Tuesday, September 15th, 2015 - by James Jay Carafano
When a group of hackers called CynoSure Prime cracked over 11 million passwords for the dating web site for adulterers they made national news. Now as more information comes out about users of the Ashley Madison service one of the top conclusions is—most of them must be cyber-stupid.
The passwords chosen by many could be cracked by a kindergarten class. The #1 password used was “123456.” Number two was the even lazier “12345.” Number three was the ever popular password “password.” Other clever combinations included “DEFAULT” and “AshleyMadison.”
Maybe adulterers get what they deserve, but for the rest of Americans (who are equally guilty of stupid cyber-security practices) it is time to learn the meaning of the term “cyber hygiene.”
There are simple and practical steps that everyone can take which will significantly reduce the likelihood of getting hacked, identity theft, and other common malicious cyber activity.
One of the most basic steps is to not pick a password that any idiot can figure out.
I remember when Rocky Balboa, the sixth and most recent film in the definitive boxing franchise, was first announced. On paper, it sounded like a cash grab or a vanity project. How could Sylvester Stallone come back to Rocky at age 60?
But he did. The sixth film was a return to form for the franchise which used Stallone’s age to its benefit. If you take a look at the cumulative critic ratings throughout the franchise, the perceived quality of the films dropped with each new installment until Rocky Balboa, which rated second only to the original.
The forthcoming seventh film in the franchise looks set to uphold that renewed standard. Stallone is now pushing 70, which precludes the possibility of him stepping once more into the ring. But that’s the film’s hook. It’s not really a Rocky film. It’s the start of what may become a new franchise focused on the son of Apollo Creed.
Creed stars Michael B. Jordan in the title role, training under the guidance of an elder Rocky who assumes the mentor role once held by Burgess Meredith’s Mickey. The relationship between the two appears to be the focus of the film. This doesn’t look like ’80s cheese. The Creed trailer evokes the ambiance of the 1976 classic from which it springs.
Monday, September 14th, 2015 - by Theodore Dalrymple
The purpose of research is to discover what was previously unknown. Research wouldn’t be necessary if we knew everything there was to know, but that will never be the case so research will always be a necessity, so long as knowledge remains preferable to ignorance. And while wisdom may be folly where ignorance is bliss, you can never know that to be true until after you’ve become wise.
Apparently, all of this is perfectly obvious except to certain trial lawyers, whose job it is to exploit the corrupt and corrupting tort system.
A recent edition of the New England Journal of Medicine reports the outcome of a case in which three plaintiffs sought to sue the University of Alabama Institutional Review Board and the electronics firm Masimo. The case was brought on behalf of three infants, born premature, who were enrolled in a clinical trial concerning the best oxygen concentration to give such infants.
At the time of this trial, it was known that oxygen concentrations below 89 percent resulted in higher rates of death, while those above 95 percent resulted in higher rates of retinopathy, which causes permanent blindness. As a result, the recommended concentration was between 89 to 95 percent, but the actual optimal percentage was unknown. The trial sought to clarify matters by allocating premature infants randomly to concentrations between 89 and 91 percent, and also between 92 and 95 percent.
As one reads the Gospel according to Matthew, and encounter’s Christ’s warning in chapter 7 to avoid the wide gate leading to destruction, it becomes clear that genuine believers have always been a minority. Yet, in the political discourse, a perpetual effort continues among culture warriors to portray believers as a “silent” or “moral majority.”
Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and author of Onward: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel, adapts a portion of that book in a recent commentary for The Christian Post. He argues, among other things, that Christians should not delude themselves into believing they are a majority in any culture. He writes:
One of the reasons I say that it is good for American Christianity to no longer think of itself as a “moral majority” is that such a mentality obscures the strangeness of the gospel. When a vision of Christian political engagement hinges on building a politically viable network of ideologically united voters, Christ and him crucified will tend to be a stumbling block, not a rallying point.
… Even some sectors of religious activism chafe at the honest accounting of apostolic Christianity as a minority viewpoint in Western culture. Minorities do not exert influence, they will contend, on the culture or the systems around it. The temptation is to pretend to be a majority, even if one is not.
But this is a profoundly Darwinian way of viewing the world, like a frightened animal puffing out its chest in order to seem larger and fiercer, in the hopes of scaring off predators. Such is not the way of Christ. The church of Jesus Christ is never a majority, in any fallen culture, even if we happen to outnumber every[one] else around us.
The impulse Moore highlights, to regard one’s cause as emblematic of a majority even when not, is not confined to Christianity. It’s fair to say everyone tends to think of themselves as “the silent majority.” However, Christian retain a unique reason to reject majority thinking. We’re explicitly told that we will be few, and that the world will be against us. Our hope lays not in some coming political revolution.
If you use software to block the display of ads on the internet, you have acted immorally. That’s the claim made by Arthur Zey, a project manager and engineer who has worked for Twitter and other technology companies.
Zey offered the claim in a Facebook post which germinated into a fascinating, highly intellectual, and surprisingly civil thread. He linked to this story from Geek.com reporting on Google’s efforts to “punish AdBlock users with unstoppable YouTube video ads.” Of the effort, Zey wrote:
Good for Google. YouTube doesn’t run on the warm, fuzzy feeling you get watching cats do silly things.
… YouTube relies on that ad revenue to operate. I think [the use of ad blocking software] amounts to taking the unearned to watch YouTube videos in this fashion…
I am not a fan of the righteous indignation that many have expressed [in response to my claim]. Whether you are the customer or the product, whatever your exact contractual relationship may be with the provider, you are on YouTube (and similar sites) to gain a value. And you know that that value is financed by your watching of ads (or, at least, their being displayed on your computer while you’re off taking a piss or whatever). I think that to use an automated, technological means to circumvent “paying one’s fair share” is distasteful at best.
Several commenters, including yours truly, sought to understand Zey’s moral claim by asking how it applies to other circumstances. For instance, is it immoral to skip past commercials recorded on a DVR? Is it immoral to leave a movie theater during the trailers, or show up late in an effort to avoid them?
When producer Tony Visconti explained the concept of the original Eventide Harmonizer on a conference call around the time of David Bowie’s Low in 1977(thefirst of Bowie’s experimental albums produced in Berlin)that Visconti shared with Bowie and synth pioneer Brian Eno and was asked what it does, the above quote is the answer Visconti hilariously blurted out, often toned down as “messes with” for more family-friendly publications.
Eventide Harmonizers have been messing with the fabric of space and time ever since. Harmonized guitar solos, exotic percussion sounds, double-tracked vocals, echoes that rise and fall in pitch — over the decades, you’ve heard Harmonizers on countless hit records. Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin kept one in his guitar rack in the later years of Led Zeppelin. The band’s soundman used another to allow Robert Plant to sing harmonies with himself during concerts. And on “Bonzo’s Montreux” on Coda, their posthumous last album in 1982, Page ran John Bonham’s drum kit through an Eventide Harmonizer to create a variety of tuned steel drum-like percussion sounds.
For decades after its commercial introduction in 1975, the Eventide Harmonizer was only available in rack-mounted form. With digital audio workstations largely supplanting analog recording by the end of the 1990s as the recording industry’s standard recording platform, Eventide introduced a Pro Tools-compatible plug-in version of their early Harmonizer over a decade ago. It took a while for Eventide to issue a version in the popular VST-plug-in format though, which is why I reviewed Audio Damage’s Discord clone for VST back in 2006 at Blogcritics.
So, what does the H3000 Factory sound like? It’s capable of a lush stereo chorus sound on patches such as Variable Width Pitch Shift, which is equally useful on guitars, synths, bass, and anything requiring fattening up. There are some cool auto-wah and filtering effects on patches such as Envelope Filter. The GUI has the classic “big knob” of the hardware Eventide Harmonizers, which allows for adding lots of motion and a human touch to filter and auto-wah patches. The knob and other settings on the H3000 can be animated via automation lanes.
The H3000 Factory can do much to take a routine guitar or keyboard track and add interest, particularly when “multing” the source track to multiple tracks, allowing for, say, a juicy chorus effect on the verse, a filter effect between vocal passages, and a dramatic descending “Kamikaze” delay on the break.
Eventide Harmonizers have long been favored by producers to thicken a lead vocal with patches such as the iconic “Dual H910s.” The H3000 Factory’s Traversing Beyond patch can add an atmospheric “outer space” special effect to voices, and there are plenty of filters built in to produce simulated telephone, transistor radio and other lo-fi effects.
The H3000 Factory is also a fun sound effects generator, capable of producing synthesized helicopter, wind, laser beams, UFO, and police siren effects. And some of its more extreme 460+ default patches can radically transform a synth or drum track beyond recognition.
So your Friday night game session hasn’t gone well for your players. Which is to say, they’re all dead or worse — and yes, there is such a thing as ‘worse’ than dead, in a roleplaying game session. For example: the party may have just utterly made it impossible to continue on with the roleplaying game campaign that both you and your players have spent the last six months investing your emotional energy in. Maybe the dice didn’t love the party. Maybe they missed a key clue. Heck, maybe your players were absolutely begging to have rocks fall and everyone die. Whatever the reason, they’re not happy, and you’re kind of not happy, and you’re wondering: “Is it time for a retcon?”
‘Retcon,’ if Wikipedia is to be believed, stands for ‘retroactive continuity,’ which is Slightly Pretentious for ‘We painted ourselves in a narrative corner, and now we’re getting ourselves out of it.’ It’s done a lot in comics (you try keeping Superman and his universe’s story perfectly consistent and non-contradictory for decades, especially when you have multiple writers) and is not unknown in films. For example: depending who you ask, the status of Star Wars’ midichlorians are a retcon either when George Lucas stuck them into continuity to explain how the Force works, or will be a retcon when J.J. Abrams yanks them out of continuity because the very idea was idiocy on stilts. So it’s pretty inevitable that the idea would have eventually ported over to tabletop roleplaying.
All of this doesn’t really help a gamemaster (GM) who needs to to decide what to do when the perceived need for a retcon shows up. The good news is, there are options. A few of which follow right after the page break.
Friday, September 11th, 2015 - by James Jay Carafano
On September 18, 2015, expect to witness another iconic gangster performance from Johnny Depp, who plays Boston’s meanest gangster ever, Whitey Bulger, in Black Mass. He’ll add his name to a distinguished list of actors who delivered murder, blood lust, betrayal, greed and terror on film. With so much drama, ruthless hoods have been a Hollywood staple since the 1930s.
Here’s a list of the eight greatest gangster films in history:
#8. Scarface (1932). No, this is not the horrible, cringe-worthy 1983 film starring Al Pacino about a coke dealer with a bad accent and terrible fashion choices. This is the black-and-white classic with Paul Muni, one of the greatest actors ever, playing a fictional version of the gangster Al Capone. Since the movie snuck into theaters in the pre-Hollywood ratings days, it’s loaded-up with plenty of sex and violence. It set the standard for every gangster film that followed.
Friday, September 11th, 2015 - by James Jay Carafano
Remember the guy who hacked digital billboards on Times Square with a cellphone? That was a fake. But, turns out the city isn’t safe after all.
Skycure surveyed the world’s most popular tourist attractions. The company that markets protection against malicious cyber-activity identified the sites where mobile devices are most at risk. Topping the list is Times Square.
“When you’re in a high-traffic area like these famous destinations,” warns Adi Sharabani, CEO of Skycure, “you’re a target for hackers. Unlike your computer, your phone is always on, even when you’re taking in the sights. Mobile tourists are a lucrative target for cybercriminals.”
In addition to the dangers of the Big Apple, other targets on the list are:
2 .Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, France
3. Disneyland Paris, Marne-la-Vallee, France
4. Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, Calif.
5. Ocean Park, Hong Kong
6. Las Vegas Strip, Las Vegas, Nev.
7. Hollywood Walk of Fame, Hollywood, Calif.
8. Union Station, Washington, D.C.
9. Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Boston, Mass.
10. Disneyland Park, Anaheim, Calif.
11. Navy Pier, Chicago, Ill.
12. St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City
13. Grand Palace, Bangkok, Thailand
14. Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, Orlando, Fla.
15. Pike Place Market, Seattle, Wash.
The safest wonder of the world? According to Skycure—it’s the Taj Mahal. Sorry India. There is just not that much Internet and wifi in Agra.
The best advice?
Avoid “free” wifi like the plague.
Make sure your operating system is updated.
Turn-off data roaming.
If your phone starts acting weird—shut it down.
Don’t look into the light. (okay, I made that last one up)
Thursday, September 10th, 2015 - by Tricia Lott Williford
What if, and this is crazy big thinking, the waitstaff at restaurants didn’t interrupt the conversation at the table?
I will tip extra — perhaps double — if the server will not interrupt.
Here’s the thing. I was a waitress for six years, and I know the job well. It’s a lucrative business for those who learn the science, and it’s a highly respectable trade to balance orders and timing and trays of food. In fact, I think everyone should have to wait tables before they can ask for anything at a restaurant. It’s a hard job with long hours and tired feet. And it’s surprising how easily people get angry when they’re hungry.
I respect waiters, waitresses, hostesses, servers and waitstaff. Seriously, heaps and gobs of respect. Hear that.
But when I’m out to dinner, be it with a friend, my parents, a date, I came to spend my evening with that person. I actually didn’t come to spend the evening with the server, though I am deeply thankful for his/her role in the evening.
Instead of walking up to the table and diving in with tonight’s specials, what if you waited just a moment to let the guests finish their sentence?
Instead of asking if I need a refill, what if you simply brought a freshly filled glass?
Instead of paying zero attention to the fact that my son is crying over a hard day at school, what if you took the social cue and walked away to give us a moment?
Instead of talking every time you come to the table during the meal, what if you just make yourself available, check in silently, and know that every single one of us will ask you for something if we need it?
Here’s a confession. I’m not sure what to think about Kim Davis.
I know. How can someone not know what to think about Kim Davis, right? You’re supposed to have an opinion ready to go for a case like this, especially one that’s been in the news for as long as Davis’ defiance has. But it’s actually a fairly complicated issue that requires a fair amount of thought to parse through, and I’m not done parsing.
One thread of thought worth considering is whether Davis has been the victim of religious persecution. Christian blogger Renée Schafer Horton has some thoughts on that:
There absolutely areChristians being persecuted for their faith throughout the world. They are tortured and killed for nothing more than believing that Jesus Christ was who he said he was.
U.S. Christians are often treated in a manner that can make one feel persecuted… However, feelingpersecuted in these ways in no way compares to the aforementioned actualpersecution of Christians…
People of faith often feel that a secular world gone amok is being crammed down their throats. Violent and dehumanizing music lyrics, abortion on demand, websites that encourage and enable adultery, the sexualization of childhood, the latest Jack Black movie – all of this can be frustrating. I’m certain Kim Davis feels frustrated, or perhaps her personal history and subsequent religious conversion made her feel the need to take a stand.
But because – praise the Lord – we do not live in a theocracy, frustration doesn’t mean you get to stop following the law of the land. If you disagree with that law, you can go through appropriate channels to try to change it. You cannot, however, hang onto your elected position while refusing to carry out the duties of that elected office and claim that act is Christian. Because, it is not.
Horton’s argument works in a laboratory where all else is equal. However, as The Blaze’s Matt Walsh points out in a provocative column supportive of Davis, all is not equal.
Kim Davis was sent to jail, ostensibly for violating the rule of law. This while overt lawbreakers from groups like Black Lives Matter, Planned Parenthood, and — ahem — the State Department go unscathed.
Actor and gay activist George Takei took to his Facebook page to offer comment on Davis’ release:
Well this is a bit of a circus. So let us be clear: This woman is no hero to be celebrated. She broke her oath to uphold the Constitution and defied a court order so she could deny government services to couples who are legally entitled to be married. She is entitled to hold her religious beliefs, but not to impose those beliefs on others. If she had denied marriage certificates to an interracial couple, would people cheer her? Would presidential candidates flock to her side? In our society, we obey civil laws, not religious ones. To suggest otherwise is, simply put, entirely un-American.
Legal arguments aside, there remains a high degree of irony in supporters of recent Supreme Court decisions balking at an imposition of belief. Indeed, the Supreme Court — five individuals — has imposed its view on states whose residents have established laws under which its residents wish to live. Those laws are crafted and enforced by duly elected officials like Kim Davis.
The latest reporter shooting hoax in Virginia is getting so easily torn apart by the conspiracy research community that the media’s emotional staging of actors is becoming absurd.
The latest discovery is that Alison Parker’s alleged fiancé Chris Hurst, who has only eight social media photos of him with Alison, is probably just her “TV” boyfriend. A guy named Daniel Wulz has been outed by facial recognition as her real-world boyfriend.
Try to keep up because it get’s a little tricky after this: A guy named Daniel Wulk (who in reality is likely an ex-boyfriend) has a bunch of pictures of himself with Alison Parker on his Facebook page. Chris Hurst, the “alleged” bereaved fiancé, has only a pathetic little scrapbook to show for his life with Parker. Also, and perhaps most damning in the eyes of the “conspiracy research community,” Hurst has some — gasp! — film-making experience. Therefore — everyone take a deep breath — it must logically follow that the shooting was a government-sponsored false flag operation involving professional actors who agreed to be complicit in a giant, secret gun-grabbing operation by participating in a staged shooting on live TV. Got that? (I might have missed a link somewhere along the way in this fantastical yarn, but you get the idea.)
Left unanswered? Where are the alleged actors who were involved in this elaborate ruse now? Is there some secret witness protection program for undercover government hoax actors? Or maybe there’s a remote exile island in the Pacific where they’re kept in seclusion for the rest of their lives!?!? Also unanswered: how did the government gun-grabbers get the families of the victims to believe their loved ones were in those caskets they buried? Oh, wait…sorry. Apparently they are in on the whole thing. They’re awaiting an airlift to Conspiracy Theory Island as I write this.
Seriously, what is wrong with these people? Do their readers actually believe this nonsense? I’m really wondering because the articles have been shared tens of thousands of times on social media (by some individuals I actually know in real life, I might add). I’d like to think that people are sharing them with messages like “This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen.” And you know what? I’m going to just go with that version because it’s preferable to believing that tens of thousands of people actually buy into these stupid hoaxes.
John Campea labors as the senior producer of Collider Video and headlines the daily webcast Collider Movie Talk. Each week, at the start of the week, Campea and his crew break down the weekend box office and offer insight into what those numbers mean.
Since the release of War Room two weeks ago, the box office segments have been a little awkward. On Fridays, the crew predicts which films they believe will be in the top five. Nobody predicted War Room’snumber-two opening weekend. In fact, no one on Collider Movie Talk thought War Room would be in the top five.
Tuesday’s box office segment was even more awkward, with War Room ascending to the number one spot in its second week, dethroning Straight Outta Compton. Watch above as the crew first sidesteps the film altogether, then hesitantly acknowledges it, and finally sprinkles in a fair amount of mockery.
Some people want to know why I don’t review the current #1 film at the box office WAR ROOM. Well it’s simple. I hate preachy movies. I especially hate movies that preach religious points of view at me. I don’t care if it’s a Christian religious point of view or an Atheist religious point of view. Now, I’m not saying other people shouldn’t enjoy their Christian/Atheist propaganda movies. I celebrate those movies are out there for them to enjoy if that is what they indeed enjoy. Awesome! But it’s not for me. So what would be the point in me reviewing said movies if:
1) I know I’m not going to like them
2) If I don’t like it and give it a negative review, I’ll just be opening myself up to some religious people (a minority of them, most religious people are just great) attacking my review and calling me names and accusing me of being anti-religious (even though what they don’t realize is that I went to Bible College).
So basically, if you ask me why I don’t review WAR ROOM, my answer would simply be “what would be the point?”
If you’re wondering why I don’t review WAR ROOM, just look at the comments in the [previous post]. All that reaction just from me saying I wasn’t reviewing the film. Can you imagine how much hatred would be unleashed if I did review the movie and gave it a negative review? No thanks. The problem is, if there is a movie that (regardless of how good or bad it is) promotes the beliefs of someone, and then you say that movie isn’t good… then that person will act as if you are attacking their beliefs the movie promotes instead of just saying it was a bad movie. It is a no win situation, and thus a game I refuse to play.
Scanning over the comments from the original post, most of them seem either supportive of Campea’s stance or respectfully critical of his reasoning.
Plenty of films are preachy, but happen to preach politically correct (cultural Marxist) messages. Consider films like Elysium with its heavy-handed immigration themes, or Brokeback Mountain’s clear social agenda. A forthcoming film called The Danish Girl stars Eddie Redmayne as a transsexual, and looks primed to promote transgenderism. Are those films too “preachy” for Campea to comment on?
Christian Post author Wallace Henley draws a provocative comparison between Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis and civil rights icon Rosa Parks. Davis has been the subject of scrutiny, and more recently arrest, after refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Henley observes:
On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks had three choices. First, she could have complied with the city code, and moved to the rear of the bus. Second, she could have gotten off the bus and refused to re-board, as she did in 1943. On that occasion, the same driver demanded that, after paying her fare at the front, she exit, and walk outside to the rear entrance. Third, in 1955, Rosa Parks could have refused to budge because of her convictions. That is what she did.
Kim Davis had the same three choices. She could have complied with the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage, which had been affirmed by Kentucky governor Steve Beshear, and issued the licenses to homosexual couples. Or, Davis could have gotten “off the bus” by resigning her county clerk position. Third, she could have followed the example of Rosa Parks, and refuse to budge. Which is what Davis did.
Many may bristle at the comparison. It does hold up in one key way though. When government asserts itself past what a population is willing to bear, civil disobedience will eventually manifest. Kim Davis’ protest only became necessary, in her judgment, when the Supreme Court overruled the will of the people in her state, the same people who elected her. So whom does she serve? The Supreme Court, or her constituents?
During the above weekend address, President Obama offered remarks in commemoration of Labor Day:
I wanted to take a moment to talk with you about the real meaning of Labor Day, the day we set aside every year to honor the hard working men and women who fought for so many of the rights that we take for granted today. The eight hour work day, forty hour work week, weekends, overtime, and the minimum wage; safer workplaces, health insurance, Social Security, Medicare, and retirement plans; all of those gains were fought for and won by the labor movement.
As the president lists off these “rights” won by community organizers, my mind cycles through how each has limited the capacity of ambitious workers to earn more money by producing more value. If you want to work more than eight hours in a day, or more than forty hours in a week, and you’re willing to do so for less than the minimum wage or without accepting an overtime rate, you can’t. You’re not allowed to make as much as you want, because other people don’t want to compete with your ambition. That’s why lots of folks have three or more jobs, because being too productive at one is literally illegal.
Should we celebrate government linking health insurance to employment? Has that not proven to be one of the worst aspects of our healthcare system? The modern argument over preexisting conditions might not exist but for the ill-conceived marriage of employment and health insurance.
Imagine what each dollar wasted on Social Security and Medicare could do if simply invested by the workers who earned them. But that would require foresight and responsibility on the part of each individual. We can’t have that.
If the real meaning of Labor Day is truly as Obama describes it, then the holiday essentially celebrates laziness. Take a moment to thank all those “hard-working men and women” who made sure you wouldn’t have to work hard or think much.
Here’s the thing: all these wonderful things we’re supposed to be grateful for, someone who produces value can get them on their own. They earn them. For such people, the labor movement has only ever presented an obstacle.
Prime Minister Netanyahu: “I am pleased to see you all here, including the President of the Supreme Court. Whoever participates, or has participated, in this Circle on a regular basis knows that I once said that the Tanakh is the rock of our existence. Simply put, there is no other significance to our being here without our link to our land and to his book. I read it every Shabbat, with my son if he is on vacation or without him if he is not. I draw great inspiration from it. We are presently finishing the Book of Deuteronomy. After it comes the Book of Joshua. The custom that I have with Avner is that after we finish the weekly Torah and Haftara readings, we simply read sections from the Tanakh. It always reflects on contemporary events. It always touches on the present and on the eternal life of humanity in general and our people in particular.
It is important to me that Israeli children read the Tanakh and establish their knowledge of our culture and our heritage, which are the story of faith, history and morality between man and man and between man and G-d, morality for all humanity. This is first and foremost.
I say this at a time when there is a contrary trend among the nations of the world, a trend that would continue to deny our rights and our link to this land and indeed to life.
What those of us who recognize this fail to ask is why. Why do our leaders feel so free to establish a culture of hatred towards Israel, so much so that they’re willing to negotiate with fascist dictators and spend millions of tax dollars intervening in foreign elections to prove their point? This is where that Gallup poll comes into play. Our morality has spiraled downward at a rapid pace, that is for sure. So, what do morality and Israel have in common? The Bible.
We, as a nation, have forgotten the Bible. Not that long ago, my mother’s Silent Generation would read from it every morning in public school. A simple Psalm, a prayer to a non-denominational Judeo-Christian God. This is the same God called on repeatedly by America’s founders and cited by great leaders like Abraham Lincoln who made it a point to draw political wisdom from Biblical text. “A house divided against itself shall not stand,” the Great Emancipator once quoted from Proverbs. We have forgotten this, the core of our cultural being known simply as the Word of God. As a result we have become a nation divided against our very self and this is why we’re falling.
Last week, I offered what I imagined would be an uncontroversial post about the potential casting of Idris Elba – a black actor – to play James Bond. I said that we don’t need a black Bond right now. The character currently being played by Daniel Craig remains fresh and interesting. That character’s racial identity has been established, and shouldn’t be thoughtlessly discarded. I wrote:
While a color-blind society remains a noble goal, the truth of living as a black man remains some distance from that ideal. Craig’s Bond has not had the experience that an Elba Bond would. Recasting the role without rebooting the character would trivialize the black experience.
That comment elicited some pointed responses from readers. BronxZionist wrote:
[Walter's notion], that there was some “black experience” that would be degraded by a black man taking over a role from a white man, ultimately devolved to a concept that was inherently racist.
So . . .
“It’s a black thing; we wouldn’t understand”?
Just like say,
“It’s a white character; you wouldn’t understand”?
Or, you know, racism.
We may need to define our terms. I’m not sure how acknowledging the difference in social experience among racial groups makes one racist. Generally speaking, the experience of a black man is not the same as the experience of a white man. It just isn’t. That’s not a value judgement one way or the other. It’s simply an observation of the way things are.
A black James Bond would have a different set of experiences than a white James Bond, because black men generally have different experiences than white men. Is this really a controversial statement? Are we to pretend that black people don’t have a unique experience in our society?
Look, I get it. We live in a world with a lot of petty racial grievances. It gets extremely frustrating. But that doesn’t mean every acknowledgment of racial disparity is a petty racial grievance.
We remain some distance from Martin Luther King’s dream of a world where people are not judged by the color of their skin. We’re a hell of a lot closer than we were in his time. For that, we should celebrate and self-congratulate. That said, we haven’t reached a point where you can plausibly recast a character as another race without acknowledging how race defines that character’s experience.
“Woke up this morning with my heart stayed on Jesus Hillary…”
This is truly one of the creepiest things I’ve seen in a while:
A women’s choir called “Voices of the Heart” that brands itself as a “women’s alternative chorus” replaced the name of Jesus in a traditional hymn called “Woke Up This Morning With My Mind on Jesus” with the name of their feminist idol–Hillary Clinton.
Well, woke up this mornin’
With my mind, stayin’ on Jesus Hillary
Woke up this mornin’
With my mind, stayin’ on Jesus Hillary
The Bible takes idolatry very seriously. So seriously, in fact, that the first three of the 10 Commandments are dedicated to warning against it. In Romans Chapter 1 in the New Testament, Paul also discusses the subject:
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. (Romans 1:21-23 ESV)
As King Solomon said in Ecclesiastes, “there is nothing new under the sun.” Men (and women) have been trying to bring God down to their level since the beginning of human history. Today’s idolaters don’t bow down to a golden calf like the Israelites did, and you won’t find a lot of Americans openly making sacrifices to pagan idols these days. But the spirit of idolatry is alive and well in human hearts–and we’re all susceptible–whether it’s singing a worship song to Hillary or something more subtle, like making something (or someone) more important in our lives than the God who made us and who, by the power of his will, keeps the earth spinning and our hearts beating day in and day out. He alone is worthy of our worship.
Saturday, September 5th, 2015 - by Michael T. Hamilton
This week I started a two-week free trial of CrossFit. For those unfamiliar, CrossFit is a physical fitness program that takes place at a minimalist gym, often a stripped-out section of a converted warehouse. Coaches vary but always are fitness gods or goddesses who can do literally anything. In fact, that is the first major theme of CrossFit: to equip you to meet every physical challenge you might reasonably come upon in real life.
And indeed, most participants who stick with it can do anything. I have personally verified that many CrossFit members who descend from Mount Olympus at 5 or 6 a.m. can and do eat rocks for breakfast, but most limit themselves to doing this only when part of the scheduled workout.
I myself ate rocks only three days this week. I intended to go all five, but I’ve taken off the last two, due to my inability to climb a flight of stairs in less than two minutes, thanks to Day Three’s pistols and squats, following Day Two’s dead lifts, following Day One’s general torture.
But I love it, grisly rope burn above my left ankle notwithstanding. And a huge reason I’ll return is the people—who are the second major theme of CrossFit. After all, most of the exercises performed inside this gutted warehouse with its few imported ropes, PVC pipes, bars, racks, bands, and jump ropes, you could do on your own—but would you? Do you? Of course not.
No man is an island. You need a team—a team to whom you can’t really speak, because you are gasping for oxygen, but who can cheer and yell and scold you (in a good way) when you drift toward the light.
Specifically, you need these teammates, whom I am pretty sure you are guaranteed to find at a CrossFit gym near you:
5. Band of Squishy Brothers
These are the one or two other guys you bring with you who, like you, have been bamboozled into jumping into this regimen cold turkey. You need them, because although their form can’t possibly look worse than yours, you will assume it does, and that is encouraging.
4. Screaming Eagle
I admit that on our 17,000th lap around the building on Day One, I walked a bit. I waited until I turned a corner, and I slackened my pace. (Actually, I may have started walking faster than I had been running.) Well, that was folly. You don’t walk at CrossFit. If you do, Hermes with his winged sandals will spot you with his eagle eye, chase you, and bark at you: “COME ON. DIG DEEP. NOW. MOVE IT. COME ON.” It worked. Later, I thanked the man. Then he disappeared into the mist.
So you’re ready to start up a new tabletop roleplaying game campaign. It’s been a while, so you’re trying to remember what you need. Books, paper, pencils, dice, miniature figures for combat, a plastic mat, dry erase markers, munchies… OK, let’s stop right there. You should be thinking about food a bit more for a minute.
Why? Because if you’re an older gamer you may not be playing your campaign on a weeknight. College dorm hours are not normal hours: if you’re in your thirties or forties you probably have a family, and almost certainly have a job, that would interfere with a weekly eight-hour marathon session. So maybe you only game a couple of times a month, say in the middle of a weekend afternoon; and if you are gaming at night you’re probably not staying up until 2 AM. Which means that, all stereotypes aside, cheese puffs and Mountain Dew isn’t going to be able to sustain you. Your gaming group is going to need to seriously think about eating something while you play. Things with actual nutrition.
Obviously, I have some suggestions for you in that regard:
First off, don’t actually eat cheese puffs — or any other really messy food; but that’s the stereotype. The dust that comes off of cheese puffs and onto your fingers will wreck your books if you’re not careful. Worse, the dust can easily wreck your friends’ books, too. Gaming supplements are not cheap.
So, what to eat? Cold cuts work rather well; as Terry Pratchett once had Nanny Ogg note, you cannot go wrong with a ham roll. Honestly, though, you can’t go far wrong with a bag of salad with some grape tomatoes, feta cheese, and/or any other kind of thing that you like with your salad. Sure, salad is what food eats — but food is not always wrong about that sort of thing. The idea here ultimately is to avoid the empty calories that can cause a sugar crash later.
Which is not to say no sugary foods. You’re an adult; you can eat and drink how you please. But people are less cranky when they’ve gotten a decent meal in them recently. If your gaming table is prone to drama, it may be because people are a little hyped up on white sugar. Just a thought.
Speaking of drinking… unless you can walk home from your game, I’d skip bringing booze. Not because a beer doesn’t go well with a game, but because there’s something sad about bringing home most of a six-pack from a session because people were driving and the gamemaster (GM) didn’t have room in the fridge. But you live right down the street from the GM, by all means: bottoms up.
Friday, September 4th, 2015 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin
As people here probably know I (Hi, this is Sarah) have recently been embroiled in the middle of a kerfuffle (that’s one thing to call it, isn’t it? I mean, as battle space preparation for next year, I’ve already been accused of racism for using the term Chicom to refer to … Chinese Communists. Yeah. This is going to be… er… fun. That’s also one thing to call it) over the Hugo awards.
For those not of my genre persuasion, the Hugo awards used to be the major fan-voted awards of science fiction, won by such luminaries as Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Ursula LeGuin, Phillip K. Dick, and other household names.
The problem is that in recent years the number of people voting on the Hugos has diminished. Part of this is that the membership of Worldcon, which has the right to vote on the award is aging, and like many aging populations, tends to read less.
This meant that it became relatively easy for a small clique to manipulate the awards to reward their friends and those to whom they owed favors.
But more important than that is that they were self-consciously and deliberately attempting to be “literary.”
This would be fine, perhaps, in another time and another place.
The problem with it, though, is that “literary” in the 21st century means both “Marxist” and “Progressive.”
This is a necessary side effect of “literary” always having more or less meant “that which college professors like.”
Unfortunately what college professors liked has never tracked particularly well with what normal people like, being to an extent designed to flatter said professors’ erudition and linguistic verve. In the past this gave us works perhaps unnecessarily burdened with classical allusions and perhaps a little thick on wording-to-meaning ratio. However, to someone deeply immersed in culture and literature, these books could be extremely rewarding.
Unfortunately, since we started dismissing the classics as “Dead white men” the only thing that was left with which to gain the status of literary work was what had replaced the classics in colleges: allusions to Marx and to the various Marxist sub-theories. And increasingly, in the last fifteen years or so, faddish progressive crazes, whether they be for “post binary gender” or misandry.
The problem with these is that they are not, like allusions to the classics, capable of being layered with a light hand. They are inflexible shibboleths, often at odds with observed reality and incompatible with artistic creativity. Worse, for those of us at or near the middle century, the basics of these shibboleths have been dinned into us by every possible media and entertainment outlet for most of our adult life. We have been well schooled in class struggle and victim-group dialectics. And we don’t care. We also don’t keep our eyes open through books that are, yet again, preaching at us.
We reserve for them the same place that was reserved for books of pious sermons in Agatha Christie’s time. They’re shelved somewhere obvious and never read.
Except of course if you are a college professor, which a lot of my colleagues are, and which brought about the blight of the Hugos, which I and Larry Correia (Baen’s other crazy Portuguese and our friend Brad Torgersen) fought for a while now. (This year Larry is retired from the fray, and leaving the work to myself, Kate Paulk and Amanda Green.)
I mean when you’re measuring quality by the quantity of Marxist utterances, you’re going to lose most of your audience. And most of the recent winners of the Hugo are a slog to get through, let alone ever becoming classics.
But the Hugo is a minor battle in the culture war. If we’re going to win the culture war, we need some definitions and some ability to define ‘literary quality.’
I actually don’t have any problem with Classical allusions, but is that where we want to go? And if not, where?
Recently, an article titled “Abortion Can and Should be a Laughing Matter, Here’s Why” was published at IJReview. Author Rachel Ryan had just attended a gala event sponsored by pro-abortion fauxminists, where they hired comedians to tell abortion jokes all night. Boy, am I so sorry I missed that girls’ night out! Somebody pour me a double vodka with a side of utter despair! The pro-abortion crowd is constantly saying things like no one loves abortion and abortion should be rare and then they write crap like this that peels the mask off their deceitful doublespeak. Ryan wrote:
Humor helps the abortion-weary American public see the complex issue from a new perspective, using fresh language to discuss things that otherwise seem too sensitive, too complicated or all too human.
Yes, it is too human indeed. Tiny human hands and feet and heads and legs floating in a strainer full of human blood while murderers pretending to be doctors barter over the price of human livers is a human tragedy. But the pro-abortion ghouls only see comedy in the fetal remains mutilated baby parts. Ryan even goes as far as to say that everything is fair game:
I’m not sure there’s any issue out there that couldn’t be a joking matter.
Really? Is she sure about that? Let’s test that theory.