November 30, 2004

Canada mourns a national icon

In Canada today, the top news story was not the first official visit to Canada by President Bush or the protests that shut down the city around Parliament Hill. The National led tonight by announcing the death of author, journalist, television personality, and all around Canadian icon Pierre Berton at the age of 84.

Berton is best known for his popular books on Canadian history, in particular The National Dream and The Last Spike, the story of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Indeed, Berton's name is practically synonymous with Canadian history, and his work has won virtually every major Canadian literary award.

In addition, Berton, an ardent patriot, was a Companion of the Order of Canada - the country's highest civilian honour, for which only 165 persons at a time are eligible. Tonight, there are 164.

Picture of the day

Yet another reason why Canada rules: American presidents have to come up here to get their picture taken with Mounties:

Not being in the right part of town, I missed pretty much all the proceedings. Heard some funny hearsay, though. More to come.

November 29, 2004

Oh my gosh, it's not just a car, it's a Transformer!

Michael King of Ramblings' Journal has found what is now my third-favourite car ad of all time.

A new British ad campaign for French automaker Citroën uses CGI, motion capture and Justin Timberlake's choreographer to turn a C4 coupé into a giant dancing robot.

(If you're not bandwidth-challenged, Michael also links to a higher-quality video [MPEG] than the one on the corporate site.)

Scoring just above the Citroën spot: the viral campaign for the Ford Sportka in which cute little hatchbacks attack neighbourhood cats [WMV] and birds [WMV].

But the best auto ad of all time is "Cog" [QuickTime], a 2002 spot for the Honda Accord, which features no digital manipulation or clever editing, just a two-minute, real-time Rube Goldberg chain reaction of delicately balanced auto parts that took over 600 takes to get right.

November 28, 2004

As if rappers plagiarizing other people wasn't bad enough . . .

Nickelback plagiarizes themselves: reason #5,238 why current popular music sucks.

Today I found a link to an MP3 file with two distinct songs by the Vancouver "alternative" band recorded into the left and right stereo channels. Or are they distinct? In actual fact, they mesh perfectly, leading one to think that perhaps they're the same frickin' song. Same tempo. Same beat. Same chords. Same long pause in the middle.

I know many (if not most) bands have their own distinctive "hooks," but this takes the cake.

Don't take my word for it: Listen for yourself.

Hat tip to for dredging this one up.

"Fair and balanced" update: I've done a bit more digging and learned that there was a small bit of editing done on these tracks: one or the other has had its pitch and/or tempo adjusted. Of course, that's still all it takes to turn "How You Remind Me" into a counterpoint for "Someday" . . .

The opinions of students and/or stoners . . .

are quite possibly the one thing more useless than teats on a bull.

What follows is my best attempt at an HTML recreation of a handbill I "liberated" this morning from a bulletin board at Carleton University after church. (Marc Emery is a major Canadian pot activist.)

[image of marijuana leaf]






4 :20



NOV. 30 - DEC 1





What, exactly, the nation's stoners are supposed to be protesting is unclear, as Bush does not direct Canada's drug policy; indeed, the current status of pot possession as a non-criminal offense is in opposition to U.S. policy. More likely this is an excuse to get on the hate-Bush bandwagon with the rest of the flea-infested crowd. At least they will be too mellow to smash windows at Starbucks and McDonald's.

Of course, with a state visit by the President scheduled for Tuesday, the hate-Bush-for-no-particular-reason crowd is all over the place this weekend. I passed a cadre of hippie types this afternoon in Carleton's Unicentre assembling placards with the usual slogans on them. (I snickered all the way across the room, but I don't think they heard me.) An article in the school newspaper, The Charlatan (aka the Charlarag) complains about the timing of Bush's visit because CUSA, the student union, can't give protests their full support thanks to other pressing concerns, e.g. actual student-related issues on campus.

Also seen around town on telephone poles and construction sites: handbills portraying Dubya as Darth Vader protesting the missile defense, and Dubya as Alfred E. Neuman. Well, at least the moonbats have given up on the Hitler motif.

Bottom line: It's going to be an interesting week in downtown Ottawa, to say the least.

Incidentally, I think my friend Rand has the right general idea.

November 27, 2004

Run that by me again?

Tim Enloe, one of the guys running the Reformed Catholicism blog, has decided to show us all how "catholic" he is . . . by cutting off communications with Catholics!

If this keeps up, the rC crowd is going to be so "catholic" they'll be sitting in a small circle in the dark hoping no one else notices them.

November 26, 2004

Spotted in the wild

Every Wednesday, I like to post some annotated highlights to that week's Christian Carnival. Starting this week, I'm also going to start highlighting some of the posts I've read throughout the blogosphere.

Joe Carter at Evangelical Outpost has given up on commercial radio. I happen to agree with him on this one, having largely ditched both secular and "Christian" radio in favour of the (liberal) CBC, although to be fair, our local news/talk station is also not the conservative monolith that it appears Clear Channel is in the states.

Now that the two media behemoths Clear Channel and Infinity Broadcasting own every FCC license in the Western Hemisphere, commercial radio has consolidated into one monolithic blanket of banality . Even those of us who are fortunate enough to live in a major radio market (I live in Dallas/Ft.Worth) have few real choices on our radio dials. . . .

Fortunately, I still have another option available. There’s a place on my radio dial that I can turn to hear news, current events, intelligent conversation, and the latest on politics and culture; an oasis amidst the desert of the airwaves. And no, it’s not talk radio. It’s better. It’s NPR.

[Read All Things Considered: Why NPR Beats Talk Radio]

Tim at righteously nails the evangelistic techniques of Billy Graham et al:

. . . I would like to indicate that I do not wish to discredit the 12,000 people who made decisions at the Billy Graham crusade or to cast doubt on their conversion, for that is a matter between them and the Lord. I also do not wish to vilify those who practice such forms of crusades. I wish merely to examine the concept of decision and altar calls in light of the Scripture.

[Read Decisional Regeneration]

Reason #55,390 why I could never become a graduate student in my own field, as overheard by the Conservative English Major:

"Yeah - committed Christians just can't appreciate Milton. They are too wrapped up in their preconceptions of the Bible to be able to read it."

"Absolutely. To truly enjoy literature, people need to stop reading the Bible."

[Full Text]

Uh . . . yeah. If only people would stop reading the Bible, they would be able to appreciate the Puritan John Milton, author of what is arguably the greatest work of English literature: Paradise Lost, the epic about the fall of man as described in the Bible. The mind boggles.

Eric Svendsen at Real Clear Theology Blog tells us how we can get on the grilled-relic bandwagon and make some real coin:

A while back I wrote a blog piece on the exorbitant speaker fees of Roman Catholic apologists, and suggested at that time that it was the Roman Catholic equivalent of a "pet rock"-like money-making scheme. For those of you who decided that might be a good way to make money, don't waste your time. There's now a better pet rock that you can take advantage of. It costs much less in terms of preparation time and effort. All you need is a griddle, some butter, a loaf of bread and a stack of individually wrapped slices of cheese.

[Read A New Roman Catholic Pet-Rock Idea!]

Finally, Brian Micklethwait found a very striking photo of a Houston church completely dwarfed by a modern office building. (The church, incidentally, is Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, the oldest black congregation in Houston.)


Shakespeare: Muslim hero?

CNN is reporting that Shakespeare has become the star of Muslim Awareness Week in England:

No matter that the bard was white, Christian and has been dead for nearly 400 years -- this week he is at the center of Muslim Awareness Week, a bid to highlight the contribution Britain's 1.8 million Muslims have made to society.

[Full Story]

Ooohhh . . . kay . . .

"Shakespeare's plays are not about good versus evil, not about a world in which you are either 'with us or against us,"' said Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, a Muslim scholar who is lecturing on Shakespeare and Islam at The Globe this week.

"Shakespeare refuses to indulge in those cartoon caricatures of right and wrong. His plays are too complex for that."

Er . . . we are talking about Shakespeare, right? William Shakespeare? In Shakespeare, villains are evil because they are bastards (like Don John in Much Ado About Nothing or Edmund in King Lear) or black (like Aaron in Titus Andronicus) or Jewish (like the infamous Shylock in The Merchant of Venice) or born under the wrong star (like Regan and Goneril, again in Lear). Shakespeare never met a stereotype - a "cartoon caricature" - he didn't like.

And Iago, the villain in Othello - of which Yusuf will have more to say shortly - has no convincing motivation for his villainy. Apart from hating Othello after being passed up for promotion, he is malevolent simply because he is Iago.

His voracious money-lender Shylock in "The Merchant of Venice," for example, is often blamed for reinforcing stereotypes of Jews and fueling anti-semitism.

Perfectly understandable, as Shakespeare himself probably never met a real Jew. They had been expelled from England three hundred years before his time. Whatever Shakespeare knew of Jews, he probably got it from other literature that reflected the same stereotypes.

But Yusuf, an American convert to Islam who heads an Islamic foundation in California, says Shakespeare's depiction of Muslims is not altogether hostile.

Othello is a noble, righteous soldier who leads the Venetian fight against the Muslim Turks before being fatally deceived by the nominally Christian villain Iago.

However, Othello is not a Muslim, but a Christian. In Act II, Scene 3, Othello breaks up a fight between Cassio, Roderigo, and Montano, demanding, "Are we turn'd Turks, and to ourselves do that / Which heaven hath forbid the Ottomites? / For Christian shame, put by this barbarous brawl" (II.3.170-72). Later in the scene, Iago in his soliloquy speaks offhandedly of Othello's baptism (II.3.343). For Shakespeare, a Renaissance Anglican, "baptized" and "Christian" would have been practically synonymous. Finally, in his death speech, Othello relates a story wherein he defended a Venetian by grabbing a "turban'd Turk" by the throat and then stabbing "the circumcised dog" to death (V.2.355). Is this how one Muslim speaks of another?

"Shakespeare is part of our heritage," said Shafeeq Sadiq, national coordinator of Islamic Awareness Week.

Yeah, you have not experienced Shakespeare until you have read him in the original Kling- I mean, Arabic.

Ain't multiculturalism and revisionist history fun? The problem with Shakespeare is, he's often too revered for his own good. Great as he was, he was poorly educated, in a disreputable profession (for the day), and cribbed most of his ideas from other plays. He was a man of his time and subscribed to many of the prejudices of his day. It's just silly for Muslims to attempt to claim him for themselves.

Dispelling the coat-hanger myth

Australian pro-life doctor David van Gend wrote an excellent skeptical article recently in the Australian magazine News Weekly concerning the pro-abortion myth that if abortion is again made illegal, thousands of women will die of botched back-alley abortions.

In "ABORTION: Facts banish the myth of the 'backyard butcher'", van Gend makes points that I have noted here in the past:

  • Making abortion illegal has never affected the number of women who die of abortions.
  • Deaths due to illegal abortions did not drop dramatically the year abortion was legalized.
  • Abortions are now safer, not because they are legal, but because medical technology in general has improved. Everything is safer.
  • Illegal abortions were not performed by filthy back-alley butchers, but by doctors in their nice clean offices.
  • Hundreds and thousands of women dying of botched abortions are simply the invention of pro-abortion activists trying to make their case stronger.

Dr. van Gend concludes:

Enforcing genuine limits on abortion does not place women at any significant physical risk, because medicine has minimised that risk.

The current alternative is to have no limits, to permit the wholesale slaughter of unwanted unborn children - "children", as one writer put it, "who would have loved you" - and the wholesale scarring of young mothers' (and fathers') hearts, which might lose the capacity to love at all.

[Full Story]

November 25, 2004

Lex Luthor had the right idea

In Superman: The Movie, the Man of Steel's arch-nemesis Lex Luthor came up with a nefarious plan to buy up all sorts of worthless desert east of the San Andreas Fault, and then get fabulously rich selling waterfront property when a well-placed nuke causes the Left Coast to slide into the Pacific Ocean.

When I read about some of the addle-pated nonsense coming from California in the name of "progressive" thinking, I can't help wondering whether maybe Luthor was onto something.

It isn't bad enough that many school systems in the United States try to revise history by claiming the Pilgrims originally established thanksgiving to thank the Indians (instead of God) for their bounty. A school in Los Angeles (where people go into conniptions about having a horrible, dangerous cross on the county seal) apparently has now taken up the sword of separation of church and state, and cut off its own legs:

A California teacher has been barred by his school from giving students documents from American history that refer to God -- including the Declaration of Independence. . . .

"It's a fact of American history that our founders were religious men, and to hide this fact from young fifth-graders in the name of political correctness is outrageous and shameful," said [teacher Steven] Williams' attorney, Terry Thompson.

"Williams wants to teach his students the true history of our country," he said. "There is nothing in the Establishment Clause (of the U.S. Constitution) that prohibits a teacher from showing students the Declaration of Independence."

[Full Story]

Of course, it's bad enough in this day and age that children believe in God, let alone allowing them to believe that their ancestors did! We can't have them reading "that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." They might find out that these unalienable rights, including the freedom of religion that underlies separation of church and state, have a theological foundation that presupposes the existence of God. And they might reason out that banishing the Declaration from classrooms because it mentions God is a self-stultifying act that undermines its own foundation, something like this:

  • No God, no freedom of religion (per the Declaration of Independence).
  • No freedom of religion, no separation of church and state (per the Constitution).
  • No separation of church and state, no reason to ban the Declaration of Independence (per the school administration).

God forbid!

And now . . . this

Sometimes, words just fail.

A woman upset when police seized her three preserved snakes stormed into the Hamilton station and threw a jar of pickled kittens at the counter.

Susan Hoskyn, 39, said she could barely contain herself as she made her way to the police station about 1pm on Sunday.

"I walked in the door and said, 'You've taken my snakes - here, have my pussy as well', and slammed the jar on to the counter."

[Full Story]

Somehow I don't think pickled kitty and snake ever made it into Heinz' 57 varieties.

Meanwhile, down in Dallas, here's a story that proves Barnum woefully underestimated:

A Texas man has been sentenced to four years in prison for posing as a gynecologist - with an office in a self-storage complex.

[Full Story]

Who goes for medical help in a storage unit? What's worse, that some guy actually tried this or that someone obviously fell for it?

Weird search engine queries

Every couple of days, I like to browse my referral logs to find out how people arrive at the Crusty Curmudgeon. Of particular interest are the search engines. For the last couple of months, the search queries that point people at me have been fairly tame. But in the last few days, I've seen some real interesting ones. A sampling:

  • naked bull riding: You're definitely asking the wrong person.
  • bible 1611 "michael jackson": Can you see the connection? No, me neither.
  • correct spelling savior or saviour: Well, I say "saviour," but only because I'm Canadian and I'm cheering for my side. (Actually, as silly as this question might be, it's a bit of a cheat for me to post this one, as I have in fact blogged on this very subject.)
  • how to make good websites about planets to make mr provan happy: Since apparently I am the 6th most relevant authority on this vital subject, you can well imagine the ethical burden I carry to convey accurate information about this task. Here are a few sure-fire pointers.
    • White text on a black background always looks edgy.
    • Use lots and lots of CAPITALIZATION to convey EMPHASIS and EMOTONAL CONTENT.
    • Accessibility is an ISSUE. Make your font nice and big for readability.
    • Make copious use of the <BLINK> tag, quite possibly the GREATEST contribution Netscape EVER made to the information superhighway.
    • One exclamation point makes your text dynamic and EXCITING! Naturally, SIX of them is SIX TIMES BETTER!!!1!!

Also, use pictures of planets.

It's also worth noting that at the time of writing, Google searches on the word "crusty" rank this site fourth. That's a distinction of some kind, I'm sure.

November 24, 2004

Christian Carnival XLV

Once again, it's Wednesday, and the Christian Carnival graces the blogospohere. The 45th incarnation is being hosted by CowPi Journal.

I was busy moving, not blogging, but obviously that didn't stop 37 others from joining in the fun. While nowhere near the record-smashing 47 entries last week, that's still pretty heavy.

My personal favourites:

Andrew at Philosophical Poetry takes on the book of Job:

Job is held up as the book of suffering; it is the book to which we are told to turn in those times of trouble. Having read through Job recently, I have once again realized that this perspective on Job is completely inaccurate. Job is not so much a book about the suffering of man as it is a book about the sovereignity of God.

[Read Examining the Job Narrative]

Be sure also to check out the comments, where an atheist reacts to the "despicable" idea that God's own glory is the most important thing there is.

Rebecca's theological musings are always good, but in her discussion of Isaiah 10, she's outdone herself:

We can't reconcile them by saying that God isn't really going to direct the activities of the Assyrian nation of the Assyrian king. The text uses the words "send" and "command" and the metaphors of a rod being wielded, an axe being used to hew, a saw being used to cut, and a staff being used to lift. The picture we get of God's involvement in what will take place is that his role will be a large and powerful one; in fact, that he will be the one who controls all of what will occur. To be sure, much of the language is metaphorical, but the particular images chosen are chosen because they express truth about the situation to us. If the images make it seem that God will be the one doing the job, and Assyria and the Assyrian king are merely tools he will use to accomplish his work, this is probably the right way to think about this act. We can't back away from the strength of this statement in order to fit the sovereignty of God and true human responsibility together in our minds.

[Read Isaiah 10 and Reconciling Friends]

Jeremy at Parableman takes on a couple of common arguments against Calvinism:

[E]ach argument, rather than ignoring one of God's attributes, instead redefines one of the two attributes so as to preclude the other. Universal salvationists define mercy as all-encompassing and inconsistent with the kind of justice the Bible attributes to God. Universal damnationists define justice as all-encompassing and inconsistent with the kind of mercy the Bible attributes to God. Both make God in human image, because only we have such diminished justice as to be without possibility of mercy, and only we have such diminished mercy as to be without possibility of justice.

[Read Universal Salvation and Universal Damnation]

The Proverbial Wife examines the death penalty:

I understand the logic behind the death penalty much more clearly than the reasons given for abortion, but I cannot reconcile the cross of Christ with the electric chair, much less the slaughter of infants in the womb.

[Read The Death Penalty]

(Marla's post has prompted William at Beyond the Rim to start his own series on the subject from the standpoint of sola Scriptura. It looks to be a good study.)


November 22, 2004

Today in history

It's worth noting that November 22, 2004 is the 41st anniversary of the deaths of three important figures:

  • John F. Kennedy, 35th president of the United States
  • Aldous Huxley, author
  • C. S. Lewis, author and Christian apologist

(You can guess which figure I deem the most significant.)

Also noteworthy on Nov. 22, 1963: The first broadcast of the science fiction series Doctor Who. It was completely overshadowed by the Kennedy assassination, however, and was rebroadcast the next day.

Update: I'm not one for liturgical calendars, but it's also worth noting that today is St. Cecilia's Day. Cecilia is the patron saint of church music and fabled to be the inventor of the organ (thanks to some unfortunate interpretation of Latin).

I usually take the time on November 22 to listen to Handel's cantata Ode to St. Cecilia's Day, which sets the text of John Dryden's poem to Handel's baroque score. It isn't quite The Messiah, but it's fun.

Firefox 1.0 annoyance

Back blogging after a brief weekend hiatus.

Like many people, I upgraded to Firefox 1.0 when it was released a couple of weeks ago. Though I'm not sure if I wasn't better off with version 0.9.

First, it seems far less stable. I've had 1.0 crash on me three times now, for no apparent reason. The previous release sometimes slowed to an absolute crawl, but always recovered.

Second, every once in a while it does this aggravating thing where suddenly all the cursor control keys and cut-and-paste functions seem to lose all functionality in a text box. This is a major annoyance because it seriously limits how you can enter text, and only a restart of the browser solves it.

Third, what genius came up with the brilliant idea of making the slash symbol (/) one of the hotkeys for the find-as-you-type feature and turned it on by default? It "works" even when the cursor is in a text box, and so every time I type a closing HTML tag or a simple construction like "either/or," the text box loses focus and I wind up typing blog entries into the find window.

At least I found a solution for the last problem. Choose Tools > Options, then click the Advanced icon. Under Accessibility, check the box marked "Begin finding when you begin typing." Now in a text box, the slash behaves as a slash, not a hotkey. Elsewhere, it continues to turn on the Find toolbar. (It took me nearly all that two weeks to find that solution, since "Begin finding when you begin typing" isn't exactly an accurate description of this feature, which is more like "Don't find-as-you-type when you type a slash in a text box.")

Now, if only the options had check boxes to solve Firefox's stability problems.

Update: Now I've found a new annoyance. Every once in awhile, just the mere act of typing - into a text box, not just a static Web page - pops up the Find toolbar. What's up with that?

Update update: The above "fix" didn't help.

Update update update: When I added the second update, above, I discovered that the apostrophe key also activates the Find toolbar, meaning typing normal, everyday words like "it's" and "you're" changes the focus of the browser away from typing text. What drunkard designed this?

Update update update update: It appears that the above problem and the malfuntioning cursor keys are all related to the Find toolbar. Unfortunately, there appears to be no way to disable this "feature." Meanwhile, I continue to claw out my eyeballs and think of clever ways to type blog entries up without using slashes, apostrophes, or cursor keys. (E.g. reverting to version 0.9.)

November 19, 2004

The most misappropriated verse in the Bible

Shrode of Thinklings Weblog has posted a good analysis of that oft-claimed promise from the Old Testament, Jeremiah 29:11:

You have probably seen it on wall hangings or on greeting cards. It is a popular verse used by many who are looking for words of encouragement. But what does “prosper” mean here? To understand that, it will help us to know who he said it to.

[Read Does God Really Want You To Prosper?]

The Dawn Treader is back

Last month I discovered an intriguing blog. Called "The Dawn Treader" after the ship in the third instalment of the Chronicles of Narnia, what really caught my eye was a series of posts on presuppositional apologetics, framed in a review of a debate between the late Greg Bahnsen and atheist Ed Tabash. It was a good analysis. I was hooked.

Then, suddenly, a couple of weeks ago, the blog abruptly transmogrified into what appeared to be a phone-sex blog. "Whaaaaa?" I thought.

Alas, the real Dawn Treader could not escape forever; it was just being moved to the Typepad platform and its own domain.

So give it a read; it's a good blog. And be sure to check out the October archives for the series on presuppositionalism that originally got my attention.

Meanwhile, halfway across campus . . .

Dr. Mohamed "Kill 'em all and let Allah sort 'em out" Elmasry has retracted the statements he made on the Michael Coren Show one month ago today, on which he claimed, "Anyone over the age of 18 in Israel is a valid target" for Palestinian terrorism.

Dr. Elmasry issued an "unconditional apology to all these communities for the statements I made and for the distress they have caused."

He continued, "I categorically retract the statements I made on the Michael Coren Show with respect to the targeting of civilians [...] I can provide you with an assurance that there will be no repetition in the future of any such statements by me."

Full Story; see also the statement from the University of Waterloo]

Mad Cow Parrish Update

Carolyn Parrish spoke to reporters today and said she deserved to be fired. (Duh.)

"When he phoned me, he said, 'I'm sorry.' I said, 'Don't be sorry, I'd do the same thing,'" said Parrish, 58, who achieved notoriety for her outspoken attacks on U.S. President George W. Bush and Americans. Carolyn Parrish says she expected to be ousted. "My comments have been kind of like bricks through windows."

Yet the MP refused to tone down her criticisms, saying she has chafed under Martin's leadership since he refused to intervene to ensure uncontested Liberal nomination races in several ridings, including hers.

[Full Story]

Aha, I think we're getting to the real meat of this dispute. Martin wouldn't allow Parrish's nomination to stand unopposed! (How dare he allow democracy to operate, the thug?)

On the Bush-doll-stomping incident, Parrish now claims she only did what the CBC director asked her to. (The Prime Minister can "go to hell," but a director she will obey. Yeah, right.)

Meanwhile, I opened up this week's issue of the Imprint and found that Parrish also spoke at my alma mater this week, at an event sponsored by the Students for Palestinian Rights. An interesting highlight:

During the question period following the speech, Parrish was asked to sign a petition condemning the remarks made recently by Dr. Mohamed Elmasry during an appearance on Michael Coren Live. Elmasry's comments relating to the targeting of Israeli civilians have been a topic of much contention since his appearance on the show in mid-October.

Parrish flatly denied the request, reasoning that the blame for these remarks lies heavily on Michael Coren. "His object in life is to cause controversy," she explained.

[Full Story]

That settles it. She isn't merely a maverick. She isn't "outspoken." The mad cow is a barking moonbat. The whole country is better off now that her influence has been reduced effectively to zero.

November 18, 2004

Na na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye

Some political stories just warm the heart:

Outspoken MP Carolyn Parrish has talked herself right out of the Liberal caucus. . . .

[T]he final straw appears to have been comments directed at the prime minister and the Liberal government.

The opposition has demanded for weeks that [Prime Minister Paul] Martin fire the controversial MP. Martin has always refused. But then Parrish took a shot at him in a Canadian Press story, calling him "weak" and saying she doesn't care if the Liberals lose the next election.

[Full Story]

Carolyn Parrish is the Member of Parliament for Mississauga-Erindale best known for not being able to keep her trap shut. Highlights of this genius' distinguished public service include:

  • Remarking to reporters in February 2003, "Damn Americans, I hate those bastards," not realizing the cameras were still running.
  • Calling supporters of missile defense "the coalition of the idiots" this August (and then foolishly asking journalists not to report her remarks).
  • Just a few days ago, stomping on a George W. Bush doll for the comedy program This Hour has 22 Minutes.

Martin's response to Parrish's latest instance of acting out:

"I told her that while I have defended her right to express her views, frankly I cannot as leader of our party, and the government caucus, tolerate behaviour that demeans and disrespects others."

By "others," Martin of course means himself. Heretofore he has shown no apparent discomfort at her demeaning and disrespecting the American people and their leadership and almost singlehandedly setting Canada-U.S. relations back a decade. But now that it's personal. . . .

But at least as an independent MP, the harpie is no longer in a position of any influence in Parliament or the minority Liberal government, which finds its grip that much more tenuous. And with President Bush set to visit Ottawa in only a couple of weeks, it's a good start.

Just screwing around

Extending the crusty motif to other devices, this is now the welcome I get when I turn on my Palm:

I love technology.

A downer of a masterpiece from the Coen brothers

For a self-styled fan of the films of Joel and Ethan Coen, I've seen precious few of them: Fargo and The Ladykillers during their run in the theatres, and O Brother, Where Art Thou? after its home-video release. (I'm not counting The Big Lebowski in this, since it made so little impression on me at the time that I've all but forgotten what it was even about. Tastes change.)

But last week I found a copy of their 2001 followup to O Brother, the neo-noir black comedy The Man Who Wasn't There. But is it comedy? It's certainly ironic, but it has more in common with tragedy than comedy. It's definitely a change of pace from its lighthearted predecessor, and the most pessimistic of all the Coen brothers' films that I've seen.

Ed Crane (Billy Bob Thornton, Sling Blade) is a barber. Specifically, he's the second barber at his brother-in-law's shop in Santa Rosa, California in 1949. He married into the job when he married into the family, and he prefers just to get on with the haircutting while his brother-in-law Frank (Michael Badalucco, O Brother, Where Art Thou?) chats up the customers. Crane's wife Doris (Frances McDormand, Fargo) works for a local department store. Like Crane, her boss "Big Dave" (James "Tony Soprano" Gandolfini) married into his work. Crane suspects that Doris and Big Dave are having an affair.

When a grifter comes into the barber shop for a haircut and mentions that he is trying to raise "venture capital" for a new technology called "dry cleaning," Crane is interested, but he doesn't have the $10,000 he needs to buy in. So he anonymously tries to blackmail Big Dave for it, threatening to expose his affair with Doris.

Things start to go terribly wrong when Big Dave encounters the venture capitalist himself. Realizing he was duped, he attacks Crane, who accidentally kills him in self-defense. The police arrest Doris for murder; as she has been cooking the store's books, she is thought to have means, motive, and opportunity. And from here, things really go south.

Apparently originally filmed on colour stock, The Man Who Wasn't There was then printed for viewing in glorious black and white. I've heard that the colour version of the film is available in some markets (in fact a few theatres originally got some colour reels by mistake). Why bother? The black-and-white print is beautiful. The contrasts between light and shadow are more vivid than they would have been if filmed on black-and-white stock - if "vividness" is a property one can properly ascribe to the medium. The cinematography of Roger Deakin doesn't hurt either. In one jail scene he shoots directly into the light coming through the bars in the window, creating the illusion of solid blocks of light and dark. The man knows how to film light.

The cast in this film is uniformly excellent. Especially noteworthy are Tony Shalhoub, a fine character actor who plays Doris' eccentric, Clarence Darrow-like defense attorney Freddy Riedenschneider with restraint even if the character sometimes seems a little over-the-top; and up-and-comer Scarlett Johansson as "Birdy" Abundas, the technically proficient but untalented teenage pianist whom Crane takes an interest in managing. But this is Thornton's movie through and through, as he plays the taciturn barber and deadpans his way through the voice-over that drones constantly throughout this film. This is one of his best performances, second only to the simple-minded Karl Childers in 1996's Sling Blade, and that is such a different rôle that it is difficult to top.

The pacing of The Man Who Wasn't There is bound to turn off viewers who need stunts, explosions, or other kinds of eye candy to keep their attention. But for more patient, serious viewers, it's wonderfully laconic. On the other hand, the script could have used a little more work. Big Dave's wife Ann believes Doris is innocent of his murder - because she thinks he was the victim of a government UFO cover-up. Thus there is a conspiracy theory/UFO supblot to the story that doesn't really seem to fit. I'm sure it made sense in the minds of the screenwriters, but I don't think it makes it to the minds of the viewers.

The technical and artistic excellence of this film underscores Francis A. Schaeffer's recurring comments about making good art about bad subjects. The Man Who Wasn't There is too bleak. It's exstentialism bordering on nihilism. The story is a tragedy, in the sense that an otherwise decent person is brought to ruin thanks to a tragic choice and forces greater than himself. Shakespeare's play Titus Adronicus is a similar example. However, Andronicus is a war hero whose downfall comes as the result of his backing the wrong contender for the throne of Rome. He had the power to change things. Crane, on the other hand, is a barber, a cipher - "the man who wasn't there." No one pays him any attention, and when he does try to make his mark in the world - first by investing in the dry-cleaning franchise, then by trying to nurture Birdy's musical talent - the results are disastrous. The Coens' 1995 hit Fargo had the same basic plot line: a crime committed for money has unintended consequences that spiral out of control. But the earlier film, like other Coen films - cf. The Ladykillers - assumed a moral order to the world in which the perpetrator reaps what he sows: "[B]e sure your sin will find you out" (Num. 32:23). In The Man Who Wasn't There, Ed Crane tells the truth in an attempt to clear Doris, but Riedenschneider finds it too farfetched. He prefers his own defense, a bit of existentialist casuistry involving Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle. In the end Crane does get his comeuppance, but ironically it's for the wrong sin. So there's no catharsis - no purgation of his guilt - and thus no hope of redemption. Of all the Coen productions I have seen thus far, this is the most starkly pessimistic.

Given the more optimistic tenor of much of the rest of their work, however, I'm halfway inclined to offer the Coens the benefit of the doubt on this one and assume they were playing with the conventions of the film noir genre. Rent this one and enjoy the fine craftsmanship, but don't swallow the bleak worldview.

Update: Actually, with this movie I think I've hit Coen Critical Mass. Stay tuned: in the new year I will be viewing all the Coens' works in sequence.

This, too, shall pass

More evidence presents itself that this whole "reformed Catholic" fad is likely just another flash in the pan.

Then again, he isn't the first rC ever to get hopelessly frustrated with us poor ignorant just-barely-reformed Baptists and Presbyterians, pack up his ball, and go home.

November 17, 2004

Christian Carnival XLIV

is up at ChristWeb. It's subtitled "The Big One," and with 47 entries, it certainly is that!

Blogging has been light this week for me due to other priorities, so I sat out. Here are the highlights of the ones that did get submitted:

Cindy Swanson reflects on a perceived backlash to the "morals and values vote" in the recent presidential election:

After the first rush of satisfaction after learning that "morals and values" played a key role in the presidential election, I am now sensing a backlash.

We thought that good things would come out of this discovery, and for the first several days, I was hearing some good things. News media, political parties and even Hollywood seemed to be saying: "They want morals and values? OK, obviously we've been ignoring a sizable part of America. We will now endeavor to be sensitive to that part of the population."

Now I'm getting the feeling that these same prevailing cultural outlets are taking it a bit too far...on purpose?

OK, maybe I'm a bit paranoid. But maybe not, when I read quotes like Garrison Keillor's (albeit tongue-in-cheek) announcement that his new project is to take away born-again Christians' right to vote.

[Read Those stuffy Christians are spoiling all our fun!]

Allthings2all takes on postmodernism in the form of one of its founding fathers, Jean-François Lyotard:

Most people understand post-modernism to mean a type of relativism - truth is relative to each person or each different cultural group. In post-modernism my truth does not have to agree with your truth - but both are valid. It makes me smile to see relativity misapplied in this way. Einstein's theory of relativity never proposed that everything is relative - but actually states that some things are relative when measured against some things that are constant and absolute. The theory of relativity hinges on the constancy of the speed of light. Recently gravity was shown to contain a constant too. My point is that if we look for a universal principle of relativism, as post-moderns do, there isn't one to be found. Relativism only works when there is a constant which can be used as a yardstick.

[Read The Post Modern Explained]

Bryan at Spare Change followed up on Lifeway Christian resources survey of the top issues in the Church with his own top ten list of important concerns, in What Matters Most. He raises some good ones.

Dawn Xiana Moon decries the push to get the Christmas decorations into the stores even before the Hallowe'en ones are out:

I, for one, refuse to think about buying presents until the day after Thanksgiving. We need to stop the madness. Anyone else with me?

[Read Call Me Scrooge (for another two weeks)]

Pruitt Communications riffs off a recent series by the Jollyblogger on "bridging the chasm" between the Christian and secular world, adding his own appraisal of Christian media:

But in the areas of media, journalism and education the Christian tendency has been to create an alternative Christian form of the institutions. We don't read romance novels, we read "Christian" romance novels. We don't listen to radio we listen to "Christian" radio. Does these alternative forms of media reach-in or reach-out or is it just a quick way to make some bucks?

[Read Bridging the Chasm]

Last but not least, Brad at 21st Century Reformation posts on his experiences with the Kansas City Prophets:

I began attending the Anaheim Vineyard in 1987 while I was in seminary at Talbot Theological Seminary. In December 1988, the Vineyard invited Paul Cain to speak at the "Spiritual Warfare" conference at Anaheim. I remember getting a call at my work by a friend saying, "You gotta come to church tonight. This guy is amazing." For the next three years, the Vineyard, myself included, were completely engulfed by the prophetic movement.

[Read Weird or Winsome - A Look at the Kansas City Prophets]


November 15, 2004

Favourite SF movies

After church tonight I went out with a bite with a few friends. We talked about pretty much every subject under the sun, so it was inevitable that someone would ask me, "Scott, what are your favourite science fiction movies?"

This is a really difficult question to answer, actually. What do you mean by "favourite"? Two of my guilty pleasures are Godzilla movies and the Star Trek series; I have a blast watching them. On the other hand, I get a completely different kind of thrill from watching a particularly intelligent, well crafted, or historically significant film, such as 2001: A Space Odyssey or Blade Runner. In fact, without question I would call both of those my favourite SF, even though on a wasted Sunday afternoon I'm more likely to pop The Wrath of Khan into the DVD player. Clearly, the question requires a bit of thought.

So here is my canonical list of personal favourite sci-fi flicks, by decade, along with a few brief comments:


For me, this is where the history of SF moviemaking starts. This is the decade in which science fiction on film really came into its own and began to be taken seriously as a genre. (Which is not to denigrate the accomplishments of previous years, such as Metropolis or King Kong.)

Best of the decade: The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951). Flying saucers land on earth, actually coming in peace for a change, but they scare everyone to death anyway. This Cold War allegory directed by Robert Wise remains quite watchable even today.

Runner-up: Forbidden Planet (1956). A science-fiction retooling of Shakespeare's The Tempest, relocated to the planet Altair IV and given some major Freudian overtones. This movie is notable for the on-screen debut of Robby the Robot, and for being one of the inspirations for Star Trek.

I would be remiss if I neglected to also mention the original Godzilla (1954), or the 1953 version of H. G. Wells' War of the Worlds.


Best of the decade: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). Bar none, Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece is the "quintessential good science-fiction movie": the most intelligent and groundbreaking one ever made, in fact.

Runner-up: Planet of the Apes (1968). A classic story about time travel to a world turned topsy-turvy, the final scene of this movie is one of the most memorable in film history.


Best of the decade: Alien (1979). Never mind the plot holes you can fly a space freighter through, this Ridley Scott blockbuster is not only one of the finest SF movies ever made, but it stands nearly at the top of the list of the greatest horror films as well.

Runner-up: Star Wars (1977). George Lucas' blockbuster space opera redefined sci-fi filmmaking. For many people this movie is the 70s. No doubt I'll catch all sorts of hell for daring to rank it second.

Other 70s films deserving honourable mention: Silent Running (1972), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), and the first of the Star Trek films (1979).


Best of the decade: Blade Runner (1982). Another hit for Ridley Scott: the cerebral near-future dystopian film noir in which Harrison Ford plays a hard-boiled police officer whose job is to track down and "retire" (i.e. with extreme prejudice) escaped humanoid "replicants."

Runner-Up: The Terminator (1984). A murderous android from a future in which machines and men are at war travels to the present and relentlessly hunts down the mother of the leader of the humans before he is even born. This movie kick-started the careers of both James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Also worthy of mention in this decade: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, generally considered the best of the Trek films. Khan's Genesis sequence, created by the division of Industrial Light & Magic that would later be spun off into CG giant Pixar, was the first use of CG animation in a motion picture. And speaking of George Lucas, the Star Wars sequels The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983) are essential.


Best of the Decade: Contact (1997). Based on the bestselling novel by astronomer and SETI advocate Carl Sagan, the strong point of this intelligent and dramatic movie is less about contact with extra-terrestrial intelligence than the supposed tension between faith and evidence. Another personal favourite.

Runner-up:: The Matrix (1999). Neo-Platonism (no pun intended) meets kung fu in this surprise hit. The Matrix is also notable for its special effects, particularly the 3D freeze-frames and "bullet time" sequences. It also proves Keanu Reeves can act if he keeps his mouth shut most of the time.

The 1990s also brought us the quirky French movie The Fifth Element (1997) and Paul Voerhoven's ultra-violent Schwarzenegger vehicle Total Recall (1990). Arnold subsequently appeared in Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), which introduced computer-generated, photorealistic "morphing" effects to the moviegoing public.

2000 and beyond

Obviously, with the current decade not yet half over, it's too soon to call it. And frankly it hasn't been a fantastic era for science fiction, yet. But so far, my money is on Minority Report, Stephen Spielberg's treatment of the Philip K. Dick story. My prediction: This fall's Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow was a commercial and critical success; its director, Kerry Conran, plans to follow it up with Edgar Rice Burrough's A Princess of Mars in 2006. Meanwhile, there are also remakes of King Kong and War of the Worlds on the horizon, which could well make this the decade of "retro SF." Also anticipated: the long-awaited big-screen treatment of The Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy (now in post-production) and the last of the Star Wars movies, Revenge of the Sith. So far, it's looking up to be a so-so decade for filmed SF.

Anyway, these are just my opinions. Feel free to disagree, or try to justify alternatives, if you like.

November 11, 2004

Christian Carnival XLIII

is up at Digitus, Finger, & Co., and with over 30 contributions, it's a doozy.

My contribution is my response to some of the objections raised to sola Scriptura.


Admiral Quixote provides an excellent response to a "pro-choice Catholic:

I can understand your perspective on many of your points, but I do not understand your claim that abortion is not disgusting. Abortionists kill unborn babies in many ways, including poisoning them (it takes a baby over an hour to die in agony from a saline abortion), by dissecting them, and by stabbing them as they are born (partial-birth abortions). Please review one of the milder abortion picture sites, and perhaps even a video, and then tell me if you still doubt abortions are disgusting.

[Read Discussion between Pro-Choice Catholic and Pro-Life Protestant]

Violet at Promptings takes on the wishy-washy Jesus of a Toronto Sun columnist, concluding:

Ms. Ward is right. Jesus did come to change the hearts of sinners. However, the fact that he spent time with them was not a way of saying their sin didn’t matter. Rather it was a way of showing them God’s heart - a heart that has compassion on all us sinners. A heart that knows if we are left to our devices, we’ll self-destruct. A heart that says, come to me, give your life to me, live it my way and you’ll find a satisfaction that will quench all sins’ thirsts.

[Read gay nuptials - what WOULD Jesus do?]

Intolerant Elle withdraws a donation from the March of Dimes because of their "moral neutrality" on abortion:

A few days ago my friend called me from jail - March of Dimes Jail & Bail fundraiser, that is. He called me at work asking for some bail money, so I told him to put me down for $10 (I know, big spender, huh?) - but I asked him if the March of Dimes was involved with abortion in any capacity. He said it wasn’t and he wouldn’t be involved with it if they were. I believe he wouldn’t be involved if he knew they were into that kind of stuff.

Today I received my bail bill from March of Dimes, and I decided to google the keywords in my ethical concern. I’m glad I did.

[Read March of Dimes Funding]

What happens when sola Scriptura is ignored? Cosmo tells us what happened in one instance:

[T]he church has suffered enough of the excesses of the "prophetic" movement. There has been too much credence given to "prophets" who get it "right" some of the time, or who are off track. There is no biblical basis for this sort of leeway being given. As some-one who was heavily exposed to these errors in the past, and having seen the damage it does in the lives of Christians, I say it is time to get truthful. God does not require us to take in some-one's teaching because they might be a prophet-in-waiting. That is extra-biblical speculation. The sanctification of the Holy Spirit and the revelation of God in the scriptures are sufficient. The most helpful assistance these leaders can receive is love expressed by telling the truth. So far they have missed hearing subtlety.

[Read Paul Cain Plunges - Joyner Sends Mixed Message]

As always . . . enjoy.

Thank you, veterans

Today is the 86th anniversary of the armistice ending World War I. I didn't have the opportunity this morning to attend the national Remembrance Day ceremony downtown at the War Memorial. I saw some of it on TV: despite the cold weather, apparently something like 15,000 people lined the streets to attend. Also in attendance were something like 4-600 veterans - including at least one surviving veteran of WWI, of which there are still eight in Canada.

Attendance continues to increase year by year. Interestingly, so does attendance by young people. With WWI all but a 90-year-old memory, and WWII and Korea veterans now in their 70s, 80s, and 90s, this gives me hope that their dedication and sacrifice will not be forgotten. Thank you, all of you.

This evening I walked past the War Memorial and was glad to see that it had not yet been cleaned up. All the wreaths laid at the base of the cenotaph were still there (veterans on the west side, diplomats on the east), as were the hundreds of poppies on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It has only been four years since he was interred at the base of the cenotaph, but it has already become traditional for onlookers to take the plastic poppies from their lapels and leave them on the sarcophagus.

Today I came across the Canadian Virtual War Memorial, a service of Veterans Affairs Canada. It has a search engine for the Canadian registry of war dead. Out of curiosity, not to mention incredible ignorance of my family history, I plugged my last name into the form. It turns out that two of my relatives were killed in action in WWI: Ernest Ethelbert McClare (d. Oct. 29, 1918, age 20), and Percy Winthrop McClare (d. May 5, 1917, age 19). There's no question these are relatives of mine - Ernest McClare's parents are even buried in the same Baptist churchyard as my grandfather - though I don't know the exact relationship. Any McClares in the Hants County area reading this? Please feel free to drop me an email and enlighten me, if you can. (William Howard McClair of Halifax is likely also a more distant relation.)

Begun this Eschatology War has

Following up on the inexplicable runaway success of the Left Behind franchise, Tyndale House has announced a new series of apocalyptic novels by Hank "Bible Answer Man" Hanegraaff and Sigmund Brouwer, this time with a preterist take on Revelation instead of a Dispensationalist one. Predictably, this has gotten Tim LaHaye hopping mad:

But the Rev. Tim LaHaye, co-author of the "Left Behind" books, called the decision by his publisher "stunning and disappointing" and said he felt betrayed.

"They are going to take the money we made for them and promote this nonsense," he said. . . .

"I don't know what science fiction he is reading," said LaHaye. "We believe the Rapture is going to come, not his nonsense that Christ came back in 68 A.D."

"I am reading the Bible, specifically Revelations [sic] it [sic] was written for first-century Christians," retorted Hanegraaff. "I am not relying on some wooden, literal interpretation that is unsupportable."

[Full story]

It seems that LaHaye thinks he has a monopoly on last-days thrillers. Sorry to disappoint him. Although not much of a preterist, I'm looking forward to reading some of these new books myself. I'm just disappointed I didn't get there first.

[Props to Brandywine Books and Thinklings.]

November 10, 2004


Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat, 75, the leader who passionately sought a homeland for his people but was seen by many Israelis as a ruthless terrorist and a roadblock to peace, died early Thursday in Paris.

[Full Story]

Say hi to Uday, Qusay, and Mohammed Atta for us.

Sorry Everybody

Some people really, really, really, need help.

Get a life, crybabies.

The Passion a foreign film?

World Magazine Blog is reporting that Mel Gibson's blockbuster Jesus movie The Passion of the Christ is ineligible for nomination for best picture at the Golden Globe awards on a technicality:

According to the rules of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which gives out the awards, the best picture nominees must be in English (an odd requirement from foreign journalists). "The Passion" is in Aramaic and Latin, so it can only compete in the foreign-language category, though other awards, such as directing and scriptwriting, are still open to it.

[Full Text]

If The Passion is technically a foreign film, this raises an interesting question: of what country? The Chaldean and Roman empires have been dust for millennia.

Speaking of The Passion, Jollyblogger touched off a small flurry of posts in the blogosphere with his article on the failure of "the greatest evangelistic tool in the last 2000 years" as an evangelistic tool. It turns out that thousands have been profoundly affected by the message of the film, but as a witnessing tool it just didn't live up to the hype that was lavished upon it. Jeri at Blog on the Lillypad follows up, rightly pointing out the wrong-headed tendency of many evangelicals to evaluate art only in terms of its worth in evangelism - good art is also good propaganda, in other words. (Similarly, I have friends who will automatically dismiss any Christian music that doesn't have a high "rah-rah Jesus" quotient.)

November 09, 2004

Further rumination on sola Scriptura

After I posted an old Sunday school lesson on 2 Tim. 3:16-17, The Authority and Sufficiency of Scripture, I received a comment from a Catholic blogger, who said there were "inherent problems" with the doctrine, and raised three specific objections, which I list here:

  1. "It requires scripture to be mass produced and distributed - something that was impossible prior to the printing press."
  2. "[I]t requires a literate readership - something else that was absent until the past couple of centuries."
  3. "[S]cripture itself doesn't give itself sole authority."

I'll tackle objection 3 first, because here my reader and I are simply in factual disagreement. I submit that in 2 Tim. 3:16-17, Paul indeed does say that Scripture is uniquely God-breathed, and that it is able to thoroughly equip the man of God for his task. If an extrabiblical authority or "sacred tradition" is required to supplement the written Scriptures, then the Scriptures cannot be said to be thorough. That was the whole point of the lesson. If I am wrong in my interpretation of 2 Tim. 3:16-17, show me how I am wrong; don't just say "is not!" and expect me to change my mind.

Objections 1 and 2 are really the same, except in the details: sola Scriptura cannot be true unless everyone can read the Scriptures off the page personally. I respond first by way of analogy: Am I under the authority of the Criminal Code of Canada? Where does it get this authority? From the government that drafted it. Does the Code cease to have authority if I cannot find or read it? Of course not. In fact, if I asserted this, I would be guilty of a major category error, because I have shifted the issue away from the objective authority of the law to my subjective ability to read it. (And it wouldn't get me off that petty theft rap, either!)

My objector makes the same category error with respect to the Scripture. She has shifted the issue away from the objective authority of Scripture, which it inherently possesses by virtue of being God-breathed, to the subjective ability of early Christians to read them.

Specifically, objection 1 also fails because history testifies that lack of movable type was no impediment to the distribution of the Scriptures. There are literally thousands of extant manuscripts and fragments of the New Testament, dating back to within a generation of the apostolic era. There are more ancient copies of the Bible than the next ten works of classical literature combined. And these are only the copies still extant, to say nothing of the countless others that must have been lost to time and the elements! The early Church was obviously concerned with disseminating the Scriptures; even without Gutenberg's press, they seem to have had no trouble in the mass-production department. Even if there wasn't a Bible in every household, they were readily available from other Christians, in the synagogue, later chained to pulpits in the churches, and so forth.

Furthermore, the objection downplays the importance of memory and oral transmission in a pre-printing press culture. Even in the 14th century, the Lollards, followers of John Wycliffe, memorized whole books of Scripture and could recite them. These people could adhere to sola Scriptura because what they heard and recited came from the written page.

Objection 2 fails because even if believers were unable to read the Scriptures for themselves, they were nonetheless able to hear them taught in church, read to them by friends, and so forth.

As another commenter points out, the inability for specific Christians to read the Scriptures from the page did not stop Augustine from writing to Jerome:

I have learned to yield this respect and honour only to the canonical books of Scripture: of these alone do I most firmly believe that the authors were completely free from error. And if in these writings I am perplexed by anything which appears to me opposed to truth, I do not hesitate to suppose that either the Ms. is faulty, or the translator has not caught the meaning of what was said, or I myself have failed to understand it. As to all other writings, in reading them, however great the superiority of the authors to myself in sanctity and learning, I do not accept their teaching as true on the mere ground of the opinion being held by them; but only because they have succeeded in convincing my judgment of its truth either by means of these canonical writings themselves, or by arguments addressed to my reason.1

This is the same argument Martin Luther made at Worms. Sola Scriptura stands.


1 Augustine, Letter 82, 1:3, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, ed. Philip Schaff, vol. 1, Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 1 Nov. 2004, 9 Nov. 2004 <>.

Don't mess with a drunk moose

I have actually had a Google Alert on this subject for the last year:

A DRUNK moose staggering through your backyard and nibbling on apples fallen from your tree may sound like an amusing anecdote to tell your friends, but for those Swedes who each autumn come face to face with the angry beasts, it's no laughing matter.

An encounter with an intoxicated moose can, as strange as it might seem, leave your living room in a shambles and leave you battered and bruised if not dead.

About 300,000 moose, or elk as they're known in Europe, roam Sweden's woods. But every northern autumn at least a few of the normally timid animals end up astray, trudging out of the woods and into cities and suburbs where they gladly munch on fermented apples that have fallen from trees.

The result is an intoxicated and aggressive brute.

[Full Story]

Deep dark dirty secret disclosure time: Reporting drunk moose stories was what I had in mind when I originally put "silly news" in the blog description. It's actually taken more than a year for a story to show up.

November 08, 2004

Why drunks should not give out grant money

Scientists at Ohio State University fed honey bees different amounts of alcohol and watched how long they spent walking, flying, grooming or just lying on their backs. They also measured the level of alcohol in the bees' haemolyph - the equivalent of blood. Unsurprisingly, the more the bees drank, the less they moved around.

[Full Story]

Wouldn't you just love to see the prospectus for this study? I wonder how you write "We're gonna get a lot of bees loaded" without letting on.

Christian Carnival XLII

In all the excitement of watching the networks do everything in their power to avoid calling New Mexico, Iowa, and Ohio for George W. Bush (while calling California for Kerry the instant the polls closed, and Washington for Kerry even when the votes tallied so far favoured Bush by 2 percentage points), I nearly forgot it was time for Christian Carnival XLII, up at King of Fools.

No contribution from me this week; I'm all blogged out after submitting to the CC and the Reformed Carnival last week. Here are my personal highlights:

Rebecca ends her series on the attributes of God with another excellent piece on God's grace:

Our God is the "God of all grace." He is characteristically giving toward those who do not merit his favour, and every favour that we receive has its source in the God of all grace. His grace is eternal, for it has been given to those who are saved before time began (2 Timothy 1:9 ESV). From this same verse in 2nd Timothy, we also learn that grace is sovereignly and freely exercised by God, given "not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace." We don't call it out from him, but he extends it as it suits his purpose and because he is gracious. He is gracious to whom he will be gracious (Exodus 33:19).

[Read God's Grace]

Now that the series has finished, Rebecca has posted a complete table of contents to the series as well.

William Meisheid at Beyond the Rim began a study series on J. I. Packer's book Knowing God, #1 on my list of must-read Christian books of the last 30 years:

Packer asks, and I believe rightly so, how can you truly love what you do not really know?

[Read Theological Thursdays: Knowing God: Yes or No?]

The Great Separation commemorated All Saints' Eve with a roll call of Christian persecution in the last year.

Bill Wallo at Wallo World posts a fictional story with a surprise ending that is strangely satsifying:

For as long as he could remember, Ben Anacona had suffered from a recurring nightmare in which he was trapped under water, struggling vainly for air as water filled his lungs. As a result, he avoided sleep like he would the dentist, popped No-Doze like tic tacs, and sucked down a six pack of Mountain Dew before breakfast. The caffeine made him jumpy as hell and fueled his snarling pit bull rage. But since the melon-shaped former weightlifter worked as a bag man, leg breaker, and sheep dog for Ellis Cauthron’s string of whores, these potential character flaws were regarded by his employer as valuable components of the skill set required for adequate job performance.

[Read Saved]


[Updated from Nov. 3]

We're #1

The University of Waterloo has bumped the University of Guelph out of first place and into second in Maclean's magazine's annual assessment of comprehensive Canadian universities."

[Full Story

Woo hoo! Again! Good show, guys.

United Church ministers consider unionization

Just when you thought the United Church of Canada couldn't get any weirder:

Claiming poor working conditions and wages, United Church Ministers in Ontario and British Columbia are taking steps to ensure their contract with God has union protection.

Eternal Spring United Church Rev. David Galston is part of the group of ministers that has approached the Canadian Auto Workers union for help organizing."

[Full Story]

Unionizing the pastors (not to mention yoking themselves to a secular labour union such as CAW) is just the logical outcome of the United Church's leftist politics, so it doesn't come as much of a surprise in its own absurdist kind of way. However, it does raise some interesting questions.

  • For the purpose of collective bargaining, who is the employer? The congregation, the local presbytery, the national denomination, or someone else?
  • If clergy are entitled to better wages, what happens when the parishioners' giving isn't up to scratch? Will United Church members start getting pastor's bills in the mail?
  • If United Church pastors all went on strike and quit preaching, who would that inconvenience, anyway?

Post Tenebras Lux - The Carnival of the Reformation I

The inaugural Carnival of the Reformation is up at Jollyblogger. I've been looking forward to this for some time, ever since it was announced a couple of months ago.

Aw, heck. Perhaps I'm biased toward the subject matter, bibliology being my favourite branch of theology, but I just couldn't decide on even a couple of highlights. It's all good. Enjoy.

[Updated from Nov. 1]

And now . . . this

A Brazilian legislator wants to make it illegal to give pets names that are common among people.

Federal congressman Reinaldo Santos e Silva proposed the law after psychologists suggested that some children may get depressed when they learn they share their first name with someone's pet, Damarias Alves, a spokeswoman for Silva, said last week.

[Full Story]

I wonder how Jesus felt when he learned he had the same name as millions of little Mexican waifs? The poor soul.

Now go away, before I taunt you a second time!

I take a quick break from my non-blogging, only to point out again that there is indeed great consistency in these silly Internet personality quizzes:

You are a French Guard! You love nothing better than to torment the silly English Knnnniggits...even if your insults don't make much sense--You tiny brained wiper of other people's bottoms!
Which Monty Python & the Holy Grail Character are you REALLY?

November 05, 2004

Proselytization and persuasion

The aforementioned controversy at UW over Campus Crusade's "I Agree With . . ." campaign, along with some recent remarks on Christian Conservative raised another side issue in my mind.

In the comments on a recent post, "Yochanan," a Jew, said that he found Christian evangelism of Jews "quite disturbing." Similarly, some UW students are apparently quite offended at seeing "I agree with Byron" chalked all over the campus sidewalks.

Religion is an important part of a person's self-identity, so I can understand why people would be uncomfortable with proselytizing. So here's the question: Why should religious proselytization be treated differently from other kinds of persuasion?

I don't especially like Jehovah's Witnesses coming to my door. The reason I don't like them is not because they are Jehovah's Witnesses, it's because they are intrusive and pushy. I also don't especially like the newspaper calling at dinnertime to sell subscriptions, for the same reason.

Gay Pride Day parades and anti-war demonstrations are inarguably more disruptive than Christian evangelism. Yet, ironically, it is the latter that is condemned as an imposition of beliefs upon others, while the former are embraced as free expression in an open society. There is a double standard.

Elmasry update

This week, the University of Waterloo apparently made no new official statements concerning the remarks made by electrical engineering professor and national president of the Canadian Islamic Congress, Mohamed Elmasry.

On October 19, on the Michael Coren Show, Elmasry declared - and insisted when pressed for clarification - that any Israeli citizen over the age of 18 should be considered part of the military and therefore a viable target for attack. This has resulted in an investigation by the school and the police into his remarks.

However, the controversy continued in the pages of the student newspaper, The Imprint. This week, Elmasry gave his side of the story. That is to say, he changed his story. Last week he was claiming he was misunderstood; now he says the real problem was an inadequate definition of the term "terrorism":

I have always supported and promoted UN efforts to come to terms with the greatest scourge of our society. Defining terrorism - sooner rather than later - would not only make history, but could prove to be the greatest deterrent against it.

With some well-chosen words, we could break the cycle of violence and build peace instead.

[Full Story]

Better yet, Dr. Elmasry, why not repudiate your clear and unequivocal assertion that any adult Israeli is a legit target for Islamikazes? It's a little difficult to take the pretty rhetoric about "break[ing] the cycle of violence and build[ing] peace" seriously when it comes from someone who, three weeks earlier, was painting bulls-eyes on people.

Biology student Nadia Basir writes to demand an apology from the Imprint for last week's editorial cartoon depicting Elmasry spewing garbage from his mouth. Judge for yourself. Basir also attempts to argue, as did the CIC when refusing his resignation, that years of community service gives him a free pass. (Some psycho-fundy "Christians" similarly try to argue that years of "soul-winning" entitles certain church officers to the same free pass when they're caught banging the choir ladies. I don't buy it from them, either.)

PoliSci student Omair Quadri denounces Elmasry, but attempts to use a fallacious "moral equivalency" argument to say that the Jewish representative on that television panel "condoned indiscriminate violence against civilians" as well. Of course, the indiscriminate carnage caused by a Palestinian splodeydope is not equivalent to the targeted destruction of said splodeydope's house by the IDF in retribution for the attack. This moral equivalency argument is repeated in another letter, by Ahmed Datardina.

I'm surprised this controversy is still relatively tame, considering the inflammable nature of Elmasry's remarks and the embarrassment he has caused the school. But maybe I shouldn't be. After all, I spent eight years on campus and witnessed student apathy firsthand. (Heck, I was a net contributor to it.) About the only thing that really gets UW students good and angry is a public expression of religious faith. The rather vicious response to Campus Crusade's I Agree With Byron campaign (which, I have heard, included hate mail and Web site hacking in addition to complaints about pervasive advertising), and last term's defacement of UW Students for Life's ad posters are cases in point. "I feel like some six-year-old girl who just got raped by her dad," one poster cries shrilly on Byron's message board after being molested by one of CCC's horrible, dangerous sidewalk chalk ads. ("You keep it away! Aaaah! It burns! it burns!") Let a professor proclaim, "Kill all Israelis!" and that's OK, but God forbid there should be a public display of Christianity.

November 03, 2004

Oh, good, it's over.

It's good to know that there is at least one Western democracy in the world that knows how to elect good government.

Congrats to all my American friends.

What kind of blogger are you?

It turns out I'm a . . .

You Are a Snarky Blogger!

You've got a razor sharp wit that bloggers are secretly scared of. And that's why they read your posts as often as they can!

Well, if nothing else, this proves that internet personality quizzes are in fact super-scientific, because they're consistent:

Which Homestar Runner character are you?


November 01, 2004

Here we go again . . .

Thanks to Jen Speaks via Mysterium Tremendum comes the latest how-many-of-these-great-thingies-have-you-seen-heard-or-read lists: Entertainment Weekly's top 50 cult films (50 being defined as 61 for some reason). How many have you seen? Mine are bolded:

  1. This Is Spinal Tap
  2. The Rocky Horror Picture Show
  3. Freaks
  4. Harold And Maude
  5. Pink Flamingos
  6. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
  7. Repo Man
  8. Scarface
  9. Blade Runner
  10. The Shawshank Redemption
  11. Five Deadly Venoms
  12. Plan 9 From Outer Space
  13. Brazil
  14. Eraserhead
  15. Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!
  16. The Warriors
  17. Dazed And Confused
  18. Hard-Boiled
  19. Evil Dead II
  20. The Mack
  21. Pee-Wee's Big Adventure
  22. Un Chien Andalou
  23. Akira
  24. The Toxic Avenger
  25. Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory
  26. Stranger Than Paradise
  27. Dawn Of The Dead
  28. The Wiz
  29. Clerks
  30. The Harder They Come
  31. Slap Shot
  32. Re-Animator
  33. Grey Gardens
  34. The Big Lebowski
  35. Withnail and I
  36. Showgirls
  37. A Bucket Of Bood
  38. They Live
  39. The Best Of Everything
  40. Barbarella
  41. Heathers
  42. Rushmore
  43. The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension
  44. Love Streams
  45. Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story
  46. Aguirre, The Wrath of God
  47. Walking And Talking Nicole Holofcener
  48. The Decline Of Western Civilization II: The Metal Years
  49. Friday
  50. Faces of Death, Vol. 1
  51. Monty Pyton and the Holy Grail
  52. A Clockwork Orange
  53. Mommie Dearest
  54. The Princess Bride
  55. Swingers
  56. UHF
  57. Valley of the Dolls
  58. Fight Club
  59. Dead Alive (aka Braindead)
  60. Better Off Dead
  61. Donnie Darko

My score: 18/61, pretty respectable when you consider that cult film is one of those areas I haven't really delved too deeply into.

November is "Required Reading Month"

Back in September when I took a sabbatical from reading science fiction, as a reaction to my ODing on the cheaper variety in the previous month, I had fun expanding my horizons a bit, even though I didn't manage to get through everything I had planned.

This month I want to try something different. My favourite course in high school was the OAC (our late lamented grade 13, for those of you outside of Ontario) English course, which was basically a survey of 20th century literature: Canadian, American, and British. It was such a fun course that I devoured the entire reading list in a very short time. My memory of that year is a little sketchy, but I either had the the entire reading list finished a semester before taking the course (thanks to my girlfriend who was a year ahead of me), or I inhaled the entire course in the four days of travel time on the train while on a band field trip.

Anyway, once I've got all my current crop of books off my plate, I want to re-read all the books on that course list. It's all pretty good stuff, or at least influential or important in some way. There were three core novels that everybody read:

  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  • The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence
  • Cannery Row by John Steinbeck

In addition, there were a number of books that were optional and could be used to supplement the core works while writing term papers:

  • Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell
  • The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood
  • Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

There may have been other books on the optional list, but I don't recall them at the moment, if so. To that list I am also going to add Tortilla Flat by Steinbeck, which was not part of the curriculum, but my girlfriend did get special permission to make use of it, and I remember her getting a real kick out of it.

As I recall, I enjoyed the majority of the works on the list, but there were a few clunkers as well. I'm literally twice the age I was back then, so it'll be interesting to see how the intervening years - and an English degree - have changed my views.

(In the unlikely event that any of my readers happen to have:

  • graduated from Espanola High School in the years of, say, '88 through '91
  • taken the OAC modern English course from Messrs. Stos or Blackledge
  • remembered what-all was on the syllabus

then refresh my memory by way of a comment, please.)