Tuesday, November 25, 2003

A Little Uselessness

Even though it is not even advent, I can't resist recommending this link.

Video Games, Books, Writing

Does anyone else out there struggle with being useful with their computer? (Kind of ties in with the Douglas Adams quote, now that I think about it.) I'm the kind of person who has always loved playing with computers. I was in eighth grade when my father brought home our first computer: A Radio Shack TRS-80 Model I computer with Level II BASIC and 16K of RAM (That's right: 16K! Four times the memory of the low-end machine!).

It turns out that I was just the right age at just the right time to really benefit from this machine. I was old enough to play with it and start working my way through the "Teach Yourself BASIC" manual. The really good thing, however, was that computing was new enough that there were very few games available to play on the computer. I was forced to program because I could not just go out and buy good games. If I was born a few years earlier, I might have gotten turned on to some other hobby and never really explored computers. If I was born a few years later, there would have been so many great games available that I never would have bothered to learn to program.

I can say that with some confidence now, because it takes a lot of self control for me to not just throw in a video game when I really know I'd like to be writing or reading.

That is just the struggle in so much of life, isn't it? It is what Christianity calls "seeking the greatest good". it is doing what is best when there is something good nearby.

Great Quote of the Day

From Douglas Adams: "It is easy to be blinded to the essential uselessness of computers by the sense of accomplishment you get from getting them to work at all."

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Recent Reading: Monsters From the Id, by
E. Michael Jones

I should start off by saying that this book has provided me the most intriguing reading I've had in recent memory. It is the first time I have waded into the waters of serious literary criticism, and I really
did not know what to expect. The experience was refreshing and thought-provoking. He has an original and fascinating interpretation of the series of Alien movies that alone is worth the read.

Monsters From the Id traces the development of the horror genre. It starts with Frankenstein and works its way through to Aliens III. Jones makes a convincing case that the beginning and continued popularity of horror are due to psychological responses to sexual "liberation" and its consequences. The thesis of the book is encapsulated by the two quotes that make up the first page. The first is from the Book of James:

Everyone who is tempted is attracted and seduced by his own wrong
desire. Then the desire conceives and gives birth to sin, and when
sin is fully grown it too has a child, and the child is

The second is from the classic movie Forbidden Planet: "The
Krell forgot one thing, the monsters from the Id."

If I am reading correctly, his basic argument could be expressed as follows:

  1. When sexual activity is separated from the moral order the inevitable result is pain, sorrow, horror, and death

  2. Starting with the French Revolution, the Enlightenment (to which we are all heirs) very explicitly rejected that there was any standard of morality to which men should be bound. In fact, Enlightenment thinkers saw the key to all human happiness to be the casting off of restrictions on sexual activity so that all people could completely fulfill themselves.

  3. The inevitable pain, misery and death followed the loosening of sexual morals. Different times and locations experienced this suffering in a variety of ways. During the French Revolution it manifested itself in sadism and widespread brutal violence. Germany and much of Europe were haunted by the devastating effects of syphilis. When the "Enlightenment" liberation of sexual morals came to America it brought in its wake divorce, rape, broken families, and the "unspeakable crime" of abortion.

  4. Western civilizations have accepted at a very deep level that there are no moral values, and the sexual freedom is fundamental to a fulfilled and happy life. This commitment to sexual license is so deep and so axiomatic for so many people that they are absolutely at a loss to explain the suffering that is rooted in immoral sexual behavior. The realization of the connection between immorality and suffering must be repressed. But this repressed idea then surfaces forcefully in other ways. One of the ways is through horror.

  5. The repression of the connection does not make it go away. Sexual immorality brings with it a general sense of dread, foreboding, or the feeling that things are not right. The monsters of the horror books and films are the manifestations of this dread.

At first, I was skeptical, but Jones has me convinced. His thesis explains one aspect of most horror films that has puzzled many critics. Why do so many films associate the attack of the monsters with sex? Why is it so often the case that characters in films are attacked and killed during or right after sex? The implicit message sent is that sex is dangerous and that having sex will hurt or kill you. Yet one can hardly accuse the horror movie industry of prudishness. Would it not make sense for most writers and directors of these films to send the exact opposite message?

Jones is arguing that the writers and directors of these films can not see the connection between immorality and suffering because of their ideological commitment to the primacy of sexual license. Yet their subconscious makes the connection and so the connection is expressed in these books and films. These films then draw audiences because they are saying something true, even though neither the makers nor the audiences can explicitly acknowledge the truth expressed.

If you're unconvinced, I urge you to read the book for itself. It is well worth it simply for his discussion of the series of Alien films. You can find the book at Spence Publishing.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Great quote by Jonah today, referring to the recent Democratic "Rock the Vote" debate:
Anyway, all of that being said, I must say that this was the most entertaining debate I've seen this year. And, yes, that's like saying "the world's tallest midget," but it is something.