November 28, 2002

I'm off for what may proive to be a very strange thanksgiving. My sister-in-law's father went into the hospital yesterday with a brain infection, and its here house we're supping at. So may the Lord make us truly thankful in all circumstances.

November 26, 2002

November 25, 2002

If you have kids you should definitely watch this Frontline special on marketing "cool" to kids. What an eye-opener. And here are some thoughts on the documentary from teens.

To those of you wondering why reading personal blogs is worth the time, there's some mighty fine writing out there

Frontline is now putting up web-viewable versions of their programs. That's good, because I missed this one. There was also an al-qaeda one last week I think I wanted to see

November 22, 2002

h: that didn't work
g: statement
g: do you come here often?
g: what about what?
h: a copied < won't work
g: statement, 2 love
h: Do you think I don't know what you are doing?
g: what am i doing then?
h: Do you find this easier in IM?
g: have i ever done before in IM?
h: don't you know?
g: do i know much of anything?
h: is it because you are eating that you let my obvious non-seuqitur pass freely?
g: or is it because i'm commenting on someone's blog?
h: Which someone?
g: could it be jon barlow?
h: Don't you know?
h: [repeat; Shucks]
g: [i was about to call you on that]
h: [your serve]
g: do you think i can spend all day playing at questions?
h: Isn't that your job?
g: do you think i'm socrates?
h: When have you ever seemed like socrates?
g: well, wasn't socrates singularly unattractive?
h: So you think so?
g: isn't that what the records say?
h: The boring records or the good kind of records?
h: [simpsons reference: bonus point]
g: don't you think plato is pretty good?
h: wouldn't you like to know?
g: [rhetorical?]
h: [fair enough]
g: [i probably should get back to work...got lots of drafts to read]
h: [ok, this is going up btw]

November 21, 2002

My wife attends a weekly midday Bible study with some other moms from church. Since my parents are in Arizona now, we're just going to have Thanksgiving at my brother's house this year. (My sister's family is out there now for a while asnd will have Thanksgiving there). So yesterday my wife asked for prayer for me that I would not be depressed by missing my parents for the first thanksgiving in my lifetime.

When I came home from work and was getting ready for dinner, she gently asked me "Do you think you'll be okay this Thanksgiving, hon?"

"huh? Sure, why?"

"It'l be the first time without your Mom and Dad".

"Oh, that? Sure; no sweat!"

See, God answers prayer.

November 20, 2002

g: had some questions
h: you need to charge fees
g: that would be prostitution
h: :-)
g: i corrupt the young for free
g: though i refuse to drink hemlock...i hear it has a bad aftertaste
h: Try it
h: "that which does not kill you makes you stronger"
g: thou nietzschean thou
h: I and thou
g: ja
h: Dasein
g: ich bin ein berliner
h: mmm donuts
g: doh!
h: dough!
g: lol

Then again, maybe Tolkien is overrated.

And for Steddman, here's the interview where George Lucas lets the cat out of the bag (I nearly busted a gut at this one)

November 17, 2002

Six times today I'm waiting at a red light and the moment it changes is the time the bozo pedestrian decides he or she wants to start crossing the street in front of me.

November 14, 2002

I've been reading The Two Towers walking on my way to work in anticipation of the movie. I think this movie is going to diverge more extremely from the structure of the book. Not saying thats necessarily bad, its just a fact.

Tolkien is great. Just when I was thinking Gimli's declarations of how much he loves his axe and hates spooky forests was lapsing into self parody, we get this:
[speaking to Legolas] Do you think those halls are fair, where your King dwells under the hill in Mirkwood, and Dwarves helped in their making long ago? They are but hovels compared with the caverns I have seen here: immeasurable halls, filled with an everlasting music of water that tinkles into pools, as fair as Kheled-zâram in the starlight.

And, Legolas, when the torches are kindled and men walk on the sandy floors under the echoing domes, ah! then, Legolas, gems and crystals and veins of precious ore glint from polished walls; and the light glows through folded marbles, shell-like, translucent as the living hands of Queen Galadriel. There are columns of white and saffron and dawn-rose, Legolas, fluted and twisted into dreamlike forms; they spring up from many-coloured floors to meet the glistening pendants of the roof: wings, ropes, curtains fine as frozen clouds; spears, banners, pinnacles of suspended palaces! Still lakes mirror them: a glimmering world looks up from dark pools covered with clear glass; cities such as the mind of Durin could scarce have imagined in his sleep, stretch on through avenues and pillared courts, on into the dark recesses where no light can come. And plink! a silver drop falls, and the round wrinkles in the glass make all the towers bend and waver like weeds and corals in a grotto of the sea. Then evening comes: they fade and twinkle out; the torches pass on into another chamber and another dream. There is chamber after chamber, Legolas; hall opening out of hall, dome after dome, stair beyond stair, and still the winding paths lead on into the mountains' heart. Caves! The Caverns of Helm's Deep! Happy was the chance that drove me there! It makes me weep to leave them

This would be a wonderful soliloquy for David Rhys-Jones to deliver in the move. I wonder if he'll get to. Or will Jackson "show" rather than "tell", or will he omit Gimli's experience altogether?

L: Want some of my beer?
C: Sure!
L: Its got a hot iron bar in it.
C: Can't you take that out first?
L: Then it wouldn't be beer.
C: Isn't this beer I already have beer, even without a hot iron bar?
L: A Lack of a hot iron bar is not beer, so beer without a hot iron bar is not beer
C: Can I have some crack so I can understand that?

C: Ok, why does it need a hot iron bar? Beer is supposed to make you feel good!
L: The bad feeling from the hot iron bar makes you realize how good the beer is.

November 12, 2002

This is a response to Fearsome Pirate/Stiff Drink (Josh S) from Sunday Nov 10. (What's the blog name anyway, and where are the permalinks Josh?)
1. The Church, namely, the community of saints, is capable of knowing truth by means of the Holy Spirit working through the Scriptures.
My first quibble with this was how extensively we were defining the Church. Strodtbeck clarified in his comments that he means "all Christians" who have access to the Word and Holy Spirit. That might invite another questions about whether Christians who get thing wrong are lacking the Holy Spirit or not, but we don't have to go there.

Strodtbeck identified the Church as the "community of saints" I assume in keeping with the Lutheran emphasis on real lived communities or churches. This is good, in that we are claiming the truth-discerning power of the body of believers, not particulates of believers or something else.

I agree with this.
2. The Church is capable of accurately expressing this truth in words.
A corollary to this would be that an individual believer is also capable of expressing this truth in words.

We can ask a lot of questions here, mostly on what it means to accurately express something in words.

An accurate expression may be paradoxical

"God is three and one"

and may be elaborated to remove some paradox

"God is three and one, but he is not three in the same sense he is one. He is one in substance and three in person."

Or to preserve an important truth (the fact that it is not the case that the unity of god is "impersonal", the paradox may be heightened.

"God is three and one, three persons, and one person, but he is not one person in the same sense that he is three persons."

An accurate expression may be asked for more clarification by those concerned with particular errors.

"The Epistle of James denies that justification is by faith alone"

If we believe in the unity of scripture, we have to believe that what James says is an accurate expression of truth, and not exclude him from the "community of biblical writers" merely because he seems to be saying something with words that we believe is denied elsewhere in the community of biblical writers.

Other paradoxical accurate expressions of truth are sometimes best left with the paradox intact to get at the wonder and majesty of the divine mind, while at other times, these expression need clarification

"The immortal dies" and "While the person of the son died on the cross in his humanity, we should not believe that the divine nature of the Son died in a sense which compromises God's immortality"
3. The Church is forbidden by God to compromise the truth and pretend it isn't true for everyone.
Certainly not. But some accurate expressions in words may need to be compromised to better express the truth in particular contexts or circumstances.
4. If I say something is true, and you say the opposite is true, and I respond by saying that your position is acceptable or valid, then I cannot be convinced that what I said was true.
False. See the examples of paradoxes above. Also, I may be using words which on their bare face are the opposite of what your truth claim is, but they may be compatible in a different universe of discourse. The problem is there are limits to how much one person can say at a time, so some short pithy statements of truth may in fact be contradicted to get at another fuller truth.

The Bible does this. "God is not a man that he should repent" and "God repented"; "Answer a fool according to his folly" and "answer not a fool according to his folly".

Now, thesis 4 also seems to be in the context of an "argument" of competing truth claims. I'm not just doing the proverbial "answering a fool" paradox, but the responder is saying, "No, not A". But we might question wether that is always the best way for discussion of doctrine to proceed, in the church the community of saints. Apophatic reasoning is often more useful. Lutherans and Calvinists both can agree (right?) with the following 2 proposition: "Jesus Christ is not present to us in the supper in the exact same mode that I am present in the room with you when I am in the same room." "Jesus is not absent from us in the supper." The problem comes when we stop making apophatic reasoning claims, because each side feels the truth he is safeguarding with a positive claim is being undermined by a different positive claim.
5. The Church does itself, the world, and the entire notion of truth a great disservice when it proclaims something to be "true" without being fully convinced that it is true.
In his comments Strodtbeck claims this is directed at reformed confessions with non-binding articles in creeds. I question whether making a truth claim "binding" in the sense of disfellowshipping, or excommunicating those who differ does in fact mean the claimer is not fully convinced of the truth of the claim. It would probably be best if the reformed were more explicit in which truth claims were binding and which were not (though still true). Many times, exception takers in the reformed world don't simply say I deny X, but rather I deny that X in sense Y, or that it entails Z.
6. If all human attempts to verbalize of truth are inherently erroneous, then nothing, not even part of what we say is true.
Sure, but who says that all attempts are erroneous. Ambiguous, provisional, arbitrarily imprecise, tentative or subject to revision and clarification, but not erroneous.
7. If nothing humans say can be true, then the Bible cannot be true, because it is written with human language and is colored by human personalities.
As I've noted its interesting that the bible contains statements that are paradoxical or apparently contradictory. But its still true.
8. If an element of a creed or confession is compromiseable, then it is not true and should be removed from the creed for the sake of the Church, so that no unnecessary divisions will be created.
I am inclined to agree with this in general. Some creedal revision has been done in the Presbyterian world, but not much that has been good. Strodtbeck's reasoning is that this will enhance unity, in that the creed is then winnowed down to something more true that those seeking truth will follow. On the other hand, A church with WCF_1 and and church with WCF_2 might continue to be divided even if WCF_1 church agrees with WCF_2 church because the slight differences between their creeds. There seems to in fact be a willingness to greater unity among WCF adherents because of the place the WCF has within that universe.

Also I dealt with above the reason that a doctrine might be non-binding (not "compromiseable") but still fully true and should be retained as in a creed as a testimony to the truth. We can also say it is binding for officers who need to be concerned with the purity of the church, but not binding for table fellowship.
9. To call someone an enemy of Christ and to extend the right hand of fellowship is to make Christ irrelevant and therefore to make God a liar.
Yep I agree. One person who said something like that has modified their remarks in at least one place.
10. To assert that someone's doctrine is contrary to the Gospel and to extend the right hand of fellowship is to deny that there is a Gospel in the first place.

While I agree, There is a place right now in the reformed world for some sorting out on peripheral issues relating to the gospel where it is not yet clear to all participant how far a particular doctrine is from "the gospel" "Another gospel" is a reason for anathemas, but it is not clear that every variant verbal claim about the gospel is truly "another".

My disagreement with O. Palmer Roberson is a claim that he's getting a doctrine of the gospel wrong; and I'm not so concerned with his variant that I would disfellowship myself from him, since I mostly need more understanding of his claim. What concerns me is rather his claims that Shepherd is in fact proclaiming another gospel on very weak grounds, and for that reason I might turn up the rhetoric a notch in condemning his formulations as inadequate and dangerous.

I probably need to explain this more fully, but I think the issue here is one of how an intrareformed dispute needs to be resolved versus an interchurch dispute like the Lutherans and reformed should be.
11. Therefore one must either refrain from levelling heavy accusations or break fellowship.
I'm on the "refrain" side in these cases. If I break fellowship, I'd make heavy accusations (or would be for weighty reasons: its not always my individual place to bring accusations) at the same time.

November 11, 2002

Comments fixed. I'm sure that's why nobody was remarking on my brilliant writing before.

I like George Bush, but not this much

Libertarian Deroy Murdock likes the Simpsons. So do I but we don't watch the reruns with the kids anymore. I'll have to start sunday taping again since I apparently missed this one:
Even the EPA gets skewered. The Simpsons must nurture an endangered "screamapillar" that wanders into their koi pond. After Homer accidentally injures it, he is prosecuted under the federal Reversal of Freedoms Act of 1994. The loud, rare caterpillar sits in court, wearing a neck brace, as Homer is convicted of "attempted insecticide and aggravated buggery."

November 10, 2002

World Fantasy Day 2, Friday

Trying to balance the needs of my wife and kids with attendance at convention sessions, I arrive at the hotel in the afternoon. I attempted to be on time for the 2:30 panel which included Wolfe on the topic of “Human vs. inhuman monsters” and the challenge of writing about supernatural horrors in a world with so many merely human “monsters”. I showed up considerably early though so I got to hear most of another interesting panel on “Creating God”.

Lois McMaster Bujold, Sharon Shinn, David Coe, Carol Berg, and Lyda Morehouse spoke on the topic of designing religions for their fantasy worlds. (Bujold was the only panelist I’d heard of, though judging from her comments Lyda Morehouse sounds like she’s written some interesting books.) The discussion hit on such questions as whether or not personal religious commitments influenced “designing” a religion. Coe (the moderator) said his first series has reflected his agnosticism, with gods that were explicitly the extensions of the worshipper’s belief, but he stretched a bit for his more recent series and made gods that were objectively real. In doing so he felt he had stretched his views a bit in the direction of comprehending the religious point of view. There was an interesting question from the audience from someone who felt that the presentation of polytheistic religions in fantasy all seemed like warmed over Greek polytheism and never seemed to match the religious experience of her pagan friends. No one on the panel could really come up with a suggestion about well done polytheism, although some suggested novels that just use the Greek gods, and that sparked my one comment about Garfinkle’s Celestial Matters, which does a neat “bicameral mind” bit with gods inspiring all kinds of thoughts in the characters heads.

My recollection of the panel has faded a bit as I write this on the Monday of the following week. The “Monster” panel used the DC sniper and Hannibal Lecter as hooks to hang the somewhat vague and meandering discussion. Besides Wolfe, Joe Haldeman, Kathe Koja, and the moderator Peter Atkins participated. Kathe Koja (World Fantasy Guest of Honor) was really good at asking cogent and deep questions about the nature of evil that left most folks silently contemplative.

At one point Koja spoke of the way evil invites others to collaborate with it as a means of effective corruption. Human monsters feel and need to be validated by the society around them. Speaking of pedophiles who may have a mental illness deserving of our pity, she went on to say that the true evil of pedophilia comes when those with such a sickness fail to isolate themselves from opportunities to act on it, and the pedophiles have a responsibility to so isolate themselves, even if its with a gun in their mouth.

Wolfe said he believes that supernatural terror has its origin in the big scary animals that primitive human beings were threatened by, and that for any fictional work, the main challenge was making the threat a believable one, before getting into questions of motivations. This was echoed by Haldeman, who said the basic thing in villain design is that he is both interesting and worthy of the hero. Villains can’t do things for no reason.

I tried to get a word in with Wolfe to set up a hoped-for interview session but he rushed out the door for supper with his wife and some friends. After the panel I left for the rest of the afternoon to meet back with my family.

The evening program promised an Autograph Reception. This sounded like a hoot, so books in tow I returned to the hotel about half past eight. The reception was in full swing. All around an enlarged ballroom were tables at which authors, editors and artist professionals sat, with lines of various lengths. I stopped by Wolfe’s line first with my Short Sun books and waited. Wolfe was cordial and was certainly willing to do the interview (I still need to work on transcription because I don’t have the server capacity for streaming video). We decided that Sunday after the Awards banquet would be the most opportune time.

I circulated next to Dave McKean’s line, which was a bit longer than Wolfe and noted a line for Neil Gaiman stretching out the door. The only McKean stuff I had to bring was the Sandman issues I’d brought and Arkham Asylum, which I recalled McKean said was not his favorite work, as he never had much use for Batman. I forgot I could have packed Signal to Noise, and I could never locate my copy of Black Orchid. He signed Sandman 1 and 7 for me, and commented that he was surprised there were any left unsigned. I wasn’t much of a convention goer when Sandman was current, so I was glad to get the autograph.

Long I wanted in Neil Gaiman’s line with my Season of Mists hardcover and Sandman issues. Eventually I got back in the door and got a quick autograph from Gaiman from his pen and inkwell. While I declined to stand there and beat his ear for two minutes as some of the autograph hounds seemed to be doing, I did comment to him on how Seasons of Mist was my favorite part of the Sandman story, particularly the scene where the angel Dumiel rebels against the Creator, feeling tugs at the same time of his free act of rebellion and the ordained nature of his fall. As I remarked, one philosophy professor of my acquaintance actually made that bit a reading in one of his classes dealing with free will.

I noted Charles Vess’s line but sadly did not have any works to get autographed. Yet, as I write I recall the totebag was illustrated with a Vess piece and I forgot.

I noshed on cheese and cubes of salami and some vegetables. My vacation meals would contain much cheese and much of the products of the deep frier, so I tried to consume a fresh vegetable when I could. I was thirsty and saw the bar, and ordered a Coke in the assumption that soft-drinks would be free at least. Meek mild man that I am I just paid the $2.50 and rued my complicity in my own commoditization

I left with things in full swing, hoping to rest for my return Saturday, the big day for interesting panels and Wolfe’s reading from a draft of a forthcoming novel..

November 09, 2002

Working on archives and permalinks

I've finally had time to put up my first World Fantasy Convention report, which I wrote a week ago, and edited a bit today. More to come later.

World Fantasy Day 1, Thursday

I entered the vast lobby of the Minneapolis Hilton in the early afternoon. The space is open up to the second floor balcony, with immense chandeliers suspended that give the impression of ornateness. The hotel was running the same “judge our pumpkin carving contest” thing as was the hotel I stayed in at the airport. Many more pumpkins are in this contest though. Recalling that Embassy Suites is part of the “Hilton family” I vacillate between admiration of their consistency of brand and being creeped out by the corporatization of spontaneity.

I went upstairs to registration. This is a much smaller looking convention that the World Science Fiction Con I went to in 2001. The events are all concentrated on the third floor of the hotel. Registration was a snap, only one person in line ahead of me. I got a very nice convention badge with an illustration by Dave McKean, the artist Guest of Honor (a draw for me). I also got a nice convention tote bag printed with a Charles Vess illustration and loaded with free books. Soon I sank into a high backed armchair and inspected all this free stuff, wondering how I would fit it back into my overstuffed suitcase. Were these just remainders of stuff no one wanted in the first place? I couldn’t detect any that insisted on my attention, but I’m not much of a fantasy genre reader.

I chuckled at a blurb on a paperback of Fire Bringer by David Clement-Davies. Locus declares “Fire Bringer does for deer what Watership Down did for rabbits.” And it’s about time too.

The rest:
Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman The Fall of the Kings
Anne Perry Tathea (Sylvia had heard of this person, but not as a fantasy author)
Kathe Koja Skin (Koja is the con’s writer Guest of Honor)
Lian Hoern Across the Nightingale Floor
Thomas Tessier Father Panic’s Opera Macabre
March 2002 issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine
Nancy Springer I am Mordred
Nalo Hopkinson Skin Folk
Naomi Kritzer Fires of the Faithful

(Any of my friendly local readers want any of these, you know where to find me.)

I dropped into the dealer room next. Lots of bookdealers, not much in the way of geegaws. The room wasn’t really open yet, but nobody shooed me away. I came across a UK bookdealer who had something I’d never seen before. Not really “fantasy” related, but amazing anyway. Usborne Publishing (a UK publisher) did a series of “Battlegame Books” in the mid 70s. Each book covers a topic, and gives a typical color illustrated coverage of the topic aimed at a 10 year old or bright 8 year old. Also though the book contains four games inside, with full color boards on the pages inside, and special cut-out pages for the pieces (black printed on blue paper. The two in the series the dealer had were in “unpunched” condition. I eagerly purchased number 2 Knights at War, and number 3 Galactic War. The games aren’t all standard hex-based wargames; some seem a bit more abstract.

Wandered around the hotel for a bit until the 3:00 session with Dave McKean started. Really intersting stuff. McKean began his comics career collaborating with Neil Gaiman and also did the covers for all of Gaiman’s Sandman comics. McKean’s also worked on a few short films. He showed one called “The Week Before” which is about what God did for the days before the week of creation. Not a reverential film, though one segment titled “God finds a use for the previously ignored thrid dimension. It starts moving in an edge-on view of a glowing line consisting of hundreds of candles. God (an actor wearing a large white mask with a keyhole in the middle of his forehead: the mask crops up elsewhere in McKean’s oeuvre) is observing them and a line of planets.

He considers, puts a key in the keyhole of the mask and turns it and the planets start rotating, but they stay in a plane. He then raises his head above the plane of the candles and sees them spread out before him. The candles then spread out to fill a volume of space and God stands in the midst with the planets orbiting in several different planes around him.

McKean also did a video for a rock guitarist knows as Buckethead, who wears a KFC bucket on his head. The song was stupid (I hadn’t heard it before though so I was glad to have been clued in) The video was amazing, using some 3d computer effects, but not in such a way as it looked computer generated at all. Like a Trent Reznor video, sepia-toned (as too much of McKeans work is)

He showed slides of other pieces and talked about the origin and history of his work.

I had leave at 4:30 to meet my father-in-law for a ride back to my hotel. On my way out I spied Gene Wolfe at the t-shirt table, but decided not to bother him at such a time-sensitive moment.

November 07, 2002

I'm back, and have a real internet service. yay.

November 01, 2002

Now I'm at my in-laws place usuing their PC and a new AOL (version 6.0!) I've helped him send an email that was sitting for 4 months or so from when he tried to send it before.

I have some writeup of the World Fantasy Con so far, but I don't have the laptop with me, so I'll have to hold you in abeyance.

De script shun




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