Archive for December, 2020

Thoughts on “Color Out of Space”

December 31, 2020

I’m a big fan of the “Arkham Horror” board game, and that and the complete collection of Lovecraft works that I started and never finished make up the totality if my experience with Lovecraft and his works.  So I was interesting in picking up “Color Out of Space” because it aimed to be an adaptation of his ideas and stories.  It also fooled me a bit as the cover looks like the one you’d see on an older movie but as it turns out it’s a modern movie.  I had heard that the older adaptations weren’t all that well-received — I personally watched part of “Dunwich Horror” but that’s all that I know about them — but thought it would be worth giving one of them a shot because the DVD was cheap.  If I had known that it was a modern take … I probably would have bought it anyway, so it didn’t matter that much.  But it was a bit surprising when I saw the lead Nicolas Cage and noted that he was, well, old.

The movie avoids the mistake of not leaving itself enough room to develop things, as it clocks in just short of two hours.  The problem, though, is that it takes up most of that time with fairly standard family scenes from the main family instead of doing actual development.  Now, even though I complain about developing doomed characters, in this situation doing this isn’t necessarily a problem.  Lovecraft in general and the Color Out of Space in particular are associated with madness, and so showing them as people and then showing how their madnesses were born from their individual personalities would really work.  And the movie might have handwaved at this in part.  However, it doesn’t really follow through with it.  For example, the father gets most of the focus and the movie does focus on a few tics of his, but it takes a lot of mental work to associate it with his personality since much of it seems out of character, and his character seems mostly dull and uninteresting anyway.  Also, they establish that the daughter is into Wicca and so she ends up carving protection spells into her skin, but it isn’t clear that her doing this is a sign of madness or a legitimate attempt to protect herself that could have worked (she uses a copy of the Necronomicon, which either should have worked or should have done far worse things to her).  So it is very difficult to see how their madnesses and even transformations later relate to their personalities, but that’s the only reason to spend so much time on them earlier in the movie.

The movie also makes the mistake of trying to come up with some kind of explanation for the Color while not actually explaining anything.  The narrator talks about how the meteor that fell from space poisoned the water, and so drinking the water causes madness.  This is despite the fact that everyone who went mad had seen the Color itself, often repeatedly,  and so in the context of the movie that made the better explanation (the original short story doesn’t associate the madness with “seeing” the Color but also doesn’t try to explain it by talking about tainted water).  It makes the madness too mundane but doesn’t actually explain anything, such as how the mother and son became merged from a blast from the Color itself (see what I mean about the visual being the more sensible explanation?).  The visuals explain it by the visual experience but the words explain it by something in the water that will show up in an impurity test.  That’s not really how to pull off that sort of thing.

But this leads to another issue with the movie, as the narrator is a water surveyor who finds out about the impurity in the water and tries to stop people from drinking the water.  He’s also attracted to the daughter of the family — the aforementioned Wiccan — and tries to save her.  The problem is that he doesn’t actually show up much in the movie itself.  He starts out meeting the girl and then wanders in and out of the story for a bit before coming in at the end to try to save her and failing, and then getting a monologue about the water now being buried under a newly created lake and that he still won’t drink it, though (despite it being the case that if it’s an impurity that can be detected he could test for it and/or filter it out).  Now, it’s not really an issue to have a narrator that’s somewhat disconnected from the main story.  But he isn’t just a bystander that observed what was going on.  He was a part of it and a fairly large part of it in a number of ways.  Since he manages to survive at the end, he’s also arguably the sole survivor of the events.  And yet he rarely appears in the movie.  It’s a bit problematic that he’s neither a clearly important character nor a simple bystander, as it leaves us wondering just what he was supposed to be in this movie.

The performances are okay, but for me the problem is that the family stuff is boring and takes up too much time for no real payoff, and the Lovecraftian horror isn’t.  I won’t watch this movie again.

Thoughts on “Late Shift”

December 30, 2020

So, another game that I had bought from Good Old Games but had never played was “Late Shift”, a game that advertised itself as having over 180 decision points and what should have flagged itself as a warning to me that it had a whopping seven endings.  While seven endings for an interactive movie is impressive, I should have realized that that meant that a lot of those decisions would lead to the same scenes and outcome, which then meant that, in general, I could make decisions all right and things might go slightly differently, but deviating at least too much from the story seemed, at least to me through two walkthroughs, to get the DM to put you back on the rails to the next part of the story, which was pretty annoying on the second run and even did appear that way during the first run (as you end up with the criminals, for example, even if you leave).  While interactive movies, of course, can’t react to every choice, I do think many of them would be advised to take some obvious endings and let them play out as endings, especially if they wouldn’t require too many extra scenes.

That being said, perusing some of the endings in this guide suggests that some of that might happen.  I don’t think I ever came across them, though.

Anyway, one issue with interactive movies is that to do that sort of branching and then returning to the main threads you might come to those threads from widely diverging points.  Chuck Sonnenberg referenced John Rhys-Davies comments on how you have to act in Wing Commander III which had a similar structure (at around 2:40 into the introduction):  you could come to the same scene after the character was struck by another character, or just talked to, and you had to put on a performance that worked if you came from either of those two scenes.  The same thing has to happen here, as depending on what you did before you could have been co-operating with the criminals or opposing them, could have been shady or aggressive or passive, could have liked the girl or found her annoying, could have found some things out first or not discovered them yet, and so on and so forth.  I don’t feel that the game really managed to pull that off, as the seams do too often show, with some scenes seeming odd as they seem to presume that you had certain scenes first, leaving me confused and wondering why my character was talking like they were and/or acting like they were, and some scenes seeming to clearly ignore what I just did to stuff it back into the more standard narrative.

On top of that, one of the nice things about an interactive movie would be that if you can’t really impact the plot — which would always be the best things — that you can at least determine how the character you’re controlling acts or sees the world.  This is a bit hit and miss.  The first time through, I played mostly how I might want to play it … or, at least, how I thought the game was hinting at for me to play it.  The second time, I was pretty aggressive and shady.  While this did work for a lot of scenes, again at times the seams showed where it ignored what you had been trying to do in order to promote the narrative.  The main reason for this, I think, is that the main character does have a somewhat defined personality.  Unfortunately, he’s a bit of an aggressive idiot, firing off idiotic statements and swearing at people when he really should be calmer, especially in the situations he’s in.  I won’t say that his personality is necessarily unrealistic, but sometimes he’s calm and sometimes he’s a jerk and it can be jarring at times.  It also means that I don’t like him much as a character, and since the entire game is me trying to guide him towards a decent ending I probably should like him more than I do.

I looked up how to get the best ending and it’s way too convoluted for me to bother with, especially since it results in him getting the girl who herself is shady and unscrupulous and so isn’t necessarily someone it’s worth ending up with.  So I think I’ll stick with my two endings for this one and leave it alone.

Thoughts on “Hunter”

December 29, 2020

So after taking some time off to rewatch shows, I dove into my stack of TV shows that I at least hadn’t watched in years and decided to try watching “Hunter”, a cop series starring Fred Dryer and Stepfanie Kramer (yes, that’s the real spelling of her first name).  To me, this seemed to be a prime candidate for a show that was coloured by nostalgia, and so where I’d remember liking it far more than I’d like the rewatch.  So I was worried that it would turn out like its contemporary, “Remington Steele”, which is one reason why I was so hesitant to take the time to sit down and watch it.  And I can say that my fears were … pretty much baseless.

So why did this show turn out better than “Remington Steele” did?  My impression from watching it was that the show did, in fact, know what kind of show it wanted to be and wrote its episodes with that in mind, unlike “Remington Steele” which never really felt like it knew what it wanted to be.  This, of course, was a bit of a weird conclusion given that “Hunter” actually changed the show it was over the course of its seven seasons.  So despite reworking itself completely once and tweaking itself at least once or twice more, it still managed to feel like it knew what it wanted to be more than “Remington Steele” did.

The show essentially started off as a “Dirty Harry” parody/satire, with Fred Dryer’s Rick Hunter as the cowboy cop in the Harry Callahan vein, partnered up with a “Dirty Harriet” in Kramer’s Dee Dee McCall.  After Hunter’s latest partner ends up in the hospital like so many of his partners, his captain insists that he needs to have a partner despite his not wanting on.  So he goes to McCall who doesn’t have a partner either and also doesn’t want one, and works out a deal where they will be partners in name only but will be able to go their own way and do their own thing.  Of course, this leads to hijinks as the captain tries to catch on to their trick, but as the first season goes on they respect each other more and are willing to actually become partners.  At some point, the captain is also replaced with someone who is less hostile to Hunter and McCall and more simply exasperated by their actions, and the show continues on with a semi-serious parody of Dirty Harry.

What’s interesting about this is that the show “Sledge Hammer!” has more in common with “Hunter” than it does with “Dirty Harry”, so much so that it works better as being seen as a parody of “Hunter” than of “Dirty Harry”.  You have the physically capable but less cowboy female partner, the frustrated captain who nonetheless seems to respect their skills and abilities, and of course the over the top gunplay and use of guns, along with the beat up car that keeps getting destroyed.  At least some of these elements were in the “Dirty Harry” movies, of course, but “Sledge Hammer!” works better as an exaggeration of the “Hunter” elements than it does of the movies.

Anyway, in the second season the show starts to get a lot more serious.  And, often, far too serious.  Hunter and McCall are friendly and work together, and have great chemistry and great banter, but the plots get pretty dark, including one where a woman who plotted to murder her father, stepmother and the man who helped her do that — because he was blackmailing her into a sexual relationship — ends up being placed — by Hunter — into a position where she would either receive none of her inheritance and so would be poor or else she could get the money by confessing to the killing and thus solving the crime.  The final scene of the episode implies that she kills herself by overdosing on pills that she puts in yogurt, which as you might imagine is pretty depressing.  Yes, she was a killer, but she also had been portrayed somewhat sympathetically and so we didn’t really want to see that happen to her.  One of the issues with the change in tone is that they kept the banter and often the final scenes with a final punchline — think of the endings of many Star Trek TOS episodes — and it really clashed with the dark tone of the episodes at times.

In the third season and beyond, though, they managed to strike a better balance, and so the seriousness and the banter and humour were better balanced.  They also cycled through more competent and more sympathetic captains, ending with Devane who was for the most part on Hunter’s side.  So what you’d generally get were some dramas, some lighter episodes, and some decent action in every episode, highlighted by the chemistry between the leads.  So it worked really well and ended up just being, in general, entertaining.

At the end of season 6 and all through season 7, the show started adding in more and more separate plots, and splitting up the leads to pursue them.  This can work if the plots are all on the same theme, or if you have clear A and B plots.  However, here the show had multiple plots, and while some of them could be seen as being more serious the show itself didn’t focus on the more important plots more and use the other plots as secondary or as diversions.  In fact, they often had the same character doing two or more plots/investigations at a time, which didn’t make sense and often took time away from the more serious and/or interesting plots.  So the show came across as unfocused which hurt the entertainment value.  And it also went back to being excessively dark, while ending both seasons on lighter, joke plots that somewhat clashed with the tone of the rest of the season.

Stepfanie Kramer leaves at the end of season 6, and I think they botched her exit.  She leaves to marry a previously unknown beau, which is not a problem in and of itself.  However, he talks about giving up a prestigious position in London to stay with her in LA, and then when the position he wanted to get in LA doesn’t seem like it will work out this creates a dilemma for her.  This is also not an issue and works fairly well.  No, the problem is that when her life is placed in danger he ends up demanding that she leave the force, when she really didn’t want to.  This makes him look like a complete jerk.  And they didn’t need to have him be that forceful.  He was already established as someone who didn’t want to interfere with her career because he knew how important it was to her, and so since she knew that it was already established that his sacrificing for her was eating at her a bit.  All they needed to do was have him suffer and worry silently and at most express some doubts that he could ever get used to his wife being in that much danger all the time to get her thinking about whether giving up her career to marry him might be what’s best for her.  But as it is she gives up her career for someone that we can easily see as unreasonable, which is not at all desirable.

In season 7, Kramer is replaced by Darlanne Fluegel, who lasted half a season before wanting out after reportedly having creative differences with Dryer, who was the star and a producer at the time and so, well, we know who was going to win that one.  That being said, her character didn’t have all that much to do in the season so her complaints might have been valid, or that might merely have been a reflection of the fact that the actress didn’t want to do what they wanted her to do.  She’s replaced by Lauren Lane who was CC in “The Nanny”, and who does a better job in her role.  But season 7 was the last season, and it made sense as the show had started to spin its wheels a bit in the final season, especially since the wonderful chemistry between the leads was lost.

Still, ultimately, the show was generally entertaining, which is more than I can say for other shows that I’ve watched.  The plots and drama probably weren’t groundbreaking — maybe for the time — but worked well enough for what they were.  This series is going into the closet and not into the boxes because I will probably watch it again at some point.

Up next is “Relic Hunter”, as that’s the series in my stack that I’ve had the longest and not finished.

Some Minor Notes on Mind and Free Will

December 28, 2020

So, to wrap up the thread that I’ve been following over the past few weeks, let me comment on some issues that Feser raises in “The Last Superstition” that he believes arise from the rejection of Aristotlean causation.

The first is the one that was the most galling to me, and the one that made me decide that I was going to have a section like this:  on pages 199 – 203, Feser takes on representationalism and argues that it leads to radical skepticism, and that we could sidestep all of that if we didn’t believe that our experiences were mere representations that could be divorced in at least critical ways from reality itself.  The problem with this is that this view at least currently is not based on the rejection of Aristotle, but instead on actual empirical observation.  For the longest time, we’ve known that what we experience and what actually exists are not the same.  This does go all the way back to Locke et al and why secondary properties were invented in the first place, as we noted that, say, if we have jaundice things look yellow to us even if they aren’t, and that a great many properties seemed to depend greatly on our own point of view … or often on our physical environment and physical condition.  This is also the reason that Descartes’ analysis could not dismiss the idea that we were all just dreaming, since dreams for most people — but not for me, in general — would look identical to our real life experiences and so it would be difficult to tell them apart.  Things like hallucinations also raised this skeptical doubt as they look like fully formed experiences and yet don’t represent anything.  That our experiences, then, aren’t unvarnished reflections of reality was pretty well supported.

But it’s when we get into optical illusions that things get very interesting.  One that I came across was that the same hand drawn image can look like a bunny or a bird depending on which way you hold it (and I, of course, had them completely reversed when the experiment was performed on me, as my visual processing is … interesting).  But probably the more interesting ones are the various ones with shadow, where things that we would see in shadow look like they are a darker colour than the things that would be in the light, even though they are objectively the same colour.  Why this is important is that it shows that our experiences are processed before we experience them and those experiences determine what we see.  The same thing applies to processing around the noted blind spot in our eyes.  So mental processing determines what experiences we have, and this can be affected by what we believe or have generally experienced to be the case, which is why our mental processing can be fooled by clever artists taking advantage of it.  But that only works if we are building a representation of what we see instead of simply experiencing things as is.  And if we are building representations, and if we can build representations — like in our memories — without the object being present, and if we can imagine new objects that we have never see, and if we can have those imagining spawn without us consciously doing that, then that’s when those skeptical doubts are raised.

So Feser would have the chain the wrong way around.  We don’t move from rejecting Aristotle to skepticism about our experiences, but at worst would move from rightful skepticism about our experiences to rejecting any view that insists that we have no reason to doubt them.  Representationalism really just is how our minds work, and so cannot be dismissed so simply.

The next thing he takes up is the green/grue problem, which he comments is incredibly difficult to solve for modernists.  The idea as he presents it is how do we know whether emeralds are green or grue, which means that they will be experienced as blue after some point in the future.  I had two thoughts on this.  The first is that all we need to do is wait past the posited time and see if the experiences change, as knowledge doesn’t have a time limit.  The second is that since the whole premise is that emeralds are currently green until they suddenly will turn blue it’s perfectly reasonable to call them green and consider grue a separate category from those.  For the most part, the grue problem is a problem for language or maybe epistemology (in terms of sussing out justifications for claims), but isn’t really an issue beyond that (and to be fair Feser doesn’t necessarily see that as a deeper problem either).

I think that’s all I want to talk about from there.  The other issues — personal identity, free will, rights and morality — are interesting, but are things that are probably better pursued outside of Feser.  So let me leave it there, and then next time turn to Laird and start with his Chapter 2.

Bob Seidensticker’s Silver Bullets: 26

December 25, 2020

So, after officially claiming that these are silver bullet arguments — as noted last time — Seidensticker moves on to creating new ones.  He actually only creates two new ones as far as I’ve seen, and this one is a two-parter, with the first one talking outlining the issue and the second one … uh, talking about how Christians respond to his drop-the-mic silver bullet that presumably there shouldn’t be any sort of reply to?

Yes, it’s not off to a good start as a silver bullet argument when you start off saying that Christians have a reply to your supposed silver bullet argument.  At best, you have to argue that those replies don’t work, and that will always open up a lot of debate over whether they do or don’t.  And silver bullet arguments really shouldn’t be open to debate.

Anyway, the big argument — and the one that the title refers to — is the idea that Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet and the world, in fact, has not ended:

Jesus said, “This generation will not pass away until all these things take place” (Matthew 24:34).

What are “all these things”? A few verses earlier, he described some of them: “The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”

So (1) we’re talking about something that is truly apocalyptic if the contents of the universe are being rearranged or destroyed, and (2) this will happen within the lives of those hearing him.

We’d know if that happened. It didn’t, and Jesus was wrong.

Most Christians reject this obvious conclusion, which frees them to invent countless end-times predictions of their own (illustrated here).

Here’s the thing:  if most Christians actually reject this purportedly obvious conclusion, then it will definitely be an uphill battle to convince them that this conclusion is both obvious and serious enough to work as a silver bullet argument.  So that admission itself really puts Seidensticker behind the 8-ball.

That being said, that second post is important, because it notes that Christians have noted it and find it a bit problematic:

About “This generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened,” popular Christian apologist C. S. Lewis said, “It is certainly the most embarrassing verse in the Bible.”

Seidensticker does go on to cite some other verses that suggest that the end was supposed to be quite soon:

Not only did Jesus think the end was nigh, Paul did, too. He wrote:

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep [that is, died]. . . . For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him (1 Corinthians 15:20–23).

The firstfruits were those few fruits that ripened first that were given as an offering to Yahweh. Jesus here is the firstfruits. The full harvest (in this analogy, those who follow Jesus) would follow soon afterwards. Here again we see the imminence of the prediction.

And another one from Paul:

We have another clue that Paul thought the end would come soon. Here, Paul was responding to a question within one of his congregations. The assumption had apparently been that Jesus would return and scoop up all worthy followers. But time was dragging on, and church members were dying. What about them? Will those who’ve died also get the reward that is due those who were still? Paul responds:

For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. (1 Thessalonians 4:15).

In other words, Jesus will take his own, even if some have died. The possibility that Jesus won’t return for millennia, and no one of this early church will still be alive, is obviously not an option.

So the argument works out to be that Jesus and important early Church figures thought that the end times were imminent, and yet the world has still not ended.  The argument is that the statements are both obvious and obviously false, and so if Jesus really said that, then He was wrong about something that He really should have known the answer to.

I agree that this does seem to be at least a bit embarrassing, but there is one big issue with this from the very beginning:  while it might be a clear contradiction, it’s not about what people consider to be the crucial message of Christianity.  That is “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again”.  What this means is that we can reinterpret those statements or even consider them historical distortions without losing what the key point of Christianity is.  Seidensticker’s historical evidence even suggests a way to do this:

Jesus was an Apocalyptic prophet. That’s not simply to say that he predicted the end. He did, but Apocalypticism was an entire worldview popular within Judaism at the time of Jesus. For example, Bart Ehrman argues that the Dead Sea Scrolls, which are from a Jewish (not Christian) community, are full of Apocalyptic ideas. The book of Daniel (written in the 160s BCE) is another example of this genre.

Jesus wasn’t an outlier, the lone eccentric in Jerusalem holding a sign saying, “The end is nigh!” He shared a worldview that was widespread in his time. Another clue that Jesus had an Apocalyptic viewpoint is that predicting an imminent end was a common trait of this literature.

If Apocalyptic prophecies where common at the time, its entirely reasonable that word of mouth tales from the time might have added such things into the works we have.  It’s also reasonable to think that some of the translations might have highlighted that as an interpretation even though the original stories were not as clear about an imminent end.  Treating the works as historical readings, then, allows for reasons to reject the purportedly obvious conclusion.  It’s only if we treat the Bible and especially the New Testament as the dictated Word of God that we couldn’t make such moves, but that’s very shaky, if for no other reason than at least Luke is insisting that that isn’t what he’s doing, and it is at least a reasonably accepted Catholic doctrine that they are four different eyewitness accounts (or collections of them).  I know this because I was taught that in my Catholic grade school.

And things get worse for Seidensticker in his own arguments, because he notes that early Christians seem to have noticed this embarrassment:

This author is largely echoing the argument in 2 Peter 3:3–9, which admits that the second coming is late but that God is doing humanity a favor by delaying judgment so that more can be brought into the fold.

The actual text is this:

Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

So if we accept this as a valid part of the NT, then Christians have the answer:  God is waiting for the right time, and it isn’t the right time yet.  And so imminent doesn’t mean to God what it means to humans, and so that we seem to be thousands of years “late” isn’t an issue.  It will happen when it happens, which is pretty much how Christians see it.

So the NT itself, in fact, solves the problem of the end of the world not happening yet.  So given this, Seidensticker needs to move to a different and weaker argument about why, then Jesus got it wrong:

Yet again, this doesn’t explain how an omniscient being like Jesus gets it wrong. If that’s what Jesus meant, he could’ve said that. Omniscient beings don’t change their minds based on new information, because there can be no new information for them.

This, then, actually explains why in the first post he made some much weaker arguments about the supposedly odd limitations of Jesus:

Jesus didn’t know a lot of things. But give the guy a break—it’s not like he was perfect.

    • In a crowd of people, a woman with a bleeding problem touched Jesus’s robe and was healed (Mark 5:25–34). After the incident, “Jesus realized that power had gone out from him” and demanded to know who had touched him. Oddly, Jesus’s power is treated as a limited quantity, like energy in a battery. Doesn’t the Trinity have an infinite supply? But for our purposes, the more interesting question is why he had to ask who touched him. How could he not have known?
    • Jesus said that the end would come soon, but he didn’t know the exact time: “About that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matt. 24:36).*
    • Jesus promised that prayers are answered and that his followers would be able to do magic greater than he. Alas, it doesn’t work that way.
  • Jesus was amazed at the centurion’s faith (Luke 7:9) and amazed at the lack of faith in his hometown of Nazareth (Mark 6:5–6). Omniscient being aren’t supposed to be amazed.

Stacking arguments like this always makes it seem like the person arguing thinks that the original argument — in this case, that Jesus was wrong about the end times — isn’t as strong as they’d like it to be, so they want to add more lines of argumentation in case that one falls.  It’d be like in a courtroom if the prosecution said that the defendant definitely was guilty of the murder because twenty people say them walk into the building and shoot that person in the head, and then went on to say that they also didn’t have an alibi and threatened that person’s life in public.  Yes, in a courtroom they might do that anyway, but anyone listening will wonder about the latter arguments because if the first one holds up they seem irrelevant (and there’s a danger in adding on weaker arguments because if they are shown to be wrong then it can cast doubt on the stronger ones as well).  But here we can clearly see why Seidensticker needs to include them, because the stronger argument is actually dealt with in the Bible itself, and so even people who believe the Bible is the unerring Word of God will not find the mere fact that the end times have not yet occurred a sufficient argument and so obviously not a silver bullet argument.

Of course, there is a reply to the idea that Jesus got things wrong and should never have gotten things wrong (ie that He wasn’t, in fact, perfect):

4. When the woman with the bleeding illness touched Jesus, he demanded, “Who touched me?” (discussed in part 1). How could the omniscient second person of the Trinity not know? One source explains this by arguing that Jesus “possesses the power of intentional self-limitation.”

Yeah, I’d stand in line for that superpower.

But let’s suppose Jesus knew that he was deliberately clouding his knowledge of humanity’s future. First, why would he do that? What would that accomplish? And second, why would he make a prediction about something that he knew he had limited his understanding of?

Seidensticker mocks the idea that Jesus was self-limited, but the thing is the NT is in fact quite clear that Jesus was limited and wasn’t perfect.  Given His nature, He could easily have prevented the authorities from taking Him to be crucified, for example, and yet all He did was pray for it to pass from him if that worked.  We seen Jesus being angry and even unreasonable at times (cursing the fig tree for having no fruit, driving the money lenders from the temple, etc, etc).  What is key to Jesus is that He, essentially, became human, and thus had many of our human frailties.  This, then, makes Him the exemplar that we are supposed to follow.  The biggest difference between Him and us is that He has utter faith in God — even if that is tested by His crucifixtion — and so arguably we could be like him if we had similar faith (which we often lack).  So that Jesus would limit his foreknowledge to what humans could or should now doesn’t seem at all unreasonable.

So why would He seem so certain about this prophecy if He didn’t know for sure?  Well, putting aside that He might not have been so certain about it, if He didn’t know when it was then it indeed might not happen, and it would be better to get people preparing for it with stronger statements that turn out to be wrong than to hint that it might not happen anytime soon and have them ignore it, as humans tend to do.  In general, a lot of the more extreme comments — even the description of Hell — can be argued as being strong statements to inspire action among humans when explaining the entire thing would be too confusing and likely to be uninspiring.  So it could well be that the growth of Christianity and the faith of the original Apostle’s was sufficient to see that people could be redeemed and the faith could grow, and thus the Second Coming will only happen when there is no such hope.

Ultimately, is the passage predicting an imminent coming that really can’t be considered imminent after all these years a bit embarrassing?  Yeah.  It needs an answer.  However, it doesn’t work as a silver bullet argument because the same source has explained it, there are ways to reconcile the worst aspects of it, and ultimately that specific prediction is not fundamental to Christianity.  While this is a better attempt, Seidensticker himself has to stack arguments to even get it to be a real problem, and that means that it’s not a silver bullet argument.

Next time:  the last one (or, at least, the last one I could find).

The Christmas Tradition that Survived

December 25, 2020

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to the reader of this blog.

Don’t you mean “the readers”?

Nope, WordPress still says it’s pretty much just the one.

Thoughts on “Scare Package”

December 24, 2020

I took a chance on another movie that was an original presentation by Shudder.  The last one … did not work out so well.  I will say that “Scare Package” is a better movie than that one.  That, unfortunately, does not make it a good movie.

The movie is actually an anthology movie, but it doesn’t really set itself up properly.  It starts with a story from someone who always plays a certain minor role in horror movies/scenarios and who wants a larger role, mostly that of a hero, but then when trying to subvert his role ends up falling into the psycho killer role, with his police officer extra friend having to comfort him at the end.  I will say that this idea was somewhat interesting, and the only real flaw with it is that the main character here isn’t very charismatic and so we don’t really feel much for his plight.  We also don’t really get to learn much about him before the first story ends, which would have helped us feel for him.  But the initial idea isn’t bad and is somewhat well done, and probably would have worked if they stretched it out a bit longer and developed the story a bit more, although that would risk trying to make a full movie out of a concept that didn’t support a full movie, which wouldn’t work.

But after that story, they shift to what will make up the middle of the movie, which is the adventures in a video store that has a lot of horror movies with a bunch of unlikable people who act in silly ways before setting up a horror movie from one of the videos.  The characters are a horror buff who wants to work at the store, the store owner, and a new employee.  There is a bit of a hint that the owner is doing something strange but that’s not really developed either.  This sequence is pretty dull, but ends pretty much right before the end.

The intermediate stories aren’t very interesting either.  What it’s probably useful to note here is that the movie seems to be aimed at being a parody of horror movies, in the vein of “Scream” and “Scary Movie”.  All of the intermediate segments are aimed at it, as is the final segment where they are all in some sort of horror research facility kinda like “Cabin in the Woods” and the store owner keeps talking about all the horror tropes.  But all of this is the big flaw in the movie, as in all of the segments they reference some of the tropes from horror movies but do little more than wink at the camera about them and point them out.  They rarely subvert them or make a really funny joke about them.  Their overall attitude aligns more with “Scary Movie”, but at least the early “Scary Movie” movies made over-the-top comments on the tropes (like with the girl seeing two big signs, one pointing to safety and one pointing to death and choosing the route to death).  It isn’t clever in using or subverting the tropes, nor is it over-the-top funny in referencing them either.  So most of the time, it’s just kinda dull.  It has some moments — subverting the typical virgin/slut model by having the owner insist that the virgin was the slut, and then starting outside a room where we hear moaning between the virgin and the jock and when it goes inside the room we find out that he’s just taking glass out of her left — but overall it seems like it isn’t very clever and isn’t very funny.  And without those, there’s really nothing for us to hang onto in the movie.

At the very end, the guy from the beginning shows up and saves the remaining characters, getting to be a hero at last.  But he had been out of the movie for over an hour at that point, and so we pretty much forgot he existed.  And we also never found out anything more about him or why he was in the role that he was in, and so don’t have any reason to care about him breaking out of it.  Again, if the movie was more about that sort of thing this scene would work, but since he drops out of the movie and only comes back in at the very end it doesn’t work as a happy ending and doesn’t work as a subversion because the movie didn’t set up any subversion for him.  So it just seems extraneous.

The movie isn’t serious enough to work as horror, not subversive enough to work as parody, and isn’t funny enough to work as a horror comedy.  I won’t be watching this movie again.

Thoughts on Scrabble, Mutant Revolution and Star Trek: Scene It!

December 23, 2020

So while I was on vacation in October, I actually managed to play a couple of board games that I had been trying to play for ages.  I had picked up X-Men:  Mutant Revolution a while ago but never played it, had had Star Trek:  Scene It! for years and never actually played it, and had played Scrabble once quite a while ago with a woman that I was somewhat dating at the time (and lost) but was reminded of it by the fact that Spencer and Toby play it in “Pretty Little Liars”, and so went out and bought myself a copy to try it out again.

Now, you might be wondering about the fact that I’m pretty much just talking about myself here.  Who else was I playing these games with?  And the answer is … no one.  I play games like these alone, with nobody else, but you know when I play board games alone, I prefer to be by myself.  What I generally do — and I do the same thing with turn-based strategy games like Disciples 2 — is play with multiple players, but players that are all me.  So, obviously, there’s no real purpose to secret information when I play these games [grin].  So that means that I prefer games where either the narrative of the game or the gameplay of the game is dominant.  Out of these games, the gameplay dominates in Scene It! and Scrabble, as the former is about the trivia and the questions asked about the various scenes and the latter is about making words from the letters you have and that are on the board.  Mutant Revolution is about the narrative, as you take on X-Men characters and have them face-off with villains that can produce a bit of a story, as well as some strategy.

So what did I think of the games?

Let’s start with the one I’ve played the most:  Star Trek Scene It!.  This worked really, really well.  I took out each ship — it comes with the TOS Enterpreise, the TNG Enterprise, the Defiant, and Voyager — and played essentially each series against each other to see who would win.  There are a number of little games that you play as you go around the board — determined by what you roll on the die — and I really liked the “My Play” category since it usually shows you some kind of scene or image and you have to answer questions about it.  The best part of that is that you, well, often get to see scenes from the shows which was interesting itself.  The others were mostly trivia questions a la Trivial Pursuit but they were entertaining enough.  The worst — although not necessarily the least fun — for me as a solo player was obviously the “All Play” categories, because unless I couldn’t answer it — which did happen — there was no way for the current player/ship to lose by having someone else solve it first, so it felt a bit unfair.  This was the worst at the end, with the “All Play to Win” where if I could answer it the player won and ended the game, and if I couldn’t it got to the more interesting “Final Frontier” set of questions.  But since I could answer them a lot of the time, that mostly meant that “Final Frontier” rarely happened, despite it being far more fun than the All Play was.

The biggest issue with the game is that it’s really, really short.  It takes me an hour or less to play one game.  This wouldn’t be bad in and of itself, but that meant that in the time I had set aside to play the game I could play a number of games.  That itself is actually pretty good.  But the issue is that despite the fact that the disk randomizes each time it starts, there are a limited number of clips, and so after playing three or four games and then coming back to it a few days later I kept getting the same clips, sometimes with different questions and sometimes not.  This, then, was a bit boring as I saw questions and clips that I had seen something like the previous day, and my memory is pretty good so I definitely remembered it.  Because of this, I ultimately decided to put the game away for a few months between plays to avoid that issue, and after trying it again once recently it did work out much better.

I looked for other Scene It! games but couldn’t find anything still in print that I both wanted and could get directly from a retailer, so while I might keep looking around for them it doesn’t look like I’ll get a new one anytime soon.

Next, let me move on to Mutant Revolution.  I didn’t actually finish the game for this one, despite being interested in the game.  I was a bit rushed that day and it was dragging a bit, and so I decided that I had had enough game playing for the day.  But it was actually pretty fun.  The game contains the leader characters of various “schools” in Cyclops, Wolverine, Storm and Magneto, and you get characters given to you at random (and that you can purchase by auction as well) that you then use in encounters to try to gain points for your school, and if you get enough points that leader wins the Revolution.  There could be a bit more encounters and characters, but that would have worked for an expansion.  And there’s strategy involved, as often you get an encounter with a villain and they do move around the game board, and you have to choose the right character and move them properly to get shots in at the villain without getting knocked out (as that loses you points).  So there’s more to it than the simple game that it seemed like at first, which is probably also responsible for my being a bit burned out on it when I realized the mistakes my characters had been making.  Still, it was a good game and I likely will play it again at some point.

And, finally, Scrabble.  I’ve played it twice by now, and it is an interesting game to play.  I played it with two players that are me (but have different letters) and I managed to get around 200 points each time which … isn’t very good, actually.  But part of the reason for this — and the thing I didn’t realize when I played it the first time — is that there’s a lot of strategy involved in the game, deciding when and where to play your letters to maximize your points and block your opponent from maximizing their points.  I tend to play the game pretty straightforwardly in just trying to make words, and taking little advantage of the special squares. I’m starting to get better at it, though, but while it shows that while my vocabulary is pretty good, vocabulary alone is not what wins at Scrabble.  This one will cycle back onto my gaming table when I get a chance.

But I’m on vacation again, and so have other games lined up to play.  We’ll see how that works out.

Thoughts on “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”

December 22, 2020

Because I’m a good boy (and a homebody at the best of times), I’m not shopping in stores very much — I stop in at Walmart sometimes to pick up various household goods and to look for cheap horror movies — but I am picking up a few things from Amazon every month or so.  I dislike browsing on Amazon, so what I’ve been doing is making a list of things to search for — it’s pretty easy when one of the big things I’m buying are graphic novels — and then sorting through those to find things that are interesting.  And one of the things that popped up as a paperback book on “The Avengers” called “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”.  The premise is that a number of villains are all enacting world-conquering plans at the same time, and the Avengers need to split up and stop all of them and also stop an overarching plan that is instigating them.

This sounded interesting, but the book itself manages to fumble it.  The problem is that unlike most of the cases in the comics where the Avengers have to split up, the book starts with each of them pursuing their own issues that tie back into the premise.  It also makes it so that they can’t communicate with each other.  So this leaves us with individual adventures for most of the book, with them all coming together at the end, and with each group believing that they were on a separate unique mission and being worried about why they couldn’t contact the rest of the team while we, of course, knew precisely what was happening.  While it can work if we know more than the characters, that needs to be used to increase drama and tension and this reduces it.  After all, a ticking clock would provide enough reason for them to not be able to help each other and so force us to focus on their individual missions without them ever having to comment on why the other Avengers seem to be missing.

So, ultimately, it reduces the book to set of individual missions, which is not what we come to an Avengers book for.  And since it’s one novel, the individual missions aren’t very well done, since the missions have to be short to all fit in the book.  There was much more that could have been explored, but there just isn’t room.  Add to that the fact that they aren’t all that well written, and often rely on contrivances and conveniences.  So we have separated Avengers clashing with their established foes in a rushed and shallow manner.  That’s … not what I buy an Avengers book for.

Ultimately, it was very disappointing.  Some parts of it are decent, but for the most part it just squanders all of its potential.  I won’t be reading this one again.

All I Want For Christmas is Spoo

December 21, 2020
I don’t want a lot for Christmas
There is just one thing I need
I don’t care about the presents
Underneath the Christmas tree
I just want some for my own
More than you could ever know
Make my wish come true
All I want for Christmas is spoo, yeah
I don’t want a lot for Christmas
There is just one thing I need
And I don’t care about the presents
Underneath the Christmas tree
I don’t need to hang my stocking
There upon the fireplace
Santa Claus won’t make me happy
With a toy on Christmas Day
I just want some for my own
More than you could ever know
Make my wish come true
All I want for Christmas is spoo
Spoo, baby
Oh, I won’t ask for much this Christmas
I won’t even wish for snow
And I’m just gonna keep on waiting
Underneath the mistletoe
I won’t make a list and send it
To the North Pole for Saint Nick
I won’t even stay awake to
Hear those magic reindeer click
‘Cause I just want some here tonight
Sighing softly through the night
What more can I do?
Baby, all I want for Christmas is spoo
Spoo, baby
Oh, all the lights are shining so brightly everywhere
And the sound of children’s laughter fills the air
And everyone is singing
I hear those sleigh bells ringing
Santa, won’t you bring me what I really need?
Won’t you please bring my dinner to me?
Oh, I don’t want a lot for Christmas
This is all I’m asking for
I just wanna see my order
Sitting right outside my door
Oh, I just want some for my own
More than you could ever know
Make my wish come true
Baby, all I want for Christmas… is spoo
Spoo, baby