Monday, November 30, 2015

Trading Morality for Metamorphosis (John 3:1-15)

[25] I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. [26] And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. [27] And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (Ezekiel 36:25-27 ESV)

In chapter two we saw how some people believed in Jesus, but in a manner that was not sufficient for salvation. They were merely impressed by his miracles. Here in chapter three we get an example of such faith/interest.

Nicodemus approaches Jesus with an unspoken question. He knows Jesus is “from God” because of the miracles. But what he really wants to know is, WHO is He?

Jesus ignores that and gets to the heart of the matter, belief. Jesus explains that no one can see, understand, or belong to God’s Kingdom unless one is reborn into it. Nicodemus and his colleagues are preoccupied with religion and law, the things they can do to please God. Jesus says that no one can work their way into God’s favor.

The radical understanding of what God wants from people is clear and should have been understood all along by those who had access to God’s revelation. Nicodemus should have seen it. Jesus talks of being born “of water and spirit.” It hearkens back to passages like the one quoted above.

The right kind of belief starts with an understanding of our condition. We are in dire need of salvation. It is fulfilled when we place our hope in the right solution. The imagery Jesus uses here is a perfect metaphor. When the Israelites were punished with venomous snakes in the dessert, their only hope was to look at the image of a snake raised up on a stick. If bitten, only gazing at the statues would save them. People in that condition would be hyper aware of their predicament. Panicked would be a better description. However, it would also take a lot of trust to simply look at a statue after being bitten.

Nicodemus’ problem, and the problem of the Jews in Jesus day was that they thought they had God’s favor. They thought they were good enough. At worst, if they did fall short of God’s expectations they could do something about it. Something in their own strength. They didn’t think repentance and regeneration were something they needed. They didn’t want to trust someone else for their wellbeing. Unfortunately, those are also problems that a lot of people in Christendom share with them.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Doctor Who 9.10 "Face the Raven"

There has been some grumbling about Clara’s exit from the series in the latest episode of “Who.” People are claiming that she didn’t get a realized story arch. All she ever amounted to was being a series of plot devices. That may be. It is a fate of multiple companions over the years.

My problem with the story, if her death indeed is the end of Clara on “Doctor Who,” (and there are reasons to think we haven’t seen the last of her.) is that hers was the textbook definition of a meaningless death.

It is the nature of the character-cycling on the show, and it was likely time for her to go, but in “Face the Raven” we got a death designed merely to move us emotionally. You might could argue that she gave her life for another, but the story underlines the fact that she was mistaken in her effort. She goofed up big time. And her pleas to the Doctor to not avenge her death sound noble at the time, but all they amount to is a declaration that she wants her death to mean nothing.

People hated Adric back in the seventies, and some may have secretly delighted in the fact that he died thanks to his own incompetence. But here we get an even more insignificant passing from a character that has meant a lot more to the show’s overarching mythology. Is Moffat seriously going to create a character that he had save every incarnation of the Doctor in every story of the series (a crazy conceit), and who caused the Doctor to correct his most terrible error (the Time War), and then just write her out in such an insignificant way?

I have hope that we haven’t heard the whole story here.

Friday, November 27, 2015

"Star Wars" (1977)

Forget everything that has come since for a second and think about the message of “Star Wars.” Not the universe of creative world-building, the 1977 film.

At its most basic level it is a film about belief. Luke is a kid ready to “come of age” and he is thrown into the chaos of having his family killed, his home lost, and the powers-that-be are after him. In the midst of all of that, an old man he just met is telling him that there is a supernatural dimension to the world. If he will simply trust that “force” it will help him face his challenges and overcome his difficulties.

Along comes Han Solo, a man of action, a cynic who only trusts himself and his ability to overcome the odds. Solo is capable, and presents the seemingly wiser option in life. Do what is smart. Don’t trust others. Make sure you take care of your problems yourself.

Luke choses to follow faith, and he is rewarded. In “Star Wars” there is no good reason to think that Luke was justified beyond the luck that Solo claimed was truly behind “the force.” It is only in believing that Luke sees confirmation. Of course, we the audience know better. Such stories carry an expectation. And, we know the maker of this particular universe, and that He built the force into it. Never mind how poorly he developed his creation down the line.

However, there are key problems in the supernatural realm in Star Wars. The force is an impersonal power. It is a neutral power, neither good nor evil. Or perhaps one should say both good and evil. Ultimately it is just a function of the natural world. One could even go so far as to say that it is all luck, just as Solo claimed.

That is a far more disappointing faith than the one we see in our world, where we are invited to believe in a supreme being, not a force, and a good God, not an indifferent power that just as well serves the plans of evil as it does good. You may indeed need to believe before you can see just as Luke does here. However, it is a much more satisfying leap of faith.


Thursday, November 26, 2015

Nemesis

(Poetry Scales 42

When you close the book you see
the arch villain is not
the antagonist,
but rather the alter ego.

Clark Kent doesn’t fight Luther
so much as the man with
the tights and the cape.

Perhaps it is a good credo:
I know whom I’m meant to be
but paint the monster and
give myself to doubt.

When it comes to the task before me
I am my own nemesis.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Yesteryearning

(Poetry Scales 53)

I find myself mourning
For things not yet gone
This moment in time
This place
At times it’s a challenge
To live in the now
Each moment in time
Is change
Between plans and memories
I yearn for today
And foment in time
In a measured,
Even,
Pace

Monday, November 23, 2015

Trading Symbol for Solution (John 2:12-25)

In this section of John, we see three things happen. Jesus “cleanses” the temple. Jesus equates himself, his body, with the temple. And, Jesus does not acknowledge insufficient belief.

This passage is a damning one for much of Christendom. In the overarching section including all of chapters two through four, Jesus is revealing the new order of things—the breaking through of the Kingdom of God into the world. Here He targets what will turn out to be his biggest enemy, the religious order.

Religion has always represented humanity’s failed attempts to save ourselves from our rebellion against God. Judaism, even though it is based on God’s revelation and the Law He gave to instruct us of our helplessness is not immune from this institutional, cultural, systematic attempt of people to save themselves. And the sad thing is that Christianity, when it has developed and deviated from what Jesus established is not immune either.

We no longer meet in a single building representing God’s home on earth. We don’t even need buildings to assemble as followers of Jesus. Yet even simple expressions of church can forget their purpose and become empty, self-focused, religious clubs. Jesus called on the people of His day to recognize the loss of meaning that the religious symbols had suffered. But He also called on people to place their trust in Him, not the building or the system they were relying on.

And worst of all, we see here in John that many people “believed in His name” and it meant nothing. We need to be sure that we follow Jesus in a vital faith—trusting and obeying Him as the Lord of our lives—and don’t simply teach people to acknowledge a statement of fact.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Star Trek Voyager (Season 6b)

Season 6aSeason 7a

Season Six began to bog down a bit in the middle, but there are a couple of interesting episodes. Especially from the point of view of someone looking for deeper content. The cliff-hanger at the end, though, seemed to be playing a bit heavily on past Trek successes.

Episode 14 “Memorial”

It is an interesting idea. To have people forced to relive an experience of another is more than just a memorial. It is a forced trauma. And it gives a wholly different meaning to the idea that history is written by the victors, or the guilty. The need for memorials—and particularly memorials to tragedies or misdeeds is nailed home in this story. Unfortunately it doesn’t effectively cover its heavy-handed preaching with a compelling enough story to help us absorb it.

Episode 15 “Tsunkatse”

Trek always seems to find its way back to the old chestnut of the gladiatorial arena. And, to make matters worse this episode feels like a barely dressed-up piece of stunt casting.

Episode 16 “Collective”

When Voyager encounters a badly damaged Borg ship, they are almost taken down by children. Someone has infected the Borg with a terminal virus, and only the children have survived. Thus we are introduced to even more child-characters that are going to get a disproportionate amount of the story-lines going forward.

Episode 17 “Spirit Folk”

Trek has always been fascinated with AI, but Voyager is particularly concerned with it due to the Doctor. Here we get ideas already explored in TNG, with the added element that Voyager has already proposed: increased time allows AI to develop consciousness. As a concept it simply doesn’t fly.

That aside, though, the metaphor here is incredibly fascinating. If we grant the village on the holodeck is full of conscious individuals, the way they react to supernatural occurrences feels authentic. We get the full philosophy of religion gamut, from superstitious explanations to religious establishments, to power plays, and ultimately, ignorant cruelty. What makes it most interesting in the end is that, despite there being logical explanations for everything, they DO include the supernatural. This isn’t a case of people creating hysteria out of nothing. Sometimes there is more than we are capable of comprehending. Do we take the word of greater intelligence, or assume we are the end all of universal knowledge?

Episode 18 “Ashes to Ashes”

The problem with these sorts of stories in serial television is that we are asked to believe that there have been important characters that had an impact on the crew that we have never seen before. It doesn’t work. And here the concept destroys suspension of disbelief. How can an entire species exist by simply reanimating the dead of other species? Where did it start?

Episode 19 “Child’s Play”

This story answers some questions we had forgotten to ask about the Borg children and the Borg infection. Somehow, the way the story is told we are on edge the whole time for the floor to drop out, so we are not surprised when the “twist” occurs.

Episode 20 “Good Shepherd”

Janeway takes it upon herself to develop some underperforming crew members. Under normal circumstance they would have washed out long ago, but since they are all stuck on the ship until they get home, such washouts are not helpful. In an interesting element, she uses the parable of the lost sheep as told by Jesus, but apparently in the Trek future it is known as the story of the Good Shepherd. The interpretation of the stories meaning has also been lost a bit over time.

Episode 21 “Live Fast and Prosper”

A fun little story about some con-artists in the Delta Quadrant. While it is entertaining, it only serves to highlight the problem that Trek has with a far too populated—and for that matter an overly humanoid populated—galaxy.

Episode 22 “Muse”

This episode is really not very good, but that is unfortunate. Because the idea the storytellers are playing with here is important. It is Trek explaining Trek. The idea that storytellers and stories can change culture and can make the world a better place is true. It is, in fact, an idea that transcends reality. The creator of the universe is Himself a master storyteller and—in orchestrating and creating stories in history—He is making the world a better place with His story.

Episode 23 “Fury”

Kes returns and kills Torres, but since she travels back in time we know not to worry because it will all be undone. We also know to dismiss the episode for the same reasons.

Episode 24 “Lifeline”

The Doctor travels to our solar system to help heal his creator. The character is so fascinating it is a fun watch, but we run into the same problems as before. The story has given the character so much growth that he is no longer a program.

Episode 25 “The Haunting of Deck Twelve”

Neelix calms the kids’ fears on a scary night by telling them the truth—as a story. Turns out any lie would have either been seen through as an attempt to calm and patronize, or even scarier than the truth.

Episode 26 “Unimatrix Zero Part 1”

Voyager attempts to take a page from the TNG playbook and have some of our beloved characters assimilated. It doesn’t work out quite so well as “The Best of Both Worlds” and we aren’t worried going into the season break.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Doctor Who 9.9 "Sleep No More"

This latest, stand-alone episode of Doctor Who was fun, experimental, and a bit mind boggling. Right from the start things indicate that the viewer be on guard: no title sequence, captured footage, the narrator telling us not to watch. That last bit felt a whole lot like reverse psychology.

Had I been the BBC programmer I might have had this episode air two weeks ago for Halloween. It is just a spooky, campfire story after all. Put this one together with the likes of “Blink” “Midnight” and maybe “Love and Monsters.” Not based on shared quality, but rather for the outside-the-box thinking that helps keep things fresh.

(The images I have been attaching to the reviews of the Twelfth Doctor stories have been posters the BBC has been using by designer Stuart Manning. I like his retro designs. Check him out at his facebook page.)

Monday, November 16, 2015

Water into Wine (John 2:1-11)

In the first miracle of Jesus in John, we learn a lot about the nature of Christ. Jesus is God. Changing water into wine by instructing some waiters is a powerful demonstration. It is clearly supernatural. Jesus begins to reveal His divinity here. His disciples, seeing this, go from followers to believers.

But Jesus is also man. The interaction with Mary is almost comical. One imagines the typical mother, pushing her son to do something for her, whether he wants to or not. Jesus protests, but complies with what she wants. What son wouldn’t? She knows who He is (as we see in Luke’s account) and we can assume she has seen His power and glory o display before this event.

More than anything else here, we see Jesus’ humanity… No, that isn’t the right word, because the aspect of mankind that we see on display here is part of what it means to be created in God’s image. We see Jesus’ compassion. Jesus doesn’t need to do this miracle. It doesn’t quite fit strategically into His mission. It isn’t healing a sickness or saving a life. The couple could have merely run out of wine and closed their celebration down earlier than socially expected. What is a little embarrassment in light of all the wrongs Jesus came to make right? But Jesus cares about people. These are His friends and townsfolk.

Jesus cares about us too. He provides not only for our needs, He blesses us as well.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

My Mountain List

Mountains play an important role in scripture as well as in literature. The other day I got to asking myself, “What are the important, impactful mountains in my own life?”

10. Long’s Peak

From the time I was five until I left home to go to college, I always lived within sight of mountains. And for the first five of those years, the main peak I could see just about any time I looked for it was Long’s Peak. I loved the Rockys and the times we spent up in those mountains. I particularly remember a trip to camp out at Lost Lake. I read now that there is a range and a peak there called Mummy, but I didn’t know it at the time.

9. Mt. Capulin 

Every year that I lived in the shadow of Long’s Peak we took one or two trips back down to Texas. And on that drive, I always looked out for Mount Capulin. A small volcano in the middle of a flat land, you would see volcanic rocks it had spewed out for miles before and after viewing the cone. It is the first volcano I ever went into, and at the time I was afraid because I thought it was going to be like a Tarzan movie I had seen on TV once. Reality was pretty dull by comparison.

8. Poas

The second volcano I went into came years later when we moved to Costa Rica for a year. It was one of the few day trips we took out of the city that year. (Learning Spanish consumed most of our time.) This crater was a little more like the one in the movies. We didn’t really go into it. That would have been deadly.

7. Osorno and El Puntiagudo 

Once we had moved into the Southern Andes, Volcanoes became constant companions. A little far from home were the impressive ones in the tenth region of Chile. Osorno is massive and its cousin nearby is one of the most recognizable ones I have seen to this day.

6. Villarrica 

But closest to home was Villarica. It was constantly glowing at the time I lived there. It has since erupted more violently again. I have rocks from Villarica that have followed me around the world since.

5. Cierro Nielol 

OK, not really a mountian, but a hill dear to my heart. Just outside of Temuco, Chile, I spent many an afternoon hiking or riding up and down its paths and roads.

4. Kanzel 

The year I actually lived in Austria I lived on a mountainside. That said, it was a small one at the far eastern end of the Alps where they meet the Carpathians. Interestingly, it was named the pulpit, so it felt like an appropriate place for a preacher to live. Also, it seemed covered in snakes. I don’t know what that meant.

3. The Dolomites, The Sella Group 

My favorite part of the Alps is everybody elses, the Dolomites. We only ever went there one time, and it was a day trip drive at that. But I would love to go back there for a longer, more pedestrian time.

2. Torres del Paine 

My most beloved mountains, though, are the ones I lived near during my High School days, the ones at the end of the Andes, in the national park with no roads. Torres del Paine National Park is a place for hikers. It is the Dolomites of South America. And the namesake peaks are not so much pretty as impressive. I used to hike there once a year on week-long trips. There…

1. Cuernos del Paine 

…is where my favorite peaks are. The “horns” are, for my money, the most amazing, picturesque mountaintops in the world.

(Pictures of Puntiagudo, Villarrica, Kanzel,  Dolomites, and Cuernos are mine.  The rest are from Wikipedia.)

Friday, November 13, 2015

"Inside Out" (2015)

In a very important way, “Inside Out” is Pixar returning to form. They have introduced us to an imaginary world that feels completely thought out. It is also something that all of us at one time or another have imagined. Just as we (or at least I) used to wonder if our toys came to life when we were away, or what life must be like on the scale of a bug, here we get the little people inside us. Others have done it for TV or movies before. However, Woody Allen played the concept for a brief sketch of a joke and “Doctor Who” took the literal, vehicle disguised as a human approach.

What Pixar excels at is taking such widespread concepts and using them very effectively to make a point. Here, since it is the emotions that control the individual without “being” the personality, we have a great metaphor for the way our emotions really work. They can step in and take control, but we are not merely our emotions. It is also fascinating to consider some of the choices the made and the truths that they convey. For instance, the way that our protagonist’s emotions battle for control since she is a child, while the adults’ emotions function much more as a team. And it is curious that the father’s driving emotion is anger while the mother’s is sadness.

I love the decision the filmmakers made to have our main lesson be that sadness had to save the day. Twenty years ago this would have been a film all about how joy had to overcome sadness. It is a much truer message to say that sadness is vital. And that feelings of nostalgia and sadness are healthy, whereas the truly negative state is emotionlessness. The depiction of depression here is spot on.

Another triumph.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Antimeridiemare

I think I have suffered
A random super glue accident
I awoke to discover
My head is stuck to my mattress
To make matters worse
My eyes are sealed shut
Try as I might
I can't open them up
As if all of that
Were not bad enough
I think I'm trapped
In some temporal flux
Every time I turn over
The face of my alarm clock reads
That half-an-hour's gone by and
I don't remember a thing
I don't recall getting into bed
With a super glue tube
As for how I'm getting out
Of this I haven't got a clue
My only hope is that this
Is some horrible scary dream
But i don't think it can be
Because I really have to pee

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Faith: All About God, or You?


“The church has grown so accustomed to cultural privilege - a privilege it should never have had in the first place - that its erosion feels like persecution, when it's not.

As a result, instead of meaningful engagement with society, we draw battle lines in confected culture 'wars' featuring praying football coaches, dissenting county clerks, and recalcitrant wedding cake bakers.” –Michael Frost

There is a huge difference between the cultural religious institutions that exist in every society and have been around since the fall of man, and the followers of Jesus. What the Bible sometimes calls “followers of the way.”

On the one side you have culturally accepted norm-makers, powerful people in society who get to influence and sometimes even choose the rules the society must follow. This side could include such groups as Islamic leaders, Mayan priests, the Pope and Bishops in Catholicism, or in a certain sense, evangelical pastors in America. The Bible had such a group as well. They were called the Pharisees.

The Pharisee movement began with good intentions. It was a reaction against the moral corruption in Jewish society. It had a desire to get people back on track with God. It ended up being just another legalistic, religious, enemy of Christ.

When I think of these legalistic, religious groups I think of “Young Frankenstein.” There is a joke in that movie where Igor tells Dr. Frankenstein, “walk this way.” He then proceeds to limp down some stairs and hand his cane back up to Frankenstein so he can limp down them as well. Religious leaders always start out with the intention of showing people a path to follow, but end up forcing people to imitate the manner of walking and forget all about where they are leading.

Biblical Christianity is all about God calling people back into relationship with Him. It is all about the path. It is all about the destination. It is all about Jesus.

The concern with American Christianity today—the concern I see reflected in Frost’s quote above—is that Christians have been so focused on their “cultural position” that they have forgotten the essence of who they are. They have made Christianity not about Jesus, but more about themselves. They have enjoyed so much privilege that they have forgotten Jesus said our lot would be suffering. We don’t belong in this world. We are outsiders.

Take prayer. It has never been “taken out of school.” As long as there are people in schools who have a relationship with Jesus there will be prayer. What we have lost, perhaps, is the position where we can impose a formal prayer on all people. And, depending on who was in control of that formality, I would generally say that is no great loss. And when we choose to make prayer a sign of defiance it ceases to be a conversation with God. It ceases to be about God and instead is all about us.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Doctor Who 9.8 "The Zygon Inversion"

There are eight minutes in this episode of Who that rank amongst the best the show has ever done. They may be the very best.

The story moves beyond the parallels to immigration, refugees, and extremists within groups and takes on warmongers in general. As we saw hinted at in the first part, the Doctor has set up a box that will ensure the cease-fire between humans and zygons. It turns out that he has created a war-in-miniature scenario. There are two boxes, one for each side. Each box has two buttons, one that will give the side what they want the other that will amount to suicide. Each side has a fifty-fifty chance at victory or destruction.

While the enemies consider their options and weigh their odds, the Doctor shows them the stupidity of their intentions.

I can’t accurately weigh how enjoyable the show will be for viewers with no background. The conflict and much of the action here is nested in a lot of backstory, going back to the Fiftieth Anniversary Special two years ago and beyond. However, I suspect this two-parter works fine on its own.

And it is a high recommend. This is the reason science fiction stories exist.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Three Discipleship Observations (John 1:35-51)

What we have here in John 1 is a wonderful, informative glimpse into what discipleship really is.

Starting with John the Baptist, we see that he wasn’t just telling people about Jesus. He was had followers and he was practicing discipleship. In this passage, we see that his discipleship was just like his teaching. He didn’t draw people to himself, teaching them and increasing his own person. He pointed people to Jesus. When his followers leave him to follow the Messiah, he hadn’t lost followers so much as he had succeeded in his purpose. So, the first goal of Biblical discipleship is to get people to follow Jesus, not us.

But, discipleship is all about following. When the disciples mentioned here find Jesus, they simply follow Him. When He does ask them what they want from Him, their answer is not teaching or wisdom or some other insight. They only want to know where He lives because their plan now that they have found Him is to be where He is, watching and imitating. The second goal of Biblical Discipleship is to get to know Jesus, not to know about Him.

Lastly, we see here that an important part of discipleship is sharing the wealth. The first thing we see followers of Jesus do is tell others. There is no training necessary. They follow Jesus and they tell others what they are doing. Somewhere along the way churches have decided that discipleship is complicated and is all about intricate teaching. You do not need a degree to do what the Bible is showing us here. The third goal of discipleship is to make disciples. In fact, there is an argument to be made that you are not a disciple of Jesus until you have brought someone else to Him.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

A Brief, Initial, Non-Spoiler-y Look at "Spectre" (2015)

Sometime in the near future I need to get back to an in-depth look at “Skyfall” and the Quadrilogy that is Craig’s Bond thus far. For now, here are initial thoughts on the latest, “Spectre.”

The song is really bad. But then again, this is a series known for really great and really dreadful theme songs. It is a crapshoot.

So, is it a compliment or some sort of advancement of women’s lib that they have a 50 year old as a Bond Girl this time around? Don’t get me wrong, I have always been a fan of Belucci’s beauty. But you would think women’s lib is all about women being clever enough not to immediately fall to pieces when Bond presumes.

While we are addressing the great questions of our time, where does Bond get all of his outfits? It isn’t like he travels with a full wardrobe and yet he always has the most fashionable outfits and they always perfectly match the color palate of his surroundings. I want to know his secret.

If Bond films are measured by their villains (and I don’t necessarily buy into that argument) then this is clearly a middle-of-the-pack entry. Waltz is as good as ever, but he exactly as ever. I would have liked to see him go full-on sinister. Not his self-deprecating evil plus quirky humor villain. And Hinx is a specimen to be sure, but in the end a rather bland one.

Ultimately this film replaces plot with call-backs. That is not a sin perhaps, but I think you could have had both. I do like the through-line of the Craig movies though.

If forced to decide where I rank this in the Bond series after just one viewing, I think I would place it somewhere around fourth or fifth place, either right before or after “Goldfinger.” It is certainly third in the Craig entries.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Star Trek TOS (Top and Bottom Episodes)

TOS has been around a long time and any list I make is likely to be predictable. Perhaps my 20-11 ranked episodes will stand out a bit, but the bottom 10 and top ten are probably pretty standard. Here are my least favorite 10 and most favorite 20 episodes from all 79 aired:

Bottom 10:

70. “Friday’s Child” (Season 2)
71. “The Corbonite Maneuver” (Season 1)
72. “Miri” (Season 1)
73. “The Alternative Factor” (Season 1)
74. “Spock’s Brain” (Season 3)
75. “Turnabout Intruder” (Season 3)
76. “And the Children Will Lead” (Season 3)
77. “Catspaw” (Season 2)
78. “The Way to Eden” (Season 3)
79. “The Omega Glory” (Season 2)

Top 20:

20. “The Apple”
19. “Who Mourns for Adonais?”
18. “Obsession”
17. “Bread and Circuses”
16. “Court Martial”
15. “The Conscience of the King”
14. “Wolf in the Fold”
13. “For the World is Hollow, and I Have Touched the Sky”
12. “The Changeling”
11. “This Side of Paradise”
10. “The Devil in the Dark”
9. “Journey to Babel”
8. “The Doomsday Machine”
7. “Space Seed”
6. “A Taste of Armageddon”
5. “Amok Time”
4. “What Are Little Girls Made Of?”
3. “The Trouble with Tribbles”
2. “Mirror, Mirror”
1. “City on the Edge of Forever”

Season 1a

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

"The Martian" by Andy Weir

Andy Weir has reminded me why I like reading better than watching. OK, maybe it is too early to make definitive statements because I haven’t seen the film yet. But I can’t imagine “The Martian” being a better film experience than a reading experience. And with too many higher anticipated films left in the year I won’t be really testing that conclusion any time soon.

The Martian is one of those survival tales like “Hatchet” or classics like “The Voyage of the Beagle” by Darwin or “The Exploration of the Colorado River and Its Canyons” by John Wesley Powell. The plot is so simple as to be almost non-existent. The character survives or doesn’t. They learn along the way. We live vicariously through their account of adventures we can never experience for ourselves.

This is one of those stories largely depending on journal entries, though not entirely. The problem with those accounts is that they difuse a lot of the tension. One knows not to worry about a character when said character is recounting something already in the past. But the whole narrative is not told this way, and the author does a lot to really hype up the tension.

It is also what some have called “hard scifi.” I don’t know about that, but there are lengthy portions totally reliant on math or chemistry, so it is a bit of a defense of god education!

In the end it is an engaging read. Actually, it is very inspiring. To be honest, I am intrigued to see just how much things change for the cinematic adaptation. I can’t imagine it being a direct translation. Then again, I hated “The Castaway.”

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Doctor Who 9.7 "The Zygon Invasion"

We classic fans of Doctor Who always talk fondly about the good old days when the show was about real philosophical issues and political-social topics disguised as a kids show with shoddy special effects. Yet even in its most meddling days, Doctor Who was never this blatantly about the issues of the day. It is too soon to see how they are going to play things, but they have already spoken more in one hour about the challenges, opportunities, and potential threats facing Europe than most editorial shows have this year.

This is not some idealistic, hippy take on refugees and Islam in Europe. The show does a good job of presenting seriously scary scenarios. The threat is palpable. But it also isn’t a gung-ho, rah rah, solve the problem with force story either. The Doctor does what the character is so good at: he is the unbiased outsider working to find solutions for everyone. There are no easy answers. Sacrifices have to be made. His position always looks so weak because he refuses to threaten or harm any being. But, somehow that is what always makes his position the strongest, and perhaps that is why circumstances always go his way. He is on the side of right and good.

It is the show once again casting the Doctor in a messianic role. WWTDD has been invoked in the way WWJD is. If you are imagining what Jesus’ approach to the refugee crisis would be, you certainly don’t think of fear mongers who invoke His name to excuse their racist “defense” of Christendom. But you also wouldn’t want Him to allow Himself to be trod upon by religious extremists. He consistently attacked the religious hypocrites in His day.

Then again, He did allow Himself to be sacrificed for those who hated Him. Perhaps that is the approach where the Doctor most imitates Christ: do right and good and trust circumstances (or providence) to see you through in the end.


Monday, November 2, 2015

An Awful Alternate Reading (John 1:35-42)

This next section in John is one of my favorites. It has had a lot of influence on my own spiritual walk. However, before I get into what is being said here, I feel a need to point something out. The early story of the disciples is quite a bit out of step with current Christianity. Either the church needs to make some changes to line up with what we see in Scripture, or we need a different translation. Something more along the lines of:

35. The next Sunday John was there again with two of his church’s members. 36. When he saw Jesus passing by he said, “Look! There is the Lamb of God about whom I have been teaching. I am excited to be able to teach you more about Him!”

37. When the two members heard him say this, they wanted to follow Jesus. John tried to discourage them because they were not trained in theology and hadn’t spent a lot of time studying scripture, so they weren’t qualified to follow Him without his help. However, they left and went anyway. 38Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?”

They answered, “Teacher, teach us!”

39. “Cool! I have a standing Bible Study Wednesday nights. You are welcome to attend. Also I preach just about every Sunday in area churches. I’ll get you the schedule.”

So they started attending every study that Jesus taught.

40. Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two ex-members of John’s church who had left his ministry to attend Jesus’ studies. 41. The first thing that Andrew wanted to do was to find his brother Simon and tell him “We have found the Messiah.” (That is, a churchy word for Christ—which is a churchy word for Savior—which is a churchy word for… never mind.) 42. But he waited until such a time as he felt like he knew enough to talk to his brother. He is still waiting, but is pretty sure it won’t be too many more years!

Needless to say, I am more in favor of changing the way we do things…
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