Friday, June 29, 2012

Pre-Flight Rituals and Pre-Scripted Prayers

Female flight attendant of Air DolomitiIf you’ve traveled by air even just a few times, you probably know the drill by now. The flight attendant stands at the front of the plane, and a voice from the overhead speakers asks you to give her (very rarely, him) your undivided attention.

One or two passengers actually complies, while the rest of the passengers simply keep their conversations down low and try their best not to disturb the ritual, while the flight attendant goes through the safety procedures associated with air travel.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Acting As If The World Is Watching

Aiwa TV-A2017STrue confession: When I was a kid, I used to imagine that my life was a television show. As time passed, perhaps as I realized that a "show" only lasted for perhaps an hour or so, I imagined that I was the star of an entire television network. All me, all the time. Before reality television had actually come to exist, I imagined my life as being in some proto-form of what it ultimately came to look like.

As I understand it, it's pretty normal for children to imagine that they're the center of their own universe. Perhaps they don't think of themselves as television celebrities, but they nonetheless do tend to think that the world revolves around them. It is only as they get older and more mature that children begin to realize that, however interesting they may think their own lives are, other people tend to have other things to think about and be interested in. If a person doesn't grow up to realize that they aren't always going to be the center of attention, we rightly think that there is something wrong with them.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Why Don't We Expect Our Leaders to Prioritize Their Own Families?

'successful business woman on a laptop' photo (c) 2007, Search Engine People Blog - license: lot of folks in the blogosphere have been reading and commenting on the recent cover story from The Atlantic, "Why Women Still Can't Have It All," by former State Department director of policy planning Anne-Marie Slaughter, and I'm no doubt a bit behind the curve by having only taken the time to read it this past weekend. I was a bit concerned by the title, which conjured up messages I've heard all too often from evangelical leaders: "Women suffer when they abandon their God-given role of wife and housewife to seek other kinds of employment." I'm going to take it for granted that readers understand that I don't buy into that position. The point here is that I've heard statements quite similar to that repeated off and on through the years, and that I was pleasantly surprised to find that this was not Slaughter's position at all. Rather, she writes an honest account of the difficulties facing women in the workplace today while advocating for the kinds of fundamental changes that must take place before the situation can improve the way she (and those who agree with her basic position, including myself) believes that they can indeed improve over time.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Video Game 30th Anniversary of the Month - Super Pac-Man

In last month's video game feature, I mentioned that Mario was "the most famous videogame character of all time," and I stand by that assertion. However, in 1982, this was not yet the case. Mario didn't really hit it big until the introduction of the Nintendo Entertainment System (in 1985) started promoting his character with every console sold. In 1982, Pac-Man was still the videogame character du jour. In 1982, Pac-Man not only started to hit the home console market, but had his own Saturday Morning cartoon show (Mario may have been a part of Saturday Supercade, but he wasn't even the featured star of the segment he appeared in), had a top-ten Billboard single, and Super Pac-Man — the third game of the Pac-Man arcade franchise — was released (we'll deal with #4, which also came out in 1982, in a couple of months).

At first glance, Super Pac-Man looks like a simplified version of Pac-Man. The maze isn't as complex, and there aren't as many items to have to eat, while the standard four energizers remain on the corners of the board (these are invisible in the image above because, as with the original game, they flash on and off, and that particular shot was simply taken during an "off" instant). As before, eating one of those energizers will turn the ghosts blue and vulnerable to being eaten by Pac-Man. Fruit remains a part of the game, although with an increased role, actually taking the place of the standard dots that populated the original Pac-Man board (but still changing after every board). But there are a few additional twists that make that apparent simplicity become more complicated quite quickly. The first of these are the keys scattered across the board, which must be eaten to open up various parts of the maze before Pac-Man can enter them.

The main change, however, comes from those two yellow dots near the center of the screen. You may have guessed from the preceding screenshots that these dots change size, growing and shrinking rapidly back-and-forth. When Pac-Man eats one of these dots, he becomes "Super Pac-Man" and grows to twice his normal height and width (too large, in fact, to actually fit within the maze properly, although the Super Pac-Man character seems not to be bothered by this). Super Pac-Man cannot be killed by the ghosts (who appear in a squashed form while Super Pac-Man exists) and he moves right past them as if they're not even there (I suppose that the idea is that you're flying over them). Also, Super Pac-Man is able to eat right through the doors that would otherwise require a key to open them, and is capable of extra speed at the touch of a button. Like the standard energizer, this mode is only a temporary one, and the end of the time is signified as Super Pac-Man flashes between white and yellow a few times before resuming his normal Pac-Man size. Super dots and energizers can be combined, not only granting you both powers at once, but also prolonging the time before you revert to normal.

Like the original Pac-Man game, there is a bonus that appears in the center of the screen. In this case, however, it is a star that must be eaten while the two blocks on either side of it flash between several other icons. If you're very lucky, when you eat the star, the icons on either side will match, thereby increasing your bonus (if you really want to see unmatched icons, you can click this link).

Another new feature of Super Pac-Man is a timed bonus stage. No ghosts, and you get to be Super Pac-Man for as long as the time lasts. But even with the extra Super Pac-Man speed, it is a challenge to get all of the items (donuts, in this case) cleared away before the time runs out. If you do, of course you will get points corresponding to how much time remains.

Super Pac-Man contains an oddity that, I think, is unique among Pac-Man games in the fact that you can actually enter the ghost haven in the center of the board. I usually only do this as Super Pac-Man (it's safer, after all), but you can actually enter as normal, vulnerable Pac-Man... if you dare!

Sadly, this game is considered among the least successful of the Pac-Man franchise of the 1980s. A couple of the reasons aren't too hard to guess. While the extra speed feature in "Super" mode is nice to have, it can result in making it hard to control the character through the maze, and the oversized icon messes with your hand-eye coordination as you try to maneuver through those bends and turns, making things doubly difficult. Suffice it to say, Super Pac-Man didn't do so badly that Namco stopped making Pac-Man games. But I'll get to the next game in the series in due time....

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Transformers Feature: Shattered Glass Galvatron

Not all BotCon exclusives are created equal.

Now, there are probably any number of ways in which that statement is true. Probably most people will think of the fact that some exclusives are such absolutely brilliant ideas that of course they're going to be popular. While there's no denying that some exclusive ideas are more popular and/or inspired than others, that's not really what I'm getting at here. What I'm thinking of for the purposes of this post are exclusives that arise out of concepts that were not originally created with the express purpose of creating an exclusive toy in mind, but which were nonetheless demonstrated in a Fun Publications comic or other related piece of fiction, and which were only later made into toys available to those who attended the convention. Razorclaw and Elita-1 (sold together as the "BotCon Anniversary Pack" in 2009) were two such toys. Shattered Glass Galvatron is another.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Translation Accuracy or Political Correctness?

One doesn't have to look for very long in any discussion on "favorite Bible translations" before two things happen, usually right on the heels of each other.
  1. The discussion turns to whether or not the translation is gender inclusive (even if that precise term isn't always used, the topic comes up. Include any relevant similar term in this point).
  2. Translations that go too far (in the opinion of some) in their attempt to be gender inclusive are quickly accused of doing so in order to be "politically correct" (note that this term is pretty much always used pejoratively, and usually communicates a change made out of fear of offending some group or another).
This pattern demonstrated itself in a recent post over at Kurt Willem's blog, in which he discussed on his own recent preference-shift toward the CEB, while also praising the now-defunct TNIV. An early comment suggested that "the NIV has become victim of political correctness run amok." In this particular case, the only gender-related comments were related to language for God the Father (he wants to retain the gender-specificity of the Greek there), and this was quickly cleared up, as the NIV — and the TNIV and the CEB — all retain such gender-specificity in reference to the persons of the Trinity. Still, the question of gender-inclusion had already been raised in Willem's own remarks, and now the discussion was engaged in earnest.

Friday, June 15, 2012

(Mostly) Transformers Feature: Reveal the Shield "Goldbug"

Old-school Transformers fans will be aware that Goldbug was the name given to the character of Bumblebee as that character was given a 2nd toy (almost unheard of at the time for a Transformers character) in 1987. After that, Hasbro reverted back to the Bumblebee name, relegating the Goldbug name to something of a footnote in history. Although BotCon, which rather specializes in obscure fan-oriented references, did an evil Goldbug toy just a few years ago, Hasbro tends only to use the Bumblebee name on toys released to general retail (and there are a lot of retail Bumblebee toys these days. There's even a debate in the fandom about the fact that Hasbro is doing so many Bumblebee toys, it's sometimes hard to find other toys on the shelf amid the seemingly endless supply of Bumblebees!). Thus, even a toy that's clearly intended to be a Goldbug homage was given the name "Gold Bumblebee," and even that toy wasn't given a proper "Goldbug" head, but simply repainted the existing Bumblebee head (it was just a redeco of a previously existing figure, after all) in blue.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Why I Continue to Support Montreat College, and Why You Should, Too

This message is written to a more focused audience than what I usually write. Today, I am writing specifically to people who are alumni of Montreat College (whether under that name, or its former name of "Montreat-Anderson College"). If I may be so bold as to do so, I am writing in my capacity as the Student Body President for the 1994-1995 academic year (incidentally, the final Student Body President in Montreat-Anderson College history, thanks to that name change).

Monday, June 11, 2012

Is Your God Boring You?

I've worked in and around Christian environments for pretty much my entire adult life. In quite a few of these settings, I've heard the concern that worship experiences that differ from the experiences of another generation may be influenced by an unhealthy desire to "entertain" audiences. I find this to be a difficult criticism to respond to. It's not that I haven't tried, but rather that the issue is a fairly deep one. If a person "enjoys" a worship experience, are they not entertained by it? Is this a bad thing? Surely we're not trying to argue that people should never enjoy themselves when worshiping God!

Friday, June 08, 2012

REPOST - Top Ten Reasons Why Men Should Not Be Ordained

This post is the final one I'll be doing to tie in with "A Week of Mutuality," hosted by Rachel Held Evans this week (the week of June 4-10) at her blog, You can head to this link to learn more about the project. I had to think long and hard about this one, since I've already posted this list twice previously on the blog, and was reluctant to post it for a third time, as I don't think just posting and reposting the same material is a good way to keep a blog fresh and interesting. However, this week has already proven to be an exception, and I ultimately came to the conclusion that I needed to post the whole thing one more time, taking the opportunity to put the list in some context while providing a fitting closure to the week.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

REPOST - The Importance of Sharing Stories

This post was originally written in observance of International Women's Day in 2008. As with all reposts for this "Week of Mutuality" event, I have updated the material somewhat.

One thing (among many) that I learned from David Scholer was the observance that it seems "especially true" that feminists thrive on sharing personal stories, as he says when he relates his own story of work on behalf of women in church ministry, as he wrote it for Christian Feminism Today back in 2006.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

REPOST - All Translation is Interpretation

When I wrote Monday's post, I argued for a different "starting point" for discussing women in ministry than 1 Timothy 2:11-12. I left open-ended the question of "so what, then, do we do with this passage?" This post, originally written in 2006, is one attempt at an answer. As with all reposts for this "Week of Mutuality" event, I have updated the material somewhat.

When I was a student, briefly, at a Presbyterian seminary in Kentucky, my professor of exegesis constantly repeated the mantra, "all translation is interpretation." I have often found this to be true as I've learned more about Biblical studies and interpretation, but in few areas as obviously as in issues relating to gender equality.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

REPOST - The Legacy of Dr. David M. Scholer

The following is an expanded version of an article originally published in the SEMI (Fuller's student newsletter) in October, 2008, which had devoted the issue to remembering Dr. David M. Scholer. I have revised and updated it somewhat to reflect a few changes in my wife's and my lives in the past four years.
When I joined my then-girlfriend Michelle in enrolling in David Scholer's course, "Women, the Bible, and the Church," I didn't realize that it would end up changing my life.

It may come as a surprise to some to learn that I had never given the matter of whether or not women were allowed to be pastors and ministers a second thought until I was in college. To at least some extent, this is undoubtedly because, as a male, I have had the luxury of never having had my own potential ability to become a church leader challenged. But it’s also due to the fact that, having grown up in the PC(USA), I was accustomed to seeing women in such positions from time to time, if admittedly nothing like as often as I’d seen men in those positions.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Starting Points

"When looking to interpret difficult passages, clear passages should help illuminate unclear ones."

How many of you have heard this bit of advice when being taught how to read the Bible? Maybe it's just my seminary education talking, but I know I've heard it an awful lot. There are definitely ways in which this is good advice. Unfortunately, I've learned over the years that determining precisely which passages are the "clear" ones that help with which other "unclear" passages is, itself, an act of interpretation. Indeed, it's a very important act of interpretation, as the passage you choose as your "starting point" has implications for a great deal of not only how you come to understand what the Bible teaches, but consequently in how you live out your walk with Jesus and the Church.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Politicians and Messiah Language

Obama isn't Superman, either.
About four years ago now, during the previous presidential election season, a number of Christian commentators tried to send a message to the American people. The message took many forms and used varying details, but one phrase kept popping up: “Obama is not the Messiah.” Now, I don’t want to make too much of the fact that Obama was the candidate being discussed here. This isn’t really about the fact that many Christians are opposed to Obama for ideological reasons. In theory, this accusation could have been made about anybody, provided that the candidate had the wellspring of popular support and of people placing their hopes in his candidacy that Obama had at the time.


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