Chernobyl: 20 Years Later

A couple of years ago, I noted a photo essay that explored the “ghost town” that is now Chernobyl, Ukraine. It is a haunting, disturbing essay, and should be revisited today, the 20th anniversary of the disaster.

Even more disturbing, is this photo essay that chronicles victims of the accident. It is difficult to watch because it involves the people who were affected, and remain scarred by the disaster. Nevertheless, it is one of those things that we should see, lest we become too comfortable, too removed.

Hats Off To Honda

Dear Honda,

When my 1993 Accord’s front end crumpled like tissue paper as I struck head-on the pickup that pulled out in front of me on Sunday, my hopes of taking the vehicle over the elusive 180,000 mile mark were summarily ruined. This was indeed a lofty goal, but I’d take a totaled vehicle any day over the alternative. Thankfully, I walked away with only a sore neck.

Good safety design deserves much applause, and I heartily offer mine. I and my family thank you.

Jared Bridges

Ronald H. Nash, R.I.P.

News is circulating about the death Friday of philosopher Ronald H. Nash. I had the privilege of taking two of Dr. Nash’s classes when I was in seminary: Introduction to Philosophy, and Worldview Analysis. He was by far one of the most memorable teachers I’ve ever had, and consequently one of the most effective — I can still recall some of his lectures verbatim.

He was full of those idiosyncrasies that make a great professor. He did a mocking hip-shake whenever he spoke of an outlandish liberal idea. When speaking of the charlatans of our time, he was not afraid to name names and speak on a wide variety of ideas (economics government were especially helpful). I once heard someone call him the “Rush Limbaugh of Christian philosophy.” A more apt title would have been to label Limbaugh the “Ron Nash of talk radio.” Nash was a tour de force.

Dr. Nash commuted from his home (a labor of love for Nash — he certainly didn’t do it for the money or frequent flyer miles) in Florida to teach the classes I took, so the lectures were held once every two weeks for 6 hours at time. It was a brutal undertaking to cover so much material in one shot, but somehow Dr. Nash made it bearable (his exams, which routinely exceeded the allotted exam time by an hour, were somewhat less bearable).

In class, Dr. Nash usually expressed contempt for falsehood, yet he often choked up when speaking of the Truth of the gospel. He was a man obviously moved by Christ. He will be missed and remembered fondly. If you’re unfamiliar with Ronald H. Nash, check out one of the many books he left behind.

Best of 2005

A few of my bests for 2005:

Best Novel: Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead. It’s one of a kind and should not be missed. I’ve been promising my review for quite some time, and I assure you, it will be posted here not too far into the new year.

Best Nonfiction: Nancy Pearcy’s Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity. It’s an important book that would behoove every Christian to read. I didn’t find so many new ideas in this book as I did a beneficial synthesis of ideas and history pertinent to Christianity today. Pearcy aptly takes on the way evangelicals look at their faith and shows how we often live in two worlds where we should be living in one.

Best Movie: I only saw two movies at the theater this year — a new personal record for cinematic absenteeism! It was as good a year as any to be away from the cinemas. I did catch Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins on DVD and was duly impressed. It’s the best of the Batman series and actually had a little depth to the action. It’s a not typical “best” pick for me, but it was the only movie I watched twice all year. And no, I haven’t yet seen the Narnia film.

Best TV Show: I’ll have to go with Lost. I got the DVDs of season one for Christmas, and after seeing the first few episodes, it already gets my nod for the best. I also watched and was impressed by season one of 24 this summer, but that’s a 2001 show, so it doesn’t count. Prison Break was also pretty interesting. I’ve continued to watch last year’s fave, House, but I fear the show is becoming stale because each episode is just like the other.

Best New Software: Macromedia (Adobe) Dreamweaver 8. I’m still pretty much a hand-coder when it comes to websites, but DW8 design mode is pretty sharp for getting a good idea of what your CSS layout will look like.

Best Tennessee Football Moment (not that there were that many): The comeback from being down 21-0 in the LSU game. In fact, this was the only great Tennessee football moment this year.

Best Radio Talk Show: Bill Bennett’s “Morning in America.” All betting aside, it’s the most even–tempered, faithfully conservative, thoughtful show on the radio.

Best Comment Left At TruePravda: This really would fall more into the “astonishing” category than best, but it would have to be a recent comment left by a 2008 presidential candidate in response to my post about him.

Best Quote: “Ball…Ball…Ball…Ball…” — my son. It’s one of the few words that he says, and he’s passionate about it. The first thing he does when he wakes up is to look for a ball. If it weren’t an NCAA violation, we would have already secured a sports agent for him.

Happy New Year to everyone. The posting drought here at TruePravda is expected to dry up soon. As always, thanks for your readership.

God Incarnate

As the disciple whom Jesus loved put it so eloquently:

The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. [John 1:9-14, ESV]

Merry Christmas, and may the knowledge of the Word become flesh dwell in your heart and your house this holiday.

Christmas Shopping as Cultural Experiment

I’m the type of person who likes to make the best of a bad situation, and Christmas shopping presents limitless opportunities for me to do so. How do I turn shopping with the masses into something enjoyable? By donning my cultural anthropologist hat and making other shoppers the subjects of observation. Here’s what I noticed this year:

  • At the mall, the population is about 20% seasoned shopping vets, and 80% fish out of water. I fall headlong into the latter category. Most of the seasoned shoppers finished last month. That leaves men shopping for their women.
  • The store personnel are likewise fish out of water. Many of the employees are temps, and many of those are simply family members of the full-time employees. They’re dressed awkwardly and sometimes can be mistaken for fellow shoppers. Expect no help from them other than to point you to the cash register. They do not know if they have the item you’re looking for. They can help you look, though.
  • Don’t wear anything even remotely red if you’re shopping at Target. Unless, that is, you want to have some fun. In that case I would suggest you sport a red polo and an attitude. And no, I’ve never done this. Never.
  • Cashiers can go into intellectual meltdown if you refuse to give them your personal information. See my experience from two years ago.
  • Stay clear of the “kiosk” section of the mall if you don’t want to be approached and handled. I had to fight off one girl who tried to rub lotion on my hands because I knew what the Dead Sea was when she asked me. Or something like that. Kiosk vendors are malls’ equivalents to the guys who try to wash your windows in downtown parking garages without your approval and then want you to pay.
  • There’s lots of “sneaky sneaky” going on. I found it funny how often I would overhear someone’s phone conversation to a relative asking about gifts. “Don’t let your mom know that I’m on the phone asking about this,” was common conversation.

See there, even Christmas shopping can be a little fun, if you know what to look for. Those of you waiting until the very last days should take an extra large notebook for your cultural analysis — just don’t forget to get your gifts in the meantime!

Man v. Machine

If you’re a chess geek, or a wanna-be chess geek like me, I recommend the DVD Game Over: Kasparov and the Machine. It’s a documentary of the 1997 controversial rematch between world-champion grandmaster Garry Kasparov and IBM’s “Deep Blue” computer.

Kasparov handily defeated the supercomputer in 1996, but in ’97, Kasparov lost the match in six games. The controversy stemmed from the fact that the computer appeared to play more like a human than a machine — even making errors that wouldn’t be expected from a machine. IBM’s mysterious secrecy, denial of a rematch, and Kasparov’s bizarre mental breakdown under pressure turned what began as a friendly “experiment” into an intrigue-filled contest.

What’s amazing is that even if IBM didn’t cheat by secretly using human intervention, the fact remains that humans actually had to program the machine to play against Kasparov as an opponent. That is to say that we can’t even attempt to replicate the human mind without a human element to do the replicating. Logically, it seems impossible that we could create something smarter than ourselves. I’m no humanist, but I do believe that humans are the pinnacle of creation, made in the image of God. Not even humanity can improve upon that.