Archive for June, 2007

Stig Is Gone!

Friday, June 29th, 2007

He Lives has always been one of my favourite blogs and in the last couple of days, its creator David Heddle has been on fine form. His recent post on Dawkins being a second-rate atheist was especially well argued. In his latest entry though he quotes extensively from Augustine and it would do your soul good just to drop over there and read it. As a fore-taste, here is the final sentence:

For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.

I had an absolutely manic day that has me wanting to weep. When will this job get easier! When will Friday come and I’ll be able to relax? Argh I say. Argh. I was wandering around town today like homeless man dreaming up content for a book though. “Half finished thoughts with Michael Stipe” would be the title and it would open with the best ever description of sin’s effects on the Self involving an illustration from Commodore 64s you could ever imagine. Anyone feel like paying me to write that?

I didn’t think so.

I’ll go back to photocopying then.

Your Correspondent, Solving problems by quoting scripture

More Reading Than You Did In College

Thursday, June 28th, 2007

I am not addicted to ketchup, unlike my wife. You might be though and if like her you put ketchup on everything; your hard boiled eggs, your cider, a dollop on the washing machine to “feed it” before you put on every load, then you might appreciate the best and most efficient way to make the ketchup come out of the bottle.

Tony Blair is allegedly converting to Catholicism and saving the Middle East. Does he know how to pour ketchup right though? Thank God that at last the hapless nation we call Britain has a good decent Presbyterian in charge. Now we’ll see and end to all that colour and fun and joy and a hearty dose of fiscal prudence and hard, sweaty work. Here is a now largely meaningless in depth covering of Blair’s last hours in power.

Kirk Cameron is that actor-turned-evangelist I talked about last month with regards to the ill-advised debate he and his companion Ray Comfort entered into to prove the Christian God’s existence without the Bible. Here is a pretty deadly little analysis of his conversion that makes him seem lovely. Ah he’s a lovely fellow.

Philip Jenkins is one of those scholars that contributes to the net worth of life on Earth. His book The Next Chrisendom is one of the least read super books I’ve ever come across. He has a really fascinating article here postulating that the death of the European church is being followed by a resurrection. Like a star that collapses to create an intensely bright White Dwarf, the national churches have given up hope of serving everyone and have instead started to serve one person (guess who I’m talking about, go on, guess!) and it is going to make for an interesting couple of decades.

I like it when people are optimistic about my life’s passion.

Jaybercrow is back and is talking shit.

Finally, providing you with more brain nourishment, here is an NY Times report that argues that the soul is in retreat as we learn more about how the brain works. I wonder had the NY Times been around when Ibn al-Nafis discovered blood circulation would they have declared the end of love? The explanation of brain function no more destroys the idea that the Self (what Oprah calls soul and what the Hebrew Bible calls heart) is para-material than the idea that exploration of blood circulation explains love. I’m quite happy with that little bit of argument-as-poetry.

Your Correspondent, Drops ecstasy and syllables like he’s got nothing to live for

Girls That Sing Songs They Wrote IV

Wednesday, June 27th, 2007

Stig is going away to Bolivia and Cuba to spread the Good Word for about a million years this week so this is the last time I get to prove to him that Y-chromosomes don’t necessarily make you crappy at composition and lyric writing. My final exhibit is the most beautiful and enigmatic of them all (since I didn’t get to do Shakira or Bjork). She is Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley fame. And then later, of Jenny Lewis fame.

Former child starlet turned super-cred indie songstress, the story I have to tell you is brief and simple. She has an amazing voice. She also has an amazing singing voice. By this I mean that Lewis’ can phrase a line as well as anyone and usually only writes lines that are relevant. Then she delivers them with aplomb. So for example, her finest album, her first solo effort, Rabbit Fur Coat, is singular if for nothing else the honesty with which she struggles with the absence she feels over her secular upbringing. She spends the album wrestling with God and faith and church, being honest about sex and family and success and the whole thing added up makes for the best album released last year if you ask me. Or anyone else who is sensible. Like Drew Barrymore. Seriously. And Anne Hathaway. Both big fans. Need more encouragement? I didn’t think so.

So without further ado (wearing glasses like the ones my wife wears on holidays, or in the shower, actually all the time) , I present Jenny Lewis to you. A girl who can sing songs she writes:

Your Correspondent, Fraudulent, a thief at best

One Snowbell Tolls…

Tuesday, June 26th, 2007

One of the disturbing things I found out today: idiots rarely know they are idiots. Its called the Dunning Kreger Effect and it basically says that most arrogant twits have no idea that they are not the experts they believe they are. I don’t think I am an idiot. But hell!, thats a clear indicator of idiocy. How do I escape this maze of self-doubt?

Speaking of people who are really deluded about their talent, my wife, (who intends to apply for the Ultimate Fighting Championship next year) surprisingly updated her blog today. Twice. It made me laugh but then again, you’d expect that. One of the reasons I am so chuffed she is my wife-unit is how often she makes me laugh. And she rarely mocks me for giggling like a little girl.

I read a brilliant article about the decline of the record industry. For anyone who might share my tendency to *ahem* illegally procure music through digital channels *ahem*, then you should enjoy reading the figures. Then you’ll be in the right mood to visit this classic from theonion’s archives.

For those of you who feel like reading something biggish, the Washington Post has a four part analysis of Dick Cheney and how he has masterminded a small revolution in the role of the US Vice President. What a classic villain he is. Remember the footage of him hiding behind the bushes? Read those articles then watch the video and then you’ll laugh uproariously at Defective Yeti’s take on it. Well, you can skip step 1 and step 2 and be assured of laughing if you are my friend Ian.

A reasonably funny Sinfest cartoon that tickles me. (Tip o’ the hat Tg)

Pleasant but basically underwhelming photos of Gaudí buildings
. Why link to pleasant but basically underwhelming photos you ask. Well they are of Gaudí’s insane beautiful joyous Catholic buildings so its time better spent than banging staples into your fingers.

Your Correspondent, Just woke with the Good Book open on his lap

10 Words You Didn’t Know You Hate

Monday, June 25th, 2007

I was back up North this weekend talking to a bunch of students about apologetics. Apologetics is the conscious, reasoned, deliberate defence of the Christian faith. Its one of those things I really get fascinated by. Sadly, its also one of those things that I can’t seem to explain to other people very well. I was halfway through explaining how Alvin Plantinga uses the S5 axiom of Modal logic in his updated form of the Ontological argument before I realised I might be pitching this a bit high.

I wish that opening paragraph was a joke.

I wish that this final version of my seminar wasn’t the product of an up-till-the-early-morning rewrite because I realised my initial plan was too dense. It certainly had the ability to make anyone less nerdy than me feel dense. So all in all, not a success.

Although the confidence took a bit of a battering, I am now in charge of the teaching at the church I work at for the next month. This is really very exciting for me. Although I am a total amateur at the whole preaching thing, there probably isn’t anything quite as challenging for me to do so I love it. In a hating it kind of way. After preaching I typically collapse in a heap and sleep for many hours. Sometimes I even get physically ill due to the trauma of it. If you think I’m just being a big drama-queen, consider how you’d feel if you had to stand up in front of a room full of people and claim to be speaking on behalf of God. I wager that sweating all night before, stressing the whole week before and vomiting with anxiety moments before is treating it with due diligence.

It doesn’t help that my boss is hitting some dangerously brilliant strides in his preaching right before he heads off and hands the reins over to me. You should have been there this Sunday. He dealt with a passage from Paul that seems to indicate (and is used to justify) the limiting of women in any leadership positions and in about 27 minutes he laid out a complete theology of gender equality and a vision for leadership. Its pretty intimidating. So if you see me on the street this week, now you’ll understand why I am wearing only one of my trouser legs, I have shaved half my face and a patch on the right side of my head and I keep uttering greek phrases non-stop under my breath.

Just to prove to you that this isn’t one of those blog entries where the self-obsessed blogger just tells you about his boring emotional state, (those blogs by the way are just above the “let me tell you about a dream I had” conversations on the tedium scale), here are some good links.

The Onion AV Club tells us about 10 directors we didn’t know we hated.

The Belfast Version Of Me does a fine job of elaborating one of the many reasons it sucks to be a Christian and single. The singleness is typically not the sucky part. People’s response to it however…

This image of the Aurora from space looks photoshopped to me. It is so breathtaking, I suspect shenanigans.

Finally, a big read that is well worth it. A scientist has found a tribe in the Amazon who have a grammar that totally defies all the theories of linguistics we hold dear. Babette is a person I am most envious of since she is studying linguistics, the third most interesting thing in the world after theology and architecture but this story is of special interest to me because I always suspect Chomsky’s idea of Universal Grammar was bollix. It goes against all the observed evidence of how the brain has evolved. Of course, if you take my words on this as having any more weight than the bus driver or the neighbour’s dog then you are fool cos hell, what would I know?!

Your Correspondent, Mistaking Awkward Tension For Sexual Tension

Seems A Shame To Waste Your Time

Friday, June 22nd, 2007

So I started work at 8am this morning and have gone right through until now. I have finished the 3rd draft of a seminar I am leading tomorrow morning at a conference on apologetics and I have to do a hand-out and a powerpoint before I get to bed. Can you see why it annoys me so much when you joke that I only work one day a week?

I have been getting in the mood for the R.E.M. gig coming up by listening to all their albums though so that was nice. They are definitely my favourite band ever. I love them. Funzo aren’t quite as famous but they are getting there. I slapped my forehead when I missed their latest gig this Monday. Through the wonder of YouTube you can pretend to be there.

The day spent doing what I have been doing means that my brain is hyper-overloaded. I was struck by this quote I read by the English philosopher Iris Murdoch. She is talking about the Enlightenment idea that reason alone is all we need to forge our way forward, unaided by any other voices. The rational person of the 20th Century (maybe it will be different for us?) was so certain of reasons light that:

confronted even with Christ turns away to consider the judgment of his own conscience and to hear the voice of his own reason.

As I prepare to equip and train and inspire bright young things in the reasoned defence of the faith I realise we constantly run the risk of doing this. We take Jesus and filter him down until its just his words and then filter them down by saying it doesn’t apply to today. Before long we’ve warped the portrait of Jesus we find in the Gospels so that Jesus looks just like us. Its not just non-Christians who turn away from the words of Jesus and consider what they mean to us. Christians do it just as much if not more.

So instead of doing that tomorrow, I hope to stand up and proudly proclaim that when Jesus called the Pharisees broods of vipers that is what he meant, when he said camels get through needles easier than rich men get into heaven that is what he meant and when he said we should love the Lord our God with all our Minds, that too is what he meant.

I like that last bit.

There are lots of great things going on in my comments and I really appreciate that but have been over-worked and so not able to deal with them fully. I will try to next week.

Your Correspondent, Sat there looking ugly, looking ugly and mean.

Why God Should Re-Flood The Middle East

Thursday, June 21st, 2007

So alot of people want to know about Rob Bell last week. This surprises me because well, no one ever asks me what church was like and my minister is as good a teacher as Rob Bell (and he doesn’t retrospectively view the origins of Christianity through Rabbinical lens cut centuries later). He just isn’t quite as tall and you shallow bastards don’t see him because of that. You sicken me all.

As a protest I will simply say that Rob Bell was great. He was even good enough to impress my wife who despises most people who stand up and teach in church. She despises them for two good reasons:

    Most people who stand up in church talk nonsense [Scientifically proven by the guys who discovered L. Casei Immunitas]
    Neuro, due to a rare genetic condition, is unable to simultaneously stand and talk. She is very jealous.

It was Rob Bell’s greatest hits, as a fine gentleman I met there put it. If like me, you are in the habit of listening to Rob Bell’s sermons on your mp3 player as you walk the tree-lined avenues of Maynooth on a Tuesday morning then you will have heard it all before. That is no sad thing and totally understandable though. If for nothing else, it was worth his journey across the Atlantic to hear him say that there is no point in being doctrinally sound if you don’t care about the injustice in the world.

Bell is gaining momentum and therefore he is attracting all kinds of criticism from all over the shop. I can’t really add to it. I think the guy is trying innovative things and trying to communicate the radical, subversive historical Jesus as best as he can. It was great to hear him in person. YellowSnow saved me from small talk afterwards. It was cool. Y’all missed out.

Your Correspondent, Likes the look of that there cookie.

Quite Impressive For An 83 Year Old

Wednesday, June 20th, 2007

Don’t blame me if your girlfriend leaves you, you lose your job, fail the next assignment in your Open University Course and burn that piece of toast you just put on but Desktop Tower Defence is the most addictive thing I have come across since Betamaxnomates gave me Arrested Development on DVD.

Via Teragram, I found this depressing video on Rueters. It briefly enough fills you in on just how surveillance heavy British society has become. If you knew me seven years ago and then met me today you’d be amazed at the quite remarkable turn in my attitudes towards Britain. I used to be positive towards our fair foreign neighbour. Now I have quite a chip on my shoulder. This has coincided with me having to visit so-called Britain often for the last seven years and concluding that well, in fairness, at the end of the day, when all is said and done, we’re better. Ireland 1 – Rest of the World 0, as an incomprehensible sticker reads that my dad has on a cabinet in his garage. Just modify that strange sentiment to Ireland 1 – United Kingdom with Northern Ireland tugging along truculently a few steps behind 0. Why isn’t this a major political issue? Why isn’t the first-past-the-post electoral system a major issue? Why do their chippers always serve sucky chips? Why do they not have the Euro? Why is Britain so weird? WHY!

Speaking of evil things and places, isn’t it weird how we have come to disbelieve in Satan when he is the best possible explanation for the last 100 years? (I can’t find which aphorist I am ripping off there but its not original.) I finished a deadly novel this morning called The Testament of Gideon Mack. Neuro’s colleague got it for her because its about a Presbyterian minister who doesn’t believe in God. She rightly thought it would be appropriate reading for her. Gideon Mack falls into a raging river, disappears for three days and comes back telling stories of meeting with the devil. That really is all you need to know. You are hooked now or you never will be.

I obviously need to get Jaybercrow to read it and tell me what he thought because I am not yet sure what to make of it. Was the portrayal of Satan just what anyone would come up with given a blank page? Or was it a real (metaphorical) insight into the (real) reality? Or was it just a good story that kept my interest? I’d ask wife-unit but she’s not talking to me since I bought her The Flood as a gift. She read three pages before giving up at its stupidity. She compared it to the Red Tent. She may make her money by extracting teeth from disabled children and selling them on the black market but how can you not love a woman with such a sharp critical mind.

After linking you to an article that reveals the (I never thought I’d write this with sincerity) Orwellian situation our societies have gotten themselves into and reviewed a novel with Auld Nick as a major character, it seems appropriate that I would link you to this article by Agnieszka Tennant about a date in the future when geneticists have managed to rule out of biological bounds any behaviour society deems sinful. As fanciful as this sounds, there is no way that you can call it fantasy when a “free democracy” like Britain chooses to spy on itself to eliminate inconvenient behaviours like littering and smoking in public while simultaneously permitting abortion without any ongoing discussion or debate as to the ethical risks involved in either.

Maybe I am in a dark mood because I am just back from watching Zodiac. I love David Fincher movies and I love most of the actors featured in this film so you can confidently predict that Zoomtard gives this a thumbs up. But it raises those troubling questions again. “This great evil, where does it come from, how did it steal into the world?” One of the characters in Gideon Mack reminded me that life lived without thought of death is a famished life. But equally, a happy life can surely not be found without wrestling with the question of this dark evil that prowls our world.

Now I have a coeliac friend coming around so I have to litter all my delf with wheat as a fun trick. I know some Christians who struggle with the idea of all life revolving around the concept of Grace and yet we have to face a final judgement. I have had discussions with Christian friends where this is debated and disputed. As is so often the case, Peter Leithart basically says what I would like to say if I was as smart as Peter Leithart.

Your Correspondent, Banging girlfriends then improving his retarded car

On The Next Show, Some Actual Content

Tuesday, June 19th, 2007

This is a fascinating, depressing, mean-spirited, honest, brutal, narrow-minded, shallow, profound and unmissable article in a local Seattle newspaper. They sent 31 writers to 31 places of worship for a “Month of Sundays“. I know Pacific Northwesterners read Zoomtard so I’ll look forward to their feedback.

Exotic Wrecks is a weird page featuring photos of supercars that have been destroyed in crashes. It probably isn’t the most wholesome of activities but I loved hanging out here.

Maps of the internet. Would it be too nerdy to frame one of these in my house?

Ten years ago this week I was listening to my new CD on repeat constantly. That new CD became the greatest album released in our lifetime, OK Computer. Can I just terrify you all and make this explicit: its ten years since OK Computer was released. We. Are. Old.

Neuro spent the weekend with my family. They laughed at her more than usual but that is because she was holding a print-out of this great Lidl rip off. You’ve probably seen it before but if you haven’t it is hi-larious.

Your Correspondent, Waiting for Babette to update

Learning About Life The Long Way Round

Monday, June 18th, 2007

A Corkonian clown sent me a text message late last night asking for my opinion on a beautiful Scottish lady. Two thumbs up I’d say there. It turns out she is from Yorkshire though so explain that accent, if you will. I only know one person from Yorkshire and he is a short Christian man that I love dearly. The last time he talked to me he was telling me about his sore arse after a prostate test. His general impression was that living into pensionable age wasn’t worth it. Live fast. Die young. Leave a beautiful body. Well maybe I am taking liberties with the moral of the story.

He also asked me if I thought you could lose your salvation. That question means this post is firmly inside the Cross Shaped Waffle category and so if you are a minority reader who neither professes Christian faith nor appreciates my scantily assembled thoughts on living that faith out in a meaningful, life-enriching way you might just want to go and watch this: $240 worth of pudding.

The quick answer, in disagreement with my short Yorkshire friend is that you cannot lose your salvation. I should begin by admitting that the way the question is put to me decides the answer. I understand salvation to mean being saved from something. That goes in my ear as a weird Christian jargon word and processes through my huge head and pops out in my meaning-factory as “liberacíon“. To be saved is to be liberated. Once you are liberated at such a dramatic cost, your liberator will not let you get enslaved again. That is the way I see it.

There is a strange story Jesus tells about a strong man in one of the ancient records of his life. The religious establishment are spreading rumours that Jesus does what he does with dark magic. They say it is by a Satanic alliance that Jesus does miracles. And Jesus responds by saying that there was a strong man who was fiercely armed to protect his territory. This strong man was safe. But then a stronger man came and turned that arsenal against him, overcame him, bound him and liberated the things that he had stolen.

I know you are a busy reader so I’ll compress an hour long sermon into a sentence. When Jesus was accused of being Satan he said he was the very person who was coming to overthrow Satan and set his captives free. I think salvation is when the stronger man breaks into our individual captivities (it might be regrets over the past, struggles with addiction, self-loathing, pain and anger over the evil that has beset your life or your rapidly greying hair- guess which one is mine- but we all have them) and frees us from them. The bound deceiver who held us under those burdens is not strong enough to take us back. To rob from Narnia, the White Witch may have magic, but Aslan has “a magic deeper still”. The price paid at Easter is so great that it is inconceivable to me that we would lose the rights we gained.

Of course, ask the right question and you get the right answer. If you say can we lose our salvation, I say no. If you said can we reject our salvation, well that might make me stroke my non-existent beard…

Your Correspondent, Paying no mind so no mind is lost