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Monthly Archives: March 2013


Surprise! That Utopia Was Actually A Festering Hellhole

"Yar."

“Yar.”

If you consume anything fictional—movie, TV show, book, video game—you’ll know that if you come across any situation in the story that’s too good to be true for the protagonists, the situation is probably based on a lie from the pit of one of the lower circles of hell. After a few episodes of The Walking Dead‘s third season, I was probing TV Tropes, looking past the clunky design to see if there was an entry for this phenomenon. Behold the False Utopia.

It happens a lot when writers want to mess with their protagonists, and it’s accomplished by building false expectations in both the characters and the audience, and then pouring buckets of demon vomit all over it. Although the Governor (TWD‘s false utopia leader) didn’t seem all that bad at first blush, the fact that he looked rather benign was a sure tip off that he’s Satan’s toejam. His toejam-status is confirmed once we find out about the severed heads he keeps in aquariums, and all kidnapping and incarceration, forced disrobing, and killing other people for their stuff that he does.

Interesting that he’s named the Governor, because his town is the most governmental out of what is shown on the series. Instead of cooperating or trading peacefully with others, like moral people, the initiation of force is used to acquire resources from the outside. Disperse the Governor’s power among a few more people and it becomes the mafia. Increase the size of the land and charter a ruling document and you’ve got yourself a bonafide modern-day nation.

It’s not an absolute comparison. People in TWD aren’t producing wealth so much as appropriating abandoned property in little bands that act much like families, pooling and sharing of resources within, and squatting land and buildings. There’s not the hard division of labor and power that characterizes markets and nations, so we’re left with what looks like variations on primitive communism that marked pre-modern-technology tribal structures.

Utopia is here. Somewhere.

Utopia is here. Somewhere.

A Post About Urinating

water_not_urineBelow is something I wrote in an email to a friend, and I guess it’s something that I think the world at large needs to read. I apologize for the crassness.

About the piss: I was typing my response e-mail and stood up to do something mundane, then I had an additional thought and found myself typing but standing up, bent over the keyboard. That’s when the piss-impulse slammed into my internal nethers. I don’t think it was only the change in my body’s position that triggered it. It probably was also my focus on doing one thing and then my mind moving on to address the next prioritized task: the impending backlog of urine threatening to jam up my kidneys. I’m not a great multi-tasker…typical male wiring. But I did piss standing up. Proudly.

Jesus’ Divinity as Embellishment or Doctrine

An owl, who may or may not be reading the Q document.

An owl, who may or may not be reading the Q document.

Wintery Knight has a good summary-type of post on the view of early church on Jesus’ divine nature, using the 1 Corinthians and Phillipians letters, Mark’s gospel, and then hitting the Q document.

One of the strongest historo-logical (?) arguments, I think, against the Jesus’ divinity is that if you put crucial passages in chronological order, they show a progressively more “divine” Jesus. I’m actually not too familiar with the arguments for either/or, but WK’s post is the pro-doctrine side:

Check out Philippians 2:5-11.

5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

6Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,

7but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

8And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!

9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,

10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

The date for Philippians is 60-61 AD. Still within the lifetime of the eyewitnesses, and written by an eyewitness who was in contact with the other eyewitnesses, like Peter and James, whom Paul spoke with numerous times on his journeys to Jerusalem.

An important thing to keep in mind, using just some verbal logic, comes from knowing that the New Testament writers were documenting things as they saw them and for certain audiences who shared the same base knowledge and cultural assumptions (other Jews). They weren’t writing as modern historians for modern historians, making sure that they met the proper criteria for historical inquiry. To expect those books to read like present-day accounts of recent events is the wrong approach to take.

E-Chapbooks and Prison

Paul, seen here writing his chapbook to the Colossians.

Paul, seen here writing his chapbook to the Colossians.

From a correspondence with Matt, who runs Safety Third Enterprises:

The other day a friend of mine let me see the “chapbooks” his students made. He teaches English lit at a prison. The rules were books could only be put together through found items at the jail. What was done and written in the books is beautiful. A book held together with cut parts of a boot, a scroll that when unraveled is the length of a living room. There is strength in the physical presentation.

….

The one long scroll had the lord’s prayer written in 20 some-odd languages. There is no internet access in this type of prison so this student had to go to books, and probably other people, to write and translate it. It analyzed the prayer as a poem. The Russian version was my favorite.

I had initially thought that chapbooks, products more from indie presses than larger publishers, were more warm to print publishing than e-books, but Matt says indie publishing changes like every other market.

That prisons embrace physical forms of writing isn’t surprising, since they are bound (heh) by circumstance to use material mediums than computer screens. But it’s the limitations than form part of the message.

I still haven’t read any e-books, but I’m open to it. I’m just too stuck on reading protracted stories on two real pages in front of me.

Why Are All The Popes So Frigging Old?

"Hi."

“Hi.”

The official answer, as in Catholic church code “official” answer, is as unsalacious as it comes: 47 years of some sort of church officialdom needs to be in the can before the smoke de blanco can rise for thee (source, sort of).

Jose Canseco, the final word on all things church leadership, sagely offered on Twitter: “Why are all the Popes old men? They need younger strong men or women to be popes with energy that can last a while and get stuff done.” An equally profound, depunctuated question was asked, just a mere 9 minutes prior, when he tweeted: “What all does a Pope do”.

Some words to consider, for sure. A non-Googled hazarding for the reasoning behind it all is that being young and strong is irrelevant to the position. You’re not going to know enough to be a competent visible head of a church of a few billion people unless you have a few decades worth of theological hoop-jumpery and a hefty corpus of writing to prove. You have to know your ish, and people have to know you know your ish.

Too, if you look at turnover rate of people in similar positions, like CEOs, it is woefully quick. Standing in the path of that unholy tidal wave of responsibility and media-propelled omnipresence is likely to wreck you a solid, age indiscriminate. Another fatal strike against a boy-man papacy. Young bucks with holy visions of upstart audacity need not apply.

Electric Rabbit Chasing

It’s excerpts like this that made me a Bradbury fan:

The lights came on.

I blinked.

For I saw the entire unholy thing. There it was, laid out for me under the drizzling rain.

The lights came on. The men quickened, turned, gathered, and we with them.

A mechanical rabbit popped out of a little box at the far end of the stony yard and ran. Eight dogs, let free from gates, yelping, ran after in a great circle. There was not one yell or a murmur from the crowd of men. Their heads turned slowly, watching. The rain rained down on the illuminated scene. The rain fell upon tweed caps and thin cloth coats. The rain dripped off thick eyebrows and thin noses. The rain beat on hunched shoulders. I stared. The rabbit ran. The dogs ran. At the finish, the rabbit popped into its electric hatch. The dogs collided on each other, barking. The lights went out.

In the dark I turned to stare at the director as I knew he must be turning to stare at me.

Some wonderful imagery with humorous undercurrents. Read the full story (A Wild Night in Galway) here or get the short story collection here.

What Would Jesus Dribble Into His Beard?

Even Jesus likes prog rock.

Even Jesus likes prog rock.

I can enjoy books like The Lotus and the Cross or the Coffee with Jesus comics from Radio Free Babylon, but presuming to speak for Son of the Big Guy (SotBG) seems to be an awfully heavy load to carry. Even if we disclaim it as paraphrasing or going with the flow of the “spirit” of what he would say, I wouldn’t presume to be the one to do take a shot at it.

It’s not to be Levitical (actually, Deuteronimical) about it, but false prophets were stoned for a good reason. Pretend you’re God…an easy task for some of us. You’ve assembled an entire society and you need to maintain it around direct lines of communication with them—there’s not a closed canon of scripture to reference yet so your society has only mouthpieces, designated by you, for collective guidance. You’re going to have to make gosh darn sure that those who feign to speak for you are actually speaking for you, right? “Thus says the Lord God” should probably mean just that.

We have the voicemails now, but back then the phone line was wide open. Prophets were speaking the words as God would speak them: not preaching, not paraphrasing, not theologizing or theorizing. God, being the certain way that he is, wanted to make sure there weren’t errant freelancers wandering around claiming revelatory knowledge. Wouldn’t you be a little irritated if someone, by their own ambition, went around speaking your own words without your admonition*? Shoot, if the whole point of your society is to produce the savior of the world you need everything on lock.

No condemnation here for Ravi Zacharias or RFB…but as for me I wouldn’t want to burden myself with thinking I would know what SotBG would say.

* That might be one of the reasons prophecy, in the sense of “foretelling future events”, was employed. It was an easy way to separate the goofs from the genuine.

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