Sunday, December 18, 2011

Plain Jane romance

In trying to find romance novels with normal-looking characters, all I can find is stories with gorgeous guys and plain Janes... because obviously that is way more realistic than the stereotypical beautiful heroine hooking up with the gorgeous hero.

By "normal-looking" I mean your average human being that is neither drop-dead fake Hollywood gorgeous nor homely. Most people are in a gray area where they can either be straight-up ugly or straight-up beautiful if they either let themselves go and look like Sasquatch or get themselves a Hollywood pit crew to do their hair, make-up, diet, weight training, etc. That's your average person, and that is the type of person I was trying to find in novels. Just your average subjective beauties (where some find them ugly, some find them average, and some find them good-looking).

Instead I find novels with the perfect 10 guys, and either deformed or plain Jane women with serious self-esteem issues. In fact, I have such a novel where the woman has a huge red-wine colored birthmark covering half of her face and the guy is handsome... or he might have also been deformed as well. Either way, they (or she) are deformed. It can't simply be normal. It has to be extreme ugly. ... and this is a Christian romance.

Then there are the fat women with the good looking man. I'm not saying such a matching is impossible. In fact, many a good-looking fellow likes him a woman with extra meat on her bones. It's just bothersome, because it's used as a gimmick. "Oh look at my story. I'm so deep, because I have a fat woman instead of the stereotypical perfect beauty." Yeah, except your story still has the unrealistically gorgeous hero.

Funniest of all is the plain Jane/ugly Betty coupled with the blind guy. ... (sigh). Because heaven forbid a man that can actually see hook up with such a woman. "Here you go, Steve Wonder. Take the ugly woman. Not like you can see her horse face anyways."

And I know novels are for escaping the real world and diving into fantasy, but it is sometimes nice for fantasy to be somewhat realistic. If people are willing to read romance novels about deformed, blind, and plain Jane women, surely they would be willing to read about normal-looking couples... or maybe not. I would at least.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


If the point of NaNo is to write 50K words on a new story in 1 month, then I have now reached that goal. If the point of NaNo is to write an entire novel in 1 month, I am pretty sure that is not going to happen. I thought the purpose was to simply write 50K, but all the little emails they send us with the "pep talks" to encourage us to finish the 50K keep saying "finish a novel," "finish a novel," "finish a novel."

Dude. Last I checked, a decent novel is definitely longer than 50K words (especially fantasy novels), and I most certainly am not going to be writing 75K words or more in less than 30 days. These pep talk people need to get their lingo straight, because I'm starting to feel like a failure.

Also, my Word is weird, because it counts quotation marks as words. This means I need to write a couple thousand over 50K just to be on the safe side with my word count. Stupid Word.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Wealth Of Nations

Not really a rant or extreme opinion of any sort, but I just finished reading An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, the Father of Economics. No, I did not read the book just for the fun of it. I'm not that much of a nerd. I read it for a directed study class.

I had no idea what to expect going into the course, because I really didn't know anything about economics beyond what I "learned " in AP Macroeconomics (I didn't really learn much in that class. I would have failed if not for a few grade-booster tests at the end of the semester so that half of the class wouldn't fail). To be honest, I didn't even know who Adam Smith was going into the course. Economics never really interested me before.

I am interested now. I imagine after reading Wealth of Nations one will either be turned on to the study of economics (either to prove Smith wrong or to delve deeper into the new ideas Smith put forth to see how much they have held true over the past 200+ years), or be completely turned off by the study of economics.

The most surprising thing about his book (once I learned a bit about who Adam Smith was) is that he is not a supporter of laissez faire economics. There are quite a few sections in the book where Smith supports government regulation of business for this, that or the other reason. From what I understand, the general assumption is that Adam Smith is a 100% capitalist that would not approve of any regulations on business at all. That is not what he thinks at all. Certainly he thinks some of the market should be left alone, but he acknowledges human nature is naturally self-interested (which is different than selfish in Smith's vocabulary), and so it is necessary to make sure this self-interest won't hurt the Wealth of the Nation over all.

People have also made the assumption that Smith would support the rich businessman and disdain the laborer. That is not the impression I got at all while reading his book. At one point he even says that laborers are necessary for a business to work, and so they need to be treated decently. He says if the working class is not happy, then society will not be happy. It was like Marx read that bit and expanded on it. In fact, Marx did read Wealth of Nations. He simply thought Smith was too naive, for lack of a better term, in his views and took Smith's ideas about laborers to the extreme.

Now this is not to say Smith was without error in his idea about the economy. He was writing when a free market economy was in its early stages, and so he obviously could not know all the intricacies of how a free market would work (free market being a bit of a misnomer, since, as I stated earlier, he believes in some regulations). He set up a superb foundation for future scholars though, and if nothing else, any person interested in economics should read Wealth of Nations just to see what the "father" had to say on the matter. It is tedious, but worth the read. Actually, even if you aren't currently interested in economics, it's a good educational read regardless.

p.s. I did not include any quotes from the text, because that would require me looking them up. The book is 947 pages long. I am not going to reread the entire thing just to find relevant quotes. I already have to write a 15 page paper on the guy. No need to put any effort into this blog post as well. ... ;)

As a bit of a side note, I also had to read Theory of Moral Sentiments before reading Wealth of Nations. I do think reading Theory of Moral Sentiments before Wealth of Nations really helps to give a more complete picture of Smith, so one can see he is not as cold-hearted as Wealth of Nations might lead one to believe. Or maybe I just like Smith.

So I guess this was like a book review of sorts, except I didn't give a brief summary of what is in the book. Brief summary: economics. Enjoy.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Tall, Dark, and Handsome

You know what is pathetic? I was going to write a blog on three descriptive terms/phrases used in writing that I don’t like, and am now realizing I’m going to have to split this up because it was getting too long (partly because I’m a rambler). So, in order to shorten things, I shall start with the biggest offender of them all: “tall, dark, and handsome.”

Let me first give you a few examples of men (real and characters) that would classify, in the classical sense, as “tall, dark, and handsome”: Clark Gable, James Bond (minus the most recent), Aragorn, Gerard Butler, and Hugh Jackman.

One thing to take note of… allof these men are white. Which raises the question, why are they being characterized as “dark?” Why, because their hair is dark of course. Obviously that is the only qualification for being labeled as“dark” in the “tall, dark, and handsome” category.

Wherein lies my main issue with the term. Authors are always talking about a white man,and never about a man who is actually dark. What would you call a tall and handsome man that is of a darker complexion? Tall, dark, dark, and handsome?And what about men of dark complexion that dye their hair blond? Are they no longer dark? And what if I were to start dating an East Indian man who was tall and handsome, and I described him to my friends as “tall, dark, and handsome”?Why, they would get the impression that my boyfriend was white, because of them is application of the term “dark.” It’d be quite a curfoodle. (which isn’t actually a word, as it turns out. Sure, “ain’t” is in the dictionary, but curfoodle can’t be found but in four places on the internet?!) Quite frankly, I find the term lazy and very Euro-centric (ignoring the fact that there are now actually dark men in Europe… and that many Greek men have always been “dark.” You get my point, though).

Moving on to real examples of a“tall, dark, and handsome” men: Denzel Washington, of course. Antonio Banderas(though I have no idea how tall he is). Billy Dee Williams was probably considered quite handsome in his day. Also,in trying to find tall, “handsome” Asian men on Google, I found this. Last, there is Oded Fehr.

Oh. Comparison: Oded Fehr v.Brendan Fraser. Both in The Mummy. Obviously we can all agree that Oded is obviously the dark one, but not if we are using the term “tall, dark and handsome.”

Moving on, tall and handsome are very subjective terms. To me, any man over 5’10 is tall. To a girl that is 5’10, a man who is 5’10 isn’t tall. Let’s be a bit more descriptive, shall we? And handsome? Some girls think Robert Pattison is “handsome.” Personally, Ithink the man is the furthest thing from. I think Spock (as played by Leonard Nimoy) is handsome. Highly subjective.

In sum, if a person is going to bother to describe someone, a description better than "tall, dark, and handsome" would be much appreciated. And really, if a person can write 70K+ words for a novel, you'd think they would be able to come up with a few extra words to describe a man. It's not like an extra 10 words would kill them. Lazy cliches.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Too humble musicians

Madison and Hamilton were able to spit out the Federalist papers (those long, extremely complicated pieces of work) one every few days or so, and I can’t even be bothered to write a simple blog once a month. I feel a bit pathetic.

So, it’s the last day of the month, and here I am with no topic to discuss (well, I wrote something up, but it needs lots of editing, and I don’t have the time for it now). Since I’m a slacker, I’m just gonna put up a blog post I had written a while ago, but didn’t post originally because I didn’t like it (ha. You’re getting my reject blog post. Bet that makes you feel special)

Here it is:

So last night on a forum [not actually last night, as I wrote this up a while ago], a guy posted a thread asking if any musicians were on the forum. If so, what instruments did they play, how long, what type of music, etc.

A few men replied saying they were musicians, and were like “I’ve been a beginner on the guitar since 1963, I'm still learning stuff and know there's so much more to learn. When I read response after response saying stuff like that I grew rather peeved. At first I wasn’t sure why. I thought maybe it was the (false?) humility they were displaying, but then I realized it bugged me because it made me feel insignificant, like they were belittling me. I realize that was not their intent, but that is how it felt.

I am an actual beginner on guitar. I’ve been playing less than 2 years, I’m self taught and not highly motivated, so my skills are rather amateurish. Hearing a bunch of men who are obviously skilled on their instrument-of-choice by now, after playing for numerous years, say they are just beginners was like they were discounting anyone who is an actual beginner. If those men are beginners, what does that make us actual beginners? Where does that leave us?

That would be like a Sensai saying she is a white-belt. No. She is not a white belt. She is a blackbelt. White belts are beginners in karate. Black belts are not. Yes, we can all call ourselves students, because we are all continuously learning, but the title of beginner only goes to people who just began, hence the word “beginner.” Likewise, an advanced musician could say “I’m a student of music, always learning something new.” But they should not say “I’m a beginner.”

It’s also annoying to me when musicians try to downplay their skills. There is a difference between being humble and sounding ridiculous.

It may sound like simple semantics, but that is not how it feels to me.

I can add, after reading Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments, that the “(false?) humility” is something that bugs me. Smith points out that we are more prone to like a person that is slightly too vain over a person that is slightly too humble. This is because we can at least admire the slightly vain person for striving towards excellence. We cannot admire the too humble person for underestimating the praise actually due them. Sometimes we may even scorn them because it makes us angry that they underestimate their true worth.

A person who has been playing an instrument for 20+ years is prone to be very good at that instrument, and to call themselves a “beginner” is simply too humble. It underestimates the praise they are truly due. It isn’t to be admired. Humility at the correct level is worth admiring (like the distinction I made between saying “I am still a student/still learning” over saying “I am still a beginner”), but a humility too extreme is not worth admiring and is off-putting.

[To avoid being hypocritical in my own post, I'm not a beginner on the guitar. I'm not a skilled guitar player, to be sure, but I am decent.]

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

When Christians get too theological

While I am progressively growing to prefer discussions about Christ over other talk, I find that overly-theological and philosophical discussion from Christians can get really frustrating. In particular (and I may be shooting myself in the foot with what I am about to say, since I have this blog linked to the place I am about to reference), it bugs me when a person asks a simple question and the answers seem entirely too philosophical.

To use a completely ridiculous example (that I hope will never occur in real life anywhere), a conversation between the inquirer and the answering Christian might go down something like this:

"Do you prefer pizza or fried chicken?" asked John.

Mary's brow creased. "It's not either or. I can like both. Maybe I might be fasting meats, and so I need to eat only cheese pizza on a particular day. Then I would prefer pizza. Or maybe God has told me not to eat cheese for a month, so it would be fried chicken."

"Okay so... nevermind. Forget it."

It's absolutely ridiculous. Instead of simply answering the question, Christians seem to have to make it so complicated.

Yes, sometimes questions are too simplistic, but you can always give an answer without becoming some sort of crazy philosopher. We aren't asking for the answer Aquinas would have been most likely to give. (In which case it would be more like "Well, it may seem like pizza is best for this, that, and the other reason, but truly fried chicken is the best for this, that, and the other reason." ... fried chicken is better, btw)

To give a more theological example:
"I'm confused. Do girls prefer a man that would give a huge proposal or a man that would give a small proposal?"John asked.

Mary shook her head. "Your question is too simplistic. It's not about how the man proposes. It's about how he acts towards the girl before he proposes. Then the girl will say yes whether he proposes to her on a cruise with a stringed quartet or on the back of his pickup truck."

John blinked. "Yeah but, even if she likes the dude, don't girls want big proposals and stuff?"

"John, you're not listening. The proposal doesn't matter. Look, if I am dating a Godly man that is kind, and loving toward his family, then I am going to be happy to marry him -God willing- no matter how he proposes."

"Okay, so godliness is important to a Christian woman when it comes to marriage, and if I am striving to draw nearer to God, and treat my woman good, she is gonna say yes to my proposal. Does that mean I can skip buying the big ring if, as you seem to be saying, proposals don't even matter anyways?"

"Marriage is about the holy union between a man, woman, and God. Rings are materialistic and should not be the focus of marriage. This is not that hard to understand."

John sighed, and slowly flexed his hands that had been curling into fists. "Right. Okay. Thanks so much for your very helpful advice."

Now, if you had two normal people, I imagine the convo might go down something like this:
"I'm confused. Do girls prefer a man that would give a huge proposal or a man that would give a small proposal?"John asked.

"Your question is took simplistic," said Mary. "Some girls are going to prefer big proposals, and some are going to prefer small proposals."

"Oh. But how can you know what type a girl would prefer?"

"Ask her friends."

"It's that easy?"

Mary smiled, and chuckled slightly. "It's that easy."

John felt his cheeks growing warm, and rubbed at the back of his neck. "Wow."
(as an aside, I always feel weird writing about females chuckling. Yeah, we chuckle, but it still seems like odd phrasing)

Don't get me wrong, I love talking about God. My mom and I have some great conversations about holiness, how to make it easier to read your Bible daily, etc. It's just that sometimes I think Christians over-analyze simple questions. It is not a requirement to make everything deep and religious. Sometimes, a question is just a question. If I ask "Do I look good in this dress?" I do not need you to respond with "Would God think you look good in that dress?" [I just gave myself a giggle]

I think it says something that this post is coming from a girl whose family and friends have accused of being entirely too analytic at times. What does it say about someone's analytic tendencies if a habitual over-analyzer thinks you are analyzing things too much?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Romance Me

I’m supposed to be fasting the internet (though I kinda failed at that, since it’s hard to fast the internet when taking summer courses online… I don’t think I thought the fasting thing through), so this blog post is a bit of a breakdown in my self-discipline.

Anyways, I said I’d make a blog post a month (at the very least), so I’m trying to make up a quick little blog post. I just made a 2-part blog post on a review of a book I read, Never the Bride, in my book reviews blog, so now I’m thinking about romance. For the past few weeks I’ve been really focused on romance. Particularly, romance with God. It seems the concept is highly underrated.

In the book, I got it with the hope that the ending would be about the girl choosing to forgo a corporal romance and revel in the love of God instead. It would have been inspiring to read such a book. As is, I have now come to the conclusion that the old saying about "if you want something done right, do it yourself" is true. It seems a difficult concept to write about, especially since my relationship with God is rather juvenile at the moment, but I intend to write a story about a woman choosing to “marry” God instead of a man, and to be satisfied in God instead of looking for satisfaction elsewhere.

Satisfaction is not about giving up the idea of one day possibly marrying an actual person, but living for today, and focusing on what one can do for God today instead of focusing on the possibilities of tomorrow, as the Bible tells us in Matthew 6:34.

I imagine the story will be a bit of an autobiographical sketch, as I will be “writing what I know,” so as my own relationship with God develops, the story will unfold as well. I intend it to be mostly a work of fiction, though. As I learn to live more for God each day, and develop a relationship of love and romance with Him (Song of Songs, except less… well, the relationship can’t exactly be temporal). I think of the song Dance With Me, where the chorus sings “Dance with me, O lover of my soul to the song of all songs. Romance Me, O lover of my soul to the song of all songs.” I want a relationship with God that is so intimate that the chorus will be more than simple words when I sing it. I love the song, but I know I certainly do not have that sort of relationship with God.

What is sad is that so many Christians are afraid to have such a relationship with God. Songs like Dance With Me, Draw Me Close, How He Loves, get labeled as “homoerotic” (usually by men who feel uncomfortable about singing such songs to God), and people say such songs show the “feminization of the church,” which I could make an entire blog post about how that little gem bugs me.

Those songs don’t “feminize” the church (at least, not in the horrible sense that people intend the phrase to mean), and they are not homoerotic. They simply show another side of who God is. He is the Great Romancer of our Souls. He is All We Need. He does Love Us So. Read Song of Songs. Not only is that a book to show the sort of love that can transpire between a husband and a wife, it is a book to show us the sort of love that can transpire between God and His bride (the church). God can be a love to both a man and a woman. The Bible says the church (not just the woman in the church) is His bride. I don't suppose there are any Christian males that will call that homoerotic?

God does want to love us. He does want to cherish us, and care for us. Yes, He also desires our love (agape), and holiness, and obedience, but it does not have to be one or the other. We do not have to chose holiness and obedience over a cherishing relationship with God any more than we have to choose a cherishing relationship with God over holiness and obedience.

In fact, I think the two would work together. The more I learn to love God by obeying Him and being holy, the closer I will draw to Him and learn more of who He truly is, and be better able to enter into the sort of relationship with Him outlined in praise and worship songs like Dance With Me.

I think it is a glorious and beautiful thing to think about, and if I was not trying to hammer this blog post out in such haste, I would provide more scripture to back up what I am saying. As is, that will wait until August. Or, better yet, anyone that reads this post and thinks what I am saying is questionable can be like a Berean, and do his/her own research on the subject (because I certainly haven't spent enough time researching the subject yet). Since this was written in haste, I am sure that something I said might possibly be written in such a way that it could contradict scripture (even though the idea in my head of what I am saying I know doesn’t contradict scripture). If I said something wrong, or if you happen to find something that would add to this subject nicely, feel free to comment.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Turning point in your life

FCAT (Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test) is a standardized test in Florida that students must take from 3rd-10th grade, with a scoring standard of 0-6. One of the tests is the timed writing, where we are given an essay prompt and must write an essay.

Just like every other student, I hated FCAT, and I especially hated the time writings. Before FCAT, teachers would always give us practice tests, and that included practice time-writings. The essay below is a practice time-writing. The prompt was something along the lines of “What was a major turning point in your life?” Since I hated FCAT timed-writings, I decided to be a smart-alack, and write a farce of a timed-writing. (As I look back on it now, I do wonder what my teacher was thinking while reading this paper, since she most certainly was not aware of the fact that my response to the prompt was a joke. Lol).

I got a 4. Looking back on the essay now, though, I can see why Florida is so low in the National rankings for primary and secondary schools. I can’t believe I got such a high score on this piece of bologna.

All that being said, all errors in this paper are from the original.


Hollie -------
Period 2

Imagine being awoken at three o-clock in the morning from the wailing of your two-year-old baby who just had an “accident” while sleeping. Isn’t it just horrid to have to get out of your comfortable bed just to go change your child’s diaper? I’d say it is. Now, imagine not being awoken at three o’clock in the morning, and not going to change your two-year-olds diaper. Isn’t it just divine to get to sleep the whole night through? I know for my parents it was, but not only was it divine for my parents. When I stopped having to get my diaper changed every night and day, my life changed completely. Becoming one-hundred percent potty-trained was a major turning point in my life because adults treated me so differently and my days were much less hectic without the constant diaper changing.

Getting a diaper changed every other hour was definitely not my favorite past-time. I would be running around with my sister and brother, and then low-and-behold my mama would sweep me off my feet and carry me to the diaper-changing table. What a great way to ruin a gal’s fun time! But, once I became potty-trained my mama no longer had to interrupt me in the middle of my games. I could run around all day acting crazy, like little tikes do, without having to worry about diaper-changing time. Next to running around all day, I also got to sleep all night. I would no longer wake up in my dirty sheets, and taking baths every morning were a thing of the past. Yes, my life was pretty darn good.

Of course, every Yin has a Yang. My Yang was becoming a “big girl”. When I became potty-trained grown-ups became complete idiots! They decided that since I no longer did that babyish thing, called “messin’ my pants”, then I was no longer a baby, and since I was no longer a baby I could no longer be treated like a baby. Crying for something I wanted was a definite No-No. Saying “no” all the time was not cute any longer. It was disobedient and rude. Getting snacks whenever I wanted them was called glutiny (as if a two-year-old even knows what that word means). Becoming a “big girl” was definitely a turn for the worst in my short, little life. Every cloud does have a silver lining, though. When I became a “big girl” I got a few privelages. I was the center of attention in the adult world, and that was fun, because when you’re the center of attention in the adult world you get handfuls upon handfuls of sweets. Yummy! Another privelage was getting bedtime switched from eight-thirty at night to nine. Although, I can’t really say I could ever keep myself up till nine, but it’s the thought that counts.

So with my new bed time and longer playing time my life changed in ways unimaginable to babies not yet potty-trained. Becoming potty-trained may not be a turning point people talk about often, but it is one of the most important. It is a drastic change in one’s life that comes and goes, and then is never addressed again. It is just forgotten by all and locked away in the deep recesses of ones mind. But, I’m here to say it is an important turning point in every persons life. I mean, really, could you imagine a world in which no one became potty-trained?

Upon typing that all out, I must say that is a wonderful piece of fiction. I don’t know if anything I wrote in that paper is true to my life, since I simply made it all up on the spot. Yay for malarkey!

One thing is for certain… I have always been horrible at grammar. Three cheers for the Florida Education System!

[Yes, I know I just made a blog post about 5 minutes ago. I couldn't help myself with this one though. I post one of my writings, and had to go look through the other ones I have kept over the years. I found this little jewel from my sophomore year in High School and decided I absolutely had to post it now.]

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Biocentric Equality

2 things:
1) I have decided that I shall endeavor to make at least 1 blog post per month, because my blog posting schedule is exceedingly erratic.
2) It seems that June is going to be a very busy month for me, so I imagine I probably won't think of something to complain about in form of an "intelligent" opinion. As such, I had the thought "Hmm, I'm a poli-sci major. I have to do plenty of writings. Why don't I just post one of my essay assignments or something?" As is, I imagine an essay would be too long of a post, so I decided to post a "short writing" homework assignment from my Ethics class I took this past Spring semester. As such, the pages I am quoting come from the book I had to buy for my Ethics class (Ethics in Contemporary Society, or something of the sort), as does the question.

bit of an edit: thought it might be worthwhile to throw in a definition of what biocentric equality is. Simply put, it's the belief that all things on earth are of equal inherent value. So that means that the earth, the animals, and the humans are all equal in value, and we should treat animals and the earth with respect and honor because they are of equal value to us.

No that is not a textbook definition. That is simply me summarizing what I remember it to be.

Hollie -------
Homework #3

“Do you accept the principle of biocentric equality? Why or why not?” (p. 122)

I find that I agree with certain tenets of biocentric equality and disagree with others. To start with the negatives, my main contention with the theory is the claim that everything in nature is inherently equal, or “equal in intrinsic worth” (p. 119). The belief seems to be that humans are not superior to nature or animals. We are all of equal worth in that we all deserve proper care and consideration and should not be maltreated or mishandled. In other words, “…all things in the biosphere have an equal right to live and blossom and to reach their own individual forms of unfolding and self-realization within the larger Self-realization” (p. 119). As a Christian, I believe humans are of more worth than anything else in the universe. Genesis tells us God gave Adam dominion over the earth and the animals (Genesis 1:26). Humans are superior to animals and the earth. God created us as such. The earth and animals are certainly of worth to God, but like any artist, He places more worth on some of His creations than others. Humans are His masterpiece, and animals and the earth are simply the backdrop. This means that humans are to be given more consideration than the earth. Our comfort and security is more important than that of animals, and the earth exists not simply to exist, but as a home for humans. This contrasts with the biocentric idea that no thing on earth is more important than the other.

On the positive side, I do agree with the statement that “…if we harm the rest of Nature then we are harming ourselves” (p. 119). My agreement comes from a mixture of Thomist and Utilitarian tendencies. As far as utilitarianism goes, we only have one earth to live on, and it would be in my best interests to keep this one earth running. Harming nature to the point of uselessness is harming myself. As far as natural law goes, Aquinas says natural law is the actualization of the reasoning of God buried within our conscious. God is not an unwise god, and He knows destroying the earth would be of no benefit to humans. As such, He instilled a natural inclination within us to want to preserve the earth. It is not natural for humans to destroy that which sustains them.

I also feel no obligation to care for earth except out of a feeling of respect for God’s creation. It has nothing to do with feeling like I am in some sort of harmony with a non-sentient earth. In sum, I will not destroy earth because 1) I need somewhere to live and 2) God created it, so I respect it.

The statement that “…we should live with minimum rather than maximum impact on other species and on the Earth in general” (p. 119) creates mixed feelings within me. I tend toward agreeing with the statement, but not because I agree with the biocentric equality ideals. I agree because I think it benefits humans to live frugally. Once more, it will help to preserve the earth, and it is in all humans’ best interests to preserve that which they live on. To destroy the earth is akin to purposefully burning down one’s home without first finding a new home to live in.

One of my teacher's notes: "I, too, share your anthropocentrism! 10/10"

So apparently I'm an anthropocentrist.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Science Fiction =/= Fantasy

I was browsing through the threads on a forum, and there was one about the Christy Awards. I clicked on the link to see who the nominees were, and I noticed there apparently wasn't a fantasy category. I did a little research, and came across this, which gives a deeper explanation of each category (the categories being Contemporary Romance; Contemporary Series, Sequels, and Novellas; Contemporary Standalone; First Novel; Historical; Historical Romance; Suspense; Visionary; and Young Adult).

The explanation says for the category of visionary:

Visionary - Imaginative fiction including allegory (fiction in the form of extended metaphor in which objects, persons and actions are equated with meanings that lie outside the narrative itself), fantasy (fiction that deliberately breaks free from reality, setting the story in a nonexistent and unreal world or concerning incredible or unreal characters), futuristic (fiction whose action, plot, and characters occur in a future period of time), and science fiction (fiction in which scientific facts or hypotheses form the basis of adventures, often in the future, on other planets, or in other dimensions of time).

And so I became aware that once more fantasy had been grouped together with science fiction as one genre. It seems an odd phenomenon that fantasy and science fiction are always lumped together simply because they both present worlds that break from reality. Aside from that one detail, they are not really that similar at all.

One genre tends to be about worlds that possess fantastical creatures (read: not aliens) and there is always at least one character with some form of magic. The other genre is about hypothesizing a world in which science may have become more advanced than we currently think possible(or has digressed to a point of cavemen-like qualities). Magic is not at all relevant in such a genre. One genre tends toward taking place on nonexistent universes (though it can take place in an alternate Earth if we are dealing with Urban Fantasy or something of the sort). The other tends toward taking place on earth, or at least acknowledging Earth's existence. One is generally always about defeating some nefarious foe (especially in High Fantasy, such as Lord of the Rings), while the other is sometimes about defeating nefarious foes and sometimes simply about teaching lessons (The Giver or Fahrenheit 451) or postulating about what the future may entail.

Certainly you will find quite often that people who like one genre tend towards liking the other as well in books, but just as often you find that people who like one genre don't particularly care for the other (in High School, I knew many boys that were Sci-fi nerds, but cared little for fantasy. Likewise, I rather enjoy fantasy, but I don't tend to read much sci-fi).

Perhaps this is something that only bugs me for the simple reason that when looking for fantasy books, I have to dig through science fiction books, even though I am not a fan of reading sci-fi (I do enjoy watching it, though), because people don't seem to realize that sci-fi and fantasy should not be grouped together in bookstores or search engines.

What is even more troublesome is that romance can often be divided up into multiple sub-genres (even for this Christy awards things they have contemporary romance and historical romance as two different categories), yet science fiction and fantasy are lumped together. As someone that has read a fair share of romance novels, I can tell you that it doesn't matter where or when the story takes place. They all have the same plot line: woman is alone, meets a man that needs fixing, something climatic happens that makes it seem like the two cannot get together, the woman and man get together in the end. The only difference between historical and contemporary is that one of the woman is wearing dresses.

For sci-fi and fantasy we might say some of the plot lines are similar: there is something wrong in the world/universe, and someone(s) must step forward to put things to right, battle, successful victory by the hero(es). However, as I have already pointed out, not all sci-fi and fantasy stories follow that plot line. Many sci-fi novels are critiques of modern society or warnings against what society may become. Some are simply fanciful tales about what the future may be like. Some are about what might happen if science is used for nefarious reasons (nanotechnology seems to be a favorite theme). Many fantasy novels are endless series that simply follow the life of one character without truly encountering some evil foe or all-out war/battle.

Basically, the two are not very comparable. I mean, imagine if someone said to you, "Pick which is better in the sci-fi/fantasy genre: The Giver or Prince Caspian." What exactly am I supposed to be comparing between those two stories? Sure, it might be a little easier if someone said "Pick which is better in the sci-fi/fantasy genre: Star Wars or Lord of the Rings." but even then it is an unfair comparison if one is predisposed to dislike sci-fi and like fantasy, or vice versa.

And to read at your leisure to further display the differences between sci-fi and fantasy, wikipedia articles!!!! ... because everyone know Wikipedia is the go-to source for reliable and accurate data: sci-fi v. fantasy

Monday, May 16, 2011

Why it is not inconsistent to be pro-life and anti-big-government

One critique of people who are pro-life is that we allegedly only care about saving a baby’s life, but then stop caring about that baby once it is born. That the fact that we generally do not support government-funded education, welfare, health care, etc means we are not “pro-life” when it comes to the actual everyday life of citizens.

The problem with this argument is that social welfare is not as analogous with abortion as people are trying to make it. Personally, I am pro-life because I think abortion is murder, and I believe murder should be illegal. When I vote for pro-life candidates or argue for pro-life legislation, the only thought on my mind is “I do not support abortion, because it is murder.” It would be the same as me thinking “I do not support a husband killing his wife in a fit of jealous rage, because murder is a crime.”

I am not thinking about how the wife should be treated if she lives. That is not the issue at hand. The issue at hand is whether a husband should be allowed to kill his wife in a fit of jealous rage or not. Why on earth would I be concerned about her life after or before this occasion (assuming her husband did not kill her) when that is not the issue at hand? Likewise, when I am voting on abortion policies, why should I be concerned about the welfare of a baby after he is born if that is not the issue at hand?

Certainly, I do care about the welfare of the baby, but I am not going to form my opinion about abortion based on my opinions of government involvement in welfare, education, etc. I do not support Big Government. I do not want government-funded health care. I do not want billions of dollars a year spent on education. I do not want a person unable to currently get a job to get welfare from the government.

In a society that does not condone murder, I would prefer the legal system at least try not to be hypocrites and make sure all murder –including abortion- is illegal. What happens to a person after they have been guaranteed a right to not be murdered is not my concern when it comes to that specific policy.

However, people think that just because I do not support the murder of unborn babies then I must also support liberal policy options in order to show my continued concern for the life of the baby. The general stereotype is “Pro-lifers are the only people that care more about a baby being born than they do about the life of the baby after it is born.” The fallacy of this stereotype is that people assume that simply because a person does not support government-funded programs that help “improve” life means that person does not care about the lives of their fellow citizens.

That most certainly is not the case. I do care about the life of a baby after he is born. I simply do not think the government needs to tax me in order to show my concern. If a baby is abused as a child, I do support government interference that will stop violence. I believe that is the right venue of regulation for government. Their role is most certainly to stop violence and abuse.

If the baby that was not aborted is raised in a home that is unable to provide him with the “necessities” of life, I do not think it is the role of the government to tax me so that the baby might have food and health care. I think it is the role of the community to help each other. More specifically, as a Christian, I think Christians in a community should set up charities to help people in their communities. Just because I am not a supporter of government-funded welfare does not mean I am not a supporter of human charity.

As that baby that was not aborted grows into an adult and finds he cannot find a job, I do not support the government giving him unemployment benefits. This does not mean I do not care for the man. Once again, I support local charities and communities. Friends or neighbors can help this man, provide him shelter, loan him money interest-free, help him find a job.

As the man grows older and his health fails him, I do not support government-funded health care. This does not mean I have stopped caring for the man. I still think his community can help him, show him compassion and charity.

Yes, I am pro-life. No, this does not mean I stop caring for a baby as soon as it is born.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

What "pro-life" really means

I intend to write a blog right after this one about how being pro-life does not mean a person stops caring about the baby once it is born, but before I make that blog post, I feel like I should define what “pro-life” means to me.

“Pro-life” is a political term that has no meaning if ones takes it out of the specific political context created for it to exist in. That specific political context is the issue of abortion. The term was never created to be used in application to any other political issue (war, welfare, medical care, etc), and so any use of the term in application to political issues other than abortion is a misapplication of the term.

Specifically, "pro-life" does not mean “a right to live an eternal and healthy life.” It does not mean “a right to never be killed.” It does not even mean “right to life.” Pro-life is basically just an emotional term that was created to mean “anti-abortion.” That is it. Nothing more, and nothing less. When someone says “I am pro-life” all they are saying is “I do not support abortion.”

Sure, the pro-life movement could have labeled themselves the “anti-abortion” movement, but we must all admit that “pro-life” simply sounds better. Politics is a tricky and sneaky business. Loaded, emotional language is the name of the game. A clinical term like “anti-abortion” does nobody any favors in trying to win over sympathy votes. It simply sounds better for someone to say “I’m pro-life,” because then it sounds like you are implying anyone that is not part of the pro-life movement is “anti-life.”

Don’t be fooled. The person that came up with the term “pro-life” was thinking about all of the implications of the term, and how it could be used to smear anyone that was not part of the pro-life movement. It is for this very reason that the “pro-abortion” movement is called the “pro-choice” movement. By calling it the “pro-choice” movement, pro-choice supporters are implying that anyone that is not part of the pro-choice movement is “anti-choice.” Loaded, emotional language.

So, now we are clear that all “pro-life” means is that a person is anti-abortion. Nothing more, and nothing less. Being pro-life does not imply a person wants people to live long and healthy lives, does not want people to ever be killed, etc. All it means is that a person does not support abortion.

And now you can go read my next thread on abortion.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Conservatives can, in fact, be charitable

[Disclaimer: the thoughts put forth in this blog post are disjointed and not as refined as they might have been if I actually took the time to write them out and organize them. As is, I keep on putting off organizing my thoughts on the matter (because this is something that has been on my mind quite often over the past couple months), so I thought I might as well just write this all down and put it out for you to read even though it isn't organized and whatnot. I'm sure you'll be able to get what I'm trying to say well enough.]

As I read more and more opinions from Liberals, I have gotten the distinct impression that Liberals tend toward thinking Conservatives are uncharitable, greedy, money-grubbers that seem to have some sort of vendetta against charity of any sort. And where does this impression come from? From the fact that Conservatives do not tend toward supporting social welfare government programs, and somehow a disdain for social welfare programs paid for by big government translates as "uncharitable, greedy, money-grubber."

The thing is these arguments usually come from articulate people that are very good at forming logical debates. They can put forth debates and arguments that appear rational and reasonable, and so it leaves me wondering why these apparently intelligent people come up with such an illogical conclusion about Conservatives. That is to say, just because a Conservative does not support big government does not mean a Conservative is uncharitable. Such a belief is a misunderstanding of what Conservatives believe.

I am obviously not about to argue for every Conservative in existence, because I am positive there are some Conservatives that are indeed uncharitable, greedy, money-grubbers. Of course, I do not think this is a result of them being Conservative. I think it is a result of them being human, and humans are naturally inclined toward base actions and thoughts. As such, as sure as I am about there being uncharitable Conservatives, I am just as sure there are uncharitable Liberals, because uncharitableness is not limited to any one political party.

In any case, I will now address the argument of Conservatives being uncharitable. I'm not really going to touch on the politics of why Conservatives tend toward not supporting government-funded charity. Instead I am going to deal with the belief that not supporting government-funded charity somehow makes a person uncharitable. (I also will not express how contradictory I think the term "government-funded charity" is... which makes me wonder why I'm even saying it.)

Charity, as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary online, is:
"a: generosity and helpfulness especially toward the needy or suffering; also: aid given to those in need
"b: an institution engaged in relief of the poor
"c: public provision for the relief of the needy"

Of note in that definition, government is not mentioned once. Just something to keep in mind.

[sarcasm] Liberals may not be aware of this, but there are charitable organizations founded not by the government, but by regular, ordinary American citizens[/end sarcasm]. Now I do not know the intricacies of every single one of these organizations, but the general idea is that the programs are run by the people, for the people. That is to say, the government does not pay for their programs. They get private businesses and citizens to pay for it instead. In general, Conservatives are in support of such organizations. Conservatives did in fact phone in after the earthquake in Haiti to help send money to the Haitians. Conservatives did recently send relief efforts to the tornado-ravaged south. Conservatives did help build some of those 6,000 homes built by Habitat last year.

But as per the general Liberal argument, none of this matters. Helping out local charities, or even nationwide or worldwide charities, means absolutely nothing if you are unwilling to support government-funded charities. As per the general Liberal argument, you can only be a charitable person if you support government-funded charities.

But that does not make sense. That is not what Merriam-Webster's definition of charity says at all in definition 2, parts a or b or c. It says "generosity and helpfulness." It says "institutions engaged in relief of poor." It says "public provision for the relief of the needy." Helping out charities not funded by the government is being generous and helpful. Charities not funded by the government are "institutions engaged in relief of poor." Charities not funded by the government are "public provision[s] for the relief of the needy."

Now I realize a liberal might see this, and say "Why, that is not what I think at all about Conservatives. Yes, I call them uncharitable, but I do not call them uncharitable simply because they don't support welfare programs." To which I would be inclined to ask, "Well then, what is it that makes me an uncharitable person?"

Conservatives do not tend toward supporting government-funded charities, yes. At what point does that make us uncharitable?

I will admit here and now that I am not, at the moment, an actively charitable person. This is not because I am a Conservative. This is because I am lazy (which, I am sure there are some Liberals out there that are too lazy to be charitable as well). I have given money to charities before. I have volunteered at charitable programs before, but I don't make a habit of doing it (the former because I'm broke, and the latter because, as I said already, I'm lazy). However, I have nothing against charitable organizations not run by the government. I love Waterfront Rescue Mission, Habitat for Humanity, those seasonal charities the Southern Baptists are all about. It makes me exceedingly happy that Habitat for Humanity is doing so well. I was pleased when two of my friends told me that when they were homeless they were able to find community-run soup kitchens and shelters (not funded by the government) that would give them food and shelter until they were able to find an apartment. I am not some evil person that wishes all charities would disappear and poor people would suffer and die. I do in fact want people to get help if they genuinely need it (and hopefully will not abuse it). I simply do not want the government spending money on these programs.

I would say the general Conservative view is similar to my own (minus the laziness and brokeness factor). Conservatives do want to help those less fortunate than themselves. They simply do not need, nor do they want, the government to organize charitable institutions for them.

So, Conservatives can, in fact, be charitable.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Christina Aguilera -Botched (?) Star-Spangled Banner

So Christina Aguilera sang the star-spangled banner tonight for the Superbowl, and apparently did a horrible job. 1) She messed up the lyrics and 2) she tried too hard. As far as bad goes, I'm more concerned with the latter than the former.

As a former choir student, I can attest to the fact that when performing in front of people, the lyrics can tend to leave your mind. Luckily for choir students, if one person forgets the lyrics, there are dozens others to continue on singing. When you're singing solo, this is not the case. With that in mind, I don't fault Aguilera for forgetting the lyrics. She has performed the National Anthem before at public events and remembered all the lyrics, so it's not like she simply doesn't know the lyrics. She was probably just very nervous to sing for the Superbowl. I imagine that is a very nerve-racking venue.

Now, for the actual issue at hand here. Over-singing. I like powerful singing every now and again, and I don't really mind powerful singing when one is singing the national anthem, but over-singing is a problem. To me, when singers belt out the national anthem, making a monosyllabic word have 15 syllables ( " banner yet wa-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-ve..." I might have missed a few), is disrespectful. When a person becomes so obsessed with showcasing their voice it gives the impression they care more about their voice than they do about the country. Sing it powerfully (Faith Hill), fine. Over-sing it (Christina Aguilera), no thanks.

Of course, there are people who will say "This is America. Freedom of expression. People can sing it however they want!" Okay, first of all "freedom of expression" is not in the constitution. It's freedom of speech. Second of all, what comes to my mind when people say that is the song Taps. Yes, there is a lyrical version to that song: Lyrical Taps Would you want Aguilera to stand at a soldier's funeral and belt that song out like she is singing at a concert? I sure wouldn't. It'd be disruptive and annoying. Likewise, I don't want her to belt out the National Anthem.

However, since the National Anthem tune was stolen from a British drinking song, I don't mind people being lively in their singing. It is a triumphant song after all (Woohoo! Waving flag after a battle in the war of 1812! Live on American Spirit!). But triumphant or not, a national anthem deserves a certain level of prestige and respect. The song should be about our country, our citizens, our American spirit. It should not be about some celebrity's ability to sing so loud the starving children in Africa can hear her.

And on that note, a lovely rendition of the National Anthem:

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Living with Hope

Recently I received a copy of Nick Vujicic's book Life Without Limits from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers for free, with the catch that I would have to write a review about the book. Originally, my intent was to simply read the book and write a perfunctory review like I do for other books I receive for free under similar circumstances, and then publish my review on a blog where I rather lamely review books. However, upon starting to read the book I realized this book deserved more than a rather sad "This book was a good read, and I give is 3 out of 5 stars" sort of review. It has inspired me to write about hope here instead. I have written out a sad "this book was a good read, and I give it 3 out of 5 stars" review for the book in my book reviews blog, but here I want to expound on that by talking about hope. More specifically, I want to talk about the hope Christians should have.

This book came at quite a perfect time really. My mother was preaching a sermon series on the hope of God at the time I got the book, and so the book fit in quite well with her message. On the flip side, a friend of mine seemed to be going through a rather dark time in his life around the time I received the book where he seemed to have lost all hope. And to top it all off, I stumbled across the song "Your Love Never Fails", as performed by Jesus Culture about a day before this book arrived. It's as if God is trying to tell me "Life sucks sometimes, but always place your hope in me, Hollie." I feel like God timed it so that this book would arrive in the mail at just the right time.

In this world, we are quite often confronted with situations that seem rather hopeless. Be it getting a bad grade on a test, breaking up with someone you loved, losing a job, losing someone you care for to death, whatever the case may be. When we are hit with something bad, our flesh's natural inclination tends to be to react negatively. While there is nothing inherently wrong with letting out an "Aww man!" when something bad happens, it is unhealthy to linger on negative feelings. When we do react negatively for longer than necessary (meaning if our negative attitude lingers to the point of making us melancholic or depressed), that is because we have placed our hope in the wrong thing. That is, we have placed our hope in something worldly.

For example, when my friend died last year I became melancholy. I wouldn't say depressed, because I don't think it was that serious, but I did allow myself to linger in the negative, and that just caused everything else that went wrong in my life after that to amplify the melancholic mood. Instead of putting my hope in God, trusting that He would take care of me even in my sorrow over losing a friend, I had allowed myself to live with a hope that my life would always be happy-go-lucky. When that hope was shattered, I had nothing to fall back on because I had put my hope in the world, which always disappoints.

But the Bible tells us to put our hope in God because He gave us Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:3-9 tells us to be hopeful because Jesus Christ was resurrected for us, and even though we "may have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials," we should rejoice because God has prepared a place for us in heaven. So yes, life may be difficult on earth, but God will always love us and He has prepared a place for us to spend with Him in eternity. We have an inheritance that will never perish waiting for us in heaven, so we should base our hope on that, be hopeful and excited for the day we will be with God in heaven.

I know that it is hard to have hope in God when we are in trials, because it is hard to look ahead and imagine that things could possibly get any better. Putting your hope in God isn't easy, but it is worth it. Personally, I have started to refashion my thinking so that whenever I have a negative thought I will try to think "Hope in God. Hope in God." It's not a well-articulated thought, but simply by thinking those three words, it helps to keep me from falling back into the melancholy I suffered last year. You don't have to know how God will work things out, you just have to trust and hope that He will.

Isaiah 41:31 is the poster child scripture for hope. For context, one could read verses 30 and 31 together. "Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint" (emphasis added). When we put our hope in God, something supernatural happens. It is as if a weight is lifted from your shoulders when you really and truly decide to stop dwelling in worldly hope and place it all in God's hands instead. God is not a God of defeat, or depression, or melancholy. He is a God of victory and freedom and joy! If one hopes in God, then one cannot help but be drawn away from feelings of negativity.

And with that said, I'll leave you with this song to listen to.

[as an inconsequential aside, this is the post I was referring to in my "Happy Holidays" blog post]