Monday, July 31, 2006

 

Album Cover Answers, Movie Quiz Stumpers



Well, I know the whole world has just been waiting with baited breath for the answers to my Album Cover Quiz from last week. Sooooo, without further ado:




Number 01Number 02Number 03





Number 04Number 05Number 06





Number 07Number 08Number 09





Number 10Number 11Number 12





Number 13Number 14Number 15




Number 16Number 17Number 18





Number 19Number 20Number 21





Number 22Number 23Number 24




Number 25Number 26Number 27





Number 28Number 29Number 30




Big SouthCon props to The Cubicle Reverend who aced this thing. He sent his answers by e-mail, which was cool because if he'd posted his guesses he'd simply have been posting a grid of the answers.

Now, here's another quiz that's frustrating the daylights out of me, thanks to MCF's Phantasmic Links for the week.

It's a simple premise… look at the still from a classic movie and suppy the name of the movie. The quiz comes in three parts, and my shameful scores are posted below, along with links to the quizzes, parts one, two and three:

Part One




Part Two




Part Three



Best of luck, these are some tough ones. Part Three is especially brutal.


Sunday, July 30, 2006

 

Goonies, Gibson, Gags, Etc






Friday, July 28, 2006

 

Lady In The Water and A BeliefNet Quiz






Thursday, July 27, 2006

 

The Colbert Report: This Might Be My Kind Of Show



I haven't been watching The Colbert Report because I assumed that it was just The Daily Show 2.0.

I do like Stephen Colbert, though. I'm a huge fan of Strangers With Candy, and he was a writer and actor on that series. Oh, what a funny show it was. It's the only television program that I own every season of on DVD.

Jon Stewart, though. Eeeehhh. I'll put it this way: I'm a lapsed Jon Stewart fan. I used to think he was very funny and I was a huge fan of The Daily Show. I tried to catch it every day. Stewart is clearly liberal, but that never bothered me. I don't have to agree with someone in order to enjoy his or her comedy. For instance, Bill Hicks (left) was one of my favorite comedians ever. He was so funny that his comedy often reduced me to a snorting, quivering mess. Oh, how I loved his comedy… and, oh, how I mourned his death. Nonetheless, I disagreed with everything he ever said.

So I'm not a lapsed Jon Stewart fan because Stewart is so clearly liberal. I'm a lapsed Jon Stewart fan because, as of the last presidential election, Stewart has become so damned SHRILL. His comedy has totally changed. Nowadays, he's just another Al Frankin. He's bitter, he's more politician than comedian, and he's nowhere near as smart as he thinks he is.

So I presumed that Stephen Colbert's show was just another ultra-liberal pseudo-comedy that would annoy me.

I am beginning to think that I am dead-wrong about Colbert. Yes, he is a Democrat… but Colbert is also a Southern boy and a practicing Catholic. He's even a Sunday School teacher. Sounds like Colbert's program might be a great deal more complex and worthwhile than I'd have thought.

I found these two YouTube clips at the American Papist, and they left me slack-jawed in amazement. This is smart, funny, substantial stuff. And, not only that, but Colbert's positions on the matters discussed here are solidly Catholic.

This first clip features Colbert interviewing Bill Donohue of the Catholic League. Colbert's broad parody of media hubris is a little over-the-top… but his solid Catholicism comes through loud and clear once he and Donohue start discussing religious and political issues. Colbert even quotes scripture!



Here, Colbert debates himself about stem cell research and (gasp!) doesn't settle for the standard Hollywood liberal mantra about how stem cell research would cure all the world's ills if only the bad old Republicans would step out of the way of progress:



I get the idea that The Colbert Report might now be what the The Daily Show used to be. I don't imagine I'll agree with Colbert all the time, but I'm gonna start watching his show. I get the impression he'll make me think, make me laugh, and thoroughly entertain me. You know... all the things The Daily Show used to do.


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

 

Conservative Rock, Ted Kennedy, Hell, Etc



Album Cover Contest Still Going On

If anyone cares, I'll keep my album cover contest thing open for a few more days. Throw a guess or two into the comments section if you're of a mind to.

Conservatives ROCK!

I'm plumb tickled by the National Review's list of the 100 Best Conservative Rock Songs Of All Time. You can see the top fifty here and the bottom fifty here.

Just a few comments on the songs that made the list:



Here and There




Tuesday, July 25, 2006

 

Still Pushing My Luck



Album Covers Contest Thingy

I know that when I get off on these music tangents, I'm really pushing my luck. I know that I'm in danger of losing all four or five of my regular readers by indulging myself like this… but I can't help it.

I had fun putting together yesterday's Metal Mascot contest, and the answers are revealed below… but before I get to that, here's a new contest for the day.

I have taken a group of thirty album covers and taken a small portion of the cover art from each. They are below. How many of them can you identify based on the small clips of art provided?

I haven't gone pure metal this time… I've tried to make it more general, and I've tried to make most of them fairly easy. I've included covers to albums that I don't even like, just to keep it fair. It wouldn't really be fair, after all, to expect everyone out there to be able to identify a small piece of the cover art from the third Anthrax album, for instance.

The Governor, of course, is going to own this contest… so I'll respectfully request that he send his guesses by e-mail (rather than comments) so as to keep this contest alive a little longer.

After I finished putting this together, Wendy seemed to get a kick out of guessing at them, so maybe you will, too.

Look at the small blocks below and see if you can identify the band and the album cover. You'll get one point for correctly identifying the band and one more for correctly identifying the name of the album. The person who submits the most correct guesses wins the title of Supreme SouthCon Album Cover Geek Of The Week.

Ready? Here they are:






















Submit your guesses in the comments section… and, as usual, the honor system applies. Don't scan the comments and grab guesses that aren't really your own.




Metal Mascots And Markers: The Answers

Yesterday I posted the following grid and challenged my readers to identify the mascot or emblem and the band associated with it.



The Governor won and is officially the Supreme SouthCon Metal Geek of the Week.

Now, for the answers and sources, if you're interested:

A: Sarg D, mascot of SOD

B: The Metal Mask was the symbol of Quiet Riot

C: Eddie, the much beloved mascot of Iron Maiden

D: This devil monster guy was on the cover of all of Dio's albums.

E: This stencil was included in Metallica's Binge & Purge box set and became a sorta kinda mascot.

F: Queensryche's symbol, which you'll find on all of their album covers.

G: Vic Rattlehead, the mascot of Megadeth, who shows up on most of their album artwork.

H: Check the artwork of most early Anthrax albums and you'll find their lovable Not-Man mascot.

I: The cover of the first Danzig album became their semi-official symbol.

Thanks to everyone who played and to everyone who indulges my occasional bouts with Metal Mania. What can I say, I'm a child of the 80's. I've gotten past the beer and the pot, but Lord help me, I still gotta have my Metal!!


Monday, July 24, 2006

 

Ünta Gleebin Gloütin Glöbin



This is another of my "Darrell Loves Heavy Metal" posts, so if you're looking for insight, intelligence, and relevant content, your search is not over.

Anyway, have I mentioned that I love, love, LOVE heavy metal lately?

Today's post is mostly a collection of random metal ramblings, so don't expect coherence, intelligence or cohesion. Like the best metal itself, today's post will be a big, loud, long, haphazard mess.

Umlauts Rock!

Back in the day, the way you let the world know that your band kicked butt was with superfluous umlauts. Umlauts, of course, are the pronunciation symbol that appears over vowels in certain words; two little dots over a vowel here or there. I'm not sure who decided that umlauts were the official grammatical symbol of heaviness, but I think it was a good system. A number of bands employed it with remarkable success:






Mascots And Markings

Ten geek metal points will be awarded to any metal geek who can identify the band associated with each mascot and/or emblem in the grid below. The first person to identify all nine bands correctly will be awarded an additional fifty metal geek bonus points and be declared Supreme SouthCon Metal Geek of the Week. I'm trusting you to use the honor system, here. Don't glean the comments looking for tips… just post your guesses on your own. Here they are:



A special 10 more bonus points will be awarded to the first metal geek who can correctly identify the significance of the title of today's post. Disclaimer: Anyone who explains it by relating it to a song by the band Offspring will be disqualified.




Tawdry Tales of Tawny

Today, it's Jessica Alba. In the 90's, I suppose it was Nicole Kidman. Tawny Kitaen owned the 1980's. Her success was due, in part, to films like Witchboard and Bachelor Party. Mostly, though, she was known as the hot chick who writhed around on BMWs in Whitesnake's music videos. Whitesnake, of course, was one of the approximately 7,639,244 bands who made a big pile of money by ripping off Led Zeppelin.

Every guy between the ages of 13 and 95 drooled over Tawny Kitaen whenever a Whitesnake video was on MTV. Then the 80's ended and she disappeared.

In the 90's, a mugshot of Tawny turned up on the internet. Apparently, she'd been arrested for beating up her husband, professional athlete Chuck Finley. This is not the best possible way to come back into the limelight.

This year I saw her a couple of times on VH1's washed-up celeb reality show The Surreal Life. I didn't want to wach the show, but I was flipping channels and caught sight of this zombie who reminded me a bit of Tawny Kitaen and I couldn't help but watch a few minutes of it. Apparently, plastic (as in plastic surgery) doesn't hold up well, because Tawny now looks like a George Romero creation. That's bad enough, but the way she behaved on the program was also ultra-mega-insane. Poor Tawny.



Let us all remember: The road of excess leads to embarrassing appearances on VH1.


Sunday, July 23, 2006

 

Sick Son, Slow Sunday, Sad Stories and YouTube



Killin' Time

We weren't able to go to church this morning because my son is sick. Instead, I spent the morning combing the stats page for more bandwith thieves. I found a few and updated the list. Thanks to MCF, I also found a story about a recent Dave Chapelle show that really got my attention. There are a few vulgar terms in that story, so beware if you're ultra-sensitive.




Feel Good Television

I've been hearing a lot about Intervention, a series on A&E. We're watching it now (10:00 PM Eastern). This is the first time we've seen it, the episode is about Tammi and Daniel. I'll tell ya what, if you want to feel good about yourself, if you want to realize how blessed you are and how good God has been to you (most of us, anyway), watch this show. These poor, poor people. It is horrific what drugs and alcohol can do to people. This show is extremely hard to watch and isn't for everyone. Watch it anyway. Watch this show, pray for the people on it, and get on your knees and thank God for your life. (I'm talking to myself with that last part.)




You Tubery

Of course, youtube.com was simply created for lazy Sundays:





Saturday, July 22, 2006

 

Funny Films



Nothing much going on here, but if you're interested, I've posted my response to Bravo's list of the 100 Funniest Movies at film geeks


Friday, July 21, 2006

 

A Conjugal Sacrament



I've just finished listening to an amazing talk by Christopher West, a meditation on Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body. Specifically, on those matters of the Theology of the Body that involve monogamous, marital sexual union.

It's probably typical to think of sex as a topic that isn't discussed… or even a topic that shouldn't be discussed… in Church. The problem with that is that it is grown out of and perpetuates the stigma that human sexuality is a bad thing. That stigma is a terrible, dysfunctional thing, and it has had an awful effect on the way our society views the human body and sexual matters. Marital intimacy is an invention of God, and was intended by God as a way for a man and woman to become "one flesh." It is not only good, it is also very important to God, since he chose this expression as the way by which he would create human life. Marital intimacy is, in that sense, a holy sacrament. A gift from God; but not just a gift… something holy. Something powerful, profound and deeply spiritual.

Christopher West did a great job of explaining a Catholic understanding of marital sexuality, vis-à-vis John Paul II's Theology of the Body. There are a number of MP3 files available to download if you'd like to hear some of what he has had to say. Or, you can simply go to the Mary Foundation and order a free copy of the CD. The Mary Foundation is a non-profit foundation that distributes educational and informative materials related to the Catholic Church, and they do wonderful work.

The Theology of the Body, as explained by John Paul II, is really amazing. Our bodies are called our personal "Temples of the Lord," and as such, they should not be defiled. It is easy to concentrate on that aspect of the body regarding our obligation to God. In other words, it's easy to focus on the negative aspect… what we shouldn't do to or with our bodies. The positive aspects… what we should do with our bodies, aren't often discussed. That is unfortunate, because the things that God wants us to do with our bodies are wonderful. And, those holy obligations include the Catholic understanding of marital, monogamous sex. In fact, West argues that sex is so important and so holy to God that it's very importance is the reason it has been attacked and perverted so badly by the enemies of God over the years. Marital sexual intercourse is a union of man and woman through love, and a way in which they share in the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit. It is natural, when you think about it that way, that the enemies of God would want to pervert sex into something dirty, obscene and pointless. I don't think I realized just how much of an attack against God that pornography really is until I heard this CD… and I don't think I realized how wonderful and important marital sexual intimacy is in the eyes of God, either.

Anyway, order the CD and or download some of the MP3s and check it out. It's smart stuff.

And, by the way, having listened to this material has cemented my belief that the Tool song "Parabola" is about the holy embrace of marital intimacy. I know, I know, I'm a kook. I'm a nutcase for thinking that Tool of all bands would write a song about the Theology of the Body… nonetheless, it doesn't matter if Tool's lyricist Maynard Keenan believes in God or not… I think that the Holy Spirit believes in Maynard, and used him to express some truly holy ideas about the marital union. Am I nuts? Maybe… but read the lyrics and judge for yourself:

We barely remember who or what came before
This precious moment,
We are choosing to be here right now. Hold on, stay inside...
This holy reality, this holy experience. Choosing to be here in...
This body. This body holding me. Be my reminder here that I am not alone in
This body, this body holding me, feeling eternal, pain is an illusion.
Alive!

This holy reality. This holy experience. Choosing to be here in...
This body. This body holding me. Be my reminder here that I am not alone in
This body, this body holding me, feeling eternal, pain is an illusion...

Swirling round with this familiar parable.
Spinning, weaving round each new experience.
Recognize this as a holy gift and
Celebrate this chance to be alive and breathing
This chance to be alive and breathing.
This body holding me reminds me of my own mortality.
Embrace this moment. Remember. we are eternal.
pain is an illusion.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

 

McFat 14: The HARD Questions



The 14th McFAT really blindsided me. Some of these questions left me scratching my head for days... but I finally have answers. Sort of.

1) Friends and family often offer advice or share experiences with the best of intentions, sometimes with the opposite of the desired effect. What are some of your more memorable “you're not helping...” moments?

Well, three things come to mind:

One, about ten years ago I tried and tried to talk my mother out of buying a brand new Toyota Camry. I couldn't stand to watch her take that kind of depreciation, and I was sure that the dealership wasn't giving her the best possible price. She was bound and determined to buy that car, though. And, she did. I realized later that she was getting what she wanted, she already knew all the things I was telling her, and that I was just wasting my time and getting on her nerves.

The second thing that comes to mind is that I've noticed that the world's best experts on child rearing are people who don't have any kids. Once you have kids, all kinds of childless child-rearing experts will offer you all kinds of advice. Lucky you.

The third example is the most important of the three. About three years ago or so I went to an uncle of mine for advice. It was very important advice regarding very serious, private problems. His advice to me was that I wouldn't really have any problems if I'd just "give my life to Jesus." I think that was the first time I ever really distanced myself from my family, looked at them objectively and looked at the religion they'd taught me objectively, and asked myself what all of it really meant to me. The rest is history.

2) You enjoy this actor's work, but many people just don't get it. Who is it?

The first two actors who came to mind were Philip Seymour Hoffman and Gary Oldman. There was a time when I really could have said that I was a huge fan of each of these guys and that neither of them were getting the props they deserved. Nowadays, however, both of them have huge, vocal fanbases… so I won't site either of them as my example.


Instead, I'll go with M. Emmet Walsh, one of the best and most overlooked character actors in American cinema. Chances are, just looking at his picture to the right there was enough to prompt you to remember any number of his memorable performances. However, if that isn't the case, then I can suggest a number of wonderful films that you need to see. The first and best of Walsh's performances is probably Visser, the corrupt private investigator in Blood Simple, the first film by the Coens. If you haven't seen it, turn off your PC and go rent or buy it right now. Walsh's outstanding performance in that film is just one of it's many qualities. M. Emmet Walsh is also outstanding in Clean and Sober, which is another underseen outstanding film. Clean and Sober features what I think was Michael Keaton's first dramatic roll as an addict trying to fake his way through a rehab program. Walsh plays his sponsor, a man who's been around enough to know a BS artist when he sees one. The chemistry between Keaton and Walsh during their scenes together makes for some intense and honest screen time. Walsh's work ranges from complex roles in films like the two mentioned above to short but memorable comic performances in movies like The Jerk and Raising Arizona. He's an outstanding "character actor," with a face you've seen a thousand times. Next time you see him in a film, take the time to appreciate his acting ability.

3) In general, when it comes to movies, are originals better than remakes, or vice versa? Feel free to cite examples that support either or both positions.

Oh, man. A thousand things come to mind.

It seems like every movie that comes out these days is either an honest remake or a dishonest remake. A dishonest remake is a blatant rip-off. And many of the blatant rip-offs that come out are blatant rip-offs of movies thare are bad in the first place.

First of all, remakes generally fail. Originals are almost always better. Having said that, every instance of a remake deserves consideration on it's own merits. The first things that spring to mind include:

Planet of the Apes: The original is the one to see. The remake sucks.

The original Psycho is OK, but overrated. The remake is crap… and pointless crap at that.

James Cameron's Titanic isn't really a remake of the 1953 film of the same name, although they're both about the doomed ship. Both movies are middling affairs, both have their merits and both have their weaknesses.

King Kong is an interesting three-movie study. Peter Jackson's remake is outstanding… at least when compared to the awful 1976 version, which was a pale attempt to recreate the original.

A ton of horror movies have been remade lately. If you want to see a version of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the only one worth your time is the original. If you're interested in The Haunting then watch the original, which is not without merit. The 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead isn't bad, but the original remains the one to see.

With other horror movies, it's simply garbage in, garbage out. I'm not going to bother looking up and including links to either the original versions or the remakes of movies that aren't worth your time in either version… movies like The Hills Have Eyes, The Amityville Horror, House On Haunted Hill, 13 Ghosts, etc. I admit, sometimes I've seen only one version or the other of these films, but I feel safe in suggesting that you not waste your time on either version.

A number of Asian horror films have been remade recently, as well. The Ring, a horrible movie, is a remake of Ringu, which I haven't seen. I've heard that The Grudge is a piece of junk, but I saw the original, Ju On, and enjoyed it. Pulse will be released this month, and I'm sure that it will be a terrible remake of it's source material, Kairo, which was a movie that I really liked.

A few exceptions to the rule do come to mind. Remakes that improve on the originals would include Red Dragon (2002), a much better film than Manhunter (1986), both of which are based on the Thomas Harris novel Red Dragon. Other remakes that excel include Scarface, Cape Fear, and The Fly.

Then there are other movies which are just crying out to be remade. Spawn was a terrible disappointment, and I'd love to see McFarlane authorize a ground-up remake. Kurt Vonnegut's novel Breakfast of Champions is an odd book, a work of fiction in which the author inserts himself as a primary character capable of controlling the story. The first attempt to make a film of it was a dismal failure. However, ever since Spike Jonze made Adaptation, another work about a writer who inserts himself into his story, I've thought that I'd like to see a version of Breakfast of Champions helmed by Spike Jonze.

You just had to get me started on this topic, didn't you? ;) I'll force myself to shut up now.

4) If it were scientifically possible to live on any other planet in our solar system, through the development of faster-than-light travel and genetic enhancements or protective suits, which planet would you choose to live on?

To be honest, this question never crossed my mind… so I took liberties with the question and decided to pick Malacondra as my preferred planet.

5) Who would win in a war: Hobbits or Smurfs?

I thought about it and thought about it and thought about it and thought about it and couldn't come up with an answer to this. I know I'd be rooting for the Hobbits. Smurfs are just creepy. They're too uniform, and they're blue. No living thing I know of turns blue until it's dead. So their blueness and their uniformity makes them seem like zombies. Smurfs are extremely weird little zombies, and I wish the Hobbits the best at fending them off.

Is this war wizard-related? I know the Hobbits have friendly relationships with wizards… whereas the Smurfs have never been able to get along with Gargamel. Have they attacked the Hobbits simply as a vicarious strike against all wizards and their allies?

This whole situation makes me uncomfortable. It has too many parallels to what's going on in the Middle East right now.

Besides, these kinds of hypothetical match-ups always lead to bad movies. It seems like an obvious idea for a competition, but it never works as a film. When you take two obvious foes and put them together, you end up with bad movies. Movies like Freddy Vs. Jason. Movies like Aliens Vs. Predator. Movies like Billy The Kid Vs. Dracula.

Nonetheless, the question makes me wonder about some other obvious match-ups.

I gotta give it to the spider. First of all, Jiminy always struck me as kind of a fop. I don't see him really even fighting back. Charlotte could be pretty creative when she had to, and I always had the sense that she could be downright vicious if she had to. Like, had Wilbur ticked her off, she's have weaved the word "Bacon" into that web. I never really trusted that spider, I wouldn't have turned my back on her, and I bet she could kick serious cricket butt.

The Morlocks. No question. The Morlocks were outright savage. The Sleestacks never really did much more than walk around really slowly and breathe in a creepy way. I have a cousin who walks around slowly and breathes in a creepy way, and the average Morlock could beat him down without even really trying.

This one is a toss up. I guess I'd have to give it to the creepy one. You know, the one who used to be on TV all the time, getting rich on other people's problems and insecurities. Oh, come on, you know which one I mean. Do I have to spell it out? I'm talking about the androgynous one. The really strange one.

Babe's got this one. Babe could outfight Gordy, no question... but he wouldn't even have to. He could outthink Gordy. Gordy sucks.

I'm inclined to think that the King would kick Ronald's tail. Neither of them really seems like a natural born fighter, but if it came right down to it and they had to duke it out for your burger bucks, I think the King would mop up the place with that stupid clown. If nothing else, the King could just headbutt him with that massive head of his and have it over quickly.

Bishop's got this one. It isn't even close. Bishop was smarter, faster, and had better instincts. Now, granted, both androids had a tendency to come apart and spray white artificial oil everywhere when the chips were down… but Bishop crawled all the way through that tube thing and fixed that beacon thing, and then rescued Ripley and remained in the fight without his legs. Ash, on the other hand, spilled his guts (literally and figuratively) as soon as he'd had his head ripped off. Ash was ultimately a pushover. Bishop had synthetic nerves of synthetic steel.

I think the Rice Boys have this one. For one thing, they're a team. They've worked together for years and they know each others strengths, abilities and tendencies. I bet they can take the subtlest cues and tip-offs from each other. Now the other team has it's abilities, I admit. The Cap'n has military experience and is an obvious leader, but a leader is only as good as his team. And the Cap'n doesn't have much of a team here. He's saddled with a spastic rabbit and a wuss leprechaun. Granted, a leprechaun does have magic powers, but this guy doesn't strike me as a team player. Lucky would just run off and hide from the Rice Boys the same way he does from every kid in every commercial. So the Cap'n would be stuck with that nutcase rabbit as the only thing at his command, and by the time he had a plan formulated, Snap, Crackle and Pop would get all Matrix on his ass. It would be over swiftly, at least. I'm sure of that. Snap, Crackle and Pop are cereal killers.

SPECIAL BONUS QUESTION: The year is 1985; who is Flora?

Everyone who isn't fauna.


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

 

CSR And Tiny Screwdrivers



Cassette tapes were always an unsatisfactory music delivery system. We just didn't realize it in the '80's.

It's hard to believe that we ever got along without CDs. We did, though. If you're like me, if you are about the same age that I am, you probably have a big box somewhere that's just full of all the cassette tapes you aquired while you were a teenager.

My box is red; a tropical fish aquarium came in it, and it's pretty much stacked full of old cassettes. It's in the basement right now, gathering dust. I think of that box as a graveyard full of dead technology and anachronous music. Music that dates me as a child of the '80's. Def Leppard. Billy Idol. Billy Squire. Men At Work. And, of course, the Less Than Zero soundtrack.

Some of it I might still enjoy, if only for nostalgic reasons... but those albums are on cassette, and cassettes suck. They are and always were flimsy, cheap, and built to break. If you're like me, you owned a small set of screwdrivers… jeweler's screwdrivers or small-electronic repair screwdrivers… and you were constantly trying to repair one cassette or another. It was such a pain in the butt, unscrewing those five little screws and gently pulling the shell apart… but it was, of course, worth it to salvage No Jacket Required, right?

And something was always going wrong with cassettes. That little foam pad where the playhead touched the tape would fall out… or get cockeyed… or that whole little metal thing the pad was attached to would get bent or fall out. Sometimes the ribbon of tape itself would stretch or break. And now and then I'd leave a cassette just lying on the car seat and find it the next day, warped into something that would disgust Salvador Dali.

So I'd have to get the screwdrivers out and attempt cassette surgical recovery. If you never had to perform cassette surgical recovery (or, CSR), here's a crash course: First, you carefully remove the five screws on one side and carefully set them aside. Make sure to put them in something that will contain them. There's nothing worse than finishing CSR and only finding four screws instead of five because one of them has rolled off the table.

Once you get the screws out, you'd have to gently lift off the top of the shell and set it aside. What you were doing now would depend on the reason you were performing CSR in the first place. If the little foam pad/metal thing had come out, you'd try to slip a new one in; one you'd scavenged from some old, worn out TDK or BASF blank cassette. Some instances of CSR were more complex, such as a total shell transplant. Boy, that was always a nightmare. You'd have to lift the two little reels of tape up and move them over to an open, scavenged shell… and you'd have to try to wind the tape through all those little plastic spokes and wheels successfully. And you'd have to pray like crazy that the little reels of tape didn't start slipping and getting loose, because if they did you'd have a little brown ribbon of tape everywhere.

If I can go the rest of my life and never again have to perform another instance of CSR, I'll die a happy man.


I remember the first big advance I ever saw in music delivery technology. I'm not talking about the advent of the CD… no, this was back in '84, when Foreigner's album Agent Provocateur was released. The amazing thing about the Agent Provocateur cassette tape was that it was in a clear plastic shell instead of a white plastic shell. This clear plastic gave the cassette a rather high-tech, space-age look. At the time, I thought it would be worth buying the album just for this amazing new technology. As it turned out, I was wrong. "Tooth And Nail" was the only good song on the album. However, listening to it as it played from that clear plastic cassette tape seemed like such a futuristic experience.

Of course, eventually, the CD revolution caught up with all of us. Today, though, even CDs seem outdated. My wife has already moved beyond them. She listens to all of her music on a small white rectangular thing that's kinda shaped like a pack of cigarettes. She says it's called an Eye Pot or some such nonsense.

My attitude is, look: I have made the painful and difficult transition from one kind of technology to another once already. I'm too old and too grouchy to do it again. I do NOT want to end up with my Counting Crows and Tool CDs in a box next to my Dire Straits and Eurythmics cassettes. I refuse to do it. CDs work, they work just fine, I've never once had to try to fix a CD with a screwdriver. That alone is good enough for me.


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

 

Iran's Hizbollah "Ready For War" With The US



This is getting uglier by the minute.

Iran's Hizbollah, which claims links to the Lebanese group of the same name, said on Tuesday it stood ready to attack Israeli and the U.S. interests worldwide.

"We have 2,000 volunteers who have registered since last year," said Iranian Hizbollah's spokesman Mojtaba Bigdeli, speaking by telephone from the central seminary city of Qom.

"They have been trained and they can become fully armed. We are ready to dispatch them to every corner of the world to jeopardise Israel and America's interests. We are only waiting for the Supreme Leader's green light to take action. If America wants to ignite World War Three ... we welcome it," he said.


I'm trying to follow this crisis, but there's so much stuff out there on the net, and it's hard to sort out the real, objective news from subjective interpretation and speculation.

Google News, for instance, links to this blatantly anti-semantic, left wing site… and links to it as a news source. Not an opinion piece, but a news source. If you don't know the difference, you can end up manipulated by what you read. So just be careful.

Even the major media reports things that might amount to speculation.

The American Papist is doing a good job of following the crisis from a viewpoint that I feel comfortable trusting… and this Wikipedia article, which seems to be under constant update, might be a good source.

Don't brush this off. Remember, the picture to the right is an accurate representation of how these people raise their children. They are bred to hate and taught to kill from the minute they make their first steps away from the crib. Don't underestimate their reach, their power, or their potential for destruction.


Monday, July 17, 2006

 

Darvel and Dwight Vader



If you're one of the approximately 0.013 people who read this blog, you probably know that I just looooooove my job. I love it sooooooo much. I love my job the way Romeo loved Juliet. I love my job the way Joanie loved Chachi. I love my job the way Tom Cruise loves Richard Gere.

Therefore, since I love my job so damn much, there's no chance of me ever getting dooced, because I'd never write anything bad about my employer at my blog. Oh, nooooooo. No sir! Not me!

My friend Darvel, however, isn't as lucky as I am. It is my good fortune to work for a group of effective, brilliant, glorious, energetic, debonair, fragrant, attractive, wholesome, comely gentlemen. Darvel doesn't share that good fortune. I received another e-mail from him today, and I'm posting it here at the blog more or less as a public service. I'm assuming that you, like me, are fortunate enough to work under the guidance of godlike geniuses. I'm posting Darvel's e-mail just to remind us all not to take our wonderful bosses for granted.

He writes:

My department manager is some kind of &#$%#@$ robot. He has got to be a robot because real human beings can not function if they're as &#$%#@$ stupid as this guy is. If a real human being were this &#$%#@$ stupid, he'd eventually forget to breathe and fall over dead somewhere.

He's stupid… and yet he's also evil. I'd have never thought it possible. I used to be convinced that genuinely stupid people weren't capable of real evil… but I've come to believe that evil itself is actually fully fermented stupidity. Once you become purely stupid enough, you are capable of the most diabolical malfeasance.

So I'm sure that he's a robot. He's a robot, and he's programmed to be some sort of bizarre hybrid of these two people:



Dwight Vader. That's him.

Recently, our department had a full mechanical shutdown so that various pieces of equipment could be replaced, upgraded, broken, or simply taken and hidden by disenchanted mechanics. I and the people who work in our area were hopeful that the many, many, many technical/mechanical problems that we have to deal with on a day to day basis might be addressed. Maybe some work would even be done on some of those problems. Maybe… just maybe… some of those problems would even be corrected! It was possible (unlikely, I admit, but possible) that Dwight Vader would actually arrange to have some of our shabby equipment fixed and/or replaced. This is, after all, equipment that is hopelessly outdated and literally falling apart around us.

Ha!

What did Dwight Vader, instead, arrange to have done in our area? He arranged to have a flashing red light installed. A flashing red light that let's us know when DEPARTMENT EQUIPMENT ISN'T OPERATING CORRECTLY.

Let me see if I can explain this in simple terms that everyone can relate to. Imagine that Dwight Vader were an Emergency Room doctor and you went to see him because you had a broken arm. And I don't mean a hairline fracture, I mean a severe, ugly, bloody compound fracture. Imagine that you go see Dr. Dwight Vader hoping for help and his solution to your problem is to take a big red Sharpie magic marker and write "YOU HAVE A BROKEN ARM" on your forehead.

He's evil. He's evil and he's stupid and he's a
&#$%#@$ robot. He has to be.



So tomorrow, when you, like me, report for duty to your ever-dependable, prudent and sagacious leaders, keep Darvel in mind. Keep him in mind and say a prayer of gratitude for your gifted and gainful supervision.

I know that I sure will.


Sunday, July 16, 2006

 

The Armchair Apologist: Sola Fide Part III - Summation





The Armchair Apologist is a series of posts at SouthCon dedicated to matters of faith and religion. Click here to see an index of Armchair Apologist posts. You are welcome to comment on any of these items, but before commenting, please READ THE RULES. To suggest a topic or make a comment by e-mail, send your remarks to armchair@darwen.us




Sola Fide, Part 3: Summation And (I Hope) Refinement

Thanks to everyone who participated in first and second parts of my Sola Fide discussion. I really appreciate everyone's input, and while I'm sure that none of us made any converts from one side to the other, I do feel like I learned some things. I learned a lot about the origins of Sola Fide, thanks to Pastor Scott, a Lutheran Pastor who is deeply steeped in Martin Luther's teachings and ideas. And I learned a lot about the ideas and the faith of some of my blogging buddies. So again, from the bottom of my heart, thanks.

Along the way, Pastor Scott posted the following bit of advice about apologetics:

When doing apologetics, we all have to beware of the Straw Man fallacy. That is, we don't want to prop up our opponents like a straw man, stuffing them with fluff, so that it's easier to knock them down. Probably every debater and polemicist is guilty of doing this to some extent.


I appreciate that advice very much, and I was glad to receive it. It's a good guide, and I plan to try very hard to follow it. Looking back over some of what I've written, both in the posts themselves and in the comments, I think there have been times when I've been building and punching straw men. Please bear with me, I am the definition of an amateur.

And so, in closing, to the degree that anyone is interested, here's where I currently stand on Sola Fide in the aftermath of these discussions...

  • The Catholic Church was engaged in some terrible practices about the time that Luther posted his list of complaints on that church door. That's not news to anyone, including and especially us Catholics. It is fair to say, in a way, that by taking action, Luther played a major role in saving the Church from many of it's own powerful, corrupt members.


  • The doctrine of Sola Fide grew out of Luther's understanding of how salvation works, and was largely a response to many of those corrupt practices. In this day and age, however, there are about a zillion possible interpretations and variations of Sola Fide. Some of them are legitimate Christianity. Some of them are blatant antinomianism.


  • Because legitimate faith always leads to a genuine Christian life, which includes genuine Christian behavior, I remain unconvinced that you can separate Christian faith from Christian works in any practical sense.


  • I believe that the only practical reason for making the distinction and for arguing in favor of Sola Fide is simply to try to establish a theological barrier between Protestantism and Catholicism. Scott Hahn is a former Presbyterian minister and a Catholic convert. In a recorded talk distributed on CD by The Mary Foundation, Hahn says that as a Protestant he was taught that Sola Fide was the doctrine by which the Protestant faith "stands or falls." I'd argue that at this point, Sola Fide is simply the doctrine that props up Protestantism and justifies it's extraneous existence. I know that that statement is going to seem like a slap in the face, but I promise you that it's not intended to be. It's not that I think Protestantism in-and-of-itself is evil or even bad… I simply see it as unnecessary.


  • The corrupt practices that Luther argued against have been (as far as I know) stopped. To the degree that Luther's doctrine of Sola Fide was an argument against "buying" or "working" your way into Heaven, I think it was a good thing. I'm convinced, though, that making these distinctions between faith and works in this day and age is entirely an academic matter. In the last few days I've more or less come to believe that Christ himself would probably think that our arguing about the matter is, ultimately, just a distraction. Considering that I'm the guy who brought it up, this makes me feel kinda silly!


  • Sooooooo.... to the degree that Sola Fide means "Salvation comes by full and active faith, and that salvation cannot be bought or bargained for," I agree with it. However, any interpretation of Sola Fide that argues that good works aren’t even necessary for the Christian life and for salvation is an error. An error, and, in my estimation, a road to hell.


And there you have it! I officially declare my interest in debating Sola Fide to be over. Feel free to leave summary comments at this post if you want, but I think I'm done with this topic. For now.

When I get my ideas in order, I intend to move on to some other topics, and I hope to do a better job of debating the actual theological doctrines and to prop up fewer straw men. Some of the topics I want to approach include:

Sola Scriptura
What, as a Christian, would you say is the foundation and pillar of truth? Would you say it's holy scripture, i.e. the Bible? If so, you might be interested to know that the Bible itself doesn't agree with you. Check out First Timothy 3:15 sometime.

Pluralism
C.S. Lewis once wrote about "Christianity and water," the premise that some people dilute their religious practices to make Christianity easier to swallow. I think that in this day and age there's actually a bigger threat to the Christian faith than "Christianity and water." Because of the successful marketing of various age old heresies (gnosticism, pseudo-PanAsianism, "new age" ideas, etc) there are a number of Christians who claim to incorporate bits and pieces of other religions into their faith. They claim to borrow from various religions and end up really following none of them. Christianity and water is a bad thing. Christianity and strange waters is even worse.

Intelligent Design
Some people claim that the concept of "intelligent design," which merely theorizes that our universe was actually intentionally created by some sort of intelligence, is an attempt to "smuggle" religion into public school systems. I disagree. In fact, I believe that teaching "intelligent design" is actually counter-productive and downright destructive to the Christian formation of young people. I hope to explain why with some degree of coherence and intelligence.

I look forward to further debate and discussion… and, again, thanks!


Saturday, July 15, 2006

 

Movie Quote Quiz Thingy



Movie quotes popped into my head at work all day today. I don't know why, but I do know that today's blog entry, a movie quote quiz, was born of it. Some of these are hard, some are very, very easy… and some of them are completely medium. Click the quote to see the movie it is from. How many can you guess without clicking?

01 Where is pancakes house?

02 Earn this. Earn it.

03 Christmas means carnage!

04 A president? I mean, why not shoot a president?

05 That's much too vulgar a display of power…

06 I just hate you, and I hate your ass face.

07 Now go home and get your f-----g shine box.

08 We've got armadillos in our trousers. It's really quite frightening.

09 I'll be taking these Huggies and whatever cash you've got.

10 …that's why helicopters were not deployed.

11 He'll flip you. Flip you for real.

12 Everybody loves a hero. People line up for them, cheer them, scream their names. And years later, they'll tell how they stood in the rain for hours just to get a glimpse of the one who taught them how to hold on a second longer.

13 Are you gonna bark all day, little doggy, or are you gonna bite?

14 Dave Rutabaugh is an ignorant scoundrel. I disapprove of his very existence. I considered ending it myself on several occasions but… self-control got the better of me.

15 Go back to England and tell them there that Scotland's daughters and sons are yours no more. Tell them Scotland is free.

16 I was attacked by a coked up whore and a f-----g crazy dentist!

17 I'm not even supposed to be here today!

18 I had no choice. They arrived right before you did. I'm sorry.

19 We're gonna be like three little Fonzies here.

20 The second shelf is mine. That's where I keep my root beer and my double-stuff Oreo cookies. Nobody touches the second shelf but me.

21 Will you go to lunch? Go to lunch. Will you go to lunch?

22 Right. I'm now going to check your freezer for human heads.

23 Is it worth risking your life over ten dollars, two credit cards, a hairbrush, and a lipstick?

24 We may be through with the past, but the past ain't through with us.

25 Recognize my voice, Hartigan? Recognize my voice, you piece of s--- cop? I look different, but I bet you can recognize my voice!




Score yourself:

0 - 5 Movies are like plays except you watch them on a screen or on your television. Check one out sometime.

6 - 10 You're one of those people with only one favorite movie, right? And it's the only movie you watch, and you watch it over and over, right? And it's Howard the Duck, right?

11 - 15 Well, I guess you could have done worse. In fact, you've made it to the first rank wherein your score summary isn't designed as an insult. That, in and of itself, is pretty insulting, right?

16 - 20 Not bad. Not great, but not bad. If we knew each other in real life, I'd have few opportunities to smirk at you.

21 - 24 You're actually worthy of my respect. In fact, I'd actually be interested in your opinion. Now and then.

25 You are officially me.


Friday, July 14, 2006

 

By Special Request



Things have been a bit heavy around here, theologically speaking, for the past week. I know that I have a couple of readers (the Jambander and Rhodester, specifically) who’d like to see me return to my usual irresponsible ranting, irrational nonsense, and general idiocy.

Not that I’m saying that my attempts at apologetics haven’t included irresponsible ranting, irrational nonsense, and general idiocy… it’s just that they haven’t been the kind of nonsense and idiocy that Rhodester and the Jambander have had in mind.

So in an attempt to please all possible audiences, I’ll wrap up the week with a post that’s still biblical in tone, but undeniably irresponsible, nonsensical, and idiotic.

A Reading From The First Letter Of Darrell To The Caucasians



And it came to pass that there arose among them such a one as told many things. And some of their number called him a great prophet, and still others called him but a mediocre prophet. But many among them called him a kook.

And they did know him by his golden arches and the orange shadowing of his eyelids. And, lo, he foretold to them of many things. And they were much afraid.

So he put it before them: "Do ye not know, foolish caucasians, of the Feast of the Rave and the dropping of the ecstasy tablets? Rise, ye Caucasians, let us be on our way." And so two brothers among the Caucasians rose up, and they were Rhodester who is called Dave, and Jambander, the fisher of Phish.

And they did depart with the prophet in his 1987 Ford Escort, and they sat out for the Promised McLand, that they might partake of the Quarter Cubit Hamburger and the Gaul Fried Potatoes. And after a certain time, they departed from there for the feast of the Rave.


(I Caucasians, 7:12 – 15)


 

Important Stem Cell Legislation



On July 17, the U.S. Senate will begin debate on three important bills related to stem cell research:




By July 18, the Senate expects to complete its debate and vote on the three bills.

If you're opposed to the farming of human embryos for stem cell research, urge your senators to vote against H.R. 810. This is a fundamental, ethical matter and it should cross political lines.

Stem cells from adult tissues, umbilical cord blood, and other morally acceptable sources are already producing treatments for diseases. Look into it yourself.

There is a faction among some liberals who want you to believe that everyone who opposes the farming of embryos for use in stem cell research is simply trying to block scientific progress. That simply isn't the case. S.2754 and S.3504 set ethical standards for stem cell research; research that continues to prove to be productive and successful.

Contact your senators about these matters today.


Thursday, July 13, 2006

 

The Armchair Apologist: Sola Fide II



The Armchair Apologist is a series of posts at SouthCon dedicated to matters of faith and religion. Click here to see an index of Armchair Apologist posts. You are welcome to comment on any of these items, but before commenting, please READ THE RULES. To suggest a topic or make a comment by e-mail, send your remarks to armchair@darwen.us




Sola Fide, Part 2: Fide? What's In A Fide?

In the responses to the first Sola Fide post, Pastor Scott mentioned a term I'd never heard before: antinomianism. He suggested that this was really what I was reacting to, and I got the feeling that my negative reaction to antinomianism was probably quite appropriate.

At least, I got that idea after I looked up the concept to make sure I understood it:

Antinomian
noun (an-ti-'NO-me-n) 1: One who holds that under the gospel dispensation of grace the moral law is of no use or obligation because faith alone is necessary to salvation. 2: One who rejects a socially established morality.

I like the Unseen Blogger's term, too… "Born-into-ism". It sums it up. Some people claim a faith that they simply don't practice simply because it's the faith that their parents professed.

I read that definition and a light bulb clicked on over my head. Ah! Now I understood why I was so bitter toward the Fundamentalists who'd raised me. Antinomianism had made me bitter. It wasn't Fundamentalists I'd really been railing against my whole life. It was antinomians!

That's where the bitterness had come from… But I had not ended up in the Roman Catholic Church because of bitterness toward Fundamentalists.

In that first post, I had also related a story about a Deacon (if you want to call him that) at our former church who behaved like a hedonist whenever I saw him outside the Church. I referred to him as "the last straw," and mentioned how today I'm a Roman Catholic. Jamie Dawn commented that it was a shame that I'd let one person's bad behavior make such an important decision for me. I read that and recoiled in horror as I realized that all along I've given the impression that my Roman Catholicism was the result of a negative reaction to antinomianism rather than a strong draw toward Catholicism. That isn't the case at all.

Suddenly, two terrible misconceptions were apparent to me:

One: Antinomianism had terribly tainted my idea of what Fundamentalism is.


Two Everything I'd written on my blog had probably created the impression among my readers that I'd become a Roman Catholic simply because I was angry at antinomians.

I really need to change my thinking about Fundamentalists... and, I really need to clear the second misconception up.


Sure, I left the specific Fundamentalist Church Wendy and I had been attending because of antinomianism. But, remember, before Wendy and I started attending that church… in fact, prior to September 11… I was still pretty content to call myself an agnostic. Why didn't I simply go back to considering myself an agnostic again? Why didn't I simply chalk it up to experience and say "Well, it turns out that Christianity is as hollow and hypocritical now as it was when I was a kid?"

Here's why: while Wendy and I were attending the Fundamentalist church where we were so unhappy, I was reading like a madman. Our Fundamentalist minister had recommended a number of books to me at my request, and I was reading as many of them as I could get my hands on.

And, I was reading the Bible for the first time in my life. Really reading it. Did you know that the books of the Bible have context, themes, and continuity? I hadn't known that! As far as I knew, the Bible was just a collection of separate verses, each of which was available to pull out when you needed it to encourage a certain behavior, justify a specific idea, or condemn a given person or practice.

Let me emphasize as clearly as possible that I was on fire with faith because of what I was reading, and only because of the things I was reading. The church we were attending was adding nothing to my faith. In fact, I felt that I was struggling to keep my newborn faith alive in a church that seemed designed to suffocate it before it could mature.

And, just for the record, I never sat out with the goal of disavowing Sola Fide. I was trying to figure out how it worked… and, instead, totally on my own, I began to figure out that really living the Christian life required more than just professing faith.

And let me make it clear, I had not turned to Roman Catholic sources. I was reading the Bible and the work of Protestant theologians, and I was sure that eventually the theology I'd been taught as a child would click into place. I was sure that I'd finally find access, if you will, to the ideas I'd been taught.

Looking back on that time in my life… and sorta thinking of myself retroactively as a guinea pig… I've come to believe that really making a personal effort to follow Christ as an individual is like getting on a road to a certain kind of life. Ultimately, that road has a celestial destination… but on earth, that road leads to Rome.

During those couple of years, I would often have talks with our Fundamentalist minister about the things I was beginning to passionately understand… and our minister would simply sit and look me in the face and say nothing. NOTHING AT ALL. Looking back, I'm confused that he wouldn't try to correct what a Fundamentalist would almost be bound to see as the erroneous ideas that I was developing. He wouldn't try to answer my questions or point me toward other sources that might answer them… he'd simply sit and look at me with this blank expression.

I realize now what the problem was. I saw him as a resource and I figured he'd have a lot of answers for me… and, unfortunately, I was apparently doing more research, study and contemplation than he'd done himself in recent years. He held various degrees from KCU, so it's not that he wasn't a learned man. I just don't think he was prepared to deal with someone who was becoming Catholic right in front of him. He obviously wasn't going to be inclined to tell me the truth, that my understanding of Scripture and my faith was decidedly Catholic… but he wasn't prepared to counter my ideas, either.

I remember a conversation with our minister when I said something like "My understanding of being born again has changed. I don't think you can claim one born again experience that changes you for the rest of your life and stake your salvation on it. I think you have to be born again every time you are faced with the occasion of sin. You have to make a decision each time and be born again each time, right? And when you make the wrong decision, you have to correct that because if you don't, your salvation might be in jeopardy, right?"

He's simply sat and stared at me… After several agonizing seconds of silence he changed the topic. I realize now that what had happened was I'd stumbled upon the error of "once saved, always saved," and he didn't know how to counter it. I also realize now that we are all actually born again at our baptism, but I don't guess his understanding of baptism agreed with that, either.

My other questions… about communion, about the end-times idea of a "rapture," about various passages in the New Testament… it was always the same blank stare. Maybe an occasional "I'll get back to you on that," but never more than that.

I suppose he was flustered. He was watching the Holy Spirit guide me in a decidedly Catholic direction and he couldn't figure out how to win me back.

So, for the sake of clearing matters up… and because I'm predisposed to be a smart aleck ;) I've decided to present

Darrell's Fool-Proof Plan For NOT Becoming A Roman Catholic





So there you have it, Darrell's fool-proof list of how to NOT become a Roman Catholic. If you break those rules and I end up greeting you during the passing of the peace some Sunday morning, it's nobody's fault but your own. ;)

I look forward to having these ideas shot full of holes so I can see how strong they really are. Have at it, boys and girls!


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

 

The Armchair Apologist: Sola Fide



The Armchair Apologist is a series of posts at SouthCon dedicated to matters of faith and religion. Click here to see an index of Armchair Apologist posts. You are welcome to comment on any of these items, but before commenting, please READ THE RULES. To suggest a topic or make a comment by e-mail, send your remarks to armchair@darwen.us




Sola Fide: The Greatest Trick

"Every one who would obtain the righteousness of Christ must renounce his own." - John Calvin

"The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist." - Keyser Soze

No disrespect intended to the infamous Turkish gangster, but Keyser Soze got it wrong. The real greatest trick that the devil ever pulled was convincing the world that simply believing in Jesus as the Savior is enough to make it to Heaven.

The doctrine of Sola Fide, which asserts that faith alone is necessary for salvation, is summed up this way at Wikipedia:

The doctrine of sola fide, as formulated by Martin Luther, is accepted by most Protestants, including Lutherans, Reformed and Baptists; and as ordinarily articulated by Protestants, it was rejected by Catholics, who say through God's Grace, and our response to that Grace through our faith and works, we are saved. They also add a distinction between the good works, as those in Matthew 25, and the works of law. Differences remain between the two churches regarding the actual way grace justifies a person …


Wikipedia also has a good list of scriptural sources that both support and refute Sola Fide.

It's my belief that the verses sited as support for Sola Fide can only be seen as supporting the doctrine if they're twisted out of context and misinterpreted to reach a predetermined end.

What we get into here are differences in nuance and interpretation. I agree that faith in Christ as Savior is a requirement, and I agree adamantly with the principle of the primacy of that faith. I'll never believe, though, that faith alone is enough.

Ultimately, the main problem with Sola Fide is that it has become, for many Christians I have known, a crutch that they rely on to justify just about any and every kind of sin. I'll give examples in a bit. My point is this: I believe that if a person honestly believes that faith in Christ as the savior is all they need for salvation, it is very easy to take that belief and get on a road that leads straight to hell.

For one thing, I don't believe that Christian worship was intended to be devoid of sacramental practice. The Lord instituted the last supper, and I believe that the partaking of the Eucharist, the receiving of the real presence of Christ, is an important part of salvation. The arguments for that, though, are largely based on my belief in the Real Presence, and that's a topic for another post.

I believe that Sola Fide, combined with Sola Scriptura (the belief in the Bible as the sole source of God's revelation) has lead to terrible neglect and dangerous beliefs among many Christians. That has certainly been true among some of the Fundamentalists that I've known. I've known many people who consider themselves to be Christian Fundamentalists who've told me that they simply don't need to go to church, that their faith and the Bible alone were enough to save them. They might have been able to convince me of that if the every-day examples that they set for me were Christian… but Christian principle only seemed to cross their mind when it was the specific topic of discussion.

Even among the church going Sola Fide believers I've known, the terrible void left by that doctrine has always been obvious to me. So many of the "Christians" I've known have gagged on gnats and swallowed camels. It is not my place to judge them, and I don't mean to judge them… but I feel confident in saying that the examples that they presented for me weren't Christian.

I've known so many people who called themselves Fundamentalist Christians… they'd attend Church on Sunday morning and then go to work on Monday morning and spend the first hour of the day bragging about the debauchery of Friday Night and Saturday Night. Where is the faith from Sunday morning, the faith that supposedly alone justifies them before Christ? Is it really enough to spend an hour a week talking about Jesus and professing to have faith in him?

The Apostle Paul said "I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me." (Galatians 2:19-20)

I believe that being crucified with Christ and coming to a state where your life is really him living through you requires a great deal more than simply professing faith.

It assuredly requires more than merely professing it once a week.

Let me relate one specific story, one of the last and biggest straws that broke the camel's back for me with regard to Fundamentalism. At the last Fundamentalist church that Wendy and I attended, there was a Deacon who was also a co-worker of mine. This guy wasn't just another church-goer, he was a DEACON. On Sunday mornings, he'd pass around the grape juice and crackers that serve as the Fundamentalist imitation of the Eucharist… and then at work all week I'd sit and grind my teeth in silence as he'd make sexually suggestive remarks to our female co-workers. On one specific occasion that I'll never forget he bragged very enthusiastically about having forced his wife to participate in sexual acts that she found degrading.

This was a DEACON. It isn't my place to judge him, but I found it hard to believe that through his faith alone he'd been crucified with Christ; that it was no longer he who lived but Christ who lived through him.

Once you're a DEACON, for pity's sake, shouldn't you at least consider the example you're setting for others outside the church?

Not that I'm perfect. I'm not trying to say that I am. I'm a sinner, too… the difference is that I had come to realize that I needed a church that preached something other than Sola Fide… I needed a church that taught that any real faith in Christ will make a change in the the way you live. In other words, I needed a church that taught that faith and works go hand in hand. Today, I'm a Roman Catholic.

I'll end with a few verses that sum up my understanding of faith and how it works:

Romans 3:8 -- "And why not say--as we are accused and as some claim we say--that we should do evil that good may come of it? Their penalty is what they deserve."

Ephesians 2:8-10 -- "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast. For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them."



 

The Armchair Apologist: An Index



Here is an index of Armchair Apologists entries at SouthCon. Newer posts are listed toward the top.

Before reading and/or commenting on these posts, READ THE RULES.

To suggest a topic or make a comment by e-mail, send your remarks to armchair@darwen.us

Armchair Apologist Entries



September 5, 2006: My Reasons For Disagreeing With Sola Scriptura

July 16, 2006: Sola Fide III: Summation and (I Hope) Refinement

July 13, 2006: Sola Fide II: Fide? What's In A Fide?

July 11, 2006: Sola Fide: The Greatest Trick

July 3, 2006: Book Review: C.S. Lewis and the Catholic Church



Monday, July 10, 2006

 

The Armchair Apologist: The Rules



Apologist: noun (a-POL-a-gist) -- A person who argues in defense or justification of something, such as a doctrine, policy, or institution.

Armchair: adjective (ärm-châr) -- 1: Remote from direct dealing with problems; theoretical rather than practical. 2: Amateurish. 3: Sharing vicariously in another's experiences.

The Armchair Apologist is a category of posts here at SouthCon that is dedicated to my ideas about Christianity, faith, and religious practice. If you have any interest in reading those ideas, you will find an index of those items here soon enough. The most recent posts will be at the top of that index. Feel free to throw your two cents in, just click the comments link and sound off. But, first, know the rules:

The Ten Armchair Rules


RULE #1 ... I am a Roman Catholic layperson. I am not a member of any religious order, I am not a member of the clergy, and I am not authorized by anyone to express anything other than my own opinion. That is all you will find here. My opinion. Please note the conspicuous lack of the Imprimatur and Nihl Obstat on each of these pages. I do not speak for all Catholics or the Roman Catholic Church, nor do I propose to.

RULE #2 ... My opinions have been formed by my experiences, my informal education, and my religious practices. I'm not ashamed of them, but I am always willing to reconsider them.

RULE #3 ... Sometimes my opinions are correct.

RULE #4 ... Sometimes my opinions are incorrect.

RULE #5 ... You are allowed and encouraged to disagree! You are encouraged to disagree enthusiastically and passionately, and to tell me so in the comments section. You are not, however, allowed to get nasty. If you get nasty, your comments will be removed.

RULE #6 ... Who defines "nasty?" I do. My blog, my rules. Don't like it? Click here.

RULE #7 ... All comments, once submitted, become the property of the National Football League and may not be sold or rebroadcast in whole or in part without the expressed, written permission of the NFL.

RULE #8 ... Nobody is perfect. Everybody is subject to bias and prejudice. Because of my upbringing, my bias is toward Fundamentalists. Since I've been blogging, I've "gotten to know" a number of Christian Fundamentalists who prove my prejudices to be wrong. I am grateful to them for that. Therefore, whenever I relate something negative about the practices of Fundamentalists, I always try to remember to qualify my remarks. I try to say things like "The Fundamentalists I grew up with taught me this…"or "The Fundamentalists I've known have told me that they believe so-and-so". Nonetheless, I'm a sinner and I'm weak. Now and then I'll be guilty of generalizing against all Fundamentalists. I don't want to do that. I don't want to retain my prejudices. Here's the point: Rule Number Eight is that I'm not allowed to slander Fundamentalists. I can write about my experiences, but I am not allowed to make generalized statements about all Fundamentalists If you catch me breaking Rule Number Eight, call me on it.

RULE #9 ... Identify your sources! If you make an argument that you claim is based on fact, you had better be able to name your sources. Weasel logic is not allowed.

Examples of legitimately identifying your sources include:


On the other hand, examples of weasel logic include saying things like:
  • "It says somewhere in the Bible that…"

  • "But everybody knows that…"

  • "This one time, so-and-so told me…"

If you try to defend your arguments with weasel logic, you will be smacked with the flyswatter of shame.

RULE #10 ... No matter what else you do, do not feed the Armchair Apologist after midnight.

OK, that one would be funnier if I could take an image of a Gremlin and my personal avatar and combine them with Photoshop to post with Rule Number Ten, but I just don't have the chops.


To suggest a topic or make a comment by e-mail, send your remarks to armchair@darwen.us


 

Of Statues, Video Games, Cults and Super Heroes





It's been a while since I've had time to blog. Here's some of what I've wanted to mention:




Thursday, July 06, 2006

 

MCF Blog Party 8.0



When MCF first announced his current blog party, my gut reaction was that I wasn't going to participate this time. The thing is, when it comes to blog parties, my goal is almost always to make a mockery of the thing. That's not because I dislike MCF or his blog; quite the opposite, his blog is one of my five or six daily must-reads. It's just that the topics he posits often provoke some serious introspection in me… and I am just no good at serious introspection. It makes me uncomfortable.

So instead of trying to come up with serious answers, I usually write something silly. If MCF asks where your five favorite places, I write about my house. If MCF asks what we'd wish for if we were granted three wishes, I make butt jokes. Etc, etc.

I do this partly because comments along the lines of "You so funny!" really feed my ego. Mostly, however, I do this because writing seriously about personal topics is difficult for me. Except for religion, I really never blog about serious elements of my personal life. Chalk it up to insecurity, I guess. It's a self defense thing.

So when MCF announced this blog party's topic, What Are The Best Things In Your Life That Have Returned, I immediately set about trying to think of a way to make a shambles of the thing. But I couldn't. I couldn't think of a funny way to approach the topic. All I could think about were things that I'm truly grateful for; things that have made my life better in their returning. So, as I said, I didn't figure I'd participate. It's only now, at the last minute, that I've decided to go ahead and jump in. Please excuse me for dispensing with my usual travesties this time. The things listed below (and, with the exception of the first one, they are listed in totally random order, so as not to assign priorities) are things I am truly grateful for.







Wednesday, July 05, 2006

 

Kal-El, Keira, Racism and Deep Thoughts






Tuesday, July 04, 2006

 

Happy Fourth Of July



"…I pledge that the America I envision in the years ahead will extend its hand in help in teaching and in cultivation so that all new nations will be at least encouraged to go our way, so that they will not wander down the dark alleys of tyranny or to the dead-end streets of collectivism.

…We do no man a service by hiding freedom's light under a bushel of mistaken humility. I seek an America proud of its past, proud of its ways, proud of its dreams, and determined actively to proclaim them. But our examples to the world must, like charity, begin at home…

I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!

Ours is a very human cause for very humane goals. This party, its good people, and its unquestionable devotion to freedom will not fulfill the purposes of this campaign which we launch here now until our cause has won the day, inspired the world, and shown the way to a tomorrow worthy of all our yesteryears."

--Barry Goldwater, July 16, 1964


Monday, July 03, 2006

 

Book Review: C.S. Lewis and the Catholic Church



The Armchair Apologist is a series of posts at SouthCon dedicated to matters of faith and religion. Click here to see an index of Armchair Apologist posts. You are welcome to comment on any of these items, but before commenting, please READ THE RULES. To suggest a topic or make a comment by e-mail, send your remarks to armchair@darwen.us




In the mid 1990s, an ecumenical theological conference was held, calling together devout and enthusiastic members of various Christian faiths, including Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Eastern Orthodox Christians and various Protestant Evangelists. At the closing of the conference, Father Joseph Fessio commented on the the striking world-wide appeal of the work of C.S. Lewis, a writer and theologian who remains revered by nearly every Christian. Catholic writer and teacher Peter Kreeft attended the conference, and recorded the following memories of Father Fessio's closing remarks:

Undeniably, Lewis is well-regarded with deep affection by many Christians of every stripe. His work, ranging from the enormously popular Chronicles of Narnia series for children, to his works of popular theology (most notably Mere Christianity) to his science fiction and neo-classic literature, has found a vast and enormous audience. And yet, it is difficult for me to imagine the scene described by Kreeft, wherein members of non-Catholic faiths cheered the notion of support for the collective work of C.S. Lewis.

It's difficult, in fact, for me to imagine anyone other than Roman Catholics endorsing Lewis's collective works, given that:



Clearly, the only Christian Church that really agrees with the bulk of the collected works of C.S. Lewis is the Roman Catholic Church. Other Christian faiths might cherry-pick from his work, agreeing with this statement here or that statement there... but every Protestant faith I'm familiar with would have to disagree with or simply ignore some of what Lewis wrote.

Lewis's work, taken as a whole, was decidedly Roman Catholic… and, yet, Lewis never joined the Roman Catholic church. Forget about the trivial and absurd Da Vinci Code… the single greatest mystery in modern theology lies in this question: What kept C.S. Lewis apart from the Church that most fully preached the faith he believed, taught and practiced?

In C.S. Lewis and the Catholic Church, Joseph Pearce argues that Lewis was separated from Rome by a combination of the pressures of his success and deeply-rooted prejudices from his upbringing in Ulster, Ireland. Some of Pearce's arguments strike me as a bit presumptuous, and there are even passages in the book that seemed shrill. Yet the case Pearce makes for the Catholicism of Lewis's personal beliefs is rock solid.

After the success of his wildly popular Mere Christianity, Pearce sites sources and evidence that indicates that Lewis might have felt ensnared by the role he'd created for himself. Mere Christianity is a work of Christian apologetics, and it aims to convert the agnostic to Christianity without making any claim as to which denomination is precisely the right one. Lewis wanted his readers to determine matters of denomination for themselves. His goal was simply to bring them to Christ. After that, the reader would have to personally wade through the cultural and political quagmire of determining the best denomination on his own. Pearce believes that Lewis may have felt obligated to stay just as he was, an Anglican layman, after the book's tremendous success. A conversion on his part might have been divisive… possibly even destructive… among those who'd been won for Christ by Lewis's work. Once he became the "everyman's theologian," Lewis (it seems) felt obligated to remain so.

Beyond that, Lewis was brought up in an Ireland divided bitterly between Protestants and Catholics. Anti-Catholic bias was instilled in Lewis as a child, primarily by a nanny/nurse-maid who became Lewis's primary guardian after his mother died (see his autobiography, Surprised By Joy). Pearce argues quite convincingly that the roots of anti-Catholic prejudice ran too deeply into Lewis for him to pull them out. After his death, a Jesuit Priest named Father Guy Brinkworth published memoirs that included details about his correspondence with Lewis:

It's tantalizing to Roman Catholics, especially for us converts. For many of us, the work of C.S. Lewis was instrumental in guiding us to the Catholic Church. It's a puzzle, especially for me, that Lewis directed me there so clearly, and yet never converted. Like Moses, Lewis lead me to a promised land… and yet never entered it himself.

In Mere Christianity, Lewis described the faith allegorically as a long hallway filled with many doors. Christianity itself was the hallway, and different denominations were behind each of the doors. Lewis said that the goal of his book was simply to get readers into the hallway, but that it was up to each reader to then determine which door was the right one. He warned his readers not to simply pick the door that best suited his or her taste, but to carefully discern which one opened most fully to the true Church of Jesus Christ.

It's odd that Lewis himself wouldn't outwardly comment in the book on which door he felt was right… and yet, after reading as much of his work as I've been able to get my hands on, it's become obvious to me that Lewis was pointing me toward one door all along. He never crossed it's threshold himself, but he held my hand and led me to it. It was the door at the very end of the hallway, the oldest and the first. It was the door that St. Peter himself unlocked and made accessible to everyone. With it's distinctive Roman archway, it was easy to recognize.

And yet, even what lay beyond that door really was another hallway. This one, however, was better lit, more clearly marked, and most assuredly the one that will lead me, if I am faithful, to the Great and Final Room. Lewis didn't enter into this ornate and beautiful Hallway with me… yet I'm confident that I will see him eventually if, God willing, I find my way to the Room beyond .


Sunday, July 02, 2006

 

Non-Geeks Need Not Apply



There is absolutely NO point in reading today's post unless you can make one of the following statements about yourself:



If none of those things are true about you, turn back now. Everything that follows will bore you to tears.

Personally, all three of the statements above are true about me.

I am a Geek. My Geek denomination is comic books, and I have level 4 (burgeoning on level 5) powers specifically within in the Spider-Man domain. I can use my Geek powers to conquer imposing trivia questions, to recognize obscure references in pop culture, to alienate normal human beings, and to levitate. (Alright, I admit, I exaggerated my powers a bit, there. The truth is, some obscure references actually go over my head.)

When I met Wendy, she was firmly entrenched in the Hippie camp, with an advanced understanding of Hippie culture, music, art and beverages. In the time we've been together, I've been able to exercise my raw but dynamic mind-control Geek powers on her, and she is becoming an enthusiastic practitioner of the "Geek Way." I think of her as my Geek Padawan Learner, although she prefers the term "wife."

She refuses to believe that I can levitate simply because I've never had the occasion to do so in her presence.

Occasionally, she takes on an adversarial role and counteracts my Geek powers with a process known as "the rolling of the eyes." When applied by the women we love, "the rolling of the eyes" is kryptonite to adult male geeks. It usually causes us to retreat to our computers and read Aint It Cool News obsessively until we feel that we've regained the full capacity of our Geekness.

Now that we've gotten all of that out of the way, today we shall focus on Spider-Man 3.

You should know that some Geeks express their Geekness by collecting action figures. That is a perfectly valid geek practice, although one I've never taken up. For one thing, I don't have the money… for another thing, I've never been interested. Besides, our kids have tons and tons of action figures, so I get to see all the plastic Spider-Mans and Wolverines and Power Rangers I could want to see simply by walking through our house. I don't need to buy action figures for myself. When I want to play with them (and I've been known to), I simply borrow the ones that belong to the kids.

However, about a year ago, while doing some early Christmas shopping for the kids, Wendy and I walked through the toy isle at K-mart and I spotted something that I simply HAD to have. I could not go without it. I had to buy it, I had to bring it home, and I had to position it near my computer so that I could look at it frequently and appreciate it's wonderfulness.

It was an eighteen inch tall Venom figure. It was huge. It was monstrous. It made me tremble with fear and delight. I had never in my adult life bought an action figure for myself… but for this one I'll make an exception.

Here's a picture of it. I have it posed with Liam's regulation-size black-suit Spider-Man just for some perspective of it's size:


At this point, you are having one of three possible reactions:



If your reaction is the third one, I have no idea why you've even read this far. You can leave now. You are neither welcome here, nor should you feel welcome. Go in peace, return to your own kind. Here, you are a stranger in a strange land.

The other day I posted the infamous fake Spider-Man 3 trailer, and the next day I mentioned how stupid I felt about having fallen for the fake trailer.

Once I saw the official Spider-Man 3 teaser trailer (which you can watch on YouTube or at a variety of other sites), I had a number of reactions. I'll post them below, and you should know that most of what I'm about to say below will be irrelevant to non-Geeks. Again, I'll warn you, if you aren't as excited about the upcoming Spider-Man movie as I am, you're wasting your time reading any of this.

Anyway, on with the ranting.

For one thing, I think that the trailer looks very promising.

The last time I wrote about Spider-Man 3 at film geeks, I said I wished that the movie version of the black suit looked more like the comic-book version of the black suit. Now that I realize (I think) what the premise of this third movie is going to be, I take that back. I'm happy with the basic story that (I think) this movie will tell.



I think this movie is going to focus on Peter rather than on the villains. Good. At least, I really hope that it does. Spider-Man 2 worked so well because the focus was on the hero rather than on the bad-guy(s). And, while we're on the subject, the reason that Batman Begins is the greatest super-hero movie ever is because it was the first Batman movie to actually focus on the most interesting character in any Batman story: namely, Batman himself.

I LOVE Venom. He's my favorite comic-book villain ever. That ought to be obvious by now. Nonetheless, I hope that Venom doesn't even factor into this movie. If we see Venom at all, I hope it's right at the end, simply as the set-up for the fourth movie. I want this movie to focus on the duality in Pete's personality, and the way that the black suit really brings that out of him. Remember, when Pete first got his Spider powers, he wanted to use them for his own benefit. It was only the death of Uncle Ben, and the ensuing guilt that it inspired, that caused Pete to feel obligated to use his powers as a public service. "With great power comes great responsibility." Pete took that to heart. But, he's still the same young man who originally wanted to personally benefit from his powers. That side of his personality is still there, and there needs to be reconciliation between the "two Peter Parkers." The image below, the last one we see in the trailer, sums up every hope I have for the new movie:


It appears that Gwen Stacey is going to be introduced as a love interest for Pete as he considers this new, selfish side of his personality. I wondered how they'd do that. How do you have Spider-Man live in a world that has both Gwen AND MJ? If they do it the way I think they're going to do it, it ought to make sense. It ought to be good.

It looks like Harry is going to be the Green Goblin 2 (just like in the comics) only without that hokey armor that ruined the Goblin in the first movie. I'll never figure out why they cast Willem Dafoe, with that wonderfully expressive face of his, and then hid it behind a plastic mask. Surely they won't repeat that mistake again.

So there ya go. To the extent that there was anyone out there wondering what Darrell thought (as of now) about the upcoming Spider-Man movie, I hope I've answered all your questions. I'd write more, but I need to go play with my Venom action figure.

I also have some levitating to do.


Saturday, July 01, 2006

 

More Worser






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