" from last week) will be matched by an affordable desktop model 30 years from now, about the same time that guy wants to down-load his brain into it. But we are still a full decade away from getting the biggest and fastest super-computer (on a Billion-dollar budget, no less) to simulate what we know today about the human brain. By then, of course, what we know about the brain will be so much more, that we will still be a decade away from running an accurate computer version of it.

There's more: Moore's Law is not accelerating, it's slowing down. There are two reasons for that. First and most important, we are reaching the end of what can be done with the physics. The current issue of the IEEE Spectrum points out that silicon cannot be made to go faster than it already is. The latest speed gains have come from putting more computers on the same chip. IBM's Blue Gene has thousands and millions of computers operating in parallel. Materials other than silicon may give a performance boost up to a factor of ten, but not much more before the heat destroys the reliability. The second reason for the end of Moore's Law is much more subtle: The Scientific Method -- and all of modern technology that is built on it -- came out of the Christian worldview. The atheists are largely and successfully destroying that underpinning, so that there is no longer reason to pursue a career in science. If everything is the random accumulation of time + chance + natural causes, then there are no laws of physics to study, just random effects -- sort of like quantum theory -- and if there is no absolute Truth, then what is there to study? Like that goofus who imagines his low-cost robot, people prefer to pretend and fantasize instead of figuring out how things really work. We still have a lot of Christians and Christian values left in our culture, probably enough to last the next three decades, but it's going downhill.

So Dmitry Itskov will die of old age just like the rest of us. There will be robots around his deathbed, but nothing nearly as smart as the stupidest human, and certainly nothing he can down-load his brain into. I suggest he prepare to meet his Maker.
 

2013 July 24 -- Brain Dead

For most of this month I've been working my way through the five volumes of Joel Rosenberg's Last Jihad series of novels. I got started on this because I'd OD'd on fantasy (see comments here). Like all "Christian" fiction, Rosenberg's work fits what I now call "Alcorn's 4 Ps" (Predictable, Polite -- "sugar-coated" in Alcorn's description, which for want of a better definition I take to mean no sex, no gutter language, and no unrequited evil -- then Preachy, and Poorly written). While not at the level of Michael Crichton's best, Rosenberg is certainly better than Crichton's worst (see reviews here), which is pretty low on the Poorly-written scale, but the Preachy parts more than make up for it. Crichton's worst are also rather preachy, although not in favor of Christianity. But it did get tiresome (both authors), so I'm off fiction for a while.

That's not really true: I'm catching up on my back issues of WIRED magazine, and it's about as fictional as TIME was when I gave it up. Last month featured an article about Henry Markram's Billion-Euro (about $1,300,000,000) quest to simulate the human brain on a computer. He figures it will take about 100,000 times more computational power than IBM's Blue Gene supercomputer, the biggest and fastest available today, which he hopes will become available within the decade that he has outlined for the project.

Most people lack the science and mathematical skills to distinguish between credible numbers and Darwinistic hokum. The author does not attribute the number "86 billion neurons" to any particular source; I have read estimates closer to a trillion neurons, but that's only one more order of magnitude out of eleven, a mere drop in the bucket. I found specs for the Blue Gene at 20 petaflops. If (as the article indirectly states) there are about a thousand connections per neuron, and if (this is only a "SWAG" guess) it takes ten flops to simulate one neron connection firing, and if (as I vaguely remember) a neuron can process a thousand signals per second -- as I said, what's one order of magnitude more or less among so many -- then the fastest available Blue Gene should be able to simulate the entire human brain as currently estimated at 100,000 times slower than real time. I did the math, and I got the same number. That part is credible.

The Darwinistic hokum part lies in the supposition that a 86 billion simulated neurons randomly connected to a thousand other neurons will start to behave intelligently. That's like supposing that a billion computer memory bytes randomly filled with ones and zeros will play a tolerable game of chess. That may be about the size of IBM's Deep Blue chess program that beat Garry Kasparov (I could not find actual numbers), but you can be sure those bits were far from random. Readers of WIRED also know that important parts of the human brain are known to be "hard-wired" for their functions (see a recent example of face recognition). What we do not yet know -- but probably will realize as Markram gets his program close to running -- is how much of the brain is hard-wired. As a Creationist, I would predict that most of what we call intelligent behavior, as well as most of the things we take for granted as reflexes, is hard-wired into the brain, and cannot be achieved without some exceedingly smart programmer hard-wiring Markram's software in the same manner. It took nearly a half century for the Creationist prediction that there is no such thing as "junk DNA" to be confirmed; maybe this one will come in half that time.
 

2013 July 16 -- Brokenness

It's not the worst TV series I've seen. The library picked up a bunch of TV serials this year. Some have an interesting idea, but the writers got tired or bored; after the first season (or sometimes in the first episode), the plots became intolerably boring or simply incredible beyond normal suspension of disbelief (see "Gender Fiction"). This series I'm watching this week has a heroine whose superpowers are not supernatural and only slightly incredible. She works in her Dad's private detective agency and turns up all the dirt on her high-school classmates' parents (for a fee). Private information like that is hard to find (and getting harder), not something you can turn up on the internet in a few minutes. But there are no vampires or undead, no religion-bashing (at least not yet), no potty language or sexualization, no stupid people doing stupid things and nevertheless succeeding at them, and the amount of jumping around to very loud but tuneless noise (they call it "dancing", and teenie-bopper flicks seem to be full of it) is minimal, so I'm still watching.

When you take away the dross, what's left in a lot of these pagan flicks is a huge amount of relational catastrophe. The heroine's mother skipped town before the opener, her best friend who was also her boyfriend's sister was killed (also in the backstory), and there's all this hostility between the rich kids who abusively dominate the high school politics and schoolyard, and their parents' servants' punk kids who somehow manage to live in the same school district. I suspect it's exaggerated "for dramatic effect" (meaning you don't get this much excitement in the real world) but the story line would be boring without it. But the hostility is real. People are selfish -- all of us, including the "Christians" -- and selfishness is the root cause of all kinds of evil.

In the church, where most of my interaction with other people happens, everybody tries to "be nice." That results in a thin veneer of politeness over whatever seething hostility might lurk under the surface, so I mostly don't see it, but if you get too close to people, the ugliness pops out. I mentioned this in my own case a week ago, something about MBTI "FJ"s triggers something negative in me. Nobody else causes the problem, so I'm beginning to wonder if I'm subconsciously reacting to their hostility towards me. After the fact I can see that they have certainly been very hostile in a polite (hypocritical) sort of way, but I'm always blindsided by it when it happens. They always get unspeakably angry, but I think this is the first time I've been threatened with physical assault in several decades.

As I said last week, if they won't or can't maintain the courtesy other people do in similar circumstances, and if I cannot in real time see when I should back away, at least the evidence of their personality type is prominent enough that I can refuse to engage at the outset. "J"s may be control freaks, but knowledge is power and "P"s are more likely to collect knowledge, so it paradoxically falls on me to detect and prevent the problem while it is still potential and thus stop it before it gets out of hand -- in other words, to be in control. I'm not yet very good at it, but (with God's help) I can do it. The pagans (like in TV and the movies) prefer the conflict, or at least the writers and directors do. It's fiction of course, but credible, more so than vampires and undead, and maybe also more than the churchy hypocrisy. By the end of the first year it was getting overly sexualized. I did not go back for the next season.

One can never know what is true in that environment. That must be why there are so few "T"s (whose top value is Truth, not "relationship") in the church. sigh
 

2013 July 15 -- "America's Change of Mind on ... Rights"

The Sunday School teacher handed out a printout of the findings of a recent poll. Unfortunately, the pollster has blocked their website from inquiring minds, so I cannot offer you a link nor even comment on their credibility.

The title is half-right: America has changed their mind on marriage rights, but not in the way this report -- and most everybody else -- thinks.

For most of this country's history, pretty much everybody agreed with the following concept:

The government should not be subsidizing by handouts or tax breaks or special privileges, any corporation or association or relationship or activity which does not have as a primary purpose the benefit of the public Good rather than somebody's private benefit.
I suspect most American citizens today probably would still agree with that statement, unless and until you show how they themselves are the inappropriate beneficiaries of government handouts. The change of mind started to occur sometime during Lyndon Johnson's Presidency, when the government started giving out handouts to some people apart from their contribution to the public Good. The Obama administration has extended that largess to corporations like Solyndra. FDR started the handouts, but at least the recipients at that time were presumed to be laboring on "Public Works" for the benefit of the common Good. Corporations have been added to the take recently as part of Obama's drive toward the failed socialist ideology, but (for example) the automotive bailouts are open to debate as to whether they served the public Good, while the silly Obama energy handouts served only the WhiteHouse cronies and political supporters -- far more so than the alleged cronyism of his predecessor.

But the biggest useless handout started much earlier, about the time Kennedy died. That was when the Pill and no-fault divorce both came into widespread use, and the function of marriage ceased to be to provide a stable environment for preparing the next generation of citizens to become productive members of society. Let me repeat it again:

The government should not be subsidizing by handouts or tax breaks or special privileges, any corporation or association or relationship or activity which does not have as a primary purpose the benefit of the public Good rather than somebody's private benefit.
That includes people who choose to live together under the same roof for their own private benefit. The government has no business -- not now, not in 1963, not in 1776, nor any time in the future -- subsidizing by handouts and tax breaks and special privileges any friendship activities of two or more people who are not by their cohabitation providing a positive benefit to society. The only positive benefit that can be consistently demonstrated is providing a nurturing environment for their own (shared) biological children, which reduces crime in the streets when those children reach maturity. The fact that people happen to like each other for a year or two or ten is irrelevant when there are no mutual children.

NOBODY has been denying homosexuals any rights that shouldn't also be denied to heterosexuals ever since 1776. It's not about equality, but SPECIAL PRIVILEGES being given to non-productive corporations and to couplings that by their nature cannot benefit society.

Yes, America has had a "Change of Mind on ... LGBTQ Rights" because we now seem to want to give them rights neither they nor anybody else should have. The "Christians" are wringing their hands (and the other side is gloating) over the wrong question.

Full disclosure: I did not do anything to contribute to the funding of the next generation of government Ponzi payers (aka children) so the government does not offer me any handouts in recognition of that, and (unlike the homosexuals) I'm not demanding it. I also do not accept government handouts for the priviledge of being old (and unproductive), nor for being sick (and unproductive). In fact, next year I expect to beginpaying an extra tax for the priviledge of NOT being on the government dole, the largest single tax increase on low-income people in the history of this country (except when FDR increased taxes to pay for his war).

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2013 July 12 -- Praying in Faith

Most of the people I know have a very simple faith. Their God is a sort of "cosmic bellhop" that any time they want to ask for something pleasant or nice, He is obligated to give it to them. They even have Bible verses to support this conviction, for example (one of them gave me) this list: Matt.7:7-11, 21:22, John 15:7, Eph.3:20, James 4:2-3, 5:16-18. Although the first of them appears unconditional, taken in context, every one of these verses places a condition of faith on the request. What exactly does that mean?

I think the faith condition is clearest in James 4:3, "When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures." The faith condition is not successfully wishing and hoping and "believing what you know ain't so," as one wag put it, but getting your desires in line with God's. The First and Second Great Commandments (I call them 1+2C) require putting God's agenda first, ahead of our own, and making everybody else's agenda equal to our own. It is a complete denial of selfishness. If you ask God for what advances His agenda (not your own), He will give it freely. The next verse in the Matt.7:7-11 passage, verse 12 is what we call the Golden Rule. It provides a context for asking and getting good things from God: You are expected to use those good things for the benefit of other people.

One of the young ladies in my church calls herself "an incurable romantic," and is convinced that if she asks God for it, God will give her a perfect marriage with a loving (that is, romantic, affirming) husband. Maybe that is God's will for her and God will give it to her, and maybe not. I suspect that most of the starry-eyed teenage girls in the churches pray for the same outcome, yet (statistically) half of their marriages end in divorce. Did God break His promises? I don't think so. God never promised a perfect marriage to any of us. Jesus said we could expect "tribulation" (major difficulties) and division -- and indeed, that is what happens to good Christians around the world, Americans less than some of the others, but it's already getting worse for even us.

It would appear that getting in line with God's agenda means a reasonable expectation of hardship and broken relationships, including in marriage. So if you are praying for that perfect romance, it's probably not "in faith."  When Bad Things happen to Good People, they become better people, more focussed on helping other people in difficulties. If that same young lady were to get her perfect marriage, then she would most likely become as caught up in her selfish enjoyment of those romantic feelings as she is caught up in the anticipation of it today. Imagining a romantic future for herself does not lead her to abandon her selfish ambitions for the benefit of other people, but rather the reverse. Therefore (it would seem at least in her case), both God's agenda and the Golden Rule are best served by inflicting hardship and disaster on persons of faith. Is this woman an exception? Maybe, but the odds are against it. I myself lack sufficient faith to be asking God for hardship, but I suspect I should be. There really isn't another kind of faith.

Jesus prayed "in faith" for the cup to pass from him, and it did, but not without the hardship of the cross. Are we better or more deserving of goodies and comfort than Jesus Christ? I don't think so.

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2013 July 9 -- Hopeless

Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you. -- Prov.9:8
It's time to take my own advice. It's important with "J"s not to confuse them with facts, because their mind is already made up. It's important with "F"s not to confuse them with facts, because they are more interested in affirmation ("relationships") than truth. Trying to tell something new and true to an "FJ" is like trying to get a pig to sing: you won't succeed, and it annoys the pig.

As top editor of a large Christian publication, the guy has to be "FJ". Judgers want to be in control, and Perceivers are happy to let them, so top management positions everywhere are controlled by "J"s. He worked his way up through the ranks. He's a "J". It's a Christian rag, and all the people in the churches are Feelers, because Thinkers are not welcome. He could not make it to the top of anything inside the church as a Thinker. Besides, writers are more often Feelers. His writings confirm that. He's "FJ" no question, and my effort to get through him to do my Martin Luther thing in his publication is doomed. I had his attention for a couple emails, but I'm a gnat to be brushed aside. If a new Reformation ever gets off the ground, the editors and pastors in America -- "FJ"s all of them -- will sit on the sidelines and wonder what is going on. Or maybe they'll jump in and try to control it because they are Judgers, but because they are also Feelers, they have Clue Deficit Disorder, the best they can do is destroy it.

The Feeler men in the churches -- our editor friend among them -- look at the dearth of men in the churches (most Feelers are women; most men are Thinkers and are unwelcome there) and know something is wrong. It is wrong. But they are Feelers, not Thinkers, so they assume that all those men out there (the men not in the churches) are just like themselves, they just need to be "loved" more. Maybe a little macho sauce poured on for flavor, but definitely empathy. It's like I want a blue car, but this car isn't the right color yet, so let's add some more red paint. All the Christian guy books and ministries do that. Some guys drink the kool-aid, but not many. More of them -- they are Thinkers, they care about what is true, and what they see is that their wives need to be affirmed in church -- they go with their wives (it's only an hour on Sunday) and sit in back and get out as quickly as possible. I personally know guys like that, more than one.

A very few churches -- Watermark in Dallas is the only one I know of (I was wrong, see my 15 October 14 post), but there may be others -- preach Truth instead of Love, and they are full of guys. The guys sit in front at Watermark. This is their church. If you don't get there early, you won't find a seat, and you'll need to sit in a video-linked overflow room. The rest of the American churches are run by and for the exclusive benefit of the Feelers, Thinkers not welcome unless they check their brains at the door. That's fundamentally dishonest, and Thinkers care about truth, so they stay away. Feelers want to be affirmed even if it's not true, so the churches are full of hypocrites, and they are proud of it! Thinkers are generally not hypocrites, they dislike the dishonesty, so they stay away. The church as taught in the Bible is not like that, it's more like Watermark in Dallas. But the Feelers have Clue Deficit Disorder. All the people they know are Feelers, so they have no clue that there even is such a thing as a Thinker personality type.

God is God, and He can do anything He wants to. But most often He just sits back and lets us bungling humans take the blame for screwing things up.

When I say to a wicked man, "You will surely die," and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his evil ways in order to save his life, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. -- Ezek.3:18
God said that. It's in the Bible. But Feelers don't read their Bibles. When they do, they re-interpret it to make it sound more loving. It was such an article in that Christian magazine that got this whole dialog with the editor started, I asked where they found this "God loves you" gospel in the Bible, chapter and verse, please. The author fudged. God said not to do that, but they don't care what God said, they just want to feel loved. And they do feel loved (in their imaginations). Feelers love fantasies, imagining and believing what they know ain't so. Jesus said a lot of people will be surprised on Judgment Day. The people God invites into Heaven will not be the ones who felt loved in their insular churches, but the ones going out into the streets and doing what God commanded. Jesus said so. So I tried. I keep trying.

Maybe I'm not Martin Luther in this struggle, but only Jan Hus, who was burned at the stake a hundred years earlier for saying essentially the same thing. Luther (like Hus) mainly criticized the Church for forgiving people their sins on payment of a fee (called an indulgence) instead of repentance; today the Church forgives people their sins for no payment at all (or maybe the expected fee is implicitly deferred), but still instead of repentance. Jesus and the Apostles preached a gospel of repentance. There is no "God loves you" in repentance. Jesus said God loves you after you repent. There is a difference. Hus did not succeed at getting the message out past his own native Bohemia; Luther did. Maybe that's how God planned it, but when God wants the job done, donkeys and stones will do the talking if necessary. Jesus said so.

It is possible that editor is ignoring the needs of unchurched Thinkers because God told him to, but I wouldn't want to risk being held accountable for their damnation on Judgment Day. Some people think God wouldn't do such a thing, but they didn't get that opinion from the Bible.
 

2013 July 8 -- Quoth the Raven

All of the major relational problems in my life have been with MBTI "FJ" types. There is a simple solution, and I accidentally hit on it with my sister (who might also be "FJ") in 1980, long before I knew anything about MBTI: Never criticize. Never even think anything negative about that person. My sister now considers me her best friend -- so she says, but you can never trust anything a Feeler tells you, because affirmation is more important to them than truth. Me, I want my friends to tell me the truth, even when it's uncomfortable, but I'm not "FJ". Nothing useful can be accomplished by hypocritical flattery, but it's the world we live in that some people must be handled that way. sigh

My problem is, I want to accomplish useful things. It's built into the Second Great Commandment, which almost everybody believes in, but almost nobody really wants to live 100%. Silly me! I keep trying to assume that everybody is as virtuous and diligent about their faith as I imagine myself to be. I could see this person was behaving like an "FJ" a couple months ago, and I should have immediately shut the whole dialog down. It was going nowhere fast, but I'm a "P" (the opposite of "J") so I keep trying. How does that line go? "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me." It usually takes three or more shots for me to get the idea. I got it now. Nevermore.

The "FJ"s tend to accuse me of blaming my personality type for personal failures, but the best understanding of all false accusations is to take them as confessions. This tells me that they are the ones unwilling to overcome their character qualities for the sake of relationship. Or maybe they are unwilling even to admit they have character flaws. Whatever. For example, "J"s make up their mind early, then refuse to budge in the face of new information, such as when the other person is trying to repent, or is simply telling them about things they didn't know. Stubbornness ("J") is not a Christian virtue, humility is. Repentance ("P") is taught in the Bible, but "J"s believe the leopard cannot change its spots, while "P"s are eager to adapt to new circumstances and new data. "J"s tend to be control freaks, and enjoy imposing their will on other people; Jesus said "Don't do that." Feelers value affirmation over truth, so they like to be flattered untruthfully -- and, in all fairness, their implementation of the Golden Rule encourages them also to flatter other people to their face. Thinkers tend instead to say things the Feelers take as "cruel" and are usually willing to be told such things, but only if it's true. The Bible has God and Jesus and the Prophets and Apostles saying all kinds of "cruel" and hurtful things to people -- sometimes even to their closest followers -- but never untrue. Truth ("T") is the Christian virtue, so much so that Jesus called himself "The Truth." Feelers prefer not to find those verses in their Bibles. Their God only "loves" (meaning affirms or is "nice" to) them unconditionally. You won't find any "God" like that in the (original, unabridged) Bible, but who reads the Bible any more. "FJ"s know that losing control of their temper is bad -- mostly because it gives them permission to violate their own ethics: in other words, the only time you have reason to believe they might be telling you the truth is when they are so angry -- they always insist they are "not angry" -- when they cannot control their own temper. At that time they will say every hurtful thing they can think of; some will be false, but they believe them all to be true. I never try to make anybody angry (physical violence becomes a real and present danger, and I have actually been threatened), but I certainly appreciate hearing the truth for a change.

As a "P" I can (and I also choose to) adapt to the circumstances around me. One such adaptation (beginning today) is that whenever I first start to see that another person is behaving like "FJ" in a social setting, I must immediately switch over into meaningless drivel affirmation mode. I cannot do that in a work setting where I am responsible for getting something done, but those opportunities seem to be in short supply these days, so the risk is low. The Thinker (and Biblical Christian) in me prefers not to flatter them with lies, but nobody is totally evil, and I'm not too stupid to think up some non-false affirmations.

But you can never know what's true in that environment. At least I have a fairly robust BS detector. sigh

And I need to get over hoping for true friends. Most of the time there aren't any. sigh
 

2013 July 6 -- Don Juan

It was one of those freebie movies I downloaded from Archive.org, made back when the stories were great and the language clean, and it had this one awesome insight, which it saved until the very end:
Every woman wants Don Juan, but she wants him all to herself.
It's a fundamentally selfish desire, shared by the guys for their women (although they usually don't need to say so), and put there by God because it is necessary for the proper environment to raise children (but I'll save that for another post). Normally there is only one Don Juan, and (in this story) all the women in Seville wanted him. That's a violation of the Golden Rule (the Second Great Commandment, in Jesus' teaching), as selfishness inherently is.

This is insightful because what women call "love" -- and confuse God's "love" for, nevermind that it's a different word in the original Greek -- is that same selfish kind of narcissism expressed here. I was exposed to a variant of the same self-centered desire for warm fuzzies in the fantasy novels I recently read. It's an MBTI Feeler thing; Thinkers value Truth and Justice more than affirmation and "relationships," which I suppose is why God said pastors should be guys, not women. It didn't slow us down much, there are plenty of Feeler guys -- every pastor in America is one (see Relationshipism). sigh
 

2013 July 3 -- Enjoying Evil

I would not bother even mentioning yet another forgetable zombie flick, except watching it came so close on the heels of a 50s-era TV dramatization of Dr.Jekylland Mr.Hyde, where Dr.Jekyll admits that he wanted to be Mr.Hyde. The point, repeated several times through the story, is that we all have this evil nature, this enjoyment of sin. This reveling in evil comes out in the zombie popularity (see also my May 25 post), because the characters are given explicit permission to murder the zombies in the most gory way possible. In the "making of" featurette in both cases, the director projects how much fun it was to show the killing, most recently the efforts they went to to show exploding heads and chain-saw slicing of a woman in half.

In the end, his dalliance with sin killed both Jekyll and Hyde in Robert Louis Stevenson's story, as indeed it must for all of us who choose to disobey God, sooner or later. The zombie flicks are fiction, and the film makers do not yet seem in peril of their lives, but we do not yet know the whole story, except that I read the last chapter. It's in the Bible. The fantasy seems like harmless fun, but even the thoughts of evil change us, as it did in Stevenson's fiction. Jesus said that what is inside becomes manifest, that you can tell a tree by its fruits. That is truth, not fiction.
 

2013 June 26 -- Bogus Templars

It was a German flick dubbed in English, which made for some interesting discontinuities. The opening credits overlaying the beginning of the story were all in German: apparently they fixed up only the soundtrack, not any part of the visuals (except the closing credits were in English). Anyway, in one scene one of the characters is speaking French, so they added a translation in subtitles -- in German. I had studied both French and German in high school, and at one time I could get along in either language, but I've since forgotten more than I remember, so I'm a little slow. However, I could pause the flick and take my time reading the subtitles; you can't do that with spoken words. Another character said his lines in Latin, and they didn't bother with subtitles.

Latin? Yup, another marginal fantasy flick. There was a hint in the title: "Templar" has a cool medieval/Latin ring to it, but they could have played it straight or fantastical. Nobody does straight any more. "Cool" is the mantra of fantasy writers.

Germany was at the peak of their Christian excellence not quite 500 years ago, and that spilled over into scientific excellence for the next couple centuries, but they have been running on the fumes in the empty tank ever since. England followed, and likewise. The USA has passed the end of our Christian peak, and our scientific spillover is already on its way down (among industrial nations our schools already rank dead last in math and science). The German down-slope is more gradual than the Brits and our own, so we may yet pass them on our own way down.

This is significant because the pretext for this movie is a modern search for the Holy Grail (the communion cup used by Jesus the night he was betrayed), which in medieval legend was thought to confer magical powers on its possessor. The German film makers have no idea what the Grail is -- they show it as a slab of stone about the size of a pillow with an indentation where the head might have lain and bogus runes (not any actual language) written on it -- and they lean on Dan Brown for their theology, so that in their story the Priors of Zion (mispronounced in the translated dubbing) are lineal descendents of Jesus and Mary Magdalene and have their own super-powers (mostly instant healing, shown to us in the opening episode). As a result, bullets are ineffective against them, you must decapitate them (with a sword), which gives a simulacrum of an excuse to have ("cool") ringing sword fights in a modern context. Basically, it's just another X-men action flick with a lot of sword play, where (because they have taken leave of Reality) you never know what the rules are. Like swords that slice through automobiles and skulls like they were butter on a warm summer day.

It's a very long flick, and one of the insights that came to me as I endured the endless sword play, is the nature of magic as incredibly selfish and antithetical to Christian teaching. Which is probably why God said "Don't do that!" Our teenage hero improbably refused to grasp the magical powers of the Grail, but almost everybody else was in it only for themselves. Even his mother showed no womanly affection for her long-lost son, but only a greedy lust for the immortality she expected to be conferred by the Grail, which only her son would be able to find for her.

The film did a good job of portraying human sinfulness, even if they couldn't get right the remedy (true faith in Jesus Christ) -- nor even the backstory. Not exactly a spoiler -- you can't have a 3-hour movie about a search without them finding what they are looking for, and after they find it you can't leave that much magic running loose in the world in the hands of evil people, not in a movie you want people to pay to see -- when the kid's mother finally takes the Grail, it destroys her. The film makers are so clueless, they missed a marvelous opportunity for the (Good-Guy) monk standing there to explain the outcome by quoting St.Paul in the Bible,

For he that drinketh [from that cup] unworthily, drinketh damnation to himself.
But Germany is post-Christian, and the German people no longer know things like that. So the camera just silently fixates on her gory dead body. A bogus end to a bogus movie.

For links to other posts in this fantasy thread, see Fantasy vs the Truth
 

2013 June 24 -- Sherlock

It's a very popular DVD series at the library -- I need to reserve each episode and wait several weeks for other patrons on the list in front of me to get through it -- but this retelling of Arthur Conan Doyle's classic is not very true to the original.

You may recall from three years ago that I found the knockoff Sherlock stories that played the famous detective as a rude jerk to be both annoying and contrary to Doyle's original. This TV series is among them, and it's starting to annoy me. They use Doyle's original titles and a few memorable themes, but basically it's a totally new story, completely modern as intended, but not even preserving what the name carries -- except his famous and unreal ability to infer a vast quantities of information from minute and ambiguous clues. Yes, some of it might work, but most of those clues have multiple possible causes, which is why modern police detectives -- every one of whom have read and admired Doyle's work -- cannot replicate the feat. It's fiction. You can tell the screenwriters and/or actor understand that. By this the third DVD in the series, their fictional Sherlock is rattling off the inferences so fast it's hard to understand what he's saying. They put the clues up as text overlays on the image of what Sherlock is presumably looking at, but they flash by so fast they cannot be read without pausing the flick. It's post-modern fiction, not intended to be understood, only felt.
 

2013 June 19 -- Fantasy vs the Truth

She handed me a stack of novels to read. The context was "Christian fantasy or sci-fi" but they were obviously not sci-fi. They may have been marginally fantasy (violations of Reality: the third one leaned on magic to rescue a lagging plot) or romance (boy meets girl, they fall in love, and eventually they marry and live happily ever after, as in the first of them). All three limited their conflict to muscle power, which is one of the hallmarks of fantasy when nothing else applies. Anyway, I dutifully read them, but it became increasingly difficult. You may recall from a few weeks ago, I was thinking that fantasy is anti-Christian. These books were not Christian in any reasonable sense of the word. They may have been (and probably were) written by people who call themselves "Christians" but there was no Christ anywhere to be found in them. The religion they promoted resembles Christianity only superficially, and not very close at that.

Fantasy is the opposite of Reality, and truth is conformance to reality, so fantasy is the opposite of Truth. Christianity is about the source of all Truth, so there can never be such a thing as "Christian fantasy" -- except maybe in the sense that England is a "Christian nation" which it is only because the Church of England is nominally Christian, and is established by law as the official religion of the country. In that sense, the USA is an atheist country, because atheism (including Darwinism) is the only government-funded, "established" religion of this country. The USA and England are not Muslim countries, and those three books are not Muslim novels. Nor are they Buddhist or atheist. So they must be "Christian." Hogwash.

You can read the complete review here.

Other posts in this Fantasy thread:
Bogus Templars
The Problem with Romance Fiction
Fantasy: Post-Christian Fiction
Hunger Games
Post-Modernism, the New Dark Ages
See also "Chick Lit"

2013 June 8 -- Wishing I'd Spent More Time at the Office

They say you don't own the house, it owns you. There's some truth in that. The last two places I bought (to live in) -- "It's cheaper than rent" -- were walking distance (across the street: nothing closer!) from my place of employment at the time. Those employers subsequently had ethical problems which left me working at home (the commute is even shorter ;-) but not always for money. This place has a big yard, and I bought a used lawn mower (which worked at the time, although not now), but my time to push a lawn mower around all that grass is worth more to me than the price a guy with a riding mower charges to do it for me. Well anyway, the guy needs to make a living, and $30 every couple weeks isn't going to pay very many bills, so he volunteered (for a price) to spread fresh grass seed and fertilizer in the brown areas. It seemed reasonable, but he didn't tell me until after he'd done it that I need to water the new lawn morning and evening every day for a couple weeks. This not being California (where the landscapers all put automatic sprinklers in with the grass, because it doesn't rain much), I now blow away three hours twice a day going out and moving the cheap Chinese sprinkler every ten minutes. Ten minutes is what I can get from my cell phone in four button-clicks without looking very hard to see if those are zeroes or eights it's showing me. But this phone has Lots of Garbage "features" (that's what software people call a flaw they don't intend to fix), like if you splatter a drop of sprinkler water on it, it goes into some irrecoverable catatonic vegetative state that thinks it's in a car and shuts down its speaker and microphone. Now I ask you, what good is a deaf-mute phone? Even the alarms stopped working. Pulling the battery out didn't help. Fortunately, my late mother had the same model phone, so I got the account switched over to her device. The dealer wanted to sell me a late-model Samsung clamshell. It seemed to have real zeroes, but no ringer tones, just indistinuishable variations on noise. The old LessGreat has some noise options too, but also some honest and recognizable tunes. So I added a plastic bag to keep the water out. sigh

Anyway, the title of today's post has to do with the time this lawn is taking away from the software I'm trying to finish. Several different occasions I've heard some Relationshipist preacher say "I never heard anybody on their deathbed say, 'I wish I'd spent more time at the office.'" If I ever hear that line again, I will go up and invite him to my deathbed, so I can make him a liar. If and to the extent God has given me a job to do, then having a pretty green lawn is irrelevant; taking a hundred hours away from that work could count as disobedience. Even if -- as I assume those well-meaning but misinformed pastors imagine -- the alternative to time at the office is time spent with family (I don't have any family here to spend time with), God is more interested in discipleship than family time, as Jesus clearly taught [Matt.19:29, Luke 14:26].
 

2013 June 3 -- The Problem with Romance Fiction

Interacting with my author friend, and mostly seeing her react so negatively to my analysis of her novel, I'm starting to see how I felt when the presenter at a Christian seminar claimed that Dungeons'n'Dragons was evil. I write (actually, at that time it was present tense, but I haven't done it in a while) role-playing games, and he was calling my work evil. He was right, of course. The Law of Inverse Rationality applies whenever one's own source of income is held up to Biblical standards.

I think romance fiction is like serving alcohol to a minor -- maybe more like serving alcohol to all comers, with no law to protect the minors. Some people can drink the stuff in moderation, but it dulls their senses no less than it does the people with no self-control. Do you want to be responsible for that? Jesus said temptations are inevitable, "but woe to the person by whom they come!"

Starry-eyed teenage girls lack the maturity to realize it's fake, that the real world doesn't operate that way, which sets them up for catastrophic failure when they enter their own marriage and discover the truth. I'd bet pulp romance fiction rightly bears the blame for a large part of the intolerable divorce rate in America.

According to the Bible, responsible people should not be ingesting mind-bending substances -- and by obvious extension, mind-bending fiction like romance and (the same thing, in some dictionaries) fantasy -- because it will cause them to abdicate their responsibilities. Give that stuff to the hopeless to help them forget their misery.

There are hopeless people in the world. Drug them up and get them too drunk or stoned to know how bad off they are!

Good Christians might offer a different alternative: give hope to the hopeless. Then they don't need the drugs. I like that idea better. Jesus Christ is that hope, but not mashed into pablum by the feminized fantasy-fiction Relationshipism taught in most American churches.

sigh

For links to other posts in this fantasy thread, see Fantasy vs the Truth

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