Monday, June 27, 2016

Media Bias, Memes, and Foolish Comedians

It has come to my attention that the media is not only biased but that their bias is contradictory. I leave it up to the reader to think of examples that substantiate my claim. But does my statement make any sense? Is not contradictory bias inconceivable, since bias involves one side, and contradiction at least two? Technically, I'm not wrong. You could say that a single media outlet cannot contain a contradictory bias, or else there would be no bias at all. However, when considering numerous outlets of media, ones that have conflicting biases, there is a contradictory bias when considering the summation. 

On another level, it is worth mentioning the biased contradiction of the response to said media. People have a tendency to pick and choose and media is no exception. If you know that your source of media always botches its examination and presentation of X, then why should that source be trustworthy in relation to Y?

This brings me to another point: the fast-food approach to study and evaluation. One frustrating thing I've noticed in recent times is the tendency to evaluate some of the most complex phenomena by means of the dumbest methods. For instance, evaluating a religion with a meme. Memes are horrible when used for non-serious purposes, but when they're used as a "checkmate" against a religion, or even to make political statements, they tend to be even more disappointing. There's a certain smugness about drawing a conclusion based on gaudy, easily generated images.

What is even more insulting is that comedians have become the new theologians. Are some people really convinced that a comedian could provide a robust evaluation of a religion? Comedy has always operated from a skewed mindset. If comedians used sane perspectives, nobody would laugh. A comedian does not have the credentials to evaluate the serious. A clown can't properly dress themselves for a job interview on Wall Street while remaining a clown. And so it is with the comedian, that is, someone dedicated to goofiness cannot properly evaluate what is serious. Even if religion was a non-serious institution, it would take a serious person to prove that. A serious person knows themselves very well, and if a person knows themselves very well, that means they know very well what they are not.

And some people think anecdotal evidence is bad.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Photojournalism of the Soul

The number of examples of visual art I've shared on the blog has been limited, so this shall add to that humble collection. I'd like to showcase some work from Mark Hilpert (1968 - 2006). I came across his art through a downtempo music recording entitled Worshipmusic by Yochannan (2002), viz, the album cover is a portion of one of Hilpert's creations.

Before pasting in some of his art, I feel inclined to first include a quote from the artist: "I am more concerned with the spiritual source of human expression than what is being expressed." http://www.markhilpert.com/


Saturday, June 25, 2016

Pro et Contra: Sociology

Pro:

1. Critical thinking - the discipline directs attention toward overlooked details and questions about society. Sociology encourages going beyond face value and I enjoy that aspect of it (this is also why I take a liking to philosophy). This world is very far from God, and so I think that it's useful to be able to able to look past the "normal" mechanisms by which it operates. The devil will do whatever he can to make you numb and blind to his scandals.

2. Theory - unlike the more popular social science, psychology, sociology makes use of different theories; at the very least, sociologists actually seem to be aware of the biased framework(s) that they operate from and will admit that they are biased. Psychology seems to espouse the arrogant attitude of "this is objective science - don't question it" and this attitude is rather annoying.

3. Variety - sociology has a number of interesting focuses: deviance, religion, crime, sports, the arts, and so forth. I doubt that some of the hard sciences have as much variety as sociology, but then again, I don't study real science, so who am I to make that assumption?

Contra:

1. Atheistic bias - contrary to a discipline like philosophy where so many God-fearing intellectuals have been involved, very few renowned sociologists are practicing religious people (especially Christians). Karl Marx, Émile Durkheim, Max Weber, Georg Simmel, and W.E.B. Du Bois were all atheists.* Only a few religious sociologists come to mind, like Tony Campolo, Peter Berger, and Steve Bruce.**

2. Limited theory - the main sociological perspectives are structural-functionalism, conflict theory, and symbolic interactionism (some would add feminist theory to the list). Why must the study of society be filtered through these perspectives? Though they are all interesting theories, they simply do not give a complete account. Now perhaps they can adequately address issues pertaining strictly to the human world, but they will surely miss the spiritual implications that are so abundant in human life. Then again, the point of sociology is not to include those spiritual implications - but it could include those, n'est-ce pas?

3. Relativism - with gender and the family being sub-fields of sociology, it's no doubt that relativism tends to peek its ugly head every so often (or, a lot). But as philosopher Peter Kreeft eloquently states: "...almost the only reason anyone in our society ever believes and teaches a philosophy of moral relativism is to justify sexual immorality. All the controversial issues in the culture war are sexual. How often have you heard arguments for moral relativism to justify nuclear war, or insider trading, or child abuse, or genocide, or racism, or even environmental pollution?" (2003).

Steve Bruce adds to the discussion: "...ask if relativists act consistently on their avowed philosophical position. Clearly they do not. Postmodernists write books and lecture; the try to communicate their claims to others. They do so because they believe that they are right and others are wrong" (2000:98).

Though Kreeft is focusing on moral relativism and Bruce on cultural relativism, very little investigation is required to ascertain that sociology is brimming with this sour philosophy of no absolutes or objective truth. Thankfully, some sociologists like Bruce reject it, though I wish I saw such refutations more often.

* Weber might have leaned more toward agnosticism, though I'm not certain.

** Also unsure about Bruce here. Based on the one book I've read from him, and the concepts of some of his other work, I would guess that he is religious.


Works Cited

Bruce, Steve. Sociology: A Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press. 2000. Book.

Kreeft, Peter. The Liberal Arts and Sexual Morality. 2003. Article.
http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/liberal-arts_sexual-morality.htm


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Cold Air

A team of sailors surround a fountain. Early March breaks away like an iceberg. "Away with February!" one man proclaims. But it's still cold in the air. A few make somber conversation about the rust. Scattered coins remind them of buoys that didn't save. "Lay waste to words!" proclaims another. He hadn't said a word 'til then, for his left hand contained every word worth saying. A helpless memorandum, but why can't he let go? It's still cold in the air.


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Unpolitics

I thought it worthwhile to compile a few writings that contain, what I would consider, interesting thoughts in relation to politics - what I shall deem "unpolitics." These writings stray from the plebeian tone of politics-based diatribes (are not all diatribes political?) and other text-based formats, offering refreshing ideas about a topic that is often so very sterile. The consistency of the spirit of these writings when taken in tandem is perhaps questionable, though I think that each writing contains fascinating thoughts about the topic at hand.

Feel free to let me know if my ellipses are off, too. I'm currently diving into the autodidact's wonderland, Wikipedia, attempting to educate myself on how to properly use them, but I don't care enough, so I'm just going to go with what I think looks good.

1. Peter Kreeft - The Two Most Revolutionary Verses in the Bible

"The strong point of conservatives is that they conserve ... Their weak point is that they tend to be ... graceless....

The strong point of liberals is ... their compassion ... They are strong on mercy ... but weak on truth."

2. Jay DiNitto - Directing One's Passions

"If a man has to set his passions on a subject, let it be an inconsequential thing...."

3. Greg Boyd - 12 Reasons for Keeping the Kingdom of God Separate from Politics, Part 1

"Jesus refused the devil's temptation to acquire the authority to rule others by any means other than through self-sacrificial love...."


Jesus refused the devil’s temptation to acquire the authority to rule others by any means other than through self-sacrificial love - See more at: http://reknew.org/2015/01/12-reasons-for-keeping-the-kingdom-of-god-separate-from-politics-part-1/#sthash.BgoV3KJn.dpuf
Jesus refused the devil’s temptation to acquire the authority to rule others by any means other than through self-sacrificial love - See more at: http://reknew.org/2015/01/12-reasons-for-keeping-the-kingdom-of-god-separate-from-politics-part-1/#sthash.BgoV3KJn.dpuf
Jesus refused the devil’s temptation to acquire the authority to rule others by any means other than through self-sacrificial love - See more at: http://reknew.org/2015/01/12-reasons-for-keeping-the-kingdom-of-god-separate-from-politics-part-1/#sthash.BgoV3KJn.dpuf

12 Reasons for Keeping the Kingdom of God Separate from Politics, Part 1 - See more at: http://reknew.org/2015/01/12-reasons-for-keeping-the-kingdom-of-god-separate-from-politics-part-1/#sthash.L0ssqsvE.dpuf
12 Reasons for Keeping the Kingdom of God Separate from Politics, Part 1 - See more at: http://reknew.org/2015/01/12-reasons-for-keeping-the-kingdom-of-god-separate-from-politics-part-1/#sthash.L0ssqsvE.dpuf

Monday, June 20, 2016

Thinking About World News

I could begin this writing by elaborating on technological advancement and how that has effected the media and the distribution of certain media, in this case, world news. But this all seems rather tired, going over the history of such advancement. Or maybe I'm just too tired to care? In any case, I have to start on the right foot somehow. Consider this my anti-intro before submerging into some personal observations about world news, particularly, world news that revolves around calamity.

Personally, I've never been intentional about staying up to date on world news. I can't dispel the criticism in and of itself that such a choice is ignorant, but are some things not worth ignoring? It is true that "...the eyes of man are never satisfied,” as Solomon wrote in the Psalms so very long ago, and with that, it's not surprising that the modern individual desires to watch the world as if occupying the head office of Bentham's Panopticon.

Now, perhaps the Panopticon analogy is too cynical. What if the viewer finds themselves responsible for bringing aid to the calamities they've taken into observation through the media? It feels wrong to overlook good intentions. The problem, however, is that when an individual attempts to engage with a calamity that is far removed from them, there will no doubt be a lack of understanding on behalf of the individual. Whether or not this problem can be overcome is an entirely different question.

Social media is perhaps the greatest offender for spreading news stories about world calamities and turning them into items of fashion. For instance, the buzz around Joseph Kony in 2012. The Kony 2012 video reached over 100 million views in a matter of six days (Kanczula, 2012). However, I recently visited the Invisible Children YouTube channel (the company that produced the video) in January and the popularity of their content has declined drastically. As of today, the Kony 2012 video has not reached 101 million views (though it is close). Their more recent videos have only garnered thousands of views. 

But why are people no longer talking about Joseph Kony when he is still alive and his heinous acts persist (Taylor, 2014)? Well, it's quite tautological really: there are more and more news stories being published every day and the consumer can't keep up with it all. Social media turns other peoples suffering into fashion statements. But not only is one not able of keeping up with news stories, as one is also susceptible of being deceived into thinking that they have god-like control over what they're observing through the filters of the media. With world news, everyone seems like our neighbor. But is this true? And to what extent must one involve themselves with calamities that are far removed from them?

When the Christ told the disciples to love their neighbor in the Gospels, it seems correct to assume that the neighbor was another who was in physical proximity to them; after all, the population was much smaller in those times. As well, ancient societies lacked satellite dishes and iPhones, so I would guess that their awareness was more attached to the here and now.

Again, do these doubts jeopardize a responsibility for the capable observer to help those far removed? I think not, though I trust that God can provide a more robust answer to a question like that. I have no desire to thwart the efforts of individuals or groups that bring justice to far removed situations (no idea how I'd accomplish that anyway, as I am an insignificant person - and that's not self-deprecating, it's just true). And really, this is all an aside from the focus, that is, world news. None the less, an important question remains: why do people care to take world news into observation? And is our access to and use of this excess quantity of information a failing attempt at attaining a god-complex, particularly, the attribute of omniscience?

Works Cited
 
Kanczula, A. (2012). Kony 2012 in numbers. Retrieved from The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2012/apr/20/kony-2012-facts-numbers#img-1
 
Taylor, A. (2014). Was #Kony2012 a failure? Retrieved from The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2014/12/16/was-kony2012-a-failure/


Saturday, June 18, 2016

A Healthy Dose of Metaphysics, Star Wars, and 80s Rock

Obj. 1 - Metaphysicist Stephen Mumford provides some insight on negative properties. He uses the same hippopotamus example that's in his introductory book, which is enjoyable. I remember how amazed I was the first time I came across it.

Obj. 2 - A plethora of Star Wars clips are matched to "Danger Zone" by Kenny Loggins.



Thursday, June 16, 2016

Registered for Classes, 4th Year

Today was registration day; for me, the fourth year. This meant I had to get up a little earlier than what my recent schedule has allowed for (7:30 am - I'm an arts student, leave me alone). But I didn't mind because I got to choose these fun looking courses. I'm already preoccupied with thoughts about textbooks since I have no problem whatsoever with spending more money on books of a theoretical nature. Not that I think I'm that bourgeois, but I enjoy reading so that's that. My inclination in posting this picture on the blog is that it will serve as an artifact of my very first set of registered classes for the year; I am renowned for adding/dropping them, so we'll see if I yield to familiar choices or deviate. I have a good feeling I'll keep the schedule, although I'm somewhat uncertain about SOC 227. However, I will stubbornly fight to keep my metaphysics elective on the agenda. I've loved metaphysics ever since I read Stephen Mumford's inspiring Very Short Introduction on the topic in late 2013/early 2014. I was hoping to take existentialism too, but you can't have it all, so that's cool.

Now that I've prattled on about all these possibilities, I will hopefully finish my summer course (final exam on Monday - oh boy!) on a positive note. It's quantitative research, which is not my favorite since I'd rather bask in what some would call 'meaningless' theories because that's just what I like to do (no, there is substantial reason for that, but I just don't care to explain that here). Anyway, the class has gone quite well thus far and I'm content with taking it this summer rather than later. And that's more than enough words for today - I shouldn't be slacking off like this.

Friday, June 10, 2016

The Wine

Thee wash'd mine own senseth of lodging, thee wash'd it in the wine. Eff'rvescence wast enow to waketh mine own dead eyes. And at which hour mine own eyes w're hath found undead, thee spake few w'rds. But true w'rds hath brought living to life, spilling with myrrh. And anon, all I can bethink about is how longeth ago. How longeth ago it wast, at which hour timeth I didst not know. At which hour I wast non-static and didn't wanteth to beest. At which hour minutes w're grace, not cinders to beest setteth free. From soil wh're hounds bark and it sounds liketh nothing. Mine own listening rest'red, und'rstanding something. Something is in ev'rything, not ign'ring this. All this I hadst seen and I thank thee for the wine.



In Medias Res - Spring 2016 Issue

A couple of my poems have been included in the latest edition of In Medias Res, a liberal arts journal published by St. Thomas More College. It's always a pleasure contributing to this wonderful publication; I admire the general spirit and find something of interest in every issue. Although I will say that I'm dissatisfied on my part with "open / close." I believe it's one of my weaker poems, though I initially thought it was quite good for some reason that now seems rather alien.



Thursday, June 2, 2016

Blog Repair / The Idols They Will Make

As you might have noticed, the blog has recently been subject to repair. For one thing, I have edited the categories. This means that some posts have been deleted and that I have also done some renaming of categories. Once again, I have changed the general feel of the blog. I was using a Dynamic Views template before and now I am using a Simple template. I like the clouds header and I believe that this new design is easier on the eyes. That said, it still looks bad on mobile ... oh well.

Now, to talk about a piece of music: "The Idols They Will Make" by The Joe. This has been one of my favorite songs for a few years now (sorry that sounds so cliché ... the quality of the song is beyond any description I might conjure up). And though I desire to detach myself from the attitude of music sharing that says "you have to listen to this," I figured it's a song that fits well with the content of this blog, so I'll go ahead and share. Maerten van Heemskerck's engraving used for the album cover is amazing, too.