Random Thoughts

August 16, 2012

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Crunchy doesn’t have an article today.  She does, however, have a new baby boy.  He was born yesterday morning.  That’s 4 little boys in her house now …

I don’t feel like writing an article about one particular thought this week, so I’ll bounce around a bit.


I didn’t get the chance to watch nearly as much of the Olympics as I would have like.  I did make an effort to keep up on what was going on, though.

My personal highlight was Jake Varner’s wrestling gold medal.  Jake and I share an alma mater – Iowa State University.  I’m very proud to have Varner add his name to a collection of Iowa State wrestlers who have gone on to win gold – including living legends Dan Gable and Cael Sanderson. 

London organizer Sebastian Coe caught some flak for failing to state that Michael Phelps was the greatest Olympian ever.  While Phelps is definitely one of the greatest ever, Coe was caught in the difficult position of trying to compare athletes from different sports.  Swimming (and track) afford an athlete more opportunities to medal.  Let’s take boxing, for example.  If a boxer were to match Phelps’s record of 22 medal, it would require medals in 22 consecutive Olympic games, spanning 84 years.  While in raw numbers, this would simply match Phelps, in reality it would be a far more impressive feat.  If we only look at raw medal counts, this would mean that only athletes from a handful of sports could ever make the claim to be “great” Olympians.  It’s simply not feasible for boxers, wrestlers, basketball players, or hockey players to win 10+ medals.


Melky Cabrera was one of the feel good stories on 2012.  He was hitting .346 for the year and was the All Star game MVP.  After years of struggling, Cabrera was putting up good seasons in back to back year and appeared to be turning into a very good major league player.  The dream season came to a crashing halt Wednesday, when Cabrera was suspended 50 games for using testosterone.  The loss of Cabrera puts the playoff chances of the Giants in serious doubt.

Paul Ryan

Mitt Romney selected Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate.  Expect the budget to become a major issue in debates.  Ryan’s budget plan was the one the Republican congress pitted against Obama’sd budget.

Aside from a stint as driver of the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile, Ryan has worked in the political arena his entire career.

What are you watching?

I managed to get a chance to see Avatar this week.  I found the story very enjoyable.  While I usually don’t dig too hard to find a deeper meaning in a movie (I prefer to simply be entertained), it’s pretty hard to misss the point of Avatar.  It’s a sci-fi movie, but also has an interesting love story.  I definitely recommend it.


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Separation of Church and Fiction

January 20, 2010

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Recently, the Catholic Church voiced its criticism of the blockbuster movie Avatar, claiming that the movie encourages the worship of nature and is at odds with Christian theology.

Several years ago, the Church voiced its opposition to Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code.  The criticism had the effect of making the book even more popular, as many people read it in an effort to determine what, exactly, was so offensive.  As a practicing Catholic, I was intrigued.  It’s possible that I may have read the book anyway, since it’s my type of story, but the Church’s criticism ensured that I would read it.

What was my opinion of the controversy?  Much ado about nothing.  I thought that the book told a good story, but it was just that – a story.  While Brown portrays aspects of his books as realistic, they are nonetheless shelved in the fiction section.

When it comes to Avatar, I find it hard to believe that any intelligent person would see the movie as anything but fiction with some nice eye candy.

I am puzzled at seeing the Church portray works of fiction as being such a threat to Catholicism.  Fiction, by definition, is something that is made up.  Attempting to commence a serious debate about a work of fiction conjures up the mental image of Don Quixote tilting at windmills.

Another puzzling aspect is the choice of works to criticize.  The Da Vinci Code did portray certain aspects of the Church in a negative light, but it’s hardly the most negative portrayal of Catholics in popular fiction.  One of my favorite authors, the late William X. Kienzle, often portrayed seriously flawed Catholic clergy in his books – and Kienzle was a former priest himself.

If you take a look around the book store or movie theater, there are lot of books and movies that would be more appropriate targets of criticism.  It would make more sense to criticize movies that glorify senseless slaughter (and thus marginalize the value of human lives).

Honestly, if the Church wants a fair fight, they should limit their criticism to non-fiction books.  I have no doubt that they are many non-fiction books that are in disagreement with Catholicism.  Their authors may be happy to engage the Church in meaningful discussions of the differences.

It would seem that the Church is choosing targets based on the popularity of the work.  This seems slightly absurd.  When engaging in criticism, why not lash out at those that are most deserving of the criticism, rather than shooting at the targets that ensure that the criticism will spill the most ink on newspaper pages?  In the words of Martin Sheen’s character in The American President, “You Fight the Fights that Need Fighting.”

In closing, I respectfully ask the Catholic Church to avoid commenting on fiction in the future.  Fiction works are not intended to be accurate portrayals of the facts, but are intended as pure entertainment.  When I have questions about theology, I’ll consult the Catholic Church.  When I have questions about works of fiction, I’ll consult secular sources.