Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Discuss the Nature of Fiction

I haven't read any Harry Potter books, but I've followed the plot via the movies and discussions. In light of how the final book turns out, I've come up with the following statement:

If you create a world of fiction, set out the rules of that world, and then have the plot turn on a suspension of those rules, then that is a terrible work of fiction. Likewise if you purposefully obfuscate the rules of that world and then only reveal them at the last minute, that is bad form.

Discuss.

I wait
Yeah, I wait
For something good, for something great

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Great Debate

Last night I had a dream in which I was responsible for single-handedly resolving modern man's greatest question. And in my dream the answer was clear: Jessica Biel is truly hotter than Jessica Alba.

When I see their happy faces
Smilin' back at me...

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A Repost of my Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Spoilers [Don't Worry People, They're Fake]

[I know it's a repost, but dangit, it's funny stuff! And it's timely. And I don't have any new material.]

I present for you now a list of key events that will happen in the forthcoming, final, Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Certain facts have been revealed to us by the author, J.K. Rowling (for example, that two people will die in this book.). She's also discussed killing off Harry, so that she won't have to write about him again. As an expert* in Potterology, I've taken all of these little hints, analyzed patterns and probabilities, read all the early reports, and I've compiled this list, for your benefit and enjoyment.

A disclaimer: All of these spoilers will be in the book, even the spoilers that are founded on completely false facts, and especially the spoilers that contradict the other spoilers. Because remember: this is a world of magic. Nothing is impossible. Read at your own risk.

*My expert qualifications on Harry Potter consist of reading part of one page of the 3rd book over the shoulder of some dude on the metro.

  • Harry dies.
  • Harry lives.
  • Harry loses his position of seeker when he tests positive for synthetic testosterone.
  • Through the power of magic, all of the characters who have died come back to life.
  • They all die again.
  • Ms. McGonagall is diagnosed with ALS. Every Tuesday for the rest of her life she meets with a former student to share her insights into life.
  • Snape turns out to be a bad guy. Looks like Harry was right all along about that one.
  • Harry graduates from Hogwarts and accepts a full-ride scholarship to Wizard U. While there he joins a frat, drinks too much, puts on an unflattering 25 pounds, and gives up his promising future in magic when the courses prove too difficult, opting instead to become a management major.
  • After years of handling dangerous monsters, Hagrid is accidentally killed when a relatively harmless beast sticks a poisonous barb into his chest.
  • While using his cloak of invisibility, Harry is nearly discovered when the person he is spying on suddenly feels like there might be someone else in the room, and walks very near to where Harry is standing, but stops short a few inches from crashing into Harry himself.
  • An internet service provider finally runs cable out to Hogwarts, and e-mail replaces owl-mail.
  • Harry and Voldemort engage in an epic battle, in which Harry loses a hand. While Harry clings for his life above an abyss, Voldemort finally reveals that he is Harry's father. Harry screams a tortured "Noooooooooo!" and then leaps into the abyss, which is actually some sort of exhaust port that leads to the underside of Cloud City, where Harry hangs on until he is rescued by his friends in the Millennium Falcon.
  • Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger finally seal the deal. Hermione becomes pregnant with Ron's child. They give birth, and name the child Harry, after their good friend. Then, Voldemort kills the both of them, and attempts to kill their child, but instead only wounds the infant, leaving him with a lightning bolt scar on his forehead. This child grows up to be Harry Potter, who befriends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. Remember, this is a magical world; anything is possible.
  • The book literally ends in mid-sentence. This is considered to be the biggest cliff-hanger in literary history, and clearly indicates J.K. Rowling's intent to write an 8th, and "final" Harry Potter novel.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Old News

A little while ago Ben asked for my opinion on this. I assumed he meant the subject of the article, and not the article itself, and that's what this post is about. (Let this be a lesson. If you ask for it, there's a good chance I'll blog about it.)

Recently the Pope signed off on a document that reasserted the primacy of the Catholic Church. The document says that Protestant churches "cannot be called 'churches' in the proper sense," and that only the Catholic Church has the fullest means to Salvation.

My reaction?

Yawn.

This document isn't a big deal, and this position isn't a big deal. This is old news, it's been said before, and it'll be said again. But that's not the reason this is small potatoes. No, this is small potatoes because this is no more than pontification (hehe) on small semantic issues.

First, it's important to understand what this document is not. It is not a statement on Salvation. It is not a statement on styles of worship. It is not a statement on who is and is not Christian. In this document the Church has not said that other Christian denominations are not-Christian (apologies for the double negative). It has not said that other Christians (or non-Christians for that matter) lack a path to Salvation. It has not said that other Christians fail in their worship.

It has merely said that the Catholic Church has the fullest means to Salvation and the best form of worship. It's a statement that we've got more tools and Truth than other Christian denominations. And that's exactly what you'd expect the Church to say; if it didn't think it had the best means to reaching God, then it would adopt different ones.

At the same time, the document surely goes further than that, or at least it seems to on first blush. When it says that other Christian denominations "cannot be called 'churches' in the proper sense" it does mean more than "we're the best!" But what more does it mean? For that, you need to understand that what is being said is very technical in nature, and you need to have an appreciation of the very specific jargon being used.

In the Nicene Creed the Christian recites that they believe in "one holy catholic and apostolic church." Similarly, in the Apsotles' Creed the Christian professes belief in "the holy catholic church." Odds are good that if you're a Christian you accept both of these creeds, and almost certainly at least one of them. They've both been around for ages; the Nicene was developed between 325 and 381. These are the summation of our faith as Christians, and they help shed some light on exactly what the Pope was saying in his recent document.

First, both creeds acknowledge a singular church. In the Nicene we say "one" and in the Apostles' we say "the". By this, we mean that Christ established one Church on Earth. He gave the deposit of the faith to the 12, and they were to spread it. This is why many Christians have trouble with the Mormon faith: it can be seen as saying Christ started another Church. I won't get into that here, but suffice it to say that even most Protestants accept that Christ started only a singular Church on Earth. I haven't ever heard anyone claim that Christ told Martin Luther to start a second church, or Calvin, or Wesley, or Henry VIII. No, there's supposed to be a singular Christian church. And that is why unity is so important to us Christians, something a lot of outside observers simply don't understand.

Second, both creeds acknowledge that the church is 'catholic'. This isn't to be confused with big-C 'Catholic'. This is little-c, and the word 'catholic' means 'universal.' As Christians, we believe that God's Church extends to all the world, through all of time. It is neither geographically or temporally limited. The Church started with Christ, and expanded through time and space, and will so continue.

Finally, in the Nicene, we Christians acknowledge that the Church is 'apostolic', meaning that it is descended directly from the Apostles - Christ's chosen priests - and that it continues on in the stead of the 12.

In this document, the Pope has laid claim that the Catholic Church is the Church, the singular one started by Christ. All the other denominations that started off are not properly 'churches' because they weren't started by Christ. They're communities of worship. They're certainly Christian. They provide means of Salvation. But that doesn't mean that any of them can truly be called a "church" in the singular sense that Christ intended when he gave direction to the 12 Apostles.

More than anything, this is a document that reflects on history. It looks at the path of Christianity, and sees that Christ created a singular Church here on Earth, and gave the 12 Apostles governance over that Church. They were the original bishops. Those 12 went out and appointed people to govern over the Church when they passed on (both in time and space). These were the next bishops, and they took over for the Apostles. When those people passed on, new people filled their positions, taking over for the people who took over for the Apostles. And so on. The positions - bishoprics - outlasted the people filling them. The positions were permanent, the people filling the spot only temporary stewards.

Peter, the first among the Apostles, went to Rome. His successor was Linus. His successor was Anacletus. And so on and so forth. (This is all documented in great detail.) And so the Church was governed, in this 'apostolic succession', until the Great Schism, when the church divided between Rome and Byzantium. There was a dispute over whether or not the primacy of Peter continued with his Bishopric. The East said no, and the Church split, creating the Orthodox Church (which actually still has apostolic succession, much like the Catholic Church, meaning they're both part and parcel of the same singular universal Church, and this is acknowledge in the Pope's document).

When the Reformation came along new denominations started springing up, headed by folks who had been excommunicated; people who were no longer part of the singular Church started by Christ. Therefore, when new leaders of these denominations were appointed, they did not receive those appointments are part of the apostolic succession governed by the bishops of the Catholic Church. These denominations have continued on, much like the Catholic Church. They've continued to split and fracture into new denominations, each with their own form of governance, some very akin to the apostolic succession of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, and some very different.

But what is key - and what this document means to stress - is that these denominations are missing a central ingredient in what defines the singular Christian Church: actual apostolic succession. As Christians we accept - we profess in our creeds - that Christ started just one Church. But in reality it looks like there are hundreds of 'churches.' How to distinguish the one that Christ started? You need to trace it back to the Man/God himself.

The only way to do that is with Apostolic Sucession. You can trace back the Catholic Church all the way to Christ. Every single Bishop ever ordained was ordained by another man who was already a Bishop. And this is documented, every single one, all the way back to the original Bishops: the 12 Apostles. There has been a physical laying-on of hands for every single one. Christ laid hands on the 12. The 12 laid hands on their successors, who laid hands on their successors, all the way down to the current leaders of the Catholic Church. No Protestant denomination has that.

And that's really what the Pope's statement comes down to. Why does he say that the Protestant Churches aren't properly called 'churches'? Because they're missing the key ingredient of Apostolic Succession.

Yes, you're still a Christian. You can still receive God's Grace. You can still be saved. The Catholic Church affirms all of those things (and frankly, I wish they would have clearly done so in this document). But, without Apostolic Succession you can not trace your denomination back to singular Church that Christ started.

Maybe that's not such a yawner.

Nobody callin' on the phone
'cept for the Pope maybe in Rome

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Matt on a Hot Tin Roof

I love my job, but some days I'd rather be roofing.

And all the kids at school
They were wishing they were me that night

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Vote For The Good Guy!

Hey you! Yes you there! The one reading this blog! Go vote for Pat Neshek in the All-Star Game's "Final Vote". It's a chance for us fans to elect one last deserving player into the All-Star Game. And Neshek is supremely deserving. First, because he has his own blog, and was one of the first pro-ball players to do so (Curt Schilling is a thief). Second, because he is a Twins player, and therefore one of the good guys. Third, because he's from Minnesota, and grew up just across the river from me, and therefore is one of the good guys. And fourth, because he's just a generally good guy.

Oh, and because he's promised to reward fans with as much insider-info as he can about the All-Star experience. Oh, and because if you send him a ball or card, he'll autograph it for you, no problem. Oh, and because he's pretty much the ultimate "living the dream/fan of the game guy," and he still collects baseball cards and autographs and the like.

The bottom line? It is your moral obligation to go to MLB.com, click on the "Final Vote" links, and vote for Neshek. As many times as you'd like (it's unlimited voting, so the more, the better). And if you don't?

Why, then you're just a scumbag.