Monday, March 31, 2008

Carry On, My Wayward Son

So I have admitted I am a prog-rocker. I can do that, I'm strong.

But what is it about Japanese kids blasting out western music? Whether it's cute 5-year olds with ¾-size violins all over Mozart or sitting at small pianos laying down some Scott Joplin they are plain on it.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

10 Most Prophetic Science Fiction Films

Popular Mechanics has a fun countdown of the "10 Most Prophetic Sci-Fi Films Ever."

The writer, Erik Sofge, says:

They’re not necessarily the best movies—just the ones that got the science right, or will sometime soon.
In his list are the stand-bys of 2001, a Space Odyssey and Soylent Green. But also Short Circuit and Road Warrior.
And of the selection of Running Man, he says:
The movies that have the biggest cultural impact aren't necessarily the best ones. In fact, sometimes they're among the most embarrassing.
While I don't agree with all his choices (the purpose of '10 best' lists is to generate argument) he does make fairly good cases for his selections.

Friday, March 28, 2008

What's in a Name?

This blog has a rather pedestrian name, and for that name I make no apologies. I am not writing a political blog, nor am I writing one devoted to popular culture.

Sometimes, however, I am struck with envy. Usually it's over the headline of a blog posting.

This time, though, I must admit that the a blog's name has impelled me to venal sin. Behold, Chris Matthew's Leg:
Chris Matthews’ Leg was talking to the lifeless shriveled husk of Keith Olbermann’s sense of shame the other day. They were both totally in awe of the way ex-conservative Andrew Sullivan can turn his histrionic self-righteousness on a dime.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Fragile Crocodiles

From Jerry Pournelle:
I note that National Geographic is (1) saying that crocodiles have been more or less unchanged for 100 million years, and (2) are now endangered by global warming of a few degrees. I find that fascinating.

Monday, March 24, 2008

A New Conversation on Race

Thank you, Jonah Goldberg:

"In fact, doesn't it seem like the majority of people begging for a "new conversation" on race are the same folks who shout "racist!" at anyone who disagrees with them?"

Aroma Memory

The other day I stopped by my daughter's house to drop of a few things. As I left, she handed me a small, waxy blossom and said, "Smell it."

The effect of the smell was galvanic. I twitched and felt a sense of disassociation. It took me a minute to place it. At first I thought the flower was honeysuckle, but she corrected me, "It's orange blossom," and a door in my memory opened.

For the next few hours I could not stop holding that blossom under my nose, drawing in one of the aromas of my childhood.

We had several orange trees in our William Street backyard, as I grew up; and the countryside had many orange groves. (Odd, that we say "grove," rather than "orchard.") When the trees were in bloom, the smell was heavy and thick and sweet. On occasion we would drive to the Sunkist packing plant and buy a box of navel oranges (88's--the perfect size for a child to eat.)

The last time I traveled to Southern California I discovered that I had forgotten some of the smells. The orange groves are almost gone, but I found that several other forgotten scent memories were there.

Eucalyptus--this is a scent that is everywhere in my home with potpourri and flower arrangements.

Pepper Tree--the scent that I associate with Claremont, for some reason.

Oleander--this was a scent that I had almost totally forgotten until my trip. We had oleander on the border with our next-door neighbors. Somebody makes an oleander perfume.

Baked dust--this is the background scent for Southern California, comparable to the river smell of Portland, Oregon, or the salt air/blackberry/pine smell of my current home on Whidbey Island.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Bodily Ressurection

An interesting article in Slate about the problem of the resurrection. Not surprisingly, the Gnostics hated the idea of a bodily resurrection:
These differences over what Jesus' resurrection represents and discomfort with the whole idea are nothing new, however: Christians in the first few centuries also had difficulty embracing the idea of a real, bodily resurrection. Then, as now, resurrection was not the favored post-death existence—people much preferred to think that after dying, souls headed to some ethereal realm of light and tranquility. During the Roman period, many regarded the body as a pitiful thing at best and at worst a real drag upon the soul, even a kind of prison from which the soul was liberated at death. So, it's not surprising that there were Christians who simply found bodily resurrection stupid and repugnant. To make the idea palatable, they instead interpreted all references to Jesus' resurrection in strictly spiritual terms. Some thought of Jesus as having shed his earthly body in his death, assuming a purely spiritual state, and returning to his original status in the divine realm. In other cases, Jesus' earthly body and his death were even seen as illusory, the divine Christ merely appearing to have a normal body (rather like Clark Kent!).
Yet there seems to have been a virtuous consequence to the belief:

In Christianity's first few centuries, when believers often suffered severe persecution and even the threat of death, those who believed in Jesus' bodily resurrection found it particularly meaningful for their own circumstances. Jesus had been put to death in grisly fashion, but God had overturned Jesus' execution and, indeed, had given him a new and glorious body. So, they believed that they could face their own deaths as well as those of their loved ones in the firm hope that God would be faithful to them as well. They thought that they would share the same sort of immortal reaffirmation of their personal and bodily selves that Jesus had experienced. Elaine Pagels, a scholar of early Christianity, has argued that those Christians who regarded the body as unimportant, perhaps including "Gnostics," were less willing to face martyrdom for their faith and more willing to make gestures of acquiescence to the Romans—for example, by offering sacrifices to Roman gods—because they regarded actions done with their bodies as insignificant so long as in their hearts they held to their beliefs.

By contrast, Christians who believed in bodily resurrection seem to have regarded their own mortal coils as the crucial venues in which they were to live out their devotion to Christ. When these Christians were arraigned for their faith, they considered it genuine apostasy to give in to the gestures demanded by the Roman authorities. For them, inner devotion to Jesus had to be expressed in an outward faithfulness in their bodies—and they were ready to face martyrdom for their faith, encouraged by the prospect of bodily resurrection...

Monday, March 17, 2008

Identity -Politics Hand-Grenades

This whole Democratic primary campaign has spun out of control.

From Mark Steyn, via National Review:
...Senator Obama embodies an idea: He’s a symbol of redemption and renewal, and a lot of other airy-fairy abstractions that don’t boil down to much except making upscale white liberals feel good about themselves and get even more of a frisson out of white liberal guilt than they usually do. I assume that’s what Geraldine Ferraro was getting at when she said Obama wouldn’t be where he was today (i.e., leading the race for the Democratic nomination) if he was white. For her infelicity, the first woman on a presidential ticket got bounced from the Clinton campaign and denounced by MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann for her “insidious racism” indistinguishable from “the vocabulary of David Duke.”

Oh, for cryin’ out loud. Enjoyable as it is to watch previously expert wielders of identity-politics hand-grenades blow their own fingers off, if Geraldine Ferraro’s an “insidious racist,” who isn’t?

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