Wednesday, December 21, 2011

That's an important o

I read an interesting article on the New York Times blog the other day.  It's a philosophy professor at Amherst, Louise Antony, trying to defend her point of view of moralistic atheism.  The basic premise is that she considers there to be a natural right and wrong in nature independent from God, whether He exists or not.  She breaks down two concepts of morality that she calls the Divine Command Theory (DCT) -- where things are good because God wills them -- or the Divine Independence Theory (DIT) -- where God wills only things that are good.

She talks about how the second is a more enlightened way to think because, well, it allows people not to need God and people like her to feel better about the fact that they are living in a similar fantasy that she thinks people like me do.  She has a long explanation about how different the two theories are, centering around the arbitrariness of DCT versus the steadiness of DIT.  If "goodness" were a natural property, like mass or electrical charge, then for us to make any use of it, there must be a way to measure (or at least detect) this property.  She posits that we can, and cites some examples involving home invasion, slavery and torture.  And I think we can all agree that those are in fact, wrong. However, they weren't always. 

Private property is a very old concept and violation of it has been considered socially unacceptable behavior outside of wartime in just about every culture as long as we have written things down.  Slavery was practiced by just about every major culture for a very long time, with most Western countries banning it in the 19th Century and some Middle-Eastern countries acting as late as the 1960s.  The Geneva Conventions were adopted in the 20th Century, not because we became enlightened and grew out of it like witchcraft, but because the practice was rampant and the countries that did not abandon a Judeo-Christian worldview wanted to stop it.

That's not to mention cultures like the Aztecs who practiced human sacrifice, Indians who had the institution of sati until the British outlawed it, the Arab concept of honor killings, and our very own policies of institutionalized racism that were finally taken off the books in the 1960s.  I think we can also agree that they are wrong as well.

So why didn't we know enough then that it was wrong?  The simplest answer is that there is no universal and innate natural "goodness" outside of an agreed upon standard.  The laundry list of sins that humankind is evidence that we need such a standard, and Western culture (and Middle-Eastern culture as well) has adopted the Abrahamic traditions as that standard.  Prof. Antony's concept, absent some sort of evidence that this idea of natural goodness can be identified is no different than pagan pan-theism -- there are petty gods in everything (or a single universal force permeating everything) providing its intrinsic value -- not unlike George Lucas's Jedi religion.

She also makes a point about how it is better to be good absent the threats of punishment or promise of reward.  Maybe.  But if there are no consequences to our behavior, why is it better?  We call electrical charge positive and negative, and I always preferred working with positive charges in class because it's easier to work with, and the word negative carries bad connotations.  Think of another example.  The NCAA has myriad arbitrary rules about what college students can or cannot do in order to play their sport.  Reggie Bush used his talent to provide a house for his family beyond their means.  However, that was against the rules.  Did he do anything wrong?  According the NCAA, yes.  Is that rule right or wrong?  Does it matter?

The largest point, though, is that her worldview requires faith.  Just like mine does.  And it is intellectually dishonest of her to argue that she is morally superior because she subscribes to DIT and thinks she can arrive at moral behavior without needing God because she's smart, without regard to the moral infrastructure that was built by a history of religious people.  The two concepts ultimately are different only in the academic sense that she presents, not in the real world in which we live, because the objectivity she claims cannot be divorced from the culture that surrounds us.

She also discusses interpersonal relationships, and says that by acquiring value through God you are essentially denying the human value of everyone else.  We kind of do that now, as well; society determines value by the law, and for a while in the United States, even, black people were worth less than white people, and we even defined the ratio.  Fetuses are worth very little in the eyes of the law.  That changes when society decides it would.  We, as enlightened smart people, changed our minds. 

Tribalism, where we prefer and value people who are like us or related to us more than others, kind of fits the mold as well.  Most of history was driven by this or the similar idea of nationalism.  In many places, history still is driven by them.  We look at the Janjaweed and know that they are doing wrong, but they see themselves as looking out for their own people, because they feel that their people are worth more.  The Japanese thought they were worth more than the Chinese in Nanking.  I could go on.

I suppose her counter-argument would be, "Those things were wrong even then, we just disobeyed them.  We were wrong, too."  Maybe, but how would we have known?  She cites Plato as positing this argument before the birth of Christ, so it's not like we haven't had the material to work this out until the 20th and 21st Centuries.

If there really is a natural goodness we can identify without God, humans suck at it.  Christians already knew that, though.  We need a standard.  Christians identify that as the unchanging Bible and the life of Christ. 

There are good arguments about the ability of atheists to be moral people.  However, this one, this particularly condescending one, is not it.  (That's why people don't like atheists: they tell you that you're wrong while claiming to be morally superior.  It's not a very becoming look.)  An example is quite simply to follow the Golden Rule -- but then again, that owes its origin to millenia of religious thinking.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The title of this post is a lie, too

Christopher Hitchens died today.  I haven't read a lot of him, mostly essays that appeared in the Atlantic over the time that I subscribed to that publication.  I enjoyed them.  I don't remember any of them particularly like I do the piece about autism by John Donvan or the incredible book review by Caitlin Flanagan that I can't quite recall, but I never passed Hitchens by because he is Christopher Hitchens.  His essays carried a certain weight, almost a shot across the bow, simply because they carried his name in the by-line.  He was more than just a prominent atheist, he was anti-religion's wittiest voice.

I read those essays because I wanted to see what the fuss was about, mostly.  Not all of them were about anti-religion, not even most of them were.  I didn't read God Is Not Great, though, because it seemed like too much of an affront.  I could guess the content, though -- religion in general and Christianity in particular is bad because it is exclusive, cruel, misogynistic and anti-intellectual.  I say this with a dose of irony, specifically because I don't know the man; I only know about him.  I contend that the same was true for him; he didn't know God, he merely knew about Him, or rather, thought he did.  If he really did, it would be hard to make the mistake of saying that God is not great, let alone writing a book about it.  If I addressed those incorrect assertions about Christianity I think appear in his book, I would be a simple hypocrite, attacking straw men that may not be accurate representations of the work with which I disagree.  So I will not, aside from saying that if those opinions are held about the teachings of Jesus Christ they are categorically in error.

I think it's easy to get tied up in concerns like that with people like Hitchens, and get frustrated because he is calling me stupid.  He isn't saying it to me personally, but the accusation is, nonetheless, very personal.  I think in the greater sense we Christians owe Mr. Hitchens a debt of thanks for reminding us that our work is not done.  It is very easy for us to live in places where there are churches all over town and think that the most important thing for our spiritual development is to remember to bring the green bean casserole to the church social.  People like Hitches show us that it is not.  We have a lot of work to do for our lives to look like Christ's did.  If we live in a world where Christians behave in a way that a book called "God Is Not Great" can be published and not be a comedy, we are failing.

We are not showing what grace looks like.  We are not showing what service looks like.  We are not showing what humility looks like.  We are not showing what love looks like.  It is not easy to hear that we are failing, but that's what Hitchens's life is: a neon lit billboard exclaiming that it is easy for people to look at Christians and not see Christ.

And that's a shame, because our message is so powerful.  It is the message of unfailing hope, that the creator of everything cares enough to sacrifice His son to relieve us of the burden of sin.  In return, we are simply to get to know Him, love Him (which would be inevitable if you truly do the former), and love others.  If that's not great, I don't know what is.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Moves Like Dabo*

Did you know that there is a phrase in the college football consciousness "pull a Clemson"?  (Search for that, or typical Clemson, or something along those lines...)  Basically, it means that your goal is yours for the taking as long as you do what you're supposed to do and don't screw up -- but you do anyway.  For as long as I can remember, that's been emblematic of the Clemson football team, because I'm not old enough for the big days of the 80s when Clemson was busy being awesome on the gridiron.  This year, though, actually looks different.

It's a funny thing how that "always been there" kind of attitude affects you.  I cannot believe I am going to reference the Sing Off two posts in a row, but when Vocal Point, a talented group of Mormon boys, sang Ain't Too Proud to Beg on the show, I looked up from my smartphone where I was doing something completely unrelated and manly like reading about football and monster trucks and said, "This sounds really white."  (In the interest of full disclosure: I am allowed to say that, because I am really white.)  It made me appreciate the Rolling Stones in a way I never really had before, because they had always been the Rolling Stones -- this icon of music in a way that you just don't understand unless you know that they were one of the pioneers that broke barriers by making it ok to listen to music that black people made by trying to sound like them, like Elvis and other white blues musicians.  While that may sound vaguely racist, it was a revolution in all the positive ways that art is supposed to be revolutionary by sharing white and black experiences (which ultimately, are the same experiences, which wasn't really universally accepted in 1966, when the Temptations first recorded that song).

This lack of perspective is why people think that politics are the ugliest they've ever been right now or that Justin Bieber is the greatest musician in the history of musicians.  (Clearly Rick Astley is ahead of him.  [Interesting note: Rick Astley also covered Ain't Too Proud to Beg.])  It also leads to the strange acceptance of the status quo that Christians feel about their faith and what it really means.

Just like I've never known a world where Clemson didn't choke away ACC title opportunities or an undiscovered Rolling Stones, I've always been exposed to the Christian message that by faith and faith alone we are forgiven.  There's never been a discovery kind of moment like the first time you see HDTV or taste real vinegar barbecue sauce and think, "This changes everything." 

That's how Christianity is supposed to feel: revolutionary and liberating.  Christ's arrival changed the way that men and God could relate and broke down barriers that separated men from one another.  Those are no small things and because we've been steeped in the culture it's really easy to look at church and see something stodgy and establishment, like seeing Sir Michael Jagger and Keith Richards, cultural icons, rather than two kids from Kent trying to sound like Muddy Waters and Bo Diddley.  Most of us probably have never even heard a song by Muddy Waters or Bo Diddley.

Muddy Waters and Bo Diddley are key parts of the Rolling Stones' story, as 1981 and Frank Howard (and the football wilderness of the 1990s and 2000s, for that matter) are to the Clemson story.  The inaccessibility to God before Christ (and God's desire to bridge that gap as explained by the prophets) and the Greco-Roman concept of class are parts of the Christian story, too.  And it makes the whole thing look bigger.

*Title from this blogpost
**I just had to.  Here's the actual link.  It's not bad, really.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Singing off of what?

Dr. Sighted loves the Sing Off.  In the mornings, she occasionally makes me watch a Capella versions of Queen or Britney Spears or Daft Punk.  There are few things she likes more than people singing pop songs without music, and one of them is competing in things that aren't appropriately competitive.  So, really, this is a match made in heaven for her.  Or, at least, a heavily focus grouped Los Angeles boardroom.

It's actually a pretty entertaining concept, when they do a good job.  One of the groups did Video Killed the Radio Star that was better than the Buggles.  I don't remember if I saw it live or on Dr. Sighted's phone in the car.  The best part, though, is the talking from the judges and the host.

Nick Lachey hosts, and for a guy who used to be in a boy band and married to Jessica Simpson, is surprisingly wooden with every obligatory pun that he reads from the cue cards.  I don't know if he's thinking, "Dammit, I'm better than all of these jokers!" while he says, "We're going to see if the Ball State Ballers are going to get caught in a trap with this Elvis tune -- using only their voices!," but he is not acting like he is having fun, and quite frankly, that makes me have fun watching him.

The judges have their moments, too.  Shawn Stockman is like the wacky guy who has positive things to say.  He's also the most boring, because he's nice..  Ben Folds is also there, and I can't help but think that he's really Dana Carvey dressed as Ben Folds.  I know who he is and all, but I'm not convinced that he's a real person.  Ben Folds never fails to talk about the groove in every post-song commentary.  Every single one.  I have yet to know what any of them mean.

The best, without question, is Sara Bareilles.  I'm still not quite sure why she's famous.  Dr. Sighted has repeatedly told me that she sang, "Not Gonna Write You a Love Song," but I'm pretty sure that song is actually by Colbie Caillet.  (I saw her in concert by accident once.  [Isn't it weird that they both have unnecessary i's in their names?])  She is sarcastic, occasionally nonsensical, and sometimes mean.  Just tonight, she said something like, "I'm not sure if the reason I didn't like your performance was because you were trying to hard or your stage props but I just wasn't into it."  And then there was Nick, right on cue, saying, "Thank you judges.  And next we'll see if we can resist Vocal Point's version of the British Invasion -- using only their voices!"*

*None of the quotes in this post are real.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Not my job

The year 2011 has been a rather transitional one for the Sighted family, both immediate and extended. My wife graduated from medical school, married me, I left the country for the first time (Canada doesn't count), moved back to the Palmetto State, my brother graduated from law school (as did his fiancee), and he's going to get married. (My family is a very professional one -- I want to open a restaurant and call it Doctor, Lawyer, Engine Chief to cover all of our professions.) He, of course, has posted pictures of him in his dapper suit as he intimidates opposing counsel and slaps paralegals on the behind and whatever else attorneys do on the ol' Facebook, and the thing that struck me most is that his hair looked really good.

Not that that's unusual, but I work in a factory and I pretty much just need to arrive fully clothed to look appropriate. Lawyers and doctors deal a lot more with people than we do, so saying things like, "What moron is responsible for this flabby body?" or "Divorces for broken marriages like this are fun!" which would be more than acceptable on the shop floor are frowned upon in an office or hospital. Which is a shame, really.

It has been kind of surprising how much I have learned about the experience of doctors and lawyers, since I have seen pretty much every Scrubs and Law & Order episode that there are. (But I saw it on television! It must be true!) Dr. Sighted has not had sex even once in a closet at the hospital. Why bother even being a doctor in that case?

There aren't a lot of tv shows about engineers, for really all those same reasons. I imagine if there were, the main character would be a lot like House (also not a faithful representation of reality, as it turns out) without being a genius -- he'd just think he was. Antisocial behavior and disheveled appearance is tolerated in the only person on earth who can save your life; not so much in the guy who is really good at math, has mismatched his socks again and insults you in Elvish.

Anyway, it's an exciting time. I am surrounded by talented people in my family. With two newly minted attorneys, I am pushed even further down the list of best dressed -- and that includes the fact that my wife went to work tonight (yes you read that right) in scrubs and my other brother is a deputy sheriff. I included that last one because I have never, not even once, seen him wear the Sgt Slaughter hat.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Blow it up

This blog cut its teeth on criticizing commercials, and quite frankly, I think I ought to get back to my roots. I don't watch as much tv now as I did in school, so it's going to be harder to actually manage. Now that football has started, and Dr. Sighted is inconsolable because UGa is behind by 2 TDs right now to Boise, we are seeing and will continue to be seeing more commercials. She did a better job during the first half of the Clemson game when we looked like injured garbage. Adjusting to marriage is hard.

Dick's (the sporting goods store) has a fun campaign where they have professional athletes giving instruction to people buying apparel and explaining why they need it and how it will make them perform better. A few memorable ones were Darelle Revis selling shoes or shorts or whatever and talking about going to his island -- Revis Island -- only to find out that his protege is named Gilligan. There is another one involving Ndomakong Suh (best name ever) hunting quarterbacks selling whatever Revis wasn't There is a good one now with Steven Jackson (not the basketball player) moving in slow motion. There is one, however, that goes over dumber than Kris Humphries answer inevitably will the first time Kim Kardashian asks, "Does this make my butt look big?"

Clay Matthews is the go to guy after the Packers won the Super Bowl, because he looks like a mutant Midwestern wrestler with hair like the cute blonde in your sophomore biology class. He is selling shorts or shoes or whatever in this commercial and it's just him running into stuff in the store. No clever comment from the store, they try to be funny with the family blocking him, except there's nothing going on that they are blocking. There's nothing to blow up! There should have been cowboys robbing a train or a caped man with a handlebar mustache kidnapping Song Girls (Clay went to USC, you see [the real one in LA, not the fake one in Columbia, SC] and the Song Girls are the best thing about the school) that he could blow up. Right now, it just feels like build up with now release. No snap, no crackle, no pop!

The wasted opportunity of the situation is what gets me most. Bad commercials are a dime a dozen -- just ask Taco Bell. But bad commercials with potential to be great? They are the ones that make us feel like we did when Utah State choked away the Auburn game today.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Reaching out and touching

Hey everyone, it's that time again -- cell phone time. I've come to you before with this issue, but I didn't pull the trigger because my job wouldn't let me have one before. Now the world is a different place, I can play with toys at work, and my phone needs to start picking up some of the intellectual slack in this relationship.

Dr. Sighted has largely settled on the iPhone, because "it has more medical apps." Sure it does. But, as for me, the world is my oyster. I'm pretty sure that there is 4G to be had in our area, and I think I want it. I've never had any Gs before, but settling for less than 4 really seems irresponsible at this juncture based on what I know so far.

I am AT&Ter at the moment, but she's a Verizonist (it's a mixed marriage) and we have pretty much decided that I'm going to convert since the reception is better a work for her kind. I am trying to sort out whether I want a Samsung Charge, LG Revolution or HTC Thunderbolt or just doing the simple thing and iPhoning myself. Do any of you have any thoughts? There are rumors all over the place about awesome new phones right around the corner, and I don't to be further left behind. Then again, I'm on the Trabant of cell phones right now (an improvement over the Soviet Phone Mark II, at least), so will I really miss not being on the leading edge? That's a silly question; as awesome as I am, I deserve the best.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Hack, cough, etc.

I don't like laziness at work. Laziness, like whiskey or bubble baths, is great in its own right -- so long as they happen on your own time. I take my work time seriously and expect the same from others. I think that's fair, after all, when engineers slack off, things break. You wouldn't want your things to break, would you? (Doesn't that sound like a mafia threat?)

Television writers, though, don't live by the same credo. At least not all the time. Dr. Sighted and I have gotten into a few shows that like to take the lazy way out. I have mentioned the USA shows before, and White Collar is one of them. Leverage, however, is the biggest offender of the phenomenon I am keeping you in suspense over.

Does everyone remember when the second Matrix came out? Nerds do, because it was a time of huge let down even though they refused to admit that their precious Wachowskis could err; then the third one came out and then there were no followers left. A false prophet can only fail so many times. The second one, though, had a scene that got nerds all excited because it proved an accurate representation of a computer hack in a movie for the first time. Leverage has a character whose sole purpose is basically to use a computer to do magic and call it "hacking". It's like the Green Lantern's ring of power for plot points, except it is defeated by out of date technology instead of the color yellow.

The USA shows do this too: Burn Notice infrequently and typically it's electronic manipulation that is a little more credible; White Collar does it periodically, which is unfortunate because the whole premise is the glorification of the con and forgery as art, which this totally defies; and Suits, in the most recent episode, which used a hack as a plot point that didn't really make sense.

It is unfortunate, because the shows entertain me, and I don't want to be entertained by lazy things. ("Here kid, is a balloon animal." "But it's a circle." "Lots of animals are circles.") You should already know how I feel about lazy comics, (and good comics, too). So, I'm troubled; I'd hate for you to think I'm inconsistent.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Freedom Just Around the Corner for You

I think language is fun. You pretty much have to in order to write a blog, something that Dr. Sighted loves making fun of me about. I was going to write about a clever hook in a song, but got to thinking that since I merged the Fear and Trembling part of the blog with this space, I really ought to the think twice, because that line is not the sort of thing you'd say in mixed company. (It's a sexual thing not a pee joke. I continue to reserve the right to make pee jokes in this blog. Poo grosses me out, though, so it's not funny.) This got me thinking about Christian Liberty again about something other than alcohol, which is kind of refreshing.

This topic is something I've thought about a lot and written about before, and art (as an extension of my appreciation of language) is something I think is valuable as humans and Christians. But, 2 Cor 6:16-18 points out that we should associate with no unclean thing. Rom 12:2 reminds us that we should be different after choosing to follow Christ, separate from earthly things. 1 Cor 10:23-24 famously says that "Everything is permissible, but not everything is profitable..." So, I think an argument could be made that anything that that is not active worship or sustenance is bad. I think there are people who believe that, but I feel like I am using weasel words and that makes me feel like a jerk. No jerks allowed on this blog, so I'll stop.

I think that's overstating it. Proverbs 3:13-14 praises people who learn (but in the context of 3:3-5, it's not to build oneself up but to expand your relationship with God and other people). The point, though, is that learning is not necessarily active worship. Luke 15:11-31 (the Prodigal Son) describes the Kingdom of God in the contexts of celebrations, implying that celebrations are good in the appropriate context, and celebrating isn't inherently worship either. (Note: I specifically opted not to mention Psalm 104:14-15 which thanks God for his role in growing bread and making wine in order to demonstrate my self-control.)

I think the important thing from that is that context is relevant. Intent and sincerity are relevant. Celebration isn't inherently worshipful, but it can be. Learning isn't inherently worshipful, but it can be. Both of those things, in fact, can be sinful if abused. I think the same is true of art and how we view it.

If I watch South Park, Dogma, or The Life of Brian and simply enjoy them for the surface level vulgarity and titillation, that's probably not ok, but if I appreciate them for their satiric value exposing hypocrisy, they might be. I think the same attitude is true about alcohol -- Prov 20:1 says that Wine is a mocker and beer is a brawler, yet SoS 1:4 praises your (presumably Solomon's) love more than wine, implying that wine is good -- which are written by the same author. Intent is important -- Song of Solomon is a book entirely about seduction, which is really an untapped aspect of the Bible's PR, but an excellent case study of the importance of context. Habakkuk, in Hab 1:2-4 questions God's commitment to His truths, but the context is one of seeking justice, seeking to know Him better, not one of disrespect or lack of confidence. (The book concludes in chapter 3 with a long song of praise.) Habakkuk is one of the Deep Tracks of the Old Testament.

So, if I remind myself that the line "The neighbors complain about the noises above/ But she only comes when she's on top" is extremely clever in appreciation of language as a tool created by God, and in the context of thanks for the talent to be able to identify with its intricacies and delight in its power. However, because it is vulgar, I must remind myself of that. I must also be aware and respectful of the concerns raised in Romans 14 about stumbling blocks to others as well. And I must be sincere, because lies make Baby Jesus cry.

While I write this, a bumper on the news used "Way Down Yonder on the Chattahoochee," which also has a sexual reference in it, yet I doubt there are many who would object to it on grounds of vulgarity. Or "I Love Rock and Roll," or "Only the Good Die Young." But that doesn't make the casual ignorance of vulgarity in James's "Laid" ok. Because Jesus turned water into wine is not an excuse to drink wine to get drunk. And I think if I am going to have a drink, have Laid on my iPod or throw parties that aren't explicitly worshipful, I need to be able to defend myself and maintain the attitude of sincerity and thankfulness of the gifts I have received, because I need that attitude all the time.Link

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Monkeys bore me

When I was in middle school, I watched Star Trek: TNG. (That's The Next Generation for you non-nerds out there. [Who am I kidding? If you read this, you already knew that.]) I was a little more receptive to science fiction then because, key words, I was in middle school. I have no shame admitting that I enjoyed First Contact and rather recently watched The Undiscovered County, but I still contend that is a good stand alone movie. I have a variety of other embarrassing things that I liked when I was younger, like Magic the Gathering, for instance, but I'm sure your VHS tapes of Jem are not embarrassing at all.

I don't have any particular affinity towards Mark Wahlberg, or Marky Mark, as I was introduced to him initially. I thought he did a good job in The Departed, liked his cameo on SNL with Andy Samberg, and enjoyed I Heart Huckabees (I guess). I also saw his remake of Planet of the Apes, which I thought would be good if for no other reason Tim Burton's directorship. He's not my favorite director, but he did direct my favorite movie (Big Fish) and is responsible for the move that gave us both the lines, "Where does he get such wonderful toys?" and "This city needs an enema," so good on him.

Here's the thing: it was terrible. Beyond awful. I have had more entertaining haircuts. In the interest of full disclosure, though, I have never seen the originals. (I have seen the Simpsons Episode where Troy McClure gets a role in a PotA musical, though -- classic.) I have never seen Charleton Heston say, "Get your paws off me, you damned dirty apes!" I have seen Soylent Green though, which gave me everything I wanted as far as Heston one-liners go.

All this PotA talk is all well and good, but they've made another one. Rise of the Planet of the Apes. I know it's summer, and dumb, blockbuster movies come out in the summer, but I just didn't realize anybody liked this one enough to make a sequel. It is ten years later, I guess, but still.

Am I missing something? Is this movie series so good that modern remakes are worthwhile? Are the PotA originals worth my time? My time, after all is precious; I could be catching up with Jerrica Benton.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Everything is new all over again

A lot has been happening and changing in my life lately. New wife, new job, new city, new house, new kitchen knives, and a new dog (sort of). One thing I've learned through the course of all of this "newness" is that people like to pay a lot of attention to you. And you know what? It's awesome. Attention is fantastic; it's why people want to be famous, it's why girls where slutty clothes, it's why arsonists start fires. It's a little weird to start coming back down to earth, since my brother and his fiancee are taking the bar today and tomorrow and will be getting married in November, and it's their turn now. I'll have to think of something to steal the spotlight again once I get bored.

One thing that is missing from that new list is new church, because getting settled into a new place is hard. We had a pretty good thing going in Augusta, so we're looking for a group like that, we've tried four so far: First Baptist Charleston, Grace on the Ashley, East Cooper Baptist, and Ashley River Baptist. Nothing final yet, but it's something that I am starting to recognize that needs to happen sooner rather than later. I find it's much easier to lose focus (hey! is that a bird? [Actually the other day, a cardinal {not the Catholic dignitary} was hanging out on my porch. The new dog (sort of) didn't even notice.]) when you're not plugged in. Also, it's a grounding I could use after having four months of people solidly asking me what's next for such an exciting life. ("Well, after a few weeks in South America, I think we'll summer in Charleston.")

It's a reminder, really, that to be successful in Christianity, you can't really exist out there on your own. A lot of people feel that it's a personal matter better served in private, and while part of that is true, it's a self-deception to think that you can grow alone. You need to be plugged into a community, growing and struggling together with other people. I have been encouraged, though, that a lot more people at work than I was expecting to have asked me if I have found a church home yet. I haven't been reading or praying as much for a variety of reasons, but it just feels easier without being part of a church community. Just like my clothes get piled up on the floor a lot less often now that I have a wife living with me. I also watch a lot less Dirty Jobs.

Anyway, I am hoping for humility and discipline as we try to get settled, and to be a good leader for Dr. Sighted. Also, I am looking forward to eating really good Charleston food at church cookouts.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Harry whatter?

I like the news. I like a lot of things. I was listening to a podcast about news analysis (Slate Political Gabfest -- I don't typically agree with them and they are super pretentious but for some reason, I keep coming back) and one of the contributors, Emily Bazelon, made a comment that was pretty insipid that compared the debt ceiling resolution to an event in the Harry Potter series that most folks would call a "spoiler" and then denied responsibility for it.

I have never seen a Harry Potter movie, so while I didn't previously know the outcome of the matter that came up, it didn't really spoil the issue for me, either. The biggest reason is because Harry Potter is a book for children. There is a saying in the Sighted household, mostly said by Dr. Sighted, when things like American Idol, Daniel Radcliffe or flowers appear as a commercial on the ol' television: "You're lucky to have me," because she typically has no interest in any of them and knows I am grateful. Show her a novelty lunch box in the shape of an elephant, though, and her aloof distance from children's tastes vanishes. And she's right, too.

The sadistic inappropriateness of spoiling a big movie series notwithstanding, I notice it is a little strange to have just watched a cultural phenomenon roll by on the outside. I imagine this is how rednecks felt after disco was over. What happens next? Will people finally stop dressing up with lightning bolts on their foreheads? (That is like 85% of what I know about the franchise.)

I occasionally find myself hung up in tv series or something trying to escape, but cannot, because the story is unfinished. (Although, I did try to watch Firefly or Serenity or whatever the show is on Netflix and wanted to force myself to finish it but abandoned ship [get it?] after like 6 episodes. I have a rule: any new show gets 5 episodes, which is why I was the only person in the country to watch the entire series of Teachers.) How liberated do the people caught in JK Rowlings's orbit feel? I do feel a sense of relief after football season is over, even though I love it, because I get to have Saturdays back. What will these Potter fans do with all this found time? (Do Harry Potter fans have a slick nickname like Gleeks or Trekkies?) I'm pretty sure that people who obsess over things are pretty reasonable when it comes to moving on, so it shouldn't be an issue. I'd ask my doctor, but she just doesn't care. (Can my wife be my doctor?)

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

The Fall is Becoming My Favorite Season

I am watching my first Braves game of the season in HD. I've caught a little better than half a dozen, probably, and not a one of them has been in HD, because of the move and how my beloved tv (let's call her "Trudy") has been in storage. Dr Sighted's tv, a might 13 incher, made me pine for the apple of my tv watching eye. Baseball is fine, and the Braves are doing very well considering they are in the same division as the best team in baseball, but it just doesn't measure up to the fall sports, sadly. Fall is when the best tv events happen, namely, football season resumes (Go Clemson!), which, as far as television experience goes, is like soy sports.

Summer used to be my favorite of the seasons, because I like warm weather and there was no school. Now that I'm married and adult and what not, it's still good, since long days mean more time for barbecuing and warm water for beach going (I haven't been in so long, though, that I'm not sure it would recognize me anymore -- it's the one with the sand, right?), the school benefits don't really apply as much and my youthful resilience to the heat requires me to drink a lot more water and change my shirt a lot more often. Fortunately for me, my sweat smells like cinnamon, so it's more a comfort issue for me than a smell one.

Another thing that comes up in the fall is Psych. Dr. Sighted has turned me on to the this program, and it is the flagship of the USA shows, which, I'm pretty sure, are all exactly the same. They found their formula and they are sticking to it with Law & Order like consistency. Psych, White Collar, Burn Notice, Suits, Covert Affairs, and Royal Pains are all exactly the same show in different contexts. I've gotten in arguments with people in my life over this, so I feel like the guy in Mystery Men trying to convince William H Macy that Greg Kinnear really is Captain Amazing. Yes, I just reference Mystery Men.

Here's the premise: the main character has some sort of outlandish skill that is not quite superhuman although still wildly unrealistic, but just specialized enough to make him excellent in a specific niche but also has a somewhat (or very) troubled past that is probably not his fault that causes him to be an outsider in the community where that very skill would ordinarily permit him to excel. He has a loyal but confrontational cadre of friends who stick with him through thick and thin, lives in a place with an odd frequency of circumstances where his skill is useful, and there is a minor celebrity who somehow is part of the action (Psych - Corbin Bernson. White Collar - Tiffani Amber Thiessen (your Amber will always be in my heart, Tiffani. [Also, Dr. Sighted asked, "Is that Kelly Kapowski? Her face looks fat." when we watched an episode. Yes. Yes that is Kelly Kapowski and shut your mouth.] Covert Affairs - Piper Perabo. Burn Notice - Bruce Campbell, although it causes me actual physical pain to call him a minor celebrity.). There are, inevitably remarkable opportunities for witty quips, charming romantic plotlines, and temptations that try to push our hero off the straight and narrow but he (or she) always chooses the right path.

It's brilliant, really. Psych does feel a little bit different, but I can't quite tell how; it might be just that I like it better. I also don't know why I don't like them all with the same enthusiasm I do Psych and Burn Notice (or even the Mentalist, for that matter, which is basically the same show as Psych except less funny, two years later, and more Australian). So, if you like lawyer shows, there's Suits. If you like doctor shows, there's Royal Pains. If you like spy shows, you have a choice! Still no engineer show, so far. Closest thing is White Collar, with a suave, handsome gentleman using only his wits to solve interesting problems. Was that convincing? Oh well. By the way, did the find the pineapple?

Sunday, July 03, 2011


So, this morning, I wanted to take in a piece of Charleston history when I went to church. I headed to First Baptist Charleston, because it's 4th of July weekend and this church predates the country. (The preacher casually mentioned that this church donated its treasury to the Revolution. The American Revolution. The one that started in 1775.) The subject of the sermon was Christian liberty (with the primary citation of Romans 14:1-4), which is never an easy topic to cover, since one thing that people love to do, Christians or not, is to remind themselves that they're better than everyone else. (You think I am unable to button my own pants? Well, at least I don't wear spray deodorant.)

He mentioned the usual historical examples that we all laugh about as adorably out of date now, like dancing and playing cards and makeup and whatever. (I do kind of wonder how many of the average church goers ever obeyed those things; but back then, there was no World Series of Poker on tv, so I guess the temptation was a little easier to take. On the other hand, if Maverick is any representation of reality, then poker was way more awesome in the 19th Century.) Baptists aren't nearly as anti-dance in our platform as we used to be. One of the other things, though, that always comes up for Christians in general and Baptists in particular is the booze.

It is an true and actual struggle for Christians (or, at least, ones I know) because we have those very concepts shown in Romans 14, but we also have 1 Corinthians 6:12. I am "permitted" to eat Doritos and chocolate chips for breakfast everyday, but that doesn't mean it's a good idea. I personally am rather fond of craft beers and fancy whiskeys (note the "e" in whiskey). Today's message, where the preacher says that "strong drink" is never ok, made me think. If I have a single barrel bourbon in my pantry, am I abusing that liberty? Is it more ok if I don't drink often, or ever to excess? Or is this rationalizing in the way that people just say that the prohibition on sex outside of marriage is an anachronism, because they just want to do it? Christianity is hard.

I don't know the answer. There is scripture that can be used to justify both sides. I think the thing we know for sure is that abuse of alcohol is clearly bad, in the same way that abusing credit, dancing, cheeseburgers or football could be -- if it interferes with your ability to live your life and maintain your relationships (especially with Christ) then it's bad. I also think culture is important; if there is a problem where makeup indicates something un-Christian, then setting oneself apart by not wearing makeup might be a worthwhile thing for a church to urge. But we can't lose sight of the why, since we can do something stupid repeatedly for no real reason, just because we always have, like watch the newer Star Wars movies.

Back to the Old...

Hey everyone, I have an announcement: I am going to stop keeping up Fear and Trembling in Augusta because I no longer live there. I was also never an especially big fan of Hunter S. Thompson. My wife (!) and I just moved to Charleston, SC, and the other blog just doesn't seem appropriate any longer. Dr. Sighted is starting residency, so hopefully I will have more time to keep up this space. I am also no longer writing for a paper or preparing Sunday School lessons, so I need to write somehow, right? I will also rescind my earlier promise of no politics in this space -- my vision for the future is that any topic is fair game here, from movies, to politics, my favorite chilis, religious themes (like in Fear and Trembling) but with a little less formality. I promise there will still be jokes, but I cannot promise they will still be funny.

I also noticed that I have a giant pile of spam comments, and some posts are more popular than others. This one has 35 comments on it, which is slightly higher than my previous high of like 4. I'm pretty sure I would have to post on some sort of controversy like we should execute all double parkers by hanging. I don't know if the uptick in spammers is representative of a an uptick in traffic, which would be swell, (I did notice an upswing in followers -- Hello new folks) but it's still troubling. It might require me to activate some sort of interceptor to keep odzwyki from posting about about how to buy pharmaceuticals from China in weird broken English. My favorite is the insincere flattery (is there any other kind?) about how smart and great my blog is -- while I love having my ego stroked, when they say "I imagine you have a excellent information in particular while dealings with these kinds of topics" it kind of takes some of the vim out of it when it's not actually whether they can read it, let alone did. But why my blog? How many of you readers are out there?

Let me know with comments. Coherent is preferable, but not technically required.