Saturday Sundry

-Been back from California for a few weeks, trying to make up my mind how to proceed. I’m leaning towards a year or so of paying work and self-production before I invest thirty-five-thousand-plus-expenses for a degree in filmmaking, but I’m not sure.

-My reaction to terrorist attacks are pretty much the same: horrified, angry, sad, but not in the least surprised. You know the old pacifist line “What if they gave a war and no one came?” Well, basically this is what happens: one side shuts its eyes and repeats “If I’m nice to them, they’ll be nice to me” while the other gleefully massacres women and children. Arm yourselves and stay alert; this is going to get worse before it gets better.

-As usual, Larry Correia has an amusing an insightful point of view on current events.  A lot of different subjects covered here, but my favorite quote: “My 150 IQ daughter who wants to become a biochemist hates Bill Nye so much that she wants to someday win a Nobel Prize just so that she can insult him during her acceptance speech.”

-So, I saw that someone from Newsweek posted on Twitter about how the latest ‘Bachelorette’ is a Black woman and wondering whether ‘America is ready for interracial romance.’ Meanwhile, Stanley Kramer directed Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn in Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, which saw their daughter being engaged to Sydney Poitier and which made buckets and buckets of money…fifty years ago. That probably would have been the time to ask if America was ready for interracial romance, which, judging by the box office, it was (also judging by the probably hundreds of successful films, shows, and books featuring interracial romances that have come along since). The fact that leftists in the media (but I repeat myself) are so ridiculously out of touch on this issue would be hilarious if it weren’t so insulting.

-Saw Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 yesterday, and thought it was good. It’s definitely darker than the first one, and I’m not sure how I feel about some of the themes, especially in the context of this day and age (let’s just say that I think ‘Daddy issues’ sums up a lot of the defining aspects of the contemporary world), but on the whole I liked it. There’s some good character development, especially regarding Rocket, and these are just really appealing characters, for all their crudity. Like the first film, it’s a good, solid space opera with some genuinely interesting sci-fi concepts blended in with all the silliness.

-I just realized the next film this summer I’m actually looking forward to is Spider-Man: Homecoming in July. In June we have Wonder Woman (the DCAU is going to have to work hard to win me back, and I don’t really even like Wonder Woman that much as a character, so probably not), The Mummy (because all good horror needs massive city-wide CG destruction. Don’t think this one will make anyone forget Boris Karloff, or heck, even Brendan Fraser. I admit Russel Crowe’s presence as Doctor Jekyll is intriguing, though), Cars 3 (because after Cars 2 turned out to be Pixar’s first real failure, why wouldn’t they keep going?), and Despicable Me 3 (I didn’t even really like Despicable Me one). Oh, well; tickets are expensive anyway.

 

California Impressions

As a lifelong film buff, California has, to my mind, a rather mythical air. Not because that’s where films are made, but because, by and large, that’s where they’re set. Walking around California, therefore, feels rather like walking around in a movie, if you know what I mean. Arriving amid the palm trees, Spanish-style buildings, and mountains, I feel like John McClaine; “****ing California…”

giphy.gif

Thus, though I go in with a prejudiced opinion of blue states (overtaxed and undercivilized), I also went in with a keen interest to actually see the place, or at least as much as a three day trip with no car would allow. My impressions thus far are:

-It’s very beautiful. The weather is more overcast than I expected, but the landscapes are lovely, and it’s nice to see real (though modest) mountains. I am also rather partial to Spanish-style construction. I should definitely like to come back to visit more thoroughly.

-It’s expensive. I checked out some apartment listings; the cheapest one was $900/month, and I’m told that’s very cheap for this part of the country. Plastic bags cost an extra ten cents. Again, “****ing California…”

-There seems to be a lot more effort put into the design of the place, which I appreciate. For instance, on the way out of San Diego, there are just these kind of towers on the off-ramps. Pretty cool.

-The San Diego train/bus station is a converted Church, which is a little sad, though certainly preferable to just having a bland box of building. The ‘SAN DIEGO’ sign on the roof is kinda tacky, though.

-There’s definitely a sense of “We’re CALIFORNIA!” A self-conscious desire on the part of the location to live up to its image. California could not be any more California, if you know what I mean, and it’s well aware of the fact. There’s a whole style and tone to the place that is definitely its own, though in something of the self-conscious manner of a theme park (though nowhere near to the extent of, say, Las Vegas). In any case, the sensation is much more of being in a different country than in just being in a different part of the same country.

My overall impression is that Southern California is basically a giant movie set, complete with hyper-leftist directors and stars. Certainly a cool place to visit, but I doubt I’d care to live there.

Friday Flotsam

-Going to check out the John Paul the Great University MBA in Film Producing next week, in the hopes that it may prove the solution to my employment woes. I figure if I have to do more schooling, I might as well go for something that actually interests me.

-Religion and Economics have this in common: everyone feels qualified to speak of them, whether or not they have any understanding of either. The result is that no two subjects have inspired more incredibly stupid statements from otherwise intelligent people.

-I find my biggest problem in getting things done is deciding what I should be focusing on. I have so many projects in the works, and have so little idea of which ones might bring success that I’m paralyzed until the day’s almost over and I give up and go read a detective story or play Minecraft.

My Catholic Match post received a lot of positive response, but not all of the kind I would like. A lot of people seemed to think the idea was “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” a notion I loathe and despise. I think there’s a vague notion that men shouldn’t care about how a woman looks, to which I can only answer in the words of C.S. Lewis: Whether it ought to or not, the thing you suggest is not going to happen. It’s kind of like the idea that a man in war ought to go about his business with a heavy heart and a shame face; a crude, childish attempt to apply a good principle. Yes, a man in war should bear his enemies no hatred, and yes, a man should value a woman for much more than her beauty. But beauty is an admirable quality and it’s natural for man to desire it. I think I’ll have to do another post on that subject.

Announcing my new Website

NS Logo

So, for a while I’ve been meaning to make a dedicate writer / business website for myself to help market my brand and services. Now, after much delay, I’ve finally done that.

I give you Noblesnake.com. 

This is basically a combination portfolio and business site: I provide samples of different work I’ve done, links to my other outlets around the web, and business contact information. It’s also meant to be a place where I can publish works of fiction that don’t seem to fit anywhere else.

To be clear, Serpent’s Den will still be my personal blog, but Noblesnake will be primarily dedicated to business matters and self publication. Go check it out and see for yourselves!

Confessions of an Unemployed College Graduate

Today’s post is up at The Federalist.

A sample:

My experience is not unique. There are thousands of college graduates in my shoes today. In fact, I’m better off than most: thanks to my wonderful parents, I don’t have any student debt weighing me down. I was also fortunate that the school I went to included a Great Books program, which is where I first truly learned to think.

 

Having learned that particular skill, I’ve concluded it probably wasn’t a good idea for me to go to college. Oh, I’m grateful for many things—the aforementioned Great Books program, the friends I made, and so forth. But looking back, I can’t avoid the conclusion that if I had learned to think a little sooner I would have realized that I shouldn’t have gone to college at all when I did.

I would have been better off going into the military or getting a job right off the bat. That way I would have had the kind of skills necessary to find the kind of jobs I want. College, for me, was unnecessary. Many people have to go into debt to attend a school where, instead of teaching you to think logically, they teach you how much the world owes you. It’s a liability.

Read the whole thing here!

 

Why I Am a Catholic:

compassion

The Reasons:

I am tempted to answer as Walker Percy did: what else is there? The alternatives all seem to me grossly inadequate. This is true speaking both philosophically and historically: that is, both the competing worldviews and the alternative explanations for the figure of Christ.

Philosophically, I have never heard any good atheist answers to the argument from contingency (everything in our experience derives its being from another source and cannot sustain itself, but if that were true of everything, nothing would exist, so a self-contained, eternal, uncreated being must exist), or a good explanation for human morality (why we have the experience of “I ought” and “I ought not”), or for the experience of beauty (why do such disparate things as music, a woman’s face, a mountain, an ocean, a bird, a poem, and the night sky affect us in much the same way), or for the universality of religious belief among the cultures of mankind. In short, any purely materialistic belief system must be false because it runs contrary to the experience of mankind.

Agnosticism, the belief that man cannot possibly know the truth about God, seems to me irrational. If man came from God, then there must be, however faint, a likeness or kinship between God and man, meaning that God can, to an extent, be known by man. If not, then the agnostic has to come up with a workable explanation both why not and why all the millions of people who claimed to know God throughout history, including many of its best and brightest, were mistaken, but the agnostic is not. To say that man cannot possibly know God or know the truth (which is more or less the same thing) seems to me to be an attempt at evasion rather than a real cogent position. Besides, there’s no reason to believe we can’t know something until it has been definitively proven that we don’t.

First, I believe in God. It seems to me that our experience both of the world and of human nature can’t possibly be explained absent the divine. Such difficulties as arise of positing that God exists and is good (i.e. the problem of evil) seem to me to be only problems of perspective; when dealing with something infinitely far above us, it will of course seem as if there are contradictions, but having good reason to believe in God’s existence and goodness on other grounds we can trust that these are illusory. The problem of evil, therefore, can be accepted as a problem that is accounted for by the premise, much as the lack of stellar parallaxes was accepted as a problem that was accounted for once Newton’s laws provided a workable context for Kepler’s model of the solar system. We admit the problem exists, but say that it is due to a lack of knowledge rather than being a serious contradiction.

I believe that Jesus Christ was and is the second person of the Trinity, the only begotten Son of God, true God and true Man, come to Earth to bring the forgiveness of sins to mankind. Like with God, I don’t see a cogent explanation for the figure of Christ that does not accept His claim to be God. The event of the Resurrection is the insurmountable obstacle; either it happened, or it didn’t. If it did, Christ is who He says He is. If it didn’t, then an explanation is needed for how and why the event was faked in a manner convincing enough to successfully bring about the conversion of the Roman Empire.

Moreover, the witness of the Saints and the Church seem to me conclusive: if Christ was a fake or fable, He’s the most successful and effective fake in human history. Lives are noticeably improved by following Him. His followers do great good for the people around them and humanity in general. The saints are striking examples of human excellence in all its forms and are admired even by atheists.

People sometimes talk as if it were easy to explain away Jesus as a simple preacher who was divinized by his ignorant and/or conniving followers. Such explanations are pathetically inadequate (not to mention transparently false to facts) to explain the Christian phenomenon. As far as I can see, the only explanation that covers all the facts is the one that Christianity itself proposes: that Jesus was the Son of God and that He founded the Church to be His instrument on Earth and to bring His Word to all nations. This explanation accounts not only for all the good the Church has done, but also all the evil, as the Church is explicitly an institution made up of fallen human beings in need of God’s mercy and nothing in the Christian religion claims that those who follow Christ will never sin, make mistakes, or act out of ignorance. The Christian view accounts for the whole of the observed facts, while the non-Christian view only accounts for part of them.

This brings me to the fact that, as a Catholic, I find I can account for pretty much everything that comes my way. Not that I can explain everything, but I can see how it could be explained without resorting to either flat denial or contradiction. From social conditions to historical events to scientific discoveries to ghost stories, I can more-or-less see how everything has its place in the Catholic worldview. Yes, science too: no matter how far down physics explores, below the electron and into the deep sub-atomic, it can never touch religious faith. No matter how minutely you examine the wall of a house, no matter how deep into the architecture and structure of the beams and nails that make it up, you are never going to seriously affect the question of the architect’s identity. Exploring the structure of God’s creation strikes me as a very wonderful thing to do, but I find the idea that, in so doing, you can somehow disprove God’s existence to be ridiculous.

As a side note, when it comes to evolution I reject the natural selection model as laughably inadequate (though it may account for some things: no one ever said there had to be only a single engine), but I think whatever does drive evolution will prove to be as ‘scientific’ as anything else (i.e. there will be a clear trail of physical events leading one to another). The question doesn’t affect my faith one way or another.

Thus far I have not found a single really concrete fact or truth which openly contradicts my faith. In addition, I find most modern objections to Christianity are moral rather than philosophical or historical (the only grounds I think Christianity can adequately be attacked). That is, people object to it on the grounds that Christian belief forbids certain practices that the modern world considers sacred rights (mostly related to sex). Even if I didn’t personally object to the practices being so guarded, there would still be the problem that to find a belief inconvenient to your lifestyle does not prove that it is false, only that if it is true, your lifestyle is an improper one. To reject a belief system for no other reason than because you want to violate it seems to me insane.

The fact that Catholicism demands that I often act contrary to my own desires and inclinations I hold to be one of the proofs of its validity. A belief system that doesn’t place any demands on me beyond what is already in my mind or which flatters my own desires looks very much like a mere justification on my part.

Now all this is a reason why I am Christian. Why am I a Roman Catholic?

Once one accepts Christianity as true, I don’t think there can be a really cogent reason for being Protestant. The Protestant system is too new, having emerged in the 1500s, largely on account of an intellectual lightweight named Martin Luther and a more rigorous, but equally irrational theologian named John Calvin. Its chief precepts have no basis in the writings of the early Church Fathers and its sola scriptura doctrine is itself ascriptural and illogical (if scripture alone is authoritative, by what authority was scripture defined?). Moreover, most Protestant churches lack the structural characteristics that the Church had even in Biblical times, indicating that they lack any kind of continuity with the Church of the Apostles.

Once Protestantism is rejected, there remain the Catholic, Orthodox, Coptic, and Anglican churches. Anglicanism is rejected at once both because of its shameful origins (a church that exists because a king wanted a divorce) and national character (by what possible reading of Scripture could a local monarch be given authority over the Church of Christ?). Perhaps it might have been possible to be Anglican when England ruled a quarter of the planet, lending a kind of universality to it, but even then it was obviously a national church. The Church of Christ must be a universal institution and can never be nationalized or subject to any human nation.

Of the three remaining, a similar problem emerges with the Copts and Orthodox; they are too localized and insular. Indeed, the Orthodox Church had its origins in a similar (though far less blatant) nationalist effort to the Anglican: the Emperor ruled from Constantinople, so Constantinople must be a great Holy See (though even so they remained in communion with Rome for many centuries, until some unfortunate incidents around the time of the Crusades). But in any case, neither the Orthodox nor the Copts have ever showed the kind of universality that the Romans have in sending missionaries to the far corners of the globe and exercising authority over Christians from innumerable different cultures. Though I would say that they both are branches of the true Church, just stubbornly independent ones.

Thus I think that, once one accepts the truth of God one must accept the truth of Christianity, and once one does that, one must be a Roman Catholic. I can conceive of one who is born into the faith remaining Orthodox or Coptic without contradiction, but other than that I can see no cogent reason for not being Catholic.

The Benefits

In addition to all of the above, the benefits of being Roman Catholic are, of course, excellent (as might be expected from the truth). The one I find most useful is that it shields you from the parochialism of modernity. In a field where one can profitably turn to advice written in the fifth, eighth, twelfth, or sixteenth century it is hard to conceive of the modern age as being the pinnacle of the human intellect it claims to be. The trap that so many contemporaries fall into of viewing our ancestors as either villains or children is eliminated for the faithful Catholic. The idea that, say, Richard Dawson is more intelligent than Augustine of Hippo or Thomas Aquinas simply because he happened to be born later is laughable.

The Catholic, assured that mankind is fallen and the world is a vale of tears, is typically defended against the lure of Utopia and the temptation to do anything and everything, however absurdly impractical, in an attempt to eliminate some great perennial evil. The idea of stealing from everyone to eliminate poverty, or of throwing away all weapons to eliminate war, is seen for the insanity it is. The answer to poverty is to give generously to the poor man and provide an opportunity for him to better himself. The answer to war is to win the one you’re fighting, show mercy to the conquered, and do your best to avert the next one. These things are not going to go away no matter what we do and attempts to eliminate them wholesale always have disastrous consequences (e.g. a concentrated effort by the world’s great powers to never have another war led directly to the most destructive war in human history).

Christianity is an incredibly open and varied religion. Barring sin, just about everything mankind can do can be turned to the glory of God. A Catholic can be a miner, a musician, a politician, a farmer, a soldier, a priest, a police officer, a writer, an artist, a businessman, a housewife, a beggar, an aristocrat, a scientist, a scholar, or a sailor without any kind of impediment to his faith. Every field of human endeavor is open to the Catholic as a means to give glory to God, and just about every one has done so. Every kind of personality can be turned to Christ, even very prickly and unpleasant ones (rudeness isn’t a sin). A Catholic can be irritable, blunt, and rude like, Hillare Belloc, or open, friendly, and charming like G.K. Chesterton. The Church accepts all kinds.

Because Christianity gives life a real end goal and some fairly straightforward criteria for meeting it: believe in Christ, receive the sacraments, confess your sins, forgive others, do your duty. Everything else is a matter of style. He who keeps the commandments can dispense with convention. As a Catholic I am far more free to be myself than I am as a millennial.

As a Catholic, I am free to apply the normal rules of skepticism, evidence, and belief to everything. For instance, I don’t have to accept the word of scientists as of gods because I know scientists are fallen men and that science itself is not the final word on reality. I can thumb my nose at the zeitgeist and declare that diversity is absurd, tolerance only a limited virtue, and that expecting someone not to have sex if they can’t handle the consequences is not a human rights violation. Once I have my faith in place, I am free to question everything, including the most cherished assumptions of the current age. That’s how I came to conclude that Imperialism was a legitimate form of foreign policy, that there is no fundamental difference between ‘homosexuality’ and any other form of temptation, and that the notion of equality is effectively meaningless when applied to human beings. These ideas run directly contrary to the surrounding culture, but because I know, through my faith, how limited that is I’m able to look beyond it and examine questions more (I hope) objectively.

So, the canard that religious dogma limits thought is almost the exact opposite of the truth: once religious dogma is in place, the mind has a scope to explore beyond the current climate of opinion and entertain ideas that would otherwise be unthinkable. Mere ‘open-mindedness’ only leads to conforming to ideas are in the air at the moment. Of all people the self-styled free-thinker is most a child of his own age.

A popular idea is that, freed from Christianity, one is freed from guilt. That’s not true. Freedom from Christianity allows a man to more effectively deaden his conscience to a particular beloved sin, but not to all. And if he does commit what he still regards as a sin, or if someone else does, then he finds that what he’s really been freed from is not guilt but forgiveness. The agonistic or the atheist has no mechanism to forgive the really sinful. He can excuse, but he can’t forgive. Hence the fanatical hatred of secularists, hedonists, communists, and so on for those they regard as evil. Their only recourse is to declare a sin not to be sinful, but that only takes you so far. As a Christian, I may count more things as being sinful than the average man, but I have a remedy for it. I can be unsparing in my assessment of myself because I know that anything I account as evil is not incurable or beyond forgiveness. In other words, a secularist can’t admit to being a bad person, because in his worldview there is no remedy for that. I can because I know Christ came to call sinners to repentance. Every time I go to Confession I wonder how non-Catholics can stand to live without it; I certainly couldn’t.

This, I think, is one of the things secularists really fail to understand; lacking a mechanism for forgiveness themselves, they assume that when a Christian says that something is sinful, they mean that a person who does this should be shunned and punished and destroyed (because that’s what the secularist thinks should happen). But the Christian thinks that a person who has sinned should repent and be forgiven, and that they will be much happier if they do. If I say homosexuality is sinful, I don’t mean that I hate and shun anyone who has committed that sin, only that I think they ought, for their own sakes, to repent and be forgiven for it. Christians don’t dismiss people as being unworthy of life or irredeemably evil: secularists do.

Catholicism is a wonderfully human religion. Surrounding the core, unchangeable dogmas is a whole wonderful palace of devotions, sacramentals, pious legends, history, folk practices, books, art, and so on. It gives you something to grab onto (literally), something to look at and enjoy while you praise God. It’s a religion that has weathered real life for two millennia and has the scuffs and scars of something that’s been used hard and endured. This isn’t something made up in a college classroom by ivory tower academics; it’s something that’s been out in the real world living, suffering, rejoicing, and fighting with real people for thousands of years. Its roots go all the way back to the beginning of recorded history with Abraham. It’s been tried and tested as thoroughly as any human institution or philosophy can be and has endured. In short, it works.

So, that’s the summary version of why I am Catholic. To summarize the summary, the reason I’m Catholic is because it’s true.

 

The Machete: Not Just For Murdering Teenagers!

You probably should know that I’m something of knife-nut. I love knives! If I had the money, I would fill my apartment with knives. Hunting knives, survival knives, pocket knives, bayonets, fishing knives, cooking knives, machetes, you can never have too many knives.

To me, knives are special in a similar way that fire is special: they are the claws of mankind; our earliest efforts to compete directly with the rest of the animal kingdom. They’ve been with us from the very beginning and I, for one, can’t get enough of them.

Today I want to talk about the machete. The two best known spokespeople for the machete are Messrs. Danny Trejo and Jason Voorhees, both of whom have built whole film franchises around that tool’s usefulness in removing unwanted extremities from unwanted people. But the machete has been a popular agricultural and wood-cutting tool for centuries for a reason, and its uses go far beyond being occasions for Tom Savini’s gore effects.

The machete was developed in the Caribbean by farmers to help chop sugarcane: an arduous process requiring intensive labor and investment. A heavy, oversized knife wielded with one hand was just the thing necessary to carve the thick stalks. Due to the destructive power of the device, it was dubbed the “machete,” derived from the Spanish “macho,” meaning sledgehammer, and also referring to virility, manliness, and strength: qualities needed to wield a machete.

Today there are a number of variations on the original machete design, but they all amount to the same concept: a sword, a knife, and a hatchet all fell into the brundlefly machine together, and the resulting tool can be used as any one of those in a pinch.

Personally, I have two machetes: one I keep in my car to take care of any fallen branches (and so I’ll have a practical weapon in case I ever end up stranded) and another I keep at home for camping or wood-cutting needs. The one in my car is distressingly flimsy (bought it cheap) and the one in my house is stubbornly blunt. So when I say that I have found them both to be quite useful despite their flaws, it’s an indication of how worthwhile these tools are. They’re not as devastating as an axe, but their much more portable and versatile. A hatchet does a better job doubling as a hammer, but a machete does a better job as a self-defense weapon (guerillas around the world use them as side arms), and you’re more likely to find something in the wild that will make an adequate hammer than you are something that can adequately fend off a hungry coyote or ill-intentioned individual.

Machetes are easy to carry: just strap them on your belt like any other knife. They’re ridiculously simple and durable, being essentially composed of a single sheet of metal attached to a handle. You can wield them with great skill if you take the trouble to learn, but they’ll still get the job done if all you’ve got is a fairly strong arm.

And there are so many variations! Depending on your specific needs, you can choose from any one of over a dozen different styles. For a sampling:

Latin Machete:  Latin  The standard, all-purpose machete. The blade is straight and generally evenly weighted or slightly bulged at the end. You can find these anywhere and they’re good for pretty much any job. Other machetes might be better at specific tasks, like chopping wood or clearing brush, but the Latin-style can pretty much do anything, especially if you get one with a saw on the back.

Jason

Jason Approved!

Bolo Machete: Bolo Originating from the Philippines, this is a machete with a noticeably bulged tip and a thicker-than-average blade. Great for chopping wood.

Panga Machete: Panga A thick, heavy blade, slightly forward-curved with an upturned point. Popular in Africa and the Caribbean, where it’s used for clearing vegetation.

Barong Machete: Barong A more specifically weaponized machete, the barong also hails from the Philippines, where it evolved from traditional tribal weapons. It has a leaf-shaped blade with a sharp point and was the weapon of choice among Filipino guerilla fighters. The Spanish, Americans, and Japanese all learned to fear this weapon, which in the hands of a skilled fighter could cut through rifle barrels. Even if you don’t plan on leading an uprising, it’s useful for clearing stubborn brush.

Kukri Machete: Kukri The weapon of choice in central Asia, the kukri has a distinct forward curve that gives it devastating chopping power. It also features a pointed tip for stabbing attacks and a straight, sharp blade near the base suitable for whittling and carving work. Like the Latin blade, this is a great all-around tool, though you’ll probably find they cost quite a bit more.

Coping Machete: Coping Also known as a rescue machete, this short blade has a blunt, squared-off tip for precision cutting in tight spaces and rescue operations.

Billhook Machete: BillHook A traditional European tool, the billhook features a thick, curved blade with a distinctive hook on the end. The blade is sharpened on the inner end of the hook and is used for stripping branches, clearing vines, hedge-construction, and other woodworking and landscaping jobs where cutting along or around a curved surface is useful.

This is just a sampling of the most notable variations. For me, I like versatility in my tools, so I stick with the Latin blade, though the Kukri makes for an excellent alternative if you’re willing to fork over a little more cash.

Remember, machetes are not just for revolutionaries and horror movie characters: they’re for everyone!