SimEverything

Summer Break is approaching, which means unstructured time, our most precious resource.  I plan on using that time to work on some long-delayed eBooks—including one on Christmas carols—and to teach my History of Conservative Thought course.  I’m also hoping to rebuild my music lesson empire after The Virus sacked the imperial capital.  There will also be lot of family time built in.

In addition to all of those wholesome and productive activities, there is also the siren song of video games.  Video games can become a major time sink (I’m learning that with Stellaris), but they’re a good way to unwind, and require a bit more focus and decision-making than passively consuming television.

One of the major video games meta-series of my youth were the various Sim games from Maxis—SimCitySimEarthSimAnt, etc. (I had a particular fondness for the scope and breadth of SimEarth, which I obtained on a bootlegged 3.5″ floppy disk from my buddy Arun in high school, back before I knew about or respected intellectual property rights).  The sandbox style in play, which encouraged experimentation and open-ended decision-making, really made those Maxis games fun (not unlike Minecraft, which also encourages exploration and free play).

So it was with great interest—and a heavy dose of nostalgia—that I read “When SimCity got serious:  the story of Maxis Business Simulations and SimRefinery” on The Obscuritory, a website dedicated to exploring games lost, forgotten, and never played.

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Remembering Ravi Zacharias

On Tuesday this week—19 May 2020—the great Christian apologist and evangelist Ravi Zacharias went Home to Christ.  The obituary on his ministry’s website details the story of his radical conversion to Christianity in a hospital bed in India, where he heard the Gospel while recovering from a suicide attempt, and then on through his remarkable ministry.

Ravi Zacharias brought intellectual heft to Evangelical Protestantism; even his radio program was called Let My People Think.  Zacharias recognized that emotional appeals alone would not always win people to Christ; there had to be compelling reasons for what made Christianity True, not just one religion among many.  The knee-jerk response among Evangelicals (one I have been guilty of many times) is not the bold, intellectual defense of the faith, but denunciations of other faiths in a sort of Truth-by-elimination, something Zacharias warned against in an address in 1983.  From the obituary:

In front of 3,800 evangelists from 133 countries, Zacharias opened with the line, “My message is a very difficult one….” He went on to tell them that religions, 20th-century cultures and philosophies had formed “vast chasms between the message of Christ and the mind of man.” Even more difficult was his message, which received a mid-talk ovation, about his fear that, “in certain strands of evangelicalism, we sometimes think it is necessary to so humiliate someone of a different worldview that we think unless we destroy everything he holds valuable, we cannot preach to him the gospel of Christ…what I am saying is this, when you are trying to reach someone, please be sensitive to what he holds valuable.”

Zacharias profoundly shaped my own walk with Christ.  I am very thankful for my Pentecostal upbringing, which bathed me from the time I was a child in God’s Word.  But Southern Pentecostalism in the 1990s tended to be extremely emotive—I would say, at times, even performative.  The emphasis of the (often agonizingly) long church services of my youth were more about creating an atmosphere of worship—at worst, attempts to tempt the Holy Spirit to move, at best sincere responses to the Moving of the Holy Spirit—than about digging into the hard Truths of the Gospels.

At least, that sometimes seemed the case to my thirteen-year old self, who often wondered what my problem was when I wasn’t getting caught up in everything the way the rest of the congregation was.  But then one of my aunts—probably my Aunt Marilyn, though it could have been my Aunt Cheryl, the best one-eyed piano player in Aiken County—introduced us to Ravi Zacharias in Sunday School.  We did a study using the youth version of Zacharias’s Jesus Among Other Gods, a masterpiece of Christian apologia.

Suddenly, here was a man who debated Ivy League philosophers—and got the better of them!  For a bookish teenager who didn’t always respond to the emotive side of faith, Zacharias was a powerful role model.  Here was a man who thought critically about faith, and who used his intellect to defend ours.  The fact that he came to Christ out of a totally alien culture and religion further demonstrated the power of the Holy Spirit to reach anyone.

I should note that, while the church services were often heavy on emotion, our Sunday School classes were where the deep digging occurred; we didn’t just shut off our brains.  Southern Pentecostalism—probably as a result of its strong Scotch-Irish roots—is inherently skeptical of all worldly claims.  The default position towards the world’s wisdom is critically analytic.  There’s also a scrappy outsider mentality, which, at its best, serves to embolden our tenacity, even if it makes us wary of potential faith allies.  In other words, it wasn’t all just pew-hopping and thirty-minute altar calls:  that plucky skepticism of worldliness is one of the best qualities of my religious upbringing.

But I digress.  Zacharias drew others to a deeper understanding of their faith in Christ.  White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany—talk about a spunky Scotch-Irish fighter!—gave a tearful interview to CBN News in which she detailed Zacharias’s influence:

When asked where the tears were coming from, she explained further. It goes back to her days developing her faith at Oxford University in England of all places.

“To have someone from an academic place, as an apologist could equip you with those arguments where you didn’t have to check your brain at the door when you became a Christian where there is the intellectual foundation for everything we believe,” McEnany explained. “There’s prophecy. There’s the human cell. There’s the amazing creation of the human body and all of its complexity and the planet, the universe.”

“And he put a philosophical and academic rationale for the heart that I had for Christ, but gave me the ability to go to Oxford, where there are renowned atheist scholars who try to say there’s no intellectual undergirding for Christianity,” she continued. “Ravi Zacharias, who happened to have an office at Oxford was the person who provided the counter to that, the intelligence behind why we believe what we believe.”

Amen.  Ravi Zacharias’s influence will reverberate through the lives he won for Christ, and his bold, intellectual defense of Christianity will continue to win souls.

Rest in Peace.

TBT: Bologna

When you’ve been blogging daily for over 500 days, you sometimes get writer’s block—or just don’t have anything interesting to say.  It’s rare, as there’s almost always something happening that ticks me off.  But as I’ve noted, in The Age of The Virus, it’s a more common occurrence.

Think about it:  politics right now boils down to the media misreporting President Trump’s statements about The Virus, and to the question “should we reopen or stay closed” (the correct answer:  reopen)?  There are no major cultural events.  In general, it’s a bit of a blogging malaise.

A wise woman, fellow blogger Bette Cox, once advised me to write when I had something to say, not just merely for the purpose of churning out content or to meet an arbitrary daily counter.  She probably has a point, but in my youthful impudence, I’ve ignored her and have slammed out post after post, some good, some terrible, and a few truly great.

This week’s TBT is one of those posts that grew out of a need to publish something to keep my WordPress daily streak counter going (there are days where I feel enslaved to that arbitrary computer counter, which is really just me being enslaved to my own expectations).  It’s a test of a writer, though, to see if one can turn straw into gold—or, in this case, bologna into filet mignon.

You be the judge—did my ode to America’s lunch meat rise to the level of blog-worthiness (keeping in mind that the bar for blogging is pretty low)?  Or is it just cold cuts twisting in the wind?

Regardless, here is December 2019’s “Bologna“:

The long national nightmare is over.  No, not the impeachment farce; it’s the end of the semester!  Grades are in the books, work is done, and teachers and students are heading out for two weeks of glorious Christmas Break.

It’s been an eventful week.  As the House was fulminating about Trump’s alleged “crimes,” I was playing a gig with our community jazz band.  I play second alto sax with the group, but I asked to sing a song on this concert.

It’s long been a dream of mine to sing with a full jazz swing band behind me, and that dream came true Wednesday evening.  I sang Andy Williams’s “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” and was a nervous wreck (if you’ve seen the lyrics to that tune, you’ll understand why—what a mouthful!).  But I got through it admirably enough, even with a low-grade sinus infection.

The gig was during the dinner hour at a large church in town.  The first alto player indicated how hungry he was, and wondered if he could get a plate.  I told him (unhelpfully) that I’d eaten a bologna sandwich in my car before coming in (which sounds like a joke and/or the most mundane, pathetic detail in the world, but it was true).  All the old guys in the band—it’s a swing band, so there are a lot of them—expressed their enthusiasm for bologna sandwiches, and asked how it was prepared:  did I use mustard?  “Nope, Duke’s mayonnaise, with cheese.”  Murmurs of approval followed.

I am a great lover of bologna.  My brothers still express frustration that, as a child, I would often opine that on Sunday nights, I would rather go home and eat a bologna sandwich than go out to eat (eating out was a rarity in those days)—thus undermining their cause to eat a deliciously fatty meal at, say, Shoney’s (rest in peace).  It’s probably terrible for you—all the reject parts of the Big Three sandwich meat animals (beef, pork, and chicken) rolled into one beautiful, red plastic-lined disc of processed flavor (one of my students called it a “hot dog pancake”)—but with a slice of American cheese and some mustard or mayonnaise, it’s delicious.

My students hate bologna, and tend to express disgust if they discover I’ve been eating it.  I can only assume that, living in more prosperous times, they’re used to eating lunches full of kale and couscous, and deli-cut meat from a high-end grocer’s counter.  Material wealth has robbed them of the opportunity to enjoy an American staple.

My older bandmates’ reactions were telling.  They were all quite wistful about their childhood bologna sandwiches, probably back in those high-trust times when children who looked and talked like each other and lived near their extended families ran around barefoot in fields and neighborhoods until the sun went down.  Most of them look to be in better shape than me, and they grew up eating processed reject meat.

Being on a tight budget, bologna is a godsend.  It’s cheap (around $1.50 for twelve slices of Gwaltney at the local Piggly Wiggly) and filling.  It’s great fried with an egg for breakfast, or slathered in Duke’s on white bread at lunch.

All quite different from the congressional bologna served up earlier this week.  Talk about a bunch of overstuffed, fake trash.  I bet Nancy Pelosi would faint if someone asked her to eat a bologna sandwich.  GEOTUS Trump—a lover of fast food, and fit as a fiddle—would chow down with workmen on a construction site, no questions asked.

America should be for the bologna eaters, God bless ’em.  It’s the meat of the workingman.  Kale only ever brought anyone misery.

SubscribeStar Saturday: The Conservative Revolution

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Friday’s post, “The Cultural Consequences of the American Civil War,” has enjoyed more traffic than my usual posts thanks to a.) the controversial topic of the American Civil War (gasp!—someone’s not denouncing the South!) and b.) and Dr. Rachel Fulton Brown graciously sharing the post far and wide.  Thanks, Doc!

It’s put me in a bit of a historical mood.  In history, the important points—the Truth—is often in the details, but I’ve always appreciated the contemplation of the philosophical implications of historical events.  Thus, my mini-essay on the American Civil War focused more on the cultural and political costs of the war than the nitty-gritty details.

The costs were, of course, considerable.  Historians of a conservative bent will sometimes refer to “reconstitutions” in United States history, with the Progressive Era and its immediate offspring, the New Deal, often cited as a major “reconstitution.”  The 1964 Civil Rights Act, which elevated anti-racism and social justice above the freedom of association, was another such reconstitution.

Similarly, the American Civil War, as I detailed yesterday, resulted in a reconstitution of the Constitution, as it served to centralize more power in the hands of the federal government, curtailing States’ rights in the process.

An observant reader will note that each of these “reconstitutions” reflected some revolutionary fervor or upheaval:  the horror of war, the agitation of Progressive reformers, the privations of the Depression, and the struggle for equal rights.  They almost all resulted in an increase in federal power, too, often to intrusive degrees.  In each instance, the ratchet turned towards more centralization and fewer liberties overall.

But the American Revolution—which made the Constitution possible—is nearly unique in the annals of modern history—much less American history—in that it was a conservative revolution.  That is, it was a revolution that sought to conserve—or, perhaps more accurately, to preserve—a set of traditions and privileges, rather than to tear them up, root and branch.

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To the Moon! Part III: Moon Mining

In this blog’s long and storied history, I’ve been a consistent advocate of space exploration, with a particular interest in lunar colonization.  An enduring frustration of this blog is that the United States has satiated its thirst for exploration with the numbing effects of consumer technologies.  Yes, we can FaceTime one another from halfway around the globe and can set our thermostats remotely so the house is cooled down before we arrive—all wonderful conveniences—but is that truly the apex of human endeavor?  Is being comfortable really the point of it all?

There was a time when we dreamed of exploring the stars, or at least of visiting our nearest celestial neighbors.  But that drive for adventure dissipated—or, perhaps, exploded—sometime in the 1980s.  The Age of The Virus further highlights our society’s obsession with safety, an obsession anathema to the derring-do necessary to explore the stars.

To paraphrase Bill Whittle, we’ll know we’re serious about space exploration when our graveyards are filled with astronauts.

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Lazy Sunday LXI: The Tuck

You can’t cuck him—Tucker Carlson, that is, the pie-faced Fox News host with an infectiously boyish laugh and a gift for destroying Leftist shibboleths.

Tucker Carlson says that he’s not a populist—he’s an elitist—but that our current elites aren’t up to the job.  Further, they’re not even doing the job correctly; that is, our elites aren’t looking out for the interests of the people they govern, which is pretty much their only job.  Instead, they’re working for their own interests at our expense.

Well, that’s good enough for me.  An elitist on the outs with our current crop of “elites” is a populist in my book.  Carlson’s commentary certainly suggests as such.  This look back at my posts about his ideas will demonstrate that:

  • Tucker Carlson’s Diagnosis” (and “TBT: Tucker Carlson’s Diagnosis“) – This post was about a monologue Tucker gave in early 2019 (I think the monologue was actually delivered on my birthday).  That monologue really opened my eyes to the folly of pursuing economic efficiency at all costs.  A key quote from The Tuck:  “We are ruled by mercenaries, who feel no long-term obligation to the people they rule.”
  • You Can’t Cuck the Tuck” – This short piece was about “some cheeky remarks” Tucker made on a raunchy radio show over a decade ago—true but politically-incorrect statements not to be uttered in polite company (or where the social justice commissars can hear).  Rather than issuing a whimpering apology, The Tuck demonstrated his uncuckability and refused to apologize.  He’s still pulling in three million eyeballs a night.
  • You Can’t Cuck the Tuck: Immigration” – Another short post; in this one, Tucker calls out the folly of unlimited immigration of people who hate the United States, and points to Somalian immigrant Ilhan Omar as a “living fire alarm” to the American people.  Let’s wake up and ban immigration from places and cultures that hate everything we love.
  • Tucker Carlson’s Platform for Victory in 2020” – A sobering bit here from Tucker:  in order to win in 2020, Trump and Republicans need to improve people’s lives.  Tucker’s key insight is that whichever candidate and/or party makes it easier for a thirty-year old to get married and own a home is the candidate that is going to win in 2020.  Get on it, Republicans!
  • You Can’t Cuck the Tuck III: Liberty in The Age of The Virus” – I was worked up when I wrote this post, as was Tucker.  We keep watching our liberty die in exchange for the illusion of safety.  Tucker, in true fashion, offers a full-throated defense of liberty, and denounces the incompetent “experts” who keep insisting that we cower in fear.

That’s it for this weekend!  It’s Mother’s Day, so be sure to give Mom a call.

Happy Mother’s Day!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

SubscribeStar Saturday: Liberty and Safety

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Every liberty-loving American can recall Benjamin Franklin’s famous quip that “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”  It’s become also cliched to quote Franklin, but those words bear repeating, cliched or not, in The Age of The Virus.

The response to The Virus has been something akin to mass social and economic suicide, coupled with plenty of scorn for those not willing to go along with the kabuki theatre of our national hara-kiri.  It seems that the early attempts at “flattening the curve” have worked at preventing hospitals from turning away afflicted patients, so much so that our hero nurses and doctors are staging elaborate Internet dance routines (and yet will also be the first to urge us to take their advice to shut everything down forever).

What I’m beginning to realize is that people truly fear The Virus.  I don’t just mean they’re worried about getting it—I certainly don’t want to succumb to it—they’re worried about dying from it.  That’s not an unrealistic concern for the elderly or those with preexisting health conditions, but I think that fear runs deeper.

Consider:  the people most hysterically concerned with The Virus, in general, are deep progressives.  Progressivism, at bottom, is a materialist philosophy:  it can only conceive of existence in this realm.  That’s not to say it isn’t a religion; rather, it’s a religion without an afterlife.  That’s why progressives spend so much time attempting to create Heaven on Earth—to immanentize the eschaton, as William F. Buckley, Jr., warned us not to do.

It’s an ideology that constantly sacrifices the good to the perfect, because anything less than perfection isn’t paradise.  And because there is no life after this one, the fear of death takes on a terrifying new dimension.  Coupled with progressives’ lust for power and perpetual revolution, and you have half of the population ready to sacrifice everything—including liberty—to appease The Virus.

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My Musical Philosophy in Song: “Delilah”

On Sunday (my first day back playing piano in church!—everyone else was in their cars listening over a short-range broadcast)—I posted a video to my Facebook artist page of Iron Maiden vocalist Bruce Dickinson singing Tom Jones’s 1968 classic “Delilah”:

I’ve received a handful queries about my statement that “this video sums up my entire musical philosophy.”  Naturally, there’s a bit of cheek in that statement.  My short answer is similar to the jazz musician’s (Louis Armstrong? Dizzy Gillespie?) when a lady asked him how to swing:  “if you have to ask, you’ll never know.”  The video should speak for itself:

But I began digging into this video a bit more.  What is this bizarre game show?  When was it aired?  How did Bruce Dickinson end up singing “Delilah”?  It reminds me another video that “sums up my entire musical philosophy”—Jack Black’s appearance on American Idol singing Seal’s “Kiss from a Rose”:

Fortunately, there are some scant details out there.  The show was Last Chance Lotter with Patrick Kielty, an Irish game show that ran for ten episodes in 1997.  The gimmick was that the show took losers from other game shows, gave them a lottery ticket, and anyone who had a ticket worth ten pounds or more could compete in the main game.  Some of the money won would go into a pot for one random audience member to win.

I haven’t quite worked out how the musical numbers figured in, but the musical guest would essentially sing a song to add even more cash to the pot by spinning a wheel (that was transparently rigged—the audience knew the wheel was controlled, from what I can gather).  That’s why Bruce Dickinson was on the show, and his performance of “Delilah” is one of the most spectacular musical renditions I’ve ever heard:  mariachi horns, bouncing bassists, leopard-print suits, and Dickinson’s soaring vocals.

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You Can’t Cuck the Tuck III: Liberty in The Age of The Virus

The Washington Post blares under its masthead that “Democracy Dies in Darkness.”  That alliterative tag line for The Bezos Post is intended as a not-so-subtle jab at Donald Trump, as “democracy” for The Post and the rest of the Mainstream Media means “letting overcredentialed grad students and aloof experts run everything while ignoring the proles.”  Apparently, a businessman who has slashed federal taxes and regulations and devolved power back to the States is a would-be authoritarian.

For all its dire virtue-signalling and hand-wringing, though, The Post and its ilk are wrong:  just like the unsuspecting coeds in Midsommar, liberty dies in broad daylight.

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