July 25, 2014

Friday in the wild: July 25, 2014

Like or hate Matt Walsh's opinions, you have to commend his rhetorical skills. His latest, about the impending release of the Fifty Shades of Grey movie, was a joy to read from start to finish.

My favourite part:

Today, someone on Facebook quoted a line from the novel:

"Finally, my medulla oblongata recalls its purpose, I breathe."

I thought this was a joke, so I looked it up.

Nope. Not a joke. Completely real. That line actually appears in a best selling piece of literature. That line was written by someone masquerading as an author, approved by someone masquerading as an editor, published by someone masquerading as a publisher, and then consumed by millions of people masquerading as literate.

I found some other excerpts that are almost as bad/good:

"That’s the bottom line. I want to be with him. My inner goddess sighs with relief."

"Her curiosity oozes through the phone."

"My scalp prickles as adrenaline and fury lance through my body, all my worst fears realized."

"My inner goddess is beside herself, hopping from foot to foot."

This is some very, very stupid material. It reads like a thesaurus procreated with a script from a soft core porn and then the baby fell into a vat of Lifetime Channel DVDs. My inner goddess is rolling her eyes, my inner brain is hurting.

[Read To the Women of America: 4 Reasons to Hate 50 Shades of Grey]

I think her inner goddess needs to take a leak.

I later learned—and was frankly unsurprised—that Fifty Shades of Grey began its life as a work of erotic Twilight fan fiction. It certainly seems tacky enough. In fact, judging by Matt's excerpts, even though erotic fiction isn't my cup of tea, I suspect that I owe it to myself (and my medulla oblongata) to read at least the first book just for the sheer amusement value that Bulwer-Lyttonesque doggerel can offer. I can't imagine that it's Minnow Trap, but it comes close.

July 11, 2014

And now . . . this - Jul. 11/14

Are you a man born in Pennsylvania between 1893 and 1897? If so, a government agency may have just reminded you to register for the draft.

The Selective Service System, which keeps a roster of potential men who can be enlisted in the military, inadvertently sent out mailings to more than 14,000 Pennsylvania men born in those years, reminding them to register. . . .

Shuback said that the agency uses a two-digit code for the birth year, which is why the years 1893 to 1897 were mixed up with the years from 1993 to 1997. (The agency was actually going to send letters to more than 27,000 men, he said, but they started getting phone calls last week that alerted them to the mix-up.)

[Full Story]

There, see? We knew the Y2K meltdown was coming. We just didn't realize it would be 15 years late.

Blurred lines, part 2: You and me, baby, we ain't nothing but mammals

(Two weeks ago, I posted an article titled "Blurred Lines," about the eroding of the male-female "binary" and the clash of biblical and secular worldviews. That article was originally posted at Faith Beyond Belief, and contained two parallel arguments. I removed the second argument for brevity and relevance. Had I known what last week would bring, I could have kept the whole article intact and just changed the news stories at the beginning.)

Last week, Texas teenager Kendall Jones was the target of an Internet lynching after photos of herself with African big-game animals, which she had shot, went viral. For her part, Ms. Jones claims that some of the animals were tranquilized for the purposes of research or veterinary treatment, and that the ones she killed either provided food for the locals or aided conservation. For my part, I believe her (on that last point, specifically—as far as I'm concerned, the others require no defense): coming from Northern Ontario where hunting and fishing are popular pastimes, in my experience the most devoted conservationists are hunters. Ducks Unlimited, for example, is dedicated to preserving waterfowl habitats. It was founded by, and primarily supported by, hunters: not merely because they want to preserve their hobby, but they also love nature and want to protect it. Conserving wetlands ensures not only a good supply of ducks to shoot, but has the side benefit of protecting other species that live there as well.

Nonetheless, hordes of easily angered Internet slacktivists descended upon Ms. Jones, demanding (successfully) that Facebook remove the pictures from her page—though a "Kill Kendall Jones" fan page was allowed to exist for a few days longer. Some folks have started online petitions to have her banned from hunting in South Africa or Tanzania, even though her kind of hunting is legal and generates revenue. The usual death threats were issued via Twitter, and one liberal douchebag is even offering $100,000 for nude pictures of her. Mike Dickinson's apparent rationale is that "hunting" nudie pics of Ms. Jones is the moral equivalent of her hunting animals. (The Web site of this alleged, self-proclaimed Congressional candidate is currently disabled. I wonder why?)

July 01, 2014

Canada Day 2014

Happy 147th birthday, Canada! We're definitely on the home stretch to our sesquicentennial celebration (150 years) in 2017. Absolutely true to tradition, this Canada Day is a muggy scorcher, threatening later in the day to break into thunderstorms. (In fact, as I write this, Ottawa is even under a tornado warning.) Fortunately, the buses are free, as I will be heading downtown this evening to view the fireworks with a friend, who has a perfect view from his balcony.

My blog posting has been sporadic in recent years, but unlike many of my more ambitious plans, I have always made sure to post something on Canada Day every year since 2004. My habit—though, after 10 years, I think I'm right in calling it a tradition—has been to showcase a Canadian patriotic song each year.

I discovered Stan Rogers 8 years ago—in fact, it was while researching my Canada Day post for 2006, in which I wrote: "It is said that the best recording [of "Farewell to Nova Scotia"] is that of the late folk singer Stan Rogers, although I have not heard it." In fact, I still haven't. Even YouTube (which hardly existed back then) hasn't managed to come through yet. Now I'm actually skeptical the recording even exists (curse you, Wikipedia!). However, the lack of one particular, fabled recording hasn't stopped me from enjoying the rest of Rogers' music over the years.

In his first trip to the North in 2006, Prime Minister Stephen Harper referred to Rogers' 1981 song "Northwest Passage" as Canada's unofficial national anthem. The lyrics parallel the search for the fabled Northwest Passage across North America to the Pacific Ocean, with Rogers' own trip west. Like many Canadian patriotic songs, it makes numerous references to history, mentioning several explorers directly or indirectly:

  • John Davis was a sixteenth-century English navigator, who led several voyages during the reign of Elizabeth I to find the Northwest Passage. Davis Strait, between Greenland and Baffin Island, is named after him.
  • Henry Kelsey ("brave Kelso" in the song) was a seventeenth-century English fur trader and explorer for the Hudson's Bay Company. He was likely the first European to see present-day Saskatchewan.
  • Alexander Mackenzie was a Scottish explorer, the first man to cross North America to the Pacific north of Mexico, in 1790. The Mackenzie River in the Northwest Territories is named after him: he travelled to its mouth hoping it would lead to the Pacific, but named the river "Disappointment" when it opened into the Arctic Ocean.
  • David Thompson, who worked as a fur trader and surveyor for both the Hudson's Bay and North West companies, mapped nearly four million square kilometers of the North American west: one-fifth of the continent.
  • The Fraser River is named after Simon Fraser, the Scottish fur trader who charted much of present-day British Columbia, and in 1808 explored the Fraser River from Prince George to its mouth.
  • Sir John Franklin sailed on four Arctic exploration expeditions. The final one was to travel the theretofore unnavigated section of the Northwest Passage. Both ships and all hands of the expedition were lost in 1845 when they became icebound in the Arctic near King William Island.

Stan Rogers died at the age of 33 on June 2, 1983, when a fire aboard Air Canada Flight 797 forced an emergency landing at Cincinnati Greater Airport. Seconds after landing, a flash fire killed Rogers and 22 passengers who had not yet had time to evacuate the plane. His legacy is a small library of wonderful recordings, and a deep influence on Canadian music.

Happy birthday, Canada.

Previous Canada Day songs:

June 27, 2014

Friday in the Wild: June 27, 2014

It's been a few weeks since the last Friday in the Wild, so why don't we save some time and get right to the links?

Apropos to my previous post, Amy at Stand to Reason also chimed in on that idiotic Slate piece:

Remember when I said that we should expect more attempts to erase the differences between men and women, and that the conflict in our culture over sexuality is, at root, a disagreement over "whether human nature is something in particular or a sea of possibilities bound only by what we can imagine for ourselves"?

Well, Slate has kindly illustrated that for me. . . .

[Read Slate: Don't Let the Doctor Assign a Gender to Your Newborn]

Blurred lines

The cover story of the June 9, 2014 issue of Time was titled "The Transgender Tipping Point," arguing that transgenderism is the next social movement, after same-sex marriage, that will push for full social legitimacy. Certainly the media (in addition to Time) has been working overtime in recent months to normalize "transgendered" persons of every stripe.

A handful of articles have caught my attention in recent days reflecting this trend.

In Vancouver last week, the school board approved a policy change intended to protect students from being singled out and bullied on the basis of their sexuality or gender identity. In addition to the usual confusion about who gets to use what bathroom, this new policy mandates the made-up pronouns xe, xem, and xyr for those students whose self-identification doesn't fit into the usual categories of, presumably, he/him, she/her, or them.

Similarly, last fall, at Mills College, a woman's college in California, the all-woman student body began to abandon "binary" gender identity (male and female) in favour of choosing their own preferred personal gender pronouns: in addition to the conventional she, these include he or they, or even a slew of custom PGPs like ze, sie e, ou, or ve. (I imagine that professors, frustrated by the laborious task of keeping this word salad straight from one student to the next, may ultimately put the kibosh on this inhumane torture of the English language.)

However, the most serious offender is an opinion piece published yesterday on Slate, titled "Don't Let the Doctor Do This to Your Newborn." It begins,

Imagine you are in recovery from labor, lying in bed, holding your infant. In your arms you cradle a stunningly beautiful, perfect little being. Completely innocent and totally vulnerable, your baby is entirely dependent on you to make all the choices that will define their life for many years to come. . . .

Suddenly, the doctor comes in. He looks at you sternly, gloved hands reaching for your baby insistently. "It's time for your child's treatment," he explains from beneath a white breathing mask, shattering your calm. Clutching your baby protectively, you eye the doctor with suspicion.

You ask him what it's for.

"Oh, just standard practice. It will help him or her be recognized and get along more easily with others who've already received the same treatment. The chance of side effects is extremely small." This raises the hairs on the back of your neck, and your protective instinct kicks your alarm response up a notch.

After several more paragraphs of this melodrama, the author asks, "Would you consent to this treatment for your child? . . . Or would the stakes be too high: Russian roulette with your baby's life?" By now I, a typical reader, am wondering: What is this highly risky medical procedure? Is this an anti-vaccination article? Anti circumcision, perhaps?

Alas, no.

It's called infant gender assignment: When the doctor holds your child up to the harsh light of the delivery room, looks between its legs, and declares his opinion: It's a boy or a girl, based on nothing more than a cursory assessment of your offspring's genitals.

If you like playing spot-the-sophistry, you might have noticed that our trans-activist author commits a categorical blunder: identifying the sex of a newborn isn't a treatment, it's an observation (and one that even the most ardent of LGBTUVWXYZ-rights activists would have to concede is accurate in the overwhelming majority of instances). Fortunately, sanity prevails: even most Slate commenters thought this op-ed was asinine.

These kinds of stories—I could point to many similar ones—blur the distinction between man and woman or attempt to destroy it outright. This confusion repudiates biblical categories established at creation.

When God created humanity in the beginning, "male and female he created them" (Genesis 1:27). God created a woman for Adam because nothing else was a suitable mate (Gen. 2:20). Man and woman coming together in marriage to produce offspring was the design from the beginning. "[A] man shall . . . hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh" (Gen. 2:24). Male and female—not male and male nor female and female—are natural counterparts. Jesus Christ's teaching on divorce (Matthew 9:1-12) appeals to these same two passages (Gen. 1:27, 2:24) to reaffirm that God's original intent was a lifelong, exclusive bond between husband and wife. We are often informed that Jesus had nothing to say about homosexuality, but really he did—because his strong affirmation of heterosexual marital fidelity excludes the lawfulness of same-sex unions. He affirms the male/female "binary" as natural and right.

Of course, we Christians also affirm traditional marriage because it pictures the relationship between Christ and the church. "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish" (Ephesians 5:25-26). Paul does not confuse his categories. Christ is represented by a husband, and the church by a wife. They are not interchangeable. (I wrote about same-sex marriage and the church in more depth last June.)

Nor did God blur the male-female categories by creating a wide spectrum of sexualities in between, like the 50-odd gender identifications recently offered by Facebook for user profiles. Social-science academics often draw a distinction between sex (determined by biology) and gender (a social construct). This theory was popularized in the 1950s by a sexologist named John Money. It was tested in the 1960s, after a baby boy named Bruce Reimer had his genitals mutilated in a botched surgery. Money recommended that Bruce be surgically reassigned as female and raised by his parents as a girl, saying that if they did so, he would accept his gender identity. So they did, and renamed Bruce "Brenda." Money declared the sex reassignment a success, and it became the standard procedure for similar cases.

However, Money had covered up the truth. Even though Brenda Reimer hadn't know she was born a boy, she never accepted being a girl. At 15, Brenda took the name David and became male again. Sadly, after a short life that included depression, bullying, and a failed marriage, David Reimer committed suicide in his 30s. The line between male and female just isn't as blurred as the gender-studies mavens want to believe. Nonetheless, the nature-vs.-nurture debate continues even though Money's gender theories were discredited.

Original sin is responsible for these blurred lines. Paul describes the universal human condition in Romans 1. Idolatry is one symptom of mankind's rebellion against the authority of God: they "exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things" (Rom. 1:23). A sculpted beast cannot adequately represent the living God. Mankind alone bears God's image. Trying to represent God with an animal erodes the distinction between the Creator and the created—not to mention man and animal.

Paul also writes, "their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men" (Rom. 1:26-27). Humanity has rebelled against God again by overthrowing natural sexual relations for unnatural. Men and women become interchangeable objects of desire.

A clash of worldviews is at work here. Our supposedly secular culture now idolizes unlawful sexuality, without shame. It blurs the lines that God established in the beginning, calling them antiquated and hateful. However, the Bible affirms that what God made was very good (Gen. 1:31). As Albert Mohler has said:

The reality is that Scripture reveals that binary pattern to be built into creation, and to have been established by the Creator. The categories of male and female, and more importantly of man and woman, are not merely social constructions that human beings have come to know. . . .

The Bible says that we are not who we think ourselves to be, but who our Creator made us to be. And that means that no matter how we say we know ourselves, or what we claim about ourselves, the key issue for eternity is what our Creator thinks of us, because he knows us better than we know ourselves, because he made us. . . . [T]he only way we can come to terms with that is by reading the Scripture and hearing what God says in his word about who we are. And once we know that, we're stuck in the same position as we are in every other reading of the Scripture. The question really isn't "who am I," but rather, "will I obey or disobey the Scripture?" Will I come to terms with who God says I really am?1

When we declare the whole counsel of God against its secular critics and social engineers, we need also to reaffirm the good "binaries" that exist between man and woman.

(This article has been edited from its original form as published on Faith Beyond Belief.)

Footnote

1 Albert Mohler, "The Briefing 02-28-14," AlbertMohler.com, MP3 audio file, <http://albertmohler.com/>, accessed 1 April 2014.

June 26, 2014

And now . . . this - Jun. 26/14

Dante Williams, 19, and his accomplice Jawan Craig walked into the Waffle House restaurant and "terrorized" the customers in 2012 intent on robbing it at gun point. Upon being approached by Williams, gun in hand, one of the patrons, Justin Harrison—who also had a concealed weapon on him but had an actual permit for it—shot Williams in self-defense, killing him "almost instantly" . . .

Williams's cousin Tamika McSwain is saying that although what he did was wrong, he shouldn't have died and is calling for stricter gun laws. In the video, she specifically cites Harrison in her argument, asserting that tougher regulations for the acquirement of concealed weapon permits may have prevented her cousin's death.

[Full Story]

Well, no, my dear, what would have prevented your cousin's death was not committing armed robbery.

This comes awfully close to the classic definition of chutzpah: murdering your parents, then throwing yourself at the mercy of the courts because you're an orphan.

Honestly? Seth Rogen makes me mad, too

The North Korean government has promised a "merciless" retaliation against the United States if The Interview is released, calling the film an "act of war." In a statement published by the state-run KCNA news agency, a spokesman said the film is the work of "gangster moviemakers" and is a "wanton act of terror."

[Full Story]

Aw. Li'l Kim is even more adorable when he's infuriated.

June 25, 2014

And now . . . this - Jun. 25/14

An unidentified Tennessee woman has been banned from the Memphis Zoo for hopping a barrier and entering the enclosure that holds the lions to feed them cookies.

Other zoo patrons called the zoo's hotline number after seeing the woman jump the barrier and hearing her singing to the lions. When the woman was over the barrier, the only thing separating her from the lions was some wire.

[Full Story]

You know, there's a "teachable moment" in this, except in the end the woman wouldn't have really learned anything (not for long, anyway), and the lion would be considered at fault.

June 18, 2014

And now . . . this - Jun. 18/14

An Edmonton woman who says she’s being discriminated against because she has 22 visible piercings is reigniting the debate about workplace dress codes. . . .

[Kendra] Behringer has launched a campaign to make it illegal for employers to discriminate based on body modifications, something that would require an amendment to the Alberta Human Rights Act.

[Full Story]

Remember back in 1997, when Austin Powers' desire to live in a "consequence-free environment" was kind of a funny joke? Well, now there are entitlement-minded people who think that should be a reality, so much so that they want it enshrined in the human rights code.

I suspect this petition will go nowhere. It is your right to pursue self-uglification. It is not your right to expect potential employers to overlook your severe lack of judgment and good taste. They own the position. You do not. Get over yourself.

June 17, 2014

It was 20 years ago today

In my life, I have (so far) had two "you-gotta-see-this" moments. By this I mean, friends or roommates, who knew that I was interested in current events, deliberately came to my room to tell me to get to a TV, because "You gotta see this."

The first of these was on April 19, 1993, when a housemate told me to turn on CNN so I could see the conflagration of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco and the demise of their leader David Koresh, bringing an end to a 51-day seige of the compound by federal authorities.

The second was a little over a year later, and 20 years ago today. when the "you gotta see this" turned out to be then-murder suspect O. J. Simpson, holding a gun to his head and driving a white Bronco down a Los Angeles freeway at low speed, pursued by a dozen police cruisers. It was an absurdist moment. If "Yackety Sax" had been playing, it would have made more sense.

This article from Vanity Fair argues that the O. J. Simpson chase was, per their title, the death of popular culture, but also the birth of reality TV. First, it offered a voyeuristic look into the lives of a notable celebrity. Author Lili Anolik writes, "It gave us the dirty little thrill of putting our eye to the keyhole, looking in on a world that we’d normally never have access to." Second, like most reality TV programs, it featured third-rate Hollywood. Just as you'll never see a Hollywood A-lister starring in a series on TLC, Simpson's acting career never rose to any lofty heights. The most notable witness of Simpson's murder trial, slacker Kato Kaelin, became, like many reality TV stars, famous for being famous. And, of course, if not for the trial, the most talked-about news story of 1995, "Kardashian" would never have become a household name.

The article makes interesting reading. If nothing else, it reminds me that it was around the time of the Simpson kerfluffle that I became soured on cable news because its focus began to shift away from legitimate news toward celebrity gossip. O. J. Simpson was at least accused and acquitted of doing something newsworthy. When newscasts spend an inordinate amount of time reporting on the outcome of reality TV competitions such as American Idol, Justin Bieber's arrests, or the hottest new YouTube videos, the line between reality and reality TV has become irreversably blurred.