Friday, December 30, 2005

Speed Scrabble

Just got done playing an awesome Speed Scrabble game with all five of my sisters, my brother and the three girls from across the street! That's the first time I can remember playing a board game with all my siblings, and it was very fun. In a twist of fate, my younger sister Kathleen, admittedly one of the worst spellers, won, beating me by, oh, 47 points.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Tolkien on predestination, evil, and God's sovereignty

For those of you not familier with Tolkien, Ilúvatar is our God and Melko is similar to Lucifer, the wise angel of light that fell through pride and want of God's glory. In Tolkien's creation story, all Ilúvatar's 'angels' or Ainur are singing a beutiful music that Ilúvatar will later bring into being. Melko (or Melkor) tries to make his music different and against the song Iluvatar is weaving through them, but Ilúvatar incorperates it and uses it for his glory.

"Thou Melko shalt see that no theme can be played save it come in the end of Ilúvatar's self, nor can any alter the music in Ilúvatar's despite. He that attempts this finds himself in the end but aiding me in devising a thing of still greater grandeur and more complex wonder: - for lo! through Melko have terror as fire, and sorrow like dark waters, wrath like thunder, and evil as far from my light as the depths of the uttermost of the dark places, come into the design that I laid before you. Through him has pain and misery been made in the clash of overwhelming musics; and with confusion of sound have cruelty, and ravening, and darkness, loathly mire and all putresence of thought or thing, foul mists and violent flame, cold without mercy, been borne, and death without hope. Yet it is through him and not by him; and he shall see, and ye all likewise, and even shall those beings, who must now dwell amoung his evil and endure through Melko misery and sorrow, terror and wickedness, declare in the end that it redoundeth only to my great glory, and doth but make the theme more worth the hearing, Life more worth the living, and the World so much the more wonderful and marvellous, that of all the deeds of Ilúvatar it shall be called his mightiest and loveliest."

-The Book of Lost Tales, Volume 1

*See the beautiful original John Howe cover painting here.

world building and story telling

Storytelling seems to be birthed by world building, or at least they are never far from each other. This is certainly the case with Tolkien, and I think with Lewis, I remember reading that much of Narnia sprang from mental images that Lewis saw, details of a world (a faun with an umbrella standing next to a lamp-post in a snow covered wood). I also remember the Miller brothers aim in making Myst and Riven was primarily "making a place that we would want to go to", building a world; after that a story grew around and behind and beyond those worlds. George Lucas seems to so focus on his mastery of worldbuilding that he perhaps neglects the story at times.

And of course God made first the world and then directed his-story within that world. Come to think of it, history is really a journey from one world, an incomplete and local garden world, through a fallen world with deserts and towers of Babel, to a redeemed, complete and mature garden-city world; and in this story, we the characters are sub-creators and co-creators with God, part of the plot of The story is world-building, his world-building and ours, as we spread the garden over the world and build the holy city. It's Glorious! ... and that of course is the point: "The chief end of man is to glorify and enjoy God."

Reminds me of the Myst novels and 'games', whose stories are mostly about world-building its self. The D'ni were a culture who wrote books describing and in a way creating worlds that could then be 'linked' to and actually visited.

Umberto Eco has this to say on the topic:
"I discovered, namely, that a novel has nothing to do with words in the first instance. Writing a novel is a cosmological matter, like the story told in Genisis... What I mean is that to tell a story you must first of all construct a world, furnished as much as possible, down to the slightest details. If I were to constuct a river, I would need two banks; and if on the left bank I put a fisherman, and if I were to give this fisherman a wrathful character and a police record, then I could start writing, translating into words everything that would inevitably happen. What does a fisherman do? He fishes (and thence a whole series of actions, more or less obligatory). And then what happens? Either the fish are biting or they are not. If they bite, the fisherman catches them and goes home happy. End of story. If there are no fish, since he is a wrathful type he will probably become angry. Perhaps he will break his fishing rod. This is much; still, it is already a sketch. But there is an Indian proverb that goes: "Sit on the bank of a river and wait: your enemies corpse will soon float by." And what if a corpse were to come down stream-since this possibility is inherent in an intertextual area like a river? We must also bear in mind that my fisherman has a police record. Will he want to risk the trouble? What will he do? Will he run away and pretend not to have seen the corpse? Will he feel vulnerable, because this, after all, is the corpse of the man he hated? ...As you see, as soon as one's invented world has become furnished just a little, there is already the beginnings of a story. There already is the beginning of a style, too, because the fisherman who is fishing should establish a slow, fluvial pace, cadenced by his waiting, which would be patient but also marked by the fits of his impatient wrath. The problem is to construct the world: the words will practically come on their own. Rem tene, verba sequenture: grasp the subject and the words will follow. This, I believe, is the opposite of what happens with poetry, which is more a case of verba tene, res sequentur: grasp the words, and the subject will follow."
-Postscript to the Name of a Rose

Monday, December 26, 2005

I find it interesting that the ancient greeks thought the four elements of matter were earth, water, air, and fire; and we moderns believe the four states of matter are solid, liquid, gas, and plasma. They perhaps are not so foolish as we would like to think.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Rushdooney on psychology & the death of the modern

"The modern era, which can also be called the age of humanism, has been rich in it's promises to man: cradle to grave security, equality, a rich life for all, the abolition of poverty, ignorance, war, disease, and even death it's self. Year in and year out, modern man has had the message of nearing Utopia dinned into his ears. He has believed it. Man has become inpatient with respect to all problems, and a revolutionary rage at delays is increasing in evidence. This impatience is not helped by the growing collapse of the humanistic age. Material progress there has been, but man finds himself increasingly engaged in deadlier wars and with the world and himself, facing deadly problems of air, earth, food, and water pollution, and progressively suicidal in his own impulses.

The increasing prominence of psychology is an important sign of the times. When man becomes a problem to himself, psychology comes into its own. As man's inner problems grow, his ability to cope with the outer world and it's problems declines. Thus, a psychology-oriented age is an age in decline, unsure of it's self, and incompetent in the face of it's responsibilities. It is significant that modern man talks so much about "alienation"; his position of modernity isolates him from God and man and leaves him a prisoner of his isolated ego."

"Humanism calls for perpetual revolution, because, with every man his own law, and with evolution producing new hieghts each generation, freedom from the past is a neccesity. But this perpetual revolution is the deliberate destruction of the capital of a civilization, and it's consequence is the ultimate impoverishment of all."
(the capital of civilization means all the knowledge, scientific, historical, philosophic, artistic, political etc.)

"If a religion is isolated from its world and confined to it's church or temple, it is irrelevent to that world because it is not its motive force. The religion of a culture is that motive force which governs human action in every realm and embodies its self in the life, institutions, hopes, and dreams of a society."

"The modern age gives every evidence of approaching death. This is a cause, not for dismay, but for hope. The death of modernity makes possible the birth of a new culture, and such an event is always, however turbulent, an exciting and challenging venture. The dying culture loses its will to live. A new culture, grounded on a new faith, restores that will to live under very adverse circumstances."
-Rousas John Rushdoony, in the One and the Many

Friday, December 16, 2005

death and emotion in movies and life

There's always seems to be a tension in movies and in stories in general between having characters die or tragic and terrible things happen, and keeping the audience in the moment of the story. If I go see a movie and get to know a character that then dies half way through, I am sad for that character and the people he knows. But, if I get to know 5 characters and suddenly 3 of them die tragically and too soon, it will take me out of the moment, then I am no longer merely sad for the characters, I am mad at the writers and directors for killing off a character. I may even want to get up and leave the theater.

This seems to happen in life too, people get taken out of the moments of their lives in the midst of a sudden travesty and shake their fist at the writer/director of their lives, God. Even atheists who don't believe he exist or Christians who say they don't believe he directs our lives do this. To stretch the metaphor, some leave the theater and kill themselves.

But back to movies, we sit there and know in the back of our minds that it is a movie, and we paid 7.50$ to go through an emotional roller coaster ride; we want to feel sad, but we want to understand our sadness and feel happy, we want to know that the characters and us will "live happily ever after".

Mysterious Islands

The TV show Lost reminds me a lot of Mysterious Island by Jules Verne: a few people stranded on a strange island with monsters and technology, I wonder if there is a connection. The game Myst was inspired by the Verne novel, but without the monsters, though it seems they are in the last two, Myst 4 & 5. I've always disliked it when numbers were tacked on the end of movie, book or game titles. Riven, the second game wasn't called Myst 2. Reminds me of a description of how impersonal Gehn (the villain in Riven) is in Myst: Book of Atrus: "He who numbers but but does not name."

'primitive' cultures

The 'primitive' culture on the island in King Kong made me reconsider our common notion of an uncivilized culture. You know the image, hysteria, chanting, faces full of bones, cannibalism, human sacrifice, etc.

What do we call this culture? We call it uncivilized, primitive.

But primitive means primary, or basic, back to the origin, and if we go back to the origin, the Garden of Eden, is this what we find? No, man was created "civilized" as we say, a cultural, ruling, speaking Image of God; we were made to be sons of God, but evolution and it's ancietnt pagan versions say we are children of the animals or of Mother Earth. We only call this primitive because we have been taught that man slowly turned from an animal that eats other animals, and lives only to survive into something more, but that is not true, this sort of culture didn't exist until a few hundred years into human history, it began in the land of Nod east of Eden, and reached it's peak of evil just before the Flood.

Of course, this culture is not as developed technologically, or artistically ours, but the primary difference is that it is a pagan culture and not a culture of people who worship God. This is simply what culture looks like without the influence of the word of God.

Pagan cultures have often had human and child sacrifice, and as our culture becomes more pagan, we sacrifice our children through abortion to the lame idols of fortune and success.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

thoughts during King Kong

I'm only posting this so I'll come back and write my thoughts on these things before I forget them.
  • Mysterious Islands
  • Death and emotions in movies
  • 'primative' cultures
  • Secular education and study of the world
  • Visual Effects and bad directing or writing, etc (bad human element, or bad camera)

Santiago Calatrava on arts and the bible

Santiago Calatrava is one of the most important and influential architects alive today. I don't normally follow modern architecture, so I hadn't heard of him until I saw him speak at my sister's graduation from SMU last spring. It was a little hard to follow what he was saying at the time because it was outside in a crowd of people and he has a thick spanish accent, but it is remarkable what he said. I found a copy of the speach online this summer, but it appears to be gone now, I did however find two silmiler speeches he gave, one was a Commencement Address at SMU in may (windows media video) and the other is a American Institute of Architects (AIA) Gold Medal Acceptance Speech in February.

In the first one, a 10 minute speech, he spends several minutes exegeting John 1:1:

He begins saying that many books an passages have been very influential on understanding his profession, "one of them was reading the gosple of John, who started with the words 'in the beginning was the word', 'en arche en o logos'" He then talks about how words are beginnings and how these first words in the new testement are actually the same as the beginning as the words in the old testement, and then even about the how the actual shape of the first letter in greek, epsilon, shows begining.

What is a famous Architect doing at a secular (accept in name) college spending several minuets talking about John 1?

He is being humble and wise, but to us, who live in a culture where this has been foriegn for so long, it seems odd.

He ended that speech with"let me understand my profession in this way: heading workers as a worker and through the technique achieve art with the help of God."

Then in the AIA speech, which is similar, but longer, he starts by saying:

"When you get an award like this, you are supposed to make a speech about the future of your profession. But I feel that I am not good at predicting the future. I never thought I would be standing here tonight.

I would like to share with you some thoughts about the past and the history of our profession—about its very deep roots. This is perhaps a way for us to reflect on the meaning of the work we do."

Instead of the arragance of the modern and the shock of the new he turns to history, he remembers our fathers, he opens the Bible:

After quoting medieval and renaissance definitions of architecture he says:

"I would like to conclude by reading to you the most ancient definition I have found of the profession of the architect:

'See, I have called by name Bezalel, the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge of all workmanship, so that he can make skillful things: working in gold, in silver, and in brass…'

I am sure you all recognize where this comes from. It is the Bible: Exodus, chapter 31. God, the ultimate client, has commissioned Bezalel to design and build the Tabernacle."

I love it, "I'm sure you all recognize where this comes from", you're only a large group of secular, modern architects, why wouldn't you?

"...The architect Bezalel has wisdom, understanding and knowledge, so that he can work in gold, silver and brass. It is no mistake that the words have this rhythm of three and then three. Long before most people could read the Bible, they learned it by memory, by hearing it spoken. This kind of association—wisdom, understanding, knowledge…gold, silver, brass—was exactly the kind of meaning they received by listening to the Bible."

Wait is that James Jorden? No. Oh, Peter Leithart, perhaps? Um, no actually it's Santiago Calatrava.

He also talks about Bezalel being filled by the Spirit. Brian Godawa and others have pointed out that Bezalel, an artist, was the first person in the Bible to be filled with the Holy Spirit (so why do mordern christians hate and suck at making art?)

Back to Calatrava:
What else do we hear in this text? We hear that God’s spirit has filled Bezalel. This is what we will come across later, with the Greeks, with their idea of “ENTEOS ASMOS” or enthusiasm. Bezalel will be able to go beyond technique to art, because a spirit much greater than his own has filled him.

But even so, we also hear, in the Bible, that “man is the measure of all things.” God calls Bezalel by name. This tremendous work, which calls for a spirit that seems beyond human capability, must nevertheless be carried out by someone with a name—an individual—someone with human limits."

And then later he closes with:

"My fellow architects—my dear colleagues, who have moved me so profoundly with the award of this Gold Medal—I do not know the future of our profession. But we know our past, to which we must be responsible. Our past tells us that we are human beings—fallible and limited—who do technical work with material things. Our past also tells us that somehow, through an agency we do not understand, we can sometimes create art. When that happens, we are no longer merely workers. We became “ARCHITEKTON” - the first among workers."

How odd and out of place,
and how apt and needed in our culture!
Praise God, the maker of all things, including those who make!

I look forward to seeing how his design for the new World Trade Center turns out.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

As I was reading my Modern Architecture history I came across this: "...the tenets of the Modern Movement were being eclipsed by modernity interpreted as monumental classicism, spurred in part by ...patronage of governments in Soviet Russia, Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and the United States."

See anything a little odd in that last part?

Monday, December 05, 2005

Reflections on the Story and the Teller

Sometimes I forget that Job and Melkizedek, Plato and Aristotle, Lewis and Tolkien, Da Vinci and Durer, my brother and my sister, my room-mate and the janitor are all charecters in the same grand story. His story, history. There are villains and heroes, minor characters and bystanders. There are repeated symbols and themes. There is a beginning, middle and end. We are somewhere in the midst of the second half. There is a grand story, with it's major characters, which is written in a specific way, all events and turns leading to it's ultimate conclusion. This story, while remaining a story is composed of many stories, thousands of millions. Stories of Cultures, of Nations, of peoples, of families, and of individual people. There are many comedies and tragedies through out this, but ultimately the story as a whole is a comedy, a happy ending where the lovers get married. Like in Shakespearian comedies, it ends in a wedding. One way this story written and spoken by God is unique from stories men write, (apart from the obvious benefit of being real and true), is that in this story the characters who are in the story and whose stories are written by God, actually have a relationship with the Author. The Author is actually also one of the main characters. He himself entered the story, and came into his story to move it along, to 'act' out as it were a crucial role in the story, in the play. Jesus is fully a man, a creation, a character written by God, but he is also fully God, fully the author and finisher of our faith and of our story. It is a story, but it is not merely read in books (though it is), it is a play of sorts, in which all of us are 'actors' "all the worlds a stage" as Shakespeare said. But unlike our plays, this grand play is also true and real, when people die they die, when you see someone crying they are actually sad. And unlike actors in our plays, we don't always have a literal script, we have to make decisions, in that way it seems we help write the story, we join the dance.

Stories are most about how people interact with and relate to one another. It is not surprising then, that God, who created the world for the characters and stories he would weave, while being one God, is more then one, he is many. He is the Holy Trinity, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He is a community, a Perichoresis of Love as theologians have said. Perichoresis means something like a 'dancing around' (you can see the root for choreography) It takes a loving, speaking community that converses with each other to write stories which are about the relations between characters.

It is interesting, that in addition too the stories that are our lives, we also have a storybook that contains a summary of the whole story and the most important stories in his story. In it we find the begining and the middle and the end spelled out for us, we are told what our role is and what our relationship to the other characters should be; who the main villian is; how we are redeemed and saved when we are villains; what the story, history, means; and instuctions on how we should 'act'.

It was Doug Wilson, Doug Jones, and Peter Leithart, Brian Godawa, C S Lewis, and J R R Tolkien who first opened my eyes to these things, and I thank them for it.
"And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the LORD thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household"
-Deuteronomy 14:26

Saturday, December 03, 2005


So, having a sore throat, and not wanting to go to bed even though it's 4 in the morning, I made some Chai tea with half a lemon and lots of honey, and sat down with my new book on Dostoevsky.

Dostoyevsky's life was wrought with terrible things all around him, like a young girl of 9, a playmate of Dostoevsky, being raped and left to die; or the death of his mother at 15, etc.
Nevertheless, through 'home-schooling' him and his brother, "Both parents instilled on the children a love of stories, art, and literature."; and his father taught him latin and french. "Of his early childhood Dostoevsky said 'We in our family have known the Gospel almost since earliest childhood'" (thanks to my parents I can say the same thing)

Apparently he studied architecture at a military engineering school, though his real interest was in literature: "The work at the academy that most suited him was training to be a draughtsman - though his designs were sometimes more inventive then practical." (hmm, sound familiar?) Though his designs were often too impractical, "he never lost interest in architecture: his later notebooks contain sketches that are evident of his talent"

"Maths was not his strength, but he showed an active interest in religion lectures, often staying behind to talk with the tutor, a priest." (wow, that's me in the last few years too)

"Perhaps his religious studies and observances helped him keep his sense of identity as a spiritual being and an artist in a military world with which he did not identify, full of uniformity, engineering, and mathematics."

Elsewhere his struggles with pride and shame in failing part of school and blaming it on the teachers or in the tension between studying something practical and wanting to pursue arts really resonate with me. There is nothing new under the sun.

book selling and my evening

Thankfully my books have started to sell. I sell books on amazon that I buy (primarily) at Half-Price to pay for part of college. This semester I've had a lot (20ish) books for sale, but for some reason they haven't sold very fast. Until this week, praise God, I sold 7 so far!

So with that money deposited in my checking account by Amazon, I grabbed a bus to half-price to buy a few more I knew would sell (but didn't have the capital to buy earlier). Had a good 30 min drawing people on the bus, got to half price, found the books to sell, and I also bought two books for myself to celebrate by good fortune.
Great finds, and I passed up an Owen Barfield Reader! Addicted to Mediocrity is by the famous Christian philosopher Francis Schaeffer's son Franky Schaeffer. Anyway, turns out that both of the two Half Price Books employees working the register were Francis Schaeffer fans! Small world, and very encouraging.

After that I ate Chinese food and watched the Interpreter with Mike, Jonathan M, John M, David G, which was fun, even though the interpreter wasn't that great. Then I came home, photoshopped, and watched Hitchcock's Rear Window with Dakota, which was very good. Watching a hitchcock film makes me hate modern film editing. (Picture a giddy puppy on speed)

So, having a sore throat, and not wanting to go to bed even though it's 4 in the morning, I made some Chai tea with half a lemon and lots of honey, and sat down with my new book on Dostoevsky.

(Edit, I think I'll make this a new post)

Friday, December 02, 2005

My Desk

I sketched my desk top last night:
My virtual desktop is just as bad.