Friday, October 17, 2008

because who doesn't need more stick people in their lives?

It's the New Yorker v. xkcd Cartoon-off!

HT: Neil Gaiman

though the New Yorker might have been interested to know that xkcd had already done String Theory.

Just go check out the archives. Your morning will be gone, but it will be one well spent.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

yes, exactly

From The Anchoress:

What I am reminded, repeatedly, is that time is a construct - that everything is happening simultaneously. Right now, I am writing at my computer. Right now, I am voting at my local school. Right now, Christ is dying on a cross. Right now, He is making a covenant and receiving a kiss. Right now, Napoleon is heading to Waterloo. Right now, George Washington is facing defeat for the umpteenth time. Right now, I am being needlessly cruel to someone. Right now I am being born. Right now I am 78 years old and grousing that my kids never visit me. Right now, Obama has won the election. Right now John McCain has won the election.

This is why prayer has power. In the quantum world, where everything is occurring all at once, prayer changes things. Sacrifice changes things. Wisdom knows this - it is why every religious tradition, Eastern or Western, encourages prayer and sacrifice - because this is how you pierce illusions.

Last week Pope Benedict XVI said: ”He who builds only on visible and tangible things like success, career and money builds the house of his life on sand”…money vanishes,
it is nothing. All these things that appear to be real are in fact secondary. Only God’s words are a solid reality”. Yes. Everything is happening, all at once. What appears to be solid and three-dimensional would does not even exist between its busy atoms. That which the world regards as most ephemeral, and least grasp-able, is actually the solid platform upon which all illusions spin.

About a year ago, out of the blue - a friend of mine - a social studies teacher who is politically “interested” but not active, and who does not go to church - said to me: “I get the feeling that George W. Bush is going to be the last American president of “old” America, and Benedict is going to be the last pope of the “old” Catholic church.” She had a sense of things cresting, of a cusp being reached. Right now, a typesetter is laying down the words Dewey Wins! Right now, Hillary Clinton is the presumptive Democrat nominee. Right now, George Washington is refusing a crown. Right now, Barack Obama is training ACORN workers. Right now, Margaret Sanger is preaching eugenics. Right now, a Pole is made Pope. Right now, Nero is watching Rome burn. Right now, Peter, that city’s first Bishop, is being crucified and turned upside down.
Right now, in prayer and in fasting, one may penetrate the illusions of the world and,
touching eternity, impact them. Obama may win this election. Obama may lose
this election. McCain may win this election. McCain may lose this election. No
matter what happens, we are entering a new era, and I believe everyone knows it. With the prayer and fasting, I am “in training” making myself ready for whatever comes, because whatever comes is going to be very different; it will jar us from all of our complacencies.

is that 15% off coupon you sent me in the mail good for this stuff too?

We'd probably all be a bit better off if wewandered into the "beyond" department a bit more frequently.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

so Google Reader has informed me that it's blog action day

judging from the number of posts on the subject that have popped up on it. has something to do with poverty, and making a difference, and all that. I've read some excellent pieces on looking at addressing the root causes before the symptoms, and to heck with the root causes, but treat a symptom anyway, and prioritizing our church budgets, and what the Epistle of James has to say on the subject. I'd commend them all to your reading. Even a cursory reading of the old testament prophets should clue anyone off that when we don't help those who can't help themselves, it really pisses God off.

that said, I think I'd like to add a quote from my grandfather, who died just over a year ago now. He liked to say, "you can't take it with you, but you can send it on ahead." Increasingly, I'm becoming convinced that money is really just a figment of our imaginations, that if we try to build wealth, that we're really just locked in some sort of psycho attempt to work the system for poker chips. What I mean is this. If you're at a casino, you don't gamble with actual money. You go in, buy chips, and the chips are good at the casino. You gamble for those on the assumption that, before you leave, you can cash your chips in at the register for something of real value. The actual prize, if you will. The thing is, there isn't any cash register for life. Our wealth, and works and lives will be submitted to the fire at the judgement, and that what is good and lasting will be purified, but that the chaff and rubish will be exposed for what it is and consumed by the fire.

We have the opportunity to turn our worthless little chips into things of Real Merit. But to do that, we have to put them to work. We have to use them. Not hoard them. For a limited time, we can do certain things with our money while we are here in this world. They're not any good when we walk out the door of the casino, and do we really know when closing time is, anyway? A biblical understanding of money starts with recognising its truly ephemeral nature. A stock market crash can obliterate it. Thieves steal it. Moths destry it. And it does not do us any good on that day when our soul will be required of us.

All we have to do is be good stewards. To trade value for Real Value, instead of perceieved. Am I using my money to meet real needs, or perceived ones? Am I using my money in ways that is loving to others, or only to myself? Are my actions loving, or selfish? All those nice, easy questions. Jesus is going to obliterate rich and poor in the coming kingdom. We're going to see ourselves and each other as the equals that we always were. Question is, have we clued into the reality of how much Jesus values each one of us, and been busy being his hands and feet in our time here?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Friday, October 10, 2008

You Spin Me

I love this song about the same way that I love marshmallow peeps. No merit. So what. :) I had never seen the video though before I went looking it up for this post--it has to be one of the all time worst music videos ever. It's a song that's just begging to to have as its only visual those random neon swirly patterns that Microsoft's video player throws up for any audio only. Anway.

If you want to spew your drink all over your monitor, pop over to the Deconstructed Christian, and jump in on the discussion of idiot worship leader inserting Jesus into this piece of techno fluff and using it as worship music. Appalling. It makes me think of Jesus putting his face in his hands and shaking his head. Why the church should not be about catering to the desires we already have . . .

Saturday, October 4, 2008

sketching worlds larger than ourselves

One of the reasons I so appreciate Neil Gaiman as a writer is the depth and breadth of the worlds that he builds. They're bizarre, multi-tentacled things, and there's always the indication of much more beyond the edges of the page. They reflect reality that way--there's more here than any one of us can understand. Too many fantasies fall into the trap of wanting to explain everything. Of wanting their characters and readers to understand how it all fits together. But when an author contracts her story-world into something that I can understand, with nice neat squared off corners and no messy remainders, it rings hollow to me. This "ordinary" world is already boundless. If you're going to add in magic, fantastical creatures, futuristic technology, and the like, why should it shrink? I like that Gaiman's characters neither know it all, or expect to know it all. That we as the readers tend to know rather more than any of the characters, but still get the sense that there is much, much more that we do not know.

Gaiman's newest book is The Graveyard Book. It's an homage of sorts, to the Jungle Book, about a boy whose family is murdered, who is taken in by the ghosts of the local graveyard and raised with a somewhat different understanding of reality than most of us have. It is much less macabre and horrifying than such a descripton makes it sound. Gaiman's dry, observant humor and keen insight of human nature and of children and how they go about life make for a great read or listen. Neil Gaiman is currently touring the U.S., promoting the book, reading a chapter each evening which is being recorded and posted. There are currently four chapters up. You can listen to them here.

In chapter 2, (around the 11-13 minute mark), Gaiman neatly reminds us of how much of what we take as fact, we in fact take on faith. (Bod is the boy, Scarlet his new friend)
Bod would introduce Scarlet to some of his other friends. That she
could not seem them did not seem to matter. She had already been told
firmly by her parents that Bod was imaginary, and that there was nothing at
all wrong with that
. . . . So it came as no surprise to her that Bod also
had imaginary friends. He would pass on their comments to her.
"Bartleby says that 'Thou dost have a face like unto a squished plum.' . . .
Scarlet was happy. She was a bright, lonely child, whose mother worked for
a distant university teaching people she never met face to face, grading English
papers sent to her over the computer, sending messages of advice or
encouragement back. Her father taught particle physics. But there
were, Scarlet told Bod, too many people who wanted to teach particle physics,
and not enough people who wanted to learn it. So Scarlet's family had to
keep moving to different university towns, and in each town her father would
hope for a permanent teaching position, which never came.
"What's particle physics?" asked Bod.
Scarlet shrugged. "Well," she said, "there's atoms, which is
things that is too small to see. That's what we're all made of. And
there's things that's smaller than atoms, and that's particle physics."
Bod nodded and decided that Scarlet's father was probably interested
in imaginary things.