on Spore and the gospel

The sadly underwhelming Spore was a 2008 PC game that allowed the player to experience and guide life from the cellular level right up to interstellar civilisation. You’d start off controlling an amoeba-like creature, absorbing nutrients and running away from larger micro-organisms; then progress to controlling a creature as it hunts for food and dodges predators; then a tribe, then a nation as it warred with its rivals; and finally you’d be planning space missions as your planet-state collected precious cargo or exotic life forms from other star systems.

At every single level of play there was something to worry about. Neutralising a source of worry at one stage merely opened up a new horizon of worry: achieving a large enough size on the microbial levels merely meant you’d now have to worry about finding more food (and running from larger predators) to stay alive; achieving safety from predators in a tribe merely meant worrying about other tribes, then other cities, and finally other planets. Achieving what you wanted at each stage did nothing to take away the worry and the challenge.

That’s what (supposedly) made the game work, made it playable as a game. And rather depressingly this is the game we are in everyday. Continue reading “on Spore and the gospel”

on the Son of David

After Saul returned from fighting the Philistines, he was told that David had gone into the wilderness of En-gedi. So Saul chose 3,000 elite troops from all Israel and went to search for David and his men near the rocks of the wild goats.

At the place where the road passes some sheepfolds, Saul went into a cave to relieve himself. But as it happened, David and his men were hiding farther back in that very cave!

“Now’s your opportunity!” David’s men whispered to him. “Today the LORD is telling you, ‘I will certainly put your enemy into your power, to do with as you wish.’” So David crept forward and cut off a piece of the hem of Saul’s robe.

But then David’s conscience began bothering him because he had cut Saul’s robe. “The LORD knows I shouldn’t have done that to my lord the king,” he said to his men. “The LORD forbid that I should do this to my lord the king and attack the LORD’s anointed one, for the LORD himself has chosen him.” So David restrained his men and did not let them kill Saul.

After Saul had left the cave and gone on his way, David came out and shouted after him, “My lord the king!” And when Saul looked around, David bowed low before him.

Then he shouted to Saul, “Why do you listen to the people who say I am trying to harm you? This very day you can see with your own eyes it isn’t true. For the LORD placed you at my mercy back there in the cave. Some of my men told me to kill you, but I spared you. For I said, ‘I will never harm the king—he is the LORD’s anointed one.’ Look, my father, at what I have in my hand. It is a piece of the hem of your robe! I cut it off, but I didn’t kill you. This proves that I am not trying to harm you and that I have not sinned against you, even though you have been hunting for me to kill me.

“May the LORD judge between us. Perhaps the LORD will punish you for what you are trying to do to me, but I will never harm you. As that old proverb says, ‘From evil people come evil deeds.’ So you can be sure I will never harm you. Who is the king of Israel trying to catch anyway? Should he spend his time chasing one who is as worthless as a dead dog or a single flea? May the LORD therefore judge which of us is right and punish the guilty one. He is my advocate, and he will rescue me from your power!”

When David had finished speaking, Saul called back, “Is that really you, my son David?” Then he began to cry. And he said to David, “You are a better man than I am, for you have repaid me good for evil. Yes, you have been amazingly kind to me today, for when the LORD put me in a place where you could have killed me, you didn’t do it. Who else would let his enemy get away when he had him in his power? May the LORD reward you well for the kindness you have shown me today. And now I realize that you are surely going to be king, and that the kingdom of Israel will flourish under your rule. Now swear to me by the LORD that when that happens you will not kill my family and destroy my line of descendants!”

So David promised this to Saul with an oath. Then Saul went home, but David and his men went back to their stronghold. — 1 Sam 24:1-22

I really enjoyed hearing and reading this Bible story when I was a kid. There was the swashbuckling adventure, David and his mercenaries running around in the hills, chased by murderous King Saul; there was the high drama of David’s impassioned plea, and Saul’s tearful reply – it’s good fun. Though I have to say, I enjoyed it the most as a kid because the image of King Saul pooping in a cave was hilarious to six-year-old me. And you know, it must’ve been pretty intense, or maybe David just had crazy ninja skills, that he could creep up to Saul and cut off a piece of his robe unnoticed. Such is the mind of a six year-old boy. Maybe six year-old girls think like that too. Maybe you’re thinking like that now. I’m not judging. Continue reading “on the Son of David”

on give and take

Achilles is the best of the Greeks in the Iliad: the fastest, the strongest, the most warlike. He fights like a god (Zeus is his great-grandfather, after all), he excels at winning, he excels at taking – men’s lives and their booty. He is the best his world has to offer.

But he cannot handle loss. When robbed of his spear-won prize Briseis, the best he can do is cry out to his goddess mother, and sulk, hopefully robbing Agamemnon of his victory. And when he loses the great love of his life Patroclus, he flies into murderous rage: he slays horse-breaker Hector in revenge (fair enough), but also horribly abuses the corpse, and even burns alive 12 Trojan boys in his bereavement. When he loses, when things are taken from him, he responds the only way he knows how: double down and take right back. Continue reading “on give and take”

on two types of self-censorship

Both my parents are pretty artsy people, so there is some nude art at home. There’s a statue of some kind of nymph – that used to terrify me as a child, not so much because of her nudity but because of her dead-eyed, Nefertiti-esque face – and a couple of nude paintings. But one time, anticipating that family friends (and their young kids) were coming over, my mom decided to discreetly stash away some of our collection for the time being. Continue reading “on two types of self-censorship”

on byzantines, Uber, The Last Jedi, and gender politics

A while ago I created a video illustrating the evolution of Roman infantry down the centuries. I thought it would just be a fun, nerdy little thing. But now the comments section is a nationalist warzone, with accusations such as – I kid you not – Greek scum, filthy German, and Turkophile being slung back and forth, based on such things as who does and doesn’t count as Roman, and whether or not the word Byzantine is an objective term or a filthy, Latin slur. It took very little for the nationalists to get them set off; I’m guessing they’re just so full to bursting with ethnocentric, self-righteous indignation, so spoiling for a fight to show that their race (whatever the hell that means) is the best, and why it should stop being persecuted, that they’ll see this struggle in any damn thing they come across. Continue reading “on byzantines, Uber, The Last Jedi, and gender politics”

on faceless mooks

Houses on fire, screams in the background, heavily-armed, swastika’d soldiers and flame-spewing, mechanical beasts swaggering around.

“Monsters did this.”
“Not monsters – men.”

So starts the latest trailer to Wolfenstein II. The trailer itself is a gory, expletive-filled affair, but it deflates itself right off the bat. It fails to live up to its own rhetoric within the first few seconds. Continue reading “on faceless mooks”

on who we are and what we do

A while ago I uploaded a video I made onto social media, a speed drawing of a Turkish Janissary soldier. Most of the views were (unsurprisingly) from Turkish viewers, and while the vast, vast majority appreciated it, and were touchingly… touched by the interest I showed in their history, one incident did stick in my mind: one Turkish viewer, a complete stranger over the internet, was so incensed by what I’d drawn that he felt justified cussing me out – me, a complete stranger over the internet – because he felt mortally offended by a silly line drawing, which in the words of another viewer, ‘looks like shit.’ Continue reading “on who we are and what we do”

on craftsmanship

Too late in life I’ve discovered: I’m a craftsman.

By trade I’m a teacher, and though (on most days) I’d call myself a pretty good one, I’ve recently found that what makes me feel good is not teaching, but making things. Producing tangible things – my latest pet project is carving on rubber slabs with lino knives. I started small, but I am getting better at it everyday. I can see it. As I said, tangible. I also produce educational videos, digital art, which is… less… tangible.

This is what occupies my weekends these days. Only just a couple of months ago my weekends would be exclusively for recharging – my Monday to Friday would be so balls-to-the-wall that if I didn’t sleep all day Saturday and Sunday, I’d start feeling physically ill. Church became an exalted burden. Continue reading “on craftsmanship”

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