Linus, Love, and the Perils of Peace on Earth

2015-12-24 Christmas img01There are moments, usually somewhere between the fourth and fifth glass of eggnog, when I rank the first few scenes of A Charlie Brown Christmas among the finer artistic accomplishments of our age. The animation is rough-hewn, the voice acting hesitant, the writing somewhere between banality and camp. As art, it is the Gothic rejection of the perfect in favor of the sincere: a lesser stonemason may be allowed his gargoyle, and the cathedral is undiminished when the temple of Apollo would be utterly destroyed.

So if anything saves A Charlie Brown Christmas from itself, it is the sincerity of Charlie Brown, whose soft-spoken anxiety matures into desperation to know what, in a world of pink aluminum trees and impromptu freestyle dance, Christmas is all about.

And Linus’ sincere answer, a simple reading from the Gospel of Luke, is deeply troubling. Continue reading

Are You Judging Me

2015-11-19 Judging img01Go to thesaurus.com and type in judgmental. Your list of synonyms will include arbitrary, personal, irresponsible/frivolous, unreasonable/irrational, and, my favorite of the bunch, injudicious.

Judicious and judgmental both come from the root jud-, which relates to making decisions and forming opinions. From a linguistic standpoint, it just doesn’t make sense for the word judgmental to be synonymous with injudicious, the negation of judicious.

Now, I understand that language evolves. Sometimes you just have to throw up your hands Continue reading

The Evil of Hoarded Gold

The Evil of Hoarded Gold ThumbnailI’ll be the first to admit that I am not a fan of The Hobbit film trilogy directed by Peter Jackson. In fact, many of my friends will poke at me with the topic (in good-natured fun) just to see me bristle up in ire.

Whereas Jackson (or at least the people working alongside him who reined in some of his more madcap suggestions) made a very valiant attempt in the Lord of the Rings films to stay as true to the books as possible, with one or two notably disappointing exceptions, it seemed as though he decided that The Hobbit as written by Tolkien wasn’t good enough Continue reading

Why Know?

2015-10-29 Learning img01

I came across the following cartoon on Facebook not too long ago:

2015-10-29 Learning img02

This cartoon makes a number of points: That history, for instance, is memorized only because children are forced to do so. That memorizing takes forever. That knowledge pooled from memory and from Google are “technically” indistinguishable. That, given that paradigm, school is futile and even cruel. (In “But torture builds character,” one also hears an echo of Calvin’s father and his outdoor excursions.) Also, given that paradigm, that by memorizing facts rather than searching Google whenever one is curious, one gains nothing.

I hope that recently I’ve answered that second complaint, the erroneous belief that memorizing is laborious and time-consuming. In that same post, I also mentioned that “the purpose of knowing countless facts off the top of one’s head is a question for another day.”

Today is that day. Continue reading

Pursuing Truth, Part 3: The Garden is Dead, Cultivation Lives On

2015-10-22 Natural img02In certain subsets of our culture, there is a common assumption that “natural” is better than “artificial”, leading to waves of rejection of anything seen as “unnatural”. For example, consider Chipotle’s controversial rejection of GMO ingredients, Aldi’s decision to not use synthetic food dyes, or any number of food or “back to nature” blogs. If the appeal to nature is taken as an absolute, it is easily disproven to all but the most stubborn. It should be self-evident that eating dirt or manure (even if it is free range and certified organic) is inferior to eating Cheez-its. Continue reading

Pursuing Truth, Part 2: Unappealing Authority

2015-8-27 Authority img01In my previous post about scientific literacy, I briefly discussed the high levels of misleading information and specious arguments regarding controversial scientifically related issues, and I mentioned the need to put extra effort into doing your research carefully. I addressed such research only in broad strokes, however, and I have received multiple requests for a more detailed “how-to” guide. While working on said guide, I realized that there are some common threads in many of these controversies that I need to address first, and these are my topic for this post. Continue reading

Pursuing Truth

2015-7-15 Science img01Natural. Organic. Carcinogenic. Genetic modification. Artificial ingredients. Preservatives. Climate change. Vaccines. I was seriously tempted to give my best case for my positions on all of these, but there are already too many articles, blog posts, and sundry other pieces of information, misinformation, confusion, vitriol, opinions, and outright lies scattered across the internet on these topics. Anyone trying to decide among them is in a difficult position, unless they choose to blindly accept all sources that agree with them and disregard everything else with extreme prejudice (a strategy that is sadly common on both sides of most modern debates). Assuming you care more about what’s true than massaging your ego, how do you decide for you (and your family, if applicable) what products and paths are best, and which ones are overly dangerous? Continue reading

On the Differences between Revisiting, Reinterpreting, Retconning, and Retroactively Ruining Stories

2015-7-16 Retcon img01What does it mean to tell a story? Why does spinning a yarn matter, and what kind of effect does it have on both the tale-spinner and the audience? And, of most concern to this article, what happens when a storyteller decides that some tales do not meet a particular need in their current form? This last question invites an examination primarily of means in a creative act; that is, how does an author go about changing or altering something he has already published or released to others? Implicit in such literary activity, however, is also a moral component worth consideration on a case-by-case basis. Continue reading