Monday, February 23, 2015

film films

So three out of the last four "Best Picture" Oscar awards have gone to movies about making movies, unless I am very much mistaken.  Birdman (2015), Argo (2013), and The Artist (2012), were all about film makers.  I have not seen any of these, and I am not berating their quality.  It seems reasonable, in point of fact, that perhaps movie people are most passionately invested in the telling of a tale about movie people, and perhaps these films truly are of a superior quality.  Maybe film films simply make up a growing percentage of the movies produced, signaling some sort of trend in which the modern audience, no longer content with a story, wants to pick and peel at the story beneath the story.  Or maybe, just maybe, someone has discovered that the kingmakers of Hollywood are less inspired by other industries and are, as Watson said of Holmes in "The Adventure of the Red Circle", "accessible upon the side of flattery".

Anyway, no film debate to see here, I'm just reacting to a question about potential bias in a measurement.

Like all of those blog posts about blogging. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

useless knowledge

I laughed at myself today.  I was skimming a news article and I saw this headline for a different article at the bottom of the page: 

9 Facts About Lemon Water You Should Know

My indignant reaction was, "There is not room in my life for 9 facts about lemon water."  That actually passed through my mind.  I'm a busy man!  Or in the words of Fezzik, "Don't pester him, he's had a hard day".  I resented being told what I "Should Know", and I'm not even sure there are nine facts about lemon water (I didn't read the article).  I started thinking on some tangent about Sherlock Holmes claiming that the mind was like an attic, and we need to guard against the accumulation of useless knowledge.  I agreed with Holmes as I rejected the useless lemon water link.  Then I looked up at the headline of the intellectual and newsworthy article I had been reading:  Rare Case of Conjoined Lizard Twins Found at Germany Zoo. 

Monday, January 26, 2015


JERUSALEM (from 'Milton')

by: William Blake (1757-1827)

AND did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England's pleasant pastures seen?

And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!

I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land.

This poem has been on my mind for the past month or so after listening to the song Jerusalem by Emerson, Lake, and Palmer.  I recall the music from the movie Chariots of Fire, but I never got a good look at the words.  ELP took a song long in the domain of warbling boys' choirs and made it sound like the stirring anthem it was surely meant to be.

There is something about this song, the music and the poetry, that is haunting rather than catchy.  I didn't find myself singing it, just wishing I could sing it.  Like one of those dreams that flashes away when you wake up and you are just left with an impression that you wish you could have it back.  The poem is zealous and captivating, and it touches something that is right.

In the poem, William Blake is pondering a legend that Jesus Christ visited England during his "unknown years".  Blake is saying that Christ's presence would have defined some localized heaven on earth, some form of that Jerusalem that is His to establish.  This poem marvels at the idea that those feet, that Countenance Divine, the Holy Lamb of God Himself may have walked in radiance over the poet's homeland, through the quiet pastures that had been more recently brought under the rule of the dark Satanic Mills of industrialized England. 

There is here an eagerness, a longing, an impatience to take up the battle to somehow hasten God's kingdom on earth.  Bring me my bow of burning gold.  Bring me my arrows of desire.  We should desire that, no?

I talked a bit to Joie about this and she mentioned the words of the commander of the army of the LORD to Joshua in Joshua 5:15.  "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy."  Not so much that the specific location near Jericho was holy, but that Joshua's location was set apart, sanctified, and that he was ordained for a purpose in that place.  The place where you are is holy.  Here.  Treat it as holy, recognize it as the Lord's domain.  How would our lives be different if we lived like that?  Shout for your bow of burning gold, pray for your arrows of desire, that you can bring glory to your God on whatever scrap of land he gives you, for there he will bring His kingdom. 

So what is a disciple's role in the establishment of the kingdom of God?  I looked at a number of times the kingdom of God is discussed in the Bible.  For the most part, we do not find Christ or his followers rallying troops.  There are exceptions, of course (2 Peter 3:12, Ephesians 6:11, Luke 22:36).  Predominantly however, this awaited kingdom is differently described.  The kingdom of God is portrayed as a gift (Mark 10:15), a calling (Luke 9:62), a charge (Matthew 16:19, Luke 22:29) an inheritance (Matthew 25:34, James 2:5, Colossians 1:12), an irrepressible empire with a prior claim on our worship (Matthew 12:28, Luke 10:8-11, Luke 19:40, Isaiah 45:23, Revelation 5:9-10), and a mystery (Luke 8:10).  People possess the kingdom of God (Luke 6:20, Mark 10:14), they see it (Mark 9:1), they are close to it (Mark 1:15, Mark 12:34), they work for it (Colossians 4:11) they suffer for it (2 Thessalonians 1:5), they wait for it (Mark 15:43), they enter it (Matthew 19:24, Mark 10:15), but there is not so much of the language that the zealot expects about fighting and building.  The kingdom of God is built where Jesus walks, where his gaze of Lordship falls on the unworthy sheep of the pleasant pastures.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

bbc stock photo - reflections

The discussion about the so-called "right to be forgotten" fascinates me, but I really want to know why this person is staring at a mirror-image version of a Google screen.  Has it really reached a point where the news sources can't use a picture of a natural reflection because nobody would understand what was going on?  This is what math teachers are up against, folks.

I have a similar frustration with the way driver's side mirrors on cars say "OBJECTS IN MIRROR ARE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR".  This is a false statement whether or not you know how reflective surfaces work.  If you understand how to perceive the image, then the objects are right where the optics suggest*.  If you don't know how that works, then the objects are farther away than they appear, since they appear to be two feet in front of you, stuck inside the magical object welded to your car door.  They could just say "MIRROR IS SLIGHTLY CONVEX", which would be useless (but at least true), and trust that anyone deemed intelligent enough for a driver's license could be relied upon to sort out the mirror part.

*I suppose that Physicists would object to this, but it probably is a fine assumption when the concerned objects are significantly slower than the speed of light.  Okay, that disclaimer felt nerdy, so I'm quitting this reflection.  It got longer than I thought it would be. 

UPDATE:  They did it again:

Here is another from an ad:

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

three Mongolia pictures

I recently went to Mongolia with Will, and while I am not up to any sort of a narrative, I will submit to you a few disjointed images.  First of all, Mongolia is huge, with endless prairies and rolling hills and a sky like what you see in Illinois, but without all the water towers and airplane trails.  A few hours out of the capital, there are no paved roads, just dirt paths.  Sometimes these paths are four or five lanes across, where new parallel tracks have been created by people staying out of the muddy ruts of the other roads.  It is rare that vehicles meet, so when they do, the drivers usually stop and chat for a minute.  

This picture shows a ger (rhymes with "hair"), one of the sturdy tent-houses that so many Mongolians call home.  The gers have wooden frames with heavy felt coverings to protect against the elements.  Many Mongolians are nomadic herders living in houses like this.  The one in the picture is a bit more battered than many that we saw.  The herders raise sheep, goats, cows, horses, camels, and there seems to be plenty of room for everyone. 

This picture shows a stop sign, and I enjoy the different alphabet. Or maybe I'm missing some cultural differences and this isn't a stop sign. It could say Go Faster! I can't read Mongolian.

Finally, this is one of many desperate pictures from a moving vehicle, so the quality is poor, but it shows a man on his motorcycle, herding his goofy two-hump camels.  He's livin' the dream. 

It was a privilege to visit this land. 

Mongolian wildflowers

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


Half of Americans Aren’t Sure Big Bang Happened Here's a headline. How disgusting that the American people can't just roll over and accept the news that the big bang happened. I mean, science, right?

This is presented as a distressing tidbit about Americans being stuck in the dark ages, religion still having its claws in the American way of thinking, and the deplorable state of scientific ignorance which is probably due to Texans not teaching enough evolution.

What is implied here is that if Americans were better at critical thinking, they would just accept as gospel truth anything Neil deGrasse Tyson tells them on TV. Scientific inquiry, indeed. A person's own empirical understanding of reality has led them to question what has been shoved down their throat in school, and we are supposed to condemn that as bad science? People are driven by the collective data of their lives to conclude that the big bang doesn't account for things they know to be real, and that means that they don't know how to think? They express doubt in a theory that fails to predict the reality that they know, and they are branded as criminally obsolete, accused of holding back the human race from a greatness that can only be achieved by treating people with different beliefs as a cancerous inferior race that needs to be purged.

How many of those who do not doubt the big bang have actually made the measurements and drawn the inferences from the data and proved for themselves that the inferences are logically valid? Among those who have personally encountered data and physics research about the universe, how many had already pledged allegiance to the big bang before the statistical analysis of their first experiment? What then convinced them? Democracy? Authority? Revelation? I'm guessing most of the people who refuse to doubt the big bang have been convinced by an argument that amounts to more faith than science.

Also, why is a profession of the big bang held up as a benchmark of how prepared a person is for 'real life'? Rather seems to be a moot point and wildly irrelevant, unless the academic world is just trying to extract a denunciation of God before one can proceed to the cool kids' table.

What is given as a condescending reproach is eloquent in its transparency. People are not bad at rational thought. They are bad at buying the proof by intimidation. That anyone is alarmed by someone else doubting that the universe is a meaningless accident, should make people think.