First Person Life


The Next Big Movie! (It's worse than you can imagine!)

Fans of fantasy come to life may be astounded by the next big fantasy trilogy coming out of Hollywood. The first of the movies will be arriving in theaters just in time for Christmas.

The movie boasts stunning scenery, spectacular special effects, and several big-name stars. It is also partly produced by one of America's premier producers of Children's Books, Scholastic Inc., as well as the company that produced and distributed the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Newline Cinemas.

It has all the makings of the next blockbuster fantasy! Except...

No one can possibly miss the Christian thematic elements of C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia. The books and the movies they spawned all have numerous parallels with the Christian message. From the introduction of Jadis, the evil queen, into Narnia by two unwitting children, representing the Fall of humanity from the perfect created state, to the sacrificial death of Aslan, the Lord of Narnia, on behalf of another treacherous child, the book uses the story of Christianity as the basis for it's fantastic journey.

Not as clearly thematic, but still a virtuous portrayal, Lord of the Rings is another book with a certain Christian nobility about it. The virtues of Christianity shine clearly, even if the underlying world is presented with too much emphasis on free will and a dualistic understanding of good and evil. Yet, the lines are clearly drawn. There is a fundamental right and wrong, good and evil exist. The structures of the world generally exist to put in check the evil of an invading force. Self sacrifice as well as a sense of duty and honor are fundamental themes. In spite of its theological shortcomings, LOTR is still a good movie that imparts the nobleness of virtue.

Philip Pullman, the author of the trilogy which Newline and Scholastic have partnered to turn into the next big fantasy feature film trilogy, has nothing good at all to say about Lewis or Tolkein.

An article in The New Yorker characterized Pullman's views this way:

    “ ‘The Lord of the Rings’ is fundamentally an infantile work,” he said. “Tolkien is not interested in the way grownup, adult human beings interact with each other. He’s interested in maps and plans and languages and codes.” When it comes to “The Chronicles of Narnia,” by C. S. Lewis, Pullman’s antipathy is even more pronounced. Although he likes Lewis’s criticism and quotes it surprisingly often, he considers the fantasy series “morally loathsome.” In a 1998 essay for the Guardian, entitled “The Dark Side of Narnia,” he condemned “the misogyny, the racism, the sado-masochistic relish for violence that permeates the whole cycle.” He reviled Lewis for depicting the character Susan Pevensie’s sexual coming of age—suggested by her interest in “nylons and lipstick and invitations”—as grounds for exclusion from paradise. In Pullman’s view, the “Chronicles,” which end with the rest of the family’s ascension to a neo-Platonic version of Narnia after they die in a railway accident, teach that “death is better than life; boys are better than girls . . . and so on. There is no shortage of such nauseating drivel in Narnia, if you can face it.”

Pullman goes on to claim that Lewis wasn't even Christian, claiming that because the greatest Christian virtue is charity and that Chronicles readers wouldn't see that through the books, that it, therefore, isn't Christian. A hollow argument given an incorrect presupposition, but pointing out the characteristic vapidity of Pullman's conceptualization of the universe.

Pullman despises the concept that humanity has lost its innocence and good storytelling is an attempt to take us into a world where things are clearer. For Pullman, "growing up" - the throwing off of external authority and strictures - is the most important thing.

    “The idea of keeping childhood alive forever and ever and regretting the passage into adulthood—whether it’s a gentle, rose-tinged regret or a passionate, full-blooded hatred, as it is in Lewis—is simply wrong,” Pullman told me. As a child, Lyra is able to read a complicated divination device, called an alethiometer, with an instinctual ease. As she grows up, she becomes self-conscious and loses that grace, but she’s told that she can regain the skill with years of practice, and eventually become even better at it. “That’s a truer picture of what it’s like to be a human being,” Pullman said. “And a more hopeful one. . . . We are bound to grow up.”

I will likely blog more about this in the future... but for now, I leave you with this quote from the "New Yorker" article, which gives a good idea of how Christianity is treated by Pullman:

    Pullman’s heroine, Lyra Belacqua, is a pre-adolescent girl who erroneously believes that she is an orphan. She has been raised in a slapdash fashion at Oxford, by the scholars and staff of the venerable (and fictional) Jordan College. The novels are set in an alternate version of this universe, in which people travel by zeppelin and refer to electricity as “anbaric power.” It is a church-burdened world, in which the Reformation led to consolidation, not schism, and the Papacy was moved from Rome to Geneva by John Calvin. This Church is responsible for the kidnapping of Lyra’s best friend, whom she vows to rescue; the exile of her father, whom she sets out to find; and, eventually, the homicidal pursuit of Lyra herself. In “His Dark Materials,” the Church is run by a cabal of celibate men who are obsessed with sin and its eradication. The Church employs torture and a doctrine of “preëmptive penance”—a program of self-flagellation that provides its adherents with a kind of get-out-of-Hell-free card, forgiving them in advance for such politically useful sins as assassination.

Additional Information:

"Life and Letters: Far From Narnia - 2005 "New Yorker" piece on Philip Pullman, the Author of the "His Dark Materials" trilogy. [WARNING: Contains lewd artwork]
An atheist's 'Narnia' knockoff - by World Net Daily movie reviewer Dr. Ted Baehr
"The Golden Compass: Unmasked" a video by Bill Donahue of the Catholic League regarding the movie.

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Homiletics Textbook now available as download

I had previously posted about a reprint of J.M. Reu's Homiletics book being available. There is now a less expensive PDF download version of the book available! Enjoy!

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Premature babies feel pain.....

Here's an article I never did publish. I meant to, but didn't. It's interesting that even after a year and a half, there is little coverage of this study by U.S. news outlets. I think this makes my point even more emphatically.

=-=- April 2006 -=-=

I admit it, I know media bias exists but often I've found myself either ignoring the issue or giving the media the benefit of the doubt. But this story about premature infants and pain is so egregious that I can't ignore it.

It has taken the New York Times a full week to find a way to temper the results of this scientific study in order to make it palatable to a country which doesn't want to think that the tens of thousands of babies it murders each year feel the pain associated with being dismembered.

Let's look at this horrific travesty in journalism, shall we?

From the University College London Press Release of April 5, 2006:
The research team used near-infrared spectroscopy to demonstrate that babies have an increased haemodynamic response in the brain following painful stimulation. This response is a reliable measure of pain as it directly relates brain activity with painful stimulation.

Also, a quote from the lead author of the study in the same press release:

"There is evidence that these repeated painful procedures are a significant stressor and lead to increased sensitivity to other non-painful procedures. Since pain information is transmitted to the preterm infant cortex from 25 weeks, there is the potential for pain experience to influence brain development from a very early age, as the brain is highly malleable at this stage of development."

Ok, to summarize: The study methodology (according the press release) uses a "reliable measure of pain." That is, the study proves that the infant FEELS PAIN. It hurts. It is a physiological fact that, when stuck in the heal with a lance for routine medical procedures, the child does not simply "react" to a "stimulus" but the child actually does feel pain. Are we clear on that?

Furthermore, evidence suggests that "repeated painful procedures" have a lasting impact on the child because they "lead to increased sensitivity" even "to other non-painful procedures." So the study authors theorize that there is a memory of this pain and an association of this painful event to the attendent circumstances so that when similar circumstances arise (i.e. other non-painful procedures), it seems they become anxious and have a heightened sensitivity.

Ok, the press release seems pretty clear as to the meaning and implications of the research. Babies as young as 25 weeks after conception (possibly earlier, but that wasn't studied) actually feel pain. Should be pretty cut and dry.... unless you're a NY Times reporter.

Under the headline: Even Tiny Babies Have Ouch Centers in the Brain, the NY Times decides to tackle this issue (a full week after the study was published).

My first reaction is, "Ouch Centers"?!?!?! Heaven forbid we use a clear headline like "Babies Feel Pain." That might offend someone. But let's use a nice soft phrase and say, "Tiny Babies Have Ouch Centers." From this alone, I should have known what was coming...

Opening Paragraph:
Premature babies may be aware of pain in much the same way as older children and adults, according to a British study.

This must be different research... Remember above when the research team said, "This response is a reliable measure of pain as it directly relates brain activity with painful stimulation." So we've gone from the study being a "reliable measure of PAIN" (emphasis mine) to some sort of faint, potential awareness of pain.

Closing two paragraphs:
Despite the identical brain activity, differences remain in the ways babies and older children experience pain, said Maria Fitzgerald, the study's senior author and a professor of developmental neurobiology at University College London.

"An older child will have a much greater emotional and cognitive understanding of pain," Dr. Fitzgerald said, "and therefore have associated anxiety. What we show is that the youngest babies have a pure sensory response, but we cannot assume that they interpret it or analyze it in the same way."

Correct me if I'm wrong, but from my recollection of psychology, "interpretation" and "analysis" come after experience. That is to say, in what way does it matter how babies "interpret" or "analyze" pain. The fact is, IT HURTS!

It's painfully obvious that the NY Times author was digging for a quote to soften the blow to the pro-abortion crowd as to the relevance of this study. For the pro-abortionist, why should it matter how babies "analyze" or "interpret" pain... the whole concept of abortion is to kill it anyway. Their whole argument to date has been that the baby doesn't (or it isunknowable whether or not they do) feel pain.

It's interesting that this story continues to get no coverage in the US press on this issue -- in spite of the fact that many states are considering bills requiring notification of the mother that a baby feels pain during an abortion (most bills specify after 20 weeks). Seems like a published scientific study into the question should be important news for many in the U.S... unless, of course, those whom we trust to give us the information we need have an agenda of their own.

-=-=Other Research

Late abortion and the 'fetal pain' fallacy - Author argues:
The USA's ban on 'partial-birth abortion' rests on flawed arguments about fetal development.
A new front in abortion battle: Questions raised on pain of fetus - Boston Globe, February 3, 2005
Controversial abortion bill passes in Arizona
'Fetal pain bill' may become law, other states passed similar legislation
- MSNBC - Abrams Report - February 16, 2006
Local lawmakers active in committees - According to the article: "Planned Parenthood says there is no evidence to support pain to the fetus."

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For Technophiles and Non-techies alike...

Ok, I admit it, I'm a technophile. It's almost as if technology is in my blood... like lead poisoning from my childhood.

I got my first computer when I was 9 years old and was more interested in programming it to succumb to MY WILL instead of playing computer games (Really, I'm NOT a control freak ... much). In sixth grade, I was asked to teach the "smart kids" (the "elite" group that I was *not* placed into until the end of High School ... but I'm not bitter...) how to do computer graphics programming.

I dropped out of the Computer Science program at the State University of New York at Buffalo to enter the Pre-seminary program at Concordia College, Ann Arbor. Between my days at CCAA and the seminary, I spent 10 years in the computer industry. The first 7 years in a regional Internet Service Provider (ISP) in Michigan. The last 3 years in the network engineering/consulting department of a Value Added Reseller serving small to medium sized businesses as they needed to implement technology.

I cut my teeth on the Internet before the first web browser (NCSA Mosaic) was "mainstream" and people still used gopher and FTP to share information. All of my computers run Linux and have for at least the last seven years. When I MUST use Micro$oft Window$ (for example, to complete my SET form or use LOGOS software), I do so in a "virtual machine" running inside Linux.

While I'm not in the computer industry, I still keep tabs on it. I've seen a LOT in the computer industry and it take A LOT to impress me - and today I ran across not one but TWO articles that impress me.

First is the XO Laptop. This little device at about $200 per unit seems to be technology perfection. It's designed as an educational tool and is a bit slower than systems you may be used but only boot-up and opening applications, when you're using the applications, it's reported to be very responsive. It boasts a 6 hour battery life (or more if you don't use the backlight on the display), is rechargable up to 2000 times (with options of plug, hand crank, or solar cell), is almost kid-proof (spill proof, rain proof, drop proof, and dust proof), and has almost everything one would absolutely need in a computer system for basic, every-day computing.

I've been watching the One Laptop Per Child program as it's unfolded. The original plan was to make these units for $100 each. While they couldn't quite do it for that, the $200 price tag is more than reasonable given the features. The goal is to put a laptop in the hands of every child in undeveloped/underdeveloped countries where electricity is scarce and education is even more scarce.

For two weeks in November, they are making the units available to people in developed countries at the "Buy 1 Get 1" price of $400. At that price you purchase a unit for yourself and one is purchased for a child in the developing world.

It'd be great if we could hand them out with textbooks at our Lutheran Schools each year -- unlikely, but great!

The second piece of news is the latest version of Puppy Linux. I will admit to not using it myself yet (I use Gentoo on my personal machines) but I've been watching the "LiveCD" Linux systems from a distance for a while now and this looks like a perfect tool for starting to use Linux and moving people away from the "Evil Empire" in Redmond.

With Puppy Linux and old laptops, it might be possible to create a One Laptop Per Child program at the local school level that would be cost effective. In any case, If you have ever considered playing with Linux, I would recommend starting with something like Puppy Linux. It lets you test drive without harming your existing M$ Window$ installation.

If anyone tries Puppy Linux, let me know how it goes. I may try it myself soon -- and I'll post my impressions here if I do.

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