Fasting

“The outward man perishes through fasting and self-control, but the more he does so, the more the inward man is renewed…”

-St Gregory Palamas

Since becoming Orthodox one of the things I have failed at pretty consistently is fasting. To even say I’ve failed at it might be misleading, as it might imply that I’ve often tried to keep it. I’d tried a bit here and there, but never did very well, and then seemed to just give up on it entirely.

So, naturally, it is one of the things that I am trying to get better at. This was my second week of actually trying to fast on Wednesday and Friday. And I think I did a decent job. I won’t comment on it too much, I certainly don’t want to try to make myself seem good. On the contrary, I’m just trying to stop doing so poorly and actually make an effort.

It may be obvious, but I’ve also been sure to make an effort to pray more on fasting days. That’s gone well also. I feel like it really is making a difference.

Try dedicating more time to prayer in the coming week. And fast, at least fast something. I think you’ll find it will make a difference if you really try.

Authenticity

I’ve heard it said that the highest value of a Millennial is authenticity. I think that’s probably a generally true statement. Loathe as I am to say it, I myself fall into the Millennial category, although I always argue for the Xennial micro generation between Gen X and Millennials. Alas, spellcheck doesn’t recognize Xennial as a word, so that’s still an uphill battle I suppose. Regardless, whatever it is that makes Millennials so value authenticity… I’ve definitely got it.

There’s nothing wrong with authenticity of course. Being true to yourself and saying the things that you truly believe or feel can be perfectly admirable. When someone is being obviously inauthentic it can be a painfully cringeworthy experience. But that said, being authentic is not the best thing that a person can be.

In fact, placing authenticity as the highest standard leads to settling for being less than one could be. One might say he is lazy. It’s not that he wants to be, but that’s just who he is. He can’t change it. He’s just being authentic about it. Or perhaps out of shape. Or no good at “x”. Or overly blunt. Or any number of things. Authenticity as the HIGHEST good simply leads to total acceptance of whatever you are and eschews any impulse that one might have to change. Or with a matter of beliefs, a total acceptance of what you see to be true without any impulse to confirm it or examine other opinions.

I have no intention of putting forth an entire hierarchy of values here, but I will posit what the better highest value is: Truth. If you hold a false belief authentically, it does nothing good for you. In fact, it might harm you, or prevent you from realizing your potential at the very least.

When I watch the videos of the sermons at the church I attended prior to becoming Orthodox, it reminds me of who I was then. I was still the person who put authenticity as the highest good. That was what I liked about the church, the authenticity of it. I’d wager that’s what most of the people attending there like about it as well. Before I say anything negative, I do want to say that I think they for sure do a lot of good there. I’m sure they’re meeting a lot of people where they are. I was glad to be there for the time I was. But, when I watch the videos now what I really think is… this isn’t Church. That’ not me challenging their salvation or saying they’re not Christians, it’s just me saying… they’re not having a Church service. Much of the time it doesn’t even really strike me as say, spiritual teaching. The vibe I get is “self help”, with a smattering of Bible verses here and there. I’m not against what they’re doing (though I may disagree with specific things said from time to time), but what I really think is that they’re too concerned with being authentic and not concerned enough with finding Truth (God). Because of the misaligned focus, I think it makes the people there fall short of what they could have. But thank God that they do have some part of the Truth.

I doubt anyone there would both find their way to this and know who I am to know that I’m talking about them, but if you did – know that I love you and pray for you, and I value what I got in my time there. May you grow deeper in the knowledge and love of God!

Movie: When A Stranger Calls

Whatever you do, don’t answer the phone.

I don’t think I’ve ever actually done a movie review here before, though it was always something I thought that I would like to do. While this might be a strange one to start with, I guess in truth it’s just as good as any other. But since it’s the first, I’d like to intro with a bit of how I expect these to go…

I really am going to think of these more as a reaction to the movie. I think I’ll get into a lot of review elements, and I suppose even a reaction is part of a review, but it’s a question of the focus. Yes, you’ll know whether or not I thought a movie was good or bad by the time you get to the end, and you’ll know why, but more than that you’ll know how I feel about the movie. I’m also going to have some structured sections, which may or may not change over time, but I won’t get into them here in this intro, you’ll just see them below.

Anyway, these are just going to be movies that I happened to watch and feel like saying something about, so they’re not chosen for any particular purpose. They could be old or new, good or bad, significant or insignificant, or any combination thereof.

Now with no further adieu…

When A Stranger Calls (2006)

How it begins

The opening scene could be good… for a different movie than this one. The only thing I didn’t like in it was the weird voiceover of phone calls and a female voice telling the person to stop calling, then a scream. This is all over some carnival/fair imagery shot in such a way as to convey that little bit of horror feel. The imagery felt good if the voiceover didn’t. It turns out the voice we heard was some girl getting murdered somehow. We never see her, not even after she’s dead. That foreshadows later in the movie where we never seem to see anything because all action happens offscreen. But anyway, she was killed… without a weapon. And the movie seems to imply it was a messy murder scene, although it’s unclear why they’d need as many body bags as you see exit the house for one dead woman even if she was torn into a thousand pieces… I dunno, seems they could still get her in just one. But you don’t need to worry about her anyway because she will never be mentioned again. This is all just there to prepare you for the idea that you’re going to be watching a movie about a woman basically alone in a house with someone trying to kill her. I know, we’ve never seen that before.

We then finally see a woman running on a track. Her coach is very disappointed with her because she’s not focusing, they both know she can do that lap in 24 seconds after all. Gee, I wonder if she’s going to have to run later in the film. But anyway, she’s a high school student and has high school student drama in her life. You know how it is when you’re a teenage girl… your best friend kisses your boyfriend and she can’t understand why you won’t just get over it. And there’s this bonfire that EVERYONE at the school is going to. You know, like the bonfires that your high school had that everyone went to. And there’s definitely not any good cell reception at those.

Speaking of cell phones, man does this movie feel dated. You’ve got a Nextel flip phone on screen, and poor Jill is prevented from going to the big bonfire because she went way over the minutes on her cell phone plan! By 800 minutes! It cost her parents a small fortune that they’re making her pay them back for by babysitting, starting on bonfire night.

The Setting

Remember how it started with the carnival? Yeah well the actual story has nothing to do with carnivals, it’s at a fancy house in the middle of nowhere. So of course her Dad drives her there instead of letting her take her own car, because why should she need to be able to drive somewhere in the event of an emergency when she’s in the middle of nowhere?

Really that’s only the start of things that make no sense in the setup of this movie. We learn very soon after Jill’s arrival that there is a live-in housekeeper. Now you might say, but she’s a housekeeper, not a nanny, she shouldn’t have to keep track of the kids, and I hear you, but… we also find out that the kids are sick with the flu, and they’re asleep. Really, Jill is there like.. only in the case of an emergency – she spends the whole movie just sitting on the couch or walking around the house, so I feel like the housekeeper could have managed it. Maybe they could just throw a little extra money her way… I mean, she’s there anyway. But ok, ok, we need Jill to be there because no one wants to watch an old live in housekeeper be scared in a house, they want to watch the pretty young high schooler.

Anyway, like I said, Jill walks around the house and discovers that most of the lights in the house are on auto sensors and turn on as soon as you enter the room. This is an odd choice for a horror movie, as it makes dark hallways decidedly less threatening. There’s some loud noises that don’t really get explained, and wind and tree branches and shaky camera. Oh yeah and a mixture of the creepy guy phone calls with people trying to call from the bonfire. But it’s a very nice house, it’s a shame they didn’t film a better movie there.

Characters / Acting

So there’s a fair number of characters that we see briefly… the dad, the couple she’s babysitting for, the housekeeper, some of Jill’s friends… but they’re not really on screen long enough for it to matter much what acting chops they have. None of them were standout horrible, so I guess they did well enough for their minor roles. It’s really a one woman show though, which makes us focus quite a bit on Jill Johnson.

Jill is portrayed by Camilla Belle, who you might remember from one episode of Walker, Texas Ranger. Really, from a look at her credits I think that might be the place you’re most likely to remember her from. Now, she’s been in more films than I have, so maybe I’m not one to judge, but the performance she gives here in a lead role makes it pretty clear to me why she hasn’t been in anything anyone has heard of… she’s just… bad. As her dad drops her off at the house she tells him to have a nice time, and he replies “Now say it like you mean it,” but all I could think was, “Now say it like you’re a good actress.” But for real, she spends a lot of time on camera by herself in this movie, and she is truly awful.

How I Feel About It

I knew nothing about this movie going in. It popped up as a recommendation for me on Amazon Prime. So, the movie it made me think of first? Scream. It started with a scene in which a female high school student is alone in a house and gets creepy phone calls and then eventually gets murdered, thus setting up a plot where various high school students get murdered in various ways. This movie was kind of like that opening scene.

So my first thoughts on When A Stranger Calls was that perhaps it was written by a guy who saw Scream and thought, “You know what would make a really good movie? If you just took the opening scene of Scream and then made that the whole movie. Oh also, that opening scene in Scream worked really well. We’ll open this movie with that opening scene except we’ll do it all off camera. Then we’ll do the whole scene again on camera but for an hour and 20 minutes.” Also, because he wouldn’t want to have to come up with an original idea, he used the whole “babysitter and the man upstairs” urban legend.

But then when I got on IMDB, I realized this is actually a remake of a 1979 movie of the same name. They’re very different movies. All I’ll say here above when I start getting into spoilers is that the remake turns the first 23 minutes of this movie into an almost 90 minute movie, without adding anything of value… So it’s no surprise that the plot is spread very thin. It’s entirely derivative in every way, and doesn’t add anything new, or interesting. It’s truly just a much worse version of the original with 2006 phone technology.

The Plot

Ok friends, if you made it this far, you’ve made it to the spoiler zone. If you think you might actually want to watch this movie unspoiled, now’s the time to click away from here. It feels pretty weird to give a spoiler warning for a 1979 movie especially, but I’m also going to talk about plot from it as well, so, you’ve been warned.

We’ll start with the remake, because that’s the one I watched first. I’m going from memory, so I may have something slightly off. So we know Jill is a runner in high school and her boyfriend kissed her best friend and she has another friend and they’re all going to a bonfire but she can’t because she went over on her cell phone minutes and so her parents are making her babysit to get money to pay them back. Phew.

Once she’s at the house, she gets the tour and the parents leave. She then sort of sits on the couch for awhile, for some reason their fancy hidden in the wall tv is all staticky and making a lot of noise when she turns it on and so she immediately turns it off to avoid waking the kids. That prompts her to instead start snooping around in their bedroom, bathroom, closets, etc and put on some of the mother’s perfume and jewelry. Then she’s about to try on her clothes when – NOISE.

She goes looking around, and eventually finds the housekeeper, Rosa. No problem. Then she makes her way back to the couch and there’s phone calls. Some from creepy breathing guy. One from other friend, who Jill tells to give boyfriend the number to reach her there. One from some guy at bonfire prancing her. More from creepy breathing guy. One from boyfriend. Now I don’t really recall the order of all of those, or how they intersperse with other events, but… yeah. So at some point fairly early on the house alarm goes off for some reason. She enters the code to turn it off, alarm company calls. Oh I’m the babysitter, blah, blah. They call the parents to confirm. No worries. Why did the alarm go off? Meh, who cares. Maybe it was Rosa The mom calls, says something about the alarm always going off. Seems like a useful alarm. I believe it’s at this point she starts looking for Rosa again but she’s gone. Oh well.

Best friend who kissed her boyfriend shows up and demonstrates she’s a bad person for the audience. Also she tells us the garage door is open. After a sort of reconciliation she leaves, and after she’s very scared of wind and trees drops her keys, but eventually gets into her car until a branch blocks her path and she gets out of the car to move it. She then off-camera gets murdered (we presume). Oh right, and around this time there’s a bunch of banging at the front door and Jill opens it but there’s nothing there.

Jill decides to call Rosa’s cell and follows the rings down a hallway that for some reason the family didn’t put motion sensing lights in. Eventually she finds Rosa’s purse in a closet and behind the closet door is for some reason a jacket and hat stuck to the wall at human height for a “scare”.

At some point she gets another call and realizes the guy can see her so she closes the blinds on the massive windows of the house. It’s here where she calls the police, they suggest she needs to keep him on the line for awhile so they can trace the call. She calls over to the phone in the guest house in case the guy who rents it is home. No answer. But what’s this, a light is on over there, and movement. So of course she decides to go over there.

This is where the RUNNING comes in. She runs over there and gets inside with no problem. Then she gets a call on the guest house phone. It’s creepy guy. She keeps him on the phone for awhile, but oh no! That’s not the phone the police are tracing. Lights on upstairs in the main house. Rosa? She RUNS back over there. This time she drops her flashlight.

Creepy guy calls the house phone again and she keeps him talking while she goes up the stairs toward Rosa’s room. I think this is when police trace the call, and they call her and tell her the call is from INSIDE THE HOUSE. When she gets to Rosa’s room there’s a shower running and she goes in there but no one is in it. Then her best friend is DEAD behind the bathroom door. What a shock.

She makes her way to the kids who are alive and hiding in a toy chest, and there’s a bunch of chase stuff where the killer comes after them, they hide in this fish pond where the housekeeper was last seen, and when Jill goes underwater she see’s dead Rosa.

More chase, eventually she makes it to the front door and opens it and runs into the arms of Roy from The Office (seriously, David Denman plays the cop). The kids survive. Creepy guy is arrested. Over? Not quite.

Jill wakes up in a hospital, hits nurse call button. Nothing happens. She gets up and goes outside, no one is there. The phone starts ringing. She answers. It’s creepy guy. She wakes up in the hospital with her parents and doctors and stuff screaming. She’s apparently been driven completely mad by the events. Scary.

So how does the original differ?

Like I said, the remake is the first 23 minutes stretched out. The first shot of the movie is Jill at the door of the couple’s house. They quite quickly explain kids are sick, just chill until we get back. There’s no housekeeper, there’s no alarm system, there’s no bonfire. Parents leave, Jill is talking to a friend on the phone, who she does ask to give her boyfriend the number to reach her. Then it quickly goes to the creepy calls, but this time it’s much more focused on the whole urban legend thing. Instead of lots of creepy breathing, it’s the insistent “have you checked on the children” stuff. That said, it does get into conversation when she tries to keep him on the phone longer for the phone trace. Her conversations with the police and the killer are pretty much the same. Then she runs out of the house when we can see from the killer’s shadow he’s about to come down the stairs, and she runs into the arms of a police officer. However, the kids were murdered upstairs. I think the reason for the opening scene in the remake is they wanted to have a scene with police carrying body bags out and also to say the thing about there not being a murder weapon.

At this point, the movie is far from over. That was just a setup. It’s almost like they knew the bare bones of this urban legend wasn’t enough to carry an entire movie. It turns out that after spending 7 years in a mental institution, the killer escaped. He starts stalking this woman while the cop has become a private investigator and was hired to track him down. Eventually it winds its way back to Jill’s life. She’s married with 2 children now, and they’re going out to dinner and hire a babysitter. While they’re at dinner, someone calls for them. It’s creepy guy. She gets hysterical, and this is presumably why they felt they needed that hospital scene. But no worries, the babysitter is OK, kids are OK. That night, creepy guy has managed to get into her house though, and while she’s up unable to sleep in the middle of the night, he knocks her husband unconscious and gets into bed in his place, and so it’s actually a surprise when she goes to wake her husband and finds him.

What I Still Want To Know

For the original I really only have one question, which is how did the killer know what restaurant they were at so that he could call them. And I guess it’s a little convenient he happened to decide to go after her kids on the night her husband got that promotion and decided to take her out to dinner. But I can look past that I guess.

For the remake…

How does the killer know Jill will be babysitting there that night (the movie makes it clear it was last minute)? Why does he insist on killing her? The other people just seem to get killed because they’re in the way. What caused the banging on the front door? I mean the killer is just a guy, not some supernatural entity. Why was the garage door open? Has this guy just been spending his life going around killing random babysitters? I’m sure I could go on.

Judgment (No more spoilers)

So there’s definitely some lulls in the original movie, but it’s WAY better than the remake. It doesn’t go for horror scares, it’s more of a suspense thriller. It has an actual fleshed out plot, etc.

The remake? It’s kind of boring. It’s not a painfully bad movie, it’s just kind of a… “why did they make this” movie. Just sticking to the original script with some minor updates would have been a much better idea. If you’re going to watch one, watch the one from 1979.

Also there’s a sequel to the original, and there’s a Rifftrax for it too! I’ll probably watch that tomorrow… but I don’t think I’ll be writing about it.

Ascetic

“If there is no element of asceticism in our lives, if we give free rein to the desires of the flesh (taking care of course to keep within the limits of what seems permissible to the world), we shall find it hard to train for the service of Christ. When the flesh is satisfied it is hard to pray with cheerfulness or to devote oneself to a life of service which calls for much self-renunciation.” 

-Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I converted to Orthodoxy just a few months prior to the start of the Coronavirus Pandemic. Of course, I had been inquiring for about a year before that, and in that time had given thought to the idea of asceticism. Coming from a Protestant Christian background it is somewhat of a foreign idea. Not completely so, but, still, there is not much emphasis placed upon it in Protestantism. It’s mostly something you see your “overzealous” friends do.

In the Protestant world it looks something like… giving up TV for a month. Or going on a juice fast for some period of time. Or maybe just skipping a meal. Now, I’m not knocking those things. That thing I said about overzealous friends? That’s how I felt about it years ago. I think those people were onto something. But, there’s no structure of asceticism in the Protestant world. There’s nothing like: Fast on Wednesdays and Fridays, unless it’s during a feast week. No one expects you to do it, I guess is what I’m really getting at here.

So, obviously, as I just mentioned, in Orthodoxy you have that basic weekly fast, where MOST weeks of the year, the “rule” is that you should fast on Wednesday and Friday. No, Protestant friends, it’s not a rule in the sense of.. if you don’t fast those days you are definitely going straight to Hell. But, it’s a rule because it is for the benefit of your soul.

I had some starts and stops with fasting early on, and more recently I just haven’t really tried at all, until today. Today I kept the fast. And I intend to do it again on Friday. I want to get to a point where I’ll be able to make a real go of keeping it for all of Advent.

Why the sudden interest in doing so? Well, because I recently started seeing mentioned in various places the idea of being better than you were the day before. I think in at least one place it was a clip of Jordan Petersen, suggesting that you should never compare yourself to other people, because you have no idea what their situation is, but you CAN compare yourself to yourself. So just be a little better tomorrow than you were today. That’s the thought I really needed to hear.

Lately I’ve gotten pretty lazy about things. And if I’m honest, being lazy has been a big problem for me much of my life. It’s not that I’m ALWAYS lazy, or that I’m lazy about everything… but I can be lazy about a lot of things. So that’s meant I’ve not really been exercising for the last several months, I haven’t been eating well the last several months, I haven’t really been praying or reading the Bible as much as I should the last several months… and also I haven’t been writing like I should. I’ve NEVER written like I should. I like it, but as soon as I start to feel like I’ve got a bit of writer’s block, I just stop trying. But I want to break through that. That’s why the new blogs lately. If I don’t keep up with them then you’ll know that I failed.

I feel like a modern secular asceticism is the idea of a diet. Limiting your food choices so as to lose weight instead of just eating whatever you fancy at the time. It may not perfectly meet the requirements, but it’s something close. When I started out with the idea of fasting I thought something like… “But my food is already limited by my diet, and then this is going to cut out the primary thing I’m allowed to eat: meat.” While that’s true, it’s not like it’s impossible to do both. After all, there are people who do vegan keto as their whole lifestyle, and they manage to survive. While I only need to fast on Wednesday and Friday I think I’ll be able to get by just figuring things out on my own, but by the time Advent rolls around, I will for sure be checking out some vegan keto recipes.

I’ve also started using a stupid little iPhone app I bought years ago that lets you earn “experience points” for doing tasks that you define for yourself. Strangely it is a little bit motivating to be able to go in there and knock them out after I finish something.

So a few days in, things are going pretty well. I’m not much better than I was a few days ago, but I think maybe marginally so.

Truth Superiority

Those likewise are to be detested who deny that our Lord Jesus Christ had Mary as his mother on earth. That dispensation did honor to both sexes male and female, and showed that both had a part in God’s care; not only that which he assumed, but that also through which he assumed it, being a man born of a woman.

-St. Augustine

Before I start, if you aren’t familiar with 1 Esdras (AKA Greek Ezra, or 3 Esdras), then before you continue on with this post I am going to suggest you read this passage: 1 Esdras 4:14-41. Feel free to read the rest of it as well if you like, but that’s the bit I’d like to talk about here. Now, if you’re not at least familiar with it, chances are you are a Protestant (or non-Christian), so let me give you just a bit of context. This is a book that deals with deals with the same historical events as in 2 Chronicles 35-36, Ezra (AKA 2 Esdras), and Nehemiah. It is contained in the Greek Septuagint (LXX), which was widely used among early Christians. Now, for my purposes I don’t think it much matters whether you consider it canonical or not. I think we can both agree that regardless of that, it could tell us something helpful (why do we read any books at all, after all?) Anyway, go ahead and read it, I’ll wait.

Done? Ok, let’s continue.

I found this passage to be very interesting in light of the present world we live in. Today’s notion of Feminism is one that demands equality, and I think that equality is meant in a very specific way. It’s meant in a way so as to essentially equate man and woman to one and the same thing. So, if it’s a thing a man can do, a woman must also be able to do it, and equally as well. So you end up with movie reboots that take out all the men and replace them with women. Beyond that, there is also a frequent desire to somehow “make up for” women not having that equality for so long, and portraying them as better than men. That’s how you end up with Star Trek: Discovery (or as I’ve come to think of it, the Michael Burnham Power Hour). There are plenty of examples of both of these things. A female character has no apparent struggles or flaws, she is just shown to somehow being kept down by men who are always constantly wrong. If you can’t tell, I find that annoying.

Yet, this passage from 1 Esdras I find compelling. This statement from Zerubbabel, the man speaking in this passage, seems wise: “Women are superior, but truth conquers all.” Now what you don’t know if you only read the passage I linked you to, is that these words are part of a contest between 3 of the king’s bodyguards to offer what they think is the MOST superior thing in the world, and the king will judge whose words are the most wise. He says women. And as evidence, he gives womanly attributes. They give birth to all men. They give men honor. They make clothes. They make the mere existence of men possible. Men will do anything for them. Even the king will let the woman he loves slap him, and he will try to make amends when she is angry with him. These are the things that make women the MOST superior.

In fact, he only gives one thing that is greater than a woman: That which made a woman. That is to say, the Truth, the Logos, ie, God.

We all want to be treated fairly and equally. The truth is, we are all born with different attributes and qualities that are simply beyond our control. For example, some men are handsome, some are ugly. I’m not saying you can’t do things to increase your attractiveness, but not every man is capable of being as attractive as say, Brad Pitt.

I just think it’s another way to look at the relationship between the sexes. One that esteems women higher than men while at the same time preserving our obvious differences.

Nobel prize winning FDA-Approved antiparasitics, horse dewormers, and Red Starbucks Cups

Ivermectin is an FDA-approved broad-spectrum antiparasitic agent with demonstrated antiviral activity against a number of DNA and RNA viruses, including severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7539925/

Joe Rogan has COVID-19 and says he took horse deworming medicine ivermectin

https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/joe-rogan-covid-19-medicine-symptoms-224246792.html?fr=sycsrp_catchall

To some, the naked red cup, unadorned with symbols like holly or snowflakes, is an affront against the Christian faith, a cut against Christianity. For others, it’s a chance to beat their chests and scream about Christian and conservative stupidity into the faceless void of the internet.

https://www.vox.com/2015/11/10/9707034/starbucks-red-cup-controversy

Are you afraid yet?
They want you to be.
It will keep you coming back.
You are a loyal customer.
Are you afraid yet?
You should be.

-Five Iron Frenzy

So this is where we are in September of the year of our Lord 2021, apparently…

Ivermectin is not a horse dewormer. It’s the active ingredient in some horse dewormers (I’m going to assume there’s also horse dewormers that use some other active ingredient, I don’t know that much about horse dewormers). It’s also the active ingredient in medications for many parasitic infections in humans, and has been FDA approved since 2015. Saying “Ivermectin is a horse dewormer” is at best misleading, and at worst a blatant lie. Calling it horse medicine is akin to calling a sugar cube a horse snack and criticizing someone for eating a candy bar.

Claiming that Joe Rogan “says he took horse deworming medicine ivermectine” is false. I’d say it’s a lie, but the news outlets reporting it didn’t actually do any research, they’re just assuming that Joe Rogan went to the local Tractor Supply and bought horse dewormer and spread it out on some toast. To think that Joe Rogan can’t get his hands on ivermectin in a form and dosage that was intended for human consumption is absolutely absurd. He almost certainly took ivermectin and did not take horse dewormer. And he definitively didn’t SAY he took horse dewormer.

Back in 2015 when the culture wars were in an already irritating but not quite so insufferable state as they are today, we had the “red Starbucks cup controversy”. People were very upset, claimed the media, about Starbucks removing Christmas-themed prints from their red cups and replacing them with plain red cups. At the time, I hadn’t yet caught on to the media’s game, and at first I shared the story and talked to people about how absurdly stupid it was for someone to get upset about a red Starbucks cup. But it turned out the joke was on me. I was the idiot getting riled up over something that virtually no one was actually upset about. One of my friends pointed it out to me at the time, and ever since I’ve been much more careful about believing such media spin.

So really, think about it. I’m sure you remember the red cups. You probably didn’t know anyone who actually cared about it (I know I didn’t). If you did, it was probably your weird relative who gets upset about everything. In the same way, I bet you don’t know anyone who has gone down to Tractor Supply and loaded up their cart with horse dewormer in case they get Covid. In both of these cases, the number of people we’re talking about here is greater than 0, but extremely low, as in, not statistically significant. Acting like the average right winger is spreading horse dewormer on toast to fend off Covid is just sensational idiocy.

Ivermectin has shown some efficacy as an anti-viral. It seems to have demonstrated some efficacy against Covid. The FDA does not currently believe it has been proven to be effective for that purpose. That doesn’t mean it isn’t (and of course that also doesn’t mean it is). It makes sense that someone who is not comfortable with the vaccines would be looking for some other alternative that they can turn to in the event that they become infected. If they want to try ivermectin, they should go to their doctor and ask that it be prescribed for them. If their doctor refuses, they can either accept that refusal and take whatever their doctor does prescribe, or find another doctor that will prescribe it for them. Of course they should not take ivermectine that has been prepared for animal consumption rather than human consumption. The dosage is going to be radically different, and they aren’t qualified to figure that out for themselves. Ivermectine is being used to treat Covid in some countries, and undergoing studies for such a use in others.

As for vaccines, the facts surrounding them seem to be that they are lower risk than catching Covid is. They significantly lower the risk of extreme symptoms from Covid, including death. They do not prevent infection. They do not prevent spread. Getting a Covid vaccine provides protection to YOU. It does not provide protection to anyone else. Anyone over the age of 12 can get a Covid vaccine if they want to. People under the age of 19 are at extremely low risk even without a vaccine (yes, of course you can point to people under 19 who have died, it’s not NO risk). People have had a lot of time to get vaccinated if they want to. People are capable of making decisions about risk for themselves, and once they have made the decision the consequences are on them. No one should be forced to take a vaccine. Requiring vaccines to attend public events or for employment purposes seems completely pointless. They can still get infected and spread it vaccinated or not. The only person that will potentially be affected by their not being vaccinated is their own self.

If someone is not vaccinated, that’s not anything to me. If they are vaccinated, that’s not anything to me. If they take ivermectin, or hydroxychloroquine, or monoclonal antibodies, or whatever else, that’s not anything to me.

Should people get their medical advice from Joe Rogan? Of course they shouldn’t. He’s said as much himself. But he has opinions about things, and he can certainly share them. Presumably if I have a doctor, I trust my doctor to give me good medical advice. If I don’t trust my doctor to do that, I need to find a new doctor. An individual’s medical decisions should be between themselves and their doctor. No one else. Ask your doctor about the thing you heard on the Joe Rogan Experience, or on the news. Don’t just blindly accept what you hear.

I haven’t really listened to Joe Rogan’s podcast very much since he moved over to Spotify. Not for any particular reason other than I don’t have Spotify on my phone and I’m not inclined to install it just to listen to one thing. There’s been a handful of times I heard he had a guest on I was interested in hearing and so I loaded up the web app on my desktop and listened that way, but, I haven’t heard that much from him lately. However, I’m sure the case is as it has ever been with Rogan. A lot of the time I agree with him, and a lot of the time I disagree with him. But he lets people talk and is fair to people, and that leads to interesting conversations.

The media sensationalizes everything to get views and clicks in order to get those ad dollars. Turning it off will make you a happier person.

New Host

While it should be fully transparent to anyone reading this, I have switched over to a new web host. I’ve been using Dreamhost for years, but, quite honestly, I was paying for more than I was using, so I decided to look into other options. Ultimately I went with NameCheap, who I was already using as my domain registrar. There were a few options at about the price point and service level they were offering, and well… I ultimately went with them because it kept everything in one place.

I plan to start posting here again soon… but I’ve been planning that for awhile and its yet to happen, so, we’ll see what happens.

If anyone is reading this, I hope you are well!

Decay

Actually I am a Christian, and indeed a Roman Catholic, so that I do not expect ‘history’ to be anything but a ‘long defeat’— though it contains (and in legend may contain more clearly and movingly) some samples or glimpses of final victory.

J.R.R. Tolkien

The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.

George Orwell

Perception is more important than reality. If someone perceives something to be true, it is more important than if it is in fact true.

Ivanka Trump

The only idea they have ever manifested as to what is a government of consent, is this–that it is one to which everybody must consent, or be shot.

Lysander Spooner

JRR Tolkien had a notion of something called “the long defeat”. If you’ve read The Lord of the Rings, you’ve seen this exemplified (to a much lesser degree if you’ve only seen the films, but it’s there). You get the sense that the greatest days are behind these people – the world is on the decline. It can also be looked at on the individual scale – one’s whole life is a long defeat. Fight as hard as you can, you are going to die eventually. Yet it is a fight worth fighting.

You may recall that the end of Lord of the Rings was not quite as depressing as all that, which is true, but there’s a reason for that, which I’ll get to, eventually.

The national dialogue (if you can call it dialogue) seems to be pushing everyone to choose a side. Whose side am I on? I feel it’s best summed up by Treebeard in the video above.

This is a difficult time, and I have remained largely silent on my thoughts. I’ve occasionally posted links or videos onto Facebook that I think are interesting in some way. Despite remaining what I felt was fairly neutral, at least one of those generated some volatile pushback – from someone that I genuinely like as a person – and that as far as I know likes me. Why the pushback? Well, I think simply that it went against his side caused me to be lumped into the worst of the “other” side. He did apologize for the reaction, and I absolutely do not hold it against him, but I mention it here because I think it’s an important example and is something that happens a lot – and it would happen more if I was more vocal. I expect that if anyone takes the trouble to read this, I am going to get some negative reactions here.

People oversimplify. Life is complicated. History is complicated. How we got to where we are now is very complex, and how we get out of it isn’t straight forward. It would be helpful if we could have a straight forward conversation… but we can’t. Why can’t we? Because amidst people who have honest and true concerns, we have many people being disingenuous in what they are trying to do.

We are making terrible assumptions.
We are making the wrong diagnoses.
We are applying bad solutions.

The very notion of “sides” here is a major problem. In one sense, we are all individuals, and as such there are so many sides so as to make the notion of sides a useless one. On the other, we are all Americans, and beyond that, all humans created in the image of God, and ought to be united in our desire for the good of each other in that way. Even if we disagree with what the solutions are, we should acknowledge that we are part of the same team and treat each other charitably. Good people can disagree with me, and they should be able to still see me as a good person, and I them.

I fear that will not be the case though. I fear that in writing these posts I am going to lose friends who, though I believe they are misguided, I believe are good people. Why will I lose them? Well, I fear they will think me not a good person – because they have embraced ideology that says that good people cannot disagree with them, ergo, I must not be a good person.

What I see right now is a society in decay. Now, please understand that I get that not every individual’s experience of our society is the same, but judging America against America’s entire history, it seems to me that it is objectively true that overall the BEST version of America is, essentially now. I say essentially because I think there’s an argument to be made that in the recent past we reached the pinnacle and started a decline. I would in fact make that argument myself. Can I pinpoint exactly when we reached that pinnacle? Not really. I’d bet a lot of people would say Trump’s election, but, I don’t think that’s right. But it’s really difficult to say, because I could point to things and say “this is something that is contributing to the decline, and it started at X point”, but that doesn’t mean we were IN decline when that thing originated. I would say Trump’s election was more a result of people sensing the decay than it was anything else. As Jordan Peterson has imagined aloud on a few occasions, many people simply said “to hell with it,” and voted for Trump.

It’s worth noting that apart from a handful of edits, everything above this point was written months ago. If you’re reading this near to this post, you are very aware that Biden very recently entered the office of the Presidency. Perhaps you think this is going to turn things around. I am certain that you’re wrong. If anything, things have only gotten worse from when I began writing this post. I never came back to it until now because I doubt that I can really impact anyone’s opinion, and I fear losing a friend. But ultimately I have to say what I think. So I’ll just pretend that since I’m not going to post this on Facebook, and within 24 hours from now my Facebook account will be deleted, that means that no one is going to read this anyway.

Things are not getting better. Censorship is increasing. Even if you are sure that someone is wrong, they have the right to be wrong, and to try to convince other people of their ideas. I think people who believe the earth is flat, or that the moon landings were faked, are crazy, but, I also don’t think they should be silenced. I don’t really make any effort to follow the Q stuff – certainly a lot of what people have told me about it sounds crazy, but again, they have the right to believe it and say it.

Silencing voices is not how we’re going to heal anything – that’s how you’re going to drive people to extremism. Big tech colluding to nuke Parler is bad news, no matter how you feel about Parler. Twitter is obvious in their bias in how they enforce rules, and they allow abhorrent things to remain on their network while banning Trump for fairly innocuous tweets. Now people in Congress are urging the FBI to investigate Parler and for YouTube to increase censorship. The Russians continue to be the big bad. Oooh… Scary Russians are coming to get you, so we must give up freedom of speech.

I’ll be honest, things are starting to feel pretty hopeless. Ideological differences with fellow Americans are getting to the point where I almost feel like they are irreconcilable. And if that is truly the case, then division is inevitable. Does that mean civil war? I don’t know, maybe. I guess it depends on whether or not the powers that be allow for a split to happen peacefully or not.

But perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps we’ll be saved via eucatastrophe. Our doom is certainly quite probable, and feels quite immanent – but I will not say some sudden and unexpected turn of events could not save us.

If you think that Trump was a tyrant, I can only say that he was the most ineffective tyrant in history. If you think Biden is going to be a great President, I invite you to wait and see what the reality turns out to be. He’s already admitted he’s not going to do any better than Trump on Covid… not to mention implementing his mask mandate and then failing to abide by it only hours later. Imagine the media reaction if Trump had done such a thing. I don’t argue that Trump was some sort of savior, only that he was not uniquely terrible – and certainly not a tyrant or fascist.

I have a feeling things are going to get interesting… if it is to be a defeat, may it be long indeed… and truly I hope for some unexpected salvation to come.

Dark Dreams

I don’t typically remember my dreams very well. Usually if I write it down within an hour of waking up I can get it all out and then I can remind myself of it later. However, I don’t generally have time to do that in the morning unless it were to occur on the weekend, so unless it seemed to have significance to me or was just exceptionally bizarre, I probably wouldn’t do it.

That said, last night I woke up several times following dreams that I found to be somewhat disturbing. To set the stage a little bit, a couple of weeks ago I had received some icons that I ordered. As not everyone reading this is going to be familiar with what that is (though I’m not going to share this one on Facebook), google “Orthodox icons” and you can get an idea. Essentially they are images that represent Christ, or saints, or specific events in church history. Within Orthodoxy, they are used to show veneration to those depicted. I had ordered 4 of them. What they are is of no particular consequence in regard to the dream, so, I won’t get into that here. What I suppose is relevant is that I don’t have a proper icon corner at this stage… for the moment the four icons are laying on an end table in my living room. I’m in a small apartment and so the difference between my living room and my “bedroom” is just some dividers that I put up.

I had the same basic dream with slight differences 3 different times, each time waking me up in the end. The first dream was significant in that it felt the most real. In the dream, I got out of bed and went out by where the end table with the icons is. Strangely, they had all fallen onto the floor. I was concerned and went to pick them up, and as I picked them up I found that they had been defaced – a strange oddity in this first dream was that it was as if the images had previously been mounted on and were removed, leaving just a solid color beneath, and then in the place of the image were placed words – I can remember an image in the first dream, just a silver background and the words “Fallen Angel” written on it. I could feel like I was being pressured to show veneration, and I refused, and, I think it was at that moment I started to suspect I was dreaming, because I remembered something my priest had told me in a catechism class, that when something appears to you in a dream you should cross yourself. It was a passing comment about something we were discussing so I can remember the full context, but in this case I crossed myself 3 times in the dream and verbally refused, saying that I serve Christ. I woke up at this point, and did the same in wakefulness before going back to sleep. As an aside, I had no sense of any presence while I was awake.

The second time was much the same. It felt real at first but I recognized it much more quickly as I remembered the previous dream. The icons were again on the floor, but this time it was more like they had been painted over. Instead of solid colors with text, there were images – Just like in the first dream, the only one I really got a good look at is the one that I picked up. I just remember it was a somewhat grotesque figure, a dark brown being the predominant color. I also remember that there was a name written on it, which I took to be the name of the demon that it represented. I actually actively tried to not remember the name. At the time it seemed like remembering the name would perhaps be detrimental in some way. All I remember about it is that it started with an “e”. This time I woke up as I began to cross myself in the dream, and again in wakefulness I crossed myself 3 times and refused again.

The third time I recognized it as a dream the moment I saw the icons on the floor. This was the most different because while I still felt that pressure in the dream to venerate I didn’t pick up any of the icons and so I don’t remember what they looked like this time. But as before, I awoke, crossed myself 3 times, and refused.

I did have another odd dream following this, but it wasn’t quite the same. It was pretty much about me going to church and finding myself arriving there improperly dressed and I had accidentally brought the wrong clothes with me. The three dreams that woke me up really struck me as being rather dark and disturbing – this last one seemed more like just a bizarre dream.

When I got out of bed this morning, I decided to try to google to see if I could find anything about someone else having a similar dream. While there’s plenty of things written about people who either have or believe they have had dreams with demonic influences in them, I didn’t see anything in regard to icons specifically. That said, it’s not like I did extensive research, I looked at a few different results that came up.

One of the things that I found was the idea of “hell icons”. According to the few things I’ve read about them, it sounds like it’s unlikely they ever actually existed, but the legend goes that these were icons where a beneath the image of Christ, or the Theotokos, or a saint, would be an image of Satan, or a demon. You can read about it here: https://russianicon.com/mystery-russian-icon-art-hell-icons/

I’m not sure if I think there was a true demonic presence in my dream or not. I’ve watched a couple movies recently that could have theoretically influence my subconscious in some way… but I don’t know where this idea of icons being altered into demonic icons could have come from if that were the case. I also earlier in the day yesterday had said to myself that I really needed to make a decision about what I was going to do in regard to a sin that I’ve struggled with for some time. That being because if I’m really going to join the Orthodox Church, and I do intend to, then I want it to be because I am serious about it, and about becoming like God.

Open to hearing any thoughts someone reading this might have.

Malcolm

Earlier today, I said goodbye to a good friend. Back in May of 2008 I drove out to the northwestern part of Ohio to pick up Malcolm, a ~2 month old Alaskan Malamute puppy.

It was a very different time in my life as compared to now. I was accompanied on that trip by my then wife. I don’t remember a lot of the details of the trip, but I know it was a long day (we drove out and back in a single day) and that it was the first time I used a newly acquired GPS (this was before they were in every phone – prior to that it was MapQuest). The lady we bought him from was very kind and helpful, and she introduced us to his parents while we were there.

On the way back home, we had to stop in Breezewood because Malcolm had peed on her. She got cleaned up and we managed to get back before too late in the evening. He met my parents’ dog, Jean Claude, who he was already bigger then, but Jean Claude scared him so badly he peed then too. But the two of them came to be good friends – and it was kind of funny to watch them pal around together given the disparity in their sizes.

Malcolm has been there through a lot of stages of my life, including the hardest one, when the divorce happened. In terms of its life-altering nature and the emotional pain involved, it still ranks at #1 for me. But Malcolm was there to keep me company, and for me to talk to, even if he couldn’t talk back. He was a great dog, and a good friend.

I moved away for a time, first to NZ for a year, and then to Los Angeles for a few years. I didn’t want to leave him behind, but I knew I couldn’t bring him with me those places. At the time when I was going to NZ I thought I might be saying goodbye forever, but thankfully my parents decided to keep him there. If not by the time I got back from NZ, certainly by the time I moved back for LA, Malcolm had been solidified as my Mom’s dog, but he never stopped being my buddy.

He had a really strong will. Back when he was crated, he used to be able to escape from it all the time, often just by forcing himself through what seemed to be an impossibly small space. He’d do the same to get out of the fence and go on adventures through the neighborhood. I remember many times going after him trying to get him back home. The frequency diminished, but he never really gave up on that. Even just a few months ago with his bad leg he got out, and unfortunately got stuck back in a creek – fortunately he was found and brought back in. It would be the last time he got out, but really only because he wasn’t let out in the yard by himself anymore. I’m sure he wanted to go exploring just as badly.

It’s not been that long since I had to say goodbye to a dog. There are a lot of similar feelings, but, there’s a lot that is different as well. Yuna was just a puppy – it was such an unexpected thing to happen. I didn’t have anywhere near the volume of memories with her that I have with Malcolm. She wasn’t really there for me through much of anything. But I don’t think it hit me any less hard than this hits me.

The one thing that makes this easier than it otherwise might be is that we knew it was coming. Probably a little more than a year and a half ago, Malcolm was diagnosed with a form of bone cancer. We were told he had maybe 6 months. He made it so much longer than anyone thought, no doubt in part thanks to all the things my Mom did for him to take care of him and keep him in good health. I think the other part was just that he had that strong will. He didn’t let it stop him.

Finally, a few days ago, that strong will stopped being enough, and there weren’t any more options to ward off the effects of the cancer. He wasn’t able to get up or walk anymore, and as it reached the point that he seemed to be both in pain and incapable of living a normal life anymore, my Mom made the decision to take him to the vet to be put to sleep.

I met them over there and sat with Malcolm for the last time. First as he was in the back of the van I whispered into his ear something that I often did: “I love you. Youse a good boy.” After a few minutes we brought him inside.

As much as I miss him and will miss him, knowing the state he was in I know that it was the right decision. My mom and I sat and pet him as he fell asleep from the sedative they gave him. He fought it off a long time, and as they were getting ready to give him the injection, he still woke up again. Even with his body completely broken and in the pain he was in he still kept trying to be there. I sat and held his paw and softly pet him as he breathed his last, and kissed his nose one last time as I stood up to leave.

https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/glory2godforallthings/2012/05/02/all-dogs-go-to-heaven/