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Heroes – What a Waste of Time June 29, 2007

Posted by bladeofgrass in Entertainment, TV.
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So I finished watching NBC’s Heroes some time ago only to be sorely disappointed by its unbelievably sloppy ending. Here are a few of my gripes (warning: spoilers ahead!):

1. Hiro goes into intensive sword-fighting training even though he has the power to stop time; it’s obvious that the reason why Hiro failed to kill Sylar the first time around was because he wasn’t skilled with the sword…

2. D. L. takes a hit instead of letting the bullet phase harmlessly through him and Nicky

3. Sylar stops bullets in mid-air but can’t stop a sword being plunged into his gut

4. All that build-up for nought: it was hardly a spectacular show-down between Peter and Sylar – all Peter does is glow

5. Why oh why did Nathan need to sacrifice himself? I seem to remember something about a plan to shoot Peter in the back of the head to stop him from exploding; oh and let’s not forget that the last time they stopped an exploding man, they used a tranquilizer

The Wonderful World of Miniclip April 8, 2007

Posted by bladeofgrass in Entertainment, Games.
3 comments

Just when you thought they didn’t make games like they used to…

Games at Miniclip.com - SkywireSkywire

Take control of the cable car and get the passengers to safety.

Play this free game now!!

Everyday, A New Leaf February 16, 2007

Posted by bladeofgrass in Christianity, Empathise, Poetry, Religion, Thought.
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A New Leaf
Anonymous

He came to my desk with a quivering lip,
the lesson was done.
“Have you a new sheet for me, dear teacher?
I’ve spoiled this one.”
I took his sheet, all soiled and blotted
and gave him a new one all unspotted.
And into his tired heart I cried,
“Do better now, my child.”

I came to the throne with a trembling heart;
the day was done.
“Have you a new day for me, dear Master?
I’ve spoiled this one.”
He took my day, all soiled and blotted
and gave me a new one all unspotted.
And into my tired heart he cried,
“Do better now, my child.”

Taken from A Slice of Infinity: The Forgiveness Factor

————

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

- Ephesians 2:8-10

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.

- Ephesians 5:8-10

Guggenheim Museum January 19, 2007

Posted by bladeofgrass in Around the World, Photography, USA.
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Guggenheim Museum (New York)

Looking up at the skylight of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York.

Resolution: 1600 x 1200

A Vote for Barack Obama January 18, 2007

Posted by bladeofgrass in Christianity, Politics, Religion, Thought.
2 comments

It’s been awhile since I was this excited about politics. I mean real politics (as originally intended) – politics aimed at ordering society for the betterment of its members, politics motivated by genuine empathy and concern for the suffering of fellow citizens – not the you-scratch-my-back-and-I’ll scratch-yours driven pork-barrel variety, nor the self-enriching, power-hungry sort, nor the flip-flopping, crowd-pleasing, reed-in-the-wind kind, but morally-motivated, principled politics, politics that speaks to the heart.

Click here if you have no idea who I’m talking about.

Faith doesn’t mean that you don’t have doubts.

You need to come to church in the first place precisely because you are first of this world, not apart from it. You need to embrace Christ precisely because you have sins to wash away – because you are human and need an ally in this difficult journey.

It was because of these newfound understandings that I was finally able to walk down the aisle of Trinity United Church of Christ on 95th Street in the Southside of Chicago one day and affirm my Christian faith. It came about as a choice, and not an epiphany. I didn’t fall out in church. The questions I had didn’t magically disappear. But kneeling beneath that cross on the South Side, I felt that I heard God’s spirit beckoning me. I submitted myself to His will, and dedicated myself to discovering His truth.

That’s a path that has been shared by millions upon millions of Americans – evangelicals, Catholics, Protestants, Jews and Muslims alike; some since birth, others at certain turning points in their lives. It is not something they set apart from the rest of their beliefs and values. In fact, it is often what drives their beliefs and their values.

And that is why that, if we truly hope to speak to people where they’re at – to communicate our hopes and values in a way that’s relevant to their own – then as progressives, we cannot abandon the field of religious discourse.

Because when we ignore the debate about what it means to be a good Christian or Muslim or Jew; when we discuss religion only in the negative sense of where or how it should not be practiced, rather than in the positive sense of what it tells us about our obligations towards one another; when we shy away from religious venues and religious broadcasts because we assume that we will be unwelcome – others will fill the vacuum, those with the most insular views of faith, or those who cynically use religion to justify partisan ends.

In other words, if we don’t reach out to evangelical Christians and other religious Americans and tell them what we stand for, then the Jerry Falwells and Pat Robertsons and Alan Keyeses will continue to hold sway.

More fundamentally, the discomfort of some progressives with any hint of religion has often prevented us from effectively addressing issues in moral terms. Some of the problem here is rhetorical – if we scrub language of all religious content, we forfeit the imagery and terminology through which millions of Americans understand both their personal morality and social justice.

Imagine Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address without reference to “the judgments of the Lord.” Or King’s I Have a Dream speech without references to “all of God’s children.” Their summoning of a higher truth helped inspire what had seemed impossible, and move the nation to embrace a common destiny.

Our failure as progressives to tap into the moral underpinnings of the nation is not just rhetorical, though. Our fear of getting “preachy” may also lead us to discount the role that values and culture play in some of our most urgent social problems.

After all, the problems of poverty and racism, the uninsured and the unemployed, are not simply technical problems in search of the perfect ten point plan. They are rooted in both societal indifference and individual callousness – in the imperfections of man.

Solving these problems will require changes in government policy, but it will also require changes in hearts and a change in minds. I believe in keeping guns out of our inner cities, and that our leaders must say so in the face of the gun manufacturers’ lobby – but I also believe that when a gang-banger shoots indiscriminately into a crowd because he feels somebody disrespected him, we’ve got a moral problem. There’s a hole in that young man’s heart – a hole that the government alone cannot fix.”

- Barack Obama in his “Call to Renewal” keynote address

* Addendum – I fear that taken on its own, the above text might be slightly confusing or even offensive to some. Please understand that I have only quoted what is relevant to my comment about “real politics”. The excerpt here can only be fully appreciated in its proper context. Follow the link above to see the full transcript (highly recommended!) or click here for a commentary by Slate magazine.

Many thanks to Peish for first alerting me to this article.

Footprints in the Sand – The Narnian Edition (YHWH) January 7, 2007

Posted by bladeofgrass in Books, Christianity, Entertainment, Fiction, Philosophy, Quote, Religion, Thought.
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While I thoroughly enjoy “The Chronicles of Narnia”, my favourite book in the series is, most probably, “The Horse and His Boy”, which comes just after its more famous cousin “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”. The plot basically traces the adventures of Shasta, a young boy forcibly separated from his family at birth, ill-treated by his adoptive father and about to be sold into slavery when he escapes with Bree, a talking stallion from Narnia (nearly all the animals in Narnia talk, if you don’t already know that). The two of them meet in Calormen and decide to head north, towards Narnia. On the way, they run into Aravis (the daughter of a Calormene lord) and Hwin (a talking mare), also on the run, and the four become travelling companions. The extract below comes towards the end of the book. By this time, Shasta has been through an awful lot (as you will soon find out) and is sent, alone, on a mission to warn the Narnians of an impending attack by the Calormenes.

“I do think,” said Shasta, “that I must be the most unfortunate boy that ever lived in the whole world. Everything goes right for everyone except me. Those Narnian Lords and ladies got safe away from Tashbaan; I was left behind. Aravis and Bree and Hwin are all as snug as anything with that old Hermit; of course I was the one who was sent on. King Lune and his people must have got safely into the castle and shut the gates long before Rabadash arrived, but I get left out.”

And being very tired and having nothing inside him, he felt so sorry for himself that the tears rolled down his cheeks.

What put a stop to all this was a sudden fright. Shasta discovered that someone or somebody was walking beside him. It was pitch dark and he could see nothing. And the Thing (or Person) was going so quietly that he could hardly hear any footfalls. What he could hear was breathing. His invisible companion seemed to breathe on a very large scale, and Shasta got the impression that it was a very large creature. And he had come to notice this breathing so gradually that he had really no idea how long it had been there. It was a horrible shock.

The Thing (unless it was a Person) went on beside him so very quietly that Shasta began to hope he had only imagined it. But just as he was becoming quite sure of it, there suddenly came a deep, rich sigh out the the darkness beside him. That couldn’t be imagination! Anyway, he had felt the hot breath of that sigh on his chilly left hand.

[…]

Once more he felt the warm breath of the Thing on his hand and face. “There,” it said, “that is not the breath of a ghost. Tell me your sorrows.”

Shasta was a little reassured by the breath: so he told how he had never known his real father or mother and had been brought up sternly by the fisherman. And then he told the story of his escape and how they were chased by lions and forced to swim for their lives; and of all their dangers in Tashbaan and about his night among the tombs and how the beasts howled at him out of the desert. And he told about the heat and thirst of their desert journey and how they were almost at their goal when another lion chased them and wounded Aravis. And also, how very long it was since he had had anything to eat.

“I do not call you unfortunate,” said the Large Voice.

“Don’t you think it was bad luck to meet so many lions?” said Shasta.

“There was only one lion,” said the Voice.

“What on earth do you mean? I’ve just told you there were at least two the first night, and–”

“There was only one: but he was swift of foot.”

“How do you know?”

“I was the lion.” And as Shasta gaped with open mouth and said nothing, the Voice continued. “I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the Horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you.”

“Then it was you who wounded Aravis?”

“It was I.”

“But what for?”

“Child,” said the Voice, “I am telling you your story, not hers. I tell no one any story but his own.”

“Who are you?” asked Shasta.

“Myself,” said the voice, very deep and low so that the earth shook: and again, “Myself”, loud and clear and gay: and then the third time “Myself”, whispered so softly you could hardly hear it, and yet it seemed to come from all round you as if the leaves rustled with it.

[…]

“Was it all a dream?” wondered Shasta. But it couldn’t have been a dream for there in the grass before him he saw the deep, large print of the Lion’s front right paw.

- “The Horse and His Boy” by C. S. Lewis

Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”

God said to Moses, “I am who I am . This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ “

God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.

- Exodus 3:13-15

————

I Am
by Bebo Norman
Big Blue Sky

Come along, I’ll walk you through the world
And we will sing a different song
All along you have unfurled
But I will hold you from now on
I saw the day when you had lost your way
I saw the sun sinking low
I saw the night, remember how you cried
But don’t you know you’re not alone
You’re not alone

Because
I am in the sun, I am in the shade
I am in the light that love has made
I am in the cold, I am in the warm
I am in the center of your storm
I am in the fire, I am in the flood
I am in the marrow and the blood
When you cannot stand… I am

Come with me, I’ll take you to the sea
And it will be all beautiful
And all the water that covers everything
Cannot compare to my love
For you my love

Because
I am in the sun, I am in the shade
I am in the light that love has made
I am in the cold, I am in the warm
I am in the center of your storm
I am in the fire, I am in the flood
I am in the marrow and the blood
When you cannot stand… I am

When the light won’t come
When your breath is gone
When your hope is done
Just look at me, look at me

Because
I am in the sun, I am in the shade
I am in the light that love has made
I am in the cold, I am in the warm
I am in the center of your storm
I am in the fire, I am in the flood
I am in the marrow and the blood
When you cannot stand… I am

————

The song can be sampled here.

Zune Ads January 4, 2007

Posted by bladeofgrass in Advertising, Entertainment, Technology.
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Specimen 1: An official (read: prosaic) Zune Ad by Microsoft (there’s more where this came from)

Specimens 2-5: Cool (boardering on the bizarre) Zune Ads done by various artistes at Zune Arts

For the uninitiated, the ads centre on the concept of “squirting” (hey, don’t look at me, that’s the official term for it!) songs from one Zune to another i.e. file sharing (see “Zuneconomics” for details). If you haven’t already had enough, go visit their website for more!

Crazy Inventions January 2, 2007

Posted by bladeofgrass in Advertising, Entertainment, Technology.
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First up… the amazing Fire-Fighting Flower that doubles as a (surprise, surprise) fridge magnet! No more unsightly fire blankets or unwieldy cannister-type fire extinguishers lying about on the kitchen floor – whoopee! Just don’t ask me how it works.

Fire-Fighting Flower

Next comes a complete arsenal of USB-powered accessories – gloves, slippers, eye-warmers, seat-warmers and seat-coolers from Thanko. Now you can keep yourself warm on those long-haul flights (what do you mean your laptop already doesn’t have enough juice?) or stay toasty when you use your laptop in the freezing outdoors. Also, while I have no idea how much power can actually be generated via USB, I really don’t expect the fan action on that seat-cooler to do much in terms of effective cooling… and seriously, if you’re at your desk, why don’t you just connect to the power mains?

USB Seat-Cooler

With all these crazy inventions, you’d better brush up on your Japanese before you get left behind!

Vatican City Sentinels December 31, 2006

Posted by bladeofgrass in Around the World, Photography, Vatican City.
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Vatican City Sentinels

As many as 140 statues of saints perched atop Doric entablature. The collossal, four-column deep, 60-feet tall colonnade rises high above the maddening crowd in Piazza San Pietro (Saint Peter’s Square).

Resolution: 1600 x 1200

Be Near – God with Us December 25, 2006

Posted by bladeofgrass in Christianity, Empathise, Entertainment, Music, Poetry, Religion, Thought.
2 comments

I’ve liked this song for some time now, but the lyrics have been somewhat puzzling. They’re straightfoward enough, but the biblical inspiration behind them completely eluded me until recently; now the song is so much more meaningful.

————

Be Near
by Shane & Shane
Carry Away

You are all
Big and small
Beautiful
And wonderful
To trust in grace through faith
But I’m asking to taste

For dark is light to You
Depths are height to You
Far is near
But Lord, I need to hear from You

Be near, oh God
Be near, oh God of us
Your nearness is to us our good
Be near, oh God
Be near, oh God of us
Your nearness is to us our good, our good

Your fullness is mine
Revelation divine
But oh to taste
To know much more than a page
To feel Your embrace

For dark is light to You
The depths are height to You
Far is near, but Lord
I need to hear from You

Be near, oh God
Be near, oh God of us
Your nearness is to us our good
Be near, oh God
Be near, oh God of us
Your nearness is to us our good, our good

————

The chorus is inspired by Psalm 73, where the psalmist expresses his spiritual weariness with the continual struggle to keep a “pure heart”. He laments that those who live lives apart from God seem to have it easy – in fact he finds such a lifestyle highly enticing, and outlines some of its supposed benefits. However, upon serious evaluation, he acknowledges God’s amazing provision and concludes:

But as for me, it is good to be near God.
I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge;
I will tell of all your deeds.

- Psalm 73:28

The bridge was a little more difficult to make sense of. I didn’t understand how darkness could be light to God if He was holy and would have nothing to do with the deeds of darkness. Psalm 139 sheds some light on this (excuse the pun). The psalmist here speaks of how he is “hem[med]” in by God – he cannot “flee” nor “hide” from Him because the all-powerful omniscient God created him and knows him thoroughly:

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”

even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

- Psalm 139:11-12

Both psalmists recognise the faithfulness of God and thank him for sustaining them through the ups and downs in life – when others scoff at them for leading the lives they live, or when they themselves feel like abandoning it all and turning away from God. They admit to occasional lapses in judgement, but in their saner moments, they are grateful that He has held on firmly to them (sometimes in spite of their kicking and screaming) and beseech him to never let them go:

I was senseless and ignorant;
I was a brute beast before you.

Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.

You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.

Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.

My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.

- Psalm 73:22-26

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.

See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

- Psalm 139:23-24

It is in this light that the cry “be near, oh God” is so much more than simple words can express – especially when our hearts feel so far from him, especially when we lack the desire to draw close to him.

And thankfully, God, well aware of human frailty, did not wait for us to draw near to Him, but took the initiative to draw near to us, through his son Jesus Christ:

[...] Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”

- Mark 1:14-15

“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.”

- Matthew 1:23

The amazing truth is that God longs to draw near to us; indeed, through Christ, He has already drawn near to us. It is us who have pushed Him away. In our continued rejection He waits, patiently, for us to someday acknowledge Him and put our hand in his:

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.

- Ephesians 2:13

Come near to God and he will come near to you [...]

- James 4:8

Have a blessed and meaningful Christmas.

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