Monthly Archives: August 2007

Webb, Halo, Wii, Wolfe, books, and the Thor Power Tool Co.

Webb went into a funny rant today about Halo 3 and “remember when they used to make enough product instead of hype and hype and hype and then, ‘Sorry, we can only release twelve.  Fight amongst yourselves.’”

This struck me a little more seriously than it should have because I asked about the Wii at BestBuy the other day and was told that they never have them in stock.  Every once in a while they get twelve or so (same number, but that’s how I remember it) and they immediately sell out and then they simply have a display that advertises something they don’t have.

That makes no sense.  Shortages should motivate a company to raise the price, if they can’t increase production cost effectively (and, the way mass production works, it should be possible that great demand would eventually lower the cost because it is cheaper per unit).

So what gives?

Well here’s one possibility.  I have no idea if it is the reason or something like it is or not.  Someone with better resources will have to figure it out.  The bottom line is that if companies are taxed for holding items in warehouses then they have an economic incentive to not release more than they are confident they can sell.

Gene Wolfe in a self-interview in his book Castle of Days, p. 287:

Q: What do power tools have to do with writing?

A.: A lot as it turns out.  The Thor Power Tool Co. used to keep a warehouse full of parts for their old tools.  That way, if someone who owned one of their old tools needed a new part, they could supply it.

Q.: That sounds good.

A. Thor thought so too.  The reason they were able to do it–pay for the warehouse and so on–was that they depreciated the old partson their tax return each year.  In other words, they said each year that the old parts were worth less than they had been the year before, since they would eventually become completely obselete and would have to be scrapped.

Q.: That sounds reasonable.

A.: The IRS didn’t think so.  They said that if Thor wanted to write them off, they had to scrap all of them right away.  Thor fought the case in court and lost.  The IRS then applied the decision to every other kind of business, including book publishing.

A.: Publishers don’t warehouse old parts.

Q.: No, but they warehouse old books, and they had been writing them off in the same way, becaue they would have to be pulped when they stopped selling.  Now they have to pulp them or remainder them, right away.

Like I said, this probably is not a perfect fit.  But something has to be going on.  How can Nintendo afford for a consumer to walk into a store and find a product is unavailable?  Aren’t they worried that consumer might decide to opt for another product?

It doesn’t make sense unless there is some economic incentive not to have too many in stock.

What does Harry Potter and the Blogosphere teach us about Xian leadership? (spoiler warning)

Executive summary: Harry Potter shows us that the leaders are sadly deficient and the blogosphere show us that most Christians are not.

I’ve left all this to my del.icio.us links, but I can’t stand to let it go. Newsflash to Harry Potter critics: The Bible nowhere ever says it is wrong to say Latin-derived words while waving a stick. There is nothing wrong with a fictional construct where people who show paranormal powers as the approach adolescence receive special training in how to use those powers. The X-men has been using the premise for decades without calling down railing judgments from Christian leaders, despite being a vehicle for pop-evolutionary mythology. Now there’s something for a Christian to object to.

But no. Our energy must be conserved for a woman who has just sent who knows how many thousands to google to try to figure out the significance of, “the last enemy to be defeated is death,” or “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

Let me change my executive summary: Harry Potter shows us that Stephen King is a more discerning guide to literary matters than a herd of Christian literary reviewers. Christian bloggers will actually find something valuable and worth considering in Stephen King. Compare this to Michael O’Brien’s intellectual pornography. What is going on?

Dip into O’Brien’s piece at any point, at any paragraph and virtually any sentence, and one is immediately overwhelmed by a need to think hard and find some way to believe that he was not self-conciously lying when he wrote his totally inaccurate claims about that book. Rowling believes children are innately good? Anyone who has read the series knows that is not remotely credible. But perhaps that’s what she thinks. Maybe he read it somewhere.

Harry knows only “selective love”? He died to protect the whole world Muggle and Wizard, Malfoy and Granger, Dursley and Weazley, alike. When he came back, Voldemort’s magic was no longer deadly to anyone.

What kind of idiot allow this sort of filth to be published? No, what sort of spiritual blindness and perversity thinks that this sort of garbage is actually pious?

Ooooh, here’s a nasty accusation.

Then there’s the adolescent romance in the atmosphere, a potent element when mixed with magic, usually latent but growing with each volume and culminating in domestic bliss for the central characters at the end of the final volume. Yes, Harry faces near-satanic evils, passes through an unceasing trial of conflict and woe, triumphs against insurmountable odds, saves the world, marries Ginny and brings forth with her a new generation of little witches and wizards. If it were a spoof or satire we might laugh.

That’s right. Rowling shows adolescent confusion abandoned in favor of true love, marriage, and multiple children. She’s going to Hell for sure. Laugh away.

By the way, I don’t like snogging among teens. It is foreplay for people who should be waiting (of marrying early). But I and a great many other Christian parents have noticed that our children find the whole idea gross and see that it doesn’t lead to any real good for Harry or his friends. But maybe Rowling is guilty for being too accepting of an overly permissive culture. If so, notice that the disappointment can be registered in a single sentence and that it doesn’t follow that therefore her books are the AntiChrist.

“The death of God?” many a reader will respond. “Surely he is making too much of the matter!

No, that’s not it at all. Try this.

“The death of God?” many a reader will respond. “Surely he is out of his #@$%#$@!% mind. Surely he is a know-nothing who makes his living by fear and offering to his audience a rationalization for arrogance.”

I’ll end with this question for your consideration: Does anyone remember Rowling making even one reference to traditional religion/magic either through the mention of voodoo or medicine men or the Qabbalah (sp?). Isn’t that strange? She had international wizards yet I don’t remember even one mention to a true cultural form of witchcraft. Everyone does magic the Tolkien way, not the actual way that magic is done in pagan cultures. How could she miss such an opportunity. Her books would not have sold much less. That would have made a real connection with forbidden occult practice that the Bible condemns. But instead she stayed firmly in the realm of Merlin and made-up tolkienesque “magic.”

Is the Sermon on the Mount not attractive?

I tried to read Brian McLaren once and just didn’t want to. It was some sort of fictional dialog between a successful pastor who found himself dissatisfied with his (financially solvent) life (not someone I can have much sympathy for) getting spiritual and intellectual direction from an African-American wise man named “Neo” (no not Morpheus, remember, but Neo).

John Barach has read some of his work. Here are some of his reviews:

So I was rather surprised how much I appreciated this column. It starts off rather mundanely:

I recently heard a provocative interview between Chicago pastor Bill Hybels and British filmmaker Richard Curtis. You will probably know of Curtis’ work, even if you don’t know his hame: “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” “Notting Hill,” “Love Actually,” “The Girl in the Cafe,” the Mr.
Bean films.

What you may not know is Curtis’ pivotal role in raising awareness and money regarding poverty, HIV, refugees, and other crises in our world today.

It goes on to talk about Curtis’ good deeds and finally reveals his motivation.

“The Sermon on the Mount is absolutely fundamental” to all of his motivation to use his wealth and influence on behalf of the poor and marginalized.

He described it as “the truest thing” he had ever read.

I know that Curtis may not be following some essential features of the Sermon on the Mount in any number of ways (namely acknowledging Jesus’ Lordship). Still, I found this all quite refreshing. The Sermon on the Mount is not supposed to repel people as an impossible burden, but to draw people and show them the beauty of being Jesus’ disciple.

It is a sad and tragic thing that this will be affirmed by McLaren and Curtis, while that desire for discipleship will be spit on as “legalism” and “covenantal moralism” by the new de facto leaders in the Reformed churches.

Quick note

Jandy totally scooped WebbAlert on the photo-alteration. By six days! (and showed some actual ethical concern as well)  If you want breaking news, subscribe to her feed.

And by the way, if you decide to subscribe to the podcast of WebbAlert, be careful with the pause feature.  Apparantly, Webb is so expressive that her eyes momentarily role back entirely into her head on occasion.  This is unnoticeable normally.  But if you pause at the wrong second you are suddenly staring at a horrifying pupilless, toothless zombie creature.  It’s like something out of the X-files.

Today is my Monday, though yesterday was no day of rest.

I’m completely wiped. I get done on Mondays at 9pm plus car trip back plus last minute errands plus weary brain-dead forgetfulness of errand details (milk) plus learning the second store to make up for forgetfulness is closed by 10pm.

But I got home with milk and martini cocktail mix and we finally put the vodka in the house to use. And fell asleep while watching a TV show (just one) before bed.

Here is more about our rather interesting day of firsts.

And I never got a chance to mention that Dad’s third chapter is published.

Grace: It is about the real god

There are lots of gods on offer today.

The lie that is “God.”

We all know we’re living in a post-Christian world but we also seem to be suppressing that knowledge. As a result, we actually making the situation worse since we are obstructing our opportunities to communicate the truth about the real god.

The question of God’s existence is not really like the question as to whether aliens or unicorns exist. Rather, it is a question about the existence of a specific person. Which god is God? We’d better off for the sake of accuracy, in most modern conversations, if we spelled out “god” without any capitalization.

Is the real god needy?

The Bible says that the real god–God, if you will–made everything. While some offshoots have arisen in the last couple of thousand years, originally this was a pretty powerful difference between God and other gods. The other gods made the universe from stuff they found, usually stuff they came from themselves.

The apostle Paul preached the true god by making just this point:

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served (therapeuo) by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.

The real god does not get from us, but he constantly gives to us.

No trading possible

What this means (among other things) is that we are in no position to give this god something that obligates him to do anything for us. Everything we have is his gift and we don’t have anything to give him that he does not already own.

Everything is gift

But we don’t have any need to trade with him for that very reason. Everything we have is his gift because he is the giving god who freely grants us our lives and everything else.

The faithful giver

Furthermore, God, the true god, does not leave us wondering about the future, but puts himself under obligation by promises. He even uses these promises to improve us. His demands are not due to his need, but due to his desire to bless us. When God tells us he opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble, this is not because humility is something god needs and by which we can earn anything from god. It is because God wants us to be humble people for our own good (just like He is humble).

Man fell from grace

All of the above explains why it can be rather perverse and dangerous to describe sin as a failure to earn blessing from God. Man would never have existed if God had not blessed him with creation, and God did far more, making him a king and promising him the whole world. This was all a gift given by God. Man was never in a position to truly earn anything.
In other words, the story of Adam and Eve is not a story of an employee refusing to meet the job requirements. Rather, it is the story of an adopted child attempting to rob and usurp the place of his father, and inventing evil interpretations of all his father’s gifts to him in order to justify his patricide.

God is still gracious.

Happily, while the real god is just, He also remains gracious–and reveals even more grace now than before. For now he not only gives to people He created as perfect, but continually forgives those who are far from perfect who trust Him for his promises in Jesus. Before, he gave gratuitously but effortlessly. But now he gives at the great cost of His own Son.

So God’s grace is revealed as much greater than anything revealed in our creation. But it is still consistent. God gave before and he gives more now.

Grace and monotheism

So, to believe in a god who is truly independent of creation mandates the word, “grace.” If God was not constrained or acted upon by some outside force to create, then creation is simply an act that springs from his own character. It was pure grace.

For the finite gods of the pagans, grace is an optional characteristic, but for the real god who made everything, it is an essential necessity.

The only right human posture was as a receiver of grace.

There can be no question then of a time when any creature could relate to God on the basis of trade or earning. To claim that humanity fell from such a relationship would be like saying that at one time it was fine to believe that God was finite and man was in a position to obligate Him. It is perverse. Man was always supposed to receive all good from God as a gracious gift. The tragedy was that he refused to continue in trust and gratitude, becoming instead thankless and suspicious.