Friday, November 17, 2006

Genuine Cleverness

As the Good Book says, there is nothing new under the sun. As such, most attempts at "innovation" in various artistic endeavors fall flat on their face for being either unoriginal (e.g., increasing the sex and violence in movies to sell tickets or make a statement has already been done to death (pun intended) by the Romans) or pretentious (like, say, virtually all "modern" and "postmodern" "art"). SO, when somebody creates an artistic expression of some form that's truly original or clever, I think it really deserves some praise.

So what's so special about this? Did he invent the sampling of sounds to create a tune? Of course not. Did he create a particularly stirring melody, the likes of which human ears have never been graced with before? Hardly. But by combining the musical field of sampling with a tight beat and a bit of competent musicianship, and then packaging it in the video form shown above, he's truly done something clever, original, funny, and entertaining. Apparently, he's also done the same thing with "beat box" clips as well. And I fully support innovations like that.


John Edwards, Man of the People!

So I guess a day after Mr. Edwards made some hostile comments directed at Wal-Mart, one of his staffers attempted to use the weight of Mr. Edwards' name to get Mr. Edwards' kid a PS3 from Wal-Mart on the day of its release. I think the claimed disassociation of the over-zealous staffer from Mr. Edwards' own wishes is perfectly reasonable, but there's one or two comments in that story that I find particularly amusing. First:

In the call, he repeated a story about his son Jack disapproving of a classmate buying sneakers at Wal-Mart. "If a 6-year-old can figure it out, America can definitely figure this out," Edwards said.
So in other words, your own six-year-old is already a self-righteous jackass? I just have a really hard time imagining this anecdote in a favorable light: suppose you are a Wal-Mart shopper. Most such folks do so for economic reasons: Wal-Mart provides things almost universally at lower prices than any of its competitors. As a consumer, it's your right to choose where to shop based on such prices. And your son comes home from school one day, upset, possibly crying, because one of his "friends" criticized him because of where you bought his shoes! First of all, how the heck does a kid get away with such impertinent and rude behavior? Second, why is John Edwards retelling this story in a favorable light??? If I found out my kid was doing that, she'd receive a swift and decisive rebuke, and if I ever told anyone the story, it'd be an illustration of the mistakes I'd made as her father!

And to think, this man came awfully close to being the Vice President of the United States of America. And he's already a senator!

I also like Wal-Mart's response:

"While the rest of America's working families are waiting patiently in line, Senator Edwards wants to cut to the front," the Wal-Mart statement said.
Is it unfair, assuming the whole incident was the work of one over-zealous staffer? Sure. But oh man, what a zinger!

Labels: ,

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Wednesday Morning Coming Down

...and as the great Kenny Rogers wrote, and the greater Johnny Cash so daringly (*gasp!*) sang on the public airwaves, "Lord, I wish that I was stoned".

Not really, but I thought it somehow appropriate after "Black Tuesday". I even consciously chose a black shirt today to wear out of mourning.

And yet, I'm not really that depressed, or sad, or upset, or angry, or anything. I can't help but see the light of the Ramesh Ponnuru/Dean Barnett school of thought that says maybe, just maybe, this is a good thing. Conservatives that we elected into office have been behaving as anything but. I am a social-issues voter, and I cannot recall a single social issue that has truly been addressed at the federal level in my favor (i.e., in favor of my viewpoints) over the last six years, with the indirect exception of a handful of (ostensibly) conservative judgeship appointments, and the two new SCOTUS members. Even that was very nearly a disaster with the "Gang of 14" nonsense and the Harriet Myers debacle, and considerably less effective than it could have been, given the sheer number of truly good candidates left unconfirmed prior to election day. And forget about my small-government sensibilities! That bird flew the coop a long time ago.

But I must comment on one bright aspect of the whole post-election situation. Republicans and conservatives have been handling this with laudable tact and grace, almost entirely across the board, at least at the blogospheric level. We are not screaming "fraud!" like our competitors even preemptively did, we are genuinely wishing them the best, and we are taking in a stride the screaming hordes of the lefty fever-swamp are incapable of managing. It feels lousy to be a conservative today, but it feels great to be a sensible, rational, graceful human being.

Just imagine the outcry, the recount demands, the accusations of election fraud, the wailing and gnashing of teeth, and the finger-pointing if the Democrats had failed to win either house. I hope somebody goes back and tracks the recent history of Dem fever-swamp reaction at their own losses, and compares it side-by-side with ours. I suspect the contrast would be... startling.


Thursday, November 02, 2006

Whither the Christian Science Fiction

As a life-long fan of "hard" science fiction, it's always vexed me that I've never been able to find any deeply Christian sci-fi, and I genuinely do not understand why this is. I mean, it seems that most truly good sci-fi writers have at least some background in the hard sciences, and the hard sciences certainly have no shortage of Christians among their practicioners (despite what some ivory-tower academics may want to believe). Some of the most devout individuals I've met in my life have also been brilliant scientific, rational thinkers. Additionally, I have certainly met many a devout Christian who is also as avid a fan of the sci-fi genre as I am. Thus: the talent is (presumably) there, and the market demand certainly seems to be as well. And yet, it seems an almost completely untapped market

Now, I consider myself moderately well-read in the genre. Since I equally enjoy fantasy as much as I enjoy sci-fi, my reading time is not entirely taken up by the subject, so I can't say I'm thouroughly well-read, but I have read most of the "masters" at least introductorily, if not exhaustively -- Asimov and Heinlein coming to mind in the latter category, Arthur C. Clarke and others moreso in the former. I admit that my tastes skip the "middle generation" of scifi -- authors now either dead or well past their prime, but of great prominence in the 60's and 70's -- but that largely springs from my own conservatism largely clashing with their seemingly obsessive counter-culturism. I enjoy a lot of modern scifi writers as well -- I think Peter F. Hamilton's Night's Dawn "trilogy" (if it's a trilogy, why'd I buy six books, huh?) was fantastic, and Dan Simmons' Hyperion Cantos were actually good literature apart from being great space opera (as is his more recent Ilium, which I recommend to scifi fans as well. I have not yet read its sequel Olympos, however). My point is this, though: in hard sci-fi, when religion, particularly the Christian religion, is featured, it is almost always featured in a negative light. And the more prominently it is featured, the more negative its role in the story becomes.

It seems that Christianity is usually dealt with in one or both of two ways: it is either a power-hungry organization seeking galactic domination over humankind, or at best it is a benign group of naive, superstitious people whose beliefs are inevitably shattered by some sort of sci-fi revelation (e.g., Jesus Christ was really an alien, or a time-traveller, or some other "shocker"). Incidentally, of the two modern examples I just listed above of "good scifi", the latter in fact takes the first route as a major plot-point (a method for immortality is discovered, an the Church swiftly takes control of it), and the former takes the second ("souls" of dead humans are possessing the living, but it turns out the souls are just human consciousnesses in an alternate energy state). Fortunately, I read sci-fi because it is escapist, so I've gotten very good at my own willing suspension of disbelief. In neither case is the goal of the author to offend my nice Christian sensibilities, but merely to weave a good tale -- unlike the counterculturists I previously mentioned, whose sole goal always seems to be to advance one progressive agenda or another.

When Christianity and scifi do intersect in a friendly (or at least non-hostile) manner, it seems to take a limited number of forms. The first major form is the "morality tale" -- C.S. Lewis being a notable writer of such in his so-called "Space Trilogy". These tend either to be allegorical or much more introspective, and less of the "space opera" I'm talking about here -- i.e., very little action and lots of philosophizing. Think "2001" + God. Great stuff in its own right, but not what I'm talking about here -- i.e., "hard" sci-fi. Another major form, at least lately, seems to be taking a more biological tack -- I believe there's at least one Christian writer who surmises that the Second Coming of Christ might result from a cloning experiment using a miraculously- preserved drop of Christ's blood or some other DNA sample. Interesting premise, yes, but much too near-future to fulfill us hard-core space nerds.

As for "hard" "Christian" sc-fi, I'm not talking about some adventure-in-outer-space with a main character who happens to be Christian or extoll Christian values. I really do want the deep Christian philosophies examined in great detail, just with a backdrop of hard sci-fi, replete with technological extrapolation, a compelling plot, twists, turns, character development, the whole shebang. And I have yet to locate it. And I continue to look -- every time I'm in a Christian bookstore, I always spend the most time browsing the fiction section, in a desparate hope that someone has done just that. Thus far -- nothing.

To wrap this up, I should mention that I have my own ideas for what would make excellent Christian sci-fi. One idea, in particular, has been germinating in my mind for well over a year now, yearning to be set free onto paper. I'm too shy to go into detail about it just yet, but it's taking pretty solid form, at least in terms of the setting, overall plot, protagonist, and the details of the universe in which it is set. Ok, here's a teaser, which astute observers of my comments on certain other blogs might recall, at least in an oblique manner: within the milieu of a galactic-scale war between humanity and a sentient, highly-developed alien species, it will address the question of a) whether or not a non-human sentient species needs and is eligible for salvation, and b) what God may or may not have done about it. I won't give away the "big reveal" just yet, but the truth would, of course, have the power to change the fates of both species.

If any of my readers know of any Christian sci-fi of the type I describe, please, let me know! I'd love to read it.

Labels: ,


Ok, after a long, work-related hiatus, I am back. I'm sure all one or two of my loyal readers have missed me dearly! Anywho, i should be posting a lot more often now that we've overcome a major deadline at work. Happy reading!