Netflix, Facebook and the loss of perspective

27 September 2011

Sorry I haven’t been around, folks.  I’m not sure what it was — a mild bug that my body was fighting off, mental preparation for the local school district’s two-week fall break (which meant my whole family would be home all day, getting in each other’s hair), one of my periodic bouts with depression, or some combination of the above with or without other factors.  But I found it very hard to write last week — and when you try to force yourself to write, I’ve found, the results are less than ideal.  So I did my best to relax and not worry about it (not my natural bent) and got back on the horse yesterday and today.

So what was I spending time on when not writing?  Reading.  I cleared out two novels; started a third (almost done); kept up on articles at Grantland, AVClub, Splitsider, Slate and Internet Monk; and watched what everyone was doing on Facebook.  It’s the latter that prompts today’s post, because I got to watch the Internet’s second major freakout in as many months.

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How the Lion Became King of the Beasts: a parable

17 September 2011

(Blogger’s note: a few years ago, before my daughter started reading chapter books by herself at night, I used to tell her bedtime stories.  Sometimes, I’d just read one, but sometimes I’d make them up.  For a while, Charlotte got to travel into space and help colonize a new planet, live on an 18th-century Irish farm, and delve into the social politics of the Hundred Acre Wood.

One night, I started telling  her a story … and it kind of took on a life of its own.  After she went to bed, I realized the story was way too good to have been my idea.  I went and typed it up as best as I could remember.  What follows is that story — enjoy!)

Long, long ago, when the earth was new and before creation had fallen, when Man had not yet sinned and still walked with God, the animals came together for a meeting.

“Man speaks with God in the cool of the evenings,” they said to one another.  “He tells God everything he wishes and hears everything God has to say.  But who speaks for the animals before God?  And who among us knows what God wants, so we can know as well?”

This was a concern for the animals, and they all agreed that they should choose one of their own to be king over them, to speak to God on their behalf, and to speak God’s will to them.

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On the shoulders of giants: samples from my quote collection

15 September 2011

If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants. — Isaac Newton, in a letter to Robert Hooke, 1676

I love quotations.  There are so many times when I’ll run across something that was said by someone else, and it is so appropriate to a situation, or so relevant to my life, or so matches my way of thinking — but phrased so much better than I ever could’ve — that it just hits me amidships.  I love those moments.  And whenever a quote like that comes along, I steal it.  It’s true.  I steal it, and place it in an alabaster box lacquered with pictures of encyclopedists dancing in flowery meadows.  (Okay, not really — I use copy & paste on my computer and save it in a Microsoft Word document, but if I could keep them all in an alabaster box, I would.)

Today, dear reader, I thought I’d share some of my favorites with you.  Like Gaul in the days of Julius Caesar, they divide roughly into three parts: quotes about writing and creativity; quotes about theology, religion and ethics; and everything else.  This is just a sample from my collection — I’m holding back some stuff so I can do this again down the road.

Ready?  Let’s climb up on those shoulders, then …

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How rude!

13 September 2011

Sick cultures show a complex of symptoms … but a dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness.  Bad manners.  Lack of consideration for others in minor matters.  A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than a riot … This symptom is especially serious in that an individual displaying it never thinks of it as a sign of ill health but as proof of his/her strength. — Dr. Hartley Baldwin, in Friday by Robert A. Heinlein

So I’ve just picked my daughter up from school this afternoon, and I’m headed over to the school where my wife is working to pick her up as well.  There’s a boy, seventh- or eighth-grade and clearly from Charlotte’s school as well, walking in the street with his back to us — not across the street, but in the traffic lane as if it were the sidewalk, oblivious to the fact that there’s a minivan (mine) bearing down on him at 25 miles per hour.

So while wondering what Pokemon cards this kid traded his brains for, I move over in the lane to avoid pancaking him, and tap my horn gently to tell him, “hey, bruh — 2-ton vehicle right behind ya.”  He moves over just enough that I can keep from killing him without having to swerve into the other lane.  And as I pass, he smiles sheepishly at his own obliviousness and says “sorry” …

Actually, that’s all true except the last part.  What he really did as I passed was glare at me and say “F*** YOU!”

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Discipline is never as easy as it looks …

10 September 2011

(Subtitled: Where Was I Last Week?  And Where Will I Be Going Next?)

Less than a month ago, I wrote here about the blessing of having a self-imposed schedule, and how I was hoping it would add some more discipline and purpose to my life.  I closed that post with the words: “It’s a blessing and a half; all I have to do is keep doing it. Which is, I know, the hard part.  But at least I’m off to a good start.”

Well, this last week, the “keep doing it” kind of fell apart.

It wasn’t that I was so swamped I couldn’t keep to it, or that I was so lazy I didn’t do much of anything.  I scrubbed and bleached and wiped down a goodly portion of the bathroom, and mopped the kitchen floor.  I got everyone to work/school on time.  I was even writing — part 3 of my Iron Man fanfic series “Vignettes” (a follow-up to the now-complete “Hearts and Souls”) was released to the world on Wednesday.  So it’s not like I was totally hopeless.

But maybe having everyone home on Monday for Labor Day threw me off a little.  And … well, you know me — I always want to do better.  (Feel free to point at me and yell, “PERFECTIONIST!”  I’ll just nod and smile ruefully.)  This last week gave me plenty of room to do better …

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Me and the American church: still off the map

4 September 2011

Several years ago, a Christian teacher named Graham Cooke delivered a message entitled “Walking Off Your Map.”  The basic premise was that if you  follow Jesus for any length of time, there will come points when He will lead you beyond anything you’ve ever experienced — and often, beyond anything the people around you have ever experienced — into new areas of life and maturity in Him.  He made no bones about it being stressful, even frightening — but argued that it was necessary for continued growth in God’s will.  As he put it, “you don’t know where you’re going … but you can’t go back, because that’s killing you!”  It’s move on, or die where you sit.

“Off the map” is where I’ve been for awhile now.  And as far as many people I know are concerned, I’m “off the deep end.”  I’m not a member of any institutional congregation.  I haven’t been to a Sunday morning service anyplace in … (lemme think) … well, at least two years.  I’m bucking the trend of almost the entire American church setup.  And yet I know, with every fiber of my being, that I am where God wants me to be.

Not that that means it’s easy …

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The continuing bargain, or “Why I STILL like Netflix”

1 September 2011

A little over a year ago, I put up a post entitled “The better mousetrap, or ‘Why I like Netflix’.”  Basically, I waxed rhapsodic about the genius of Netflix’s business plan, their superiority to the chain video stores I’d had to deal with previously, their excellent customer service, their vast selection, and so on and so on.  It was so laudatory that I’m amazed no one accused me of having been bribed to say all that.  (And no, I wasn’t bribed.)

Well, some things have changed with Netflix over the last year.  Mainly, one thing has changed: the membership price.

Several weeks ago, Netflix announced what was functionally a pretty major price hike.  Previously, they had charged $9.99 per month (plus local sales tax) for one DVD at a time, plus unlimited online movie streaming; that’s the membership level I’m at, and it’s apparently the most popular level.  Starting today, September 1, 2011, though, it’s $7.99 per month for the one DVD at a time, but no online streaming.  It’s also $7.99 per month for unlimited streaming, but no DVDs in the mail.  If you want both, like before … you have to pay both $7.99s, so, $15.98 per month.

And the howls were heard across the land …

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