Thursday, April 30, 2015

Forbearance

(Poetry Scales 34

As the people of a God who loves those that hate Him
     should we not be defined by forbearance?

Cowboy Christianity says fight the enemy,
     but the Christ of the Bible gave His life for us.

Don’t take sin of others as an attack on your morality.
     It is not you that they’ve rebelled against.

And that moral superiority, as sin it’s a big one.
     Remember, you’re given victorious assurance.

Try to act like a gracious winner, open and inviting;
     not a petty, pharisaical arse.

     It is not who we are.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Elixir

(Poetry Scales 33)

a potion
for the broken,
torn, sick, and tried
when damage needs a token
mix parts
ethanol,
sugar,
and hype

fools avoid cures
take symptoms
in trade for pain
buy magical vapor
promise
when a blood’s
the knell
of bane

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Beautiful Game

Tension. Palpable.
Almost boring. Then, a burst!
Excitement of the near miss

Tests of endurance
For both the fan and the athlete
Rewarded…
Where exertion, teamwork and geometry
Intersect

Monday, April 27, 2015

"The Silent Speaker" by Rex Stout

So what do you do when the murder victim would not want you to solve the crime? At least, not right away? Is there a case where withholding evidence is the right thing to do?

In the case of “The Silent Speaker” it causes someone their life, this attempt to do the right thing. And, Nero Wolfe being Nero Wolfe, he does not simply go about assembling the puzzle.

This is another case where Wolfe and Goodwin solve a crime in spectacular, stylish fashion, but not in the way anyone would normally do. It isn’t enough for Wolfe to expose a killer. His ethical standards are too large and too personal. So, in addition to exposing the wrongdoer, Wolfe allows the murder to have the unintended side effects that suit his sense of right and wrong.

In the little game where we pretend that Rex Stout was writing a metaphor of the church in the world, this raises the question: how sly should we be? Is there ever an instance where calling out wrongs in the world is self-defeating? Do we fight every battle—political, social, and artistic—in a black and white position of judgement as the standard of right? Or do we at times let the systems of the world destroy themselves?

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Three Eleven

Beautifully befitting
is the festering realization
that we are trapped in time
without the capacity to see the ends.
Eternity is the splinter that pricks the heart.
Wisdom the acceptance
that our drive to understand
is bordered by our nature.
Created as intended
and caught in a current
guided by a hand.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

"Avengers :Age of Ultron" (2015) a brief, non-spoilery look

I keep waiting for Marvel to stumble in their movie line. Not even a true dud, but at least a step down in quality. I was pretty sure, however, that this latest entry would not be that misstep. I have too much confidence in the writer/director.

One would think that an action film with ten or eleven super-powered-beings fighting an artificial intelligence that inhabits an army of robots and the internet itself would be nonstop mindless set-pieces. And there are some amazing set-pieces here, to be sure. Some of the best yet. But that is not the movie we get. This is a story with depth of meaning and issues, and lots of character development. For some maybe too much even.

And there are some complaints. I was forced to watch this in 3D. There is no reason for this movie to be in 3D, and it only serves as a distraction at best. Also, some of the sub-plots left me a bit dry. Not that they were bad, but simply unnecessary and maybe forced. (Hawkeye, I’m looking at you.) None of these are big enough to keep me from giving this movie my top rating, and, if you want to be technical about it, my highest rating for a Marvel film yet.

Friday, April 24, 2015

"Deliver Us from Evil" (2014)

As a horror film, “Deliver” is too tame. It doesn’t induce much fear in spite of the gore and the evil on display. As a mystery, cop story, it is a little slim on plot and motivation driving the action forward. However, all of that is due to the true motivation behind the movie. It wants to be a thoughtful piece about good and evil and the reality of the supernatural in the world.

I have followed Scott Derrickson’s career with interest, catching all of his films in spite of the fact that I am often dissatisfied with the results. That is due to the fact that he is a believer who takes seriously the idea of using his art to share his worldview. Never in a preachy way, but always consciously and seriously.

A quote I read in another article about this movie had Derrickson saying the following:

“There’s a misconception people have—that people only believe in the supernatural because they have a religious dogma that says it exists,” says Derrickson. “Actually, the opposite is true—people believe in the supernatural because of what they’ve seen and experienced. It’s people with the hard skeptical belief that there’s only the material world that have the dogma. They hear all these stories and dismiss every single one of them based on their beliefs.”

Unfortunately, Derrickson’s approach through the horror genre takes the typical approach of discussing the reality of the supernatural by focusing on evil. Here, he expands away from that with the character of Mendoza, the priest. He has Mendoza talking about goodness, sacrifice, forgiveness, and the need to acknowledge sin. It just doesn’t quite ever make it to Christ. In the end, the Catholicism—and the faith worldview—on display here is a religious one. Symbolism and words are emphasized in a ritualistic/formulaic way more than the relational, dependence on the person of Jesus Christ way. But it is a step in a good direction.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Star Trek TOS (Season 2a)



Season 1dSeason 2b

Season two starts out pretty strong. Two if these episodes are generally considered among the best of the whole series:

Episode 1 “Amok Time”

Summary: Spock gets grumpy because he “isn’t getting any” and must force the Enterprise back to Vulcan to fulfill his arranged marriage. Only, his fiancé has fallen in love with another and schemes to get Spock and Kirk to fight to the death.

Struggle: Vulcan biology/cultural customs feel like something made up for 1960s television.

Thoughts:

This is one of the more well-known and well-loved episodes of Trek. This is mostly due to the iconic nature of the episode, but also for the loss of control Spock exhibits when he discovers that he has not killed Kirk after all. As far as deep thoughts or philosophical meaning, it is a bit weak.

Episode 2 “Who Mourns for Adonais?”

Summary: The Enterpise encounters yet another super powerful being, who happens to be one of the aliens that inspired Greek mythology and worship. He tries to force the crew to be his new adherents, but humanity doesn’t need religion and kills the god.

Struggle: Apollo is a bit over the top and theatrical for an almighty, god-like being.

Thoughts:


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A Brief Look at "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children" by Ransom Riggs

In the back of Miss Peregrine’s we are told that Riggs waded through dozens of pictures to find the ones used in his book. That being the case, one wonders what the rejects must of looked like because outside of a handful here, most are simply uninspiring. And since it is sometimes hard to tell if the story is shoehorned into accommodating the photos or vice-verse, you can imagine what the experience of this story is like.

I continually found myself ready to lay this book down in exasperation, when it would remind me that there was one more mystery I should hold out for. What were those monsters mentioned at the beginning. Riggs smartly holds that piece of information back until nearly the end of the book. Unfortunately, they are as predictable and uninteresting as the loop, the peculiars, and our main character had been.

I don’t think I will be coming back to find out what happened to Peregine and her wards.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Submission as Husbands (1 Peter 3:7)

“Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.”

In Ephesians and Colossians, when Paul instructs believing families regarding this concept of submission, deferment, and respect he tells men to love their wives as Christ loved the church. No easy task since it involves sacrificing one’s life to the needs of another! But we tend to obsess over the definition and levels of fulfillment on the wife’s side of things as if that were all that mattered.

Peter does not use the word “love” here, but his instructions might amplify that idea. Husbands are to know how to live with their wives. (“…in an understanding way…”) How many men have grasped that level of skill even after decades of marriage? Also, they are to show their wives honor. The word here implies something that we treat as precious. It can even be used for veneration. Here, I think it mostly means respect.

People like to insist that wives have to obey their husbands but they rarely refer to the respect that men should have for their wives. It really is a two-way street though. There are aspects of submission on both sides of the marital relationship. And it is less about who the “boss” of the relationship is. (Especially since the boss is supposed to be Christ.) Instead, the marital relationship is characterized by deferment, respect, and love on both sides. Marriage is a little expression of church. And both Paul and Peter call on all believers to submit to each other, placing the others first.

In the church, “stronger” believers are taught to defer and consider first the needs of the “weaker” members. Here Peter calls on husbands to treat their wives—fellow heirs in a shared salvation—as the weaker members. That means the husband’s first job is to always consider his wife’s needs first. What will be best for her and her relationship with God? And seems to teach here that the husband’s relationship with God is dependent in part on how his wife’s own relationship with God is.

So, husbands, upon whose needs are you focused?

Monday, April 20, 2015

Denouement

(Poetry Scales 32)

What is that shape in the shroud of the cellar?
What is that smell behind the wall?
What does she look like under that sweater?
When will that house on the cliff finally fall?
Where do the spiders go in the winter?
Who is it that keeps hanging up when they call?
Why is the grass over there so much greener?
What will things look like from up there so tall?
In life the suspense and the mysteries thrill us.
But we tend to lose interest after the denouement.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Warren Mondegreen

Some bunny once told me she ate some pepperoni
And that was the source of her bad breath
She was talking kind of close and enunciating moist
And altogether gross was her effect

Well the mucous started coming and my tummy started grumbling,
I saw a port-o-potty and I hit the ground running
Didn’t manage at all to get the seat up
Hung up an “out of order” sign when I was done

So that’s the scoop on talking bunnies
So what’s that got to do with anything?
You’ll never see if you can’t sing
You’ll never grow if you don’t eat

Some bunny once asked if I could help adjust her mask
She wanted to breath up there in outer space
I said, “Hey! What a rocket!”
And I smelled a little fuel myself
And that’s when I started to feel real strange

Well the mucous started coming and my tummy started grumbling,
I saw a port-o-potty and I hit the ground running
Didn’t manage at all to get the seat up
Hung up an “out of order” sign when I was done

Say how pure the meds are. Better lay off, run away!
High cow, could be black tar. Toss the whole wad. Lemon aid!
The black light shines on the mold
So start scrubbing hard against the fold

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Crapulence

(Poetry Scales 31)

Full to the gills
Fed up on fear
Yet craving more
Craning to hear

Harbinger junkies hung over on panic
Worshiping gloom is a cult quite satanic

The people of God should be people of hope
They claim to trust an Almighty
But to hear the people who go by that name
You’d find an imposter who’s puny

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Brouhaha

(Poetry Scales 30)

Blessed is he who comes
Climbing the stairs to the pulpit
Scanning the crowd through the hush
Preparing to stir up and foment

His message, strict and moral
Fanatics prosecutorial
They, the standard, the gate
Theirs, the cult magisterial

The crowd in attendance erupts
Their cheers and congruence a din
What they fail to see or to smell
Is their equally loud stench of sin

Brou ha ha
Brou brou ha ha
The wolf in wool, Imp in frock
Cleansed not through forgiveness nor blood
But in comparison
And capacity to judge

Monday, April 13, 2015

Submission as Wives (1 Peter 3:1-6)

Set aside all your arguments about equality, obedience, submission and head of the family. Peter has already been consistent with other New Testament writings about believers deferring and respecting everyone. Here he goes on to be consistent again. In the marriage relationship there is to be a lot of submission, and there is instruction here going both ways. Submission, respect, and honor are all big tasks.

However, even in couples where submission is the aim, something is missing. More than obedience or yielding to his decisions, what a man really needs is respect and admiration. Men are a lot less insecure in relationships these days. They don’t have to be in control to lead. They are smart enough to see the value and advantage of consulting with and trusting wisdom in their wives. You would think that this growth would be mirrored by an increased appreciation for husbands in wives.

Unfortunately, men still tend to be the brunt of derision and exasperation. And, as a generality we tend to earn our share of ridicule. But from the woman we have pledged our life to… Even when this is just in jest, it can be devastating because men need to know someone is on their side. Someone who believes in him, who will encourage him to chase his dreams and his mission. While the whole world mocks and tears a man down, a wife can stand in the gap and give him something to hold onto.

So maybe we should dial back the standards by which we measure submission and start with one basic aim. Wives, can you cheer for your man?

Friday, April 10, 2015

Amphigouri

(Poetry Scales 29)

The world is an imperfect place
Seems not how intended to be
Injustice, sickness and death
Everywhere you happen to be
And that is exactly the point
Imperfect is perfect you see
Because something IS then it OUGHT
If you doubt me, simply repeat:

|: Flaws don’t exist
Sickness is good
Wrong is opinion
Sin is made up
Death is a friend
Without him we’re glum
Those who want better
Had better shut up :|
          [Ad nauseum!]

Thanks to modern education
The naturalistic fallacy and
Argumentum ad infinitum
Are practically the Law of the Land

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Star Trek Voyager (Season 2b)


Season 2aSeason 3a

Season 2 continues in strong form, with one complaint: the tendency to try so hard to work with ideas and concepts, that they sacrifice story and logic.

Episode 14 “Alliances” 

Under constant attack from the Kazon, Janeway is pressured to try to form some sort of alliance with a local power. This is not something she wants to do, because it will likely involve several infractions against the Prime Directive. When they begin to look at potential Kazon factions, or sects, they discover another power. A race that used to enslave the Kazon but that seems to have learned (after losing their power over them) the error of their ways. This is a seemingly ideal ally. But you shouldn’t trust just anyone. In fact, even away from home and culture, good ethical standards should inform our circumstances, and not vice versa.

Episode 15 “Threshold” 

In spite of the fact that this episode won an Emmy (for Make-Up), it is not one that was popular. Even in the production staff, there appears to be a lot of detractors. That is likely due to the story, which is one of the more stupid ones in all of Trek. The causality of Paris’ trip related to his transformation is never earned or explained. And the transformation… To claim that it is merely an acceleration of the natural evolutionary process is ludicrous. Even if you believe in the theory, this is not the way it would progress. It is a very ignorant portrayal of the process. Frankly, a thoroughly pop-culture picture of evolution—so, basically what people teach in university.

Episode 16 “Meld” 

In a preachy move, Trek takes on the argument of good and evil, and the appropriateness of extreme punishment. When a cold-blooded killer named Suder is discovered amongst the crew, Tuvok struggles to understand the killer’s lack of motivation, and mind-melds with him. In doing so, he becomes convinced that the death penalty should be exercised. He also loses his control over emotion and adopts some of Suder’s taste for violence. It is an interesting story, though, as both Suder and Tuvok (once he gains insight after the meld) are both arguing for the death penalty. And, for the record, they both turn out to be wrong in doing so.

Episode 17 “Dreadnaught” 

Torres is presented with the challenge of undoing a perfect trap she had prepared against the Cardasians, when her high tech drone turns out to have been swept behind Voyager into the quadrant. Now it is targeting random planets thinking they are Cardasian. It is a bit of an entertaining plot where one is forced to outthink one’s best laid plans. How do you defeat yourself?

Episode 18 “Death Wish” 

A member of the super advanced, god-like, Q Continuum is set free from his prison by Voyager, and he resumes his criminal efforts… to kill himself. This turns into a debate over suicide, is it a right or a crime. In predictable fashion the show sides in favor of suicide, but it does present a strong case against as well. An interesting aside, it presents a dreary picture of eternity. But one is left to counter that maybe eternity is only a threat to those with little imagination?

Episode 19 “Lifesigns” 

In an effort to save a female Vidiian from her advanced phage, the Doctor transfers her brain function into a holographic body. He then proceeds to fall in love with her.

Episode 20 “Investigations” 

Neelix starts a daily news program for the moral of the ship, and uncovers a shocking story. Paris has decided to leave the ship. He has been acting strange over the past several episodes. As it turns out, this is all a ploy to uncover the spy on Voyager (also a story that has been developing).

Episode 21 “Deadlock” 

In a high-concept cheat of an episode, everything goes wrong for the crew including a few important deaths. However, since the ship has been duplicated (through some over-simplistic appeals to quantum physics) we know all will turn out all right. The only surprise is that they have the more devastated version of Voyager be the one that survives.

Episode 22 “Innocence” 

Tuvok tries to save some kids left to die by their society, but (surprise!) it turns out that these aliens age backwards. Even though the episode didn’t set the premise up or justify the reveal, everyone could see this coming.

Episode 23 “The Thaw” 

Voyager encounters a race that had to go into suspended animation while their planet healed. They have overslept their alarm clock, though. It turns out that the virtual reality program designed to keep them entertained while suspended has taken over and is controlled by fear itself. But, when you remember that fear is just a coping/warning mechanism and not a true threat, then fearing fear itself becomes rather silly.

Episode 24 “Tuvix” 

I try to ignore the transporter when watching Trek. It is a deeply flawed concept and presents some truly troubling problems for identity. Occasionally the show recognizes this and highlights it with a story. Here they go one sillier. Tuvok and Neelix are combined into a new being. Fixing the problem is supposed to be a huge ethical crisis, but one can’t get over the utter silliness and scientific impossibilities of the concept enough to care. And don’t even begin to think about the philosophical mess or you’ll stop watching the show altogether.

Episode 25 “Resolutions” 

We jump past what would be a typical Trek story where Janeway and Chakotay are infected with a virus that strands them on a planet, and see instead the aftermath. The ship sails on and our heroes have to find acceptance that their new life will be the two of them alone, isolated, rebuilding a new normal. Of course, we don’t really hold our breath much as we know the show must go on, but it is still a compelling few minutes. Even more interesting is the way the ultimate rescue forces them to let that new normal go just as they were starting to consider it.

Episode 26 “Basics (Part 1)” 

The threat building up all season long finally comes to a head as the crew are defeated and lose their ride home…

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Poetry Scales Part Two

(Poetry Scales 28)

amphigouri, brouhaha, crapulence
denouement, elixir, forbearance
gastrolith, harbinger, inglenook
jejune, kleptomania, logbook

mondegreen, nemesis,
onomatopeia
palimpsest, quark, riparian
sopaipilla

turdiform, untoward, vomitory. wherewithal
xerophthalmia, yesteryearning, zenithal

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Denial

you may
find this
hard to
believe
but i wrote
this poem
through a ran
dom process

placing paper
slips in a sieve
drawing them out in words
lines and stanzas by dice

you may
see ob
vious
order
even ev
ident thought
and logic
behind these

jumbles of let
ters rhymes or words
but i pity your in
ability to see

it is all just simply absurd

Monday, April 6, 2015

Submission in Persecution (1 Peter 2:18-25)

“Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly…”

This passage goes against what a lot of people in Western Christianity believe. Never mind that we tend to gloss over it in light of the fact that it feels outdated due to the slavery angle. The principles are still understandable, and yet what we tend to teach flies in the face of the principles Peter is teaching. What it agrees with, however, is the rest of New Testament teaching. Jesus Himself taught us that suffering, and suffering for doing what is right, would be something we should expect as His followers.

Our response to suffering, and more specifically to persecution, is still submission. We submit ourselves to God first and foremost. But we also need to have respect, deferment, submission—or basic human decency in our relationships to everyone—be the hallmark of our being. Peter appeals to the very core of our faith—Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for the sins of the world—for his argument.

It is understandable that many believes have another approach to suffering. Their response to the persecution we see on the news borders on hatred. But how else do people react in the face of the killings we are witnessing. Well, for one option, we can look to the people being impacted by these threats. They are courageous, firm in their convictions, and forgiving. They show love for the people who are hating them. They are doing exactly what Jesus wants of them.

Perhaps believers in the west are weak for a lack of testing. They call for swift reprisals, for the government to fight fire with fire. They talk about the “Christian” duty to defend ourselves, the right to arm ourselves and the preparation needed to take out such threats to our safety, the “loopholes” to the thou-shall-not-kills. This strong posture is a weaker position than the radical one taken by Jesus and his apostles. The stronger believers in the world today are those who are being martyred without turning to violence or hate.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

"Er ist wieder da" by Timur Vermes

“Er ist wieder Da” or “Look Who’s Back” in English is a satire that was published in German back in 2012. It tells the story of Adolf Hitler, waking up inexplicably in modern-day Berlin. He approaches life in the current culture viewing everything through his outdated, racist, ideology and proceeds to attempt to regain his position as leader of the German people to repair all the damage he sees around him. Of course, people recognize him but assume that he is an impersonator. The sheer quality of his “act” leads to him being placed on television.

It is the reactions of the public the shoot him to the highest of successes.

This book is at once superbly biting and insightful satire, but also scary commentary on the nature of Hitler’s rise to power. The way it is written, one could imagine people quickly re-embracing the ideology Hitler espoused. Especially in the circumstances of the novel, where they assume it is all some clever act that exposes realities that the culture prefers to ignore or gloss over.

Timur Vermes clearly has a lot of trust in his readers. He plays his comedy and commentary very straight. He assumes that people will see the horror underlining the story here, and that they will see the warning signs in today’s Europe that bear close examination in light of the not too distant past. That credit that he gives the readers may be dangerously naïve.

After all, reading the book now in 2015, one sees the small but easily roused groups of people that gave into very similar rhetoric this past winter. More now than ever it bears mentioning that we need to truly remember and understand history, or it would be quite plausible to repeat it.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A Brief Look at "The Silkworm"

Well, I came back to the Galbraith story universe. After the last time I was unsure if I would. The detectives Galbraith (Rowling) has created in Cormoran Strike and his assistant Robin are, again, fascinating characters. And the delivery of the story is, as expected, well done. But the world they inhabit and the mysteries they unravel are again quite unpleasant.

This time around it is not the seedy world of professional models, but rather the conceited world of authors. One assumes Rowling could be tapping into personal experience for this one, and, if so, I feel sorry for her. The writers in this murder mystery are a bunch of pompous, sexually perverse and obsessed people less interested in story and more in metaphysics and navel gazing.

Then again, that has to be pure fiction, no? Or, at the very least not a literary world that Rowling inhabits. The authors portrayed here could not be making much money in the real world.

I am sure I will come back for the next Cormoran Strike adventure, though. If I was interested enough in our heroes to make it through this disturbing case I can make it through anything.

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