Monthly Archives: November 2011

Broken Robots and Memoirs

A perfect match.

»Seth W recently released a little zine of sketches of broken robots, called Broken Robots. You can get it for free if he has any more of them. It makes a nice addition to the decor for any of my fellow cubicle jockeys’ working quarters (see photo, where it is nicely coupled with a full color program for a Czech Republic gallery opening). There were only a dozen so Broken Robot #1’s made so you’ll have to break out the ol’ hair shirt as penance if you missed the boat, even though is was not your fault. You have been dodging guilt for too long in your life and I’ve been appointed to show you the way. Grab your bags.

»I’m beta-reading one Jamie Kranig’s memoirs. I regard beta-reading like existing inside the author’s brain as a malignant larvae, waiting to hatch and burst out of their skull with fangs made of red pens and cursing in perfectly formed English sentences. It’s an awesome and masochistic process to let someone read your first draft of anything, because there’s always things to be purged and other things to become more infected with different ideas. Call an ambulance because this boil’s gonna get lanced.

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I’m Pretty Tired So Here’s an Audio File of Someone Reading

I mentioned a few weeks ago about a story I was writing for an upcoming message series at Discovery. Below is an excerpt.

“I have something to tell you.”

That’s all you’re getting!

The story, “A Native’s Story”, is going to be printed along with a few other writings from other people (I think) and sold. Discovery will donate the money from sales to eat-art.org, an organization that does something only a little less interesting than their website domain implies.

In the interest ending this post in a classy manner—a notch or two above dirty, walleyed town drunk—below is the audio track of a reading of the story done by one Ethan Harrington. There wasn’t any post-prod done so you won’t hear any olde timey radio serial sound effects like pottery breaking or baby flatulence. The groundwork is there, though.


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The Problem of Anvils

"Here you go, lazy bum. Don't screw it up."

I will get to the falling anvils later. But first, here’s the problem of evil set in deductive logic form. My church’s small group dealt with this idea a few weeks ago, and I think it’s the best argument against the Christian God there is.

  1. God is omnibenevolent.
  2. God is omnipotent.
  3. God is omniscient.
  4. Evil exists.
  5. An omnibenevolent and omnipotent entity would not allow evil to exist.
  6. Therefore, God is not omnibenevolent, or God is not omnipotent, or God is not omniscient, or God does not exist.

There are some counterarguments to this which can be Googled easily, but I like Alvin Plantinga’s free will defense. There are two videos below that has him explaining a bit about it, and you can read more details on it here and here.

Some random thoughts/ideas:

  1. That this universe contains a free moral agent is axiomatic. Therefore we know that God prefers at least one universe with free moral agency. If he prefers it once, what would make him not prefer it inside another universe?
  2. Could God create a universe filled with automatons, with no free moral agency? We know he created one with at least one type of free moral agent (humans), we can assume he prefers free moral agency over automata in every universe created. Why would he create a universe he does not fully prefer? This is assuming propositions 1-3 above, and that there’s no law of diminishing returns with having too many free moral agents.
  3. Could our free moral agency be an aspect of our being “made in the image of God”? Assuming God cannot choose wrongly, we can’t say God is a free moral agent since he cannot possibly choose wrong; the “freeness” aspect is a non-entity since every one of God’s actions is perfect. Therefore it’s faulty to say our free moral agency is an exact mirror-image of God’s property.
  4. If every universe would have free moral agency, is it possible that there’s an instance that all free moral agents in a universe would always choose good? Probably not (see Plantinga’s trans-world depravity). To always choose good would imply perfection. The first morally evil choice is like an anvil dropping into the previously perfect universe, knocking things out of order.
  5. If all universes are the way that God planned, with imperfect creations that have free moral agency, it implies that evil is an inevitability. But since God prefers creatures that are not automata it seems he prefers it more than the preference of evil not existing. God may have a hierarchy of preferences in this way, with the existence of a free moral agency at the top.

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On Blogging Too Much About Writing and Armadillos

"Just secured a three-booker with Random House. Low five!"

Tobias Buckell posted on and about his blog a few days ago, with a interesting chart on his blog’s traffic. He turned off comments some time ago but his traffic increased. This is counterintuitive to a lot of chatty blog marketeers, who overstress the community aspect. If your blog doesn’t have comments, then it’s just a webpage with some fancy PHP tags, right?

That advice is good for beginners or no names like me, but Buckell is published by real publishers (it’s true! I’ve held a book of his before and even read it) and is widely-known, so he will have some audience no matter what. But what he attributes his blogs continued success is its identity:

It wasn’t a blog ‘about writing’ as I’d initially conceived. With readers of my stories and novels being a large part of my readership, I now begin to work on creating a blog that was ‘about’ the sort of stuff I was trying to write about in fiction: technology, futurism, global perspectives.

Any armadillo with opposable thumbs can write about fiction and the toiling to get published, and a lot do, but the armadillos that stand out inject their own interests to set them apart. More, interests that influence the subject matter of the author’s fiction are doubly compelling. Buckell writes sci-fi, so it makes sense that he would post about space and technology with a little politics. It informs his writing so it’s relevant to his “branding” as an author.

Thinking about my own interests (religion/theology, philosophy, economics, exercise/nutirtion, music) seem too broad at first blush, and I don’t really write about anything specific in my fiction since I don’t have a real publication yet. The specifics of the first three, being Christianity, epistemology, and Austrian economic theory/libertarianism. Granted those are three very large areas of knowledge but I see them leaving a scratch in what I write and have written.

Good food for thought if you’re a author-blogger, Buckell’s post, I know some people that already follow it in some form. Maybe I should follow suit?

Photo by memestate.

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The Good Godless Humanist

I had the thought to reboot Jesus’ message of the Good Samaritan into more modern terms after last Sunday’s sermon. Doubtlessly this has been done before, but the point of this was to use people I would expect to be good or bad neighbors in a role reversal, which I think is part of the novelty of what Jesus was getting at. Feel free to substitute your ideal good and bad guys and watch the magic unfold. It’s like a Choose Your Own Adventure book but a little more weirdly wish-fulfillmenty.

I feel like I overplayed my hubris by paraphrasing Son of Big Guy. I really want to know if scripture translators ever question themselves when they get to the red letters because screwing those words up is like giving God a swift crotch-kick. Yeah, it hurts but it’s more embarrassing than anything. And another hang-up: this feels so much like evangelical cheapshot-ism, the “Jesus was the original rebel, dudes!” kind of silliness. We need less Mountain Dew-flavored pop culture references to God being our homeboy in our youth groups and I’m afraid doing a rewording plays into it just a little.

I don’t mean to place myself in the “rah rah the Church sucks” Christian faction by doing that because it presupposes a dangerous thing. Christians who say this imply a disclaimer which appends “except for me and the few close friends that agree with me” after the “sucks” proposition. It’s a criticism of the generalized church as a ghost in the room but it uses special pleading to exclude ourselves from that criticism. I try not to do these things but instead if I disapprove of something I will be specific and avoid generalities about “all Christians”. Is my meta-criticism justified? Well, I sure think so if I’m voicing it.

In reply Jesus said: “A man was walking a few blocks when he was attacked by robbers. They took all his clothes and beat him up, leaving him half dead on the sidewalk. A Christian happened to be going down the same street, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a pastor, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a godless humanist, traveling the same way, walked past; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, and gave him medicine to ease the pain and speed healing. Then he drove him to a hotel and took care of him. The next day he paid the attendant at the front desk with his credit card. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and charge whatever you need to in order to take care of him until I return.’

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