December 25, 2014

Unto us a Son is given

Every Christmas, we commemorate the birth of Christ. Often this means that sentimental visions of nativity scenes, and songs about silent nights and the little Lord Jesus in his manger, dance in our heads. But the birth of Jesus was just the starting point in his earthly ministry. At Christmas, we celebrate not merely his birth, but his Incarnation: as the apostle John wrote, "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:14). The Incarnation—God becoming a man—is the basis of the theology of the New Testament.

The Incarnation brings God close to us

Matthew wrote that the virgin birth was to "fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 'Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel' (which means, God with us)" (Matt. 1:22-23). What the prophet Isaiah wrote symbolically, eight centuries earlier, actually happened at the dawn of the first century: Jesus Christ is, literally, "God with us."

God being made flesh in the person of Jesus means that he is not a disinterested spectator viewing human suffering from afar. The Creator actually entered into his own creation and participated in humanity along with the rest of us, along with our sufferings and temptations. The author of Hebrews writes, "Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things. . . . For because he himself has suffered when tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted" (Heb. 2:14). Jesus was baptized by John, not because he needed ritual purification, as he was sinless, but to "fulfill all righteousness" (Matt. 3:15). He did it to identify with us, because we do need to be purified.

The Incarnation shows us God's character

In Jesus' teaching, we see God's teaching. In his miracles, we see God's power. Jesus said that he never did anything of his own initiative; it was his Father doing his own work through him. If you want to see God&'s compassion, see Jesus' healing miracles. If you want to see God's judgment, see Jesus' rebuke of the hypocritical Pharisees. If you want to see divine love, see the way Jesus loved sinners. To see what God is like, just look at Jesus.

The Incarnation shows Jesus' true humanity

As evangelical Christians, we do not compromise on the doctrine of the deity of Christ. He was no mere philosopher or great teacher; he was God in human form. The miracle of the virgin birth shows his divinity: he was not born of ordinary human parents.

Unfortunately, we often over-emphasize Jesus' divinity at the expense of his humanity. There is a surprising and unsettling tendency in some conservative churches to downplay or deny that Mary was the mother of Jesus in a meaningful sense. (I've actually heard some people claim that Mary was merely an "incubator" for his human body.) Likely, they are reacting against Roman Catholic claims concerning Mary as the "mother of God"—which, properly understood, is an affirmation of Christ's deity, not of Mary's exalted status. In rightly rejecting one extreme, some evangelicals have gone too far and embraced another.

The virgin birth shows Jesus' humanity as well as his deity. The New Testament gives us two genealogies of Jesus (Matt. 1:1-17; Luke 3:23-38). It is generally assumed that one of them traces his line through Mary. If so, then Jesus is not merely an avatar of God come to earth in a human body. He is truly a Son of Adam, and a genuine member of the human race.

The Incarnation makes Jesus a perfect priest

A priest is a person who is appointed to mediate for his people in religious services. In the Mosaic covenant, the priestly functions were carried out by the descendants of Moses' brother Aaron. They carried out the animal sacrifices in the temple of Yahweh, which were intended to forgive the sins of the Israelites. The high priest alone was permitted to enter into the Holiest of Holies, the innermost sanctuary of the temple that originally housed the Ark of the Covenant, which was associated with the presence of God. The priest would sprinkle sacrificial blood on the mercy seat that covered the Ark once a year, on the Day of Atonement.

Jesus was not a Levite or a descendant of Aaron, so he was not qualified to be an Aaronic priest. The author of Hebrews describes him instead as a priest "after the order of Melchizedek." Melchizedek is a rather obscure figure from the Old Testament, described as the "king of Salem" and a "priest of God Most High" (Genesis 14:18). Following a battle in which Abraham rescued his nephew Lot who had been abducted, Melchizedek brought Abraham bread and wine and also received a tenth of the spoils as tribute.

The reasoning of Hebrews goes like this: Since Abraham paid tribute to Melchizedek and received a blessing from him, Melchizedek is superior to Abraham, and also Abraham's descendants, the Levitical priests (Heb. 7:4-10). The author also notes that Melchizedek has no recorded genealogy: "neither beginning of days nor end of life" (Heb. 7:3). He resembles Christ, who, being God, has existed from all eternity and lives forever.

Therefore, Christ is a far greater priest than Aaron and his children: not because of his family line, but because he has always been. And because he is tied to Melchizedek and not to Aaron, he is not a Jewish priest for the Jewish people, but one who can intercede before God for all of humanity. Unlike the Aaronic priests, he does not die and need to be replaced, and has no need to offer sacrifices for his own sins first. "Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them" (Heb. 7:25).

The Incarnation makes Jesus a perfect Saviour

The sacrificial system of the Mosaic law taught two important lessons. First, forgiveness was available for sin. Second, to receive forgiveness, something had to die. The flaw in the Mosaic system was that the blood shed by an animal could never take away sins completely, so the rituals had to be repeated, time after time, year after year.

But this flaw was by design. The sacrificial system was a foreshadowing of the coming of the Messiah. It was never meant to be an end in itself. As a true man, Jesus Christ is the substitute for humanity that no animal could ever be. As the sinless and perfectly obedient God-man, he had no guilt of his own to make him worthy of execution on the cross. The sin of guilty people was imputed to him, and his righteousness is imputed to them in return. As a perfect priest, he is able to approach God his Father with the perfect sacrifice of his own blood, and through his intercession obtains forgiveness for his people, the church. "For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified" (Heb. 10:14).

When we grasp the importance of the Incarnation, we can truly appreciate the full weight of the meaning of the words announced by angels to the shepherds on that first Christmas night: "Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:11).

November 24, 2014

The Danielle delusion

American Atheists, the secular organization founded in 1963 by the late Madalyn Murray O'Hair, wants you to believe that God is a delusion.

They also want you to believe that their Public Relations Director is a woman.

David Muscato, AA's PR director, made an announcement via the Friendly Atheist blog that he is henceforth to be known as "Danielle": "I’m coming out publicly today as a transgender woman."

Not all at once, of course:

While I have identified internally as a woman for a long time, for now, I will be presenting more-or-less as a man; that is, I will continue to wear mostly traditional men’s clothing, speak in my natural lower voice, and so on.

Nonetheless:

The only real difference for now is that, going forward, I prefer to be called Danielle instead of Dave, and I prefer the use of feminine personal pronouns (she/her rather than he/him).

Behold "Danielle":

["Danielle" Muscato]

An adage from Abraham Lincoln comes to mind, about what happens when you call a calf's tail a leg.

The irony is especially thick when you consider that Muscato is an officer of a rationalist organization, and makes his announcement with the support of his superiors. American Atheists' statement of aims and purposes says:

Atheism may be defined as the mental attitude which unreservedly accepts the supremacy of reason and aims at establishing a life-style and ethical outlook verifiable by experience and scientific method, independent of all arbitrary assumptions of authority and creeds.

I can't speak for everyone, but my experience (viz. my observation of the above photograph) affirms that Muscato is, indeed, a dude. I wonder what the scientific method might tell me about Muscato's maleness or femaleness—say, by administering a a DNA test. Finally, the comments to his Friendly Atheist post consist almost entirely of well-wishers, apparently unreservedly accepting Muscato's pronouncement solely on his authority.

Atheists assert that belief in God is unwarranted given the lack of evidence for his existence. Then they turn around and assert that a woman named Danielle exists, denying all evidence to the contrary. Mark Twain's schoolboy said, "Faith is believing what you know ain't so." Well, thanks to David/Danielle, we now know who makes that leap of faith.

November 08, 2014

And now .. . this - Nov. 8/14

See? I warned you:

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed taking 72 hazardous chemicals off of its approved list of inert ingredients allowed for use in pesticides. . . .

But the inclusion of argon (AR)—a naturally occurring element and the third most abundant gas in the Earth’s atmosphere—has left some people scratching their heads.

[Full Story]

The hard truth is, we need to find ways to reduce our dependency on Big Air. In the meantime, make sure that any air you breathe is locally sourced, fair-trade, and free-range.

November 06, 2014

October 27, 2014

And now . . . this - Oct. 27/14

We are now officially stupider as a species for having to say this, but . . .

The U.S. Forest Service at Taylor Creek Visitor Center in South Lake Tahoe say visitors are risking their lives in the hunt for a unique profile picture by approaching the bears.

‘We've had mobs of people that are actually rushing toward the bears trying to get a “selfie” photo,’ Lisa Herron, spokesperson for the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit told Reno Gazette-Journal.

[Full Story]

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Why is it that you need a license to buy a gun or catch fish, but anyone with a smartphone and a double-digit IQ can go out in the bush and take a picture of himself with a bear?

October 23, 2014

The shocking truth about the basic necessities of life

I used to make a hobby out of reading and collecting examples of various kinds of crackpottery. At some point, though, I lost interest. I think I just became overwhelmed (and not a little bit discouraged) at the sheer volume of anti-intellectual nonsense that floats around on the Internet.

My latest thing to follow in that vein is Vani Hari, aka The Food Babe. Hari is a crusader against all kinds of foodborne injustice. She is arguably best known for her campaign that pressured Subway into removing the additive azodicarbonamide from their sandwich bread. However, this additive decomposes when baked into gases such as nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide—all of which are harmless when eaten—as well as a harmless amount of ammonia gas. Hari is not a food scientist, medical doctor, nutritionist, dietician, or any other sort of expert in the field, and it shows. Her recent tirade against Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte complained that it contained "[a]bsolutely no real pumpkin in ingredients." (Of course not: it is flavoured with pumpkin spice, the spice mixture used to flavour pumpkin pies: typically some combination of allspice, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg.) To date, however, her most hysterical raving has been against microwave ovens, in which she decries "unnecessary daily exposure to radiation": "Afer all, human cells are made of molecules and molecule bonds are broken and destroyed when exposed to radiation." She clearly does not understand the difference between ionizing (e.g. X-rays, gamma rays) and non-ionizing radiation (e.g. microwaves, radio waves, visible light).

Another site that similarly takes the cake is Realfarmacy.com, which exposed the "horrifying fact" that Big Macs contain, of all things, cellulose. You may never want to eat a vegetable again.

Health sites may very well raise legitimate concerns about the food we eat. Fresh food prepared yourself is probably better for you, and fast foods do contain a lot of salt, sugar, and fat that we can all probably do without, at least on a regular basis. But all too often, any legitimate concerns get buried in a sea of pseudoscience that takes a number of forms, including:

  • "Chemicals" are bad for you, and if you can't pronounce it, you probably shouldn't eat it. (Never mind that even a fresh, organic fruit will naturally contain as many, if not more, unpronounceable "chemicals" as part of its intrinsic makeup, as anything you buy at a McDonald's.)
  • This substance has been proven toxic to rats. (But usually in amounts that are orders of magnitude beyond what humans will come in contact with. Also, remember that substances that are toxic to animals might still be safe for humans: daylilies are harmful to cats, but edible for people; chocolate is awesome for humans, but very dangerous for dogs.)
  • A food substance or additive is also used in the manufacture of non-food items, e.g. azodicarbonamide used in commercial bread is also used in the manufacture of yoga mats. You don't want to eat something that someone's sweaty butt has rubbed all over, do you? (This particular argument commits the logical fallacy of division: that each component part of a whole shares the same properties as the whole. Just because eating a yoga mat is bad for you, doesn't mean everything used to make the yoga mat is bad for you. For example, the puffed corn starch used to make biodegradable packing peanuts is the same stuff used to make cheese puffs.)
  • A food substance or additive can also be found in other non-edible or unpleasant substances. (Cellulose is found in wood, therefore Big Macs are really bad for you. Cellulose is a structural component of plant cell walls; want to bet that a Big Mac's cellulose comes from the lettuce, onions, and pickles?)
  • A food substance or additive is derived from non-edible or unpleasant sources. For example, shellac (used to make candies or pharmaceuticals shiny) comes from bugs, and the musk glands of beavers have been used as a source for natural vanilla flavouring. (Here, at least, we have a somewhat legitimate concern: if you are squeamish about eating insect secretions or beaver butts, you would be wise to read the label. However, keep in mind that the source of something does not necessarily determine how safe it is to eat.)
  • This food is, or contains, a genetically modified organism (GMO). (Never mind that a comprehensive study of 100 billion animals has found no issues with a diet of genetically engineered feed.)

These fallacious arguments are often accompanied with (and made palatable by) attractive-looking graphics. I've wanted to try my hand at building infographics for some time—so, I thought, why shouldn't I get in on the scaremongering game? Behold the infographic that will completely change your life! You'll be shocked at what you put in your body over 20,000 times per day.

[The Air That You Breathe: And Why You Shouldn't Breathe It]

The worst thing about air, however, is this: It isn't even organic or vegan.

October 07, 2014

The Vegan Monologues, at a dinner theatre near you

And now, this: California-style, weapons-grade moonbattery courtesy of one Kelly Atlas, under the auspices of an animal-rights group calling itself "Direct Action Everywhere".

This utter loon walks into a restaurant, where coincidentally the PA system is playing "My Girl," and delivers a monologue about her girl: "I have a little girl. She was very abused for her entire life. She was terrified. . . . And she was hurt and abused her entire life because of this establishment and because of establishments like it." And so forth.

Of course, as the weepy, blonde monologue progresses, it is eventually revealed that her "little girl" is actually a chicken named "Snow" whom Kelly apparently "rescued" (read: stole) from a commercial farm or some such place. Kelly's lachrymose jeremiad continues, bemoaning the fate of Snow's "sisters": "And right now their eggs and their milk and their bodies are on plates inside this restaurant, and that is so unfair to them!" she wails.

Behold the certifiable delirium that is the modern animal-rights movement:

Direct Action Everywhere writes, on their Web site, explaining why they engage in "direct action":

The passion of the movement for animal liberation is unmatched. Many of us have cried countless tears of pain, as we have heard, seen, and even felt the oppression and violence imparted on our non-human sisters and brothers.

Of course, they don't really believe this, and they say so: the hashtag in the YouTube video title is #DisruptSpeciesism. If a chicken truly is my brother or sister, then eating him might be racism or sexism, but it isn't speciesism. Direct Action Everywhere doesn't want to stop animals from eating other animals. If they really believed humans and animals were brethren, they'd try to stop animals from eating meat, or they wouldn't try to make humans stop eating meat, against their nature. Their aims contradict their presuppositions, and so their message is incoherent as well as risible.

As I wrote a few months ago, "there is a significant categorical and moral difference between human beings and animals. One is made in the image of God, and the rest are a gift of God for our use (Genesis 9:3)." Snow isn't made in the image of God, and it's going to take a lot more than a crocodile-tear-jerking homily from a flaky Californian to convince me I can't turn her into delicious chicken tenders.

And now . . . this - Oct 7/14

These days I consider myself lucky if I can grab a couple of weird news stories in a day. So today is a smorgasbord!

A mother of a 4-year-old was arrested after her daughter brought heroin into a daycare and began passing it out to other children, Delaware State Police say. . . .

Police say a 4-year-old girl unknowingly brought the small bags of heroin into the childcare in a backpack that her mother gave her after hers had become ruined by the family pet sometime in the night.

Upon thinking the packets were candy, she began passing them out to her classmates.

[Full Story]

Kids these days.

Of course, she's probably the driving force behind the class president by now.

October 04, 2014

Superman Saturday: Ain't it a shame about the radium rain?

Clark Kent and Lois Lane are in New Birmingham to interview Lois' uncle, meteorologist Horace Morton, who has a supposedly foolproof method for predicting the weather. They soon learn, however, that he has discovered a means to control the weather, and is being used by a criminal syndicate to aid them in their crimes.

Dr. Morton was also aiding a local radium refinery to find a new process for refining pitchblende ore. When Clark and Lois discover his assistant dead, with a handful of pitchblende, the police arrest Morton for murder. However, the syndicate actually committed the murder, and also abducted Morton from the jail . . .

October 03, 2014

Friday in the wild: October 3, 2014

I haven't done a Friday in the Wild for a few weeks, so while it might look like I'm playing catch-up, it is in fact a doozy of a week. Lots of interesting stuff to share. So, without further ado:

Come Reason posted this about the rise in relativism in Christian youth:

This kind of thinking is how tyranny is born. If one cannot tell another his actions are evil, then they will continue until those that would dare to oppose immorality are themselves labelled as immoral. . . . And now, the kids we send to college hold not the belief that they cannot stand their moral ground, but that they should not stand their moral ground, because to do so is itself an immoral act!

[Read The Epidemic of Relativism Among Christian Youth]

Woe unto anyone who declares woe unto anyone.

And now . . . this - Oct. 3/14

Some pig

At a campground in Western Australia over the weekend, a feral pig guzzled down 18 beers that had been left out improperly secured. And just like anyone 18 beers in at a rural dive bar, the pig got big-headed and decided to start a fight with a cow, resulting in the cow chasing the pig around a car.

[Full Story]

Oh dear. Wilbur's on a bender.

September 27, 2014

Superman Saturday: Robbery, assault and battery

Clark and Lois are assigned to interview Lois' uncle, meteorologist Horace Morton, at his observatory outside the town of New Birmingham. Morton has an uncanny ability to predict the weather with near-perfect accuracy, and Perry White wants to know how.

However, there is apparently also a connection between Dr. Morton's predictions and a crime spree in New Birmingham. Morton's assistant Elmer Rogers knows something but is afraid to let Clark and Lois know what he knows in Morton's presence. Then, during a freak hailstorm, Lois and Clark hear a gunshot, and discover Rogers dead . . .

Episode 54: Horace Morton's Weather Machine, Part 3 (1940/06/14)

Listen!

Clark and Lois examine the body of Elmer Rogers, and Clark finds the gun that was used to shoot him. Just then, Dr. Morton comes in. He behaves quite erratically: he suggests that the fatal wound was self-inflicted, and despite Clark's warning he picks up the gun and examines it as if tampering with a crime scene is the most normal thing in the world. When Clark tells him to call the police, he questions whether they need to be involved.

September 25, 2014

Sleep with one eye open, gripping your pillow tight

A lightning review of Doctor Sleep by Stephen King (New York: Gallery–Simon & Shuster, 2013). Trade paperback, 531 pp.

In Stephen King's Doctor Sleep, child protagonist Danny Torrence is now in his 40s and goes by "Dan." Traumatized by the events of The Shining and self-medicating to suppress his psychic abilities, Dan is now an alcoholic. When he drifts into a New Hampshire town, he quits drinking, joins AA, and lands a job in a hospice. He becomes known as "Doctor Sleep" because his psychic "shine" (re-emerged since he gave up alcohol) enables him to comfort and ease the passage of terminal patients.

Meanwhile, a young girl named Abra Stone, born shortly before 9/11, has manifested a shine of her own that is possibly even more powerful than Dan's. As she grows up, the two of them share a psychic bond. Abra unintentionally has a vision of the ritual murder of a boy in Iowa by the "True Knot," a band of vampire-like roamers who feed of the psychic "steam" given off by those who die in pain. This brings her to the attention of the True, who realize they could feed off her for a very long time.

I've been reading Stephen King's works in order, but I decided to let Doctor Sleep jump the queue, as I mentioned earlier this month. I'm glad I did. (I should make a general policy of reading King's new novels while playing catch-up with the older ones.) King has called this novel a "return to balls-to-the-wall, keep-the-lights-on horror," but I'm not sure if I found it to be that, exactly. The Shining was pretty much a straight-up ghost story-cum-psychological thriller. King's work since about the mid-1990s has been as much fantasy as horror, and Doctor Sleep seems to fit that mould pretty well.

Actually, the horror-fantasy and the very weird antagonists make this novel feel like it was conceived by Clive Barker before it was written by Stephen King. But it was fun to read nonetheless. Apart from the ongoing Dark Tower series, sequels by King are few and far between, so it was interesting to read what had happened to one of his earliest, most engaging characters.

By the way, this is the first time that a Stephen King cover has made me jump. I only noticed today what was in the background behind the text.

Sure, it's less than a week till the end of the month, but Science Fiction-Free September moves apace. On deck: In Cold Blood.

September 24, 2014

And now . . . this - Sept. 24/14

On 22 September 2014, a strange story of body modification appeared on the social web. According to several circulating articles, a Florida woman named Jasmine Tridevil underwent cosmetic surgery to add a "third breast" to her body. . . .

the Tampa television station (WTSP) that recently interviewed "Jasmine Tridevil" reported that earlier in the month Alisha Hessler had filed a stolen baggage complaint at Tampa International Airport that listed a "3 breast prosthesis" among the items lost. . . .

[Full Story]

Surprise, surprise, surprise.

Well, good luck getting that reality show now, Jaz.

September 22, 2014

And now . . . this - Sept. 22/14

A Tampa massage therapist who calls herself "Jasmine Tridevil" says she spent $20,000 on a procedure to add a third breast to her chest. . . .

"My whole dream is to get this show on MTV,” she told Real Radio. “I got it because I wanted to make myself unattractive to men. Because I don’t want to date anymore . . . Most guys would think [the extra breast is] weird and gross. But I can still feel pretty because if I wore makeup and cute clothes, I can still, you know . . . feel pretty."

[Full Story]

Really? Speaking for myself as a man, the vampire makeup did the trick pretty well without the help of the vandalism and stripper name.

September 20, 2014

Superman Saturday: Raindrops keep falling on my head

Aaaand . . . we're back, after a one-week hiatus. This week: a new Superman adventure: "Horace Morton's Weather Machine." So, without further ado . . .

Episode 52: Horace Morton's Weather Machine, Part 1 (1940/06/10)

Listen!

Clark Kent and Lois Lane are called into Perry White's office with a new assignment. Dr. Horace Morton is a leading private meteorologist with an uncanny accuracy—"practically 100 percent correct," as Perry puts it—but he refuses to reveal his prediction system. He also happens to be Lois' uncle, so Perry wants her to take advantage of the family relationship to try and soak him for his secret. (I'm sure there's a conflict of interest involved here, but this is a children's program, so we don't have to worry about such trivial matters as journalistic ethics.) Lois is reluctant, but relents, and she and Clark drive to the town of New Birmingham, where Morton lives at an observatory atop Music Mountain with his man Friday, Elmer Rogers. "Give my regards to Uncle Horace," snarks Perry.

September 06, 2014

Superman Saturday: Treasure, that is what you are, honey, you're my golden star

Here we go again! We're on the home stretch of "Alonzo Craig, Arctic Explorer."

Clark Kent is on assignment in the Arctic, in search of the missing explorer, the aforementioned Captain Craig. He and his navigator, Captain Walters (whose first name, we now learn, is Ike) have rescued fellow searchers Ray Martin, also of the Daily Planet, and Professor Peters, from the museum, from the Kunalaka Indians. Martin died shortly after revealing the location of the Indians' treasure hoard, hidden in a sunken temple carved into the Arctic ice. Clark, Peters, and Walters explore the temple, where Clark (as Superman) confronts the Kunalakas' never-dying medicine man—none other than Alonzo Craig himself, apparently gone mad. . . .

September 04, 2014

The anniversary and the moratorium

Welcome to September 4. This is the official 11th anniversary of this blog—though it was actually created in July of 2003, the first post went up in September. This has traditionally also been the date on which I rolled out a new look for the Crusty Curmudgeon, though this is something I've done very little of in recent years. Ever since they rolled out Blogger 2.0 some years ago, re-skinning a Blogger blog has meant more than just writing up a new HTML template and style sheet. I already know what I want the next iteration of the CC to look like, and plan on learning the new language. Sometime.

September 4 is one of two times of the year that I tend to reflect on the state of the blog, the other being New Year's Day. Usually I don't have much to say in September, either than that my writing hasn't been as prolific as I hoped, but I expect to get better, and despite my decreased output, I'm not going anywhere just yet. So, by way of my twice-yearly status updates: Unfortunately, my blogging hasn't been as prolific as I would like (though it has increased recently), I expect to post more in coming weeks, and despite my decreased output, the Crusty Curmudgeon is not dead yet. So there.

September 01, 2014

Superman Long Weekend: We come from the land of ice and snow

Happy Labour Day! There's nothing like a long weekend for relaxing, resting, and taking in the simple pleasure of a pulp radio serial. So we return to the adventures of Superman and "Alonzo Craig, Arctic Explorer."

Clark Kent has been dispatched to Ellesmere Island in the Arctic to determine the whereabouts of vanished Arctic explorer Alonzo Craig, or of fellow Daily Planet reporter Ray Martin and Professor Peters, who also disappeared after going in search of Craig. Captain Walters, Craig's crusty navigator, thinks the explorer might have discovered the Luck of the North, a vast treasure hoard possessed by a tribe of white-skinned Indians who live in the Arctic and are ruled by a witch doctor who is rumoured to never die.

In spite of a seemingly supernatural warning to stay away, Clark and Walters travel by dogsled and find an igloo that is the last known location of Martin and Peters. There, they are ambushed by the Indians, and Walters is injured. Clark changes to Superman and fights their attackers off. Inside the igloo, they find a mysterious clue to the fate of the previous search party . . .

August 28, 2014

If you can't stop rape completely, you might as well not bother trying

Anyone remember back when feminism was about empowering women instead of perpetuating a state of victimhood?

This, from Newsweek:

Four students from North Carolina State University have invented a nail varnish that detects common date rape drugs by changing colour. . . .

The nail varnish indicates the presence of date rape drugs, such as Rohypnol, Xanax and GHB, by changing colour after being dipped in the drink.

[Full Story]

Huzzah! Another tool with the potential to stop a very serious crime even before it start. It never hurts to help!

Right?

August 26, 2014

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

Sum Ting Wong

The Philadelphia Public Record newspaper has apologized for using racial slurs in a photo caption depicting City Councilman Mark Squilla with a group of Asians in Chinatown, referring to some in the photo as "Chinky Winky," "Dinky Doo," and "Me Too."

[Full Story]

"That editor is a Britisher," Tayoun explained, puzzlingly. "He didn't mean anything by it. The Public Record is the most inclusive publication in Philadelphia."

[Full Story]

"Didn't mean anything by it"? Good Lord, man, do you know what this means? Tourette syndrome has jumped the tracks and evolved into a written tic in addition to a verbal one!

Moo goo gai pan!

[claps hands over mouth]

Well, there's your problem

Jessie Nizewitz is suing VH1 for $10 million, saying while she agreed to appear on the network's reality show "Dating Naked," she said the network promised to blur out her special lady parts.

They didn't. . . .

She told the New York Post she wants a "huge apology" from the companies, since the show cost her a "budding relationship" with someone she'd been seeing for a month. . . .

"He never called me again after the show aired. I would have hoped we could have had a long-term relationship. He was employed, Jewish, in his 30s and that's pretty much ideal," Nizewitz said.

[Full Story]

Ideal, except apparently for that whole thing about not dating women who go naked on TV on the first date with other men.

August 23, 2014

Superman Saturday: The Flying North Remix

Since the last installment of Superman Saturday, it has been one year and two months, exactly. I was planning on kicking off a fresh "season" with the continuatino of "Alonso Craig, Arctic Explorer," but decided that since a) it's been so long, b) I've still got one or two more things to say about the radio series The Adventures of Superman, and c) I spent the night watching Peter Capaldi's starring debut on Doctor Who, I decided the easiest, most expedient, and smartest thing to do would be to remix and repost the first two episodes, then start fresh next weekend instead.

As I said last year: "Alonso Craig" is another of the "lost explorers discover mysterious natives with ancient treasure" kind of story that we seem to see recurring with early Superman. Of course it's not a unique trope: as I recall, Hergé did it two or three times with Tintin, as well, amongst others. Recycling story lines for the pulps is nothing new.

Without further ado, then, I re-presennt . . .

August 20, 2014

The deaths of Superman

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

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

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

August 18, 2014

Clark Kent, badass

It can't be easy being Clark Kent.

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

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

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

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

August 15, 2014

Friday in the wild: August 15, 2014

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

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

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

August 08, 2014

Friday in the wild: August 8, 2014

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

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

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

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

August 04, 2014

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

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

[Full Story]

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

July 25, 2014

Friday in the wild: July 25, 2014

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

My favourite part:

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Her curiosity oozes through the phone."

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

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

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

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

I think her inner goddess needs to take a leak.

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

July 11, 2014

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

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

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

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

[Full Story]

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

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

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

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

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

July 01, 2014

Canada Day 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy birthday, Canada.

Previous Canada Day songs:

June 27, 2014

Friday in the Wild: June 27, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

Blurred lines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You ask him what it's for.

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

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

Alas, no.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Footnote

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

June 26, 2014

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

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

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

[Full Story]

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

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

Honestly? Seth Rogen makes me mad, too

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

[Full Story]

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

June 25, 2014

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

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

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

[Full Story]

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

June 18, 2014

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

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

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

[Full Story]

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

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

June 17, 2014

It was 20 years ago today

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

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

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

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

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

May 23, 2014

Friday in the Wild: May 23, 2014

This being Friday, once again it is my pleasure to present the various goodness from the Web that made me laugh, pay attention, agree heartily, or just think.

I don't agree with Douglas Wilson on the finer points of theology, but I enjoy reading his writing; he uses well-pointed sarcasm as an art medium. He makes a very good point in last Saturday's post about the whole Michael Sam gay-kiss thing, the revulsion of some at the kiss, and the revulsion of the leftist literati at the revulsion:

As to the charge that I am fighting for Christian privilege, the reply is “you bet I am.” When the Christian faith is privileged, then freedom for everyone becomes a possibility. When Christian privilege is made illegal, and its denunciation mandatory, as it has been in our time, the first thing that happens is that we see the essentially coercive nature of unbelief revealed. Unbelievers have never built a free society and they never will. They have been running this one for just a few minutes now, and they are already driving up and down the streets with their Coercion Trucks, loudspeakers blaring that it is past curfew and we are all supposed to go inside now, place our noses on the specially designated freedom wall, and think grateful thoughts about how much Uplift Congress will be able to generate next session. When we wake up in the morning, we can all have a breakfast of liberty gruel, designed by the first lady’s personal nutritionist and national sadist.

[Read The Gaylag Archipelago]

May 16, 2014

Friday in the wild: May 16, 2014

Another Friday means another great opportunity to share all sorts of goodness from the Web and blogosphere. Out there, they do FridayFollow; here, we do Friday in the Wild. This week, three articles caught my attention.

Yesterday, May 15, was the 30th anniversary of the death of my personal favourite Christian apologist, Francis A. Schaeffer. (As I write this, I have two of his books, The God Who Is There and The Church at the End of the 20th Century, on loan from the library.) I first read Schaeffer in my university years; he was the first step toward my trying to adopt a comprehensive Christian worldview. Over the years I've adopted a certain number of his frequent catchphrases, including "true truth" and "brute fact." Ray Ortlund at The Gospel Coalition expressed his gratitude for Schaeffer's ministry:

All my life I’d been exposed to conventional people using conventional methods, and I don’t mean that in a condescending way. I had the privilege of knowing men of true greatness, like my dad. But Schaeffer was just different. He located the gospel within a total Christian worldview. He talked about modern art and films and books. He spoke with prophetic insight about cultural trends. He worked out fresh ways to articulate old truths, even coining new expressions like "true truth." He had a beard and long hair and dressed like a European. He had Christian radicalism all over him, called for by those radical times. I found him non-ignorable. To this day, I dislike conventionality, partly because I saw in Francis Schaeffer a man who made an impact not by conforming and fitting in but by standing out as the man God made him to be, the man the world needed him to be.

[Read Gratitude for Francis Schaeffer]

May 10, 2014

It: it's the protagonist of It

A lightning review of It by Stephen King (New York: Signet, 1987). Mass-market paperback, 1104 pp.

I have just finished reading Stephen King's It for the second time.

There's a weird feeling about it. It's not the same feeling as the first time, back when It was still on the bestseller lists. Nor is it a sense of accomplishment for making it through a monster novel—at over 1,100 pages, it's one of the longest books most people will ever read—I didn't feel the same thing when I finished Les Misérables in February, and it's longer than It by the length of another entire long novel. For some reason, it was rather like seeing off an old friend you haven't seen in years, after an all-too-brief visit. Closing the novel and putting it down compelled me to sit for about five minutes, pause, and consider. Selah.

An ancient evil lives under the town of Derry, Maine, and every 27 years It comes out of hibernation to feed on local children. It recounts two of these awakenings in parallel. In 1958, the cycle began with the murder of protagonist Bill Denborough's brother George, by a strange clown figure living in the sewer. Bill and a band of his social-outcast friends, drawn together through mutual enmity with the town's gang of bullies, all confront their own manifestations of It. They realize it is up to them to try and stop It. In 1985, the adult Bill (now a bestselling horror novelist and clearly a kind of Mary Sue for King himself) and his friends are reunited when the cycle of death starts again, and they resolve to end It's reign of terror once and for all.

It isn't my favourite of Stephen King's novels (that distinction belongs to his earlier epic The Stand), but I've often remarked that of all Stephen King's books, it's the Stephen Kingiest. It has all the trademarks of a good King yarn: ordinary people, often children or teenagers, thrust into extraordinary circumstances; a haunted town in Maine; an unspeakable horror lurking there; and antagonists who are (to varying degrees) violent, sadistic, or flat-out insane. And lots and lots of death.

Is It worth reading? Oh yes. Of course, if you're a Stephen King fan, you already have. But if you're wondering whether King is worth getting into, and you have the patience for an 1,100-page epic, then I can't think of a better introduction.

May 09, 2014

Friday in the wild: May 9, 2014

Hello! This might be a longer installment than usual, simply because I was unable to post last week, so I have about two weeks of interesting (and now, slightly stale) stuff to pass around. Which is fine with me.

First, an intriguing article from The Art of Manliness, which promotes traditional masculine virtues. It's intriguing not merely because of the subject matter—though as someone who enjoys the occasional glass of whiskey, of course I enjoyed reading about a shared interest—but because the blog owners are Mormons, who would not normally drink alcohol. It's a guest post. Obviously there's plenty of room in the tent for varying views on masculinity! (AoM featured articles on cocktails and pipe smoking as well in the past.)

In spite of its sometimes tumultuous history (see the Whiskey Rebellion), whiskey is a drink that men have enjoyed for centuries. Men like Mark Twain, Winston Churchill (often accompanied with a fine cigar), and Clark Gable imbibed regularly. When one thinks of masculine images, you often conjure up a picture of a man in a tweed coat with a glass of whiskey in his hand by the fire. If you’ve ever wanted to be that man and explore this manly tradition, you’re in luck. While we’ve given you a primer on Scotch whisky, today we’re going to broaden that and talk about whiskey as a whole—especially how to enjoy it!

[Read How to Drink Whiskey]

April 25, 2014

Friday in the wild: April 25, 2014

It's been a while since I've done an edition of FitW (let alone blogged anything at all, for that matter). However, in light of a few recent current events, I felt moved to post something, centred around the theme of same-sex "marriage."

Christians are often asked, "Why are you so obsessed with homosexuality?" My answer is, "Because homosexuality is the wedge issue by which a secular society is trying to vilify and marginalize Christians." Or, as a friend on Facebook has also pointed out, it is actually a sex-obsessed society that is demanding answers from us. (Similarly, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Albert Mohler has said that the media frequently contacts him for an opinion.) It makes you wonder who is really obsessed, doesn't it?

March 28, 2014

And now . . . this - Mar. 28/14

Something smells fishy about this "logic"

The troublesome fish currently known as Asian carp may get a new name in Minnesota over concern that the current one casts people from Asian cultures in a negative light.

Proposals advancing in the Legislature would require the Department of Natural Resources to refer to the fish as "invasive carp," a reference to the threat the non-native fish pose to Mississippi River-area ecosystems.

[Full Story]

Yep. According to Minnesota lawmakers, since Asian carp and Asian people both happen to hail from the same continent, there needs to be a law to protect Asian people from being mistaken for invasive species.

Of course, we might just as easily stereotype the carp as overachievers, violin players, and poor drivers with overbearing parents. Ridiculous thinking, it seems, is a one-way street—even if it's equally ridiculous in both directions.

March 20, 2014

And now . . . this - Mar. 20/14

I told you. Vampires.

Gov. Walker's Facebook and Twitter accounts posted "Philippians 4:13" on Sunday, an apparent reference to a Bible passage.

The FFRF sent the governor a letter Tuesday, asking him to immediately remove the message from his government social media accounts. The letter states, "It is improper for a state employee, much less for the chief executive officer of the state, to use the machinery of the State of Wisconsin to promote personal religious views."

[Source]

Hey FFRF: I realize this isn't Twitter, and it's considerably less than 140 characters, but: Psalm 53:1.

March 17, 2014

And now . . . this - Mar. 17/14

Who are you, hoo-hoo, hoo-hoo

This article is actually a couple of months old, but I came across it and thought it was too good to pass up:

An alleged drunken driver arrested while hiding 30 feet up a tree Friday on I-290 “rambled on about being an owl” when confronted, police wrote in court documents.

Troy A. Prockett, 37, of Hudson, was arraigned Monday on a slew of charges – including third-offense drunken driving – after town firefighters had to use a bucket truck to bring a cop 30 feet into a tree to arrest him.

[Full Story]

Seems like a waste of effort, when all they had to do was trap him using dea mice as bait.

The suspect was later allowed to stay in the tree, after Al Gore pointed out that he was an exceedingly rare sotted owl.

March 12, 2014

Happy birthday, WWW

On March 12, 1989, computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee submitted a proposal for a new, hypertext-based information management system at CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) to address the problem of long-term information loss due to employee turnover. His solution was a non-linear pool of information interconnected with hyperlinks. And hence the World Wide Web was born.

Today, 25 years later, of course the WWW has evolved into a repository of Justin Bieber, pr0n, pictures of cats with amusing captions, and blogs like this one. Occasionally, academic research does still get done.

The original WWW went "live" in 1991. Although it's changed locations, it's still viewable. As an HTML coder, I was eager to view the source just to see how different the original HTML markup was from the current 5th version.

The Web has come a long way in 25 years from those plain grey pages we all discovered back in the early 90s. Sites like Blogger or Facebook simply wouldn't have been possible with the technology of the time; it took about a decade for that. I need to leave a note for myself for March 12, 2039: how will we share our LOLcats then?

And now . . . this - Mar. 12/14

A British woman says she has finally found the true meaning of marriage now that she has divorced her husband and married her dog.

Amanda Rodgers and her dog/wife Sheba appeared on British television's ITV's "This Morning" Tuesday to discuss why she decided to wed her pet in a ceremony attended by 200 people in Croatia last week, reports the Mirror.

"She was two weeks old and she was new to the world—but I fell in love with her," Rodgers, 47, told the show's hosts. "I knew that we were meant to be."

[Full Story]

Well, "marriage equality" advocates should love this one. It hits the trifecta: same-sex, inter-species, and pedophilia.

March 11, 2014

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

Your best take now

You know what I'm having trouble feeling right now? Sympathy.

An estimated $600,000 was stolen from Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church this weekend in Houston.

According to a statement sent to church members, someone allegedly stole cash, checks, and credit card information from the church safe, reported the Houston Chronicle, one of the first of many media outlets to cover the story.

[Full Story]

For some reason, I am most strongly reminded of this verse from the Bible:

[H]ow can someone enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house. (Matt. 12:29)

It was easy to clean out Osteen's church. There wasn't a strong man around.

I do feel for the people who have possibly had their banks accounts or credit cards compromised. As for Osteen himself, well, maybe if the prosperity-gospel huckster had had more faith, this wouldn't have happened. I'm sure the poor soul will have to go a whole extra week before he can polish his solid-gold house again.

March 10, 2014

Are atheists vampires?

Well, they're certainly not the rational and entirely non-superstitious geniuses we're led (by them, of course) to think they are. Case in point:

A group of atheists have launched a legal challenge against the inclusion of the 'miracle cross' from the Twin Towers in the National September 11 Memorial and Museum.

The 17-foot cross that emerged from the rubble at Ground Zero was seen by many rescue workers as a symbol of hope, but now other groups fear that it violates the constitutional divide between church and state.

The group, called American Atheists, says that the cross should not be displayed at all in the museum, and went on to say that if it is included, then there should be a similar panel to represent the atheists who perished at the site.

"We're arguing for equal treatment in some way, whatever that might be," the group's lawyer Edwin Kagin said last week.

[Full Story]

(If you're at a loss to understand how "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion" actually means "The September 11 Memorial and Museum shall not display a structural-steel cross," you're not alone. But I digress.)

When an advocacy group demands "equal treatment" but immediately admits that they have no idea what that means, you know right off the bat that you're not dealing with the brightest (or Bright-est) bulbs in the box. I might be an ignorant right-wing Christian theist, but I have a suggestion: since religions have symbols (like metal crosses), and American Atheists is irreligious, then they need no symbols. I'm sure that where there aren't crosses, there are huge volumes of empty space. Let AA claim those.

Nothing seems to enrage an atheist quite like a cross. I have a theory as to why this is: Atheists are vampires. This is annoying to me, because vampires are cool monsters1, whereas atheists, particularly of the AA stripe, are arrogant, irritating gadflies. Worse than that, they're superstitious, driven to a self-righteous frenzy over having to see a symbol representing a god they don't believe in.

Let them eat crucifix. Watch 'em run!

Footnote

1 The popularity of The Walking Dead aside, zombies are not cool. They're slow, stupid, and easily dealt with. If I were a police chief or mayor of an area with a mob of zombies attacking, I wouldn't waste my time going after them with shotguns and chainsaws. Instead, I'd locate the local vampire clan and hire them to clean up the zombies, promising that they could keep whatever they killed, because who can turn down free food?

And now . . . this - Mar. 10/14

Leave the planet. Take the cannoli.

Sicilian amateur scientists have launched a model cannolo, a cream-stuffed pastry roll symbolic of the Italian island, into the stratosphere, capturing bizarre images of the dessert flying far above the earth.

[Full Story]

Then, after that teaser, Yahoo didn't see fit to provide any of these pictures. Here is one, from another story on the site:

[Space cannolo]

Doesn't it look delicious? Unfortunately:

As a real cannolo would be unlikely to survive the voyage, the group made a model of the cherry-studded pastry with a polymer clay material hardened in an oven.

Numerous Sicilian men then remarked that their wives must make cannoli out of the same material. (Ow! Hey!)

"Sicily has always been a place of negative connotations, mafia and unemployment. We wanted to lift up Sicily in our own way," said filmmaker Fabio Leone, 34, who recorded the project with Antonella Barbera, 38.

This is not helpful, of course, because it only reminds us that in the Godfather trilogy, cannoli were involved in two Mafia murders.

March 08, 2014

Boom

I've often planned to take on the bodily-autonomy argument for abortion rights (aka the "violinist argument" formulated by Judith Jarvis Thomson) as a blog project. I may still do so, but not too soon. It would seem too much like getting on the bandwagon, after Matt Walsh blew it out of the water.

Read. Learn.

I Am Afraid of This Indisputable, Pro-Choice Argument

March 07, 2014

F5 #4: Writer's block

Yes, not only am I late, I'm so late (How late was he?) that I'm writing the last post of February a week into March.

Well, I began this year's F5 theme, pet hates, with good intentions: spend the month when I'm most personal on the blog talking about things I dislike, rather than things I like. I had a pretty good idea what I wanted to say for the first three weeks of February. But I never came up with a fourth topic. My most hated books, music, or movies? Wouldn't know; never had to read, listen to, or watch them. I don't waste time disliking what I don't have to be exposed to.

Which leads me to believe that I'm a lot less cynical or curmudgeonly than I thought. In that case, perhaps I'll just voluntarily close the series off a little early this year, and start thinking about next time. No one's keeping score, right?

On the other hand: I really, really hate not knowing what to say.

February 21, 2014

F5 #3: Can't we all just get along?

I come to this week's F5 installment with six words on my mind: "Judge not, lest ye be judged." All of us are both capable and guilty of doing very irritating things, and I'm sure that if someone else were writing up this blog post, I'd see myself as, in part, the object of their ire. (Let's get pet peeve #1 out of the way: procrastinators. Though it's back-dated on the blog, I'm writing my obligatory February Friday post on Saturday afternoon.)

We have etiquette for a reason. It helps us get along with each other in company. Some past societies have taken the rules of etiquette to a ridiculous extreme, but the point was the same: the art of courtesy and politeness makes our social interactions go a lot more smoothly.

February 14, 2014

F5 #2: Are you gonna eat that? ('Cause I'm not.)

Today is, of course, Valentine's day. Legends about who exactly St. Valentine (or Valentinus) was, are many and conflicting. Some say that he was a priest who refused to stop marrying Christians. Others say he was martyred for attempting to convert the Roman emperor Claudius. I choose to believe that, given the choice between dying for his faith at the hands of the Romans, and facing his girlfriend after he failed to get dinner reservations, he chose the easy way out.

So, in honour of the hardest day of the year to eat out, I present my second pet hate of 2014: the three foods on my "do not serve" list. Note that this isn't quite an absolute list: while under no circumstances would I ever voluntarily serve these abominations to myself, I'm too polite to refuse them if I'm served them as a guest. Usually. And I probably won't look happy.

February 13, 2014

There was a time when men were kind

This week, I met one of my personal milestones: after two and a half years, I finally completed the Victor Hugo novel of 1862, Les Misérables.

In a certain sense, it was actually the second time I'd read the novel. I spent a week in hospital in 1996 with a knee injury, and found an abridged edition in the library. At around 4-500 pages, it was certainly the right length for my stay (and literally the only book in the entire library that I was remotely interested in). And I certainly fell in love with the story.

February 07, 2014

F5 the Sixth: #1: English as she is spoke

Here we go again. Four Fridays of February means four further F5s: Four February Fridays of Fabulous Frivolity.

And, one major headache. This is the sixth time that I have done this blog tradition, in which I extol the virtues of my loves, likes, favourites, guilty pleasures, and bad habits. Over the years I've covered such eclectic topics as shaving habits, preferred aftershaves, fountain pens, Godzilla, Doctor Who, wine, spicy foods, Arnold Schwarzenegger, William Shakespeare, Buffalo wings, 80s pop music, James Bond, coffee, and comic books. That's a somewhat fair snapshot of the simple pleasures I enjoy, so it's actually getting harder to come up with new ideas, unless you want to read me extolling the virtues of, say, tasty ice water, or why spiral-bound books are better than Cerlox.

So I thought that this year I'd do something different this year, and talk about my favourite pet hates. I don't mean the things that I genuinely and deeply loathe, like abortion or ScientologyTM. Rather, I mean pet peeves, or severe annoyances: the things that bug me to no end.

Being a writer by profession, I thought I'd start off with bad writing.