Elsewhere, January 1, 2011

Lil Wayne

Elsewhere: A collection of interesting links and articles that I’ve come across in the last week or so. Follow me on Twitter for more of the same.

First Things’ Christopher Walker warns against Lil Wayne and rap in general:

Rappers add to this revolt by casting off the laws of language itself. Rap lyrics very literally bastardize the English language by ignoring grammar, pronunciation, or clarity in communication. Thus, rap music promotes a “sing what I want, talk how I want, do what I want” attitude in rejection of standards for right or wrong.

In addition to the lyrics, it is worth remembering that music itself is a means of communication. Music is not a neutral medium that becomes good or bad based on the words that accompany it; music is an art form that creates impressions, communicates to an audience, and presents its listeners with an interpretation of reality.

One doesn’t need to go read dissertations on the reactions of mice in mazes in order to recognize music’s power. Think about the natural reactions of the body to a Braham’s lullaby, a Sousa march, a U2 rock song, or a Lil’ Wayne rap. Although we might be able to curb our natural reactions, the body longs to sit and relax, to march in line, to jump and clap, or to grind and mosh based on the music it hears. Lyrics often become the only litmus test of acceptable music, but music itself impacts both the mind and the body by stirring up emotions in its listeners. Rap music undermines authority as its jolting beat assaults the standards of musical form.

This is the sort of cultural analysis by Christians that drives me nuts. It’s heart may be in the right place, but it trades in generalizations and cultural elitism far too much. I’m reminded of Bob Larson’s screeds against rock n’ roll and heavy metal in the late 80s.

Julian Sanchez asks “Why ARE Restaurant Web sites so bad?”

The really strange thing to me isn’t that restaurants would make these mistakes initially. These are, after all, mostly small brick-and-mortar businesses whose Web presence is pretty peripheral to what they do. The truly baffling thing is that people have been complaining about these exact same things for years; they’re universally acknowledged to be errors by anyone with a lick of design sense. But you find them replicated even on the sites of fancypants restaurants that have obviously thrown at least a moderate amount of cash into site design recently. Is it just that nobody tells them, that the folks in charge of commissioning these things are somehow still unaware that the superficially glitzy bells and whistles are actually annoying obstacles to usability? Or is there some deeper reason they’re purposefully sticking with bad design?

Kill Screen’s J. Nicholas Geist opines on why videogames are worth thinking and writing about:

We have the same conversations about gaming over and over again. Are they too violent? How are they affecting the children? Are they art? Are they on a par with other art forms? And we come over and over again to the same impasses. They are too violent, or they are not. They are art, or they are not. They are making our children stupider, or they are making them smarter. But lost in this is what makes gaming so compelling to me: that games allow us to share the life and mind of another person in a way that no other medium can.

[...]

Part of what engages me about gaming is this kind of moment, where we’re forced to decide on where, exactly, our moral lines begin to blur. The compulsion to work through our uncertainties. But this plays out beyond questions of morality. The fact of gaming is that we’re put into someone else’s world, and asked to live there for a while.

Christianity Today profiles my Filmwell colleague Alissa Wilkinson:

Wilkinson says her worldview is rooted in Abraham Kuyper’s notion that “every square inch of this world is Christ’s, and our role is to seek the redemption of all creation.”

Tim Minear reveals what would’ve happened had Dollhouse been renewed for a third season:

What I think we came to was, by having Echo become this sort of superhero and having her become the sum of all these different imprints, of all these parts, and allow her to become this sentient being with [all of this incorporated into her], we found a way to make her a character. I think the problem in Season One was, you had this concept that sounds great when you’re pitching it, but when you sit down to write it, it’s, “Okay, so now we’re writing a show about a main character who can’t remember what happened last week.” Which I think was a little boring for the audience, because they’re so far ahead of her. So when we started allowing her to remember things, and then started taking the concept and making it into what her superpower was, it started turning into something else. I think what you would have seen in Season Three is [a series] a lot more embracing of its mythology and turned into more of a superhero show. It would have been a little bit more like BUFFY in some ways.

Via Blastr

Related: My thoughts on Dollhouse, which we recently finished.

How M-Theory can speak to God’s majesty and creativity:

According to Hawking, the multiverse eliminates the need for God. “M-Theory predicts that a great many universes were created out of nothing,” he writes in The Grand Design. “Their creation did not require the intervention of some supernatural being or god. Rather, these multiple universes arise naturally from physical law.”

But [philosopher Robin] Collins says Hawking can’t escape God that easily: If the universe arose from the laws of physics, then who designed the laws of physics? Why does the multiverse work the way it does? Trying to apply science to the question of God, Collins said, “is where scientists are way overstepping their area of competence.”

“One of the problems with those arguments is it really puts God … in a very small box,” [physicist Gerald] Cleaver says. “It portrays God as someone who can only fill in the gaps that science can’t explain. As theists, we need to perceive God as the primary source, the fundamental laws of physics as the secondary.”

To Cleaver, M-Theory’s multiverse, with its dizzying variety, unending moments of new creation, and perhaps infinite scope, makes perfect sense as the work of “a God of the infinities, who creates eternally.” If God is truly eternal, infinite, and self-consistent, Cleaver wrote in a 2006 paper, “We should expect God to create eternally and infinitely, or not at all.”

For what it’s worth, I really wish that Christianity Today’s editors had come up with a better title for the article than “Christ of the Klingons,” which is pretty darn awful.

J. R. Daniel Kirk on the goodness of simple rest:

Rest is one of those things by which God intends for us to know God’s goodness. In contrast to the Mesopotamian creation stories in which humans are made to be slaves, in Genesis 1 humans are created to rule and then, it would seem, imitating God in the weekly action of rest.

Chris Clark compares and contrasts trusty old e-mail and Facebook’s messaging:

Email has grown gnarly in the decades past, as we’ve started receiving dozens or hundreds of spam and bacn messages a day. I have multiple server side rules and filters just to keep it in check, and an inbox policy of flagging anything I care about before running a slightly-modified version of John Gruber’s Inbox Sweeper to keep things tidy.

Reply-all gaffes, top-posting etiquette, plaintext versus HTML, attachment limits, inbox limits… everybody hits them. By comparison the simplicity and clarity of Facebook mail is impressive. A Facebook message requires (privacy controls pending) a symmetrically-acknowledged relationship between parties, and on top of that spam-murdering convenience it’s self-threading, low friction, and lightweight.

In a nutshell, Facebook is better than email unless you’re some kind of email expert. And for email’s successor to support all the expert features of email, none of its myriad problems would be solved.

Via Daring Fireball

The State of Web Design Trends: 2011 Annual Edition:

2010 has been an incredibly verdant year for web designers. Mobile has hit the mainstream; Web typography has reached new levels of sophistication; New coding techniques have vastly improved our ability to get creative with design (without compromising stability). All in all, it’s been a year that’s moved fast, even by the standards of the web, so let’s dig in to our first annual post covering the state of web design as 2010 turns to 2011.

Mobile sites, the rise of true web typography, CSS3, and the death of the fold… to name a few of the trends covered.