February 26, 2007

Playing rope-a-dope with the KJV-onlyists

Being somewhat fed up with the usual baseless accusations of "corruption" and "Bible correcting" from the KJV-only peanut gallery, I decided yesterday to ask a straightforward question on a forum I frequent: Where does the New International Version of the Bible teach falsehood?

24 hours later, the results are, shall we say, underwhelming.

I did get a lot of the usual chestnuts, though:

  • The NIV calls Joseph Jesus' "father." Well, he was Jesus' stepfather, wasn't he? Besides, so does the KJV several times, so by definition, it must be true.
  • The NIV omits the phrase "by his blood" in Colossians 1:14. I didn't ask what the NIV doesn't say, I asked what it does say that is false. Besides, those words are found elsewhere in the New Testament, so again, what the NIV says is true.
  • The NIV was translated by a lesbian. I didn't ask who translated it, I asked what it said that wasn't true.
  • The NIV is a dynamic translation. OK, but is the translation actually false?
  • The NIV denies the existence of hell in Psalm 9:17. No it doesn't, but on the other hand it makes the true statement that the wicked end up in the grave.

So far only two accusations of any real seriousness have been put forward. The first is that John 1:18 is anti-Trinitarian, but the accuser himself shows a substandard understanding of the Trinity when he denies that God the Father and God the Son can both be the one and only God (at one point he tries to compare the Godhead with a committee of Baptists).

The second is James' command to "confess your sins to one another" (Jas. 5:16 NIV), which supposedly leads to the Catholic confessional system, as opposed to the KJV's "faults." His theological argument is wanting, the distinction between "faults" and "sins" is pretty much non-existent, and in any case saying the Bible might be misunderstood is not the same as saying the Bible teaches something false.

The reason I decided to post this challenge is that I am getting sick and tired of being told that non-KJV-onlyists spread skepticism about the Bible because they cannot have absolute confidence in an inerrant translation. Since a large part of my teaching in church, when I do it, is to assure students that they can have confidence in the Bibles they carry (the vast majority of which are NIVs), naturally I want to be able to tell them where they can't trust their Bibles.

So far, no accusation against the NIV has withstood serious analysis. In fact, in asking for instances of falsehood, the KJV-onlyists have had to concede more truth! As a result, while the NIV isn't my translation of choice, I'm beginning to like it more and more. Thanks guys!

And now . . . this - Feb. 26, 2008

Here we go again, again

Cue the candles and kitsch:

When an image of the Virgin Mary appeared on one of their pizza pans on Ash Wednesday the dinner ladies at Pugh Elementary School in Houston knew that it had to be more than just the cheese and pepperoni talking. This had to be a message from God.

Guadalupe Rodriguez, 59, who had scrubbed at the greasy stain to no avail, hastened to the head teacher for a second opinion. Indeed, the principal confirmed, the school kitchens seemed to have been singled out for divine intervention.

[Full Story]

When I make pizza, I like a little extra virgin on the crust, but this is ridiculous.

February 23, 2007

And now . . . this - Feb. 23, 2008

Ha ha ha! "Art."

Performance artist Mark McGowan kicked off his bid to crawl for 72 hours across Manhattan dressed as the president, offering the opportunity to kick his backside.

The controversial artist from London began his odyssey from New York's Lincoln Centre wearing a rubber George Bush mask, a business suit, knee pads, work gloves and a sign stuck to his cushioned posterior reading simply: "Kick My Ass."

[Full Story]

Now come on. Is there any more useless human being on the face of the earth than a "performance artist"?

Meanwhile, posted today on his Web site:

i have been kicked in the ass continuously on the streets of new york.

i have also been confronted by very angry bush supporters who have literally scared me so much so [sic] that i have had to abandon doing it on the streets and i am now just crawling around the scope art fair as i fear for my life.

Yeah, well, so much for artistic integrity.

F5 #3: The grape

(Didn't get last week's installment in, thanks to a surprise visit from an old friend who was in town for the weekend. So if all goes well, today will be a twofer. Incidentally, this topic would have been last year's fourth F5 entry, so it's really late . . .)

It seems ironic to me that what is arguably my favourite libation today, was one of the last ones I learned to like. But it's true: when I first started to drink alcohol, I acquired a taste for beer right away, and spirits not long afterward. However, for years, wine was practically a closed book to me. It all tasted the same to me, and while I could (obviously) tell the difference between red and white, I wouldn't have known a Chardonnay from a Shiraz. On the other hand, thanks to a summer of restaurant experience, I knew the difference between a Burgundy and a Bordeaux, but only by the shape of the bottle, and the idea that there could even be a "white Burgundy" seemed like a contradiction in terms. In other words, apart from the occasional glass of Piat D'or with my folks at Christmas or Thanksgiving, I was a rank newbie to the world of wine.

Around 1999, for some reason I no longer remember, I made up my mind to learn something about wine. So I bought a couple of books and read them; then, a few days later, made a stop at the LCBO for a few bottles: as I recall, an Ontario Chardonnay, an Australian Cabernet Sauvignon, and a California white Zinfandel. And the rest is history.

February 16, 2007

Haven't done one of these in awhile

so I thought I'd break the streak:

You scored as Galactica (Battlestar: Galactica). You are leery of your surroundings, and with good reason. Anyone could be a cylon. But you have close friends and you know they would never hurt you. Now if only the damn XO would stop drinking.

Galactica (Battlestar: Galactica)


Moya (Farscape)


Babylon 5 (Babylon 5)


SG-1 (Stargate)


Deep Space Nine (Star Trek)


Andromeda Ascendant (Andromeda)


Millennium Falcon (Star Wars)


Serenity (Firefly)


Nebuchadnezzar (The Matrix)


Bebop (Cowboy Bebop)


Enterprise D (Star Trek)


FBI's X-Files Division (The X-Files)


Your Ultimate Sci-Fi Profile II: which sci-fi crew would you best fit in? (pics)
created with QuizFarm.com

*sigh* I guess I'll fix the HTML later . . .

The le Carré curse

If you saw my reading habits, you wouldn't actually know that I enjoyed the spy novels of John le Carré.

I loved A Small Town in Germany.

I positively wolfed down The Spy Who Came In from the Cold and The Looking Glass War.

I gave away copies of The Tailor of Panama as gifts.

But then there was Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy . . .

It's not as if I didn't enjoy the novel; there's a good reason it's a classic of the spy genre. I've just never been able to get more than 100 or so pages in, before circumstances conspire to compel me to return the book.

As of today, having returned it, I've had to give up my fifth - count 'em, five - attempt. But I guess I'll try again in a couple months.


Godzilla redux

Fred Butler writes:

Scott McClare may appreciate this article if he hasn't already seen it: The Science of Godzilla. A dinosaur expert explores the possibility of what it would be like if Godzilla was real. Read the comments following the article, as well.

[Read The Science of Godzilla]

He's right: I hadn't seen it, and I did appreciate it. (Similarly, Terry Pratchett has a humorous discussion of the anatomy of dragons in one of the earlier Discworld novels.)

Fred mentions his fond memories of watching old Godzilla movies as a kid on Saturday afternoons. For me it was a lot more recently, and after midnight on Space, but same difference. He also made mention of the infamous "flight scene" from Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster, quite possibly the craziest (and silliest) "power" that the Big G ever invented on the spur of the moment:

And why not close off with the rest of Godzilla's most embarrassing moments, married to a corny Internet meme?

February 15, 2007

Bruce Manning Metzger (1914-2007)

Sad news for the field of biblical textual studies:

Bruce Metzger, an expert on Greek biblical manuscripts, died Tuesday at the age of 93. The professor emeritus at Princeton Theological Seminary died of natural causes.

Metzger was well known for his work in New Testament textual criticism. He served on the committee that produced the United Bible Societies' Greek New Testament and wrote several books on textual criticism, including The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration (1964, 1968, 1991) and Manuscripts of the Greek Bible: An Introduction to Palaeography (1981). The British Academy made him a corresponding fellow in 1978, an honor that few American scholars receive.

[Full Story]

Metzger literally wrote the book on the Greek text of the New Testament. I've never read his more technical material - and probably wouldn't understand it anyway - but I've profited from his more popular works on the text of the New Testament, such as the aforementioned Text of the New Testament. The Church has lost a treasure.

February 11, 2007

Blogging the Blogroll #3: Behind the Sofa

Yesterday's Doctor Who post meshes quite nicely with today's "Blogging the Blogroll" post. Almost as if I'd intended it that way. This procrastination thing is working for me. Heh.


When I started hearing rumours about the New Who, I started hunting for information on the Net, as usual. The first site of note I reached was Outpost Gallifrey, probably the premiere Doctor Who site on the Web. Unfortunately, the site wasn't particularly easy to navigate around (though I did get stuck for a couple of hours reading the reviews of old Tom Baker serials).

Instead, I hit upon the good folks at Tachyon TV, particularly their blog Behind the Sofa - which at the time was named "Waiting for Christopher," in anticipation of Christopher Eccleston taking the reins as the ninth Doctor. Here I found the information I was hunting for, and once the program actually started airing, I kept reading just for the running reviews as the season progressed.

"Behind the Sofa" is the traditional position of the pre-adolescent Doctor Who fan, spooked by the sudden appearance of a Dalek or Rutan. It's a group blog, originally created with the intent of giving anyone posting privileges who was willing to write; as a result they have a fairly large core group of reviewers. One of their number had a prominent walk-on role in last season's "Rise of the Cybermen." When a series of Doctor Who or Torchwood is underway, the blog focuses on weekly reviews of current episodes; in between seasons - as now as we await the as-yet-unannounced debut of New Who's third season - they go into "Stripped Down" mode in which they review classic episodes on DVD. There's also a Tachyon TV podcast, generally providing "alternative" commentary to the DVDs. The whole thing is done with a healthy dose of humour and not a little irreverence; recently at a convention, sixth Doctor Colin Baker tore the Tachyon TV guys a new orifice over a satirical review of "The Twin Dilemma" in a fanzine they'd produced.

What can be better than a bunch of fans, writing about what they love without being excessively fawning? That's why Behind the Sofa is on my regular read list.

February 09, 2007

F5 #2: The Doctor

My first impression of Doctor Who was not a favourable one.

TV Ontario, the provincial public/educational channel, used to run episodes of the program on weeknights. Unfortunately, I don't think the editor who created their promo spots was a big fan. For some reason, they concentrated exclusively on scenes from the story "The Deadly Assassin." Now, I like "The Deadly Assassin" just fine; in fact, it's one of my favourites. But it contains a number of fantasy sequences which are somewhat surreal even in context - as isolated clips, it's downright weird. So as a ten-year-old, I wasn't the stereotypical kid hiding behind the sofa at the scary parts. I just didn't see the appeal of a show featuring samurais in spooky masks throwing people over cliffs.

Two things changed that.

First, I later discovered that the PBS station provided by our cable company ran Doctor Who stories in their entirety (i.e. the four or so serials spliced together into a single, two-hour-long program). I came across one of these accidentally one afternoon and, not realizing what it was at first, thought it was an enjoyable (if somewhat overly British) science-fiction movie of some kind. Of course, it wasn't long before I realized what I was watching. Second, two friends of mine in school were working on a class project of some kind: something about futurism in Doctor Who, focusing on programs that showed future humanity doing something halfway plausible, such as living on Pluto under an artificial sun (OK, halfway plausible to two twelve-year-olds, at least). Through them I was exposed to a few of the better Who serials that I hadn't yet seen on TV. So between these two influences, I decided (rather suddenly) to give Doctor Who a fair shake. And I'm glad I did, because in hindsight it's become my favourite television program.1

Lest I get ahead of myself: The basic premise of the program is that the Doctor (not "Dr. Who," which is the name of the program) is a renegade Time Lord, an alien who, having become tired of the apathy of his own people, stole a time machine called the TARDIS - which is much bigger on the inside than the outside and perpetually disguised as a British police call box, because the circuitry that is supposed to blend it in with its environment got stuck - and, together with a generally lovely-but-helpless-or-naïve female companion, travels throughout space and time righting wrongs, but as often as not rescuing Earth from the alien menace.

The program in its original incarnation ran from 1963-89. Because of the longevity of the program, it's not surprising that cast members come and go, including the show's star. When the original Doctor, William Hartnell, resigned after three years due to illness, the show's writers quickly came up with the explanation that Time Lords are capable of "regenerating" - that is, after suffering mortal injury, their bodies are capable of repairing themselves, but replacing their original appearance and personality with a new one. To date ten actors have played the part - seven in the show's original run, one for a TV movie made in 1996, and two for the new series in production since 2005. As with James Bond actors, every fan has a strong preference for one actor over the rest.

It's said that everyone's favourite Doctor is the one they saw first. That's certainly true in my case: I started watching the program when episodes featuring Tom Baker, the fourth Doctor, were airing in Canada. Baker, with his off-the-cuff humour, impossibly long scarf, and, when it was called for, dead seriousness, best captured the protagonist's character. (The rest of the first seven Doctors were, in order, too crusty, too clownish, too Earthbound, too excitable, too weird, and too cryptic.) In addition, Baker had the best stories: the first part of his tenure had a distinct Gothic-horror flavour reminiscent of old monster movies such as Frankenstein. In my opinion, it was also the latter part of his period and that of Peter Davison, his successor, in which Doctor Who did its best science fiction as well.

Doctor Who was cancelled in 1989 and remained off the air for about 16 years, not counting reruns - though in North America, networks like TVO and PBS stopped showing those in the early 90s, too). If it weren't for the magic of home video, I would have sorely missed the program. Naturally, I was ecstatic when the BBC brought the show back to life ("regenerated" it?) in 2005. New Who has the same humour, recurring villains, and overall cheesiness of the show's original incarnation, but in typical 21st-century fashion, it frequently ironically deconstructs the conventions of the old show. For example, the past Doctors' trademark eccentric costumes are gone; the Doctor's quirkiness comes through his character rather than his wardrobe. He has also become more of an antihero: instead of having carte blanche to come in and meddle whenever he pleases, in one recent episode Queen Victoria actually declared him an enemy of the state and set up the Torchwood Institute to defend the British Empire against alien menace including the Doctor. The writers have also begun to experiment with the contemporary SF fashion of having season-long plot arcs over and above each individual episodes. But despite the changes, it's still the same old Doctor Who, and I'm glad to say I get the same thrill watching David Tennant play the role today as I did with Tom Baker in 1980.


1 The Last, Best Footnote for Peace: Though Babylon 5 gives it a run for its money.

Blogging the Blogroll #2: La Shawn Barber's Corner

Somewhere in 2004, I heard a new word: Kwanzaa, the "black Christmas." I knew nothing about this (it's hardly celebrated by American blacks, and probably even less so in Canada), so I decided to do a little research. A search or two on Google eventually uncovered "Kwanzaa is for Pagans" by one La Shawn Barber.

That's the way I remember it, anyway. It could also very well be that I just followed a link from Michael King's blog, which I had blogrolled very early (and kept until he decided to give it up). Heh. Either way, La Shawn's article was both informative and well written, just the kind of thing I happened to be looking for.

La Shawn writes frequently on a variety of subjects, but is especially good in her critiques of affirmative action or race relations. She generally writes from the "wrong" side of the issue - if someone like, say, me were to do so, it wouldn't have half the credibility as it does coming from a black woman. Her recent series of posts on the so-called "Duke rape case," for example, have made for fascinating reading.

Additionally, of course, La Shawn is a Christian and Reformed; skin colour aside, that means she's family. And since we both have a degree in English and like Harry Potter, then we're sort of kindred spirits.

February 06, 2007

Blogging the Blogroll #1: Angry in the Great White North

About time I got started on this . . .

Somewhere in 2005, I decided that I needed more  Genuine Canadian Content™  in my blog diet. (I have a large collection of news-and-opinion-oriented blogs in my regular reading list, but for the most part they are American.) My method of searching them out wasn't fancy: I just Googled "canadian political blogs" or some such. And amongst the other blogs I came across was Steve Janke's Angry in the Great White North.

I believe the first post of Steve's that I read was in July '05, titled "Choices have consequences.", about an NDP MP and his wife who got the shock of their lives when they found out their Catholic parish would not marry them, because of his support for same-sex marriage and her abortion-rights advocacy. Here's the paragraph that hooked me:

I can't believe this person was labeled a "practising [sic] Catholic" in the article. Unless it was meant to suggest he needs more practise. A lot more practise.

One thing I like about Steve's approach to blogging political issues is that it's quite different from mine. I will note a news story, respond with "what an idiot" and a witty one-liner, and slap a light-bulb graphic on it. Steve takes the time and effort to research a story further. For example, at the time of writing, the most recent post on Angry is titled, "Is [independent MP] Garth Turner joining the Liberals?" Well, since that post was made at about noon today, it's been reported that Turner did, indeed, join the Liberal caucus. In the next few days, it's likely that there will be three or four additional posts about Garth Turner from various angles before Steve goes on to the next topic.

Of course, there are other good Canadian opinion blogs out there: Kate Werk's Small Dead Animals and Joel Johannesen's ProudToBeCanadian Blog are two more favourites. I don't like my opinion strictly one-sided, but up to now I haven't found a blog on the Left that isn't just dull or out to lunch and probably any other meal. (So if anyone has a reasonable suggestion to balance my reading, please feel free.) But for the most part, Steve Janke is my go-to guy for Canadian news and opinion. Being blogrolled means I hit Angry in the Great White North daily, and alphabetical order means I hit him first.

February 02, 2007

F5 #1: The Great Green One

I haven't a clue when (or why) I started liking giant-monster movies. As near as I can figure, it started with the stop-motion dinosaurs in the old Saturday-morning TV series Land of the Lost.

Anyway, the bottom line is that at some point in my childhood, I started getting cheap thrills from the illusion of very big monsters trashing some very small buildings, trains, and people. This has manifested itself in a number of ways: I like the original King Kong, especially the bits where the giant gorilla is chasing Carl Denham's crewmen through the jungle, or doing battle with a stegosaurus.

After awhile I discovered the classic stop-motion animation of Ray Harryhausen in movies such as Earth vs. the Flying Saucers or It Came from Beneath the Sea (and, as I discovered later, Harryhausen had actually worked on Kong). But my favourite genre of monster movie is the kind that comes from Japan: especially so if it features a 400-foot-tall, radioactive lizard.

"Godzilla" is a very bad transliteration of the Japanese name Gojira, which apparently comes from a combination of the words for gorilla and whale. Of course, Godzilla looks nothing like either a gorilla or a whale.

Anyone who has seen one of the many Godzilla sequels is well aware of their campy, often-unintentional comedic style. It certainly came as a surprise to me to discover that the first Godzilla, made in 1954, was not only quite serious, but quite dark - it is a bona fide horror movie (such as they were in that era). It's well known that Godzilla is an allegory for the nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II, as well as the relentless firebombing of Tokyo: Godzilla is a mutant dinosaur created by nuclear testing that wreaks havoc on Japan. In the end, a scientist has the ability to destroy the giant monster with an ultimate weapon, but he is very reluctant to make use of such a powerful destructive force.

The original Japanese cut of Godzilla (which I have not yet seen and was not available for North American viewing before 2004) is apparently quite dark and brooding, which is understandable given Japan's war-weariness less than 10 years after Hiroshima. However, the more familiar American cut is less so - after all, it was us Allies that were raining destruction down on Japan in the first place. In the American version, several minutes have been cut out and replaced with scenes of Raymond Burr as an American reporter caught in Japan as Godzilla begins his reign of terror. Burr never went to Japan, nor did he actually interact with any of the Japanese cast, although the clever editing does conceal the fact somewhat.

I guess that somewhere along the line, someone realized that such a sombre monster movie was a little ridiculous, and none of the sequels take themselves half as seriously. Godzilla himself plays varous roles, from an unstoppable, destructive force of nature, to a superhero, the defender of Japan, and the friend of microshorts-wearing schoolboys named Ken. The original series of movies got progressively sillier until Toho let the whole franchise lie fallow for about 10 years before rebooting the concept in the early 80s for another run.

No one is ever going to accuse Godzilla of being great cinema. Indeed, it seems to me that there is always one execrably bad special effect in each movie - so much so that I wonder whether it was done on purpose. In Godzilla vs. Monster Zero, for example, Godzilla does a victory jig after defeating the three-headed gold lamé dragon King Ghidorah for the first time. In another movie, he plays a game of ping-pong with a giant shrimp and a boulder. In yet another, he uses his atomic breath as a rocket to propel himself through the air.

But who watches Godzilla for intelligent plotting or expensive eye candy? The point is, a guy in a rubber lizard suit trashes remarkably detailed miniatures of Tokyo. He looks like he's having a ball doing it, and we have a ball watching it. Godzilla is Saturday-afternoon popcorn fare, not serious cinema.

So it's ironic that if it weren't for Godzilla, I probably never would have gained much of an interest in any other Japanese cinema. If not for the guy in the rubber suit, I wouldn't have paid any attention at all to the more serious films of Akira Kurosawa, whom I discovered for the first time about a year and a half ago.

So chalk up Godzilla and its many sequels as one of my "guilty pleasures." My favourite of the lot is probably the aforementioned Godzilla vs. Monster Zero, which has a lot of things going for it: King Ghidorah, the "victory jig," Nick Adams, silly dubbed English, and sillier alien costumes for the invaders from "Planet X."

One more thing: The Great Green One isn't actually green; he's grey.

February is Blog History Month

This time last year, I decided that February was a good time to get a little more personal in my posts. So for the month, I instituted a mini-series called "Four February Fridays of Fabulous Frivolity" (or F5 for short).

In typical Crusty Curmudgeon fashion, there weren't four of them, at least one was posted on a Saturday, and one was in March.

Well, at least I tried. But this year, I'm going to try harder: so starting tonight, I'm going to post, one every February Friday, one Thing About Me: guilty pleasures, hobbies, that sort of thing.

In addition, I'm going to do something that I've been wanting to do for a while now: blog about my blogroll. It so happens that at this moment, there are exactly 28 individual blogs on the roll: coincidentally, one for every day of February. (Of course, this means that I'm already 2 days behind.) These are the blogs I scan first and daily. What I'll do, in some way, is post a bit about how each blog came to be there and why I enjoy it.

*sigh* Just one more thing not to finish; why do I commit myself to these projects? 8-)