Thursday, May 31, 2012

Luke 22:38 - Jesus and the Sword

Just listened to the Please Convince Me podcast for this week about Jesus and the sword, and thought it was a good enough time to repost my thoughts on this issue below. I genuinely respect and enjoy Jim Wallace and his apologetics podcast, but I think he's totally off Scripturally in his analysis of what the Bible says about the sword. The Christian should never wield the sword.

I've been meditating lately on Jesus' words in the beatitudes, particularly in Matt. 5, on the subject of loving one's enemies, and how this applies to the idea of Christians in the military. No doubt (like most of my posts) this will ruffle some feathers, but studying history, particularly that of the non-resistant groups such as the Mennonites, that I've become more and more convinced that Christians should NEVER wield the sword, and that includes overseers, deacons, as well as laity. In the new covenant of Christ - in this new dispensation - I cannot see from Scripture the justification for Christians to ever wield the sword in the military branches. I just don't see how a Christian man who feels directed to serve in the military can, at the same time, stay true to the teaching of Jesus Christ:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ [44] But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, [45] so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
(Matthew 5:43-45 ESV)

The consistent message of Christ, and the epistles of the New Testament, is that of loving your enemies and forgiving those who do wrong to you. The Davidic dispensation, that involved endless wars with the enemies of Israel, is now gone, and under the new covenant, under Christ, we follow a new instruction:

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another."
(John 13:34 ESV)

How does one comply with this while serving in the military and potentially killing someone else? How can the Lord "make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all..." (1 Thessalonians 3:12 ESV) while serving in a role that, by its very nature, could require that you bring death to others?

I'm not questioning the importance of the military, and I've got immense respect for all men who serve and defend our country (I've posted about that frequently in the past.) what I'm questioning, perhaps more for myself than anything else is, should the Christian specifically serve in the military, and I'm not so sure I agree with this, because this seems to stand in stark contradiction with Christ's commandments to love one another. Sure, there's Cornelius the Centurian (Acts 10) but even then, who can say if he stayed in his military post, or if he left it to be a part of the apostolic ministry? Not much is said about his role, but in light of the rest of the weight of Scripture, I just have a hard time balancing a military role and Christ's instruction to love one another.

Recently I was in a friendly debate with a gun-toting friend, and we talked about the situation of someone breaking into our home, and what, if any actions, should be taken in self defense. My open-carry friend insisted on being able to shoot and kill any intruder (citing some oblique theonomistic justification) but I argued that, as a Christian, that every other option should be pursued first (even if it's just something like incapacitating the intruder until the authorities arrive) but that a Christian is never to take human life. Needless to say, we never saw eye to eye on this, but I'm fairly certain that my friend was wrong in his stance: a believer should never take life (and as an aside, although I'm somewhat right of center, I don't believe in using capital punishment to take life either. I think there's an inconsistency in being pro-life and also pro-death penalty. But that's just me, and that's a post for another day.)

In Acts 22, I think that the Apostle Paul establishes a precedent of appealing to the authority of the magistrate to protect its citizens. Just as the Bible instructs us to honor our government, by the same token, we are also able to appeal to it when we need protection. Should we take self-defense into our own hands, or is the better way to instead call upon those in authority to protect us? If someone breaks in, do we kill them, or do we hastily call the police? Aren't there non-lethal options? Home security alarms? Dogs? And what if you take a life: as a Christian, haven't you permanently eliminated the possibility of someone repenting and turning to Christ for salvation? From what I know about prison ministry, there are many men in prisons who regret what they've done and see incredible life changes in prison. Doesn't killing eliminate that possibility of repentance forever?

Now, Luke 22:38 is a text which I've heard mangled by believers and skeptics all over the place, and I wanted to offer some exegesis here of that text, as it drives me bonkers to see Scripture get mangled (I once hear it said that if you torture the Bible enough, you can get it to confess to anything you want.)

Here's all of Luke 22, to set the context:

Luke 22

Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put him to death, for they feared the people.

Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them. And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. So he consented and sought an opportunity to betray him to them in the absence of a crowd.

Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it.” They said to him, “Where will you have us prepare it?” He said to them, “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him into the house that he enters and tell the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ And he will show you a large upper room furnished; prepare it there.” And they went and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.

And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” And they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this.

A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.
“You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”

And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.”

And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” And he withdrew from them about a stone's throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”

While he was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” And when those who were around him saw what would follow, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders, who had come out against him, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.”

Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest's house, and Peter was following at a distance. And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.” And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.

Now the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking him as they beat him. They also blindfolded him and kept asking him, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?” And they said many other things against him, blaspheming him.

When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people gathered together, both chief priests and scribes. And they led him away to their council, and they said, “If you are the Christ, tell us.” But he said to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe, and if I ask you, you will not answer. But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” So they all said, “Are you the Son of God, then?” And he said to them, “You say that I am.” Then they said, “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips.”

So to context is, Jesus has just celebrated the Passover meal with his disciples, and has gone off to pray, shortly thereafter to be betrayed in the hands of the mob via Judas Iscariot. Before his betrayal, Jesus tells his followers to be prepared, because the time of their safety and protection has passed. He is not speaking about carrying a literal sword, but rather is illustrating that the time has come for Jesus to be betrayed into the hands of the people, and the safety that his followers had been during his time with them would now be gone. He's not saying that his followers should arm themselves and be prepared to fight. Not only would that be ridiculous, but it would make no sense in the context: how could twelve men, with only TWO swords, fend off an armed mob? Additionally, why would Jesus bother to correct Peter for lopping off the ear of the servant of the high priest? Jesus tells him off for this and proceeds to heal the man. The swords at this point were unnecessary and the disciples misunderstood what Jesus was saying. In verse 38, when the disciples mention the two swords, Jesus replies with, "It is enough", or the equivalent of rolling the eyes and saying "Drop it! You don't get it!" They didn't understand what he was saying. His divine protection would from that point on be gone, and all twelve of the disciples (save John who was exiled) would see death. Notice how the disciples didn't keep their swords and fight and rebel, but unarmed they went to their deaths as martyrs of the Lord.

Here's a couple notes from the commentaries. Wesley notes the following:

Luke 22:38 Here are two swords - Many of Galilee carried them when they travelled, to defend themselves against robbers and assassins, who much infested their roads. But did the apostles need to seek such defence? And he said; It is enough - I did not mean literally, that every one of you must have a sword.

Wesley here hints at the dangers the disciples could expect ahead, without literally telling them to get weapons. Matthew Henry's commentary also offers a good explanation of this text as well.

Our Lord gave notice of a very great change of circumstances now approaching. The disciples must not expect that their friends would be kind to them as they had been. Therefore, he that has a purse, let him take it, for he may need it. They must now expect that their enemies would be more fierce than they had been, and they would need weapons. At the time the apostles understood Christ to mean real weapons, but he spake only of the weapons of the spiritual warfare. The sword of the Spirit is the sword with which the disciples of Christ must furnish themselves.

Also, as an interesting aside, is the fact that the Greek used for sword in this text could also be translated as knife, which could speak to a more utilitarian purpose of gather supplies and living in the wilderness and in the wild, and not necessarily to be used as a killing weapon.

Regardless, the text in context is clear: Jesus is NOT telling his followers to arm themselves as if they will be going off to fight, but rather, the message is that the time of Christ's divine protection is gone, and that persecution is immediately ahead. There's a message for all Christians here as well: we can arm ourselves with earthly guns and weapons, but the true weapons of the enemy are spiritual ones, not fleshly,of which physical weapons are worthless. The sword of the spirit is the true weapon that all Christians should equip themselves with.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Indy Jones on BluRay

Not sure what Lucas has in store for the Indiana Jones Blurays, but I'm suspecting more monkeying around with computer junk that ruins real films.

I've been thinking a lot about the types of films I grew up with, and how the computer played almost no role in the film. Back then, there seemed to be so much more focus on the quality of framing the scene, the importance of lighting and shadows, and so on. These days, it's all just a big video game on the screen. Its sickening enough to make me want to just give up on films.

Back to Indy: here's a quick recap of my thoughts on the films.

Raiders: the best of the bunch, although the melting Nazi stuff is goofy. This is one of Harrison Ford's finest films. There are far too many awesome scenes to comment on: one of my favorites (and most completely unrealistic) is when Indy jumps off the boat, swims secretly over to the Nazi sub, and climbs on board to the cheering of the ship crew members. Completely ridiculous yet awesome.

Temple: far too dark to appreciate. Drugged Indy smacks a kid. No thanks. But Temple does have some of John Williams' finest music (sans the satanic temple stuff). Temple also set the standard of how I think of my Indian co-workers: they work in volcanic lairs, feast on monkey brains, and practice voodoo and ritual sacrifice in their spare time.

Crusade: stupid Indy/Dad dialog ruined this. For instance, I don't want to hear them joking about sharing a woman. Yuck... that made me cringe. The pace also seemed a lot slower for this once. Also, the drying out Nazi was just as goofy as a melting one.

Crystal Skull: apparently the effects of the holy grail wore off? How did it keep the guardian of the grail alive for centuries, and yet Indy's Dad, and Marcus, died off, and Indy started going massively gray? Too much CGI ruined this film, the infamous 'fridge scene' was idiotic, as was the monkey sequence. This one isn't cannon for me.

And here's exactly what Lucas will probably do with the BluRays...

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Teaching Company: Some Good, Some Not-So-Good

Years ago when had a brutally long commute, I used to continually exhaust the selection at the local library (and their inter-library lending system) with checking out "The Great Courses" from the Learning Company and, for the most part, I was impressed with a lot of their titles. I don't want to listen to music when driving: I want to be learning something, so they served a good purpose.

Granted, these aren't perfect, and occasionally they'd start spouting leftist nonsense from time to time, but what I really got hooked on were the music theory courses taught by Robert Greenberg, which were all entertaining, engaging and worth listening to. There are few teachers who can do history well, and Greenberg is one of them. I'm certain I've listened to dozens of his courses: the 'How to listen to music' title, Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky (that guy was bizarre!), Haydn, etc. Heck, now that I think about it, I've probably earned the equivalent of a minor in music history thanks to these courses. Of everything from this company, his material is worth checking out the most.

I did listen to some of their other stuff, such as the history of the Roman Empire, one on philosophy, but those reminded me a little too much of some of my more boring college courses, and didn't help the drive much.

What does bug me about these "great" courses, though, is that their religion section includes a title of a supposed overview of Christianity by Bart Ehrman. At least in terms of being objective, this series certainly is NOT, and agnostic Ehrman doesn't tread very fairly or faithfully through his presentation of things such as the formation of the Biblical canon, the non-validity of the gnostic books, etc. You know, people like N.T. Wright would be fascinating to hear included in this Great Courses collection by way of balance. Or ever one of the more awesome apologists like James White of Alpha Omega ministries, who's sparred with Ehrman in debate (and, in my opinion, mopped the floor with Ehrman and his poor scholarship.) What bothers me is that the Teaching Company packages these courses on Christianity as if, from the cover, you'd think this was an objective survey of Christianity, which it ISN'T. Call it was it is, Great Courses: an agnostic scholars dissection of Christianity from a secular worldview. If you want to carry titles like this, fine, but play fair and label your products correctly. If the speaker was of a slightly more objective flavor, that would be fine, but Ehrman, from his books that I've flipped through, definitely is not. Label your courses honestly.

But if you look into the Great Courses, DO check out the Robert Greenberg series. Even outside of the course material, the guy is a phenomenal speaker, and when I teach courses at work there is a lot I try to pick up from people like this, who are both informative and entertaining at the same time. Either audio only or video, he's a one of a kind professor.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

George Lucas NEEDS Money!

I wonder how many times you can re-package the same film, with more special effects and enhancements, before you completely eliminate the original? I think Lucas is bound and determined to do this with his franchise.

As I've stated earlier, I'm not giving Lucas one more penny. Of course, this task seems to be impossible, as his brand is everywhere. Even my stock in Disney (which WHY I hold DIS in my portfolio is another mystery) I'm sure somehow, indirectly, gives Lucas funds indirectly from the theme park SW ride and gift shop and other merchandising vehicles. The guy has his tendrils everywhere!

Here's a thought I was kicking around: if a Jedi is a blood-donor, would the person they donate blood to then gain the midichlorians and then have the ability to do force-tricks, until the body replenished the normal blood again? And what was Lucas thinking, making the force little more than a blood condition? Alright, I'm not going to dwell on my simmering hatred of the prequels. Or on anything from Lucas anymore. I'm washing my hands of Star Wars. I loved the original, pre-special edition trilogy, but the days of those films is long gone...

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Sales of adult diapers in Japan exceeded those for babies for the first time last year

Al Mohler mentioned this in his podcast today, and its basically weird enough to merit writing about here. Basically, a company in Japan says that sales of adult diapers in Japan exceeded those for babies for the first time last year. Bizarre... it's like Japan is turning into a giant island of old folks. And old folks cranked full of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear radiation. I see the potential here for a really goofy Gamera film.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Squinty Whistles Alive!

Attention! Former mountain man/raccoon hunter/blogger and cornbread enthusiast Squinty Whistles has been found frozen, yet perfectly preserved, in a frozen pond in Manitoba. Trapped beneath the ice in a state of perfect hybernation, scientists predict that he can be thawed and resusitated. When asked about the frozen block of solid ice that has contained Squinty for over 100 years, they have speculated that "he should be quite well protected. If he survived the freezing process, that is."

Scientists are baffled at why Squinty was found frozen near Nueltin Lake, or why, for that matter, he was preserved in a suit and bow-tie. But scientists are convinced that this is the real Squinty Whistles, as preserved next to him was a small stack of raccoon pelts and a sizable portion of cornmeal.

Having been frozen for such a long time, if indeed he can be revived, he will take some time to re-acclimate himself with the 21st century, including pop culture references, but scientists are convinced that, once thawed, he will be a valuable addition to the blogging community, offering valuable insights into wilderness survival, outdoorsy crafts and skills, edible and medicinal wild plants, raccoon hunting, and numerous uses for cornmeal. Stay tuned!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Free Rice Game

Bored of social media and other inane avenues of pointless online activity? Then check out the Free Rice online game. It's strangely addictive, you're helping out with a good cause, and, if you're not careful, you might just learn something! (insert sly smile)

Seriously, though, I've been using this to try to improve my Spanish, although I'm not sure I'll ever need to use some of these words, like "el nacimiento = birth" (I mean, maybe I'll somehow be in a strange situation in which I need to tell a Spanish speaker a word like that, but more than likely it will be words like queso, lechuga, and no pimiento verde.) Oh, who am I kidding... I know a total of roughly 12 words in Spanish, all of which I manage to mangle when I speak to a native Spanish speaker. I'm sure something about the inflection and tone in how I say something as basic as "como estas?" probably makes me sound like a total goofball. But what can I say, I'm trying, and Texas is gradually reverting back to Mexican again, so I'm trying to get ahead of the game when all of the signs and restaurants revert to a language that I can only mangle when I attempt to speak.

Hey, to anyone in the sound of my voice: any suggestions of a good program for learning spanish? I'm thinking I just need to find a jovial spanish friend, who can reach me the nuance of the langauge and correct my nonsensical abuse of the language. Either that, or I'll just earn a billion grains of free rice playing this game and pick up the language THAT way...

Online game to end hunger

Friday, May 11, 2012

Extended Breastfeeding, the Duggars, and Taboos

The recent Time magazine article on extended breast-feeding (along with the over-hyped cover that I won't bother posting the image of here - like it's much different than any ridiculous Jennifer Lopez would wear to an award show) was an interesting read. Time magazine is usually just a bastion of liberal bias nonsense, but I'll give them credit for this story (albeit done in with a deliberately-sensational cover image.) This is an important topic, and it it reminded me of my other blog thoughts on the Duggars that I'm going to repost here, slightly abridged:

I've been thinking more about the Duggar phenomenon and, in particular, Michelle Duggar and her comments and practices regarding breastfeeding. I read once her remarks regarding what she considered the "myth" of breastfeeding infertility, and how it was something she didn't believe in (regardless of the fact that I've known quite a few people: nurses, doctors, midwives, LaLeche League consultants, etc, who would completely disagree with her information.) The fact is, breastfeeding, when done regularly and consistently following birth, delays the return of menstuation. It is a wonderful design that God put into place to naturally allow for the spacing of children. And let's be honest: had Michelle Duggar been correctly informed about breastfeeding and infertility, there would likely be no Duggar television show or Discovery channel royalties, etc. A natural pattern of infertility and spacing would have left the Duggars with a much "smaller" family of, likely, 9 kids or so, as opposed to the 20 they have.

I do admire this family (although I think it's crazy that they let their privacy be invaded by cameras, and allow themselves to so openly receive the spite and venom of the anti-family folks of the mainstream) and I think there are many things about them that I really admire. But at the same time, I think Michelle is mistaken about breastfeeding and infertility, and while she is very blessed to have been able to have so many healthy deliveries, the fact is, breastfeeding is not only the means to offset fertility, its also the way that a woman's body physically RECOVERS following the physical ordeal of pregnancy, labor and birth. God designed the woman's body to nurse her young AND to heal itself, as well as to give the newborn an unrivalled healthy diet (that cannot be matched by anything out of a can of formula.)

Which leads to the point I'm trying to get to: I think that breastfeeding is something of a taboo subject (or a sensational topic to be exploited as done by Time magazine's cover), and while I think that most women COULD nurse their children, I think that many don't, either because they don't want to, or they've been misinformed by BAD doctors and bad advice to think that they don't need to.

Speaking as an informed Dad here, I know it can be an exhausting experience physicially for the woman and requires commitments of time. It's also difficult, and I'm led to think that many women find it hard to do, thus it becomes less a matter of "I can't" and rather one of "I don't want to." I belive that its the rare woman who has a legitimate medical reason why they can't. But rather, far more likely, they've just received bad advice from "lactation consultants" at a hospital, or bad advice from a doctor or a nurse, or bad advice from a family member or friend, or a quacky woman's magazine, or television show, or infant formula propaganda. Or worse, the woman gave into the drug-pushers at the hospital during labor and, sadly, the drugs (such as epidural) complicated the initial breastfeeding experience, or brought about a drowsy baby unable to nurse, or required an extensive hospital stay comlicating th initial nursing timeframe, causing the baby to not be able to start nursing initially, etc, etc.

As far as Michelle Duggar goes, I do respect this family, but I just wish she had been better informed about nursing. I have a suspicion she was just misled by a quacky, drug-pushing meidcal provider (in the show, the Duggars are quick to go along with whatever their doctor's say without question. "Time for tubes in the ears? Sure, doctor". And just for argument sake, I'll grant that, maybe she couldn't nurse the first one. But same thing for the second? And the third? .... And the nineteenth? At some point over this time, someone who cared should have gone to Michelle and said, "Look, you're not giving your body the time that it needs, the time that God designed it to have, in order to HEAL between pregnancies. Have you considered going to a LaLeche League meeting, to speak to one of the leaders there to get some advice on how to adequately breastfeed? Maybe they can give you the help and support that you need to do it this time? Maybe they can help answer your questions and uncertainties? Maybe they can help show you the proof that, yes, breastfeeding does indeed offset fertility." In a way, I think this is somewhat selfish of Jim Bob to not at least use some sort of non-abortifacient barrier following childbirth, if only for a short amount of time, to give his wife's body time to heal. Yes,I know, birth control isn't natural, but neither is infant formula.

And yes, mastitis happens, and can happen bad, but LaLeche League women know all about assisting and supporting with that as well (often without liver-damaging drugs, but with herbal cures and natural options). And I'm not just speaking hypothetically here - I've actually been to LaLeche League meetings (Dad's go to them too. Dad's SHOULD go to them to support their wives, actually. To miss out on this opportunity to support your wife - then you're a loser, Dad.) These groups are a wealth of information that you don't get from most western medical doctors. The experience and knowledge of the women leading these groups is so rich, that any woman having a child should consult with them to know how to get started with nursing. Michelle and Jim Bob should go to one of these on their show, but instead they waste their time at... Weight Watcher meetings?

Or... is this all just a big taboo subject that no one wants to hear? Breastfeeding is too much trouble, it's too painful, and it takes too much time, so just get a bottle and don't bother with that LaLeche League stuff, right? Besides, in the movies and on television, EVERY woman, immediately following birth, sticks a bottle in the baby's mouth, so if Hollywood says that's how it should be, then maybe that's how it should be? Even in churches today, breastfeeding is often frowned upon in the church. Who wants a fussy baby there in the sanctuary with the mother? They can both go back to the "cry room" and separate from the rest of their family. Of course, how often in the church today are nursing mothers segregated, yet women can wear tops as low-cut and exposing as they like, and no problem there at all. Wear what you like to church and no one minds but, erm, don't feed your baby in public, if you please...

Animosity towards breastfeeding what I expect from Hollywood, or pharma-pushing medical doctors and hospitals, but sadly, it's not what I like to see being reflected in a Christian family like the Duggars. They are setting a excellent example of what a Godly family should be like, and I respect much about them (plus I respect that Jim Bob hasn't been surgically mutilated like every other vasectomied man in the world), but in terms of the example of large family size at the cost of foregoing breastfeeding (and not allowing the mother's body to recover between births), I think they're ultimately setting a bad example.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Snippet of James Horner

James Horner wrote some remarkable film music back in the 1980's, which was the prime of most all cinematic music. Film music today just stinks. It's computer-rendered garbage written by music majors with no understanding of how to utilize the components of a full orchestra (let alone the fundamentals of music theory.) Horner scores a couple of the Star Trek films in the 80's (thankfully not the "whale" one) and strangely, I've not enjoyed much by Horner over the last several decades. I thought his Avatar music was boring, and his Titanic stuff was just too overshadowed by that awful "near-far...wherever-you-are" stuff. Beyond that, I'm not sure what else he's even written since the 1980's. I think of him as one of those composers trying, and coming a little close, to following the John Williams mold and then, falling short, branched into doing more of those maudlin, simple-piano tripe. Still, it beats most of the generic, amelodic garbage padding most films these days.

Here's a theory: the more cinema branches into the digital, the greater the decline in musical quality in the soundtracks. Or maybe I'm just not keeping up with films and I'm missing the good stuff, but with what I've seen/heard lately in cinema, it just isn't happening anymore.

Skip the first :25 seconds of this short track and enjoy Horner's succinct cover of the principle Alexander Courage theme:

Another very energetic piece of work, with a touch or two of Prokofiev:

Radio Shack Rant

Repost of my rotten Radio Shack trip. The scoop, again: I recently had a crummy experience at Radio Shack that prompted me to write an "old man letter" complaining. But while there, enough nostalgia hit me that I wanted to write about that as well, because blogger is really just a pointless way to hammer out inane thoughts that are read by no one and that you clear from your head and then proceed to forget you ever wrote in the first place.

First, my letter:

To whom it may concern,

I went to the local Radio Shack the other day for a power adaptor, and when I entered the store the one person working there basically ignored me and my children. I stood at the counter for a very long time waiting for customer service (the one person working there was helping another guy at the time with a cell phone, and basically ignored me the whole time until this other guy left.) I've done customer service before, and although I swore it off, I do still remember that one of the important things about customer service is that you greet EVERYONE when they come into a store, and even if you are busy with someone else, at least take the time to say, "Hey there, welcome, I'll be with you in just a minute!"

Another observation: on the television in the store was a cable channel playing the pilot episode of "Battlestar Galactica". While waiting for the service, I noticed that this program featured plenty of profanity, but thankfully no sex scenes (although that was a prominent feature of this program, and a large reason I stopped watching it.) I would urge Radio Shack to be cautious with what they play in their stores, as there were children present, and they don't need to be exposed to half-naked sex scenes involving androids in a Radio Shack.


(and a worthless aside here, but I HATED the new Battlestar Galactica. Much like George Lucas and the Star Wars prequels, they basically took something really cool from my childhood and totally transformed it into something awful and belonging in a septic system. I sat through the BG pilot, and a couple episodes, before coming to the conclusion that in the future, there's lots of cussing, loose sex, and inane moralizing by androids. I also speculated that Edward James Olmos was basically recapturing his Lt. Castillo character from Miami Vice, but as he would look and sound after Sonny Crockett had elimited all criminals in Miami, and Castillo, in a lethardic fit of boredom, packed on 50 lbs. with some donuts, then abruptly decided to join the space program.)

Radio Shack USED to be a really cool place, that was more or less packed with electronic do-dads and gizmos and cool stuff, like robots and "build your own radio" kits (do they even sell those at their brick-n-mortar stores anymore?) Now, you walk into Radio Shack and it's just an ocean of cell phones. Blah. I realize that Radio Shack is trying to stay relevent, but that just stinks to me, that the novelty of the store has given way mostly to stupid phones.

My first computer was a TRS-80 model 3, which was a hoot, writing code in some sortof derrivation of the BASIC language that would randomly make irritating beeping noises, draw colorful blocks on the screen, or serve no other purpose than to be a spagetti tangle of GOTO statements. Lots of fun, especially considering I didn't have that incredibly-cool cassette-desk thing to back up my programs, so I basically wrote them on the fly and let them go. Hey, I ever remember how the constant running left a yellowish discoloration around the ventilation lines near the back of the computer, possibly from all of the radiation. Great stuff. That toy computer was a prerequisite to my work many years later and spending my days looking at lines of code that DON'T make amusing beeping noises but rather just frustrate with oblique memory exceptions.

But I never wanted to be a software tester at all. I always wanted to be.... a lumberjack!....

Radio Shack stores even used to have a distinctive nerdy smell, but even that seems to have vanished as of late (especially at the mall. That location smells more like a cinnamon pretzel.) Maybe I'm just getting older, and things of youth just don't have the same appeal anymore. Or maybe I'm just nostalgic for dead technology.

Or maybe not... I don't miss 8-track, VHS, or vinyl, for that matter.


Further thought since I originally posted this: I'm starting to see this more and more as the trend these days, that electronics stores and places that sell televisions and films don't give a flip about what they show, and quite often something far more mature that needed is playing on the TVs, regardless of who's in the store. The store clerk just throws on something they wanted to see vs. just playing the generic, repeating advertising video that they play on all the televisions at Walmart. Reminds me of this guy I used to know who worked at a video store, and he'd play things like "Pulp Fiction" on the televisions of the store when people were there. I don't think the managment approved.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Netflix and Expendables

This is probably axiomatic, or glaringly obvious, but I'll say it:

The selection on NetFlix for instant streaming is really awful!

Of course, if you're into nature documentaries pointing out how all food is poisonous these days, or if you like awful sequels to better originals (like Iron Man 2) then there are plenty of options. But otherwise the selection is crummy for instant viewing.

That being said, I watched the Expendables the other day, and basically validated my theory. Aside from the profanity, stabbings and exploding bodies, there was absolutely nothing at all redeemable about this film. The script-writing was atrocious: the dialog sounded like something you'd quickly scribble down when jolted out of sleep at 3:47 AM and hastily grabbed a pen and paper. Or perhaps it was just written by Stallone, I don't know. But basically this was a graphically-violent waste of time featuring dozens of action movie stars for strange 5-minute segments of time when Stallone wasn't in the spotlight - and some of these action stars were newer, and some not-so-graciously aging.

In fact, I watched this, as well as the 4th Rambo film, and can't wonder if Stallone really thinks he's fooling anyone here into thinking that he's still a convincing, young action star. I mean, he's like someone's grandfather, with Reaganesque Grecian formula hair, and eyes that don't seem to express themselves naturally, as if pulled taut Botoxically. Don't get me wrong, he's a legendary action star, but to watch him now, advanced in years, running and jumping and grabbing onto the doorframe of a water airplane taking off, hanging on for dear life... this really required a stupendous suspension of disbelief.

And you know, they had that Dolph Lungren guy in the film, and Stallone is fighting him, and I didn't catch ONE ROCKY IV REFERENCE! That really let me down. Maybe I missed it, but I don't recall hearing one "I must break you" during any of their melees. Rocky IV is one of the finest, cheesiest works of cinema of the 1980's, and by far my favorite of the the Rocky series (strangely, this motion picture gem CAN be streamed on NetFlix... so what does that tell you?)

Anyhow, looks like my opinion doesn't matter much, and there's an Expendables 2 coming out. Shouldn't they have called it "Still Expendable" or something like that?

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Figuring out a system here...

So I'm cleaning house of posts at my old haunt, and will hopefully be reposting a lot of the stuff over here. But thinking about it, I might actually fine-tune and re-write a lot of the material, as reviewing so many of my posts I see that they were hammered out in frantic 10-minute intervals late at night when I wasn't thinking clearly (as evidenced by the nonsense of my posts.) Of course, that does tend to lend to their hilarity.

So anything here that seems redundant or gives you an odd sense of deja vu, it just means that I copied it over from my other blog.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Free Comic Book Day 2012

DC comics had an article with five reasons to go out and support the upcoming free comic book day, and when I was 8, this would have been awesome news. Now that I'm 4,000 years old, comic books don't have quite the same appeal that they once did. Granted, it's a clever gimmick to get people into shops (and to perhaps create awareness that yes, indeed, comic books DO still actually exist!) but what's the point when comic books have taken such a dive over the last few decades?

Anyhow, when I was much younger, I used to stock up on Spiderman and Justice League many, many years ago, but I've since grown a lot more cynical about the state of the industry. For one thing, mainstream comic books today seem to have far too much leftist ideology. It's not just goofy things like Obama on a Spiderman cover or Superman renouncing his American citizenship (although that defiant bit of writing from DC in and of itself is pretty disgusting) but it's the fact that, from so many of the books I've leafed through (either at Barnes and Nobles or the library) veer too much into grayer areas of morality and right and wrong. It's difficult to tell who the heroes and villains are anymore. Heroes second-guess themselves, and the villains aren't that bad after all. If I read a story and detect a leftist ideology, I'll generally check out who the writer is, make a note of it, then skip the book, and anything else by them. Does that make me narrow-minded? So what! It's my choice what I want to read or support.

Also, looking at a lot of books today, these definitely don't seem appropriate for children. Again, leafing through comics at the shop, I can see they've come a long way from a few decades ago in terms of violence, profanity, and adult content. But what's deviant is that you get companies like DC that present characters like Batman in lovable, Leggo format, to draw kids to following these characters, and then as they get older and start reading the more mature titles, they get up to the Batman stories where spines are snapped, necks twisted 180 degrees, eyes gouged, etc, etc.

Marvel Comics seems to be making it big with the franchise films, but what's interesting is that they've done this with their more mainstream, popular characters like Spider-man - the more virtuous good-vs-evil characters, whereas the 'Punisher' films, as I understand, were something of flops. I've wondered if the films have brought people back into reading the comics more, or, are the films merely a segue out of reading print comics into the realm of cinematic video/audio only?

I guess there's no point in being nostalgic for comics of decades ago, as I don't think the industry is going back to anything like those days anytime soon. It's a shame, as I really savored those days of going to the local drug store and picking up a soda, a Spidey, and finding a fun, very affordable (newsprint paper!) bit of escapism for under a buck (and by that I mean both the soda AND the comic together for under a buck, too).

Gone are those days, I guess.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Occupy Movement, Solzhenitsyn and Gulags

I've been following the Occupy stories with some mild interest, as it seems like a story trumped up by the mainstream media yet really these events are little more than just bored college kids excreting what they've learned from their shoulder-patch professors that dwell in windowless cavern offices laden with musty books, the one's with the obnoxious "Card-carrying member of the ACLU" stickers on their office doors. Then again, it's a first amendment thing, so these folks are free to go out and say what they want. Heck, I'm no fan of big banks, especially Bank of America, who every time you need to speak to them you go through a soul-draining ordeal of ubiquitously-circular phone prompts (after draining so much money each month in escrow you'd think they'd be a little more human.)

But the side of the Occupy stuff that makes me uncomfortable is the noxious stench of communism from so much of the protest. When I see this, or hear some clown on the radio on the leftist Houston radio, espousing communism and Marxism, I wonder if these folks have really taken the time to study the horrific atrocities historically, and currently, in countries under communistic regimes. I wonder if these Occupy people understand the reality that there were, and ARE, gulags for dissidents and free speakers (and anyone the government doesn't like). Folks like Alexander Solzhenitsyn made it clear that when you speak your mind in a commie country that, if you survive, you can describe life from inside the confines of a gulag. North Korea is still at this, where people in these places get snatched up for "supposed 'political crimes'" and get thrown into prison camps where "Men, women and children are forced to work seven days a week as slaves and eat 'rats, frogs, snakes, insects' and even feces to battle starvation in the camps."

Unless I missed something in history classes in college, communism has been historically a global failure, that has left nations ruined, drained, and decimated, and where vestiges of this evil system still remain, this model of government goes hand in hand with grotesque waves of human rights violation. The Occupy people would be better served by sitting down and doing a comprehensive overview of the history of communism (from a teacher with a more conservative point of view), instead of tired protests that seem to elicit either a collective 'yawn' from the capitalist masses, or a cautious discomfort to folks like me who dread the State totally in charge and calling the shots.