So I had heard good things about the movie “Gravity,” starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, and was excited to see it if for nothing other than the visual experience. Now that I actually have seen it, I can say that astounding visuals — and some decent but certainly not stellar acting — were about all this movie gave us. I mean, a movie that wins seven Academy Awards is at least worth one viewing, right?
Barely. Where to start? The movie had no semblance of a story. The only reason we had to care about Sandra Bullock’s character was that she had a daughter back home, except that she doesn’t have a daughter back home anymore. Her kid got killed in a freak accident on the playground. That’s totally plausible, right? Bullock was playing a character named Ryan Stone, and when Clooney asked about her seemingly masculine first name, we learn that Ryan’s parents wanted a boy. So, not only does Stone have reason to despair over her daughter, she’s got reason to despair over her own life. Frankly, halfway through the movie I found myself not caring one whit whether she made it back to Earth or not. At one point before the final sequence, she even resigned herself to give up the ghost and seemed satisfied to wait and die to the sound of an Asian parent singing a lullaby to a baby over the crackle of the intercom. Hell, burning up in the Earth’s atmosphere sounds like about the most exciting thing that could have happened to her at that point, but I digress.
Not only do we have no reason to care for Bullock, her character is completely inept — you know, from a technical standpoint — which for those paying attention, some technical skills with space technology might have come in handy 3 kilometers above Earth. We learn from her conversations with Clooney that Stone failed all of her re-entry simulation tests before coming onto the mission, so she had no business whatsoever in space, with or without a crew. When she finally reached the International Space Station after Clooney and the other crew member died, seemingly safe for a little while, she failed to inspect the interior of the craft and missed the fact that a couple wires had a short. Because of this oversight and in the ensuing fire and explosion, she lost most of the station and was relegated to a small pod in an attempt to reach a Chinese space station, her last hope to make it home.
If all that weren’t bad enough, at the end of the movie, after finally reaching the Tiangong, without having a clue what she’s doing — this might be a bad time to start reading the instruction manual — she somehow manages to start the engine, detach her pod and inexplicably initiate re-entry into Earth by randomly pressing buttons through a rousing game of eenie meenie miney mo. I wish I was joking.
And this from a flick that won seven Academy Awards? I guess storytelling isn’t requisite in movies anymore.
Without the impressive visuals to save it, the rating would have been like -2.
So in the latest bastardization of the English language, AP Stylebook editors have now deemed that “over” is now an acceptable usage for “more than” when referring to numerical values.
Here’s AP’s explanation for the change:
We decided on the change because it has become common usage. We’re not dictating that people use ‘over’ – only that they may use it as well as “more than” to indicate greater numerical value.
This is now OK to the AP because “over” has apparently crept into “common usage” as a replacement for “more than.” The problem is that, as the AP well knows, “over,” like “around,” is a spacial term, not a way to estimate amounts.Amendments to the Stylebook such as this set a dangerous precedent for the English language. What if the unwitting public comes to no longer sees a distinction between “their,” “they’re” and “there.” What about “its” and “it’s?” Will AP eventually do away with these and other distinctions? Are we one day just going to let reporters use those words interchangeably just because the public can’t write their way out of a wet paper sack? Just because a word has become “common usage” in a certain context, are we just going to open the flood gates to the rabble’s terrible English? Apparently so, and so much for journalists as keepers of the language.
Too bad Jesus didn’t help this guy remember what he was supposed to say.
I particularly enjoyed Lawrence Krauss’ introduction to answering this question. A common tactic Christians use when asking questions, whether consciously or not, is to begin the query with the word, “why,” which implies that there must be an underlying reason or purpose for our existence. To ask “why” something is the way it is assumes that some kind of conscious force or creator is lurking behind the curtains pulling all the strings. In nature, “how” questions are exponentially more useful and interesting than “why” questions.
Whenever anybody tries to tell me that they believe it took place in seven days, I reach for a fossil and go, ‘Fossil.’ And if they keep talking I throw it just over their head.
I’m constantly amazed at Christians’ attempts to validate extra-New Testament sources which they say support their claims about Christ by using every rhetorical trick in the book. Take this guy:
Yes, you saw that correctly. He is actually making a case that an obscure passage from Josephus’ “War of the Jews” actually supports the case for the historicity of Christ, without actually mentioning the name Jesus. He builds his case on certain buzz words and phrases in the Josephus text, including “husbandman,” “three woes,” the “bride and groom” and “stone rolled away,” which oddly never appears in the passage from Josephus.
How many husbandmen does he suppose there were in ancient Palestine at the time of Jesus? Pretty much everyone, except priests, women, government officials and vagabonds. Further, the word “husbandman” doesn’t imply that the person was good, just that he was a farmer. Try tying Revelation to any work of literature that vaguely references something in the Bible. I bet it’s not that hard. Here I’ll try: Edgar Allen Poe’s poem “Annabel Lee” is really just one big allegory for the bride and bridegroom in Revelation.
He is willing to concede that Josephus’ famous passage about Jesus is an extrapolation, but points to another more obscure passage that doesn’t even mention a name and the only concrete identifying characteristic was that he was a sorrowful husbandman, although Jesus was supposedly a carpenter and only figuratively a shepherd, a reverential analogy within Christian circles for which Josephus, as a Jewish historian, would surely not have cared to advertise.
Glad he could clear that up for us.
Twitter was all a-bluster this week with a hoax — what a surprise? — about Ray Comfort and the story of Abraham sacrificing his son for God. A person named Martin Roberts supposedly asked Comfort whether he would be willing, like Abraham in the Bible, to kill his son to show his devotion.
Here is Comfort’s fictitious reply:
Of course I would do as The Lord commanded, it isn’t murder if it’s in God’s name, nothing he commands could ever possibly be considered evil as morality comes from God. Even cancer is a gift from God.
I would kill a thousand children if God asked me to, that’s because I have faith. As an Atheist you can’t possibly know the joy of faith. If The Lord commanded me to rape and kill my own children tonight it would be done by morning, you can’t shake my faith!
Comfort refuted this on his Facebook page:
I noticed an excessive amount of anger towards me today from indignant atheists, who were accusing me of saying “If the Lord commanded me to kill my own children tonight, it would be done by morning.” I never said such a horrible thing, nor would I. Please join me in prayer for the person who wrote this fake post.
Of course, that begs a question: Doesn’t a believer’s response to what I will call the Abrahamic dilemma really cut to the core of a person’s faith? If, for instance, a believer says he would, in fact, sacrifice his child, or otherwise commit some violent act against another human being, for God, this indicts him as a hideous person, at least based on our set of moral principles. If a Christian says he would not raise the knife and sacrifice his child for God, then the person is not a true believer.
Even if the words were falsely put into Comfort’s mouth, I think the first quote above is telling, for if a person has truly given their life over to God, then no act, however immoral it may seem to us, is off the table, so long as God commands it and so long as God is the progenitor of goodness itself. The person can simply make the plea, “God commanded me to do it,” and while we may lock him up and throw away the key, he may not face the death penalty on reason of insanity. Thus, so long as God “commands” it, rape can be good. Molesting young boys can be good, and it must be especially so among priestly circles in the Catholic Church. The same sort of “goodness” can apply to homicide and genocide, and since the Old Testament sets such a fine example for us, let’s throw in genital mutilation, the killing of the first born, pillaging, thievery, stoning and the rest of it.
This is why monotheistic religion itself, regardless of denomination, is dangerous when taken at face value and to its conclusive ends. It can be used as an excuse for any behavior, however mildly offensive or however vile. And in the Christian tradition, specifically, a person can make a career out of raping, killing and slashing his way through life, but as long as he comes back to the loving arms of the flock, repents and turns to Christ, he too can find absolution. And then, when his taste for bloodlust or sexual depravity returns, he can go back out into the world, cut a new path and return to the fold, time and again, rinse and repeat. This is known as the especially noxious notion of “once saved, always saved.” Or in other words, to quote the immortal words of the band Cake, “Jesus wrote a blank check:”
Note: Martin Roberts, the person referenced above, has contacted me and said Comfort’s response to the question about sacrificing his child to God was not a hoax and that his screenshot of the response was genuine. Given what I know about Comfort’s propensity to bend the truth and skew arguments to suit his own ends, I’ll take Martin’s word for it. But as I told Martin myself, the Facebook post, hoax or not, was almost beside the point, and I just used it as a way to lead into the main part of what I was going to say about Abraham’s decision and whether Christians today would be willing to take the same gambit to prove their faith.
This deconversion account almost precisely aligns with my own climb from the dangerous subversion of belief into the truth:
As the speaker in the video says, I didn’t initially set out to crucify my beliefs at the altar of atheism; I genuinely sought truth wherever it took me, even if it meant eviscerating my entire worldview. I attempted what I believed to be the noble and courageous path, and I find it disturbing that some believers attempt to denigrate people like me for simply thirsting after truth.
Simply put: They thirst after truth through the conduit of God and the Bible, I thirst after truth on its own merits.
So, I was browsing Facebook today and found this odd meme:
OK first, I guess it goes without saying that Jesus the man (assuming he didn’t summon any godly powers at the time) would have, if he existed, fallen a time or two as he made his way up to Calvary, but this meme asks users to affirm that they would, indeed, help Jesus get back on his feet. So, from the Christian standpoint, if you answer “No,” you are an asshole, or worse, an atheist, and if you answer, “Yes,” you are admitting that the master of the universe, who in previous episodes fed 5,000 or more people, walked on water and claimed to be the direct conduit to God Almighty, can’t manage the physical weight of a cross, even though in his “human” form, he was still, technically speaking, a god. Makes perfect sense.