Thinking Out Loud

August 20, 2017

Google Now Provides the Information instead of Referring

Like many of you, I couldn’t help but notice that increasingly, Google was giving me the answers I was looking for right on their results page, without my needing to make a second click. Appreciating the convenience I didn’t really pay much attention to this, until publishing and media watcher Tim Underwood linked to a piece at Mashable titled, Google is Eating the Open Internet.

The rather opened my eyes to the present situation: Instead of being a site which refers you to people who have the answers, Google is now seen as provider of those answers.

But the affect on the websites from which the information is culled — the creatives and researchers who do the actual work — is devastating. Example:

…Brian Warner, founder and CEO of CelebrityWorthNet.com, understands perhaps more than anybody the power of Google’s wall-building.

Warner started to notice the content from his site appearing directly on search results pages in 2012. Two years later, he got an email from Google asking to scrape all of his data, which he turned down. Another two years after that, Google did it anyway, and the impact was catastrophic.

“It was extremely painful, it was extremely devastating,” Warner said. “We got to a point where our traffic was down 85 percent from a year or two earlier.”

Search for the net worth of any celebrity at random today—let’s say, James Earl Jones—and you’ll get the number ($45 million) and a short biographical blurb pulled from CelebrityNetWorth.com with credit and a link…

And later, the broader application:

…There’s also a steady stream of more subtle indications of Google’s inward pull appearing every day—features like on-site hotel booking, restaurant menus, spa appointment tools, and dropdown recipes to name just a few.

These tweaks might sound minor, but Google’s position as the web’s central nervous system means they can have a big impact on smaller businesses that orbit it.

In the long run, though, there seems to be a pretty glaring hole in this plan. That is, as Google likes to reassure wary publishers, it’s not in the content business.

The company ultimately relies on reference sites like Wikipedia, IMDB, Fandango, and the CIA World Fact Book to compile and update the information it uses.

If Google continues to choke these sites out, what incentive will there be for new ones to come along? …   (emphasis added)

   Then early this morning I caught up with my Saturday print edition of The Toronto Star and columnist Heather Mallick was saying the exact same things about Facebook in a piece titled, Like it or not, Facebook Owns You. For her it gets personal:

…We donate to the Guardian to keep it free for everyone, but remember that we do this because former editor Alan Rusbridger made the numbers clear. In 2016, Facebook “sucked up $27 million (U.S.) of the newspaper’s projected ad revenue that year.”

Facebook was the interlocutor, the middleman who slipped between readers and journalists and siphoned off the money. When I step onto the thing for even a moment, I make money for Zuckerberg. I work for him, not the Toronto Star.

I wouldn’t mind being followed for weeks by ads for the hand vacuum (designed in England, made in Malaysia, which is why I despise Dyson) I ordered five minutes ago from an online retailer with no discernible connection to Facebook.

But I do mind that my salary was effectively lower this year because Facebook knew this, its targeting having destroyed the print and online ads on which the Star itself relied.

I take a dim view. With less money, I’ll buy fewer things advertised on Facebook, but it doesn’t care. It’s in the business of attention, not retailing. Its hands are clean.

Of course they’re not. They’re loaded with lucre, and they’re taunting people individually and en masse, damaging quality of life and eating freedom. You are owned…

For my Christian readership at this page, this is important. Obtaining the “answers” or “results” one is looking for without clicking through to see the full context of the page from which the mighty search engine derived them could be devastating, especially as the field of material offered grows to include things of religious or theological interest. At best, all of our online sites are somewhat subjective, including this one.

But I’ll have more to say about that tomorrow.

 

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January 20, 2017

A Theology of Non-Anger

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:20 am

For some time now, I’ve ended the day unwinding with a 20-minute podcast compiled from excerpts of The Brant Hansen Show. Brant‘s a long-time Christian radio guy who has served with Air-1 and WAY-FM. He’s joined daily by producer Sherri Lynn to whom God has apparently given the gift of laughter.

On the sidebar of Brant’s website I kept noticing a reference to Brant’s book, but I figured it to be some self-published project, after all, these days everybody has a book. Only a few days ago did I realize it had been released through Thomas Nelson, and decided it warranted further investigation.

unoffendableUnoffendable: How Just One Change Can Make All of Life Better was actually released in the spring of 2015, so we’re coming up to two years. (You’ll notice my blog hasn’t been reviewing new releases lately; I just share what I’m enjoying.) If you think that the people in Christian radio are somewhat shallow, you’re going to be pleasant surprised — perhaps amazed — at the substance in this book.

Basically, Unoffendable is a study of instances in scripture (and real life) where anger is a factor. You could call the book a treatise on the theology of anger, though I prefer to take a positive spin and emphasize non-anger. We can be so quick to assume, to lash out, and to hurt. Our knee-jerk reactions aren’t good for the people in our line of fire, and they’re not good for us.

The timing on this is significant as commentators are constantly reminding us that the hallmark of social media in particular and the internet in general seems to be our ability to be easily offended. At everything. We are an offended generation.

The book isn’t necessary a self-help title. You won’t find, for example, six steps to avoid getting angry. Rather, through personal anecdotes and lessons from scripture, proceeding through the book’s chapters instills a climate of non-offense as you read. There’s a sense in which the book has a calming effect.

In many respects, the book is an extension of and consistent with the radio show. There are sections where Brant quotes letters he received from listeners and in my head, I was hearing those as the phone calls he takes on air. Our ability with today’s technology to access spoken word content by authors means you can really allow your imagination to hear the author as you read. We found a station that streams the whole show — not the podcast — daily and listened in just to get the feel.

I encourage to get your hands on this. Read it for yourself, not just to give to so-and-so who gets mad so quickly. I think there is a sense in which we can all see ourselves within its pages; because we all have times where we’ve over-reacted.


Order Unoffendable through your favorite Christian bookseller; or get more info at Thomas Nelson.

Thanks to Mark at HarperCollins Canada for the review copy.

June 9, 2016

“We Never Close”

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I remember as a teenager walking down Toronto’s Yonge (pronounced young) Street and seeing a movie theater advertising “24 hour continuous showings.” Mornings, afternoons, evenings and middle-of-the-night, there was always a movie playing because there were always customers paying.

we_never_closeAs a twenty-something returning to Canada from California, my fellow-traveler and I stopped at Las Vegas. That is probably best looked at as the subject of another blog post entirely, but one feature of the casino we visited — which I believe is common to all — is that there are no windows and no clocks. There are no visual indications as to whether it’s 2 o’clock in the afternoon or 2 o’clock in the morning. No wonder that people keep gambling. Back home, months later, in a flashback to that visit, I realized that while I was nice and cozy under the covers, the casino simply kept humming; not open one day and then the next, but simply opened once and operating as one long continuous day.

In 1974, the band Emerson, Lake and Palmer described it best with the lyric, “Welcome back my friends, to the show that never ends, we’re so glad you could attend, come inside, come inside.” I was captivated by the concept of a place that never shuts down; not the idea of the radio station on which I first heard the song, but the idea of somehow being inside the radio, of having physical interaction with something that simply is with no hours of operation posted on the door.

My relationship to the “wee hours of the morning” continued when a friend got a job doing commercial carpet cleaning. Law offices, advertising agencies, and the halls of corporate power in the banking sector all were subject to our rotary shampoo machines. (We looked disdainfully at steam cleaning.) While the offices were as ghost towns after midnight, it amazed me the number of people working those hours, a kind of midnight infrastructure necessary to make the places function in the daylight hours.

Open All NightMore than one stand-up comedian has asked, “If 7-11 is open 24 hours a day, why are there locks on the door?” Okay, there are reasons, but once the stores are opened, again, it’s one ongoing day, with many locations not even pausing for Christmas.

Years later, working alongside people in the magazine industry, I proposed something called Night Owls, for free distribution to the people in Toronto who make up the all night workforce, an industry category onto itself. (In those days however, advertisers preferred to place their money with controlled circulation publications, so my periodical never launched.) I still think there’s a common thread that binds all these people and they would enjoy hearing of fellow travelers, not to mention who has the best burgers at 3:00 AM…

Today, I see advantages to the order of things that I believe is God-prescribed and clearly indicated by the way daylight and evening function; but I will admit that our present world requires people to be employed on the overnight shift, even though we know that continued ignoring of natural body rhythms can reduce lifespan…

Which brings us to…

…The internet.

I was thinking last night about the wonder that is the world wide web. Like the casino district in Vegas, its motto could easily be We Never Close. As you lie in bed snoring at night, people are still looking at your Instagram and Snapchat pages. Twitter followers are coming and going. People are friending and unfriending you on Facebook. If it’s 2 o’clock in the morning where you live, it’s 2 o’clock in the afternoon somewhere else. People are filling in contact forms, signing up for newsletters, checking their bank balance, and following a rabbit trail network of hyperlinks. Elsewhere online, people are making purchases from retail enterprises that would never dream (contextual pun intended) of having sales associates working those hours in a physical store. The gamers have lost track of the time, as have the people watching cat antics on YouTube, and like the theater in my teenage stroll down Toronto’s main street, there is Netflix which not only offers continuous showings, but allows you to pick your own start time. Strangers are talking to each other across chat rooms and forums; and trolls and marketers are busy leaving comments on blogs.

Open 24 HoursWelcome back my friends, to the show that never ends.

There are no breaks for national holidays, religious sabbaths or even natural disasters. Internet service interruptions do happen depending on where you live, but they cause people to experience withdrawal symptoms. Some people’s greatest nightmares have them landing in a part of the world without wi-fi.

Somewhere back in time, we plugged in the internet and it remains on. Close your eyes and sleep if you will, but not too far from you is a billion-lane highway moving megabytes around the world at the speed of light.

And the show never stops running.

 

 

 

March 22, 2016

Accelerated Social Change

Filed under: Christianity, Church — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:05 am

Later this week, I want to look at one or two particular effects on the church that have been brought about by the internet, or perhaps one specific aspect of it. But today, as a prequel, I want to go back in time about 50 years.

We all are aware that the internet greatly accelerated social change in the countries that had access to it. The way we shop, the way we interact, the manner in which we obtain information, how we handle our financial affairs, etc.; all these have been greatly affected.

Printing PressThe standard comparison is that we are living in a time very similar to what happened when the moveable type printing press was introduced. Mass publication of printed materials was suddenly an option, and even more so when the presses were attached to steam power.

There was however, a small ripple of accelerated social change that took place in the 1960s and the medium of choice was the music of the day which we now know as rock. If you visited in a record store in the early part of the decade, the standard categories were:

  • popular
  • folk
  • classical
  • spoken word
  • country
  • marching band
  • big band / jazz
  • sacred;

but by the end of the decade, well over half the record store’s real estate was taken up with rock. “Drums and guitars;” wasn’t so much a description of the sound as a constant complaint on the lips of those who didn’t like it.

Let it BeYou can’t write about this without mentioning The Beatles. They certainly exploded quickly on the scene and were an icon of the rock music age. Their songs are forever identified with the musical style that defined the ’60s

But how much of this would have happened anyway? If you listen to the bands that were around in the pre-Beatles age, you certainly see the trajectory where music was heading. The group’s name is, after all, a play on words on the emerging “beat music” which was being played in clubs in both Europe and North America.

But in the wake of The Beatles, social change happened, and it happened fast:

1966 — Men for the first time in recent history started sporting long hair. It wasn’t necessarily the hair style of previous centuries, either. There was also a radical shift in fashion taking place introducing new colors, shapes, fabrics and combinations.

1967 — Psychedelic drugs in particular and drug use in general swept colleges and high schools. “Tune in, turn on, drop out;” was a motto that recognized the link between tuning in the music (on radio, the primary source for music awareness) and turning on (with both hard drugs and soft drugs).

1968 — Rock music became a unifying factor in the opposition to the U.S. war in Vietnam. Protests spread throughout the U.S. “War! What is it good for?” is hauled out of the archives to this very day when America’s military finds itself involved overseas.

1969 — The Summer of Love. The Woodstock Festival and others like it introduced a sexual liberation such as had never been seen in the U.S. The musical Hair, launched a year earlier, summed up all the various things listed here (drugs, nudity, pacifism and of course hair itself) in a single production.

My point is that in terms of societal change, the 1960s were basically two decades for the price of one. In other words, change that might have come about over a 20-year period happened in seven years (if you track the Beatles back to 1963) instead.

beatles-cover-lifeWhy did this happen? Music!

Again, all this serves as introduction to an article coming later this week. I want to argue that the same thing has happened to the church, not because of music but because of the internet. By this I don’t mean church websites or live streaming of services, any more than The Beatles’ influence is limited to the playback conversion from vinyl to eight-track tapes. Rather, I want to make the case that a number of things happened in the same quick succession as we saw in the larger culture in the four years from 1966 to 1969.

I may not have the years so exact, but I think you’ll see that also similar to those years, the accelerated ecclesiastic change in the church brought about by the internet has come to a screeching halt.

Weigh in! If you have a comment that you would like to see form a part of the next article, feel free to email or leave it here.

 

July 12, 2010

Rock Music and Pornography: Parallels

The 1960s was a time of accelerated social change in Western Europe and North America.   No chronology of those times is complete without some reference to the role that popular music played in both reflecting and shaping those times.

As folk singers protested Vietnam and The Beatles sported longer hairstyles, the church began to establish its somewhat defensive posture; and by the end of the ’60s, the psychedelic branch of rock music combined with the message of free love to confirm all their worst fears.     Any band with guitars and drums was immediately caught in the line of fire.

The actual music form itself was no different than the modern worship that was played in the church service I attended yesterday.   The drums, bass guitar, electronic keyboards, lead guitars and rhythm guitars would later be regarded as morally neutral.

By the 1980s we began to hear a redefined meaning to the term “rock music;” it wasn’t the music itself, but the performers and their lifestyles and ideals; it was the attitude and the surrounding culture.   The music itself — the notes, the harmonies, the rests — were simply the wave which carried youth culture along; in fact it was the youth culture itself that the church had really been afraid of all along.

The eventual emergence of Christian rock wasn’t so oxymoronic.   It showed the spiritual neutrality of the musical forms, and showed that those forms could be used to carry a positive and even Biblical message.

Over two years ago, I posted a rough manuscript online of a short book titled The Pornography Effect:  Understanding for the Wives, Mothers, Daughters, Sisters and Girlfriends. Part of the reason that I’m still looking for a publisher for the print version is that some people disagree with the book’s basic assumption.

I believe that the visual images that one thinks of when they hear the term “pornography” are not the ultimate core issue.    I do believe that they are addictive, that they are exploitative and that they can be devastating to men (and women) and especially teens and pre-teens.

But like the music issue of the ’60s, I think we may be focused on the wrong target.   (The parallel ends there however; I don’t foresee those images appearing in our worship services 25 years from now the way that contemporary music styles are part of modern worship.)

Just as rock music is about lifestyles and ideals and attitudes, pornography changes the worldview of those who partake.   Again, I think that the point in my manuscript that some people can’t get past is the idea that text pornography — chats, forums, stories, blogs, etc. without pictures — is every bit as serious a threat as sites with various types of pictorial images. If not more so.

click image to orderThe Church’s response is to think in terms of pictures and videos (a concern not to be minimized) and think in terms of addiction (an issue to be taken seriously) but to neglect what exposure to porn does in terms of how men look at their wives and girlfriends, and even their sisters, daughters and mothers.   (The promotion of incest is a major agenda on many websites.)  Perhaps we’re more concerned with the physiological sexual response than the brain ‘wiring’ or brain conditioning that is at work here.   Perhaps it is easier to choose a target we can see than consider the more serious concern which is invisible.

Pornography has even changed the expectations men have as to what constitutes normal sexuality within marriage.   (And, as we’re seeing, increasingly changing the expectations of women also.)   The result is an increase in unusual requests and even demands in the bedroom.   But it also causes men to think nothing of considering an office affair; it causes boys to make advances toward their sisters; it causes heretofore straight individuals to nurture same-sex attraction.

It’s the 1960s all over again.   The “Summer of Love” of 1969 is back with its message of free sex without consequences, but aided by a new technology tailor-made to get that message to the widest audience.

It’s the escapism drug-of-choice; with each dosage customized to meet individual desires.   In online pornography nobody ever gets pregnant, no STDs are spread, no one is arrested for rape or indecent exposure, no small children are ever left without a daddy.

Hedonism is the reigning philosophy.

Jesus said He came so that we might experience life to the fullest; however the “abundant life” is also the “narrow way.”  Countering the ‘message’ of pornography isn’t about saying “don’t look” anymore than putting up a wet paint sign on a freshly whitewashed fence is going to accomplish “don’t touch.”    Pornographers, advertisers and fashion designers will continue to keep pushing the envelope.   Men’s thoughts will continue to stray.

So while we do need to tell the world that,

  • pornography is an addictive behavior;
  • as an addiction it is subject to the laws of diminishing returns; the addict is never satisfied;
  • with God’s help you can be set free;

we also need to be proclaiming,

  • the version(s) of sex depicted online does not generally represent God’s intention for sex;
  • many of the subjects in online images are being exploited or being forced to participate; it’s not true that “nobody is being hurt”;
  • the movies and stories are unbalanced; they don’t show disease, unwanted pregnancy, loss of self-respect, or ruined lives;
  • if you keep watching, the images are changing you; as you give more time to worship at the altar of porn, the pornography effect is a sacramental effect; as you receive it, you’re allowing it to shape you and define you;
  • those so exposed need to recognize, confess and confront how pornography has so changed their worldview; both in subtle and greater degrees;
  • the consequences of long term exposure to the larger society is that it places that society in a downhill spiral (what pilots call a ‘graveyard spiral’) from which there is no recovery apart from dramatic repentance followed by dramatic intervention from God (or what might be called “a turning” or “revival”)
  • because it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness; more energy needs to spent promoting models of modesty, purity and chastity; and less energy on appearing spiritual by simply “denouncing” porn;
  • in the end, pornography is not the problem; the human heart is deceitfully wicked; the core of the problem is human rebellion against God;
  • finally, we need to proclaim the omnipresence of God; men and women need to be reminded that God is constantly sitting next to us as we click the mouse, turn the scroll wheel and stare at the monitor; His Lordship has to extend to be Lord over the URLs we visit daily.

Allowing myself to be a spokesperson on this topic has had to involve some awareness of its magnitude, and I think the people who say there are 200,000 pornographic websites online are terribly low in their estimating.   I believe the person who suggests 1,000,000 might be more accurate.

This means that realistically, we’re not going to see an end to pornography any time soon.  (Although, I applaud those who faithfully file objections to blog hosts, internet service providers, and search engines; each day sites all over the world are shut down because of their counter-measures; and even some of the most liberal pornographers recognize a need for someone to be applying the brakes, though often for different reasons.)

What we can do is build resistance (not immunity) to it.   We can recognize that just as the music debate really wasn’t about the musical forms itself, the sexual ethics debate is not about this picture or that video.

It’s a battle for the mind.

It’s a battle for the heart.

Want to study more on this?  Here’s an article also posted today on the complications of leaving internet choices to filtering devices.


May 22, 2010

Pornography? Not on Apple Products

Steve Jobs has decided to swim against the current.   I want to re-post some large chunks here of an article that appeared on Monday at the blog, Grace City.

The CEO of Apple Computers has been getting a lot of negative press recently – some people don’t like the way he carefully controls the software and hardware worlds of his computer empire. The most public stir has been created over his refusal to allow apps in the apple store that use or were programmed with Flash. Jobs argues (rightly in my view) that Flash is a buggy, bloated program which slows down computers. Since Jobs is trying to create portable computers that last for 11 or so hours on battery, he wants to avoid Flash. Personally I am more than happy to never see another Flash video on my computer – I can’t stand the way Adobe make their software bloated to the point where it slows my computer down.

Another aspect of Job’s defiance of critics has been less commented on. Jobs has argued that he wants his portable computer devices to not sell or stock pornography.

When a critic emailed him to say that this infringed his freedoms, Jobs emailed back and told him to buy a different type of computer.

Steve Jobs is a fan of Bob Dylan. So one customer emailed him to ask how Dylan would feel about Jobs’ restrictions of customers’ freedoms.

The CEO of Apple replied to say that he values:

‘Freedom from programs that steal your private data. Freedom from programs that trash your battery. Freedom from porn. Yep, freedom. The times they are a changin’ and some traditional PC folks feel their world is slipping away. It is.’

The interlocutor replied:

“I don’t want ‘freedom from porn’. Porn is just fine! And I think my wife would agree.”

In the most revealing line, Steve Jobs dismissed the critic thus:

“You might care more about porn when you have kids.”

Pause for a moment and consider what the above emails represent.

The CEO of one of the wealthiest, most successful international companies, responds to the email of a customer. Business prospers on the mantra ‘The customer is always right.’ Business wants the customers’ money.

But in this case, over the moral issue of pornography, Jobs is happy to tell customers to buy a different product. He argues that children and innocence ought to be preserved – and that trumps the dollar.

Google (with their motto ‘Don’t be evil’) rake in billions through pornography. Ranks of employees spend their time categorizing and arranging advertising for pornography. (I know, I spent some time discussing the difficulties posed to a Christian who worked in their UK HQ) Pornography is huge business, yet here is the CEO of Apple telling the pornography businesses to take their dollars elsewhere.

Now Steve Jobs cannot actually stop pornography being accessed on the devices he sells – indeed you can jailbreak a device and run any pirated software on it. Neither can he necessarily set the ethical bar as high as a Christian may want it – but what he is doing is significant and commendable. He is taking responsibility for doing what he can. He is trying to not profit from pornography. Those deeds are important for the sake of his own soul. Matthew 18:7 comes to mind: “Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come!”

For the souls of other people, his public statements are valuable in that they permit consumers to identify with and commend his resistance to pornography. Our generation is saturated in pornography; a public statement from Steve Jobs resisting that, encourages others to believe that the secular-liberal-capitalist agenda is not the only show in town. Jobs’ comments are important for the manner in which they shape public cultural discourse.

Okay, so I actually copied the entire blog post.  I just couldn’t find a sentence to leave out.  I think Pete at Grace City, and Steve Jobs especially are on to something here.

Meanwhile,  the blog, Other Side of the World, notes that what is legal in the state of California becomes, by default, accessible around the world, in an article titled Die Pornography, Die!.

Freedom of expression and speech have often been used to defend some pretty vile things. On the internet obscenities are rampant, and produced as though it were legitimate business, when in fact it usually is not just illegitimate, but illegal. Many might be surprised to learn that California is the only state where it is actually legal to hire and pay people to have sex, and even there it supposedly requires a license. A new adult video is shot every 45 minutes, 24 hours a day, year round in California’s San Fernando Valley. Believe it or not, prostitution is still illegal in California. Not sure I’m clear on how porn production is not prostitution. Anyone remember the recent ACORN scandals?

Here is the strange part. On internet servers in virtually every state in the union, this illegal material exists. The peddlers will spam you, your parents, and even your children with provocative images and links in hopes of getting their hooks in, all the while the materials are actually illegal & virtually nothing is done to stop it. Even Google will boot your blog site out if you don’t update it often enough, but will thoroughly spider and reference thousands of pages that contain illegal content. Putting them right at the fingertips of any child who can type a bad word.

Recent news has been full of coverage of the new immigration law in Arizona. President Obama has called this law “irresponsible”. However, let’s just think for a minute. What did they actually do? Well… they decided to make it a crime to be an illegal resident of Arizona. What does illegal mean? How does official enforcement of the law qualify as irresponsible and lack of enforcement qualify as responsible?

That’s the problem with the internet, or any other kind of pornography. There are plenty of things in the US that are illegal, and pornography produced in any state but California would qualify as illegal, however I would submit that failing to enforce the law is the irresponsible part. Our federal government is legislating our socks off, but selectively disregarding major problems that are already matters of standing law. Recent legislation really seems much more focused on facilitating power and control instead of protecting legitimate liberty. Illegal pornography creation, consumption, and public distribution does not qualify as legitimate.

I hope and pray that this porn peddling can get under control. There are existing laws as well as precedents that make a strong case of legal question & the first amendment has faced this issue before. The current precedent at the supreme court level being the “Miller Test” that states:

  • Whether the average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest,
  • Whether the work depicts/describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct or excretory functions specifically defined by applicable state law,
  • Whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.

While there is still clearly a matter of interpretation to be discussed, the courts have consistently required strong merit on the matter of artistry. In short, they consistently find pornography to not be protected under the first amendment. Scholarly consensus also requires regional variation as “community standards” denotes. So California might be off the hook for deciding that their community standards condone such behavior, but for the rest of the United States this stuff still violates legal precedence and the spam, uncensored advertising, and other tactics these peddlers of perversion employ violates our liberty.

No, Mr. President, your definition of irresponsible is quite inverted. What Arizona’s state legislature did was took responsibility and did their duty to those they serve. You, on the other hand, seem to be serving someone else. Pouring your efforts into expanding some Federal Government empire bent on dissolving state sovereignty. Sovereignty that is guaranteed in our Constitution.

Calling all States whose citizens in general find pornography patently offensive (offensive in a clear and unambiguous manner): Please dismantle porn peddling, it is, after all, still considered by most “community standards” to appeal to prurient (Arousing or appealing to sexual desire) desires. The Supreme Court has consistently defied claims of artistic value, with very little remaining defense it is virtually the definition of obscenity. It’s production is illegal in nearly every state in the union. Please, some state, take a stand against this destroyer of families and take steps to end its production and distribution in your sovereign territories.

God, please help us.

Finally, here’s a third item for your consideration, but don’t look for a link for this one.

Playboy magazine has exhibited a rather disturbing trend this year:  First the magazine ran a cover featuring animated character Marge Simpson.   More recently the magazine ran a special issue using a pair of 3-D glass supplied with each issue.

What’s the connection?

In a world where anything pornographic is available on the internet, Playboy desperately wants to keep market share and future market share.   The latter is guaranteed by hooking younger readers.   But with an animated character cover and 3-D glasses, the magazine may actually be trying to interest very younger readers.

You won’t see that suggestion on many blogs or newspaper editorials, but there’s no denying that both recent “features” identify heavily with an audience that is too young to purchase the magazine legally in some states and provinces.

But it’s something that needs to be said.

The author of Thinking Out Loud is also the author of The Pornograph Effect: Understanding for the Wives, Daughters, Mothers, Sisters and Girlfriends.  You can presently read version 1.0 of the book online for free, just click here.   (It’s a reverse-blog; pages come up in book sequence, ‘older entries’ actually yields later chapters.)

If you got here from a internet search tag and this article (and blog) were a million miles different from what you expected, but you have continued to read this far, please know that there is another way of living.   With God’s help, you can quit — cold turkey — in a single day, and I believe you can somewhat  ‘de-toxify’ your brain in as little as a single week.   Find encouragement at XXXChurch.com

HT for Steve Jobs & Apple blog post – Tim Chester

I apologize for the length of this post, but history tells me that many readers don’t do the “continue reading” jump, or click on the links, and this issue is simply too important to not make it easy for the maximum number of blog visitors to read it all.   To the original bloggers of the two articles:  Remind me I owe you some traffic.


February 22, 2010

Unresolved Past Issues from Junior High School

Filed under: pornography — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 12:40 pm

Two years ago, when I originally submitted the manuscript of The Pornography Effect to a psychologist for professional review, she came back with the comment that I wasn’t spending enough time on what it is that motivates men to spend hours online seeking out images.   Given that the publishers I’ve spoken with feel the current length — even though we’re deliberately aiming for a short-read, crisis-book — is too short, I’ve been looking for other dimensions of the subject that might make up additional chapters, if and only if I can figure out where to fit them in within the flow of the book.    This is one of them.

Regrets

The high school Creative Writing teacher thought it would be a good idea to bring in a guest speaker from the seniors’ home who could articulate for her students some of his memories from when he was in their place in life.   She found one who was able to both visit the school and tell his stories clearly.

Mr. Watkins spoke mostly about the upper elementary grades and first year or so of high school.   He told stories of being picked on, a fight that broke out in the hallway, a girl he liked a lot but was afraid to speak to, a camping trip with another boy’s family, a school dance, swimming and fishing at the cottage…

It went on and on, but he had been chosen because he was a competent storyteller and he made some jokes, explained some cultural things he knew they wouldn’t understand, and then he ended with, “You know, I can remember all those things so clearly, but I can’t remember things from five years ago, or one year ago, or two months ago.”

Memory experts can probably tell us reasons why this is so for seniors, but even if you’re only in your twenties or thirties, there are probably experiences and images from middle school or junior high that are simply permanently “burned in” to your brain.

There’s a saying that many people don’t regret the things they did as much as they regret the things they didn’t do. In a discussion of teenage sexuality it’s probably a good thing that there are things most of us didn’t do.   There are others who bore the consequences of a more liberated lifestyle in terms of unwanted pregnancies, disease or an inability to find lasting love. (more…)

January 8, 2010

E-Mail Forwards and Theology

Filed under: internet — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:17 pm

Two unrelated things about e-mail forwards.

First, there are the ones that announce that the FCC is going to remove all religious broadcasting, referencing some petition (number 2493 actually) and urging me to sign and forward a counter-petition to as many people as exist in my computer address book.

While Snopes.com handily refutes this — 2493 having been resolved decades ago, and having nothing to do with taking James Dobson off the air — I’ve always regarded this discussion as being totally limited to my online world.  In other words, nobody in the “real world” has ever gotten even close to this subject.

But then, out of the blue, at a wedding reception last month, I was asked by someone how the removal of all the religious broadcasting from radio and television would affect interest in Christian books.    He was, I think, serious.  It was so very strange to encounter this subject without either my keyboard or monitor close at hand.   In a face-to-face conversation.

Someone had sent him the information and he had taken it at face value.   I assured him it was a hoax, something he was smart enough to accept.   (Accept at face value!    Doesn’t anybody check anything?)   Anyway, if that one reaches your in-box anytime soon, send them the link above.

My other observation on e-mail forwards concerns the ones that are sent containing philosophical platitudes combined with cute stories and breathtaking photography, and an encouragement to send it to everyone you know.

I got one of those today.   It was a PowerPoint presentation containing the aforementioned high resolution pictures which fill the whole screen.   But it also contained practical advice for living.   Frankly, I’d rather see the photograph.  I don’t need a shot of the Grand Canyon spoiled by graphics reminding me to brush my teeth after every meal.

(I don’t think any of them actually said that, but there were forty of them, and for the life of me, I did not remember a single one.    It was sincere, but it was drivel.   And it was wrecking the pictures.)

All of these are sent by Christian friends, and it occurred to me today that very, very rarely do any of them contain scripture.   Hey, I’d settle for a bad paraphrase.   It’s just empty, pop psychological advice splattered over shots of sunsets and oceans.    A Biblical quotation would be a refreshing change.

That got me wondering how much time Christian people spend mentally ingesting somewhat shallow online content that could be spent reading the Bible online.

The Bible comes with a guarantee that its words don’t just bounce off the walls.  If we believe in the inspiration (God-breathed origin) of scripture, then this is what the Bible is saying about itself in Isaiah 55:11 –

It is the same with my word.
I send it out, and it always produces fruit.
It will accomplish all I want it to,
and it will prosper everywhere I send it.   ( ~ NLT)

So will the words that come out of my mouth
not come back empty-handed.
They’ll do the work I sent them to do,
they’ll complete the assignment I gave them  (  ~ Message)

So shall My word be that goes forth out of My mouth: it shall not return to Me void [without producing any effect, useless], but it shall accomplish that which I please and purpose, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. ( ~ Amplified)

Thus it is of my word which leaves my mouth:  It does not return to me without effect;  without having carried out my will and achieving my intentions.   ( – Louis Segond, trans.)

If you really wanna ‘bless’ someone today, forward them a hand-picked Bible verse just for them. But do this quickly before all the Christian programs are taken off the air, and then they decide to remove all Bible portions from the internet.

January 6, 2010

Think Links

Once again the lynx is back, so it must be a Wednesday link list:

  • Jim Martin wrote this letter to a young girl graduating from college, but it’s great new year’s advice for anyone in their teens or twenties, from the blog, A Place for the God-Hungry, check out Dear Son/Dear Daughter
  • Scott Russ has a long piece on his blog looking back at 2009 — the whole decade actually — and forward to 2010 and what follows.   There’s some good stuff here, but if you have to choose, scroll down halfway to the “future” section of Looking Back, Looking Forward.
  • Abba Productions  of West Palm Beach, Florida is committed to doing a film version of Francine Rivers most popular book, Redeeming Love. You can navigate around their site from this page.
  • N. T. Wright explains to Trevin Wax at Kingdom People why his new book is titled After You Believe in North America, but titled Virtue Reborn in the U.K., in this blog interview.
  • Quitting Church author Julia Duin reports that the next film in the Narnia series will appear with much of its Christian sentiment somewhat compromised in the screenplay.   Read her article for The Washington Post about the picture, releasing Christmas 2010.
  • Kent Shaffer at ChurchRelevance.com analyzes the Top 100 search criteria used by kids — including kids under age seven — on the internet.   Then again, you may not want to know.    Otherwise, continue here.
  • On a not too dissimilar theme, a number of bloggers have linked to this article by Carolyn Plocher at NewsBusters concerning the “not so hidden agenda” of the American Library Association.   Their buzzterm, “Authentic Literature” masks another agenda.  She writes, “…  The ALA, for whatever reason, has taken up the cause of normalizing homosexuality and advancing the gay agenda.  Just this year alone, the ALA awarded more than forty pro-homosexual books; at least seven of those books received two or even three ALA awards.”   Check out this important article here.
  • In the search for a weekly cartoon (or two) with a Christian perspective, it’s easy to forget how many times Charles Schulz touched on church-related or Biblical subjects.  Assembled in one place, the sheer volume of his output on religious subjects probably exceeds most of our contemporary Christian cartoonists. (See below)
  • No link on this one, just a warning:  If you’re a fan of John Ortberg as I am, and you purchased his Faith and Doubt last year, do NOT purchase the new Know Doubt as it’s the same book.  (Both Zondervan.)   Why do publishers do this?
  • I don’t know anyone who puts more work into their daily devotional website than Stephen and Brooksyne Weber writing daily from Amish country in Pennsylvania.   Each day’s readings contain spectacular photography, music tracks (optional), or you can hear an audio version of the thought for each day.   The link is always in the sidebar here, or you can connect here for Daily Encouragement.

    April 21, 2009

    Overload of Social Media Causes Man’s Head To Explode

    MI-064-0295

    Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, WordPress, YouTube, Picassa… Is it more than our human brains are meant to process?    That’s the question I posed in the comments section of Anne Jackson’s blog today.

    While the header for this post is fictional — or has it already happened? — the question it raises is serious:  How much is too much?

    First, here’s a little bit of what Anne wrote:

    Let’s say all the people who follow me on Twitter and myself were in a big room at the same time.  My friend Joe is somewhere in this room talking about his wife who just had a baby. I’m across the room by the food table eating a cookies. And cupcakes.

    And in between us are 3300 other people talking.

    Now let me ask you a few questions:

    Am I going to hear my friend Joe over all the other conversations?

    Am I even going to be able to make sense of all the noise 3300 people talking at once?

    No way.

    Any of you old enough to remember to remember the Paul McCartney song “Silly Love Songs” will know there’s a part at the end where it breaks into a rather nice three-part counterpoint (probably the most complex thing he’s ever written).    It starts out with a somewhat descending melody:

    How can tell you about my loved one?

    And then they add a simple ascending melody:

    I love you

    Finally overlaying the more intricate:

    I just can’t explain the feeling’s plain to me; say can’t you see?
    Ah, she gave me more, she gave it all to me

    Around the time this came out, I was studying some much more orchestral music with a man who had a doctorate in music.   While you can argue what I’m about to say, he claimed that the human brain was only capable of processing two of the lines of the song at once.    You know there are three playing, and you can quickly compare A +  B,  B + C, or A + C; but he claimed that in any given moment in time you can’t actually be fully processing all three of them.

    (So you can talk on your cell phone and drive your car, but as soon as you add chewing gum to the mix, everything, including yourself, goes out the window.)

    I also often wondered what the incidence of Alzheimer’s Disease is going to be among those of us who currently thrive on either an encyclopedic knowledge, a preponderance towards multi-tasking, or both.  (Both, but not three things, since you wouldn’t be able to truly process three things!)

    I also wonder if God has not placed certain limits on what we’re capable of doing and we’re trying to exceed those limits — building our own, individual, personal Tower of Babel to stretching human limitation.

    Anyway, here’s what I scrawled on Anne’s blog:

    Social media is producing a generation heading for a collective insanity. Your brain was only meant to track so many things at one time. Perhaps the people Twittering are actually teetering on the brink…

    I try to keep my posts short and succinct.   There’s only so much people can take.

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