The Academy Awards

I would really like to see The Artist more than ever. It won best picture at last night’s academy awards (I was pulling for Hugo). Holly Ordway wrote a reflection on The Artist which has me yearning to see it. She argues it has a number of Christian themes in it, and I would be highly interested to judge for myself. Readers, don’t spoil anything, but let me know what you think of it if you’ve seen it!

Personally, I thought Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 got robbed by not winning a single award. I was hoping that they’d acknowledge it at least because of the huge achievement of having 8 movies follow a storyline like that. I don’t see how it isn’t a part of film history, and I think it deserved to have been nominated for more awards and to have won at least a few.

Once more, I found out about many movies I had no idea existed. I’d never heard of The Descendants and it got nominated for a bunch. Shows how much of a film buff I am.

Anyway, I’d like to know anyone else’s thoughts on the Awards. Who should have won? Who got robbed? Tell me what you’re thinking.

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Finished the Hunger Games

Everyone’s been talking about it. The Hunger Games. My wife and a friend read them all about a month ago and once I finished the latest sci-fi book I had been working on I picked up the first one. I couldn’t put it down and spent a day and a half finishing them all (with some time in-between for homework). I can’t wait for the movie.

Now I’ve reflected with spoilers in another post (see my “Christian Reflection on the Hunger Games Trilogy“), but for now I want to have a brief spoiler-free discussion. I want to provide a quick bit of overview for readers interested in the books or wondering about getting them for their children.

I think the books are fantastic. They’re well-written and engaging. Readers will be instantly sucked in to the plot and won’t be able to stop until they’ve gone through them all. I do recommend them. Are they the next Harry Potter? In some ways, yes. The books are just as easy to get sucked in to, just as memorable, and have a long term impact. But in some ways, no. First, they’ve all been written, so [speaking for myself and, I suspect, many others] it’s not going to be year after year waiting for each one to come out, anticipating them as they come. They aren’t as long as the Harry Potter books, either, and can be finished even more quickly.

What Suzanne Collins does well, however, is spin a suspenseful tale. The books are written in first person, from the perspective of Katniss Everdeen. The Hunger Games is an annual tournament in which the Capitol collects 2 children from the 12 districts of Panem (the mini-country that has risen from the dust of several wars) and makes them battle to the death. Why? Because about 74 years ago, the districts revolted against the Capitol. The Capitol won and the Hunger Games serve as an annual reminder of the Capitol’s might.  Katniss is, herself, very likable. One can’t help but relate to her as the story continues. The plot of the trilogy follows this story to an epic conclusion, and all I can say is that it is definitely worth readers’ time to pick them up. I have a few concerns, but I don’t want to spoil anything. I’ll link to my spoileriffic reflections when they go live.

I would caution readers who are thinking about getting the books for their kids. They are very, very violent. Children are killed. And it’s never explicit, but some sexual exploitation is acknowledged. These are not books to go and get for your 7-year-old. I do think they might become a new mainstay for high school reading. They are books that will encourage people to read, just as Harry Potter did. And regardless of one’s perspective, I think that getting people reading is always a good thing.

Those are my initial thoughts on the series. Check out my expanded and spoiler-filled reflection here.

Paleontology: Looking for a good dino book

When I was little, I loved dinosaurs.

 

I love dinosaurs.

I want to learn more about them, but I can’t seem to find any books for people like me. There are books for kids, and even for teenagers interested in the topic, but then it jumps straight into graduate level books that talk about way more than I care about.

Basically, what I want is a book that teaches me about dinosaurs–their types, behavior, evolution, finds, etc.–with pretty pictures to look at without having to read through mounds of anatomical details, etc.

As a bonus, it would be great if it discussed paleontology in at least a little detail.

I found two contenders, but they seem to demonstrate my problem.

Dinosaurs: The Most Complete, Up To Date Encyclopedia….  -This one looks like I could easily read it, but it doesn’t look like it goes quite as in-depth as I’d like.

The Dinosauria: Second Edition– This one has an awesome name, but looks a little heavy for what I’d like. The fact that some reviews basically say it’s a graduate level dinosaur anatomy textbook makes it even more scary.

So if any readers could help me out by recommending to me a dinosaur book, I’d be extremely pleased.

The Battle of Midway- A Case Study for Historiographical Concerns

One area of historical research I’ve pursued as a side interest for my entire reading career has been World War 2. When I say “my entire reading career” I mean that literally. The first book I remember reading was a book about battleships. I’d read the captions over and over. Later, I picked up a book on the Bismarck, and my mom can attest to the fact that I read it over and over. I think the Library just let me check it out again and again.

Anyway, I did trail off reading about WW2 through college, but recently I’ve started again. I picked up the aptly named The Battle of Midway by Craig Symonds. Now it is interesting to consider the divergence in historical accounts of this famous battle. Symonds notes that there was a widespread “supposition that the American victory at Midway was the product of fate, or chance, or luck, or even divine will” (4). In contrast, Symonds argues that while chance played a role, “the outcome of the battle was primarily the result of decisions made and actions taken by individuals who found themselves at the nexus of history at a decisive moment. In short, the Battle of Midway is best explained and understood by focusing on the people involved” (5).

These two ‘schools’ of thought in a sense represent broadly two competing strands within historical research. One group focuses upon the events, while the other group focuses upon the people who make history move. This is, of course, a great oversimplification of historiography, but it is one that I’ve run into time and again. I tend to think the approach Symonds endorses is more realistic. Events like the Battle of Midway don’t just happen; rather, they are the results of a long string of decisions and movements that have brought one to such a turning point in history.

I want to briefly highlight a couple areas from the Battle of Midway as a case study for this historiographic approach. First, “Operation K” was intended by the Japanese to provide information about whether or not Midway was as open for invasion as they thought. The Japanese intended to send a flight of scout planes via submarine to check on Midway. But when the submarines arrived at the point at which they were to refuel the plains, there were a few U.S. warships stationed in the lagoon. Now an event-focused approach to history might explain this as mere luck, or tie it to the fact that the Japanese had done a similar mission earlier which had alerted the U.S. to the necessity of defending this lagoon. But an action-focused approach would tie it not just to the events but also to the decisions of the commanders. Japanese Admiral Nagumo, upon the failure of Operation K, simply went on with the assumption that the United States was not anticipating a strike at Midway. A more prudent decision may have been to send submarines to scout Midway itself, or to simply call off the attack for the moment.

Similarly, the fact that the American dive bombers found the Japanese aircraft carriers at the exact moment they needed to in order to strike hardest may be attributed to luck on an event-based historiography. But it is clear that while perhaps some luck was involved, the decisions of Nimitz and others opened up the possibility for this fortuitous event. For they had decided to send in the U.S. planes without waiting for them to form up. That meant that the dive bombers, fighters, and torpedo planes often arrived at the target at different times instead of together. But this, in turn, meant that the Japanese CAP (Combat Air Patrol) was off shooting down U.S. torpedo planes when the dive bombers arrived. Had Nimitz et al. decided to wait for their flights to form up, they would have met with a more unified defense from the CAP.

Now I’m open to correction on these points of course, I’m no expert on naval history, but what I hope this post has done is to demonstrate that a historiography that takes into account the actions of people rather than merely the occurrence of events has better explanatory value. Does this preclude the involvement of luck or even divine intervention in history? Certainly not. What it does, however, is provide a more thorough account of those things which historians can more easily investigate: the decisions and actions of people  during the largest moments of their lives.

Source

Craig Symonds, The Battle of Midway (New York, NY: Oxford, 2011).

 

Science Fiction- One of my loves.

Science fiction is, in my opinion, the most malleable genre for writers to play with. One can hypothesize about the science of the future, or make up magic; one can explore the stars, or have the stars come to destroy you; one can contemplate the human condition, or ignore it and charge forward to meet one’s destiny. It is beautiful and frightening all at once.

This was a long time ago... I look much different 😉

I love science fiction. I don’t often read anything but philosophy, but when I do, sci-fi is my genre of choice. (Okay, so I’m not exactly the most interesting man in the world.) I have read almost every Star Wars novel which is post-movie canon. I love Orson Scott Card anything. He is a simple genius with words and worlds. I know he’d cringe to be grouped with Star Wars because I met the man once, and he is one awesome guy [proof in the picture!]. David Weber is also growing on me of late, I find his military sci-fi fascinating. Ben Bova is also captivating. His speculation about the future of our technology and expansion across the solar system is gripping. I recommend his works highly. I remember still the day that I picked up Moonwar and couldn’t stop reading it.

I’ve been writing my own science fiction novel, playing with the malleability I’ve already noted. One can speculate not just about future technology, but also about future theology. Writing sci-fi, one can speculate on the “What if?” questions that we so often ignore. Thus, in a way, it seems to me that science fiction just is philosophy. Authors frequently contemplate the big questions, and their stories and characters are their answer to these questions. This, I think, is what makes science fiction so great. It’s not just storytelling; it’s future-making. Science fiction strives to point humans in the direction the author thinks is best. The genre is worldview-laden. Authors cannot write without a worldview, and the fact that science fiction tells the future means that authors frequently inject their worldview into the story. Their vision for the future is the ideal society; the author’s fears are reflected in a dystopia.

For all these reasons, I say that science fiction is one of my loves. Perhaps one day I’ll finish the book I’ve been working on for years (at one point it was over 80 pages–I’ve since edited it down to 30) and then I’ll be able to offer my own vision of the future. Until then, I’ll enjoy the masterworks others have created.

Do you love sci-fi as well? If so, who do you read? Why?

What _is_ this place?

Hello to anyone reading this. I’m J.W. Wartick and I’m already a fairly regular blogger over at my main site, Always Have a Reason. That site is itself about philosophy of religion as well as Christian apologetics, theology, and science. But I have way more interests than I could contain on just that blog.

I have a fascination for history, science, and the arts. I love reading sci-fi, fantasy, and history. Paleontology and archaeology fascinate me. I love playing role-playing games and driving franchises in Madden.

In short, I need an outlet for all these things–a place for me to just reflect on my interests that don’t seem to fall under the umbrella of my main site. There is too much going on in this head to keep it all in.

You, the reader, may find this diverting. I know how interesting it can be to explore the random thoughts of people. Hopefully this site will lead you to some new interests, or perhaps you’ll comment and help lead me off to learn about things about which I know little or nothing.

You, the reader, are therefore asked by me, the author, to leave your own reflections on the topics I present here. Or, if you desire, you can just post about other random interests of your own. When I put up a post on the Battle of Midway, you can respond by talking about Gettysburg. That is fine! Please do so!

Finally, readers are entitled to a bit of background about myself if we’re going to have engaging discussions. I’m a Christian theist who loves a good debate. I’m getting an M.A. in Christian Apologetics. Philosophy of religion is my primary interest, but as you read on here you’ll find I have interests all over the place. I’m a devoted Christian who believes that the evidence for Christian theism is quite strong (if you want to read on that, you should check out my main site). You’ll note, then, that theism–indeed, Christian theism–permeates my posts, even when I’m talking about things unrelated to it. I’ll not apologize for that. We all let our worldviews into every aspect of our lives. I hope as you read here you’ll find some questions to ask and, maybe even some answers.