Quick Roundup 281

Monday, December 10, 2007

Martin's Getting Things Done

Martin Lindeskog seems to have become interested in adopting David Allen's personal productivity methods and points to a few pertinent sites I had not previously heard about, notably Gubb.net, which hosts GTD-type lists on the web, and Callwave, a service that converts voice mail messages to email for free -- I think. (Why am I unsure about this after several visits to their web site? They're in the business of making technology easy to use, are they not?)

I do have to say that I disagree strongly with the writer who advises that one use email as a to-do list. Not only would this blur the boundaries between your to-do list and email, it would also make it that much more difficult to eliminate email as a distraction from other tasks by checking it only a few times a day. I strongly suspect that David Allen would agree with me there.

After the last two very hectic weeks, I plan on a GTD update of my own, as much to think out loud out what I could have done better as to measure my own progress/pat myself on the back for having managed that particular time crunch as well as I did.

A Cure Worse than the Disease

I am no fan of religion in general or Scientology in particular, but the fact that the German government might ban the faith within its borders is disappointing.

Not only does this indicate a flawed grasp of the right to freedom of speech (and its importance) there, but it also betrays a lack of confidence in secular, Western ideals. I certainly don't see Scientology as a serious competitor in the free market of ideas, and know that my arguments will trump their assertions in the minds of those who count: honest, rational men.

Oh yeah, and Monica is correct when she considers a rationale for the possible ban and says, "I'm not exactly sure what is meant by 'exploiting followers for financial gain.' Most churches do that, too. That doesn't mean we should ban them."

The Golden Compass

Meanwhile, in Canada and the United States, the Catholic Church is both confessing a lack of confidence in its ability to compete in an environment of unfettered debate and demonstrating why separation of Church and state is such a good thing. Some parochial schools are removing Philip Pullman's trilogy, His Dark Materials, from their shelves and in the United States, the Catholic League is urging a boycott of the Golden Compass movies based on it.

Kiera McCaffrey, spokeswoman for the Catholic League, says the anti-Christian themes are watered down in the film, but she and others worry the movie might entice youngsters into reading Pullmans' novels.

"If parents see (the movie) they might think, 'What a great Christmas gift idea? Why don't I get little Johnny or Sally the trilogy?' But if that happens, then little Johnny or Sally will wake up Christmas morning to a candy-coated message of atheism," she said.

In early October the Catholic League sent out its pamphlet, complete with 95 footnotes, to hundreds of groups, including Protestant and Muslim organizations and Roman Catholic bishops. In response, some groups have issued warnings to parishioners or moved to ban the book from church schools. [bold added]
And look at the bedfellows this crisis has made!

But I have already spoken here about why certain Christians find a challenge to their faith so psychologically threatening -- in this case that they'll team up with Moslems against atheists. When I did, I said:
[Those who take religion seriously] scare me for the exact opposite reason I scare them. They want to physically "stamp me out"; I simply remind them of all the questioning and thinking that they have shirked for their whole lives.
And so it is with Philip Pullman.

As for the movie itself, I very thoroughly enjoyed it when Mrs Van Horn and I watched it Saturday evening. Although I have not yet read the novels, I think that Qwertz gives an even-handed assessment of it in his review (which includes spoilers):
The books are really for young adults, not children. And the filmmakers decided to make the film adaptation suitable for a younger audience. A lot of the subtleties of the novel have to be made … less subtle.


All of these changes, individually, are understandable. But together, they noticeably lessen the horror and moral outrage we are supposed to feel over the Magisterium and intercission. The movie reads like a naive, headstrong girl on a fun adventure with bears, witches, and bad guys.


All that said, there was a hell of a lot to like. For those who know what's going on, most of the important stuff is there. (Sometimes, though, it did feel like Lyra had read the book before-hand. E.g., when Lyra figures out that the Oblation Board is cutting away daemons.) They haven't really changed the message; they've just fiddled with the way in which it is presented.

It is visually scrumptious. I very much want a jet zeppelin now. There are some lovely set pieces, and the Lyra/Iorek relationship is developed very nicely. ... [bold added]
Not being familiar with the books, I could be guilty of reading more into it than there is here, but I found the idea of intercission -- of separating a child's body from his soul (daemon) -- to be an excellent metaphor for what religion does to man. Ayn Rand put this well in a dialogue between the characters Kira and Andrei in We the Living:
"Do you believe in God, Andrei?"


"Neither do I. But that's a favorite question of mine. An upside-down question, you know."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, if I asked people whether they believed in life, they'd never understand what I meant. It's a bad question. It means nothing. It can mean so much that it really means nothing. So I ask them if they believe in God. And if they say they do--then, I know they don't believe in life."


"Because, you see, God--whatever anyone chooses to call God--is his highest conception of the highest possible. And whoever places his highest conception over his own possibility thinks very little of himself and his life. It's a rare gift, you know, to feel reverence for your life and to want the best, the very greatest, the highest possible, here, now, for your very own. To imagine a heaven and then not to dream of it, but to demand it." [bold added]
This cutting-off of happiness from "this" life is achieved in large part by a life-long drumming into the skull of the notion that man is not an integrated whole of body and spirit, but a union of a corpse and a ghost.

This is an outrage, and the behavior of the Church here resembles that of the Magisterium in the movie, even in the small detail of seeking to quash rational inquiry, as one letter-writer to the Houston Chronicle put it so well:
The Catholic League apparently still pines for the days when the church could order books and apostates burned. Apparently, there are those in the Catholic League who are sorely afraid that young people might read something that could spur their imaginations beyond blind faith in "approved" publications. The Golden Compass projects no religious view at all, but because its author does not tow the line of C.S. Lewis, they want him banned. This is one reason the Constitution forbids a state establishment of religion that would have the force of arms to put down non- and alternative believers.
(I will note here that banning the book in its own schools and calling for a boycott are certainly not the same thing as calling for government censorship, and do not violate anyone's rights. However, considering the large amount of effort the Church puts into injecting religion into public policy debates (e.g., on whether a woman's right to terminate a pregnancy should be protected), this reflects a lack of secular power as much as a fear of inquiry into religion.)

This movie is about an organization that attempts to sever body from soul in young children and wants to stop people in the pursuit of the truth. How telling it can be when life imitates fiction!

-- CAV


: Minor edits.


Rob said...

I’ve never looked into CallWave, but an alternative that I have used is called ReQall. It’s a free (and easy to use) service that lets you leave voice notes for yourself, converts them into text, then emails you the audio file & text transcription.

You simply call the ReQall number and it recognizes your phone number, so you don't have to enter in account information...you just leave your message and a little while later you receive an email with the text & audio.

I haven’t used it extensively, but my initial testing proved it to be very handy.

Gus Van Horn said...

Thanks for the info, Rob!