Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Dig that crazy beat, yo.

Listening (even as I type) to a CD from the library (where else?). It's a kind of "Best of" compilation of songs from Cowboy Bebop. It's difficult to categorise the music of Yoko Kanno, the composer of the music for that series (she also did the music for Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, which I really like, Escaflowne, which I haven't seen and probably worked on some other anime series as well). The music for Cowboy Bebop is primarily jazz-oriented which meshed well with the styling of the show itself. Most of the tracks are quite good, but some just seem "off" to me.

The opening cut (which played over the opening credits of the show) is Tank!. If I could choose my personal theme music (you know, the kind of music you'd want to play behind you in a movie) it would be a close run between this song and the theme for Toshiro Mifune in Yojimbo and Sanjuro. I also really like the songs Cosmic Dare [Pretty With A Pistol] and Piano Black. On the other hand, one of the real duds is Mushroom Hunting and Don't Bother None isn't that great either. That last song sounds like it was intended as a kind of down-on-my-luck style country song, but it isn't pulled off. Cake does a much better job with the faux-country downer song.

More Anime Goodness

The third set of episodes has arrived from the library. This is the one that I had already seen. Good stuff for the most part. One episode was almost entirely dialogue with very little action, yet it managed to hold my interest because it illuminated something of the path that the series will take regarding the "Laughing Man". Another story that involved the "Laughing Man" built on these answers and added a number of further questions that I hope will be answered as the season progresses. I'm about half-way through the series as a whole and I have high hopes for it, though some hints I've picked up here and there indicate that the twist coming at the end might be not to my liking.

A word of warning to anyone who might watch these, one of these episodes (Jungle Cruise) that truly stands alone is rather disturbing. It concerns a killer who murders his victims in a particularly gruesome way. If you've watched the episodes up to this point and are really getting involved with the story and the characters, I would suggest watching this episode even if you feel squeamish because it does provide some insights in to Batou, but for the faint of heart (or stomach), you could skip it and do just fine.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Ghosts. Shells. Complexes standing alone.

Volume 2 arrived and was watched. The episodes are pretty good, with a two-part episode following the "Laughing Man", the uber-hacker whose exploits are a thread running through the series, it would seem. The other two were truly stand-alone episodes, one of which was primarily used for character development. Good times to be had watching all of them however. Lots of opportunities for our heroes to demonstrate just why it is bad to mess with cybernetically enhanced super-cops.

One of the reasons that this show is so enjoyable is that while it takes place well into the future, the technology is explained only just so much as is needed by the story. We don't get bogged down in techno-babble, nor does the plot usually hinge on our heroes needed to develop some technological advance in order to succeed. (As is the problem with such things as Star Dreck, uh, Trek.) Most of the time, our heroes simply use their advanced technology without explaining exactly how it works. And frankly, that's fine by me. Write a good story and the world will beat a path to the bookstore. On to the next!

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Gates of Fire

A post from a blog written by a free-lance photographer and writer in Iraq. It is always interesting, there is much that one can learn that isn't in your regular media, the photos are astonishing and the stories about our soldiers, the things they do and the sacrifices they make are always inspiring. But this particular post I found especially moving.

Enter a Detective

Enter a Murderer was not quite the debut of Roderick Alleyn, Ngaio Marsh's detective hero, but the second book that she wrote. It wasn't too bad, though it is rather apparent that it is an early effort. She later took much more time over her novels, but this followed hard on the heels of her first novel the previous year and was the second of what became eleven books in seven years. She had not yet made much effort to distinguish her hero from the hero of Dorothy Sayers' novels, Lord Peter Wimsey. However much the author may have protested that, though inspired by Sayers, she did not pattern her detective after him, I find her difficult to credit. It may not mean much to anyone unfamiliar with Sayers, but I will quote two passages from Marsh's novel and leave you to decide for yourself if you wish.
Not a bit. I'm as simple as I am clever--a lovable trait in my character. An actor in his dressing-room will thrill me to mincemeat. I shall sit and goggle at him, I promise you.
"What's the matter with you?"
"I don't know. Got the ooble-boobles. Let's have a drink."
The mystery itself was decent, though not inspired, but, as I noted above, it is apparent that it is not a mature work. I particularly dislike an author to call something "indescribable" and then proceed to spend a lengthy paragraph contradicting themselves. This is not, however, a fatal flaw. One of the greatest novels of all time, The Count of Monte Cristo, has this particular quirk all through it, and it still is what I would consider one of the five greatest books I've ever read.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Neh Magazine

So that's what my blog would look like if it were a magazine. I'm pleased and concerned at the same time.

I really like that picture though.

Arevanye had it first. (Though it was on her friends-locked LJ.)

Make your own here. And you can browse covers that others have made.

Flag Waving

You may have noticed a new button on my blog. It's way up in the right hand corner there. It says "Flag?". You can mouse over it and then click on the "What does this mean?" link if you want to read for yourself what I'm about to talk about.

Okay, fair enough. They will only warn people if the content is deemed to be "hate speech" and or if it is merely "objectionable", then it will only be "unlisted". But what sorts of things are objectionable? Does Blogger determine this, or is it determined simply by the number of times a blog is flagged? The latter seems to be implied in their Help article on flagging.
When a person visiting a blog clicks the "Flag?" button in the Blogger Navbar, it means they believe the content of the blog may be potentially offensive or illegal. We track the number of times a blog has been flagged as objectionable and use this information to determine what action is needed. This feature allows the blogging community as a whole to identify content they deem objectionable. Have you read The Wisdom of Crowds? It's sort of like that.
But what if I'm posting political opinions? And people who disagree with my political opinions flag my blog in large numbers simply because they don't like the party to which I belong. Must I then be "unlisted"?

And what if it is the Blogger staff who are determining what is and what isn't objectionable? These guys are part of Google now, and I don't know that I trust Google to be even-handed. See here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. And LGF probably has even more examples that I didn't take the time to find.

Am I worrying unnecessarily? I don't think so. The section below is excerpted from their Terms of Service.
You agree to not use the Service to: (a) upload, post or otherwise transmit any Content that is unlawful, harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, tortious, defamatory, vulgar, obscene, libelous, invasive of another's privacy, hateful, or racially, ethnically or otherwise objectionable;
It's that "otherwise objectionable". Blogger essentially says that "objectionable content" is anything and everything they don't like. I'm sure that's pretty standard for a Terms of Service, but from the above links, I'd guess their standards for "hate speech" are awfully vague too and I'm not confident in their ability to be objective and even-handed in applying them.

What's Klingon for "really weird"?

If I had heard of this before, I had forgotten, but it seems that there is a Klingon translation of the Bible. And if that isn't weird enough, there's a blog where a guy has an MP3 a day of him reading a verse in Klingon and then providing a short devotional lesson based on Klingon culture.

I'm speechless.

From ThinkChristian.net.

The problem with being cutting edge

So Google has a new service (they're turning into the new Microsoft it seems some days): Instant Messaging. Right now, it's only available to people that have a GMail account, so if you don't have one of those, you can't use it. But I, being a Blogger user, have a GMail account from way back. I never use it really, but I have one. The problem is, I've downloaded their IM client, but none of my friends with GMail accounts has downloaded it. So I don't have anyone to talk with to see how well it works. One of the risks of being an "early adopter", as I believe the term is.

The system will also allow voice conversations via the internet, but I don't have a suitable headset or microphone, so even had one of my friends downloaded Google Talk, as it is called, I couldn't have tried out that feature.

Monday, August 22, 2005

I think this says it all.

Everything you need to know about the Beijing Olympics coming up in 2008. Right here.

Sunday, August 21, 2005


I got from the library, and watched, the first four episodes of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex this past week. They were quite good. I hadn't realised that I had already seen the first two. What piqued my interest in the series were a couple of episodes that I had seen on Cartoon Network. What I didn't know was that the episodes I saw were the very first two. I think these episodes beat the movie hollow in just about every respect. There is much greater character development (no suprise given the greater time and scope), more action, and the plotting is more cerebral and (at the same time) less pretentious. Similar to Cowboy Bebop, the show runs a mere 26 episodes, which is disappointing on the one hand since it is so good, but it helps to keep the show from jumping the shark and becoming a sad parody of itself. It is true that the episodes do "stand alone", there is also a thread that runs through them in terms of a villain that is not caught in a single episode. It'll be interesting to see where that leads.

EDIT: Forgot a post title. Added subsequently.

So I was reading a book on philosophical theology the other day...

Don't be too impressed. It is called Our Idea of God, and it's simply an "introduction to philosophical theology", less than 200 pages and quite easy to read. But I ran across something I found interesting.
A strategy deriving from the great medieval philosopher William of Ockham (c. A.D. 1285-1349) would take an entirely different tack. To put it as simply as possible, this argument begins be submitting that 'good' is to be defined as 'whatever God wills.' Thus

(A) God does good
(B) God does whatever God wills

express the same proposition. But (B) obviously expresses a necessary truth (derived from the quite general conceptual truth about the action of any omnipotent, omniscient being that no such being can be prevented from doing anything he wills to do). So (A) must express a necessary truth. But if it is necessarily true that God does good, it is impossible that God does evil. Whatever he does is, by definition, good. Thus, God cannot do evil. We have vindicated the conviction that divine goodness has the high status of necessity and have done so quite simply.

Or have we?
Ockham's strategy and resulting argument suffer from one debilitating problem: they establish the necessity of God's goodness only at the price of evacuating the claim that God is good in all of its rich, determinate meaning. Let us call this the vacuity objection. The vacuity objection first points out that most of us, when we call a person good in anything like a moral sense, mean to say that the person is, for example, a truth-teller and a promise-keeper. And this is a quite determinate characterization of a person. If we accept the Ockhamistic definition of 'good,' then to say of a human being that he is good is only to say of him that he does whatever God wills. Unless we also know what it is that God wills, the claim that a man is good will have much less content to it than the more determinate content most of us typically take it to have. And when applied to God, 'good' would lose all its determinate content whatsoever. 'God is good' would then be a vacuous statement and not the tremendously important substantive claim most of us take it to be. Its truth would be compatible with the claim that God is also sadistically cruel and a chronic liar. And that is utterly outrageous. Thus, the strategy suggested in the Ockhamistic argument exacts far too high a price for what it then makes an empty modal assurance about God.

Quite a thought provoking book. I'll have more to excerpt later.

And by the way

Blogger still does not recognize "blog" as a word. Discuss amongst yourselves.

Kangaeru. KANGAERU!

I'm not sure what it means, but my wife has decided to start her own blog. I've linked it to the left, or you can click here. I don't think she really knows what she'll blog about, nor does she yet have any idea how often she'll blog, but I predict that, if she sticks with it, she will in short order have a much more popular blog than I will.

Friday, August 19, 2005

To read or not to read.

I have given up reading PvP, for the most part. I haven't liked to do so, but I have become troubled by something that cropped up twice this year. I've thought about it for a while and come to the conclusion that I won't read PvP any longer. What has occurred twice are instances where Scott Kurtz wrote something that was intended to directly antagonise believers in orthodox Christianity. (That's with a small "o".) The first was his response on 02/15/05 to complaints he had received about having one of his characters use the Lord's name in vain. You can find that here (you'll need to scroll down to the post for that date since the link goes to the entire month of February). And the second was a similar situation except he responded in comic form on 06/28/05.

I've thought long and hard about whether or not to blog anything about these two instances and why they bothered me. I think the risk of misunderstanding is small as long as I take care to carefully explicate what exactly it is to which I object.

First, I do deplore the careless use of the Lord's name merely as a way to emphasise one's other words or as a throw-away exclamation. But if I were to try to avoid every single instance of that, I would have to walk around with my fingers in my ears and my eyes shut. It isn't feasible to try and not ever read it or hear it. And since Scott Kurtz is not a Christian, I do not know him personally, nor do I have any professional contact with him, I think it might do more harm than good for me to chastise him for an offence he doesn't understand. (As demonstrated by his response to those who have criticised him.) And because more than four months separated each incident, I think that he was legitimately ignorant of the offence he was to cause each time. That is why neither of those instances which preceded his intentional antagonism were sufficient to cause me to cease to read his comic.

"But mark the sequel, Jeeves." After each strip wherein a character used the Lord's name in vain, it seems Scott Kurtz received a large number of e-mails complaining about this. At this point, he had a multitude of options available to him. He could have apologised, he could have explained why he didn't think it was a big deal, he could have ignored them and carried on as if he had not been criticised or any number of other actions or combinations thereof that would have defused the situation or kept things on a civil basis. But instead, each time he chose deliberately to further irritate those readers whose convictions he had already disturbed. In each case, he mockingly intimated that he had a divine revelation which gave him sanction for what he had done. Deliberate blasphemy, with full knowledge of the offence he was to cause, I cannot accept.

PvP is a funny comic. I enjoyed reading it every day. I regret that I can no longer, in good conscience, do so.

otiose, a.

1. a. Of belief, principle, thought, etc.: having no practical result; unfruitful, sterile; futile, pointless.

b. Having no practical function; redundant; superfluous.

2. At leisure; at rest; idle; inactive; indolent, lazy.

Simply a neat word I ran across in a book I was reading. No real reason or purpose for it, other than I think it's pretty cool.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Marsh and Alleyn

Which is not a law firm.

I read another Ngaio Marsh novel last week called Death at the Bar, which sounds a bit like a mystery wherein a lawyer dies. But instead it was what the Brits usually call a "pub". I can only account for the oddness of mystery novel set in England using "bar" in this manner in a couple of ways. Either this is a US title that wasn't on the original book, or the author being originally from New Zealand didn't think to use the British term. But, since I don't know what a Kiwi would call such a place, I incline to the former view.

The book itself wasn't bad. It didn't hold my interest as well as some of the others have. The author seemed to be trying a bit of reverse psychology in trying to fool the reader, but it didn't work. I was right there every step of the way, and it didn't seem that difficult to me. The characters failed to grip and interest as well, and it was really rather dull. It almost seemed like a bad parody of another mystery or an attempt to write in another person's style. Worth reading for a fan, but for a casual mystery reader I'd suggest starting with something else by Marsh.


1. The fibre obtained from the bark of the plants Corchorus capsularis and C. olitorius (family Tiliaceae), imported chiefly from Bengal, and used in the manufacture of gunny, canvas, bagging, cordage, etc.

b. The plant which furnishes this fibre, or any plant of the genus Corchorus.
bastard jute, a name of Hibiscus cannabinus, the fibre of which is used to adulterate jute. American jute: see VELVETLEAF.

I was watching (not kibitzing!) a Scrabble game recently and I noticed a chance for one of the players to play "jute" across a Triple Word Score to cinch the win. He didn't see it, but he won anyway, so that was okay.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

But, Dear! It's so cool!

This is cool. Though, as noted, a very low SAF. Haven't been visiting Toshi Station like I should.

runcible, a.

[Prob. a fanciful alteration of ROUNCIVAL.]

A nonsense word used by Edward Lear in runcible cat, hat, etc., and esp. in runcible spoon, in later use applied to a kind of fork used for pickles, etc., curved like a spoon and having three broad prongs of which one has a sharp edge.
The illustrations provided by Lear himself for his books of verse give no warrant for this later interpretation.

My wife, who was reciting The Owl and the Pussycat to our daughter, used this word the other day and I expressed some mild disbelief that it was a real word. Turns out, as you can see above, that it is; the word was concocted by Edward Lear and the first usage was in the aforementioned poem.

The mouse speaks.

The one that didn't, usually. Jerry the Mouse is "interviewed" here by one of the people involved with the Internet Monk site that I've been talking about. An excerpt:
My problem with Mickey has always been that he was so protected by his handlers he was never forced into any difficult roles. I had to train for six months on rolling with billiard balls before filming "8-ball Mouse". Mickey never had to do that much as far as stunt work. The hard roles were given to Goofy and he is such a company man he will never come public with his treatment. I wouldn't say Mickey is a no-talent mouse but he simply has not had to be talented for the roles he was given.
Funny stuff.

HOW big is that iceberg?

I was scanning through the archives of the Astronomy Picture of the Day Archive looking for a good desktop picture, when I ran across this gem, which I had seen before but forgotten. Yeah. It was the size of Long Island. Give or take a square mile or so. What was the first thing that sprang to my mind? That guy from Brewster's Millions (Huh? Which Brewster's Millions? The 5th of that title; the one with Richard Pryor. Incidentally, there have been seven movies based on that story. Wild, huh?) who gets Brewster to back his plan to put motors on icebergs, sail them to the Middle East and sell the ice.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Kurosawa non-samurai movie.

I'm not sure how many of those he made. At least two, Red Beard and High and Low. Maybe more. But Akira Kurosawa is probably best known in the US for his samurai movies, most notably Yojimbo, Sanjuro, The Seven Samurai and The Hidden Fortress. Which are all well worth watching. But the one I just watched was High and Low. And it wasn't a bad movie. An interesting plot (based on a novel by Ed McBain, King's Ransom) about a kidnapping and mistaken identity. It was part social drama and part detective thriller, the latter of which was very interesting to see in a Japanese context; especially from 4o-odd years ago.

The other lead, besides Toshiro Mifune playing the man who is asked for ransom, is the detective that is assigned to try and find the criminals and recover the kidnapped boy, Tatsuya Nakadai. I thought I had recognized him, so I searched his bio on IMDB, and sure enough, he not only was in Yojimbo, where he looked much the same, but he played the title role in Kagemusha (another excellent Kurosawa film!) about 20 years later.

Let me get on my soapbox (that's what Blogger is for, right?) about Kurosawa for a minute. This man was the greatest director, ever. Bar none. I haven't seen all of his movies, but every one that I have seen is at least good, and I'd say his movies would make up at least half of my top ten movies. Yojimbo, Sanjuro, The Hidden Fortress, Kagemusha, Ran, High and Low, The Seven Samurai, Throne of Blood, and Rashomon are the movies of his that I have seen, and I'd say that all of them are well worth purchasing. If you aren't familiar with his work, hie thee to a video store (or your local library) and let the enjoyment begin.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Movies and such.

I started watching The Man in the Glass Booth, which was kinda creepy. On the cover of the DVD the final esses in "Glass" are shaped like the double lightning bolt of the SS. The movie seems based in part on the story of Eichmann, but they refer to him and his trial in the movie, so it isn't a fictionalization of that story specifically. Anyway, like I said, the movie is creepy, and while I'm not sure where they were going with it, the message that seems to be coming through so far is even creepier. I'm not going to finish it, I don't think. EDIT: While looking up the Amazon link for the title, each reviewer raved about the ending scene as surprising, astonishing, etc. (Except the one guy who thought the play was far superior.) So maybe I will finish it after all.

I also watched an Inspector Alleyn Mysteries DVD that I found at random at the library. This particular one is Final Curtain. I wasn't impressed. The acting wasn't wonderful, the dialogue was stilted and the plot was plodding and dull. Though, to be fair, I haven't read that particular book, so that last criticism may not be a fair one to level at the DVD.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Blog links

I'm going to add two new blogs to my link list which you will see there to your left. The first is ThinkChristian.net and the second is iMonk. The first is a kind of clearinghouse for links to other Christian and Christianity related things on the internet and the second is the writings of a single person on various topics within and related to Christianity. What convinced me to link the second were a couple of posts that I read this morning. This one on things youth ministers should hear and this one on the problems with Contemporary Christian Music (CCM). (Full disclosure: I cannot stand CCM, whether on a CD at home or performed by a band in church under the guise of leading worship.)

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Re-reading Books

Do you re-read your books? Not all of them, of course; one often wishes that one had not read a particular book the first time. Some people, I know, almost never re-read books. My dad is one of those people. He does re-read books sometimes, but rarely. I find that difficult to comprehend. If the book is a very good one (The Lord of the Rings, The Count of Monte Cristo, Leave it to Psmith) I don't see how one can avoid re-reading it at least once a year. I find a particular enjoyment in a book in becoming intimately familiar with it. Being able to quote enjoyable and interesting portions or knowing the story backwards and forwards is a different (but quite discernible) pleasure than that of reading a good story for the first time. One cannot ever recapture the pleasure of finding out how Dantes will exact his revenge, but one can gain the pleasure of being able to call it to mind even without a book handy to prompt one's memory.

Most recently, I've re-read Master and Commander, The Colour of Magic, and The Light Fantastic and am working on The Surgeon's Mate.

I'd be interested in hearing what other people think about re-reading. If you do it and why or why not. If you do, what books do you re-read and other such-like things.

Why "Complex"?

I found out a couple days ago that my local library system now has the Ghost in the Shell: Stand-alone Complex DVDs when I was there to pick up a book my wife had placed on hold. So now I'm putting those on hold to watch in order. It'll probably be a couple weeks (at least) before I get the first one, so reviews of them are probably a ways off, but I couldn't resist picking up the 3rd DVD in the series since it was sitting right there on the shelf. (Which is how I found out that my library had acquired these DVDs.) It was, indeed, everything I hoped it would be. That is to say, it was superior to the movie, held one's interest with varied and well-thought out plots, had characters that were easily discernible from one another, etc. I'm very much looking forward to seeing them all (and in order) since even though the stories do stand-alone, there are common threads that run through them and at least one recurring villain.

I also found a random DVD of Poirot mysteries while I was browsing at the library (and Kurosawa's High and Low, but I haven't watched that yet) and that was pretty good. Standard Poirot fare, not quite as good as the books because of the necessary simplification that is almost inevitable when text is translated to the screen. But the setting of 30's England is entrancing to me. The cars, the clothes, the social conventions; I love that stuff. I'd have to say that Edwardian England (as seen in Christie, Sayers, Wodehouse, etc) is probably my favourite location for fiction.

Reality or Not?

I've updated the photo of myself in my profile and on the sidebar of my blog. Actually, updated is only true in one particular sense, that it is recently changed. The photo itself is actually several years old, as was the one before. Why did I then use them? I like those two photos. And it is not uncommon for me to shave my head (as in the first photo) or to grow outlandish sideburns, as in the second photo. And, isn't using an outdated photo the accepted practice among writers? Dear Abby didn't change her photo for 40 years or something, right? Most online columnists do the same thing, as far as I know. Anyway, I felt dishonest enough about the photos to come clean, though I am insecure enough, it seems, to need to rationalise my decisions.

Friday, August 05, 2005

I am the night! I am Batman!

When I was watching the Third Volume of episodes from Batman: The Animated Series, I got to wondering about the other couple Batman shows that succeeded it and whether or not they are going to be released on DVD any time soon. So I went poking around the internet trying to find out. I didn't find any information on that, but I did find a link to the "Lost Episode" of B:TAS. It is actually the cut scenes from a Sega game based on the television show, but the animation was done by the same studio and the original voice actors were used for the voices of the characters. They don't have a lot of lines, the writing isn't on a par with the actual show, and it's only a few minutes long, but for a fan of the show it's worth downloading for a look-see. It's quite the production compared to the cut scenes in a lot of other games from that time. They got the actors for Batman, Robin, Joker, Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, Clayface, Rupert Thorne, Riddler, Jim Gordon, and Bullock.

More Books by Marsh

Polished off the second pair of Ngaio Marsh books that I had from the library earlier this week. One was A Clutch of Constables and the other was a collection of Marsh's short fiction, some stories featuring her celebrated Alleyn, others not. The latter book also had a short essay by the author about her detective and her stories. I have decided, on the whole, authors should not write about their own creations. And if they do, I shouldn't read what they write.

Marsh spent a good bit of time arguing that she had created someone unique and unusual in the area of detective fiction and that she didn't really in any way draw upon Agatha Christie or Dorothy Sayers' Lord Peter in her fabrication of Inspector Alleyn. Which is so patently false as to be well nigh laughable. She also argues that she avoided the error that Sayers made in falling in love with her hero. Which statement I also have grave doubts about the veracity thereof. Granted, she hasn't written herself into her books as a romantic interest for her hero as Sayers did, (at least, she hasn't in the books I've read yet), but she did give the appearance of the wife of her hero a striking similarity to herself even if it isn't exactly a one-to-one thing.

A Clutch of Constables is one of those regrettable detective stories which feature a "criminal mastermind" and ridiculously large conspiracy (though not as bad as Christie's Murder on the Orient Express). It was told in an interesting fashion, however. Each chapter opened with a brief portion of the tale told in retrospect by Inspector Alleyn who was lecturing some police detective trainees. It was interesting, and the first time I had seen that done. Also of note was the fact that Marsh didn't introduce Alleyn (other than the brief paragraph or two at the start of each chapter) until the book was about two-thirds over.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Okay, one more.

Because I like illusions so much, here's one more site for you. These are pretty cool, and once again, I don't remember where I found it. This one and this one are my favourites.

Portable Rotary?

If I were to have a cell phone (which I will not), I would want it to be this phone. Yes, that really is a cell phone. Don't believe me? Click the link and be convinced. The best part? It's not really a one-off gag. If you were willing to part with a few hundred bucks, you could buy one.

Speaking of dragons

I don't think I've linked this before. I don't remember how or where I found it, but I thought it was very, very cool. You can print out your own dragon to build the illusion yourself. If you don't think it will be worth it, or not as good as advertised, then I strongly recommend downloading the video. The illusion is amazing. The site also has a bunch of other neat illusions, many of which are accompanied by videos. Some are cooler than others, of course, but most are worth at least a look-see.

Trogdor was a man!

I mean, he was a Lego-Dragon!

Right. So if you're a big fan of Homestar Runner, you can just go here for some fun Lego times. If you have only a passing acquaintance with HSR, than you may well be better served by watching this first.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Ngaio Marsh

A few of the Ngaio Marsh books I put on hold at my library have arrived. I've gotten through a couple of them so far, Black As He's Painted, and Artists In Crime, neither of which was too bad. With modern sensibilities being what they are, any time race is brought up in any sort of public discourse one has to be very careful about what one says. So I'll simply say that I think Ngaio Marsh dealt with the topic well in Black As He's Painted. The characters were true to themselves and the story was good, which is more important than any moralising that she might have done. There were only a couple solutions to the mystery, but the trick here lay in keeping the reader guessing about which outcome it would be, something the author did with a fair degree of deftness.

Artists In Crime was one that I thought I should have tumbled to the solution much sooner than I did. It seemed a lot more obvious in retrospect than it did during the course of the book. Perhaps I was off my game, and perhaps it was a clever bit of misdirection. This book contains the first encounter between Marsh's hero, Inspector Alleyn, and his wife-to-be, Agatha Troy. For all the author's protestations to the contrary in an essay on the subject, I do think that she owes quite a bit of how this plays out to the writings of Dorothy Sayers in several of her novels, notably Strong Poison and Gaudy Night, but also Busman's Honeymoon and Have His Carcase to a lesser extent. (Though, since Alleyn and Troy have not yet even become affianced, a Busman's influence may be more noticeable in later novels.)

Religious Survey

An interesting link at an interesting blog. Arevanye had a note up on her C.S. Lewis blog noting that there had been an influx of visitors from ThinkChristian.net. I've been browsing it the past few days and I noticed that there was a link to a survey about what one thinks makes a good Christian.

So I took the survey and I had some thoughts about it. You may want to go and take the survey first and come back to read this, if you want to take it fresh and without any of my thoughts influencing your answers.

The survey isn't bad, as surveys go. I think some of the questions suffer from infelicitous wording (what is a "faith community" anyway?), and others are difficult to not interpret through a political lens. ("Social and economic justice" is clearly a phrase used almost solely by those of a liberal/leftist persuasion.) Some major social issues that are often considered in moral terms are included (the death penalty and abortion) but others are not (homosexuality, for example.) Some vices are treated specifically (gossiping, cheating), but there is no specific question regarding obedience to law.

Lastly, I'm interested to know for what the results of the survey are intended and what they are intended to demonstrate. Internet surveys like this are notoriously unreliable and skewed, and while it may provide an interesting set of statistics for the visitors who ran across it, it cannot be in any way a representative sample of Christianity or Christians.