Thursday, August 12, 2010

Some late night musings

Two quick things:

One, I had a weird realization this week. I don't know what brought it on, maybe thinking about Inception, maybe this stomach bug I seem to have. But what I realized is that Return of the Jedi doesn't fit properly into Star Wars. I have never really given it a lot of thought before. I haven't seen Return since the re-release in '99. In the mean time, Lord of the Rings came and went and I had sort of lumped the two together in my understanding of trilogies. Lucas has peddled the idea that Star Wars was meant to be a trilogy from the beginning (which this article dispels). But LoTR has a definite goal and in pursuit of that goal, the stakes keep getting raised. Return gives us another Death Star and Ewoks. Also, Han is a caricature of his former character and Luke is a caricature of Obi-Won. I don't know what to do with this. I'll just table it for now.

Two, concerning net neutrality. I don't know what to do with this at all. A quick primer to those not familiar with it. Net neutrality is where everything on the internet can be accessed as quickly and easily as everything else. If net neutrality were not in place, internet service providers could give priority to certain sites or even block them all together. Pretty much everything I have come across on the subject (admittedly not much; maybe a dozen articles over several years; here are a couple good ones I have read recently) has viewed the loss of net neutrality as bad, that it would destroy the internet. But aside from generally disbelieving doomsday scenarios, I am starting to think that the loss of net neutrality could be good. Now, I highly doubt this will be read by anything like a hostile audience, but all the same please let me list off my reasons before lynching me.

Here is why I doubt it will much effect me to begin with. I only use the internet for a handful of tasks, mostly involving the reading and submission of text. For text and image based entities, I doubt that bandwidth is a serious problem. I do listen to a lot of podcasts, I do use YouTube and a few other video sources, and occasionally I play games online. There might be some problems there but all in all, the difference for me if I lost them would be mostly in novelty.

Here is why I think it could be good. Precisely the reason the internet works the way it does now is that it is free of interference. And I have to ask, is that a good thing? What that means, on the clearly bad side, is that most of the internet is porn. There is a rule of the internet, Rule 34, which states that if you can think of it, there is porn of it on the internet. And the existence of it, along with the ease of access, feeds the national addiction to it which in turn increases the demand.

But that is a subset of a larger problem, which is that the internet creates virtual communities as substitutes for real ones. Porn is just a part of this; it is fake, simulated intimacy. This is not to say that talking with people online is not real interaction or that a relationship is only significant if you can meat face to face. What it is to say that humans are physical beings and that there is depth in looking someone in the eye, shaking their hand, giving a hug, that the internet cannot supply. Which is where I think the porn comes in. I know this is a bigger discussion than what time I am devoting to it but I will just say this: how many times have you heard a story about an online affair that became a physical one? We long for presence along with conversation.

But the biggest thing is that the internet is a place lacking in justice. There is little accountability and no rules. And mostly, I just gloss over that. It's like walking through a bad part of town on the way to the theater. If you keep your eyes forward and don't dawdle, you should be fine. Just stay in the dim light from the street lamps and you'll make it. And eventually, you just stop caring that the internet encourages the worst and vilest kind of language and discourse, that it is filled with filth, that it facilitates theft, and generally just makes it all around easier to sin and harder to be righteous. Because that is just the way it is and I like my viral videos.

Well, so much for quick.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

On Weariness and Humor

A strange thing has happened to me over the last few days: I don't find things as funny as I usually do. Generally speaking, I have a pretty broad sense of humor. I think it is related partially to having a fairly wide frame of reference. Instant understanding is key to comedy. The old saying about explaining a joke kills it. The other part is what I imagine to be a subconscious appreciation of good joke construction. Jokes play with our expectations, they present us with the unexpected. Even lacking a complete understanding of the material, a proper arrangement of the beats of the joke still rings true. This is often how I feel about xkcd. It isn't a strip written with me in mind. The writer presents things that interest him and he does it well and more often than not I find it hilarious. Just not today.

I'm sure it's just lack of sleep, the last side-effect of getting a tooth pulled out and the medicated existence of recovery. But it remains an unnerving experience. I hear a joke and recognize it as funny but the gut reaction to humor is diminished. The effect of comedy is cumulative and so even a minor reduction to the impact of jokes adds up pretty quickly. It's a numbness, one that reminds me of depression and my dark night of the soul. Hence the unnerving bit.

But as much as I love my sense of humor, as much as I have feared its loss in the past, that is not the numbness I should fear. Ecclesiastes says it is better to be in a house of mourning than a house of feasting. This is not to contradict Proverbs that says that laughter makes the bones fat. It is to say that the easiest way to escape our existential dilemma is find a quick laugh. We use humor to evade the pressing issues of our existence: life and death and the hereafter. Which is silly because we can't. Death is a certainty and when it stare us in the face, putting on a clown nose and giving it a honk won't cause it to turn away. As much as I enjoy times of laughter, what I need is to be able to feel pain so that I can deal with problems. I don't think it is a coincidence that the disease that Jesus dealt with most was leprosy.

I'm tired and not sure how to wrap this one up. Pain began with sin. Pain is a sign that something is wrong. Pain is a gift as it removes the illusion that this world is where we belong, that everything is as it should be. Pain draws us to the One who heals us, to the One who bore the brunt of our actions so that we might go home; so that we could be with Him.

Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A look at determinism

This strip is from just about my favorite webcomic, Schlock Mercenary (it is second only to Penny-Arcade and that is mostly because PA is more of a counter-culture revolution at this point). This captures what I feel about determinism in general and Calvinism in particular. Enjoy.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

On Ann Coulter

So yeah...she's a handful.

I am not a particularly political person, mostly because it is neither fun nor funny and the people you would have to deal with seem to be demon possessed and/or dead. Also, and I can't state this strongly enough, I hate meetings. Hate them. All of them. They are, quite possibly, the single worst social invention in history and I want them all to stop. SOMEONE JUST MAKE A FREAKING DECISION ALREADY! WHY ARE WE STILL TALKING!

Sorry, I had a flashback to student government (story for another time). But as God is teaching me the necessity of not fighting the culture wars stupidly, I am trying to broaden my horizons about politics and how I should be involved as a Christian. Which brings me to Ann Coulter. Why, you might ask?

Apparently she is a Christian.

And now for the portion of the blog where I talk to myself:


Yeah, I know.

But she's so...mean.

No kidding.

I mean, I'm not like that and I'm a Christian.

Well, that's true. Good thing you are not the standard by which all Christians are measured.

Fair point...but didn't I just state that I'm not mean?

Doesn't count when it is self analysis.

If you...


...I say so.

And now back to the blog already in progress.

So, I'm looking at Ann Coulter and some of her articles and even an interview she gave a while back and I must say that I am a big fan. Her humor does not always work and yes, I find her to be harsh, but she is absolutely fantastic at pointing out the hypocrisy of the left. And now, for the other shoe.

Ann Coulter should not be doing what she is doing. But not for the reason that you think.

I was talking to my mentor one day and he was talking about Deborah, a righteous woman of God and the only female judge of Israel. He was talking about Deborah's song and how the form of it was Canaanite. What he said was that the point of the song was to parody the ways of the Canaanites in verse that the Canaanites would use in order to make the Canaanites and their practice ridiculous in the eyes of the Israelites. His analogy was Weird Al's Amish Paradise. You can't watch that video and then go back to Coolio's original. It's just anymore.

I feel like this is what Ms. Coulter does: she shows just how ridiculous liberalism is. But the thing about Deborah that is always at the forefront of my thinking about her is how she did not seek to lead Israel in war. That call was on a man, Barak son of Abinoam. He shrugged that responsibility by making his obedience conditional on Deborah's assistance and was therefore denied honor. This paradigm is what I think about when I think of male leadership. It is not that women are incapable of leadership or that they would do a bad job, it is that God has given to men a responsibility and when it is avoided, men are diminished and women are endangered.

I don't think Ann Coulter should be writing her books or doing shows not because she is wrong, because I don't think she is. I don't think she should stop because I don't like her style, even though I do think it could use some work (and I do mean some, mostly in comedic timing and a little bit of tact). I think she should stop because men should rise up to do what she does: calling hypocrites out on their hypocrisy. I don't want to be one of those men (see previous thoughts on meetings) but...well, Lord, do with me what You will.

Monday, June 21, 2010

On Memes

As I wait in a limbo of dental surgery delays, I would like to post this brief thought: of all the memes throughout the history of the internet, my favorite has to be the vuvezela. At this point, I must have seen (and I'm estimating) 2.4*10 to the eighth power vuvuzela jokes from various sources. I love them all. Each new take is special and precious in its own way, like a snowflake or like comments on how snowflakes are unique. But for all my love of this vuvuzela meme (and that love is quite vast), it does lack the utility of another recent meme, coincidentally also an annoying noise source that could not be stopped. I believe you know of what I speak.

Also, this is a pretty cool story/pic.

Monday, June 7, 2010

On Superman

I am still planning on posting my thoughts on Jesus, masculinity, and culture but that topic is a bit more complex. And since I just received a word of encouragement to continue in my writing, here is a brief aside on the greatest of all superheroes, Superman:

I have been reading comics for most of my life and by far my favorite character is Superman. It was not always so. I started reading X-Men due to the '90's cartoon and my older cousin's interest. The tale of a band of misfits fighting for a better world despite the animosity of the populace fit in well with an anti-social Christian kid. But it was my youth minister who got me interested in Superman. I got on board the comic during Grant Morrison's JLA run, which was right during the height of Superman, Electric Blue Boogaloo. Despite that, I loved Superman. I had glanced through enough comics at the grocery store (back when there were comics at the grocery store) to have seen his stories. I had caught the fringes of the death and return storyline, the return of Lex Luthor, and other assorted tales. Through my youth minister I learned a bit of his history, some of his story trends (every time that Superman is dealing with radiation poisoning, whether kryptonite or solar, Parasite shows up…every time), but mostly I learned to appreciate why he was the greatest.

Everyone knows Superman's origin story: the last child of a dead world, sent to Earth. But it wasn't until I started thinking about him in comparison to other superheroes that it started to make sense. Take Batman. Bruce Wayne was the son of loving, wealthy parents. And in an instant, they were taken from him, along with his innocence. Bruce Wayne died that day, and what took his place, though it would long go without a name, was a creature of pain and darkness. His is a life defined by loss, and as such it is supremely sad. Not so with Superman. His parents, in seeing the destruction around them, did the only thing they could to protect their son. They sent him away to a place beneath their technological might, which proved so lacking in saving themselves, but abundant in the one resource that any good parent wants for their child: love. And this is what defined him and is supremely beautiful. Batman does good in the hope of saving others from what he has suffered. Superman does good because the sacrifice made on his behalf was sufficient to save him. In light of the cross, I guess it's not too hard to see the appeal.