Friday, April 6, 2018

And Jesus Said, WTF DUDE!?

Cherry-picked for your convenience!

This keeps coming up, and rather than re-write the same argument over and over, I’m putting it here so I can more quickly reference.

This meme is making the rounds and while the Bible quote is correct, it is also cherry-picked completely out of context.  Jesus explains his reasoning for buying swords in the next line, which, for some unfathomable reason, always gets left out. After ordering the purchase of the weapon, Jesus says:

"It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment." 
Luke 22:37

And clearly, the swords were only procured for that reason, as they come back with just two.  Two swords against a mob, let alone Roman soldiers, is a recipe for suicide and massacre.  It’s clear, that’s not Jesus’ thinking at all, as when they show him the swords Jesus says, "That’s enough!” (Luke 22: 38) Meaning any weapons found among Jesus' inner circle would be enough to make an accusation against him so he could be taken and the process of his sacrifice could begin—which is exactly what happened.

But for those who remain unconvinced, there is the later incident when Peter actually draws one of the swords and strikes.  Jesus sharply rebukes him, “Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.” Matthew 26:52

And that’s where we get that line from, which is in concert with Jesus’ previous sentiments throughout his ministry.  Consider his Sermon on the Mount, and his explanation of the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5: 9).  It has been pointed out that there is sometimes a peace that can only be found on the other side of war, but that’s clearly not at all what Jesus was talking about, and what Matthew was writing about.  The rest of Matthew 5 is a message of non-violence, culminating in the oft quoted:

You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. Matthew 5: 38-39

And finally, lest we have any doubt whatsoever, Jesus addresses the entire concept of violence carried out by any of his apostles/disciples in the use of their “armament”:

Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way? Matthew 26: 53

Anyone who doubts that Jesus preached peace should probably review Matthew 5 in its entirety, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5: 44.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Pooh On You Too!


I see it's been awhile . . . Mr. The Pooh.
A couple of years back, I ran across a piece of “Calvin & Hobbes” fan-fiction that really got me—it got to me enough that I re-worked it for my own edification.  Either I’m getting older and all nostalgic, or the impact of a beloved character is truly impressive.

Maybe both.

I took my boys to see A Wrinkle in Time and I’m not going to offer any opinions on the movie just yet.  But as we were watching the various trailers that accompanied the film, one started that I thought for certain was Mary Poppins Returns.

It was not.

It was this trailer for Christopher Robin:



Winne-the-Pooh appears for, maybe, ten seconds in the entire trailer, but DAYUM if that wasn’t enough for me.

Pooh and I go back quite a ways.  Not as much as Christopher Robin, but he was certainly there when I was a babe-in-arms.  As my mother tells it, I was being quite a handful at the local theater in Hawthorne, NV.  The unique thing about this particular theater is they had built in a “cry room” for parents with children such as me.  My mother can probably tell you what movie they were there to see.  I was less than one at the time, so my own thoughts are a bit . . . vague.  Still, as my mother tells it, the short “Winne the Pooh and Tigger Too” came on, and I was immediately hooked.

I don’t think I’ve ever had a strong affinity for A.A. Milne’s character, but I certainly can relate to him, and his various adventures.  Seeing a grown-up Christopher Robin, played by the excellent Ewan McGregor, who is only a few years older than me, is . . . yeah.

Let’s put it this way: I don’t know why theaters can’t keep invisible, onion-cutting ninjas out, but they had all massed near my seat.

Well done, Mr. Milne.  Well done, Mr. Disney.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Check Is In The Email

Which books? Ohh, THE Facebooks!

If you aren't paying for a product, then YOU are the product.  That is the business model that Facebook has been built around, and that has never been a secret.  Facebook's corporate bottom line is no different from any other business—profits generally supersede most other considerations (although those considerations are still . . . well, considered).  In this case, pursing that bottom line goal, Facebook was able to be deceived.  They did not deliberately deceive their users.  They were themselves deceived, and their model allowed that deception to take place. 

This is not to say that Facebook isn't at fault.  They are.  Or maybe it's better to say that they're responsible.  They learned about the deception and then did nothing, because . . . profits. It was a simple matter to deceive them, and their corporate culture balanced that deception against their profits, and profits won out, which is why it took an insider leak to the media to bring out the story.

But their entire model is based off personal data that we willingly give to them, and the sale of that data to analytics companies who can then sell us stuff.  Anyone who thinks differently should ask themselves how Facebook pays for all this?

Before I was picked up by my first publisher, I was pulling back from Facebook.  Those people who wanted to connect with me had other avenues to do so, and in those earlier days it was much, much easier to offend and lose friends—which I have.  But as an author, I take advantage of the vast reach and depth that Facebook offers me to connect not just with friends and family, but with other writers, potential readers, and experts in various fields who can assist me with my end goal—telling good stories.  I've met some wonderful people and engaged with some great readers.  I wouldn't have been able to do that without this platform.  I'm certainly no more or less tech-savvy than the next average Facebook user.  I am, however, always a bit skeptical when it comes to the information that various apps are asking me for so that I can play their games or, in this case, take their personality test.  I could stand to be more skeptical, and less apt to give away all my various secrets.

So, understanding all the aspects of this particular set of events, and weighing the benefits I gain against the potential for manipulation, I will for the time being remain a member and active user of Facebook.  What I have gained and continue to gain using Facebook as a primary social platform remains worth the trade-off of information that I provide on a daily basis.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Great Mills High School in Maryland

No words on this one. Sorry.

This is not my argument. It was made by a friend of mine.  It so accurately sums up the issues that I’ve stolen it and provided it here:

Guns don't kill people, people kill people. So we're told gun control isn't the answer. You can't sue the gun makers or make it difficult for people get guns, even if there are signs that they'd be dangerous.

People don't kill themselves, the opioids are killing them. So we're told we need to take the opioids away. We should go after the drug makers and doctors, and make it very difficult for people in pain to get relief.

So... we have to take something that can be useful away from you, because you might use it to harm yourself.

But we have to make sure you can get all the guns you want, even though they're useless unless you're hurting someone.

This isn't logic, it's twisted moralizing.

In the overall scheme of firearm death/violence, “mass shootings” are not, in themselves, that big of a problem—they only account for a small percentage of the overall death.  They do, however, quickly underline in blood and tears and loss the exact nature of the problem.  Humans are now and may always be too emotional, too irrational, too prone to violence to be responsible enough as a species to be trusted with firearms.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Queen Mary's Daughter by Emily-Jane Hills Orford

What-if!?

Emily-Jane Hills Orford’s “Queen Mary’s Daughter” is a historical fiction that poses and answers the question, “What if Mary, Queen of Scots’s daughter had survived childbirth and become a time-traveler?”  Initially, readers might be worried that they don’t have enough historical background on Mary Stuart or the events surrounding this time period in Scotland and England.  Orford reduces the intricacies of this period of history to make it understandable for almost any audience.

Orford’s story is the adventure/romantic tale of Mary Elizabeth Stuart, a young, attractive American woman of Scottish heritage, and James “Jamie” Stuart, an equally young, attractive Scottish native.  Traveling to Kinross, Scotland, at her grandmother’s request, Mary Elizabeth finds herself suddenly some 450 years in the past, taking part in events with very little understanding of their impact.  She learns that her grandmother was actually a time-traveler, and she also has this same ability.  The possibilities of changing the course of Scotland “for the better” becomes the crux on which the plot revolves.

Orford creates interesting central characters that are fun and engaging.  She has a good sense of the historical events which surrounded this time period. The exploration of what might have occurred, should Mary, Queen of Scot’s had produced a living heir is interesting.  Orford condenses or ignores some of the historical intricacies, but she does so to the benefit of the plot.  In a few places, the time travel was a bit too convenient, but it was always used in an attempt to move the story and characters forward.  Any clich├ęs built around Mary Elizabeth, Jamie and their adventures can be forgiven for Orford’s conceit of revealing the outcomes of her central conceit.

In “Queen Mary’s Daughter,” Orford is able to craft a romantic adventure around a nice bit of historical fiction that is a fun exploration for genre-readers and fans of “Outlander” and “Reign”.  The life and times of these time-travelers is an exciting distraction, in an interesting story of “what if”.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

It's, Like, The Very First One

If only we knew what they meant!?

Posted without commentary:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Thank you for your kind attention.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Once More, From the Top

Arrgh, these kids and their fancy "trophies"!

For the past ten years or so, I’ve been a volunteer coach at John W. North High School.  Speech and debate are my thing, although I’m better at speeching than I am debating. 

No, it’s true.  Look it up.

I was not the best competitor (high school and college), but I enjoyed the process.

Anyhow, this weekend was the State Qualifying Tournament.  I’ve been focused on a single tournament this year, one that pays out cash for first, second, and third place, so these quals tournaments weren’t even on my radar.  One of my students insisted on going, so I worked with her, got her speech in shape, and sent her on her way.

She broke to finals.

This is her first year on my program (she’s a sophomore) and her second tournament ever.

Once again, it looks like I don’t get to resign anytime soon.