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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Separate marriage and state?

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 5:30 PM (#)

Should we get government out of marriage altogether?

Maybe. Maybe not. But let's not fool ourselves: That will be a very complicated task.


Monday, January 30, 2017

No, it is not OK to punch Nazis

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM (#)

While people sharing "punch a Nazi" memes on social media may think it is "cute" or funny, it is actually not appropriate to use violence against someone for his political opinions. That is a universal rule and applies to everyone, no matter how perverted, depraved or downright evil their opinions may be. So, no, it is not OK to punch Nazis and it never was OK to punch Nazis. You are not allowed to punch Communists either, and both the Soviet Union and Red China murdered more people than Nazi Germany.

I cannot believe I have to explain this. The reason violence it is not OK is because we have a social contract that helps preserve order. Once you say it is OK to punch a Nazi, then what about a member of the Ku Klux Klan? What about someone who is simply a racist? What about someone who supports - or opposes - legalized abortion? What about someone who supports - or opposes - government recognizing homosexual marriage? Moving away from hot button issues, what about people who support restrictive zoning laws? Should I be allowed to punch someone who restricts what I can do with my own property?

You say, "Well, Scott, that is absurd. We're not talking about land-use policy, tax policy, or even a hotly contested social issue." But it is actually not absurd. Once you establish the principle that you can use violence against someone because of his political opinions, the question ceases to be about whether violence is appropriate. The question then becomes where you draw the line for what political opinions can subject someone to violence. Can you see how that viewpoint can be incredibly dangerous?

Once you establish that you can punch someone for his political opinions, then it is a short step to open gang warfare in the streets between rival political factions. That is the kind of thing we see in fledgling democracies in third world nations, or when tyrannical regimes are collapsing and the order imposed from the top no longer restrains factions. Furthermore, if you think that "punching" will be confined to adults, you need to study history. Children will be targets of political violence too, along with women and the elderly.

The solution to an evil ideology like Nazism is not punching someone in the face. That does not convince anyone, it makes you look like an unhinged lunatic, and it creates sympathy for wicked people who deserve none. The answer is to expose just how wicked and evil Nazi ideology is, and to work to convert Nazis to a better worldview. Those who engage in violence are not courageous. They are lazy and they do not have the intelligence to defeat wicked ideas. They are also almost always cowards.


Sunday, January 29, 2017

Was bombing the Nazi death camps possible?

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 11:30 AM (#)

This article on FoxNews.com raises an interesting point:

  • "Historians til this day question why US and British bombers which flew over the death camp never dropped their payloads on the gas chambers and crematoria when they were in full use, murdering and incinerating innocents."

Would that have even been possible? We did not have precision bombing then. They could have killed the very prisoners they were trying to save.


Saturday, January 28, 2017

Ephesians 6:1-4

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM (#)

Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.


Friday, January 27, 2017

Looking back at the 2017 Rally for Life

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 12:30 PM (#)

Just under 240 people showed up at the Monroe County courthouse on Sunday for the Rally for Life, witnessing against abortion and serving as a voice for the unborn.

I attended a couple rallies when I was in college, and I have been helping organize this event for the last fifteen years. (This year was the same as most years, and others did far more work than I did.) This past Sunday was by far the warmest weather we have had for the rally. I was actually slightly uncomfortable in my spring jacket, which was a nice change from the bitter cold that makes your hands cramp up and hurt upon exposure to the air. That was the weather we had in 2016.

We did attract some opposition, and given the anger at President Trump among the Left I was concerned that Leftists might attempt to disrupt the event or even that they might become violent. Fortunately, the ten or fifteen Leftists who showed up were mostly civil. They stood and held their signs, and they shouted a few things, but they did not try to disrupt or cause harm. (They were also vastly outnumbered.) I fully respect the right to counter-protest and I am thankful for the civility of the opposition.

The fact that they care enough to come and counter-protest instead of being completely numb to our presence is actually an encouragement. When someone becomes enraged at Christians opposing evil, you know they at least have some sort of conscience and they might be able to be converted. If they are completely apathetic, there is much less hope. I much prefer angry opposition to apathy. (Violence and terrorism, of course, is never acceptable.)

It was wonderful to see IU Students for Life there.

I was mostly pleased with media coverage. The Herald-Times and the Indiana Daily Student were there, as was IU Student Television and WFIU. Unfortunately, the news media did report inaccurate numbers, either about 100 (which was less than half of what we had) or "dozens" of demonstrators. This is understandable to some extent as Rally for Life attendees have always been a late-arriving bunch. That said, it is not that difficult to make sure you have accurate numbers, or to stay long enough to double check your estimate.

As long as babies are being murdered in our city and in our nation, we will still be there standing up for those who cannot speak for themselves.


Thursday, January 26, 2017

Throwback Thursday

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM (#)

From 2007: Nano is waiting for us to mix some canned food in with his boring dry dog food.

Spoiled much?


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

A flaw in the Facebook comments plugin

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM (#)

While I think it was an unnecessary change, I generally approve of the switch to Facebook comments for Herald-Times Online. However, there is a bug in the design of Facebook comments that undermines the design and operation of comments, and I am not sure this was fully considered for either the guidelines themselves or the mechanism of enforcing those guidelines.

The bug is that people can post as Facebook pages. While users are (technically!) required to use their real names on Facebook, it is a simple matter to create a Facebook "fan page" and comment using that. So since one joker (who has been known to repeatedly violate HTO comment guidelines and has had many comments deleted) did exactly that I asked H-T editor the following question: Isn't the entire purpose of Facebook comments that people must use their real names, per the editorial announcing the new format?

He responded:

  • "Yes it is and we will delete them when they are brought to our attention, and ban the accounts."

I reported the instances where the troll is hiding his identity behind Facebook fan pages, but the problem is that those reports go to both HTO moderators and Facebook itself. There needs to be an option on the Facebook comments plugin to report comments that violate a website's comment policy to that website (in this case, Herald-Times Online) and not report them to Facebook.

The reason this is needed is that comments that violate HTO comment guidelines are not necessarily a violation of Facebook's Terms of Service. If I report a comment that violates HTO policy but not Facebook policy, I am wasting Facebook's time when the comment goes to both Facebook and HTO moderators. This is an incredibly inefficient system when the reports go to both HTO moderators and Facebook, since the two entities have different standards and Facebook is fielding reports they should technically never see.

Here is another reason this is important: There is a lot of raw sewage on Facebook, including horrific violence, brawls, and pornographic material. Some of this material is evidence of criminal activity. There is no reason that comment abuse reports need to go to Facebook and waste the time of people working there, when they should only be going to HTO staff charged with enforcing a different (and more strict) set of standards.


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

"Alternative facts"

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 5:30 PM (#)

Donald Trump's team handled "alternative facts" very poorly, but they actually do have a legitimate point. In any political discussion, the two sides present facts, statistics and arguments to make their case.

For example: The Indiana Daily Student reported there were one hundred people at the 2017 Rally for Life. The "alternative facts" presented by Christian Citizens for Life had the number at 240 people. Both were right, actually, though both were right at different times. When the IDS estimated the number, there actually were about 100 people there.

The people who attend the Rally for Life tend to be a late-arriving bunch because they go to church, have lunch, and then get to the rally. When you have children, it can take a long time to go from church to a meal to an event. Ultimately, CCFL's number was right and the IDS's number was wrong. The IDS should have counted again as more people arrived.

Trump's team does need to do a better job with messaging in the future.


Sunday, January 22, 2017

Thoughts on the 44th anniversary of Roe Vs Wade

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM (#)

It was 44 years ago today that the Supreme Court threw out laws against abortion in all 50 states, trampling state sovereignty and the Tenth Amendment. But much worse than that, the court opened the floodgates to 58,000,000 babies being brutally slaughtered in the name of "reproductive choice" and "personal autonomy." This is the great moral stain on our nation, far worse than slavery, Jim Crow, the genocide of the American Indians or any other wicked thing our nation has done.

What must a holy and righteous God think when he looks upon this slaughter? We can discern what He thinks from His holy Word:

  • And they caused their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire, and used divination and enchantments, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke him to anger. Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel, and removed them out of his sight: there was none left but the tribe of Judah only. -- 2 Kings 17:17-18
  • Moreover thou hast taken thy sons and thy daughters, whom thou hast borne unto Me, and these hast thou sacrificed unto them to be devoured. Is this of thy whoredoms a small matter, That thou hast slain My children, and delivered them to cause them to pass through the fire for them? -- Ezekiel 16:20-21
  • And they built the high places of Baal, which are in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire unto Molech; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin. -- Jeremiah 32:35

I have been accused of using "inflammatory rhetoric" when speaking of abortion. But when over a million babies are being murdered by dismemberment every single year, is there any language that can be used to describe it that is too inflammatory? No, there is not. The reason people object to "inflammatory" terms like slaughter and murder is because it exposes their shame and the reality of what they support. I refuse to use language that covers for and gives euphemisms for murder.

I have been told that my "inflammatory rhetoric" will not convince anyone why abortion is wrong, but the reality is that I do not need to convince anyone. We all know what is going on here, no matter how fervently we deny the truth in front of our eyes. Most of us have seen the pictures of bloody aborted babies. Instead, I am calling on this nation and this city to repent of the bloodshed we have allowed and supported. While I certainly support efforts to inform people about abortion, the need we have is not education. We need repentance.

We have heard much in the last year about how we need to "make America great again," but America will never be great so long as we are exterminating millions of unborn babies with the full protection and blessing of our state, federal and local governments. No nation that embraces such wickedness and denies basic human rights to the most defenseless among us is or ever will be great.

There are things to be encouraged about. We have seen a lot of pro-life legislation, and it is very encouraging to see young people motivated to oppose abortion. But what we really need is God's mercy on us. We need to pray that God sends His Spirit to us to convict us of sin and righteousness and judgment (John 16:7-11) and being us back to the Cross. Without a spiritual reformation, we cannot and will never win this war and protect God's little ones. We will instead be in line for God's judgment.

Won't you pray for repentance on this bloody, horrible day?


Saturday, January 21, 2017

President Trump

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM (#)

Yesterday, Donald Trump was sworn in as President of these United States.

Here are some of my thoughts on that.


Friday, January 20, 2017

The (at least temporary) end of #NeverTrump

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM (#)

In the fall, I was a #NeverTrump voter, and I make absolutely no apologies for that. However, Trump will be sworn in as President later today. Let's be honest with ourselves: Among Republicans, the #NeverTrump movement is over. He won and he is the President of these United States. So where do #NeverTrump voters like myself go from here, and how do we deal with the new President? What should our reaction be to his policies, his administration and how he speaks publicly?

The answer is simple: We should treat him exactly as we would have treated Hillary Clinton has she been elected. We treat him exactly how we treated (or hopefully treated) Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton: We will support him when he is right and oppose him when he is wrong. We will praise him or criticize him based on principle. Thus far, I am cautiously optimistic on the direction of the Trump Administration and the transition. The biggest source of my optimism, obviously, is Vice President Mike Pence, who is a genuinely good man and principled conservative and dedicated Christian.

As someone who did not vote for Trump, I am in a stronger position to support him when he is right. I vehemently opposed him in the 2016 election and harshly criticized him on numerous occasions, so you cannot accuse me of simple partisanship when I defend or support him. You cannot say "both sides do it" when I criticize Democrats for unfair attacks on Trump. I do not have a side, because I did not vote for Trump. I will, however, support him when he deserves it.

Hillary Clinton is irrelevant!

This is very important, and this needs to be very clear to Trump partisans: Hillary Clinton is irrelevant. She will never be President. She will never run for office again. There is absolutely no danger of her doing any harm to this nation whatsoever, at least in any capacity as an elected official. You cannot use her to fear-monger any longer, because her political career is dead. You might as well be fear-mongering about Ted Kennedy. Trump's policies, his performance, his ethics and his public statements stand or fall on their own merits. "Hillary is worse" is a totally invalid argument and became totally invalid the nanosecond she conceded.

I cannot say whether I will vote for Trump or not in 2020. Obviously, that depends on how he does as President. If he does well, I will happily toss aside my opposition to him and vote for him. Trump is who we have, and Trump is the President. So let's move forward to, as best we can, Make America Great Again.


Thursday, January 19, 2017

Responding to my critics

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 5:00 AM (#)

While my letter to the editor didn't generate as many comments as it would have under the old HTO comment system, it still generated a few. Here is my response to some of those criticisms.

Since I was basically called a liar on Planned Parenthood funding, let me be clear: I have never said that tax money was used to perform abortions, and I dare anyone to prove otherwise with the literal, word-for-word text of anything I have written. I have always maintained that regardless of how the tax money is spent, tax money should never go to an organization that kills babies made in the image of God.

There are plenty of other resources to provide birth control and the other "good" things Planned Parenthood does without funding this abominable organization.

Who made me in charge of others' morality? This is a silly question. All laws enforce morality. We enforce morality by banning littering, speeding, theft and a number of other things. We enforce morality by regulating pollution and enforcing basic workplace safety standards. The only way to not have government enforce morality is to have anarchy.

No one has to believe as I do, but we all have to obey the law. The Bible prohibits murder and theft, and it does not force others to believe as I do to have laws against those things. Killing babies in the womb is no different than murdering a newborn baby, a teenager or an adult in the eyes of God.

Dismissing my views because I am a man (which is amusing, given Leftists' embrace of transgenderism) is sexist and lacks any logical foundation. If a woman (or a "trans woman" for that matter) made the exact same arguments I did, then the logical merit of those arguments would not change. This is an ad hominem argument made by people who do not want to actually address arguments against abortion.

"If you are so strongly against abortion, by all means, do not have one."

The problem with that argument is it ignores the basic question about abortion: Either the fetus is a developing human being or it is not. If that fetus is a human person, then he/she should have the same protection under the law as every other human being. If not, then this is not a worry. I oppose smoking marijuana, but I do not think it should be illegal. I oppose abortion, and it should be illegal because it harms an innocent person.

It is completely absurd to argue that God is an abortionist, and unless you are going to argue murder should be decriminalized you really need to stop using that argument. Every single human being in the history of the universe has died or will die, without exception. Cancer does not justify drive-by shootings, and Ebola does not justify bombing a school. Grow up.

By the way, God gives us free will. That doesn't mean He doesn't command us to make certain things - murder, rape and theft - illegal.

Saying that abortion kills a baby is not inflammatory language. We all know what is going on here. Google the Center for BioEthical reform or Created Equal for photographic evidence.


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Thoughts on the Facebook comment system on HTO

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM (#)

Judging from comments and letters to the editor, some folks are unhappy with the fact that the Herald-Times is using Facebook for comments, and others are concerned about privacy. To help clear that up: The H-T did not "find" anyone's Facebook page. The browser you use automatically logs you in to the Facebook comment plugin. No one knows you have viewed comments unless you actually post.

Furthermore, no one has access to your Facebook posts other than those allowed to see them in your privacy settings and depending on how tightly your privacy settings are locked down people may not be able to see much on your public profile. That includes your employer, which some people were concerned about. But that can be fixed by not listing your employer on Facebook. You can hide what pages you like and follow, hide your friends list, and other things. You can also show those things.

Facebook's privacy settings can be a little difficult, because they are not all in one place, but everything has an option for "me only" or "friends" or "friends of friends" or "public" or even specific lists. While some people might be tempted to do this for HTO comments, it is against Facebook Terms of Service to set up an entirely new "dummy" Facebook profile in order to comment using a separate browser.

That said, nothing you put on the Internet is truly private. A good rule of thumb is to never put anything on Facebook (or Twitter, or Google Plus, or MySpace, or Yahoo 360, etc.) that you would be horrified to see on the front page of the newspaper, as the lead story on the evening news, or as the top story on your favorite news website. Discretion is always a good idea.


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Five years ago today

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM (#)

Five years ago today, I became a father for the first time.

Happy birthday, Timothy Benjamin Tibbs!


Monday, January 16, 2017

Russia did not "hack the election."

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM (#)

We have been hearing for months that Russia "hacked the election" and handed the election to Donald Trump. This did not happen, and it is incredibly irresponsible for Democrats and the media to continue spreading this fabrication.

Russia did not hack the election. There is absolutely no evidence that Russia tampered with any voting machines or software to sway the election one way or the other. This fearmongering against a nuclear superpower is reckless and dangerous, and it needlessly undermines Americans' faith in the integrity of our election.

Furthermore, we do not have a national election. We have hundreds of smaller elections, in counties all across these United States. In the state of Indiana alone, we had 92 elections. Because of the decentralized method of conducting our elections, it is basically impossible to hack a national election.

Here is what actually happened: Someone in Russia hacked the private e-mails of people within the Democratic Party and released them on the Internet. Voters, based on this information, made choices accordingly. Perhaps this information swayed the election to Trump. Perhaps it did not. But whether or not the leaked e-mails influenced voters' decisions, that leak does not constitute "hacking the election."


Sunday, January 15, 2017

How could people be so offensive?

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM (#)

Note: Because some people are very dim-witted and will not get it, THIS IS SATIRE.


Saturday, January 14, 2017

A fake "scandal" believed by stupid people

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM (#)

Do people actually believe that Donald Trump hired prostitutes to urinate on a bed that Barack and Michelle Obama had slept on? Are people really this stupid? It is has been obvious that this was fabricated from the moment it hit Twitter.


Friday, January 13, 2017

Takeaways from the "hate crime" in Chicago

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM (#)

The "hate crime" in Chicago teaches us two things: Superpredators do exist and hate crimes do not.

I explored superpredators last year. We have greatly over-applied the term and went way too far in our criminal justice policies as a result.But superpredators - people who rape, kill and maim without any human decency or restraint whatsoever. John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Bundy were superpredators. The three monsters who laughed and joked while brutally torturing a mentally disabled man and streaming the torture live on Facebook are absolutely superpredators.

While "superpredator" has been overused, we should not throw away the term because it describes a real phenomenon. Just because a word has been used poorly does not mean that word should be banished.

The thing that worries me more is conservatives rushed to label this a "hate crime." This is wrong-headed and dangerous. We have once again surrendered to the Left's definitions and the Left's basic premise. Crimes are not worse because they are motivated by race, sex, political orientation or disability. These three monsters would need to spend the rest of their lives behind bars no matter what the motivation for their crime was.

Conservatives have spent decades arguing against "hate crime" laws, because they criminalize thought and because they make some victims of crime "more equal" than others. Now, because some conservatives see a short-term political gain, they are latching on to the term "hate crime." Sadly, this includes some conservatives who really ought to know better and have stood against "hate crime" laws in the past.

We should not so casually toss aside our principles for very short-term political gain.

Comment on Facebook


Thursday, January 12, 2017

Sermons should not always be "the shortest path to Jesus"

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM (#)

I cannot understand how anyone can read the book of Proverbs and think every single sermon should be "the quickest path to Jesus," with the primary message that we are sinners and Jesus Christ offers forgiveness. Obviously this is the heart of the Christian faith, because we are all wicked degenerates who are on our way to eternal damnation in Hell Fire without the blood of Christ to wash away our sin. Evangelism should always be a top priority for churches, including in sermons.

But what about the rest of the Bible?

When Christians are saved, our lives do not become flowery beds of ease as we wait for death to transport us to paradise. We have sickness, financial hardship, persecution, marriage troubles, fights with family, discipline of children and so much more. And yes - Christians do continue to sin and sometimes we sin very seriously. Accepting Jesus Christ is only the first step in a Christian's life. After justification comes sanctification, as we work to obey the God who saved us out of our gratitude for that salvation. In all of life's hardships, God gives us guidelines and wisdom in His Word to deal with it.

Read the letters the Apostle Paul wrote to churches, and how he deals with a variety of issues from family life to running a church and, yes, dealing with very serious sin within a church. The most obvious example is the man who was committing adultery with his stepmother. The book of Proverbs, mentioned above, gives Christians an incredible treasure trove of wisdom for our daily lives and how to live godly lives. There are all kinds of accounts through the entire Bible that serve as examples to us.

Yes, churches must save souls and sermons must incorporate that. But believers should not be sitting in church and getting no help on how to defeat their own sin, despair and faithlessness. Believers should not be sitting in church and getting no guidance on how to live as God would have us to live. Sermons should evangelize, but they should also be practical and helpful, which includes calls to repentance for Christians who sin. We should not abandon sanctification as we (rightly) pursue justification for those who lack salvation.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Ugly comment box

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 5:30 PM (#)

I've changed the comments so people can comment on the post itself without going to a separate page, but the comment box has a ton of white space below it. I don't know how to fix that. Comments still have to be approved by me before they show up on the blog.


As the king goes, so go the people

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM (#)

When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn. -- Proverbs 29:2

I wonder to what extent King Hezekiah's righteous reformation of Judah was motivated by grief over his siblings being burned to death by his evil father King Ahaz in sacrifice to demons. While Scripture doesn't explicitly state it, it is safe to assume that Hezekiah was aware of what was going on. God often uses children to rebuke their parents' sins, something I have seen in my own life when my four-year-old has called me out from time to time.

Perhaps the saddest part of Hezekiah's life story, though, was the rebellion of his evil son Manasseh. Hezekiah purged Israel of demon worship, and brought the people's hearts back to the only true God. This was a wonderful thing. But Hezekiah's own son would plunge Judah back into demon worship, burning his own children (and Hezekiah's grandchildren) to death in sacrifice to demons. This cut me deeply. Those of us who advocate for righteousness in public life must not fail to discipline and instruct our own children. In fact, there is a reason that the Apostle Paul instructs believers that church elders must run their own homes well.

It was not until King Josiah (Manasseh's grandson) that Judah repented again of demon worship. But by then it was too late. God's judgment was already on Judah, because they had filled up His cup of wrath. God in His kindness promised the judgment would not fall as long as Josiah was alive, but the judgment would come. Thankfully, this was all part of God's plan to eventually bring salvation to all peoples.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

It never even entered the mind of God

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 5:30 PM (#)

Printed in the Bloomington Herald-Times, January 10, 2017

To the Editor:

Do we really understand how wicked abortion is in the eyes of God?

Three of the most intense rebukes in Scripture are in Jeremiah 7:31, Jeremiah 19:5 and Jeremiah 32:35. When God was addressing the wickedness of His chosen people burning their children in sacrifice to demons, God said this evil never even entered into His mind.

Would America's modern abortion industry have entered into God's mind? We have slaughtered fifty million babies made in God's image. It is truly a horrible thing and we richly deserve God's judgment on our nation.

There is still time for us to repent, by rejecting the killing of unborn babies as "health care." One way to start that process in 2017 is by coming to the 2017 Rally for Life at 2:00 p.m. on January 22, 2017 at the Monroe County Courthouse. Come listen to a local physician explain why abortion is such a terrible thing.

We will never "make America great again" as long as we are slaughtering over a million babies a year in our abortion clinics. A nation that allows this wickedness is not and will never be great. First, de-fund Planned Parenthood. Then grant legal protection to unborn babies.

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Monday, January 9, 2017

Star Wars retrospective: Revenge of the Sith

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM (#)

I said after watching The Force Awakens that I was going to watch and cover the first half-dozen Star Wars films. It has taken me a year to do it, but I finally re-watched Revenge of the Sith a week ago.

Revenge of the Sith is here we see a heel turn by the Jedi Order, and that heel turn leads directly to the establishment of the Galactic Empire. It was a needless turn that makes the Sith look sympathetic, which is not what you want to do in wrapping up the trilogy that plunges the galaxy into twenty years of darkness.

I will start off the review with a couple complaints: The droids are completely useless and a total joke. Why the Trade Federation (and later the separatists) did not build the much stronger super battle droids as their army is beyond me. It does not make the Jedi look heroic to easily mow down hundreds upon hundreds of walking toothpicks that are not intimidating in the least. Even worse, the droids had the drop on Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker multiple times and could have killed them, but did not. That makes no sense.

Second, Hayden Christensen has improved from the previous movie but he does not sell his concern for Kenobi well at all, either during the space battle or when he is carrying Kenobi out. Where he really shines is his facial expressions later in the movie. He sells his grief and pain without a single word spoken. His look has improved too, from the Padawan haircut to a mess of hair and wearing all black.

Third, while the romantic banter between Skywalker and Padme Amidala is not nearly as painful or cringe-worthy as the awful dialogue in Episode II, it is still very bad.

The most interesting thing in this movie is that there is so much moral ambiguity between the Sith and the Jedi. I am not sure if Lucas intended to do this or not, and I waver back and forth on whether this was a good thing or a bad thing. On one level, the villains should be understandable - not necessarily sympathetic, but not mustache twirling monsters who cannot wait to step on a box of kittens either.

It starts when the Jedi ask Skywalker to spy on Emperor Palpatine. (Ian McDiarmid is excellent again.) Skywalker correctly points out that he is asked to betray a mentor and a friend, is being asked to betray the Republic, and is being asked to betray the Jedi Code. This unethical move by the Jedi Council leaves Skywalker vulnerable to manipulation by Palpatine.

Palpatine takes advantage, telling Skywalker that the Jedi plan to betray him and rule over the Republic. The Jedi themselves enforce this belief when Mace Windu goes to "arrest" Palpatine and attempts to murder him instead. This was a strange and poorly set up heel turn, as Windu goes from saying Palpatine will be put on trial to trying to murder him in less than a minute. What changed in that sixty seconds?

Skywalker stops Windu, and Palpatine kills Windu. Skywalker asks himself, "What have I done?" Um, you stopped an act of treason, a murder, an attempt to overthrow the legitimately elected Supreme Chancellor of the Republic and the assassination of the head of state. In that moment, the Jedi were clearly wrong and the Sith were clearly right. There would be no due process for a defeated Palpatine. He would just be murdered. Anakin Skywalker upheld the Jedi Code in stopping Mace Windu.

This was a very well done movie, and while it has flaws it more than makes up for the failures of the previous two prequels. (Which I still like, in spite of their flaws.) It makes sense that the Empire started work on the Death Star at the end of Episode III, because a project like that - building a space station the size of a moon - would easily take twenty years. There is a big plot hole in that Princess Leia says she knew her mother, but Padme's death could have easily been faked to protect her from Darth Vader.

Previously in the Star Wars retrospective, covering the first five movies: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.


Friday, January 6, 2017

Video game memories: Paperboy

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM (#)

I think everyone who played Paperboy for the Nintendo Entertainment System would describe it in one word: Frustrating. That includes many people who, like me, enjoyed the game.

The premise was a basic one: You delivered papers to your customers. It was all of the other things added on that made it such a memorable game. You had to dodge people walking down the sidewalks, swarms of bees, crazy women with clubs, and even the Grim Reaper. Apparently Dracula fired him after he was unable to stop Simon Belmont in Castlevania. Now he tries to stop little kids from delivering newspapers.

In addition to delivering to your customers, you got extra points by vandalizing the houses that did not subscribe to your newspaper. Sometimes they would become subscribers after that. That is a good business plan: Subscribe to our newspaper or else. It would be a shame if something happened to your property. Perhaps the Grim Reaper went to work for the homeowners association, and is technically a hero now.

I think my favorite memory of the game was trying to pull off the trick of riding between a parked car and the sidewalk. Neither I nor my older nieces and nephews could pull it off. The one who could do it was my four year old niece. Not only that, but she would do it consistently. When we asked her how, she said "I don't know. I just did it." I think those are the greatest memories of gaming in any context.


Thursday, January 5, 2017

Social media lynch mobs

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM (#)

People who pick up their digital pitchforks and digital torches to join a social media lynch mob are incapable of seeing their own sin.

We have all said things we would be horrified to see on the front page of the newspaper, the lead story on the nightly news, or the top headline on a popular news website. Before the internet generally and social media specifically, that generally did not ruin someone's life or make him a nationally (or even internationally) infamous target of scorn. It could damage someone's life, but did not spread across the world in seconds. Today, so much of our lives are lived in public that it is too easy for people to be made infamous by one stupid thing they do or say - largely due to an overly judgmental public.

One of the most unfortunate byproducts is the social media lynch mob. When someone says something especially stupid or offensive (and sometimes not nearly as stupid or offensive as it originally seems, because it was misinterpreted) they are targeted for destruction. They get people calling their employer and harassing their place of business, and they are denounced and humiliated all over Facebook and Twitter. But do we really want to ruin people's lives over one stupid thing they say on social media?

Yes, generally we should be careful about what we say. But as the Bible says in James 3, no man can tame the tongue. So before you become inflamed about the latest offensive Tweet or Facebook post that comes across your news feed, have a little perspective. Realize that you walk there but for the grace of God - and in most cases you have done the same thing but did not record your stupidity with a keyboard, microphone or video camera. Have some humility and grace, and stop acting on a hair trigger all the time. The targets of the social media lynch mobs are not just pixels. They are people, just like you and me, with flaws and virtues.


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

We need heroic characters

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM (#)

If you want me to care about the protagonist of your fiction, you need to make him a heroic protagonist. He does not have to be perfect, and he can be flawed. But just as it is easy to make a villain an irredeemable monster twirling his Snidely Whiplash mustache while stepping on a box of kittens, it is easy to make your hero into a square jawed, virtuous and pure all-American hero who always does the right thing all the time. That is why it often goes too far into the other direction - but you do need to have a good protagonist.

This does not mean characters must be Lawful Good Paladins. They can have flaws, and they can do bad things. In fact, one way to make a character interesting is to have him overcome his flaws, or get past his sins and redeem himself. In some cases, he might even have a sad ending to his story because his past comes back to haunt him, but he takes it honorably because he knows he deserves it.

Characters can do morally questionable things, especially in a dark, apocalyptic or chaotic setting. There is a line, though, that characters cannot cross. Once they cross that line, they are no longer a protagonist the audience can support. Making the villain even worse than that "hero" does not make it easier to watch when you have a bad guy fighting a bad guy. It needs to be clear that your protagonist (or your group of protagonists) are good guys, even if they are flawed. Having a couple characters who are more committed to doing the right thing helps too, because they can bring the darker characters back from the brink.

Basically, for me to care about where your story goes and how it ends, I need to care about the protagonists. I cannot do that if everyone is a bad guy.


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Thoughts on learning to cook

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM (#)

Some years ago, I wanted to learn to took so I asked someone to teach me. My recipe list is somewhat limited, though it has grown over time and I am getting better at learning to make new things. (Including a very good Sweet Potato Casserole recipe, which is perfect for potlucks because it is made in the crock pot.)

It's generally culturally expected that a woman will know how to cook, especially when she becomes a wife and mother. But why not husbands and fathers too? And why not single men? Looking back, it would have been very useful to have the cooking skills I have now when I was living in my own apartment as a single man. I would have eaten healthier and I would have been able to spend less on food.

So from my admittedly limited skill set, here are a couple observations:

Get a crock pot. There are so many things that can be made the night before, turned on in the morning and ready to eat the minute you get home. Plus, the crock pot is perfect for pitch-in dinners, whether in someone's home, at church and especially at work where cooking facilities are extremely limited.

Think about the things you are making so everything is done at once. This is my biggest weakness. I cannot count how many times I have gotten dinner almost ready to serve and then realized another portion of the meal has not been started and needs ten or fifteen minutes.

The next step for me is getting better at making stuff from what I have on hand instead of needing to get stuff and have it ready to make a meal later. Not being the most imaginative man on the planet, I am better when following a set of instructions, even if I have memorized the recipe and and going through a mental checklist. There is always room for improvement.


Monday, January 2, 2017

Video Game memories : Final Fantasy

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 8:05 AM (#)

No, this is not turning into a retro video game blog, despite the fact that the first two posts of the year are about my memories playing video games I owned nearly three decades ago on a system I long since gave away.

Over a quarter century ago, I was thoroughly unimpressed with Dragon Warrior (more commonly known as Dragon Quest) for the Nintendo Entertainment System. I got to a certain point and got frustrated and never went back to it. With Final Fantasy, the thing I considered to be the biggest flaw in Dragon Quest was fixed: You now had multiple people in your party so you did not have to go back to your last save if one person drops. I never played any of the DQ games again until chapter VIII for the PlayStation 2, but I kept up with the Final Fantasy series until it moved to consoles I never owned.

I chose a balanced mix for my first trip through the game: A red mage, a thief, a fighter and a black belt. Right away, here is one of the interesting things about the first Final Fantasy: In every game following, you could play as every character or hold every "job" in one play through. In the first Final Fantasy, you had 6 jobs to choose from. No matter what group you chose for your first play through, you had to play a second time to play as the remaining two classes. I never did actually finish the game with a white mage and a black mage, as I moved on to other games.

The story was pretty bare-bones. Unlike later games, you did not have characters. You had blank slates that would smack things really hard. You had to defeat four arch-fiends and then the big bad. Characters did not move in and out of the party. But for what it was, it was a very good game. To this day, the games are built on the foundation laid by that game, which is pretty impressive. When you get the game for a modern platform, you find it that while it lacks a lot of the deep gameplay of modern role-playing games and has no story to speak of, it actually does hold up. If you have never played the original, it is worth checking out.


Sunday, January 1, 2017

Video game memories: Defender of the Crown

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM (#)

Note: I sold my NES a long time ago, so I am going entirely from memory here.

One of the games I played a lot back in the day was Defender of the Crown. I will be critiquing it here, but I genuinely enjoyed the game. I never played any of the PC ports, which were apparently technically superior to the NES version.

Here is the primary problem: Multiple game modes. In the 8-bit era, this was almost always a handicap because there is only so much room on a cartridge. Games that did one thing could do it well, but games with multiple game modes did not do as well because the limited resources were split between multiple different games. In DOTC, you had a tournament game with jousting and one-on-one combat, a mini-game that allowed you to raid a castle, laying siege to a castle, defending your castle from a siege, and an army-vs-army strategy game. Six games in one, and none of them were pulled off all that well.

I never did very well. I would build my army and eventually get crushed by invading Norman armies from the south. Sometimes I would be defeated by my fellow Saxons before the Normans even got to me. So I played dozens of games, and never was close to winning the game... until one particular day.

Basically, I got lucky. The Saxons and Normans were fighting each other and I was at the northern part of the map quietly building my army. Nobody bothered me, so I did not have to spend resources defending my castle or my lands. I slowly gained territory and then became powerful enough to go on the offensive. I rampaged across England, taking down the other kingdoms until only one Norman was left to oppose me. I took his castle and that was that. It was entirely luck, nothing more. I did not win on skill, and I was never able to replicate that win.

It was a deeply flawed game, but it was fun.