Saturday, May 21, 2005

Tagged with a Meme - The Bibliotheca Virus. (Answer is in progress)

Via Peter Sean Bradley, I hve been challenged to answer four simple questions and one direction to keep the virus going. I had to laugh at what Peter said about me, however: "for the culture that the High Church tradition can bring." It ain't me babe, no, no, no, it ain't me, babe, It ain't me you're lookin' for, babe. (See my response 4(4) below.) Here are the questions which I hope to complete in the near future (watch this space):

1. Total Number of Books I’ve Owned: All books -- ever? You gotta be kidding me? I've got no way of knowing -- just the text books I've gotten rid of run in the hundreds. Put it this way, when I moved back to DC from law school in the mid-70's I shiped back over 70 boxes of books by the U.S. Mail, each one with an average weight of 50 pounds.

I'd say the number of books I own currently is more than 1,000 but less than 2,000.

2. Last Book I Bought: Hmmm. I bought 3 grocery sacks of books at the library used book sale (during the last hour each bag was just $5). Among my finds was Charles Murray & Catherine Bly Cox's Apollo Story (which I found out is now back in print -- this is the ultimate book about the Apollo project -- if you have any interest, you must go buy this book), Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz, The Burden of Proof and The Laws of Our Fathers by Scott Turow, The Gulag Archipelago (Vol. 1) by A. Solzhenizyn, Toland's Hitler, etc. Almost all my books have been purchased at book sales -- especially library book sales.

3. Last Book I Read: meaning, I guess, finished. That would be Brian Haig's Private Sector. I'm currently reading The President's Assasin by the same author and Arc of Justice by Kevin Boyle. I should be finished with both by Friday.

4. Five Books That Mean a lot to Me:

This is what's going to take some time. I'm assuming these aren't desert island books (5 books I must have on a desert island) or my all time favorite books (that would include The Vicar of Christ by Walter Murphy). These are books that simply mean a lot to me and I'll tell you why.

(1) The Bible-- yes, I know it's a fairly standard answer but there's just so much there. Simple stories like the Tower of Babel or the Parable of the Good Samaritan. More complex stories like Job and Daniel. The story of Creation, the fall, the deluge, the calling of Abram, the exile, the plagues, passover, exodus, wandering; the conquest of promised land, the beginning of a nation, the struggle to live as a nation, the kingdoms, the exile, the prophets, the rebuilding. The Incarnation. The Sermon on the Mount and on the Plain. The calling, baptism, wilderness and temptations. The miracles, the parables, the questions and answers. Holy Week, from triumphant entry through Supper, arrest, judgment(s), condemnation, passion, crucifixion, death and burial. The resurrection. The Resurrection.
He Is Alive!
The road to Emmaus, Doubting Thomas, the restoration of Peter, the Ascension. Characters such as Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Saul, David, Jesus, Peter, Paul, and John. Philosophy like Ecclesiastes or Proverbs. Poetry like the Psalms or Song of Songs. Not to mention the teachings in the letters and the very mysterious Revelation to St. John. It is wonderful.

By the way, I like the Berkley Version -- it's very clear and has terrific footnotes. For example, from I Chronicles 25:4, one of those lists of who begat who the footnote indicates:
Starting with the sixt son, Hananiah, the names, when translated from Hebrew, form the following prayer of Heman about his work as a singer: [6] Be gracious, O Lord; [7] Be Thou gracious to me! [8] My God, Thee; [9] I have praised: [10] And exalted for helping; [11] Though sitting forlorn; [12] I have proclaimed; [13] Highest; [14] Visions.
Another example, in the Gospel of Matthew 6:13, from the end of the Lord's prayer, he brackets the phrase "For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen." and in the footnote, observes,
The words enclosed in brackets are not found in the majority of the most reliable ancient manuscripts. The may have been added to the text here to make the prayer more appropriate for use in public worship. Certainly the last sentence is compatible with Scripture. Cf. I Chron. 29:11. In Luke's account of the Lord's Prayer, Lk. 11:2-4, this sentence is omitted.

(2) Mathematics by David Bergamini. New York: Time-Life, 1963. This book was something my parents bought when I was little. I first looked at the pictures and was gradually sucked in -- what a terrific book!

(3) I guess a play can count -- it's in book form. Robert Bolt's A Man For All Seasons is something I probably quote from at least once a month. It beautifully explores the relationship between conscience, duty, faith, honor, law

Green Lantern(4) Green Lantern No. 61 (June 1968). "Thoroughly Modern Mayhem!" Writer: Mike Friedrich Penciller: Gil Kane Inker: Sid Greene. This is a parable of sin and falleness is 23 short pages. Interestingly, the thrust of the story is shorter than those 23 pages, yet it speaks volumes. This opens with the Hal Jordan Green Lantern and the Alan Scott (Golden Age) Green Lantern teaming up to defeat “Captain Challenge." Following that story, Scott returns home to Earth-2, flying over scenes of evil and rottenness, returning to his house and finding it ransacked by a burglar, Scott/Green Lantern orders his power ring to get rid of all the evil in the world at which point everything including Scott/GL disappears. Hal Jordan later goes to Earth-2 and finds Scott/GL and the rest of humanity frozen in a state of suspended animation in a desert. They restore everyone to their natural state and Scott learns a lesson about sin. It’s funny, but this is a story which has stuck with me ever since – while we are created in the image of God, we are all fallen and in need of saving. There were a lot of other comics I grew up with that were also modern parables. See for example, Superman Issue 236, “Planet of the Angels” which can be read on line here.


5. Tag 5 people and have them do this on their blog.

Done -- look for these folks to (possibly) follow up on this:

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Revenge of the Absolutes. [Revised and extended] I saw SW: E3: RotS today -- first impression is that it's better than the last two, but doesn't approach the original triolgy. The acting is incredibly wooden, the dialogue is horrible, the storyline is still confused, and the CGI is way overdone. Still, by closing on the events which will take us to the original Star Wars movie (which I refuse to call "A New Hope."), it wraps up well.

Now for my gripes.

I'm really bugged by George Lucas' desire to take a potshot at Dubya and his supporters -- not because he's doing it; rather, because he does it so poorly, with such over reach that it doesn't make sense.

The following may be a minor spoiler, but I don't think so.

There's a scene where Obi-Wan and Anakin have a duel and Anakin says something along the lines of:
ANAKIN: If you're not with me, you're my enemy.

OBI-WAN: Only a Sith deals in absolutes.
The problem is, Lucas seems to believe this.

I believe that there are seeds of greatness here, but because Lucas is unwilling to give up his fealty to relativism and his eastern theology ("Use your feeling"), he is not able to truly develop a basis for the transformation of Anakin to Vader.

Yes, the Jedi play a minor part in pushing Anakin over to the dark side: They don't make him a master although he sits on the council, they ask him to act deceitfully, they don't let him have a girlfriend (or wife). Still, Lucas want to put the blame exclusively on the Sith (I'm being somewhat general here because of my desire to avoid spoilers). "This is how liberty dies - to thunderous applause," Padmé laments as the Senate gives Palpatine new powers.

In many respects, Obi-Wan turns out to be the greatest villian (a la Steve Maryk of the Caine Mutiny) of the sexology, because his commitment to relativism blinds him to that which is truly evil. Consider these lines from Return of the Jedi:

LUKE: Obi-Wan! Why didn't you tell me?

The ghost of Ben Kenobi approaches him through the swamp.

LUKE: You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father.

BEN: You father was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I have told you was true... from a certain point of view.

LUKE: (turning away, derisive) A certain point of view!

BEN: Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.
(emphasis added). Perhaps, if Obi-Wan and the rest of the Jedi had been a little less relativistic -- dare I say it -- perhaps if the Jedi had been more Christ-like, the double-dealing which leads to the fall of the republic and the rise of the Empire would not have occurred.

Second, and strongly related, as you can see by the above, my respect for the Jedi have been completely destroyed by this movie. It's been declining for awhile -- in SW: E1: PM, we learn that to be a Jedi, one must be specially enhanced with the Midichlorians. In SW: E2: TAotC, we learn that the Jedi cannot be in love. In this one, it is confirmed that the Jedi believe they can lie about anything (which explains why Old Ben Kenobi lies with such ease to Luke in the original Star Wars movie [lies, by the way, which aren't really disclosed to be lies until The Empire Strikes Back]). Serious spoilers follow. Or take Mace Windu...

[Last chance -- I mean it, really serious spoiler below]

In the scene where Mace Windu goes to arrest Palpatine, they have a big fight -- Palpatine kills three [expendible] Jedi, then he and Mace have a huge fight. Near the end, Anakin walks in (the following is rough, taken from this purloined script (which has a number of inaccuracies, although this appears to be correct):
MACE pushes PALPATINE out to the edge of the ledge. As the Jedi moves closer, the bolts from Palpatine's hands begin to arch back on him. The Chancellor's face begins to twist and distort. His eyes become yellow as he struggles to intensify his powers.

PALPATINE: I can't ... I give up. Help me. I am weak ... I am too weak. Don't kill me. I give up. I'm dying. I can't hold on any longer.

MACE WlNDU: You Sith disease. I am going to end this once and for all.

ANAKIN: You can't kill him, Master. He must stand trial.

MACE WlNDU: He has too much control of the Senate and the Courts. He is too dangerous to be kept alive.

PALPATINE: I'm too weak. Don't kill me. Please.

ANAKIN: It is not the Jedi way . . .

MACE raises his sword to kill the CHANCELLOR.

ANAKIN: (continuing) He must live . . .

PALPATINE: Please don't, please don't . . .

ANAKIN: I need him . . .

PALPATINE: Please don't . . .


Just as MACE is about to slash PALPATINE, ANAKIN steps in and cuts off the Jedi's hand holding the lightsaber.

As MACE stares at ANAKIN in shock, PALPATINE springs to life.
It is clear that Mace and Anakin could have combined to arrest Palpatine, but Mace, acting like a Jedi, sees himself above the law (or a law unto himself) and in an act of perfect relativism acts to put an end to Palpatine, pushing Anakin over to the Dark Side.

Thus, it seems that all those infected with the Midichlorians -- all those controlled by the Force -- are relativists who see absolutes as something that only the little people worry about. In that respect, the Jedi and the Sith are two sides of the same coin.

I submit that there is another way -- a way which was nicely summarized by a man who used to be called Joe, who said the following not too long ago:
We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires.

However, we have a different goal: the Son of God, true man. He is the measure of true humanism. Being an "Adult" means having a faith which does not follow the waves of today's fashions or the latest novelties. A faith which is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ is adult and mature. It is this friendship which opens us up to all that is good and gives us the knowledge to judge true from false, and deceit from truth. We must become mature in this adult faith; we must guide the flock of Christ to this faith. And it is this faith--only faith--which creates unity and takes form in love. On this theme, Saint Paul offers us some beautiful words--in contrast to the continual ups and downs of those were are like infants, tossed about by the waves: (he says) make truth in love, as the basic formula of Christian existence. In Christ, truth and love coincide. To the extent that we draw near to Christ, in our own life, truth and love merge. Love without truth would be blind; truth without love would be like "a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal" (1 Cor 13:1).

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

History Repeats itself. The first time as parody, then as tragedy.

"I could resign, but that would be the cowardly thing to do..."

-- David Frye's Richard Nixon

Michael Isikoff will not resign.
More on Dresden. Passing through the North Platte airline terminal (of all places) I picked up a copy of Wilson Quarterly that someone had left which had an article on the bombing of Dresden. Thinking someone may return for the article -- there was a bookmark -- I left it there. The whole issue looked interesting. Unfortunately the article is not on-line.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Grieve Not the Holy Spirit. This article by Frederica on the Holy Spirit parallels a lot of my experience. More later. (title from Eph. 4:30)