February 11, 2012

Saturday in the wild: February 11, 2012

Another weekend, another pile of bloggy goodness for y'all to work through. Better late then never!

Xkcd pulled off another laugh-out-loud moment. If this happened to Alex Jones, it would be like the purest of poetic justice.

Douglas Wilson caught the nominally pro-life Ron Paul on the Piers Morgan program recently, flubbing on the "hard case" of rape:

On the pro-life thing, he was asked about abortion in the case of rape. The answer to this, incidentally, is straightforward—when a woman conceives as the result of a rape, there is one guilty party, and two innocent parties. What the pro-aborts want to do is change the ratios—they want one victim instead of two, and they want two perpetrators instead of one. They want the man who took what didn't belong to him to be joined by a woman who imitates him by taking what doesn't belong to her.

In response to this question, Ron Paul said that a woman who is raped should go to an emergency room immediately, and get a shot of estrogen, which would prevent the implantation of a conceived child in the uterine wall. Further, he said that he would administer that shot of estrogen. Piers Morgan, astonished, said that he thought Ron Paul believed life begins at conception. Ron Paul said that he did, but that we don't know at that point whether the woman is pregnant.

This, in effect, was saying that if we don't know if someone is living in a room then it must be okay to fill it up with poison gas. This example might seem beside the point because, if we did that, we would eventually have to carry a dead body out. But, in the case of this small victim, nobody ever needs to know. But, speaking frankly, and just between us, "nobody need ever know" is not exactly a pro-life rallying cry.

[Read Four/Fifths of the Brimstone]

The transcript of this program is also available.

I am impressed with both the volume and quality of the apologetics put out by Steve and the gang at Triablogue—usually you'd get one or the other. They have written an e-book in response to John Loftus' over-optimistically named The End of Christianity, titled The End of Infidelity. I look forward to reading it.

From the sublime to the ridiculous: Kelsey Johnson wrote an op-ed in Carleton University's student newspaper The Charlatan, complaining about Tim Hortons' recent coffee-cup resizing (and introduction of a new, 24-ounce extra-large size). Yes, this is actually written by an upper-year journalism student:

At a time when obesity and excessive caffeine intake are becoming serious health concerns across the country, I’m beginning to wonder: Is it time for Tims—which many consider to be our national brand—to start taking responsibility for the nation’s health?

[Read Tim Hortons' New Cups are Irresponsible]

Poor Kelsey. Apparently it's never occurred to her that Canadians can take responsibility for their own health, and if an oil-drum-sized coffee is too much, we can always buy a smaller one. The free market. It's a wonderful thing.

Ottawa's other student paper, The Fulcrum, also had something to say about coffee (albeit something more helpful):

Last week, I strolled into Timothy's on Laurier Avenue and confidently ordered a macchiato. "What exactly do you mean by that?" asked the barista, much to my surprise. Bewildered, I stammered some explanation of what Starbucks led me to believe a macchiato was. "No," said the barista. "What you want is a latte."

If you're as coffee illiterate as I found myself to be, then you're in need of a little espresso education. Ordering a complex coffee will never be easier than after you peruse the Fulcrum’s guide to basic caffeine-crammed drinks.

[Read Café de Dummy, Please]

Second Cup used to offer a Red Eye on their menu, a few years ago. I don't think it's there anymore, but I've sometimes wondered if they'd make one on request. I'm drinking a homemade one now, as I write this. Eeeyowza, it's a kick in the pants.

Perhaps a Starbucks (or Second Cup or Timothy's, I'm not picky) barista can explain to me whether there's actually any difference between a latte and a cappuccino, if I order a venti/extra large one or the other in your establishment.

John Starke at the Gospel Coalition wrote an intriguing piece about bad art:

Shrigley's doodles don't aim at aesthetics. Instead, as Jonah Weiner observes, "The overall effect is like discovering the sketchbook of a boy who taught himself to draw while locked in a basement." Brilliance. . . .

But before you roll your eyes at "what passes as art these days," consider the following.

David Shrigley is no art slack. He graduated from Glasgow School of Art, has written the libretto for an opera, published dozens of books, and has released a spoken-word CD. Not to mention that he more commonly makes a living off his photographs and sculptures. . . .

One wonders if this is the mischievous plot behind Shrigley's art. Doodling about "death, weird sex, and cruelty" changes refrigerator art to avant-garde, and every time someone says, "Mmm . . . stunning," at his Hayward Gallery exhibition in London, Shrigley snorts a little of his champagne back into his glass.

But I think there is something deeper going on.

[Read Bad Art Doesn't Exist Apart from the Good]

Starke's article is very Schaeffer-esque. One of my favourite works by Francis Schaeffer was Art and the Bible, in which (in part) he argues that there can be good art with a bad message. Similarly, I suppose, there is such a thing as bad art with a sophisticated message. But, as Starke says, this kind of bad art can only exist as a tacit admission that there is better art. It is self-reflexively second-rate.

This reminds me that it's been years since I've read Douglas Wilson and Douglas Jones' fine book, Angels in the Architecture.

Also at the Gospel Coalition blog, Chris Bruno answers one of those perennial Bible difficulties: how could Lot be considered righteous by Peter (2 Pet. 2:7), considering he doesn't come off so well in Genesis?

Lot was righteous in the same way that you and I are righteous—by trusting in the God of Abraham. God remembered Abraham (Gen 19:29), whose faith was counted to him as righteousness (Gen 15:6). The only biblically consistent answer to the question of how Lot was righteous (2 Pet 2:7) is that he, like Abraham, believed God. Lot was righteous not because he acted perfectly in the incident with the two strangers in Genesis 19—far from it. But we know from Peter that he was troubled by the sin he saw around him day after day.

[Read You Asked: How Could Sinful Lot Have Been Righteous?]

Something much the same could be said of the biblical judges, such as Samson or Jephthah, who are commended for their faith in Hebrews 11. They were tragically flawed—Samson was a philanderer and Jephthah a hothead—but in spite of their significant foolish acts, they believed God, and trusted him for their triumph over Israel's enemies.

Yet again from the Gospel Coalition, Mike Cosper writes about one of those significant, modern American novelists whom I am just starting to discover, Cormac McCarthy:

Reading McCarthy's books, you'll observe a theme of fire and light in his books. "Carrying the fire" is discussed often in The Road, a shorthand way that the father speaks to his son about maintaining dignity, humanity, and courage in the midst of apocalyptic anarchy. That theme appears in No Country for Old Men and The Border Trilogy as well—the thread of hope for humanity appears as light flickering in the darkness. In Suttree, the lead character is a remarkably decent man, living among a collection of amusing and broken miscreants.

The standout in McCarthy's work is nature itself. Humanity is dark and prone to great, catastrophic evil, but nature is profoundly beautiful in McCarthy's. His eloquence comes alive when he talks about rivers and streams, horses and fish. The final few sentences of The Road contain a description of trout that, if you've ever caught one and held it in your hand under the summer sun, is absolutely perfect.

[Read Cormac McCarthy: Judges in the American Canon]

Finally, Justin Taylor highlighted a production of Hamlet that finally makes sense: the recent Royal Shakespeare Society production starring David Tennant as Hamlet, and Patrick Stewart as Claudius. I hadn't heard of this one previously, perhaps because it has only recently become available on DVD, but with Doctor Who and Professor X starring, how could I possibly resist? Personally, I never thought Hamlet didn't make sense, but maybe seeing this production alongside something more conventional (e.g. the BBC production from the 1980s, coincidentally also with Stewart as Claudius, and Derek Jacobi as Hamlet) might make this clear. If you're in the States, PBS has made this production viewable online. Sadly, I'll have to get my fix elsewhere. Fortunately the public library has a copy.

And that's a wrap. Until next Friday, enjoy.