Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Fragments and Links 8

It has been a while since I have done one of these, so it got a little longish. As usual, these are ideas, thoughts or links that I liked but did not warrant a dedicated post.

I love the new alexonfire song The Northern and the video is mildly disturbing but gorgeous.

I was obviously intrigued by the source and motivation of the track. This was what I found:

"Alexisonfire vocalist George Pettit…(said): “We stole all the lyrics from this Methodist hymn called Roll, Jordan, Roll which is believed to be the first track that inspired people to first play the blues. It’s like an acknowledgment of our musical roots. It’s very religious, but we’re by no means religious.”

A couple months ago I mentioned that several students put together a film to promote our campus ministry’s spring retreat that was remarkably executed. Well, apparently, I wasn’t excessively biased in that estimation. They actually submitted the piece to the annual UC Davis film festival and the second episode was accepted and featured with about a dozen other films.[1]

Patch Sloan Episode 2: The Fall Guy from Matthew Francis Pye on Vimeo.

Another student affiliated with our campus ministry had three films in the festival and was the big winner on the night (taking home five awards). His stuff is great.

And on the topic of short film. Ford, an occasional commenter on this blog has put together this brilliant deconstruction of campaign ads:

Last week Amanda came home with a box of velociraptor ‘bones’ and no instructions. We had a fun morning playing paleontologist.
This led us to show Charis the video by They Might be Giants[2] “I am a Paleontologist,”[3] which she loved.

One of my friends reminded me of the xkcd comic that went with this exercise:

The power of the velociraptor in the imagination of those of us who grew up with Jurrasic Park is one of my favorite xkcd themes. I even bought the t-shirt. But I find that I never wear it because I am afraid people who aren’t in on “velociraptor awareness day” will just think I am one of “those Christians” that thinks dinosaurs are a hoax.

This reminded me of a fun story from my environmental geotechnical days. Environmental geotechnics is a fancy way to say ‘landfill design.’ My advisor for my first graduate degree was one of the premier landfill design guys in the world[5]. Two of my colleagues did a lot of field work for him and found that they were having trouble picking up women in bars on the road. The seemed to think the problem was when they had to tell the ladies what they were doing in town…something like “I am studying the landfill.” So they concocted this elaborate alternate story that they were paleontologists.[6] They never did tell us if it improved their chances with the Utah bar women…but it was a fun story.

On the topic of fun videos…Dan and I have been trying to recruit an official YouTube consultant for our preaching. The idea here is that there are some people who can search, metabolize and retain an amazing number of entertaining YouTube clips and seem to find connections to one or another of these any conversation they are in. It seems to me that everyone who preaches needs an 18-22 year old who will look over the manuscript or passage and notes and do some free association with their internalized YouTube database. This seems like a great way to craft the most difficult part of any talk…the illustrations. And it might be a great ministry for someone whose talents are otherwise overlooked by the church. One student in particular has sent me this clip. I am sure it has gotten wide distribution, but it is worth looking at if you haven’t seen it yet.

I cut a bunch of stuff about The Wire from this post because it was getting long and I thought I’d give the material a post of its own. But I have found that my experience of The Wire has mirrored my experience of Mad Men. Both were difficult to get into. I quit on both multiple times and only went back to them based on critical acclaim[7] and repeated friend recommendations. Now I love both of them.

I have come to believe that the reason they were both hard to get into was precisely the reason they are both so good. They are both character driven by complex and interesting characters. But this means that the shows require time to build textured compelling characters before they begin to work from strength.

I felt like The Blind Side and Defiance were oddly similar movies for being from such distinctly different genres. They were both profound true stories, that were impossible to totally screw up…but they both suffered from choppy, heavy handed execution.

I am a Soccer guy. I actually still play. And so, it is no surprise that I love the World Cup. For the last several cups I have taken on a pretty substantial challenge, though: to design a pool that makes the event compelling to follow for other people who may not care so much. This is harder than it may seem. The two stage format makes a March Madness type pool impossible. But a ‘draft’ style pool has to be carefully crafted in order to make the early tournament rounds count for anything.[8] I have converged on the following format. Eight participants pick four unique[9] teams apiece in a ‘snake style’[10] draft. Then the accrue points as follows:

Win (outright) = 3 points
Win (in PK's) = 2 points
Tie = 1 point
+1 point for win margin of 2-3
+2 point for win margin of >3
+1 for Golden Boot (top individual goal scorer)
-0.25 for each red card
+1 for best goal differential that fails to advance out of the round robin stage
+1 for the most goalie saves after the round robin stage
-1 for the worst goal differential after the round robin stage
-10 each for most egregious dive and mullet (ok, that one's a joke, but if there was a way to quantify these I'd include them)

I found the following findings from a study on the correlation between money and happiness really interesting: “If the relationship between money and well-being is complicated, the correspondence between personal relationships and happiness is not. The daily activities most associated with happiness are sex, socializing after work and having dinner with others. The daily activity most injurious to happiness is commuting. According to one study, joining a group that meets even just once a month produces the same happiness gain as doubling your income. According to another, being married produces a psychic gain equivalent to more than $100,000 a year.”

So it turns out Jesus was right. Community is fundamental to humanness. Oh, and sex matters and commuting sucks…but we knew that.

I have heard Matt Chandler tell the story of his conversion a couple times. He usually includes his assessment that the Christian scene in the late 1980’s reminded him of a bad Saturday Night Live sketch feel to it[12]. He then quips:

“that is why I became a Calvinist…because I have no idea how anyone became a Christian in that room outside of a sovereign almighty God.”

I have decided that Calvinists sleep better than Armineans…but have a harder time getting out of bed in the morning.

I love having a three-year old in the house. She comes up with some startlingly fresh observations about life…and general hilarity. Here are a few:

She is on the tail end of toilet training which means she gets to wear ‘big girl panties.’ This has led to an unfortunate new name for my boxer shorts…which are now called ‘daddy panties’ in the Gibson house hold.

When she was 2 she also renamed buggers…to ‘nose snacks.’

And finally, there was this:

I could not be more proud. Surely the hokey pokey is not what it is all about. Much could be learned from a 3 year olds refusal to mindlessly sing false cliché.

I don’t usually recommend blogs until I have been following them for a while. As alluded to a couple posts ago, the hallmark of a helpful blog is consistency rather than virtuosity. But if Vegas offered odds on stuff like ‘will this blog be amazing’, I’d put a huge chunk of money on this one: [13]

I tried to screen capture 8/9/10 at 11:12 and 13 seconds. I missed.
“Truth must be stranger than fiction because we have crafted fiction to suit ourselves.” -GK Chesterton

Amanda asked me what I thought of the Twilight Mom’s phenomena[14] the other day, essentially asking, “Isn’t it a good thing that mom’s and daughters are spending time together and have a common interest.”[15] I responded in my standard bombastic and overstated manner. “I think it is like a father spending time with his son by introducing him to porn.”

Now that is intentionally overstated, but think about it. By introducing his son to porn a father would be celebrating and propagating a distorted image of womanhood, romance and sexuality. He would be doing a disservice to the son’s future wife by building unreasonable and unhelpful expectations of femininity and romance. Similarly, Twilight offers an impoverished vision of romance and a bankrupt view of manhood.[16] It offers a picture of romance that is narcissistic and juvenile.

Speaking of vampires…Is it more tragic when vampires die? In that scene in Two Towers[17] when the elves arrived at Helms Deep, when the elves started to die it was more tragic than the other deaths even of humans we had come to care about. Why is the death of an elf or a vampire more tragic? If a creature whose life span has no upper bound[18] by natural causes, dies it is more tragic because they are losing more by two measures. They are losing more future years[19] and they are losing more experiences and memories.

Helms Deep Painting

…and speaking of intentionally overstated…David over at Signs of Life started a discussion on an author’s assertion that calling a white person “racist” is the equivalent of a white person using the n-bomb. I have come to expect helpful discussions on this blog, but this one exceeded my expectations. I even got involved…as did the original author.

I was going through some old notebooks yesterday. I found my notes from my first day of graduate school. My soil mechanics class was taught by Dr Boscher, a Christian who died tragically of cancer since we left. I was thinking of him…mourning a little as I handled the notebook. Then I opened to the first page. At the very top of the first page of notes…before his name…before his office hours…well before the first equation, was a single quote:

“You are only temporarily not soil.”

This post was written while listening to Sing the Sorrow by AFI

Some stuff I am working on:

Avatar and the Clementian Super Organism Hypothesis
Photo Box Stratigraphy
Thoughts on The Wire
Cross Country with my Late Father
Cities Part 3 and 4: Las Vegas and Madison, WI
The Two Manipulations of our Political Discourse
Why don’t churches have ash trays?

[1] We got a baby sitter and went to the festival. One of the fun parts of the evening was that only 2 of the films were what I will call functional pieces (they had informational purposes and existed, only secondarily, as art). The other was a health services condom promotion (which was a spoof of The Office and was quite good).
[2] On the whole, the TMBG science podcasts aren’t bad. But the song ‘Science its Real’ is pretty lame…it should have been called “Logical Positivism, it may be philosophically passé but that doesn’t keep the scientific community (and our band) from wielding it like a club." I think my title is more accurate and even catchier, but it is harder to remember.
[3] There is a video title (with no video) spoof of this called “I am a Palin Apologisit.” Someone needs to write that song.
[5] No one gets a graduate degree without studying with ‘one of the premier experts’ in something. Knowledge is so fragmented that if you are at a major university and have a specialty, you are probably one of the top 5 people in that field. But my advisor was really really good at landfill design.
[6] The landfills were usually hazardous waste facilities so they tended to be in the same places you might find dinosaur bones (anywhere in Utah).
[7] Bill Simmons suggested that The Wire was the best ‘film’ of the 2000’s.
[8] Or to give people with late picks a shot.
[9] Once a team is selected it is no longer available…so all 32 teams end up ‘owned’.
[10] The person with the 8th pick also get’s the 9th pick while the person with the 1st gets the 16th.
[12] He describes a weekend in which he went to a Beasty Boys concert on a Friday night and a DC Talk concert on a Saturday night and his entire commentary on the experience is something like ‘Um, what?’
[13] In a recent post she mentions a friend who bought a house without a lawn and sold his lawn mower. I think she is talking about me. I hate mowing. It reminds me of the legend of sisyphus.
[14] For a few lucid comments on what is actually wrong with this narrative shaping our culture, see my brother’s post on it. Oh, then there is also this.
[15] A powerful question from a woman who always wanted more from her relationship with her mother and, from what I can tell, did not share a single common interest.
[16] I cannot remember who to credit this to, but one of my friends said something like “my biggest problem with the Transformer sequel was not the complete lack of narrative or the insult it was to my least functional brain cells. It is that these people experienced extraordinary things and it has not appeared to build their characters in any conceivable way.” This is also my problem with Edward. He is really really old, but rather than living in the wisdom of accumulated decades, the worst distortions of adolescence are magnified in him.
[17] Which made me cry but wasn’t in the book. Enterprising Tolkien truthers did some math to demonstrate that there was no way that even elves could have arrived at Helms deep in time to assist.
[18] I suppose you could say the same thing about Highlanders but because of ‘the game’ they face constant impending doom. In a sense, each day they live is an extra day.
[19] The first of these is one of the arguments I have heard used against abortion. We mourn the death of children more than the death of the elderly because, at least in part, it extinguishes more potential. By some common societal measure, we find deaths tragic in inverse proportion to the potential life extinguished.