After reading about a newly published scientific book titled The Mystery of the Shroud, which attempts to prove that the Shroud of Turin actually dates back to the time of Jesus, I planned on writing what you are about to read.
Then, an hour before my scheduled writing time, I “just happened” to notice a Facebook post that read:
Christmas was the promise — Easter is the proof.
That phrase truly resonated with me because of the word “proof.”
But do believers really have proof that Jesus was resurrected from the dead?
After twenty years of reading about and studying the Shroud of Turin (and even viewing it in 2010), I have all the “proof” I need. Although let me state emphatically that my faith — and the faith of most people who are celebrating “Resurrection Sunday” today — does not depend on any physical proof whatsoever.
For we know that Jesus is alive and His Spirit lives in us; that is all the proof we need.
Still, physical proof of Christ’s resurrection would be useful, especially when one tries to convince loved ones to believe in what more than a billion people around the world believe today.
So what if this new Shroud of Turin scientific study really does prove conclusively that the Shroud cloth dates back to the time of Jesus? Does that mean mankind finally has the proof it needs to believe that Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead after dying on the cross?
We are certainly getting close to “proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” and here are some reasons why this is happening now.
It may be too stark. If it’s true, there are legions of blockheads out there — people who publish works in literary journals that pay in contributor’s copies; people who publish on websites that have considerable readerships but do not pay their writers for their efforts (there are not a few of those).
I would modify it to: No man but a blockhead ever wrote short stories so that he could send each one to ten or twenty literary journals until one accepts and publishes it, and then have no sense at all that anybody is actually out there reading it.
At least, that was the dictum I arrived at after years of doing just that. As I’ve described, about a decade ago I decided I’d had enough and stopped writing fiction.
That is, “I’ve” stopped; but that doesn’t mean my subconscious has. It still comes up with stories and presents them to me, requesting that they be written.
In most cases these notions quickly fade and are almost totally forgotten. Some, though, persist — in some cases even for years. It’s a standoff: the idea remains somewhere in my head, and I know it’s there but keep declining to execute it, to translate it into typed words on the screen and see what grows from that.
I can think of three of these ideas that particularly won’t go away, like a stray dog who parks himself on your doorstep and mournfully refuses to budge. I thought it would be worth giving a peek at these. They’re probably representative of a larger phenomenon—people who have given up certain kinds of writing but whose “minds” haven’t.
Week 8 of my second 13 week season: low carb diet and more exercise, tracking my weight, blood glucose, and body fat. You can follow me at my 13 Weeks Facebook page for daily updates, and you can join Fitocracy (free!) and follow my daily exercise, and maybe even start tracking your own.
A few days ago, PJ Lifestyle ran an excerpt from Leonard Mosely’s book Disney’s World, in which Walt Disney, in a letter to his partner Ub Iwerks, expressed his frustration with the his first sound cartoon, the now-iconic Steamboat Willie.
He’s pretty depressed. he doesn’t like Hollywood, he doesn’t like being away from home, and he’s losing confidence in the still-unfinished film. You can see why, when he was having trouble selling the idea, and animation is a frustrating process anyway. This was in the days of the most primitive hand-drawn animation, where every frame of the film had to be hand drawn on clear acetate, with tiny changes from frame to frame. Twenty-four times for each second of film. In this 7 minute 23 second film, that’s something like 10,600 frames. He was tired, and he was bored, and he had trouble seeing any progress.
Why did this strike me, he asked rhetorically? Well, it reminds me of my ongoing glucose/bodyfat/weight project. Here I am, eight weeks into my second season, 147 days since I first started tracking this, and it’s a little frustrating and hard. I’ve been less diligent about the exercise, and I do find myself missing things I used to eat. Like chocolate. And pasta. And bread. And while I have lost some weight, it’s slow and the day to day variations make it hard to see. It’s like Disney must have felt — another 24 frames, another day’s work, and what did he have? Another lousy second of film. That no one wanted to distribute. He was past the initial excitement and into the slog.
Right now, this project feels much the same. I’m actually losing weight, and I can see changes — more muscle coming back to my arms, and to put it bluntly, my boobs are smaller. I’ve lost six inches around my waist, and I can feel that every time I put on a pair of pants that were in the back of the closet because I hadn’t been able to wear them. But at the same time, the progress is a little slow and hard to see, and it’s a little hard to explain why it should matter to anyone — especially me.
But then I got thinking, and a little Excel-fu got me this. Here’s my actual weight, charted over the last sixty days, with a trend line. This is very much like the other charts I’ve been posting.
Trend line is down. This is good. It’s not down very fast, and the added muscle certainly explains that — but also notice that individuual weights vary pretty wildly around that trend line. So here’s another chart.
Twenty-seven years ago I found what seemed to be the only functioning storm-drain in Tanzania, in East Africa, and fell down it, severely injuring a knee in the process. The journey to the mission hospital in the back of a pick-up truck over sixty miles of rutted laterite road was one of the more agonising experiences of my life.
I had an arthroscopy when I returned home several weeks later — I could not even hobble until then — and the orthopaedic surgeon told me that unless I did physical therapy every day for a very long time it was inevitable that I should be crippled by arthritis within twenty years.
It was equally inevitable that I would not do physical therapy every day for a long time; and here I am, twenty-seven years later, without so much as a twinge from my knee. My faith in the predictive powers of orthopaedic surgeons has been somewhat dented.
That was why I read with interest a paper in a recent edition of the New England Journal of Medicine comparing physical therapy with surgery for meniscal tears in the knees of people with osteoarthritis. To cut a long story short, there was no difference in outcome, an important finding, since 465,000 people undergo operations for precisely this situation every year in the United States alone.
Actually, the uselessness of operation had been established before — the uselessness from the patients’ point of view, that is. Two previous trials had compared real with sham operations, and with no operations at all, and found no difference in the outcome two years later. One might suppose that, in the light of these findings, the 465,000 operations still performed annually constituted something of a scandal.
The clinical trial reported in the NEJM is, like all such trials, not definitive. The follow-up period was only 6 months, relatively few patients were recruited to it, and some patients initially allocated to physical therapy had an operation nonetheless for reasons that are not entirely clear. Moreover, the trial is only that of operation versus physical therapy; strictly speaking, there should also be a comparison with patients who had no treatment at all.
By Zeus, it’s been awhile since there’s been a decent shoot-em-up at the movies. But G.I. Joe: Retaliation will slake your need for gadgets, guns and explosions, and it’s even got some cool villains and funny jokes.
This one finds the super-secret team of elite military masters from all over the world up against the Zeus project by which the equally ferocious team of nasties known as Cobra hopes to rain down death and destruction on the earth. The Joes may have courage, comradeship and extremely large machine guns on their side but Cobra Commander and his crew have something that can top all that: They control the President (Jonathan Pryce) of the United States, who is actually a plant named Zartan. And what is Zartan up to? Only calling a world summit of the eight nuclear-armed powers and tricking them into doing his bidding.
When an action spectacular is willing to go all the way and have characters say things like, “The world will cower in the face of Zeus,” you know you’re in the frenzied land of pure junky comic-book energy, and on that level Retaliation works just fine. In the opening minutes alone, there are three big ker-blammo fight scenes involving the close-knit core members of the Joe team: There’s the wily old sergeant Roadblock (Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson), the amiable but slightly dense captain Duke (Channing Tatum), the rookie Flint (D.J. Cotrona) and the slinky Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki).
Jazz and Islam, Part 7
See last week’s part 6: The Questions Nobody Wants to Ask About ‘Moderate Islam’
The debate over James Holmes’s sanity has raged hotly ever since he murdered twelve people and wounded 58 in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, in July 2012. But now the controversy can be laid to rest: Holmes is sane. The clearest indication of his sanity came last week, when the Daily Mail reported that he had converted to Islam.
The Mail reported that Holmes is apparently quite devout: he has grown a lavish beard, eats only halal food, prays the obligatory five daily prayers, and studies the Qur’an for hours every day.
Holmes’s conversion reveals that instead of being unaware of what he did, or utterly remorseless, as one might expect of a psychotic or a sociopath, the murders must trouble him a great deal. For it is souls that are troubled — intellectually, morally, spiritually, psychologically — who cast about for some solution to what troubles them, and often find it in religious conversion.
But it is what Holmes converted to that is significant. Had Holmes converted to Christianity, he might have found relief for any remorse he might be feeling for the massacre in the proposition that in Christ his sins, no matter how great, were forgiven; if he had explored Buddhism, he might have focused upon developing right intention, right speech, and right action, and eradicating the illusions that led him to kill in the first place.
Instead, Holmes chose Islam. A prison source noted: “He has brainwashed himself into believing he was on his own personal jihad and that his victims were infidels.”
The cult of Ayn Rand has never been stronger on the American Right. Rand’s influence on groups such as the Tea Party and politicians like Rand Paul — who is, after all, named after her — is intense, and clearly growing in popularity. Indeed, the Tea Party began with a pundit who called himself “basically an Ayn Rander.” For many on the Right, Rand has become something approaching a messiah, or at least a patron saint. American conservatives, looking for a way up from the defeats of the Obama era, appear ready to embrace this trend. This is, needless to say, an extremely bad idea.
First, it is politically suicidal. The U.S. is mired in an economic crisis that has been brewing for some time, and shows few signs of disappearing. And this crisis was caused, to a great extent, by Randian economics. Eschewing traditional fiscal conservatism, the American Right embraced for the better part of three decades a messianic form of capitalism that demonized the state and society, while fostering an idolatry of the individual entrepreneur, the corporate CEO, and the unabashed pursuit of money as the highest moral good.
That this has had horrendous consequences cannot be denied. If money is the highest moral good, then making money — by whatever means — overrides all other concerns, even legality, prudence, and common sense. The result has been massive economic inequality, recklessness on the part of the private sector that brought it close to self-destruction, the gutting of public assets, and the negation of even the idea of a collective good.
This is much in contrast to traditional conservatism, which acknowledged the self-evident fact that society is a collective endeavor, and the interests of the individual must be balanced against those of the collective. It also acknowledged — indeed, insisted — that a society can reach a consensus on what constitutes the good, and pursue it on a collective level to the benefit of all. Indeed, Edmund Burke based his entire critique of the French Revolution on the idea that the good can only be achieved by particular communities with specific values, and not through universalist individualism. Rand, in contrast, regarded society as fundamentally evil and the mortal enemy of the individual; a point of view that can, in fact must, lead to a state of anarchy and social collapse that benefits no one and destroys precisely what traditional conservatism seeks to preserve.
Visit First Things for more of Ayn Rand’s very colorful commentary on Lewis.
I’ll be traveling over Easter and don’t think I’ll have time to blog, so I’ll leave a few mini-reviews to unroll day by day for your holiday viewing pleasure — or not.
— Oh, man, I so wanted to like this. Liam Neeson killing evil Muslims to get his kidnapped wife back? It worked once, why not again? Plus the critics hated it while the public ate it up, so I was all ready to side with the public. But, really, no. The characters are terribly written, the action is poorly choreographed. Poor Neeson looks like he needs to be rescued more than his family. There’s one scene where he’s in a Mexican standoff — evil Muslims have him and his wife at gunpoint; he’s holding a gun on them — and, so help me, he pauses to make a phone call! I was hoping he was calling his agent: “Get me out of here!” No such luck. A few days after I saw this, I was on the elliptical and Taken 1 came on TV. I was struck again by its taut structure, its expert suspense. Take my advice: watch the first one twice and forget 2.
Life does not come with a reset button. That truth struck me whenever I glimpsed the face of my Nintendo Entertainment System. Reset was always there, lurking next to Power, ready to erase both my sins and the virtual world in which they had been committed. A fresh start, another try, Reset offered them free.
Moments like that, moments where some shadow of philosophical truth peaked through the veil of this childish pastime, came often over the years. The most recent occurred while I was playing Fable II on my Xbox 360. Set in a fantasy world with swords, sorcery, and muskets, the Fable series contains many game mechanics above and beyond the traditional hack and slash quest. Among them is the ability to purchase real estate and manage rental property, which maintains a steady stream of gold for upgrading weapons and other items. As I purchased one property and saved up to invest in another and yet another, I quickly realized I was mimicking a truly productive task. Why can’t I do this in real life? Oh yeah, I don’t have any money to start.
The experience of the game inspired me to revisit methods for creating wealth and fostering upward mobility. I won’t go so far as to say Fable II changed my life. After all, I’ve yet to buy that first investment property. However, it did plant a seed which may someday germinate.
Other games have offered real life lessons in ways both subtle and overt. Here are 7 for your consideration.
Why Do Only French Actresses Have the Ability to be Mind-Shatteringly Beautiful While Still Looking Like Real People?
Basically, this monster French hit is a Magic Negro movie: you know, a warm/wise/passionate person of color brings warmth/wisdom/passion into the lives of stuffy old white folk. But it’s elevated above its shudder-inducing genre by a vastly charming script and two performances of such brilliance they would have elevated the phone book. Francois Cluzet is so unbelievably good as a quadriplegic millionaire, he brings the guy completely to life from the first scene using nothing but the expressions on his face. Omar Sy is delightful as the street tough who gets hired to help him out. And Audrey Fleurot — why is it only French actresses have the ability to be mind-shatteringly beautiful while still looking like real people? No wonder French guys never want to do any work! Anyway, it’s definitely worth watching all the way and the scene at the opera is classic. I like opera, and it still had me in stitches. Based on a true story. A real pleasure.
Part 1 of a 4 Part series Deconstructing Family Guy
When Seth MacFarlane sang about boobs at the Oscars, I’m pretty sure he was referring to his own fans.
Most of the time it is taken for granted that we recognize the latent moronic nature of most television programming today.
Then again, do we?
If we agreed as a culture that television programming like Family Guy is so moronic, why would a collective cheer rise up at the sight of another Emmy win? Would we be told by media commentary royalty to worship Seth MacFarlane, the show’s creator, as fascinating? Not only does the guy have mega street cred in the pop culture universe, the primetime structure he’s so wholeheartedly mocked is singing his praises. In fact, it could be said that Family Guy’s seemingly counterculture humor has been legalized by the mainstream.
What’s more, like a bad addiction, Family Guy is the drug that has turned a generation of Boob-Tube addicts into junkies. So, what are the signs, Doctor? How do you know when a co-worker, a friend, even a loved one has become a total Boob? Let’s play MediaMD as we examine the 5 most common side effects of watching Family Guy.
To Plot or Not To Plot
The closest you come to holy wars among writers is on the matter of plotting versus pantsing. Pantsing is a highly technical term, roughly translating as “flying by the seat of the pants.” Plotting in this case means working out the details of your story in advance.
Should someone ask you if you’re a plotter or a pantser, you might think it is just a matter of curiosity; but be careful how you answer. Whatever your answer, there is an even chance that if your listener is a writer — and even if he isn’t — he’ll have strong opinions on how you’re doing it wrong.
The only people without strong opinions on this are people like me who started as strict plotters, became somewhat looser plotters, and now find themselves as pantsers. It is not an unusual journey even if the opposite trajectory is almost unheard of . I have the theory that plotters who become pantsers after a number of books have in fact internalized the structure of a novel so well that the subconscious is pulling its own weight.
Plotters defend their method of work as resulting in tighter, cleaner books, and pantsers defend theirs as letting unexpected genius shine through more often. And yet, I know many plotters whose work has sudden, unexpected surprises, and many pantsers whose plots work as precisely as a Swiss watch.
So, instead of telling you the way you should work, I’m going to assume you’re an adult and know yourself best. Besides, if you start out one way and it doesn’t work, you can always change.
What I’m going to tell you — quickly — is how some people write plot outlines, and then how other people write without mapping plots in advance.
During my second afternoon at the NRI Summit, mid-way through yet another congressman’s address, I mused about how easy it would be to create a Right-Wing Red-Meat Speech Generator:
First, plug in some vintage Reagan and Buckley quotations.
(Hell, mix ‘em up and see if anyone notices: “I’m from the Boston telephone directory and I’m here to help you…”)
Then sprinkle on some “hard-working Mexicans.”
Squeeze in a reference to that lousy poem carved onto an old French statue.
Finally, make “America is the greatest country in the world” a default value.
I ask you:
Why do professional conservatives pay speechwriters big money when some basic java script could produce the same mediocre results — a string of empty-calorie cliches?
I’m not the only one complaining about this.
Something vile and horrific happened in a courtroom in Ohio last week, and as I’ve reflected upon the event, I’ve been disturbed by the thought that we have become a nation of compliant sheep that no longer produces citizens capable of standing up to injustice.
At a sentencing hearing for school shooter T.J. Lane, who gunned down six high school students, killing three and paralyzing one from the chest down, Judge David Fuhry gave Lane three life sentences in prison, to be served consecutively.
In what should have been a day of closure and justice for the families of the victims and the community of Chardon that suffered so much in the wake of the school shooting last year, a courtroom full of people stood by and allowed T.J. Lane to victimize the families in a base, contemptible way that likely added exponentially to the heavy burden the families already bear.
The courtroom for Lane’s sentencing hearing on Tuesday was packed with families of the victims, students, teachers, and members of the media. As the hearing began, Lane slipped off the button-down shirt he was wearing, revealing a t-shirt onto which he had written “KILLER” with a marker. A collective gasp filled the courtroom. As the families of the victims gave their statements, Lane smiled and leered at the families, almost seeming to enjoy the moment.
After the sentence was read, Lane had the opportunity to make a statement. At that point, he said something so horrific that I’m not even going to write it here, simply to spare you if you haven’t already heard it. (You can read it and watch the video here.) Trust me, you will have to bleach your soul once you hear it. It should be added to The Book of Things That Shall Never Be Repeated. Then Lane flipped the families the middle finger as a parting shot and said, “F*** all of you!” As a mother, I had a visceral — almost physical — reaction. I almost vomited, thinking about the pain his contemptible words caused the families and how they’ll never be able to scrub them from their minds.
People called talk-radio programs that day to vent their anger. Along with vicious prison-retribution wishes, caller after caller said they would have been arrested had they been in the courtroom. They wouldn’t have stood by while Lane visually and verbally tortured the parents.
WTAM host Bob Frantz said: “I would have been shot dead today. I would have leapt tables to get to that kid.”
Everyone stood by and let it happen.
I can tell you that this morning in Beersheva, before it even started to get light, birds were singing in the dark. From my open, fourth-story kitchen window I saw the utter calm, felt the remarkably mild air, made out the forms of the buildings without a single window lit by a light.
Remarkably mild, because we’ve been having an intrusion of summer into what should be — at best — spring.
For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come….
The Song of Songs remains a detailed and reliable guide to spring in this land — or at least its more rural parts. Where I live — as could be made out as the light slowly grew — a hodgepodge of older, smaller houses and more recent apartment buildings that were thrown up hastily for immigrants makes for a grim, cluttered effect. But it is the land; as birds start to wheel in the sky against a dull silvery color.
Thomas Sowell: “One of the infirmities of age is omniscience.” I’m far from aged, and I’m not omniscient. But that line — from a writer who comes up with a lot of them — has special resonance. If I’ve achieved any knowledge, it’s what I feel now in this hushed, almost secret hour.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: “_____ and _____ are worried about an economic collapse.” National Geographic should simply change the name of their hit show from Doomsday Preppers to Surviving Obama and be done with it.
Where was I? Oh, I remember.
Brad and Krystal are the parents of three near Tulsa, Oklahoma, and worried about an economic collapse. They’ve been preppers for several years, and have amassed enough food stores that they are beginning to overwhelm their 2,000 sq. ft. home. Their closets and rooms are overflowing to the point that just to get into bed Krystal has to climb over Brad; her side of the bed is packed with canned food.
Moments after we are introduced to the family and shown around their warehouse/home, we shuffle off to the shooting range, where the family is intent on introducing their youngest son, six-year-old Carson, to shooting.
Putting a six year old in charge of a firearm sends up a big red flag to many people, whether they are shooters or not. In the end, it is a call that the parents and instructors have to make: is this specific child mature enough to follow instructions to the letter? Is the environment controlled, with limited distractions? Are all the basic safety rules being followed, and is that child’s exposure to the firearm tightly supervised, and restricted to the firing line? Is there a need/way to restrict the muzzle of the firearm so that it can only point downrange?
As a rifle-shooting instructor, these are some of the concerns that ran through my mind when I heard they were going to put Carson on the firing line, and it turns out those concerns were well-grounded.
The family can’t even get out of the house without serious safety violations, such as when their kids walk out the front door holding uncased firearms by the stocks, and young Carson is pointing the muzzle of his .22LR singe-shot at his sister’s ankles and their concrete driveway. Oy vey!
Week 7 of my second 13 week season: low carb diet and more exercise, tracking my weight, blood glucose, and body fat. You can follow me at my 13 Weeks Facebook page for daily updates, and you can join Fitocracy (free!) and follow my daily exercise, and maybe even start tracking your own.
You know, sometimes it’s just not your week.
Last week I was happy about breaking through the 270 pound barrier. This week was, well, weird.
I was diligent about the carbs again, averaging something like 15g a day. I ate plenty of protein, and I was oddly hungry all week, but no interesting carbs; my big splurge has been corned beef and cabbage. But nonetheless, my glucose spiked up to 130 one day, my weight went up to 274, even my body fat bounced up.
Oh, and I felt tired and achy all week; I only got like 450 Fitoccracy points all week. All in all, as far as scientific method and careful record-keeping, I’d have to say that this week, I just don’t know what was going on.
Now, the news wasn’t all bad. I’m down to a 42 inch waist — that makes it 6 inches off my waist and 2 off my neck. By the Army’s method of calculating bodyfat, I’m down to 25-26 percent. Interestingly, that corresponds to what the Withings scale shows me at in the evening. I am definitely noticing that the impedance method from the Withings scale is very sensitive to what time I weigh — in fact, body fat on the Withings scale can drop as much as 4 points between 8 AM and noon.
The answer, I think, is I need to get my body fat done using one of the extremely accurate methods, probably the body scan, in order to get an idea of what really is happening. But in the mean time, there is another lesson. Bodies are complicated things, and as the Harvard Law says, no matter how rigorously you control the environment, the organism still just does what it damned well pleases.
|Date||7 day Weight||7 day Glucose||7 day Bodyfat||Sum Fitocracy Points||Weekly Fitocracy Points|
|Δ since 2-1||-0.43||-4.18||-2.46%||N/A||N/A|