Sunday, June 3, 2012

"Thank You"

I work at a Christian bookstore (no, I won't tell you which one).  Last night, a customer came in (like they do).  One of my co-workers answered all her questions, was very polite and helpful, and in doing so was even staying after her shift should have ended to help us get ready for closing.  The lady made her purchases, and then asked my co-worker "Now what do you say?"  There were several of us behind the counter, and we didn't understand what the woman wanted.  With all of us having failed her little test, she proceeded to launch into a vicious and angry tirade about how no one says thank you, questioning my co-worker's decency as a human being for failing to do so, and saying that "God wants you to say it." 

Rarely in my life do I feel the desire to slap little old ladies, but I felt it pretty strongly last night.  I know retail is a tough place to work, and these sorts of things happen all the time (with Christian businesses and non-Christian businesses alike).  But they shouldn't.  Being in a position of power over someone doesn't give you the right to treat them like they're less than human, and I wish that as a society we could understand that.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Back to the Beginning for the Man of Steel

Starting with the release of Justice League #1 on August 31st, DC Comics has begun a line-wide reboot: all previous titles cancelled, and 52 new series beginning at issue #1. This is certainly a big change up for The Man of Tomorrow, whose Action and Superman titles were numbering in the 900s and 700s, respectively. Yesterday saw the release of a new Action Comics #1, the relaunch of the series that began the superhero explosion of the late 30s with the introduction of Superman.

The Superman we originally saw in Action Comics #1 in 1938 was very different from the Superman known and loved worldwide today. If you never have, I'd encourage you to follow that link and read the first Superman story ever, only twelve pages long, but worth roughly a million dollars today. The Superman of 1938 couldn't fly, was raised in an orphanage, and showed little regard for law and order. Ignoring the introductory origin page, which heralds Superman as "Champion of the oppressed, the physical marvel who had sworn to devote his existence to helping those in need," it takes a page and a half before we can even tell if Superman is the hero, with him committing the crimes of kidnapping, assault, and breaking and entering (albeit in order to save an innocent woman from execution)!

It's hard to imagine the modern Superman assaulting a sleeping Governor in his mansion, even to save a woman's life. But, for this reinterpretation of Superman for a new generation, superstar comic book writer Grant Morrison has spoken of his intention of bringing the character back to his roots as a crusading champion of the oppressed, more concerned with justice and equality than with law and order. And, with Action Comics #1, Morrison delivers.

Reminiscent of the original Action Comics #1, Morrison drops us into the middle of a story already in progress. We open on business men in suits celebrating a deal with a drink. Superman burst onto the scene, calls them rats with money and guns, and tells them he's their worst nightmare. The police are in hot pursuit of the Man of Steel, and when they arrive on the scene, he's dangling a man over a precipice, refusing to put him down until he makes a full confession to "someone who still believes the law works the same for the rich and the poor alike. Because that ain't Superman." Already, in the first five pages of this issue, Morrison has introduced us to a Superman who looks a lot more like Christopher Nolan's Batman with his guttural growls and vigilante justice than he does like Christopher Reeve's Superman who doles out advice with a gentle tone and a smile.

Superman then leaps off the building, villain in tow, and carries them both down to earth, where the concrete cracks, and the man confesses to the use of illegal labor, no safety standards, the bribing of city officials, and lying to everyone. Superman then proclaims to his witnesses, "You know the deal, Metropolis. Treat people right or expect a visit from me." Then, after taunting the police, he dashes off into the night.

Then, we're reintroduced to two characters Superman fans know well: General Sam Lane, father of Lois Lane, and Lex Luthor, arch-nemesis of Superman. We find out that Superman appeared in Metropolis six months ago, and he (although they refer to Superman as an "it," common for the xenophobia typical of both characters' portrayal through recent years) has been getting progressively faster and stronger. Luthor has been hired by the Army as a consultant to help capture Superman, showing his typical disdain for the Man of Steel and raging ego.

Luthor's foot soldiers chase Superman into a tenement slum scheduled for demolition but not yet entirely uninhabited, naming it the "ideal inescapable trap." Superman takes blow after blow protecting these poor people from the soldiers after him, and, after the tanks knock the wind out of him, they step forward to protect Superman, saying "Enough! This guy just saved our lives! My kids! What the hell is wrong with you people?!" They protect Superman as he flees, but not before he tells them if they need him, he'll be around.

Escaping from his pursuers, Superman changes back into Clark Kent on the roof of his own run-down tenement building, where we're treated to a wonderfully humanizing scene between Clark and his landlady, as well as finding out that Superman himself lacks anything resembling financial security. Clark then calls his best friend Jimmy Olsen (sporting a truly horrible bowl cut) who's out on assignment with Lois Lane. We find out more back story here, as Lois tells us that Clark Kent works for the Daily Planet's rival newspaper (not named, but presumably the Daily Star). They chase a criminal enforcer (who works for the same man Superman accosted earlier) onto what becomes a runaway train. Superman stops the train and saves the day, but at the cost of his freedom, with issue #2 promising "Superman in Chains."

There's a lot to like about this issue. While I think the artwork could have been better, and the character designs (especially clothing and Jimmy's hair cut) left something to be desired, I think this issue is a great introduction to Superman for the new millennium. Everything about this issue, from his refusal to work within the bounds of a corrupt legal system to his blue jeans and t-shirt costume, shows us that Superman is here to stand up for the rights of the people who aren't strong enough to stand up for themselves.

Superman is not here to fight for law and order; he's here to be a champion for the oppressed, even if that means winding up on the wrong side of the law. Sure, he's not the beacon of hope and humility that I know and love, but I'm genuinely excited to read more about these earlier adventures of Superman as he learns what it means to be a hero, which isn't something I've been able to say about the ongoing Superman titles in a while. While I don't necessarily think Justice League #1 was all it could (or should) have been, I think that Action Comics #1 is a book that does a phenomenal job of reintroducing you to a classic character, giving you enough to be intrigued, but still leaving you wanting more.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Social Network & 2 Samuel 12: Reinterpreting History

A few weeks ago, I finally saw the social network, the story of how Mark Zuckerburg founded facebook, screwing over many friends in the process. An interesting movie, to be sure, but not an entirely true account of how things really happened.

There is a lot of truth in the story, however, and it ties into something that has been happening with the lives of the rich and powerful, be they internet company CEOs or ancient Hebrew kings: the reinterpreting of history to create an understanding of events that is more favorable to they way you want things to be understood. Watching the movie reminded about reading I had done in Word Biblical Commentary when I was researching a paper about 2 Samuel 12.

2 Samuel 11-12 is the account of King David's adulterous relationship with Bathsheba, a women he saw bathing, slept with, and got pregnant. To try and cover this up, David brought Bathsheba's husband home from the battlefield, but when he refused to go into his house and spend the night with his wife as long as the battle continued, David had him killed and took Bathsheba as his wife. Because God was angry with David, the child died, but then God bless David & Bathsheba's second son, Solomon, who succeeded David as king.

The interesting thing about this section of scripture in regards to the social network takes place in 2 Samuel 11:27b-12:15a (the section Nathan Condemns David in the link). In this section, God sends a prophet named Nathan to David who tells him a story about a rich man and a poor man who loses a prized lamb because of the rich man's greed and selfishness. David is outraged, and then Nathan tells him that he's the rich man. David is mortified and repents, so Nathan tells him that God has spared his life, but the child is still going to die.

So what does any of this have to do with the social network? Well, click on that link in the last paragraph again, and you'll notice that if you skip the section Nathan Condemns David, the story still makes sense without it. Some scholars (including the author of the commentary I mentioned) think that this is because this section is a later addition to the story:

"It is possible that the narrative contained in chaps. 11-12 was part of the Solomonic apologia or propaganda. To be possible it did not have to lie or distort facts; rather it had to appeal to what was already known or believed. At the same time, it had to reshape and supplement the shared information, beliefs and hopes. Thus the inherently detrimental David-Bathsheba-Uriah story could not be disregarded for it would not go away. However, it could be retold in less critical manner and it could be rendered innocuous by the addition of David's repentance, Yahweh's forgiveness and the punishment imposed. Thus the way was open for a future reversal of fortunes. Vv 24-25, in particular, contain an implicit promise of better things to come: Yahweh loved Solomon!" (Word Biblical Commentary vol. 11, pg. 166, emphasis my own)

Those in support of Solomon's kingship couldn't change the fact that David's mistakes were public knowledge. However, they could add to how those mistakes played out the story of David's repentance and the knowledge that God has forgiven the line of David for the sins committed.

Making a movie about a quiet nerd who worked hard to develop a website and then left friends who weren't making the best decision or all that invested in the company's future (as well as paying out a few hefty settlements here and there) would be kind of boring. And it wouldn't do much for Mark Zuckerburg's image.

But, if you make a movie about an underdog nerd billionaire with a sharp wit that hides a sensitive soul that just wants a girl back, you've done something: you've reinterpreted everything: he's not a guy who can be a jerk who just happened to nurture great idea into a billionaire dollar website; he's a tortured soul fighting the pretentious snobs who just wants to be loved.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Shameless Self-Promotion, Part Deux

In my continuing effort to conquer the internets, I did some more guest blogging for those misogynists over at Rules to Date Girls By. Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-check it out!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Logical Proof Against Either The Pledge of Allegiance or The Declaration of Independence

I've been thinking a lot lately about The Pledge of Allegiance, and have decided that it is irreconcilable with the ideals upon which the United States of America was founded as set forth in The Declaration of Independence. Consider the following:

1. Either the United States of America is devoted to the ideals of The Pledge of Allegiance or The United States of America is devoted to the ideals of The Declaration of Independence.
2. If The United States of America is devoted to the ideals of The Pledge of Allegiance, then The Declaration of Independence is un-American, since the ideals of The Declaration of Independence are in direct contradiction with the ideals of The Pledge of Allegiance.
3. If the United States of America is devoted to the ideals of The Declaration of Independence, then The Pledge of Allegiance is un-American, since the ideals of The Pledge of Allegiance are in direct contradiction with the ideals of The Declaration of Independence.
4. Therefore, either The Declaration of Independence is un-American, or The Pledge of Allegiance is un-American.

You might be asking yourselves, what is it about this pledge and this document that make them mutually exclusive? The answer is that one supports unequivocal loyalty and support to a system of a government, while the other does not.

The ideals upon which The Declaration of Independence are based do not support blind devotion to one's government. According to the Declaration of Independence, "Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed," and "whenever any Form of Government becomes is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government," as well as "when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is [mankind's] right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security." All of these quotes say the same thing: governments are based upon their ability to provide for the rights of the governed, and any government which does not provide for the rights of the governed should be abolished.

Conversely, The Pledge of Allegiance offers no such qualifications as to what kind of government it is to which we pledge. We are merely expected to pledge our loyalty to our flag and government, which stands indivisible (regardless of whether there have been any of the abuses and usurpations of which the Declaration speaks).

Friday, September 10, 2010

VH1 Makes New List of Top 100 Greatest Artists of All Time

Back in 1998, VH1 (then VH-1) made a list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, as voted on by musicians both young and old of various genres. They decided to do a re-vote, and this week unveiled the new list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, once again as voted on by musicians both young and old of various genres. I was curious about the differences between the two lists, so after some comparing and contrasting, I've created a side-by-side analysis of the 1998 version and the 2010 version listing the 1998 version on the left, with DFNL (Dropped From New List) next to the names of the artists who didn't make the cut this time around and the 2010 version on the right, with how far the artist rose or fell (or whether they're new to the countdown all together) noted next to their name (I had the lists all nice and spaced apart, but it didn't stay that way because blogger hates me):

1998 ---------------------------------------------------- 2010

1. The Beatles ----------------------------------- 1. The Beatles (same)
2. The Rolling Stones -------------------------- 2. Michael Jackson (+38)
3. Jimi Hendrix ----------------------------------- 3. Led Zeppelin (+1)
4. Led Zeppelin ----------------------------------- 4. Rolling Stones (-2)
5. Bob Dylan -------------------------------------- 5. Bob Dylan (same)
6. James Brown ---------------------------------- 6. Jimi Hendrix (-3)
7. David Bowie ------------------------------------ 7. Prince (+11)
8. Elvis Presley ----------------------------------- 8. Elvis Presley (same)
9. The Who --------------------------------------- 9. James Brown (-3)
10. The Police ----------------------------------- 10. Stevie Wonder (+1)
11. Stevie Wonder ------------------------------- 11. Bob Marley (+13)
12. Ray Charles ---------------------------------- 12. David Bowie
13. The Beach Boys ------------------------------ 13. The Who 
14. Marvin Gaye --------------------------------- 14. Nirvana 
15. Eric Clapton (DFNL) ---------------------- 15. The Beach Boys (-2)

16. John Lennon -------------------------------- 16. Madonna
17. Elton John ----------------------------------- 17. Queen
18. Prince ---------------------------------------- 18. Pink Floyd
19. Pink Floyd ----------------------------------- 19. U2
20. The Doors ----------------------------------- 20. Marvin Gaye (-6)

21. Aretha Franklin ----------------------------- 21. Bruce Springsteen (+6)

22. Fleetwood Mac ----------------------------- 22. The Clash 
23. The Eagles (DFNL) ----------------------- 23. AC/DC
 (New to List)
24. Bob Marley --------------------------- 24. The Velvet Underground (+50)

25. Van Morrison ------------------------------- 25. Chuck Berry
26. Chuck Berry --------------------------------- 26. Neil Young
27. Bruce Springsteen -------------------------- 27. Aretha Franklin 
28. Sly & the Family Stone --------------------- 28. Elton John 
29. U2 -------------------------------------------- 29. Radiohead 
(New to List)
30. Neil Young ---------------------------------- 30. Aerosmith (+49)
31. The Clash ------------------------------------ 31. John Lennon (-15)
32. Joni Mitchell ---------------------------- 32. Black Sabbath 
(New to List)
33. Queen ------------------------------------ 33. Guns N’ Roses 
(New to List)
34. Buddy Holly (DFNL) ---------------------- 34. Tina Turner 
35. Otis Redding -------------------------------- 35. Johnny Cash
36. Little Richard ------------------------------- 36. Paul McCartney
37. Al Green ------------------------------------- 37. Fleetwood Mac 
38. Elvis Costello -------------------------- 38. Sly & The Family Stone (-10)
39. Miles Davis (DFNL) ---------------------- 39. The Kinks
40. Michael Jackson ---------------------------- 40. The Police 
41. Janis Joplin ---------------------------------- 41. Van Halen
42. Nirvana -------------------------------------- 42. Metallica
 (New to List)
43. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers ----------- 43. Ray Charles
44. The Jackson 5 (DFNL) -------------------- 44. Joni Mitchell (-12)
45. Crosby, Stills & Nash (DFNL) ------------ 45. Al Green 
46. The Sex Pistols (DFNL) ------------------- 46. Ramones 
47. Creedence Clearwater Revival (DFNL) ------- 47. Jay-Z
 (New to List)
48. Van Halen ------------------ 48. Rage Against the Machine 
(New to List)
49. Roy Orbison (DFNL) ------------------ 49. Parliament-Funkadelic
50. R.E.M. ---------------------------------------- 50. Sade 
(New to List)
51. B.B. King (DFNL) -------------------------- 51. Billy Joel
52. Cream ---------------------------------------- 52. Beyonce 
(New to List)
53. Peter Gabriel --------------------------------- 53. Little Richard 
54. The Grateful Dead (DFNL) ----------- 54. Public Enemy
 (New to List)
55. The Byrds (DFNL) ------------------------- 55. Peter Gabriel
56. The Kinks ------------------------------------ 56. KISS
57. Steely Dan ------------------------------------ 57. Iggy & the Stooges 
58. Sam Cooke (DFNL) -------------------- 58. Cheap Trick
 (New to List)
59. Bo Diddley (DFNL) -------- 59. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
60. Earth, Wind & Fire --------------- 60. Whitney Houston 
(New to List)
61. Smokey Robinson (DFNL) ---------------- 61. Cream
62. Paul McCartney ----------------------------- 62. Genesis
 (New to List)
63. Sting (DFNL) ----------------------- 63. Notorious B.I.G.
 (New to List)
64. Frank Zappa (DFNL) ---------------------- 64. Talking Heads (+2)

65. James Taylor (DFNL) --------------------- 65. The Doors
66. Talking Heads ---------------------- 66. Justin Timberlake
 (New to List)
67. Kiss -------------------------------------------- 67. Coldplay
 (New to List)
68. The Allman Brothers (DFNL) ------------ 68. Otis Redding
69. Pretenders ------------------------------- 69. Tupac Shakur 
(New to List)
70. Stevie Ray Vaughan (DFNL) ----------- 70. Def Leppard 
(New to List)
71. Rod Stewart (DFNL) ----------------------- 71. R.E.M. 
72. Simon & Garfunkel (DFNL) -------------- 72. Janis Joplin 
73. Muddy Waters (DFNL) -------------------- 73. Van Morrison
74. The Velvet Underground ------------------- 74. The Cure
 (New to List)
75. Curtis Mayfield (DFNL) ------------------- 75. Rush
 (New to List)
76. The Bee Gees --------------------------------- 76. Run-DMC 
(New to List)
77. John Coltrane (DFNL) --------------------- 77. Lynyrd Skynyrd 
78. Billy Joel ---------------------------------- 78. Judas Priest
 (New to List)
79. Aerosmith ------------------------------------- 79. Eminem 
(New to List)
80. Tina Turner ------------------------------ 80. Mary J. Blige
 (New to List)
81. The Band ------------------------------------- 81. ABBA (New to List)
82. Devo (DFNL) ------------------------------- 82. Steely Dan 
83. Iggy Pop -------------------------------------- 83. Earth, Wind, & Fire
84. T. Rex (DFNL) ----------------------------- 84. Curtis Mayfield 
85. Carole King (DFNL) ----------------------- 85. The Band
86. Madonna ------------------------------------- 86. N.W.A. (New to List)
87. Santana (DFNL) --------------------- 87. George Michael (New to List)
88. Ramones ------------------------------------- 88. Bee Gees (-12)
89. Johnny Cash ------------------------------ 89. Beastie Boys (New to List)
90. Tom Waits (DFNL) ------------------------ 90. Elvis Costello (-52)
91. Gladys Knight & the Pips (DFNL)--------- 91. Green Day (New to List)
92. The Temptations (DFNL) ----------------- 92. LL Cool J (New to List)
93. The Four Tops (DFNL) -------------------- 93. Pearl Jam (New to List)
94. Diana Ross & the Supremes (DFNL) - 94. Mariah Carey (New to List)
95. Robert Johnson (DFNL) ------------------ 95. OutKast (New to List)
96. Lynyrd Skynyrd ----------------------------- 96. Journey (New to List)
97. Fats Domino (DFNL) ---------------------- 97. Pretenders (-28)
98. Traffic (DFNL) ----------------------- 98. Depeche Mode (New to List)
99. Parliament/Funkadelic ------------------ 99. Hall & Oates (New to List)
100. Paul Simon (DFNL) --------------------- 100. Alicia Keys (New to List)

(DFNL) = Dropped from New List

I’ll avoid stating my own personal feelings about the changes in the list, but I will provide you with some statistical analysis:

37 Artists new to list, highest spot 23 (AC/DC, Radiohead, Black Sabbath, Guns ‘N Roses, Metallica, Jay-Z, Rage Against the Machine, Sade, Beyonce, Public Enemy, Cheap Trick, Whitney Houston, Genesis, Notorious B.I.G., Justin Timberlake, Coldplay, Tupac Shakur, Def Leppard, The Cure, Rush, Run-DMC, Judas Priest, Eminem, Mary J. Blige, ABBA, N.W.A., George Michael, Beastie Boys, Green Day, LL Cool J, Pearl Jam, Mariah Carey, OutKast, Journey, Depeche Mode, Hall & Oates, Alicia Keys)

37 Artists dropped from list, highest spot 15 (Eric Clapton, The Eagles, Buddy Holly, Miles Davis, Jackson Five; Crosby, Still, & Nash; Sex Pistols, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Roy Orbison, B.B. King, Grateful Dead, The Byrds, Sam Cooke, Bo Diddley, Smokey Robison, Sting, Frank Zappa, James Taylor, The Allman Brothers, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Rod Stewart, Simon & Garfunkel, Muddy Waters, John Coltrane, Devo, T. Rex, Carole King, Santana, Tom Waits, Gladys Knight & The Pips, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Diana Ross & The Supremes, Robert Johnson, Fats Domino, Traffic, Paul Simon

Highest rise: Madonna (up from 86 to 16)

Biggest fall: Elvis Costello (down from 38 to 90)

Artists who climbed 25 or more spots: Michael Jackson, Nirvana, Madonna, Velvet Underground, Aerosmith, Tina Turner, Johnny Cash, Paul McCartney, Ramones, Parliament-Funkadelic, Billy Joel, Iggy & The Stooges

Artists who fell 25 or more spots: The Police, Ray Charles, The Doors, Otis Redding, Janis Joplin, Van Morrison, Steely Dan, Elvis Costello, Pretenders

Friday, August 6, 2010

Shameless Self-Promotion

I did a little guest blogging for some friends of mine. You should totally check it out!