Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Not-So-New Mantra: Perception Is Reality

On Sunday, the Chicago Bears faced their rivals the Green Bay Packers for the AFC Championship for the first time in 70 years and lost after a near-miraculous comeback.

In the third quarter, their THIRD-string quarterback, Jacob Hanie, took the field with every intent to get the Bears out of their 14-0 deficit.

In mere minutes, he had made TWICE as many completions as their lead QB Jay Cutler made the previous half and even made the FIRST 3rd down conversion for the Bears ALL SEASON! That is, he did what the Bears had never done and was doing it better than Cutler. Impressive, no?

The game became 14-7. People stopped looking depressed. Moans were turning to cheers. Then, horror of horrors - an interception by a Packer nick-named 'The Freezer" for his large ungainly size - and a touchdown! The Bears were down again by two TD's - but they IMMEDIATELY responded on the return, driving down field and getting ANOTHER TOUCHDOWN! 21-14 now! And then began a nail-biting drive in the 4th quarter - would the Bears get ANOTHER touchdown and tie up the game? They were moving fast and the 2 minute warning had sounded...

...and Green Bay intercepted a pass poorly thrown and the game was over in the last 39 seconds.

What a shame. The Bears lost. They were losers. Right?

Wrong. At least, not in the end, they weren't.

Green Bay had put 14 unanswered points on the board in the first half of the game - unheard of! Even the Bears defense admitted, "We didn't do anything differently in the second half. We just did what we were supposed to be doing in the first place."

So they woke up late. It happens. But they woke up.

Furthermore, quarterback Jay Cutler wasn't dong well at all. If the Bears had gotten ONE TD in the first half, it would have been a tie. As it was, Jacob Hanie, their third QB almost single-handedly upset the game, even with two pass interceptions. My reaction: "Dang! We should have put this guy in EARLIER!"

But do you know what everyone was REALLY upset about? The fact that Jay Cutler left the field because of a knee injury. It wasn't really his decision - the coaches, the docs, the trainers all saw he was not doing well and he had to sit out. He was doing poorly that first half, but no one knew why. The reason became apparent: he was hurting -badly.

But because he was standing on the side lines, as was possible for him to do, many fans thought he "wimped out" on them. It began to circulate even among pro's that he "wasn't tough enough." All because of 5 seconds of video show him standing.

One player said it well on a radio interview: "Perception is reality to these people. These guys have NO idea what his injury was like - and those X-rays show a torn ACL - you CANNOT play on that! You can stand - I have - but you cannot be out there throwing the football and getting sacked like Jay was." Another teammate pointed out in no uncertain terms how unjust their judgment was of Cutler. "Tough? He's one of the toughest men I know! You get out there and play with diabetes - yeah, diabetes - and get sacked 82 times in a season!"

Another said this: "You cannot play when you are injured like that. You hold back your team because you cannot do your job." So Jay would have been hurting his team MORE to keep playing. His exit from the game was an act of humility and doing what was best for his team.

So much for fan perception.

I am proud of the Bears, even though they lost. Big props to Forte and especially Brian Urlacher, who captained beautifully the defense against the Packers. Notice that there were NO field goals in the entire game? Think what that means, knowing one TD was an interception and his guys were not on the field to stop it.

I watched the movie Rocky again the other night. I think it applies here about having the will to endure loss for a greater reason. Rocky says something poignant about not "kidding himself" about his chances of winning. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A7YmojUJagk&feature=player_detailpage#t=109s
"All I want to do is go the distance," he says. "Seeing that bell ring - and I'm still standing - I'll know for the first time in my life that I weren't just another bum from the neighborhood."

Rocky has been missing his potential all his life - and its the first chance he will have to show he is a fighter - a good one and not just a wanna-be - a bum, an enforcer for "a second-rate loan shark" a Mickey reminded him earlier before agreeing to train him.

Chicago started so badly this season, they should not made it to the playoffs.

Chicago also did so badly the first half of their championship game with a wounded quarterback, it should have been a total blowout by the Packers.

But in the last quarter, they were playing and playing to win. They were alive and fighting and throwing and running and doing what they had NEVER done before with a quarterback they barely knew.

They didn't win the game, but the Bears weren't no losers. The Bears weren't no bums.

They won in integrity, professionalism, faith, heart and soul.

That's something Chicago should be proud about. Very proud.

[I'll finish up later, 'cause there's something else I want to say on this broad subject]

peace
justice

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Ain't It Cool News interviews V&V creators


My fave RPG of all time is Villains and Vigilantes(tm) for its open-ended creativity and rules-lite style.

One year ago, almost to the day, I called up Scott Bizar of FGU and had a good conversation with him on the possibility about getting something published for V&V. I ended the conversation with "This is going to be the best year ever for V&V!"

He was little quiet after that statement. I think Scott might have thought I was either boasting of my own possible submissions, or was simply shocked that I was so confident.

Well it ended up being a very prophetic statement. And fulfilled in a way that COMPLETELY blindsided both me and him.

In six months, Scott began publishing adventures that had been sitting gathering dust for ten years - and brand new ones submitted by eager talent.

But almost at the same time, Jeff Dee and Jack Herman announced that they were now the sole publishers of V&V and were re-claiming their rights.

No one knew how solid a grip they had on this claim until a few facts came to light: that FGU was no longer incorporated, and on the day that happened, all rights reverted back to the original creators. That day occurred way back in 1991, says one document from the state of New York. [Insert SFX "My goodness!" spoken by Dorothy from Wizard of Ozhere.]

In the following interview by 'superhero' Kristian Horn for AICN, another reason Jeff and Jack have the sole rights to publish came to light: they only signed a contract for the First Edition of V&V, not for the ever more popular Second Edition. They were told it was not necessary.

Seems that it was. New rules and new writing and all that.

So that means they had the rights even earlier, if you get down to the legal nitty-gritty - back in 1982 or so.

[Insert SFX "Walll, GOLL-EE" from 'Gomer Pyle' here.]

Here's the interview: http://www.aintitcool.com/node/48121 . Just scroll to the bottom to see this quote:

superhero [Kristian Horn]: OK…so at what point did it begin to go off the rails? I’m not sure about the specifics, but I remember reading about some legal issues regarding who owned Villains and Vigilantes?

JD [Jeff Dee]: We started to become unhappy in the late 1980’s when FGU stopped advertising V&V, taking it to conventions, or even soliciting distributors. When it became clear that this situation wasn’t going to change, we started looking for ways to get our game back. But for years, it looked hopeless. The contract seemed to give Scott Bizar enough loopholes so that he could keep it in force perpetually with little effort, and attempts to purchase the publishing rights from him were met by outrageously high price tags.

As it turned out, there are a few problems with our old contract which we were unaware of until recently.

Our contract was with Fantasy Games Unlimited, Incorporated – which, we recently discovered, was “dissolved by proclamation” by the state of NY in 1991 for failure to pay state taxes. It no longer exists. And the contract clearly stated that if FGU Inc ever ceased to exist, then the publication rights reverted back to us.

But Scott never told us that FGU Inc was gone. He just kept calling himself “Fantasy Games Unlimited”, as if nothing had happened. Maybe he was afraid we would take our game and walk, or maybe he didn’t want to risk having to renegotiate the deal.

Furthermore, the only contract we ever signed with FGU Inc was for the original 1979 edition of V&V. Scott told us we didn’t need a new contract for the second edition in 1982 because it had the same title and authors. But that’s just not true. The second Edition is a separate work, and therefore legally required its own contract. So it turns out that FGU Inc never actually had the right to publish the V&V second edition in the first place.

So basically, Scott Bizar has been pretending that the corporation we had a contract with still exists, which it doesn’t, and that the contract we had with that defunct corporation covered the 1982 edition of V&V, which it didn’t.

When these facts came to light, we immediately moved to assert our legal claim to the publishing rights to our game.


Though Jeff Dee and I are ideologically MILES apart - he is a member of the Atheist Community of Austin, TX - I had a gut feeling that this rationalist, transhumanist would NOT move beyond the proper legal boundaries to get his creation back.

Just not his style. I've been criticized for believing that, but I knew Jeff as a man bound to follow the rule of law, no matter how tough it was. I respected that. I mean, you do REALIZE that some FIVE pages of the rules of V&V [a 60-odd page rulesset] are simply the legal codes for the state of New York and their consequences, right? What RPG asks you to play yourself and then GIVES you a breakdown of the legal system for the 'home state' of superherodom?

But for him to discover this legal right so late is bittersweet, I bet.

I bet.

Can I tell you something as a Christian? We have incredible rights that most of us are, like Jeff Dee, unaware of.

As a Christian, we have the RIGHT to be called 'Sons of God.'

We have the RIGHT to boldly approach a Holy God without fear, without shame.

We have the RIGHT to ask for wisdom, be given supernatural power and understanding, and to effectively deal with what is evil before us.

We have the RIGHT to eternal life as an unchanging, inviolate gift, not based on performance but on our trust in Christ.

We have the RIGHT to Consul/Counsel. We have a RIGHT to know the Truth and proclaim it.

We have the RIGHT and AUTHORITY to forgive others.

But we have those rights because Jesus paid for them.

Don't forget that. Don't let anyone take those rights from you by lies and/or deception.

You were created for a purpose; there is no one like you or better suited for the tasks assigned to you.

Praise God for that.

And, if you will, praise God that Jeff and Jack, two very creative men, have finally gotten their creation back.

Even as God got back His Creation as well -legally, through Jesus.

;)


Amen.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Inception Pt. 2

SPOILERS SO BIG YOU NEED A HEFTY BAG TO CARRY THEM IN! Run Away if you have NOT seen Inception!

Don't argue - RUN!

OKaaaaayyyyy.... warned you twice....

A lot of people have been arguing about the ending of Inception, because director/writer Christopher Nolan ends with Cobb's 'tell' - the object that identifies if he is dreaming or not - is still spinning when the film ends.

If you listen carefully, you DO begin to hear it wobble - still, he cut the scene tightly enough, and it is so similar to the last time he saw his children, we the audience are left to guess if he is awake or dreaming of his return home. [ YouTube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ThtjdhAl-9U&feature=related ]



Why did Nolan do this? To leave it up to the audience? No. It seems he was saying something about Cobb's - and our human - heart, and one reviewer picked up on it.

From Screenrant [ http://screenrant.com/inception-spoilers-discussion-kofi-68330/3/ ]:
At the beginning of the film, after the first job Cobb’s team tries to pull on Saito, we see Cobb sitting in his hotel room alone, spinning the top and watching it intently, gun in hand. This is a guy who is ready to blow his brains out if the top keeps spinning, in order to “wake himself up.” That’s how obsessed and paranoid he’s become.

Throughout the film, Cobb continues to obsess about spinning the top and verifying reality – however, at the end of movie, he spins the top and walks away from it before he can verify if it stops spinning or not. His kids come running in and Cobb couldn’t care less about about the top or “true reality” or extraction/inception anymore. He just wants to be with his children, in whatever place he can be with them. That emotional connection and desire is “reality” enough for him.

Such is the danger of a wrong thought in our deepest hearts and what it can bring forth. Such is the power of achieving our dreams - we do not care anymore what reality is - we GOT what we desired.

I have done both in my life - had thoughts so poisonous that they ruined reality and had what I dreamed for ALMOST come true - and if I had closed my eyes, they would have - but I had to force myself to look at reality and not be ensnared by their beauty.

You too, I bet. Have you ever met a person you thought would complete you, make you whole, and be all you wanted? If they were a mortal, you asked too much of them.

That place belongs to God, maker of true reality.

I know some people who are very happy in their dreams - and they do not want to be woken up by 1) death, 2) loss and 3) personal guilt.

But those are the very things that awaken us that THIS world is not our home, just as Cobb was awakened in Limbo by Mal. [By the way, Mal, short for Mallory, is also an important name - 'Mal' means 'bad' in Latin. Or consider it phonetically: 'Mal' = 'maul' - to be viciously attacked and wounded by a beast - i.e. exactly how she acts in the end when rejected by Cobb.]

We are awakened from our poor dreams by such awful things, it is a crime to speak of them without compassion. Are they really necessary? Unfortunately, yes.

When a child is shot or a leader is assassinated, we weep and ask 'Why'?

When our heart is shattered into a million pieces and we are told we are no longer wanted, or needed, or desirable,too old, too unfit, we cry out at the unfairness of a world which makes promises it CANNOT keep, and ask 'WHY?!'

I do not want to detract from the joy of Cobb being re-united with his children in the film by saying it was another dream. No, I think he is NOT dreaming in the sense he is trapped in Limbo - because he went there to save Saito and DID confront Mal. He listened to Ariadne and HAD made a physical and emotional break with late wife.

He IS cautious when he comes awake, seeking confirmation it is NOT a dream.

But Nolan will not let you rest with ONE answer, and I suppose I won't either.

"Is this another dream that must end? Do you care if it is? That is, are you willing to face reality?"

While many Christians are accused of 'not facing reality' I am afraid that charge cannot be laid on them justly.

In Christianity, we say flatly these things:

1) This world is NOT as God intended. Corruption, sadness, pain and death are everywhere due to Man's original disobedience and current continuing disobedience.

2) There are many temptations to ensnare us in this world - and we are prone to listen to them. We want to avoid God and embrace temporary idols to grant us our desires and make us happy.

3) Knowing this, God sent into this world a Man who was His Son, directly connected to Him. Unable to be seduced or misdirected, loving the unlovable, understanding without condemning or condoning sin. He is the 'tell' for the world. He alone was perfectly sane and knew our hearts, inside and out.

4) In His sacrifice, and His work alone, we can have the power to BE sane - awake - non-dreaming. We can also be fearless of death - for we will awake and be put into our new homes with new bodies thanks to Him.

I think a lot of us need Him WAY before we realize Him.

That immortal gave us the 'kick' that wakes us all up. The baptism by water that makes us realize what we should know: 'We are dreaming if we think this world holds all our happiness.'

For Christians, the cross is our 'tell.' It keeps us focused on what we are here for.

And no matter what dreams may come, no matter how beautiful they are, here they must end.

But for those in Christ, losing a dream is not the end - they become our 'kicks' - our dying to ourselves - to wake us up, and bring us up and up - and out of the almost real into the Real.

Where God does indeed dwell and is in all. Where there is no deception - even self-deception - and love and joy never end.

Amen.


p.s. For further reading, read Revelations 21.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Inception Pt. 1

If you have not seen the movie, stop right now. I am going to be dropping spoilers so fast you'd swear I had rotten apples in my pockets.

First, let's watch that awesome trailer again, shall we?



"Well, it's not strictly speaking...legal."

"I think I found a way home... and this last job is how I get there."

"I have it under control."
"I'd hate to see out of control!"

"You mustn't be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling."
BOOoooM!


O.K. Those quotes are worth the price of admission alone. PLUS and amazing ominous and beautiful score by Hans Zimmer, how bsed this incredible beat on a very, very slowed down version of a classic French...uhm.. 'swooner' song: Non, Je ne regrette rien ["No, I have no regrets at all"]. YouTube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3Kvu6Kgp88 .



This song is used while the team is in France and under deep sleep in the dreamworld to warn them it is time to wake up. In a BEAUTIFUL double-entendre', the catharisis for our hero Cobb, played by DiCaprio, is him having to learn to let go of the woman he loved - even though he feels great guilt about her death. Cobb has regrets - and this song tortures him to let them go so he can live in the real world.

So THIS song is playing in real time, but what do our heroes and heroine hear down in the dreaming worlds they have entered? In dream worlds that progress in time at 1/20th the rate of real time?

Not the brisk Duh, de duhn, de duhn , de duhn joyful gallop of a love song, but "DUHNnnn - DUHNnnnn - DUHNNNnnnnn.." - bells tolling that the time to 'die' is here.

Oh yeah - to wake-up from the dream world, you have to die - you know how that wakes you up in real life? Or when you feel like your falling off a cliff? Both of those can wake a dreamer.

Normally.

In this scenario, Cobb and his team have taken a sedative SO powerful that to die is to drop into LIMBO - and be essentially lost in a vast wasteland of dreaming. It would take you - at THAT level - YEARS to escape. But as they get trapped, they find the only way out is the way THROUGH and so Cobb willing goes down to confront the subconscious projection - i.e. 'ghost'- of his late wife and rescue the team benefactor who was lost to Limbo. [lit. fans see an Orpheus & Eurydice reference here? I do.]

This movie has so many notable allegories, its hard to organize them.

Let me mention one I haven't yet seen on any review on the web. It's probably out there, just I haven't seen it yet.

Cobb and Ariadne are the architects of the dream world. She's even better than him, we are told.

Do you know where the name Ariadne came from? It's based on the myth of Ariadne, the "Mistress of the Labyrinth" who led the hero Theseus out of the Minotaur's maze. Since Ellen Page's character has to learn to build mazes and such, it's a nice touch from the filmmaker, no?

But did you know Cobb means spider? It's an Old English reference and where we get 'cobwebs' from. [See here: http://honkytonkhumunculus.xanga.com/142620535/item/ ]

So as we watch, Christopher Nolan our fine director is weaving and spinning a tale to knock the dust off of your brain, with a man trapped in a web of his own making and a young girl trying to lead the hero safely out of the maze of his heart.

More later.

peace
justice

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Immortal Wars Pt. 2

Art from http://kashina.ru/publik/konkurs_eng.html#annotation_elexirAs I left my last posting, I realized I need to point the reasoning behind my assessment of human mortality - and the possible consequences of future immortality. [Art from http://kashina.ru - go visit!]

You see, we were given limited lifespans to limit our suffering and our sin, according to the Bible. Death was God's form of triage to keep evil and suffering from becoming eternal and everlasting. You didn't know this?

Re-read this passage - and realize that Man is naked, ashamed and infected with a lie that he had "to know Evil as well as Good" [BTW, today people still believe this lie]. In response, God does what He has to, to keep us from becoming eternally - immortally - wicked.

Genesis 3:21-23
21 The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.

22 And the LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.

23 So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.


God locks away the tree of life - eternal life - AFTER He mercifully clothes them.

Theologians will point out that this was the first animal sacrifice - and the God who killed an animal so Adam could have clothing is the same God who sent His Son to die and cover us with His blood-bought righteousness. But by this action, God prevented us from having to deal with immortal Caesar's, Hitlers and the like.

But it also meant He had to find another way to give immortality to those who were right with Him - and we are told that comes through Jesus Christ: accepting Him as Lord and Savior and placing our hope/trust/faith and future on Him.

If you don't want to trust Christ, you will be given the option of trusting the anti-Christ - the "Beast" as shown in Revelations:

Revelations 13:1-4
1 The dragon stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on its horns, and on each head a blasphemous name.

2 The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority.

3 One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was filled with wonder and followed the beast.

4 People worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, “Who is like the beast? Who can wage war against it?”

Why would a lethal wound being healed make the whole world marvel? We do a lot of that today in our sciences don't we?

If so, then this must be a healing on an order beyond science - or at least beyond our current scientific understanding.

And what would be the LAST thing to overcome for us humans, even if we solve all the other nagging problems like poverty, crime, disease, etc.? Yeah, death.

It's tempting to want that right here and now, isn't it? Without waiting or trusting God for a resurrection? Even Jesus was tempted to cheat death at the cross. We Christians are not immune to the siren call of staying on this level of life for an extended period of time, either. Just today I found this article in Christianity Today that questions what motivates us saints to live longer if our goal is to reach heaven, where eternity awaits us.

See here: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2011/january/6.18.html .
Quoted from the first page online:
Molecular biologist Cynthia Kenyon, for example, has doubled the life span of the worm C. elegans by altering a single gene, the result of which mimics reduced food intake.

"I wanted to be those worms!" said Kenyon. She exclaimed that even a moderate increase in life span would be like having the body of a 45-year-old at age 90. "If our company could make a pill, everyone would want it," she said. Her company hopes to make a pharmaceutical that mimics the genetic experiment in humans and allows consumers to enjoy the longevity benefits of fasting without having to drastically alter their diets. Moreover, that longer life may include health and vitality, assuaging fears that lengthening life would only prolong old age's attendant afflictions.


Who wouldn't want that pill? But then, what would you do to those who resisted it? Would you eradicate them?

One thing for sure, whoever had the secret would also have a very unstoppable army. You could not kill them so you'd have to find some other way to immobilize them.

I think that scenario is also mentioned in the book of Revelations, chapter 9:5,6:

5 They were not allowed to kill them but only to torture them for five months. And the agony they suffered was like that of the sting of a scorpion when it strikes.

6 During those days people will seek death but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them.


Why? Is it because Death takes a holiday, like that old film? No. I think we cracked the code of life - and so God has to bring in the angels to end everything.

I think that is the reason all has to be burnt up -because if that code has gotten into the entire biosystem, then everything is immortal, unkillable -and unable to end its journey and enter eternity.

Like in the movie Inception, you just don't wake up - or get out.

I hope this scenario doesn't happen, but I am afraid it will. Because I cannot IMAGINE how much money every nation in the world would put into it if a way to create immortals was known to exist. And who wants to see their loved ones perish if there is a cure?

Thanks for listening.

Oh - one last reason I think this 'immortal scenario' is correct before I go.

My favorite mystic, Oswald Chambers, wrote about what Christ means to you and me and then to the world; He was very insightful, not only about our human nature but also about God's style of operating.

But instead of buying into the common evangelical fanaticism about Christ's Second Coming - even as he was looking down the barrels of World War I [did you know Jesus is returning tomorrow?] - Chambers said God will let mankind achieve all it can before He returns so we will know in our hearts and minds we were wrong and agree with His judgment. I'll try to find the exact quote later, but I cannot escape the logic of God's mercy extending all the way to a final judgment that is utterly deserved [cf. Sodom and Gomorrah].

Be good; keep the faith; follow Jesus!

He's everything, you know.

Amen.