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Tidbits – April 2024

Benefit of boredom

There’s a certain sort of belonging that comes out of boredom. One of my formative young experiences was spending four years in the Air Cadets, which I didn’t really have any interest in joining, but a friend invited me and I had nothing better to do. Collective boredom is even better – a great family memory is the enormous sandcastles we’ve built, again, not because of anyone in particular wanting to, but just because there’s only so long you can splash in the waves at the beach. As Ted Kluck wrote in his March 1 WORLD magazine column “An argument for being bored together,” boredom can be magical. He’s reviewing a movie, set in 1971, that he loved and I never saw because of its 35 f-bombs, so I’m not pitching the film. But I am also remembering the merits of boredom.

“The Holdovers …is actually about the magic of being bored with other people, and the creativity and connection that comes as a result. You end up exploring campus buildings. You end up watching television together. You end up breaking bread together. Somebody gets hurt, and then cared for by the group. You hatch outlandish schemes together, and then carry them out. ….I daresay nobody will ever want to watch a movie about college (or boarding school) in 2024. What is there to be romantic about? ‘We had a really nice class session on Microsoft Teams’? No thanks.

“In a modern context, of course, we don’t have much of an opportunity to be bored together, in that we can carry our televisions, our stereos, our classrooms, and all of our conversations with us on our phones. We can curate and self-promote and move-make and side-hustle – all while standing in line at the supermarket. We never have to be bored.

“As a result, we are probably very productive. But we are also – if anecdotal evidence as well as everything written in the past decade is to be believed – very lonely. Perhaps we need more unmediated time together, because relating to one another takes time.

3 Me jokes

Me: I am soooo hungry!
Horse (nervously): How hungry are you?

Genie: You have 3 wishes.
Me: I’m not doing this. I know that whatever I wish for is just going to come back and bite me in some way.
Genie: It won’t. If it does, I promise I’ll give you infinite wishes.
Me: Okay, then I wish for a boomerang with teeth.
Genie: Well played sir, well played …

Doctor: “It turns out, you have acute appendicitis.”
Me (blushing): “Compared to who?”

What’s wrong with the world?

  • “In one sense, and that the eternal sense, the thing is plain. The answer to the question, ‘What is Wrong?’ is, or should be, ‘I am wrong.’ Until a man can give that answer his idealism is only a hobby.” – G.K. Chesterton (Aug 16, 1905 in a letter to the Daily News)
  • “It’s me. I’m the problem.” – Taylor Swift
  • “We should not ask, ‘What is wrong with the world? for that diagnosis has already been given. Rather, we should ask, ‘What happened to the salt and light?’” – probably John R. Stott

Baby whale’s outboard motor is delivered first

Could whales have come about via a step-by-step evolutionary process? Or does their make-up evidence a Brilliant Designer, Who created them just so, from the get-go? Geoffrey Simmons weighs in:

“No one knows how blow holes came about, certainly not by small successive steps, or how the internal lungs became connected up to these holes in a way that prevents drowning. Or, how a massive communication center, found in their heads, came about. Or, how the ability to depressurize body segments during deep dives evolved. Calves are born tail first (they cannot go head first in case the process is too slow) and these newborns must rise to the surface immediately for air or else they will drown. The ability to swim must be present from the beginning. Trial and error would never have worked.”

Opportunity to honor God’s Name in Christian films

I often get sent a “screener” link for upcoming Christian films. It’s a chance for me to watch the film online before it comes out in theaters so I can let RP’s readership know about a good one that’s coming to theaters soon.

But more often than not, even in these Christian films, someone will stub a toe and let loose with an abuse of God’s Name. Very often it happens just once, but even so in film after Christian film, there it is: God’s Holy Name treated as an expletive. You know what you’ll almost never find in a Christian film? Actual expletives. Because Christians won’t stand for that.

When it happened again with the latest screener, I sent the promoter this note:

Thanks for the follow up. I did get the screener link. It looked intriguing but pretty early on someone took God’s Name in vain and that’s our one big no no, so it isn’t for us.

I know that’s an unusual position, but it’s based on the holiness of God’s Name, and the fact that taking it in vain is completely unneeded. Christian studios manage to never use the F-word, so this isn’t a matter of realism. It’s that the F-word is treated with more “reverence” than God’s own Name.

RP reviews movies that have violence, or some degrees of sexuality, or which delve into all sorts of dark topics (we reviewed Sound of Freedom, for example) but not movies that take God’s Name in vain. And, that one stand eliminates about 99% of movies, including the vast majority of Christian films too, which only underscores that need for us all to make the holiness of God’s Name more of an issue. Whereas folks might go to a movie for the sex or violence, no one goes to hear God’s Name taken in vain, so it has no upside for the producer. So why does it happen? Because Christians have treated it as so unimportant that there’s also no downside for the producer to do it.

I got a very polite reply, and she promised to send it on to the film’s producers. There’s a real opportunity for us to effect a change here, if we’re willing to track down the production companies and send them a polite note. It might be as simple as googling the movie, and seeing if it has a website. If not, the production company probably will, and because these are mostly smaller companies, some will still have contact option. These are Christian filmmakers, so this isn’t due to any hatred of God; it’s just ignorance. Even a few notes making the same point could go a long way, because they’ll want to listen.

Tradition, not simply for tradition’s sake

Tradition is often the received wisdom of the previous generations, and shouldn’t be lightly discarded. But as Ronald Reagan pointed out in the anecdote below, it’s also important we understand why we maintain these traditions.

“We can’t be like the fellow’s wife who used to cut off both ends of the ham before she cooked it. When he asked her why she did that, she said because that was the way her mother always did it.

“One day, he got the chance to ask his mother-in-law why she cut off both ends of the ham before she cooked it. And she said because that’s the way her mother did it.

“Came the holidays and Grandma was visiting and he told her about it and asked if that was true – why did she cut off both ends of the ham before she cooked it? She said, ‘That’s simple. I never had a pan big enough to get the whole ham in it.’”

Awfully good oxymorons

An oxymoron is a phrase that seem to be self-contradictory, but isn’t. The most common examples are just two words, like jumbo shrimp, plastic silverware, civil war, and unbiased opinion.

But they can be larger too. “May I ask a question?” and “Less is more” are both complete sentences. The sardonic “Free advice is worth what you paid for it” shows how they can be employed for comic effect, as did baseball star Yogi Berra’s many oxymoronic turns such as: “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.” Other classics include:

  • “It’s the little things in life that are colossal.” – G.K. Chesterton
  • “Always and never are two words you should always remember never to use.” – probably Wendell Johnson
  • “…the mercy of the wicked is cruel.” – Prov. 12:10
  • “Alas! Hegel was right when he said that we learn from history that men never learn anything from history.” – George Bernard Shaw
  • “I always advise people never to give advice.” – P.G. Wodehouse
  • “Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea until they have something to forgive.” – C.S. Lewis
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In a Nutshell

Tidbits – March 2024

The world’s only pro-life comedian? Nicholas De Santo is an Iranian-Italian who performs what he calls the “only pro-life stand-up act” which, he notes, also means it is “the world's funniest pro-life stand-up act.” Here’s a good bit from a set he did at London’s Backyard Comedy Club to a very receptive audience. “So, in the US the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and that was a serious blow to casual dating and casual sex, but it was a major victory for babies who want to live so, that's half full. And it was a major victory for Catholic biology. Do you guys know Catholic biology? I was born in Italy; I went to Catholic school. According to Progressive biology, they say “my body, my choice” because according to Progressive biology a woman, at some points in her life, she has a second beating heart, an extra pair of kidneys, and four extra limbs. But according to Catholic biology, a woman throughout her life has only one brain, one heart, and so forth so. In other words, if you are a woman and you ever find a second beating heart in your body, it's not your body! And if you're a man and you ever find a second beating heart in your body, it's not your body…and also you are not a man.” On the point of being open-minded “My friend said that he opened his intellect as the sun opens the fans of a palm tree, opening for opening’s sake, opening infinitely for ever. But I said that I opened my intellect as I opened my mouth, in order to shut in again on something solid.” – G.K. Chesterton English: that weird and wonderful language I’ve wondered if dad jokes might be a particularly or at least especially English thing. As a mishmash of so many other languages, there’s so much potential for wordplay. Here are just a few puns and ponderables: Before was was was, was was is. The word queue is just a Q followed by four silent letters Jail and prison mean the same thing, yet jailer and prisoner are opposites You have fingertips, not toetips, and yet you can tiptoe, not tipfinger How can wise man and wise guy be antonyms? We have players in a recital, and reciters in a play. Cough, rough, dough, bough, and through should rhyme but don’t. While you can drink a drink you can’t eat an eat or food a food. Your nose can run and your feet can smell! Why English is so hard They say Albert Einstein didn’t speak in full sentences until he was five. Maybe he just didn’t have anything to say, or perhaps learning English is hard enough to challenge even a genius. Just consider one small part of the process that, at first glance, might seem easy: creating plurals. Dog becomes dogs; cat becomes cats – it’s as easy as adding an S, right? Not so fast! Below is a part of a poem, credited only to Anonymous, that tackles the problem of plurals. This is just one verse, but there are many more plural problems where this came from! If the plural of man is always called men, Why shouldn’t the plural of pan be called pen? If I speak of my foot and show you my feet, And I give you a boot, would a pair be called beet? If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth, Why shouldn’t the plural of booth be called beeth? Why English is hard - part II A native English speaker knows never to speak of a “red massive bull.” Instead, he’d describe it as a “massive red bull” …but he wouldn’t know why. That’s because there is a rather precise ordering of adjectives that we all mostly know, even though we don’t know that we know. While it isn’t absolutely fixed, the order of adjectives most English folk agree to goes roughly like this: quantity, opinion, size, age, shape, color, origin, material. So, for example, we might ask for three Grade A eggs (quantity, opinion) but not Grade A three eggs. Or we’d talk about one hundred, enormous, old, round Englishmen (quantity, size, age, shape, origin) but not English, round, old, enormous, one hundred men. This knowledge is a gift to you as a native speaker, but it’s quite the challenge for any latecomer to our country. So, the next time you hear your Dutch grandmother, or maybe some newer immigrant, talk a little peculiarly, you’ll know why (and you’ll be sure to cut them some slack). How English is going to become easy While our native tongue does sometimes tie us up, the next generation can look forward to a much-simplified version. I had my own ideas for streamlining things that involved doing away with the letter C completely, substituting K where it was a hard sound and substituting S everywhere else. Kan’t we all agree that’d be niser? I took the idea to Merriam Webster (the dictionary lady) and she asked what I was going to do with the C in CH and I kouldn’t kome up with mukh of an answer for her. Anyways, Merriam did share with me her own simplification plans, giving me a peek at an upcoming edition of her dictionary. She’s managed to do what I could not – they’ve streamlined everything! She wasn’t sure exactly when this edition was coming out, but she knew it would be very soon. Here are a few entries from the first page: a noun Anything that identifies as the letter A Aaron noun Anything that identifies as Aaron ABBA noun Anything that identifies as ABBA asinine adjective Anything that identifies as being asinine Why today’s temperature? Those that hold to a millions-of-years-old earth also hold that the earth has been both vastly warmer and enormously cooler during that time. So why then do the global warming proponents among them think that the temperature we have now is the one we must maintain? This is an urgent question, as it is on the basis of today’s temperature being the right one that carbon taxes are being implemented, fossil fuels are being made more expensive, and consequently energy, and all that requires energy to produce (i.e., homes, food, heating, clothing, and, well, everything) more expensive as well. That’s even making things tough in Canada, but it’s that much worse for those around the world who have much less. Equal pay laws hurt those they are supposed to help There's both a theological and practical objection to "equal pay for equal work" laws, no matter how well-intentioned they might be. The practical objection is laid out by Milton Friedman in the quote below: "...the actual effect of requiring equal pay for equal work will be to harm women. If women's skills are higher than men's in a particular job and are recognized to be higher, the law does no good, because then they will be able to compete away and can get the same income. If their skills are less, for whatever reason...and you say the only way you are able to hire them is by paying the same wage, then you're denying them the only weapon they have to fight with. If the unwillingness of the men to hire them is because the men are sexist pigs... nonetheless you want to make it costly to them to exercise their prejudice. If you say to them you have to pay the same wage no matter whether you hire women or men then here's Mr. Sexist Pig: it doesn't cost him anything to hire men instead of women. However, if the women are free to compete and to say 'Well now, look, I'll offer my work for less,' then he can only hire men if he bears a cost. If the women are really good as a man, then he's paying a price for discrimination. And what you are doing, not intentionally but by misunderstanding, when you try to get equal pay for equal work laws is reducing to zero the cost imposed on people who are discriminating for irrelevant reasons. And I would like to see a cost imposed!" The theological objection is covered in the "Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard" (Matt. 20:1-16). While the parable is about grace, not economics, what it illustrates is true: “Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?” If an employer wanted to pay the last worker more than the rest, but pays others what he agreed to, what business is the last worker’s wages to us? Or the first? Mo Willems’ sage advice Mo Willems, the author of the delightful Elephant and Piggie children’s book series, has some good advice for adults too. Here’s a trio: You only have one chance to make a twenty-third impression. Better to say, “I love you more than ever” than “I used to love you less.” Better to say, “You are one in a million” than “There are 7,960 others just like you out there.” Some truths are simply written on our hearts In a 1998 debate with atheist Peter Atkins in which Atkins touted science as the ultimate arbitrator of truth, William Lane Craig highlighted how there are fundamental truths that science can’t prove. Craig is a theistic evolutionist, but does well here. “I think that there are a good number of things that cannot be scientifically proven, but that we’re all rational to accept. Let me list five. “Logical and mathematical truths cannot be proven by science. Science presupposes logic and math so that to try to prove them by science would be arguing in a circle. “Metaphysical truths like, there are other minds than my own, or that the external world is real, or that the past was not created five minutes ago with the appearance of age are rational beliefs that cannot be scientifically proven. “Ethical beliefs about statements of value are not accessible by the scientific method. You can’t show by science that the Nazi scientists in the camps did anything evil as opposed to the scientists in Western democracies. “Aesthetic judgments cannot be accessed by the scientific method because the beautiful, like the good, cannot be scientifically proven. “And, most remarkably, would be science itself. Science cannot be justified by the scientific method, since it is permeated with unprovable assumptions.” Just one issue? “If you're pro-life, you realize abortion is murder. How can you say ‘it's one of many issues’ and vote for a pro-choice candidate? What policy of theirs could be so good that it's worth allowing millions of babies to be killed?” – Seamus Coughlin...