Star Trek and possible total nuclear annihilation

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CNN is reporting that Khan has provided North Korea with centrifuge machines, thus helping them develop their own nuclear weapons.

Will his revenge ever be sated?

A Croatian Bond?

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There are reports that Goran Visnjic, of ER fame, might be the next James Bond. Now that’s a curious thing. He certainly has the look of the part. But the accent? The whole classic Cold War motif is disturbed by having someone be James Bond who speaks with a voice heard from the other side of the Iron Curtain. Ah, but this is a new era.

And certainly it would be nice to have someone playing the part of the most adventurous spy around who has actually spent time jumping out of airplanes in a military uniform. No one could accuse Goran of being just another namby-pampy actor whose toughness comes solely from pretending to be tough.

Certainly, he’s a lot better than Hugh Jackman or, help us all, Colin Farrel, both of which are flavors of the month more than Bond types. And please, whoever is making the casting call, give some non-Australian a chance for an action role. It’s only fair.

There you go.’s Hollywood Interlude for the month.

memories of a band

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Back in high school I was in a band. Well, a couple really. The one that came to mind this morning was of the unofficial sort, the sort of band that friends put together when they realize that between the lot of them there’s a band waiting to be made.

My good friend was a bass player, another was a drummer. Both pretty good. The drummer’s brother was a guitar player who also had a decent voice. His friend had really good voice, the sort of voice that would have gotten him on American Idol in this more modern era.

This pretty much is a band. I was a saxophone player. The lost little child of contemporary music.

Being fine Christian children we played worship songs and other sorts of tunes which loosely related to the contemporary Christian music scene. At first we called ourselves Red Alert, until our friendly pastor, the father of the drummer and guitar player, noted this was the name of a homosexual advocacy group in Texas. I’m not sure how he knew about this group, though being from Oklahoma himself, it was likely because the names of such groups are quite well known for the purpose of organized reviling. We changed our name after our first concert. To what? I don’t remember. It doesn’t matter.

So, there was a guitar player, a bass player, a drummer, a lead singer. The guitar player, as they are apt to do, was writing some original songs. We were playing at various churches. We even played at our high school. I’m not sure where the debate over the separation of Church and state was at in 1991, but at my school no one seemed to bother with what other people wanted to do. So we had a little lunchtime concert. I remember, for some reason, I sang backup vocals at that time. I’m sure this wasn’t a very good decision.

We were doing well, all of us somewhat capable on our various instruments, and we enjoyed a fair bit of positive reviews. Then things began to shift. We went from playing worship or similar style of tunes to something a little heavier. Conversations about finding another guitar player, or ideally two or three more, became common. The lead singer, who was not from a poor family, began also playing drums, with a double bass drum setup. The guitar player and the lead singer wanted to play a harder style. Except we didn’t have that extra guitar player, or two extras. The bass player and the drummer went along with this shift in style. I didn’t.

I was a saxophone player, and it became quite difficult to fit in a saxophone sound in the style they wanted to pursue. Rather than looking to see who was in the band, rather than seeing that we had started this up as much for the fun and friendship of it all, rather than trying to find a flavor which fit into who we were, they shifted the focus away onto what really wasn’t what we could do all that well.

It got to the point where I was sitting around for about 3/4 of the rehearsals. It became clear through conversation and mood that this was their intended direction and I didn’t have to be a part because they wanted to play the music they were wanting to play.

I saw this band as something which could be unique. We could have formed a style with the five of us, utilizing all of our contributions, rather than having to mimic the style of the CCM flavor of the month. My input wasn’t as much argued as ignored. So, I drifted away from rehearsals. There was no bad feelings… but it wasn’t my thing anymore.

They never did get around to finding another guitar player, let alone two. The heavier sound they wanted also seemed to shift the very good lead singer to want to play mediocre drums, tending to alienate the present drummer. So there was a guitar player and a lead singer who wanted to be a drummer even though he was a very good lead singer, and wasn’t a good drummer, let alone a good drummer who could also sing at the same time. The bass player went along with the drift, as bass players are apt to do, their role hardly shifting no matter what happens.

Less people wanted to listen to this, and as the motivation went beyond the core value of friendship to the less cohesive value of a band for a band’s sake, the whole enterprise soon evaporated.

Churches tend to be a lot like this, in my experience. They are always looking around at what others are doing, and very rarely look within to see who they are. Yet understanding who you are is essential not only for the success of an individual but also for the success of an organization. Finding one’s strengths and weaknesses in the present, playing on one’s strengths while seeking to improve one’s weaknesses is always better than trying to play up one’s weaknesses while de-emphasizing the strengths. People just aren’t patient enough, which leaves only those who are insisting on the artificial transformation the only ones to care about it all.

Then there’s the reality that in the Church it is the Spirit who constitutes the congregation. The local church becomes who the Spirit brings. Wanting to be something other than this tends to not only lead to lowered morale and disillusionment but also a rather potent neglect of the Spirit’s work in the midst of the community. And such ignoring generally leads to an emaciated mediocrity based on the human skills of a small number, rather than the Spirit enfused gifts of the whole Body.

That’s why it’s always important to incorporate even the saxophone player when he shows up to rehearsal, and forget about those extra guitar players who never quite get around to existing. And really, truth be told, I think people like the sound of a saxophone more than they like yet more guitars.

Run, Condi, Run!

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There’s a poll going on at which is quite interesting. It’s a straw poll to see who is looking good for 2008. I look at the list of those running for the GOP candidacy and I’m disappointed. I’m also bored. Is this the list? Newt Gingrich? John McCain? A gaggle of governors?

Giuliani is ahead. Likely because the governors running are not well known enough yet.

Maybe there’s hope. Mr. Ruffini also included some “fantasy” candidates. I would choose three of these over every other “official” candidate — Condi, Thompson, and Bush. In that order. Bush won’t possibly do it, but I think he would be good at the job. Thompson would be grand, because, truth be told, we need some gravitas in the oval office again, and no one does gravitas like Thompson. Plus, it would be great to have a President who also starred in all sorts of good movies and tv shows. But, for overall skill and aptitude and goodness for the whole of the country, in this entire list of professed and fantasy candidates there’s only one real quality choice.

Condi, won’t you run? Please.

I don’t know if there is a Democratic equivalent to this straw poll. It’s not likely there will be too many people I like on that list either. Though, I have been certainly impressed with Bill Richardson’s interviews of late. He’s exactly the sort the Democrats need as a public voice to move them past their present era of dissolution. If I had to choose between Gingrich or Dean? Or Frist or Hillary? Or, God help us all (literally), Hagel or Edwards? I don’t know what I would do. Likely stay home. If Richardson was facing Frist, or Hagel, or Gingrich, I’d likely make my mark next to the Donkey in ’08. It’s a choice I’d rather not have to make.

Condi, won’t you run? Please.

Thought for the Day

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The demons of pride, self-esteem, desire for popularity, and hypocrisy, never act by trying to dampen the ardour of the virtuous man. Instead, they cunningly reproach him for his shortcomings where the virtues are concerned, and suggest that he intensifies his efforts, encouraging him in his struggle. They do this in order to entice him to give his full attention to them; in this way they make him lose a proper balance and moderation, and lead him imperceptibly to a destination other than the one to which he thought he was going.

Neither do these demons hate self-restraint, fasting, almsgiving, hospitality, the singing of Psalms, spiritual reading, stillness, the most sublime doctrines, sleeping on the ground, vigils, or any of the other things which characterize a life lived according to God, so long as the aim and purpose of a person trying to live such a life are tilted in their direction..

A person pursuing the spiritual way is perhaps quicker to recognize the other demons, and so he more easily escapes the harm that they do; but in the case of the demons that appear to cooperate with the progress of virtue and pretend they want to help in building a temple to the Lord, surely no intellect is so sublime as to recognize them without the assistance of the active and living Logos who pervades all things and pierces ‘even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit’ (Heb 4:12) — who discerns, in other words, which acts or conceptual images pertain to the soul, that is, are natural forms or expressions of virute, and which are spiritual, that is, are supranatural and characteristic of God, but bestowed on nature by grace.

It is only the Logos who knows whether ‘the joints and marrow’, that is, the qualities of virtue and spiritual principles, have been united harmoniously or not, and who judges the intentions and thoughts of the heart, that is, judges from what is siad the invidsible underlying disposition and the motives hidden in the soul. For to Him nothing in us is unseen: however we think we may escape notice, to Him ‘all things are naked and open’ (Heb 4:13), not only what we do or think, but even what we will do or think.

–Maximos the Confessor


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In case you were curious, a blackhawk helicopter flying a hundred feet directly over the house is indeed noisy.

Nothing says progress better than…

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…the rise of frivolous popular culture. So yes, this is an imperialistic war of sorts I suppose. But it’s not about oil.

The folks in Crawford need to change their signs. “No war for good beats!” “No blood for bright-eyed teen sensations!”

If the news is about copycat popular culture taking off, I suspect the Islamicists have already lost.

Though, truth be told, all is not exactly the same:

“You didn’t prepare the song well. ‘Slaughtered bird’ is masculine, but you kept saying it in the feminine!” the judge gripes like a grammar teacher.

Clearly, the present adminstration has failed in providing a clear Grammar Strategy. However, even with such things, I tend to have hope Iraq might just be better off in the coming future.

light processed with light

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Moving faster than the speed of light.

This is why I like physics and related topics. It’s chock full of apparent paradoxes.

So is theology… but doesn’t get half the respect. All the same God… who tends to be a wee bit more complex in both being and action than we want to admit.

“But Science is observable!” some might say. Yes indeed… so is theology. In both cases it depends on the ability to notice, which is often quite a learned art.

Plus, few conversations are as worthwhile as those with a scientist, especially conversations in which the scientist in question has the ability to notice quite well in both theology and science.

End of an era?

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And the beginning of a new era, something a little more bright and encouraging? I opened (I know, I know… stop it… you know who you are) and right next to each other as the headlines, Shiites agree to a Constitution in Iraq and the Last Gaza settlement is evacuated.

All is still quite up in the air, nothing is settled, and things could go entirely badly. But, for the first time in maybe recent history, there are those who have been oppressors and been oppressed (often at the same time) who have a shot at becoming something more, and proving something to the world. What happens in the middle east now says significantly less about America and our President, and a lot more about Middle Easterners themselves. What will they do with this?

The question looms historically loud.

Is your boss a psychopath?

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An interesting question, and not nearly as unlikely as you might think. The definition of a psychopath is one without a conscience. We often think of such people as being a mass murderer or other type of obvious criminal. However, who is to say that a person without a conscience would always find pleasure in murder? There really are better ways to advance in this world, and the psychopath cares for no one else than themselves.

Which means that there are likely psychopaths in all sorts of fields which provide power and advancement and success. You’ve likely met them. Maybe even worked under them. They tend to be the ones who get ahead.

I wonder if there are such people in the Church. The occasional medieval pope strikes me as showing such qualities. Indeed, in our evangelism obsessed church, which leaves depth behind as it goes for sheer shallow numbers, I would guess there are those who spent their lives “saving” others but who did it for reason which was entirely not in tune with the Spirit.

I honestly don’t know. I know I’ve never been in a place where there was a literal psychopath in leadership, but I know enough about church to realize this is not only entirely possible but almost certainly likely and maybe even not that uncommon. The BTK killer, we now know, was for many decades a deacon and board president in his local church. Certainly there were signs, only the signs got mixed in with rationalized church frustrations.

It’s a curious question, and one which I do thank God I have only been blessed with working alongside those who are precisely the opposite of such a sort, even if I have had occasional disagreement and could generally point out other kinds of issues at work.