Sunday, May 12, 2013

English Place Pronouns Retain Case

There's often confusion about what "Old English" is.

When people talk about Old English, they typically mean Shakespeare or the King James Bible or any flowery language with "thee"s and "thou"s.  Which isn't Old English at all.  Elizabethan and Jacobean English are both just older forms of Modern English.  The fact that modern speakers of English can read these writings without advanced degrees pretty much says it all.  Sure, the older dialects had more grammatical complexity than we are familiar with (separate personal and familiar second persons, distinct conjugations for first, second, and third person singular, etc.), but overall, Modern English is a pretty simple language, grammatically.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

"Just Replace 'Baby' With 'Jesus'"

South Park is normally pretty vulgar and obscene, so I don't normally watch it.  Yet, for all that, they are really quite clever and can make some pretty good points.  And while they can be pretty nasty, they are generally pretty even-handed in offending as many people as possible.  If they cut out all the sex and poop jokes, I just might watch it more.

One of their points, from the 2003 episode "Christian Rock Hard" is that Christian music is basically just a bunch of love songs, but replacing "Baby" with "Jesus".

On a level, there is some validity to it.  Like it's really comical when Christian songs that don't explicitly say "Jesus" get played on the secular radio as love songs.  Songs such as "All Around Me" by Flyleaf, or "I Can't Deny You" by POD, or "Everything" by Lifehouse.

Heck, this problem is Biblical; even today, there is debate about whether the Song of Solomon, ostensibly an erotic love poem, is merely a love poem or if it represents the relationship between Christ and his Church.

Which is probably why the difference between love song and Christian song is blurry at times; even Jesus often says "I love you baby" sorts of things, such as promising his second coming in the words of an engagement speech.

But while South Park makes a good point, it isn't literally true.  Christian songs definitely have an element of "divine romance" to them (literally the name of a song by Phll Wickham), but they aren't just love songs with "baby" replaced by "Jesus".

To prove this point, I decided to take the top 5 Christian songs from 2003, the year the episode was aired, and actually go through and replace various words with "baby".  There was some fudging in which words to replace, but overall the effect is clear: If you sang a song about Jesus to your girlfriend and replaced his name with "baby", you would come off as incredibly clingy and creepy.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Computer Simulation of a Rift in the Space-Time Continuum Devouring the Universe

Part of my research involves computer simulation of bizarre materials with exotic optical properties; materials that can bend light in almost any manner desired.

I work on the theoretical side of things; I can say that I have in fact touched a beaker and used a pipet to move water from said beaker to another nearly identical beaker (I did this just to feel science-y and say I've done it) but I have no lab experience and would probably destroy everything in your lab if you let me use it.  All this to say, though I can sort of describe these materials (whilst gesticulating with a pipe, and with a dreamy glaze over my eyes and lulling drawl to my voice) I -- me -- am incapable of producing them.  So if I want to convince someone with a lab and knowledge (and a budget) to actually make them, I have to give more than my impressive pipe-gesticulations.

Hence, I use computer algorithms to make simulational models of the bizarre materials, send some simulated light in to them, and can thus prove to these experimental people with labs that the totally awesome sailing ship I just blew through a smoke ring can in fact be built and sailed through physical rings.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Harry Potter and the Council of Rejects

The second book in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, is the only one of the series that I read when it first came out, which was when I was 11.  When the third book came out, I felt less than eager about reading it.  So I didn't.

Rowling maintained throughout the entire series this notion of how incompetent the Ministry of Magic is.  They are a bunch of paper-pushing bureaucrats who mindlessly follow rules and ordinances, and they have a tendency to insulation and confirmation bias, in particular Cornelius Fudge's refusal to acknowledge the return of Voldemort.

But I don't think Rowling ever realized just how incompetent the Ministry really is.

Why the Shroud of Turin Can't Possibly Belong to Jesus

A friend of mine recently posted the following picture on facebook.

The caption refers to recent experiments trying to duplicate the image on the Shroud, specifically by bombarding it with electromagnetic radiation.  (This is the closest thing to a reference I could find - it's in Italian, sorry.)

A have a decent number of friends who very earnestly believe the Shroud of Turin to be the very same piece of fabric used to wrap the crucified body of Jesus.  By some unknown process, at the moment of his Resurrection, they believe the Shroud was irradiated to contain a photo negative imprint of Jesus' body; I don't know why the Resurrection should produce radiation, but then I guess I don't know why it shouldn't, either.

Even recently, in late March, one scientist in Italy produced tests tracing the Shroud to within the era of Jesus' lifetime.  This contradicts dozens of other scientific and historical investigations concluding that the Shroud came in to existence sometime in the 12th century AD, but I guess it's something.

Or maybe Poofy-Hair Guy is actually
right about something?
For all I know, the Shroud really was caused by miraculous radiation, and for all I know the Shroud absolutely existed in the first century, before being lost to all record for twelve hundred years, after which time it appeared suddenly and without provenance in France with more carbon-14 in its fibers than a natural piece of fabric should have.  That might very well be the case.  I don't know, and maybe I never will.

What I do know, however, is that the Shroud of Turin was not the piece of fabric that was used to wrap Jesus' body.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

A Theology of Gnomes

I spend a lot of time speculating on the possible underlying science of Fairyland.  Probably more time than is healthy for an unmarried adult male.

I suppose I got caught on this fairy tale bent by C. S. Lewis, after reading his fiction.  There are many themes in his writing, but the one that has most fascinated me is his treatment of the theology of sentient creatures in other worlds.

In the first book written by him, The Pilgrim's Regress, the story takes place in a kind of dreamworld, all of which is the country of the Landlord, a powerful entity living in a castle in the eastern mountains.  The story serves as a very dense allegory (Narnia is more like a simile compared to this) for the various kinds of philosophy considered by Lewis until his eventual conversion, yet the concept of God as Landlord is very compelling.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Upon Watching "Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog"

As I've often said, I don't typically watch movies, because most movies are terrible.  Maybe half of this blog is dedicated to complaining about the stupidity of various movies.  If it's less than half, it's only because I haven't seen any even worth complaining about, not because they've become any less stupid.

I actually don't even own a TV.  Or, I own a TV, and it sits unused in my closet underneath a pile of spare mattresses.  I don't own a DVD player either, though I still have a VHS player.  Somewhere.  It just isn't worth my time, I guess?

Anyway, I say that only because when I come out enjoying a movie, it is something rare and incredible.

I recently watched Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog, which is available on Netflix.

My only complaint is that it ended too soon.

I actually have a hard time explaining my enjoyment of the film, as is typical for when I enjoy things.  I am not capable of being impressed by visuals or orchestral music or spectacle or anything really I can point to; I guess it's entertaining while it lasts, then quickly bores me after 30 minutes or whenever it ends.  But what movies like this do, is they plant this barb deep into my viscera, then tug and tug until my organs spill out.

Or something like that.

The movie is the kind of thing that tears my heart from my chest and shows it to me, and I am only delighted to learn that I even have such an organ.  It's been invisible so long and beating so low that I forgot where it was.

And it's silly because the movie is a silly musical about an evil mad scientist who falls in love with a girl he meets at a laundromat.  It's ridiculous and tragic at the same time.  Which is probably exactly why it enraptured me so.

The last scene is the hero/villain entering a room of supervillains including "Professor Normal", "Dead Bowie", "Fake Thomas Jefferson", and lead by "Bad Horse, the Thoroughbred of Sin", who is a literal horse -- while singing a disharmonious anthem of loss and grief and the death of the soul in response to tragedy, a song so appropriately and inappropriately titled "Everything You Ever".  The scene takes itself perfectly seriously while at the same time is openly, patently absurd; and all this absurdity and gravity is itself only a mask for the defeated, deflated, withered shell of Dr. Horrible that remains.

It's... I dunno.  It's an incredible movie.  It's the story of the tragic fall of Dr. Horrible, the hero/villain whose tragic flaw is simply being too kind.  It's melancholic and discordant, and yet gave me joy with the small hope that there is any merely human agency anywhere on this planet who might actually understand me.  Like someone read my xanga from high school and turned it into an unattributed musical sci-fi biography.  I imagine many, many loner, melancholic types will sympathize.

I recommend it - selfishly, perhaps - to anyone.  It's live-streaming on Netflix.  It's only 45 minutes.  Watch it.