Saturday, December 31, 2005

the island of dr. moreau

I finally finished H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau. It had been mentioned by Colson in a BreakPoint email some months back because of the ethical issues it raises, and I needed a few bucks on an Amazon order recently to save on shipping and so I gave this book a try. Overall it’s probably not on par with some of Wells’ more famous stuff but it’s a good (and short) read nonetheless.

The story takes a while to pick up steam, but the final third or so of the book is worth the wait. The plot is basically the narrator’s retelling of his experience on an island filled with "vivisected" creatures and men who create the brutes. The details are something you’ll have to read the book to get, but it does bring up many questions concerning science and its impact on the world for both good and bad.

Wells was very obviously not a Christian and some of the symbolism he employs -- such as someone’s claim that a dead man is actually still alive and watching from "above" -- is likely a mockery of Christianity. It is also clear that he intended the primitive society on the island to reflect his view of religion. The brutes are portrayed as mindlessly adhering to "the Law", a code of sorts that requires them to act like humans and deny their animal impulses. The doctor has set himself up as their absolute ruler and uses force and brainwashing to maintain his power over them. The implication of a religion that controls and manipulates its adherents is certainly there.

Interestingly, though, one of the major themes I took away from the story supports a Christian worldview. When the island creatures begin to realize what has been happening and stop following the Law, all hell breaks loose. And this is very similar to what happens at any level of society when people decide they no longer need to abide by higher standards or laws than what their own desires dictate. When a society turns its back on the principles it was founded upon, it can expect to fade into oblivion in short order. This is exactly what’s happening in most of Europe today and, to a slightly lesser extent, here in the states as well. I think Wells does a great job of illustrating this process in his book.

Another theme Wells focuses on is the effect of science on society. In Wells’ day, and still today, it is generally assumed that any scientific advancement must be good for the masses. After all, it makes our lives easier and brings us conveniences our ancestors could have never dreamed of. But Wells shows that science, when pursued and applied for the wrong reasons, can have a damning effect on those who come in contact with it. Dr. Moreau had managed to fill an island with half-men of sorts, creatures who lived a "mock-human existence" with a "fear that never died" due to the pain of their creation and the constant threat of Moreau, the results of Moreau’s twisted scientific pursuits. But for Moreau this poses no moral dilemma, for he lives for the dream of one day creating human beings. Moreau says it himself: "I have gone on, not heeding anything but the question I was pursuing."

There are several other themes and such I could discuss, but then you might not read the book. So go find a copy and start reading. It won’t take long and it’s a good read.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

my new worst pasttime

[Not sure that title makes sense but I not think good today so it sticks.] I finally found something I'm worse at than swing dancing. I didn't think I could sink any lower in any skill, but alas, I was wrong. We played a Bible trivia game Fun, enlightening, humbling, and humiliating all at the same time. It certainly helped me put in perspective just how much I don't know about the Bible. I figure I got maybe 20% of the questions correct, and then only because there were some super easy ones in there. Forget about the rest. But it was very interesting, though not something I'd want to play in front of anyone I was trying to impress.*

It would be a good way to learn Bible facts, but then again, so wouldn't reading the Bible. If you want to know what's there, go to the source. And hey, that even has the added perk of teaching you more than just head knowledge.

*Given my recent taking up of such activities as dancing and bowling, it should be obvious to any observer that trying to impress people is not on my list of criteria for deciding what to do with my time. Wait...would it matter if that were on the list? What would I choose to do that I'm actually really good at? This could take a while...


Read Luke 14 earlier today...the first verse talks of "a prominent Pharisee" whose house Jesus ate at on the Sabbath. I've heard before -- unfortunately I don't remember when or where -- that this Pharisee was Nicodemus. I don't know if that's just speculation or if there is solid reason to believe that to be the case. I tried to find out here and couldn't find any discussion of this, but I don't think I'm just dreaming it up. Oh well, something to look into...

In any case, this Nicodemus is an interesting character. He appears in what seem to be barely related situations, from coming to Jesus at night to perhaps this meal with other Pharisees to the burial of Jesus with Joseph of Arimathea (oddly, Joseph is mentioned in all four gospels but Nicodemus only in John). Although the Bible never says outright that Nicodemus was a believer, I think there is evidence that he was. He defended Jesus to other Pharisees in John 7, not a smart career move for a Pharisee and one that would have required some boldness and conviction. He also helped a believer bury Jesus and even brought spices to the burial per Jewish customs. These are hardly the actions of a nonbeliever and even less so those of a Pharisee with no more respect for Jesus than for a dog. I don't guess there is enough there to know one way or the other, but given what we have to work with I think the case in favor of Nicodemus being a follower of Christ is far stronger than the case against.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

exciting christmas tv!

Heard an ad on the way home and couldn't believe what I was hearing, so I tried to look it up to confirm. Unfortunately, the WB's website sucks so horribly bad that any time spent trying to navigate it is a total waste and thus I've given up. So I'll just assume I really heard what I thought I heard.

According to the radio spot, for four hours on Christmas morning the local WB station will be showing an uninterrupted picture of a burning log. No joke. I mean, I figured Christmas might be a slow day for TV, A fake fireplace for four straight hours. That has got to be a new low. They could have at least tried to put something interesting on. But hey, if they were aiming for low-budget programming to save money they sure hit bullseye with that one.

The more pathetic thing is, there are probably homes in their viewing area that will actually have that channel on for more than three seconds straight and for reasons other than comic relief. Why else would the WB gurus pull such a bizarre stunt? Their market analysis must tell them there are families that will watch a piece of wood burn on TV. Even worse, those families might even think they're somehow better off for having that channel on, as if it brings some sort of holiday spirit or joy or something into the home. Are you kidding me? A picture of a burning log? Man, this is just amazing. I can't get over this...

If anyone needs a picture of how pathetic Americans really can be, this would be a good example.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

how things change

Just got back from my first NHL game. The Caps lost 3-2 to the Panthers but it was great fun nonetheless. There was plenty of action, plenty of chances to cheer for goals and scream at the refs and otherwise make some noise, and, most important of all, a row of drunk dudes not far behind us who provided some entertainment of their own. Not everyone in our group enjoyed their company, but I didn't mind.

But, on to the topic at hand. On the Metro on the way back, an interesting question was posed to me but someone who knows I'm a sports fan and who also knows I've been into artsy stuff recently too. So...if I had to choose between a musical and a sporting event to attend, which would I choose?

Weird as it is, that's actually a hard decision. Weirder as it is, all things equal I'd likely choose the musical. My Beowulf experience was better than a lot of sports stuff I've been to in that it actually held my interest for the entire length of the show. With sports, it's a few seconds of excitement interspersed among several minute stretches of normalcy. But with sports you actually interact with the game in a sense by cheering and yelling and such and musicals don't offer that. They also don't offer a chance to talk to the people you're with, so that'd be another drawback. So I guess my final answer would depend on the specifics of the event and who else was attending.

But just a couple years or so ago I can't imagine myself even thinking about my response to that question. I'd have been laughing too hard. But how things change I guess. It's like something that was brought up in our Hebrews study this past fall. When you taste something deeper and more meaningful, it appeals to you more and you can't go back to the old, simple ways of entertaining yourself and still be satisfied. That explains why stuff like video games and even D&D don't seem to hold much of any appeal to me anymore. It's true of so many things it's easily worth a blog post of its own, but this won't be it.

wise words from tr

Time to clear the cobwebs from this thing...

Been talking to a friend from my old stomping grounds of Little Rock recently about some decisions I'm faced with. You know, the ones where it's clear what ought to be done but for several reasons you don't want to do it and hold out with the hope that things will just magically work out if you do nothing. And, of course, they never do. But our friend Theodore Roosevelt had a bit to say about such situations. To paraphrase his words, it's better to try and fail than not try at all. Very true too, in any area of life. I'm curious to know what he was referring to here. Whatever it was, this part of the speech is so good it's worth memorizing.
It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of the deed could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust, sweat, and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again...because there is no effort without error and shortcoming.

It is the man who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasm; the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement...and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

putting the enforcement in law enforcement

I'm sure you've heard about the Miami airport shooting by now. Even though this one was a false alarm it's reassuring in a big way. Huge kudos have to go out to the air marshals. It is so nice to see that they really are willing to shoot and kill if some lunatic threatens to blow up a plane. Any rule is only as good as the enforcement backing it up. In this case the officers eliminated the threat and secured the plane in a matter of seconds. In my judgment, the air marshals and the nation's homeland security in general passed this test with flying colors.

Unfortunately, it seems the guy was only guilty of being crazy. No bomb, no threat, no terrorism. But given his actions it was impossible for the marshals to know that. If some dude runs down the aisle of a plane screaming about a bomb he has, refuses to stop when confronted at the door, ignores repeated orders from officers, and finally reaches into his bag, they'd better shoot him. That's what they're there for. Forget about being nice and erring against the use of deadly force, their job is to protect the lives of the people on the plane. That can sometimes require shooting first and asking later.

I can already hear the BS about the guy's wife yelling during the scene, or the guy being dark-skinned, or the fact that he never actually displayed a deadly weapon. Get over it, fools. Insane or not, he gave those marshals plenty of reason to take him out. If you don't think so just look at all the misses that led up to the 9/11 attacks, or how so many illegal immigrants commit crimes after being let go for lack of the "right" evidence. Now force yourself to make a snap decision with many lives at stake. Do you shoot to protect others? Or do you roll the dice with a suspicious character? If you chose the latter then I dearly hope indecisive, spineless folks like you are never responsible for protecting the lives of the rest of us while we fly.

The moral of the story here is, don't mess around on a plane. The feds just proved they mean business. That certainly puts them a cut above money-wasting pushovers like the FBI and INS. Great job, marshals! I hope they do the exact same thing the next time a situation like this arises.