August 20, 2014

The deaths of Superman

You bruise, but you don't kill, do you . . . Clark? - Batman, Justice League: War

Everybody knows Superman is the Big Blue Boy Scout. Sure, he and Brainiac might level half of Metropolis while duking it out. In the end, though, he'll find a way to banish the villain without destroying him. Superman doesn't kill his enemies, except when he absolutely must, and even then it's a shocking and traumatic experience. Witness, for example, his reaction to killing Zod in Man of Steel, or even accidentally causing Doctor Light's death in last year's "Trinity War" story arc.1

However, it wasn't always that way. Supes began his career as a bruiser, right from Superman #1 in 1939. In one story in that magazine, he kills a military torturer by flinging him over the horizon, then causes the death of an enemy pilot by wrecking his plane in midair.2 The body count just goes up from there.

August 18, 2014

Clark Kent, badass

It can't be easy being Clark Kent.

It's very easy being Superman. Everyone knows he is an alien, possesses the powers of flight, super-strength, and super-speed, laughs at bullets, and sees through walls. And he doesn't wear a mask, so everyone assumes he has nothing to hide. Superman can do whatever amazing things he wants, and no one is surprised.

However, when Superman arrived on Earth, he was not quite ready to reveal himself to the world. He assumed the alias of Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter, so he could walk among its citizens unnoticed. Meanwhile, as an employee of a major metropolitan newspaper, he can observe the citizens of his new planet, know when his aid is needed, and has an excuse to get close to the action.

This occasionally—well, pretty frequently, actually—leaves Superman on the horns of a dilemma, or even a trilemma. Danger strikes, and Clark is faced with three options. One, he can dive into a nearby storeroom or phone booth, transform into Superman, and do what he does so well. However, he risks exposure. In the early 1940s, Superman is still a mystery man by choice. Two, he can remain in the guise of Clark Kent, meek everyman, and do nothing. This preserves his secret, and no one really expects better of Clark. Unfortunately, it's also out of character for someone who has "sworn to devote his existence on Earth to helping those in need," if he ignores those in need because it's inconvenient.

Option three—the one we hear so very often in radio's Adventures of Superman—is to take action as Clark Kent.

August 15, 2014

Friday in the wild: August 15, 2014

It's that time of the week again! Friday, that is, when I give a little love to my parochial little slice of the Internet by sharing some of my favourite links for the week.

Last fall, KJV-onlyist and net.crank Steven Anderson sat down with James White for a two-and-a-half-hour interview about the translation and transmission of the Bible, for a documentary titled New World Order Bible Versions. He promptly abused the interview by using a snippet of it in the trailer, making White look ominious, with spooky music and everything.

However, he did promise to make the full interview available, and as White says, he kept his word. I've been holding off watching the documentary until this came along. It looks like Anderson is trying to position himself as the next Gail Riplinger or KJV-only darling. Frankly, I'll always fondly remember him as the perpetrator of the infamous "pisseth against the wall" sermon, or the crackpot who antagonized border guards and screamed like a little girl when he got detained and tazed. Fast forward to about 1:00, and enjoy:

August 08, 2014

Friday in the wild: August 8, 2014

In this week's edition of Friday in the Wild, our focus is on the ongoing ebola outbreak in Africa&mdash: particularly, the response to Ann Coulter's column this week, titled "Ebola Doc's Condition Downgraded to 'Idiotic'," in which she writes, in part:

Whatever good Dr. Kent Brantly did in Liberia has now been overwhelmed by the more than $2 million already paid by the Christian charities Samaritan's Purse and SIM USA just to fly him and his nurse home in separate Gulfstream jets, specially equipped with medical tents, and to care for them at one of America's premier hospitals. . . .

If Dr. Brantly had practiced at Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles and turned one single Hollywood power-broker to Christ, he would have done more good for the entire world than anything he could accomplish in a century spent in Liberia. Ebola kills only the body; the virus of spiritual bankruptcy and moral decadence spread by so many Hollywood movies infects the world.

Coulter's argument is a utilitarian one: the right thing to do is the one that maximizes the good done to the greatest number of people. Dr. Brantly's time and effort (and Samaritan's Purse's dollars) are, supposedly, better spent on home soil where they will bring a better return on investment. But Christian missions are not founded on a utilitarian worldview, but on a Christian one: the glory of God and his Son, Jesus Christ, through obedience to his great commission: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19)—not just movie moguls in the United States. Coulter's column is not only utilitarian and cynical, but it smacks of xenophobia as well.

August 04, 2014

And now . . . this - Aug. 4/14

A woman in southern Sweden is furious after stumbling upon scores of skulls and human bones inside Ikea bags in a church. The man who dug up the bones, however, says it's not as bad as it looks.

[Full Story]

No, in fact, it's worse. The skeletons are unassembled, but they only come with an Allen key and instructions that are hard to understand.

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]