Wednesday, May 25, 2005

E3 Pictures

E3 Pictures

E3 Pictures

E3 Pictures

E3 2005

I just got back from Los Angeles where I was attending the Electronic Entertainment Expo. It's my industries biggest get-together where all the companies show off their latest games and try to convince Wal-Mart and Best Buy to stock them. It was quite a big show for my company, since we just shipped our game a couple of weeks ago and we are the number one best selling PC game in the world right now. My job was to stand in front of one of the demo stations and show people how to play the game and explain how it's different and better than the competition. When I wasn't on duty, I was supposed to be checking out the competition and picking up on trends. This was good for me to do because my finger is no longer on the pulse of the industry like it used to be when I played games a lot. So I had fun wandering around and checking out the latest stuff, getting swag for my kids, and taking goofy pictures. These shows are always tiring, as I'm not used to being on my feet for more than an hour or so. Besides that the decibel level is like hanging out on an airport runway, as all the booths try to blast their music louder than the ones next to them. Then there is the constant sexual temptation to look at the 'booth babes'. (Women hired to stand around in bikinis or tight costumes to attract attention to products.) Most of the time I have a steely resolve not to even glance at them because I hate the injustice of life… just how much easier life is for beautiful people. I really don't want to inflate their egos any more by fawning all over them. Besides that inborn resistance, I get sickened by seeing the looks on men's faces when they stare at the women. The gross lusty smiles and glazed over eyes. And the fact that what I'm seeing in them is inside of me too gives me the creeps. Thank God for His deliverance from that bondage! But then, whenever I did happen to glance at a booth babe, my heart just ached for my girlfriend. I saw the empty shells of beauty, and that made me think of the deep, abiding character, integrity, and God-breathed Love inside the woman who was waiting for me at home. I thought about her constantly and missed her badly.

After the show wrapped up on Friday, I spent time hanging out with my Outrage buddies from my old job in Michigan. I was staying with one of them while I was down there. We all had a really special connection at Outrage, and for some reason none of us has really felt the same about any of the game companies we moved on to. (Outrage was closed, and we all had to find jobs elsewhere.) So I had a good time catching up with a bunch of them.

It was a great trip and I owe a big thank you to my mom who stayed with the boys all week, and my girlfriend who did a bunch of laundry and put my kids to bed a couple of nights. It's so wonderful to have supportive, loving people in my life!

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

E3 Pictures

E3 Pictures

Friday, May 13, 2005

Hard questions ~ inadequate answers

Here is a post I made on a forum for fans of Zao. Some guy popped into the Religion section and dropped all the "hard questions" on us. These are the big ones. And I thought it would be fun to have a record of my current thinking on them. So here is my reply…

This is probably not the best place to ask the heavy-weight questions you are asking. Most of the people on this board are very young and not terribly educated about Christianity. (We protestants do a horrible job at that.) If these questions are seriously perplexing you, I'm guessing it's because God wants you, but you feel like you would be stupid to go along with it until your logical side is satisfied. Here is something to consider: there are many theories out there that offer compelling explanations to things, yet are incomplete. Think about physics, math, evolutionary theory. They all propose answers, yet even the best and brightest in their field can not answer every single question asked about it. There will always be "holes" that need to be filled. The most hardened atheistic evolutionist has "faith" that the questions he can't answer will be figured out eventually. Likewise, though no human can fully understand the nature and plans of God, we can still make wise and intellectually informed decisions based on what has been revealed to us.

If you truly want answers to these questions I recommend you seek out a Bible-believing church and ask to speak to the pastor. If you don't want answers, and just want to feel superior for having examined and dismissed the idea, go to a nice universalistic, liberal church, and they will be happy to inform you that nothing really matters but being nice to people.

That being said, I'll take a stab or two at your questions. Just keep in mind I'm no theologian, and there are better answers out there.

Why would God create us a certain way and then damn us to Hell for acting in our own nature?

As has been said: He did not create us 'that way'. He created us perfect and immortal, to have communion and friendship with us forever. But He had to give us a choice to do so, or friendship would be impossible. Why He decided to make a being with the choice to reject Him is a mystery. One theory is that our creation was simply an expression of Love. It simply happened because of His nature. Though that still does not answer your question about the perfection of a God who would let His creation suffer.

Is it really necessary for God to damn us to Hell for all eternity for simply not believing and/or never hearing about Jesus?

Most Christian theologians I've heard would say that God does not damn us. Rather, hell is simply an existence without Him. And a being that is not perfect cannot exist with a being who is. That would compromise His nature, and thus, make Him no longer God. So it's not a matter of an angry God casting souls into hell. Rather, He let's us choose to reject Him, and being apart from God is Hell.

What happens to all those who never heard about Jesus?

C.S. Lewis surmised that the invisible nature of God is known to all. And though they may never hear the name of Jesus in life, there is some mechanism for them to make a choice about him. (I don't recall where he said this explicitly, but it is clearly alluded too in The Last Battle from the Chronicles of Narnia.)

Personally, I don't have a clue. But that doesn’t mean there isn't a good answer. And it may be an answer that a mortal being cannot comprehend. One thing I am sure about is that Jesus is the way. But how that happens when someone has never heard His name I don't know. Perhaps after death? The Bible leaves a lot to the imagination in that area. I'm sure there are good reasons that God didn't try to explain the specifics of what happens when we die.

How does one come to grips with what the Bible says about slavery or women?

Societal norms are the biggest explanation here. Jesus never taught that we should rebel and overthrow any world system or government. He always demonstrated living a godly life under whatever circumstance life deals you. Remember in His day the Jews were being ruthlessly oppressed, and sold out by their spiritual and political leaders. They were desperate for freedom. But Jesus didn't concern Himself with the world system He was in. He improved people's lives from the inside out. It's all about the hearts of people that He's after.

Likewise, in the rest of the New Testament, the authors never proposed uprising or rebellion. They advocated working within the system that was in place. Slaves should live godly lives as a demonstration of the transformative nature of Christ. Same with slave owners. Also, what someone said earlier is correct, that the slavery of that time and place was not much like the slavery we know of.

How can God be so cruel as to create me without notifying me, then expecting me to believe in something bizarre (drinking Jesus' blood to be saved from eternal hellfire is bizarre), and then damning me to hell for not believing in it as if life itself weren't punishment enough?

Drinking blood is not for salvation. Acceptance of the sacrifice that it symbolizes is. Communion is a ceremony, like baptism, that reminds us humans that something deeper is at work under the surface. There is more to life than what we can see and perceive with our finite senses.

If God created everything, He created evil. In this sense, God willed evil. It fits into His plan. Doesn't the idea that God allowing and even promoting evil disqualify him from being the moral authority?

God did not create evil. Evil is simply the choice to reject Him and His perfect ways. Choice allows evil, it does not create it. If my kid rides his bike into the road and dies, it's not my fault for giving him a bike. It was simply the mechanism that was used which led to his destruction.

How does one reconcile that parts of the Bible literally contradict each other? If the Bible does contradict itself, how can it be the perfect word of God?

I have read numerous rebuttals to just about every supposed contradiction out there. There is a book called, "Hard Sayings of the Old Testament", and a sequel, and also one about the New Testament I believe. Most perceived contradictions have to do with not taking a hermeneutical or educated approach to the scripture, or reading a part as literal when it is clearly figurative, etc.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

How to win friends and influence people

Dear Mr. Knowitall,

I want to win friends and influence people, but I'm too lazy to read the book. Do you have any advice?

People are a lot like robots. But squishier. Everything you need to know about people you can learn from observing Hollywood's most beloved mechanical characters.

The earliest robots in film were played by cowboys on stage at saloons called Nickelodeons in the 1800's. Back then, they didn't have psychologists to inform their performances, so they often acted in an over-the-top, comical manner. Fast forward a few decades and we have the likes of R2-D2, (R2-Day-Towa in Huttesse) in Star Wars, and Mighty Joe Young in King Kong. These robots can teach us a wealth of secrets about humans and how to befriend/influence them. Here is a quick list of 'bots and what they teach us about people:

  1. Mechanical Bipeds from Metropolis ~ 19-something: Hard work pays off.
  2. Frankenstein's Monster from Frankenstein ~ 19-something later: People respect tall people.
  3. H.A.L. from 2001: The Year We Make Contacts ~ 1970-something: A.I. is evil
  4. Jason from Friday the 13th ~ 1970-something: Teasing ugly little boys at camp turns them into killer robots.
  5. Great White Shark from Jaws ~ 1976?: People are unreliable.
  6. C-3PO from Star Wars ~ 1977: People are snotty cowards.
  7. Lobot from The Empire Strikes Back ~ 1980: People are reliable.
  8. None from The Never Ending Story ~ 1988: There weren't any robots in this movie. Pity. Imagine how much cooler it would have been with a robot.
  9. RoboCop from RoboCop ~ 1986: Deep down inside, everyone is a hero.
  10. T-500 from The Terminator ~ 1984: Deep down inside, everyone is a killer.
  11. T-500 from Terminator 2 ~ 1991: Deep down inside, every killer is a hero.
  12. T-500 from Terminator 3 ~ 2003: People can get too old to play robots in movies.
  13. Mechanical Owl from that one movie about the Greek gods ~ 1981: He's SO cute, and talks just like R2-D2! Um… Like people!
  14. Tick-Tock from Return to Oz ~ 1985: People cry tears of oil.
  15. Johnny 5 from Short Circuit ~ 1986: Being an obnoxious, pop-culture spewing loudmouth will make you popular.
  16. Hayden Christenson from The Clone Wars ~ 2002: It's all Obiwan's FAULT! He's holding him BACK!
  17. Teddy Bear from A.I. ~ 2002: A.I. is kind, loving, and loyal.
  18. Battle Droids from The Phantom Menace ~ 1999: If the capitol ship is destroyed people become useless piles of scrap metal.
  19. Ed 209 from Robocop ~ 1986: People can't walk down stairs.
  20. The Iron Giant from The Iron Giant ~ 1942: Even though people are made of metal, they have hearts of gold. Which is also a kind of metal.
  21. Data from Star Trek ~ 1921-2003: People wish they were human.
  22. Sonny from I, Robot ~ 2004: Often times, robots can act better than people
  23. Darth Vader from Revenge of the Sith ~ 2005: Huuuuuuugh-Haaaaaaaaaaagh.

With these things in mind you can see it's pretty easy to create a definitive list of how people work and why. Once you figure out how to tap into that you will be able to fully befriend/control anyone. It's all about simple, unchanging rules. Of course some people have different (or stupid) personalities. But they aren't really worth captivating/manipulating anyway. Remember the whole reason people exist is to further your own ends, and if they don't fit into your expectations it is perfectly acceptable to marginalize and ignore them. So, excluding those types, how does one learn the rules that all people follow? Watch lots of movies and T.V. Especially M.T.V. (That reminds me:

  1. Carson Daily from Total Request Live ~ 1995-?: It's possible to build a cult of personality with no personality.)

Shows like "The Reel World" and "Who Wants To Marry A Creepy Millionaire?" can teach you a lot about how people in the real world behave. Just pretend you are like that old woman who wasted her whole life watching monkeys in Africa, and carefully observe what the people on these shows do. (Have a note-pad and pencil handy in case you want to doodle.) It's all a simple matter of cause-and-effect*. In math terms this is called Algebra 2. When X does Y, than Z does A.

Once your list is compiled you are ready to effectively subjugate/hypnotize anyone. Here are some great ways to get started on your path to world domination:

  1. Take the time to get to know your victim/friend before using and discarding them. Well… at least get to know their name.
  2. Looking people in the eye while talking to them may cause them to think you challenging them for dominance of the herd. Don't do it!
  3. Shaking hands is often the first impression that someone has of you; besides your name. But really, even if you shake hands like Palsy-stricken child, if your name is Lance or Dirk, it doesn't matter. They will have to respect you for your name.
  4. There is an ancient Chinese proverb that says: "You can't judge a book by its cover." This is strange since the ancient Chinese used scrolls. This saying has no application to people.
  5. To stay confident enough to successfully seduce/bully people, try to imagine everyone in their underwear. And sea-sick. And breaking out with acne. And covered in dirty cat litter. And on fire. That always does the trick for me.
  6. If you are always right, (as I am) then you need to remember that everyone else is always wrong.
  7. To keep your friends loyal to you, make sure you pay them at least one dollar for every time you insult them or physically damage them.
  8. If you don't like what someone is saying, try pushing or pulling on various parts of their body to turn the volume down. Conversely, if they are saying something good, turn it up.
  9. Begin each conversation with a powerful head-butt. This will establish your dominance early.
  10. People like honesty and hate liars. So try to keep them from finding out about all your lies.

So you can see that fooling people into being your friends, and then influencing them to do what you want is quite simple. Though some so-called "experts" claim that interpersonal communication is a Gordian knot of subtlety and nuance I think they are just trying to sound smart. Just remember, simple rules, simple results. And there is no attitude problem a quick re-boot can't solve.

*Copywrite 2005 – exclusively owned by Mr. Knowitall industries.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Re-thinking the whole "No Kissing" rule

Just kidding. I'm not. But for some reason no one seems to believe that this is possible. (Our decision to have our first kiss be at our wedding.) Even my pastor called it a "tall order" when I told him I felt that if I felt an uncontrollable desire to kiss my girlfriend than I would know that God is no longer in this. I'm seeing this as Gideon's fleece.

Judges 6:

36 Gideon said to God, "If you will save Israel by my hand as you have promised- 37 look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said." 38 And that is what happened. Gideon rose early the next day; he squeezed the fleece and wrung out the dew—a bowlful of water.

39 Then Gideon said to God, "Do not be angry with me. Let me make just one more request. Allow me one more test with the fleece. This time make the fleece dry and the ground covered with dew." 40 That night God did so. Only the fleece was dry; all the ground was covered with dew.

I don't know how Gideon got away with this. But I think my method is much less presumptuous. I'm looking so very carefully for signs regarding our relationship. One way or another. I'm asking God for the miraculous. And He has been providing it. You don't have to peruse this blog very long before you find examples of my lack of control in this area. One thing I've learned is that I don't have a slippery slope. (Kissing leads to other things.) No, I have a precipice of unparalleled steepocity. (I made up that word.) The Cliffs of Insanity! (A Princess Bride reference.) I'm exuberantly happy for those unmarried couples who can give each other pleasant kisses and leave it at that. But alas, that's not me. So I avoid the cliffs by not camping out on them. Which sounds simple enough, right? Well, having a willing participant in my plan helps. But beyond that, there is a miracle at work in my body.

Romans 7:

23 but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members.

This used to be me… big time. But last year Jesus destroyed the prison walls that held me captive. This freedom from lust is the miracle that I'm counting on to keep me pure and in His will. It's a little bit scary, relying completely on a miracle to guide me. But I can't think of a better way to know that I am being led. Here is my thinking: this is a regular sounding board for me. If I slip I'll know that my 'members' are taking me captive again, and thus, He is not keeping me free. And the only reason that He would stop protecting me from myself would be if I was purposely removing myself from His protection. I really like how solid the feedback is. I'm not waiting around for a mysterious sign giving me approval. I'm actively walking on water and keeping my eyes on Jesus, knowing that if I sink it's because my eyes have wandered. So I don't think it's a stretch to say that if I am pursuing this marriage, and God doesn’t want me too, He will stop protecting me in this area. I'm not viewing this as an acid test that will guarantee divine approval for my actions. I'm too spiritually immature to do that. Rather, I'm viewing this as part of a chorus of input that God has been giving me. I figure that way, if one or more of my sources of perceived direction is flawed, I will have other means of hearing Him. Unless they are ALL flawed. But I don't believe God would let me be so foolish when I am sincerely seeking Him as I am. The Bible after all promises wisdom to those who ask for her. And believe me, I'm ASKING!

Monday, May 09, 2005

Firing on all cylinders

C.S. Lewis wrote of God: "If He can be known it will be by self-revelation on His part, not by speculation on ours. We, therefore, look for Him where it is claimed that He has revealed Himself by miracle, by inspired teachers, by enjoined ritual. The traditions conflict, yet the longer and more sympathetically we study them the more we become aware of a common element in many of them: the theme of sacrifice, of mystical communion through the shed blood, of death and rebirth, of redemption, is too clear to escape notice. We are fully entitled to use moral and intellectual criticism. What we are not, in my opinion, entitled to do is simply to abstract the ethical element and set that up as a religion on its own. Rather in the tradition which is at once more completely ethical and most transcends mere ethics…we may still most reasonably believe that we have the consummation of all religion, the fullest message from the wholly other, the living creator, who, if He is at all, must be the God not only of the philosophers, but of mystics and savages, not only of the head and heart, but also of the primitive emotions and the spiritual heights beyond all emotion."

So this is the realization that I am slowly coming too; that I believe God is drawing me towards. And I'm really wrestling with it. I'm so comfortable with my apologetic-driven faith. I never understood those in the Body who supposedly hear the voice of God, and that feel comfortable enough with that to say, "God told me X." I've always dismissed that as wish fulfillment or worse. And thus, never had to pursue that line of faith further than that. And I was quite happy leaving it like that. Then my world fell apart, and God has been rebuilding it. Part of that rebuilding is the inclusion of this new woman (who I believe is supposed to be my wife.) who embodies exactly what I formerly excluded from my comfortable conception of Christianity. And she's not the only one. I'm in a church full of these people. And it's the most amazing, living, working church I've ever been in. So now as I jog in the morning I'm grappling with this conception of how God can work and communicate with us. Beyond the philosophical and into the mystical, to a place where logic is hidden in areas of spirituality that we humans can't divine. And I have to say I'm very uncomfortable here. In a way. I want to be careful in how I approach this, because there is a difference between leaving a comfort zone, (Usually a good thing.) and leaving the peace of God. (Always a bad thing.) I feel like I'm in the former category. Not quite sure what to make of all this. I'm certainly no where near the new-age mish-mash of buffet theology or Gnostic thinking that I've always associated with "mystic" Christianity. I'm just coming to grips with the fact that God wants to engage us on more levels than merely the intellectual, and even beyond the 'heart'. I think my resistance to this is based on our culture's arrogant assumption that since we have science - which has given us so many explanations to so many things - we don't need to bother ourselves with the 'baser' instincts. I think what it comes down to for me is that I need to accept that there are aspects of God that I just can't wrap my mind around. (Which I thought I understood a long time ago.) But beyond that, He still wants to be felt and responded to on those levels. But I'm at a loss here, because I don't know how to respond just yet. I don't even know how to define what those levels are. I like Lewis's way of putting it; "…the primitive emotions and the spiritual heights beyond all emotion." I have no idea what that means, but it sounds right to me. We have this infinite God who reveals Himself to us in multitudinous ways, but no matter how opaque He makes Himself, can never be fully grasped by mortal physical beings. That infinite, if it can be perceived at all, must touch us in ways we don't understand. Mystical ways. I've had a sense of this growing in me for some time now. As I was first conceiving of Crymsin Hymnal and plotting out the progression of revelation that God takes us through, I was looking at the last third and wondering how to write in that mindset. From a place where the mystery of God is accepted in peace. Having not arrived at that destination, it's hard to imagine. But I wanted that sense of the mystical to pervade the music.

So while I don't know what is happening, or how I am being awakened, I do know it is of God, and I'm grateful for it. I suppose in the same way we can't say why music can stir our souls, or colors move us; we can't know how and why God does the same thing. But he does. And it's good. I'm seeing how this aspect of Christianity complements, and is a necessary balance to what I've always focused on. So I think I'm becoming better-rounded in my faith. Firing on all cylinders, if you will.

As I'm reading over this I'm seeing that what I wrote could be misconstrued as saying that those Christians on the other end of the spectrum from me are mystical primitives. Which is not what I think at all. But since I'm only now just coming into an understanding of this side of the tracks, I can't comment much beyond that. Beyond saying that they seem to have an understanding of God that I don't yet. Perhaps I'll be able to articulate this better in retrospect.