July 13, 2009


So I have successfully and completely finished my Master’s degree. Hurrah! Now what?

Job-hunting, that’s what. It’s pretty much a full-time job, along with trying to reorganize my life after the craziness of finishing grad school. If you, or anyone you know, knows of a job that might be a good fit for me, feel free to peruse my résumé and send me an email.

I’m primarily looking for software development jobs, but I’m open to a lot of options. My degrees are in mechanical engineering (particularly robotics while I was at Cornell), and I also open to considering positions in teaching or Christian ministry.

Perhaps I’ll get around to a proper blog post one of these days, too!

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August 24, 2006

Total Depravity and the Crux of Our Democracy

I’ve wondered for quite a while what our society would look like if we could no longer make the implicit assumption that most folks would generally obey the law. “Innocent until proven guilty” is a rallying-cry of American (and most Western) democracies—but is by no means a universally-held human right. (A novel I recently read, Solzhenitsyn’s The First Circle, shows quite clearly how Stalin’s Russia assumed everyone was guilty, and used it to his advantage.) So far, our culture has done surprisingly well with this assumption. Total depravity has not done us in legally, although one could easily make the argument that our culture has long ago been done in morally and spiritually. But will it last?

A somewhat disturbing article about defeating standard locks make me think about this again today. Security—from front doors to airports—has never been about stopping every evil-doer. Rather, it’s been about stopping as many as possible: the low-hanging fruit, the uncommitted, the simple and careless ones. But is that needing to change? And what will truly prevent our society from entering Russia’s free-fall in the process?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. And, please, don’t go burgle.

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March 08, 2006

If You Ever Wondered…

…if Chuck Norris really exists, I found the proof to end all proofs.

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December 23, 2005

Our Culture and a Wardrobe

Well, I saw the Narnia movie for the second time tonight. And, since I’ve been wanting to share my thoughts since the first time I saw it—on opening night—I thought tonight would be a great place to share.

First, in order to direct you to some links that I found interesting and that were somewhat representative of my thoughts, I’ll point you to Ocular Fusion.

The first time I saw the film, I was entranced. I was in Narnia. I came to the movie with the mindset of a child—and I was drawn into the wardrobe hook, line, and sinker. I loved it! I was transported into my imagination, dreaming of a land beyond the wardrobe, and my imagination and love for the stories bringing me into Narnia in almost as real a way as my imagination and the books themselves. I think it was the first time a movie had actually inspired my imagination to see beyond the movie screen.

I was also pleasantly surprised with the children. They didn’t look like Hollywood stars. (I could actually imagine meeting them in the house next door!) And Lucy thrilled my imagination with her sense of awe and wonder and child-like innocence through the movie.

Thankfully, the Lord of the Rings movies had prepared me to know that there would be a distinctly “modern” feel to the movies (Mr. Tumnus, for instance, would never have smiled like he did in a movie made, say, 50 years ago. It made sense to us—but I suspect that it would have been seen as a slightly unfriendly smirk in the not-to-distant past.), so I was not unfortunately surprised when I saw them. In fact, I was surprised about how appropriately I felt much of the modern-ness was done. It actually seemed to almost add to the movie, rather than take away from it, as I’d felt in the Lord of the Rings.

After seeing it again tonight, however, I’ve realized a few more things and solidified some conclusions from the first viewing. (Too be fair, I really need to sit down and read the books again—I’m making comparisons only from my memories of the books, which tend to be rather fallible.)

I think my ultimate conclusion is that the movie is really a reflection of the people who made it. They took Lewis’s story and re-told it as accurately as they knew how, trying hard to not leave out important details. I’m sad, however, because I think this re-telling ended up missing a lot of the depth and impact of Lewis’s original. I’m not faulting the director, for I’m quite sure that he did the best job he possibly could. However, I suspect that he is both not a Christian and (like many of us) rather a product of our culture.

There were many, many parts of the book that I really missed in the movie. Two came to mind tonight: Father Christmas telling Lucy, “Wars are ugly affairs—particularly if women are fighting.” and Aslan telling her, after she had just finished administering her healing ointment to Edmund, “How many more must die because of his treachery?” (I know I’m not quoting exactly—I don’t have the books nearby.) I highly suspect that audiences would not have understood these elements properly if they were in the movie.

Obviously, to say that a war is particularly ugly if women are forced to fight is certainly a product of our politically correct culture. This, perhaps, was an understandable omission. To completely omit, however, Aslan admonishing Lucy in her love for her brother is a telling sign of the state of our culture. Love (taking all the time in the world on her brother, Edmund) over duty (bringing healing to all the others hurt in battle), intricsic good (Lucy coming up with the idea herself) rather than holy correction (Aslan admonishing her), I’m-a-good-person rather than I’m-do-wrong-too. Yes, I might be coming down a bit hard—I certainly think it is right to take care of one’s own family—at least to look after their needs—before taking care of others, though Christians can never forget to do either. I think, however, that the filmmakers likely didn’t even understand the change in worldview that this slight difference in storyline represents.

Not only change in worldview, but change in depth. Lewis’s books are well worth reading time and time and time again. One plumbs new depths in the storyline each time one reads them. The movie, however, seems to shed a lot of that meat—sometimes, it seems, in favor of pretty graphics.

Some, I’ve heard, have expressed concern at the cartoony-ness of some of the animals. Personally, I agree—but I think it is rather a moot point. It’s an artifact from having computer-generated characters. Our skills at computer-generation simply don’t seem to be able to create consistently realistic movements of characters without making them look like video games. Rather than a criticism of Narnia, I think it is a criticism of most of the computer effects I’ve seen. It was especially noticable to me in the first Lord of the Rings movie, for instance, when the fellowship was in the mines of Moria. The large creature swinging his club around somehow seemed much more like a video game than a real creature. Perhaps it is just because I’ve never seen anything its size in real life…

Despite my concerns with the lack of depth in the movie, however, I have a serious question. I’d noticed it the first time I was the movie, too. At the time, I decided that it was a good and necessary thing, to some degree. It was an attempt to translate the movie into terms that our culture understands. To some degree, I still think that is the case. I don’t begrudge the filmmakers for trying to change the story for that reason, especially since I think much of the stated purpose of the movie is to get kids to read the books. Fair enough. Unfortunately, I also think that it could have been better. It would have taken a storyteller on par with Lewis himself, and I think very few would really be up to that task.

I was also really surprised with some things that the movie never did, that I was very surprised at. Given that the movie started with a bombing raid of London, and the kids missing their father so much, it would have been one of the most obvious things in the world to explain all of Narnia away as dreams induced by their trauma. The movie doesn’t do that—it doesn’t treat them as children simply dreaming up imaginary worlds because they miss their father. I’m thankful for that.

It also never fell prey to many movies habits of making fun at everything—even the truly beautiful. Mr. Tumnus could have been an easy target to make fun of—with his penchant for inviting over little girls—but he is always held in high esteem. The relationships between siblings could have been marginalized—but they were shown, all of them, having fun with each other and affection for each other. Even the marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Beaver. Yes, they were often good for a laugh. But it wasn’t ever at the expense of their marriage or their worth as “people.” What was good and right and beautiful was upheld as such—and that is a quality missing in most of today’s entertainment.

Well, that about covers it. I’m glad for the movie. I’m so glad for how good it is. I’m sad, because I think it could have also that much better, a classic to own for all time. Nonetheless, it is an excellent movie, and one well worth watching.

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