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Happy Easter!

by CWS

April 20, 2014

I'd like to quote a very interesting article posted at the American Thinker today, which goes into a lot of detail about the historical context of Easter that I wasn't entirely aware of before now.
Bill Kassel wrote:

April 20, 2014
Why was Jesus Crucified?
By Bill Kassel

Despite its status as the holiest day on the Christian calendar, Easter has never had an impact on American life that comes close to the annual social and economic supernova of Christmas. That’s probably because of Easter’s limited potential for commercialization. Chocolate bunnies and dyed eggs can’t match the buying and gift-giving frenzy of Yuletide.

Easter just remains so stubbornly... religious. It’s also kind of demanding. Grasping the joy, or even the concept, of resurrection takes faith. What does it mean that Jesus rose again? For that matter, why did he have to die in the first place?

Now, there’s a question even believers ask. To reply that Christ died for our sins is to express a theological insight arrived at after the fact -- one which folks who have trouble making the leap to a Christian point of view find a little off-putting (“I didn’t ask him to die for my sins,” they’ll say).

But let’s go back 2,000 years. What were the conditions at the time which prompted Jesus’ execution? Or to frame the question another way: Why would anybody want to kill someone who went around preaching love and offering a lot of uplifting homilies? And healing the sick to boot!

The preeminent fact of Jewish life in first-century Palestine is that everything was religious. All questions -- whether pertaining to spiritual, family or business concerns -- were answered by the rabbis, the Doctors of the Law. They provided interpretations of the Law (the Torah) in response to questions submitted by people who faced vexing problems.

Along with its pervasive religious character, Jewish national life was highly unstable. A key factor in that volatility was the influence of gentile beliefs and cultural practices. God may have given the Promised Land to the Jews, but the Bible recounts how the colorful deities and strange sacrifices of the conquered groups (which didn’t just get up and go away) exerted a continual pull on the Chosen People, often with catastrophic results.

Perhaps the most powerful cultural challenge came from the Greeks, who had been a huge and constant presence since Alexander the Great added Jewish territory to his empire around 330 B.C. The Jews lived cheek by jowl with foreigners steeped in Hellenic culture. A good many of their own people became strongly Hellenized as well.

Greece was to the Jews what Hollywood is to us: a corrosive and relentless assault on morals and propriety. The dress of Greek women was considered immodest. Greek theater was seen as distraction and idleness. Greek sport was a scandal, athletes running, jumping, wrestling, and javelin or discus throwing naked as the day they were born.

Then there were the internal power struggles that had boiled up repeatedly ever since the Maccabees cleansed the Temple and invented Hanukah. After gaining independence from Alexander’s successors, the sons of Judas Maccabeus turned into a fractious lot. It was a civil war between two of his descendants that brought the Romans in to settle things. Once in, they never left. What was worse, they saddled the Children of Israel with the odious King Herod and his misbegotten offspring.

Romans — themselves deeply steeped in Greek culture — cared little about the beliefs and moral qualms of Jews, but they cared a whole lot about the Jews’ capital. Jerusalem was not a dusty frontier outpost, which is the impression you can get from watching Bible movies. It was a boomtown, a trading center bursting with goods from exotic lands as far away as China. The prophet Isaiah’s famous line about how the “wealth of nations will flow to her” was more than a metaphor.

The Caesars coveted that wealth, a goodly portion of which was confiscated through duties and tolls. They also lay heavy burdens on the people, using a network of contract agents, called publicans, the hated tax collectors, who collected the Roman levies along with fat commissions for themselves.

The one feature of Jewish religious life Rome focused on was the Temple, which Herod had expanded to world-wonder proportions. The amount of cash that flowed through the Temple in the form of corban (sacrificial giving), was staggering.

The Temple was also the place where Jewish religious enthusiasm could easily get out of hand. After Herod’s kingdom was divided and Rome took over direct administration of Judea, Caesar’s governors assumed the authority to appoint the Jews’ High Priest, but no matter how tightly they tried to regulate religious life, the risk of disorder and violence remained.

In the background was a simmering guerilla war by anti-Roman bands known as Zealots. Attacks on legion outposts and supply trains, along with occasional assassinations of locals in the service of Rome, kept people’s nerves on edge. By the time Jesus appeared with his growing band of followers and reputation for working miracles, Palestine was a land very near the tipping point. So it’s no mystery why this charismatic young preacher from Nazareth was viewed with suspicion by the Roman occupiers and Jewish religious leaders.

Jesus’ rather loose approach to the particulars of the Law — Sabbath observance, dietary rules, mixing with gentiles, and the rest — raised eyebrows among the Temple elite. He didn’t soften any feelings when he leveled harsh criticisms at the “scribes and Pharisees.” Rather, this alienated an intellectual circle that might have been inclined to defend him against the priests, most of whom were of the rival Sadducee party and opposed to Pharisaical teaching (especially on the subject of the afterlife, which Sadducees rejected outright).

One wonders why he was so hard on the Pharisees, since his own teaching was very close to that of the greatest Pharisee rabbi of them all, Hillel, who ran the foremost rabbinical school in Jerusalem (and for whom today Jewish student centers are named on university campuses all over the world). Jesus’ “Golden Rule” was a virtual paraphrase of Hillel’s famous dictim, “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor.”

Jesus’ inclination to act on his convictions in visible and dramatic ways also stoked opposition, because it stirred people’s passions, which raised the possibility of Roman intervention. A man as bold as Jesus -- who could amass as large and devoted a following as he did -- was bound to make the authorities wary. The incident of the adulteress about to be stoned (“Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”) illustrates how Jesus didn’t hesitate to go up against a crowd. And his attack on the moneychangers in the Temple certainly showed he didn’t shy away from righteous indignation.

So there was a distinct air of danger around Jesus that increased along with his fame. That may account for part of the hesitation which the Gospels indicate some people felt about being identified with his movement.

It wasn’t just worry that Jesus might cause trouble which put him in the crosshairs. He presented formidable challenges, both spiritual and financial. His forgiving of sins was a galvanizing issue among the opposition, and not only because he was claiming a prerogative of God. If people could get their sins forgiven by an itinerant preacher, why bother to make sacrifice? This raised the very real prospect of a threat to Temple contributions as well as to the incomes of the bankers, who exchanged pagan currency for ritually pure coinage, and the vendors of sacrificial animals. There was real money at stake here.

But the most important challenge Jesus presented was entirely -- profoundly -- religious. While he insisted that he didn’t wish to change a “jot or tittle of the Law,” to many people his preaching and behavior suggested that he was questioning the very nature of Judaism and the practices by which the Jews had maintained their identity as a people through centuries of war, oppression, exile, and now occupation by Rome. Jesus was only one of many figures who started movements, gained followers, and raised hopes that Messiah had finally come. But he was unique in his emphasis on himself as the very means of salvation (“I am the way, the truth, and the life”).

This was a significant departure from Judaism, which had always seen membership in the Jewish community, living the Jewish way of life, as the path to holiness. By what authority did Jesus set forth this proposition that everything depended upon him? And if people chose to follow the course he laid out for them, if living as Jews became less important than living by his words and his example and his promises... would they still be Jews?

Today, it’s easy to get a shallow, Sunday-school impression that the people of Jesus’ time were a bunch of thin-skinned spoilsports, confused about what was really important. But there were reasons his movement was seen as so provocative. And while it’s clear from Scripture that Jesus was railroaded by a kangaroo court and that the crowd shouting to Pontius Pilate demanding crucifixion was probably a bunch of paid agitators -- derelicts rounded up off the streets, most likely -- what happened was all quite logical, given the religious expectations of the time, along with the economic incentives and vested interests of everyone involved.

It’s also clear that the Jews, as a people, were not responsible for Jesus’ death. This had nothing to do with “narrow-mindedness” or “obstinacy,” as has been charged down through the ages and so often used to justify anti-Semitism. On the contrary, Jesus’ movement was huge; he touched thousands of hearts. If that wasn’t the case, the situation wouldn’t have seemed so menacing to the Jewish and Roman authorities.

Neither can it be said that some people just didn’t “get” what Jesus was saying -- which is a common dodge of those who wish to criticize Jewish “intransigence” without sounding judgmental. People “got” his message well enough. It’s just that some were frightened by it. In the end, it all came down to the question of whether one believed that Jesus was Messiah (or even God), the question people still debate today.

So when you listen to the passion story this year, reflect on the great and poignant drama that unfolded two millennia ago. It may help to make Jesus’ predicament more vivid, and the joy of resurrection more complete.

Then go dye some eggs, eat your chocolate bunnies, and have a happy Easter.

Bill Kassel is a writer, communications consultant, and media producer based in Michigan. His essays and random rants can be found online at http://www.billkassel.com. This article is derived from research for a novel about the family of Jesus currently being presented to publishers.

Fun with Polls IV: By Krom

by CWS

April 20, 2014

I've gotta give GameFAQs credit for that one.

Battlestar Galactica 3.0

by CWS

April 8, 2014

So...Universal is apparently now developing a third iteration of Battlestar Galactica, this one to take the form of an upcoming feature film. o_o
Eric Diaz wrote:

Battlestar Galactica is about to get its third “re-imagining” in less than thirty-five years: In an exclusive at Variety, it’s been reported that Universal is gearing up a big-screen movie version of the classic sci-fi property, and they are set to develop the film as a complete re-imagining of the story. Transcendence writer Jack Paglen has signed on to write the screenplay. Paglen is also set to write the sequel to Ridley Scott’s Prometheus for Fox, which will start production towards the end of this year. Original 1978 Battlestar series creator Glen Larson will produce the film.

Although I was a very big fan of the 2003 Moore/Eick Galactica TV series, I also felt that it ultimately failed to live up to its potential, and thought the show's third and fourth seasons were largely disappointing. Though that's really neither here nor there, I guess it's my way of saying I really have no idea what to think about this. :|

Fun with Polls III: The Psycho Way

by CWS

April 1, 2014

THE SWEET SOUNDS OF SAUSAGE STUMPS WILL FILL MY DAYS

CA Senator & gun control advocate arrested for...wait for it...

by CWS

March 31, 2014

...Weapons trafficking.

This story's a few days old, but it really deserves/demands a thread, and I'm embarrassed to have forgotten to put one up until now.

To compensate, I present you with an interpretation of this story by Korean animators. It is, truly, magnificent.

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Batman: Arkham Knight

by Loki Kola

March 22, 2014

So, uh... good trailers seem to be something of a recurring theme, here. But, this game promises to be 5 times the size of the previous largest title, with Batman using the Batmobile (and perhaps other vehicles) to traverse Gotham City. Singleplayer only. Sounds about everything I could want.

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Fun with Polls II: Walk On Home, Boy

by CWS

March 22, 2014

Choose your weapon.

(And yes, the title is a Pantera quote.)

Fun with Polls: what is a man?

by CWS

March 21, 2014

This is what, on previous forums, we used to define as "spam". Pure, unrepentant spam, for spam's own sake, because why the hell not.

You're welcome to add your own, too, of course. Go nuts, in fact. Take your best shot.

Fred Phelps: R.I....oh, who am I kidding?

by CWS

March 20, 2014

Fred Phelps, leader of the Westboro Baptist Church cult, who made a name for themselves by holding political protests at the funerals of fallen American soldiers throughout the past decade, has reportedly died.

I notice the family says they're not planning to hold a funeral. Gee, I wonder why that could possibly be.

My two cents: while showing respect for the dead is an admirable sentiment, it's one this bastard and his inbred family have never shown others. They made it their self-appointed mission to inflict further pain on countless families in their very darkest moments. That being the case, knowing that this asshole now rots in hell is perhaps the best news I have heard all year.

And the mask comes off.

by CWS

March 16, 2014

In a recent interview with WebMD, President Obama pretty much came right out and admitted that his signature "health care" law was built entirely on lies.

Compare and contrast.
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For those who haven't been paying attention since the law went into "full" effect last October, millions of Americans who previously had insurance have actually lost their existing policies as a direct result of the law's requirements, the law will indeed have devastating consequences for both employment and the overall economy, as predicted, and the President has repeatedly, unilaterally and illegally delayed the law's most oppressive provisions until after the next election cycle. He's done this nearly three dozen times so far, and counting, and Congress has barely lifted a finger in response.

The good times just keep on rollin'.

"Giant virus" revived in Siberia after 30,000 years

by CWS

March 4, 2014

Um...is it just me, or does this sound kinda ominous? o_o
L.A. Times wrote:

Giant virus revived from deep freeze in Siberian tundra
By Geoffrey Mohan
12:20 PM PST, March 3, 2014

A 30,000-year-old giant virus has been revived from the frozen Siberian tundra, sparking concern that increased mining and oil drilling in rapidly warming northern latitudes could disturb dormant microbial life that could one day prove harmful to man.

The latest find, described online Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, appears to belong to a new family of mega-viruses that infect only amoeba. But its revival in a laboratory stands as “a proof of principle that we could eventually resurrect active infectious viruses from different periods,” said the study’s lead author, microbiologist Jean-Michel Claverie of Aix-Marseille University in France.

“We know that those non-dangerous viruses are alive there, which probably is telling us that the dangerous kind that may infect humans and animals -- that we think were eradicated from the surface of Earth -- are actually still present and eventually viable, in the ground,” Claverie said.

With climate change making northern reaches more accessible, the chance of disturbing dormant human pathogens increases, the researchers concluded. Average surface temperatures in the area that contained the virus have increased more steeply than in more temperate latitudes, the researchers noted.

“People will go there; they will settle there, and they will start mining and drilling,” Claverie said. “Human activities are going to perturb layers that have been dormant for 3 million years and may contain viruses.”

Claverie’s co-author, Chantal Abergel, nonetheless cautioned that their finding is limited to one innocuous virus infecting an amoeba.“We cannot definitely say that there are some human pathogens in there,” she said.

They will reexamine the drill core samples, Abergel said, to “find out if there is anything there that is dangerous to humans and animals.”

Claverie’s laboratory was behind the discovery, in Chile, more than a decade ago, of the first giant DNA virus, dubbed Mimivirus. They next identified a far larger virus of an entirely different family in 2011, dubbing it Pandoravirus salinus, in homage to the mythical Pandora’s box that first unleashed evil on the world.

This time, they used an amoeba commonly found in soil and water as bait to draw out a virus from a Siberian permafrost core that had been dated to 30,000 years ago.

The finding described Monday looked like another Pandora, except it was 50% larger.

"Giant" in virology is still pretty tiny. A virus of one micron in size, or a thousandth of a millimeter, is considered huge. That's big enough to be seen with a normal light microscope. The human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, measures one tenth of a micron.

The genome of the newly described virus, however, contained only about a quarter of the number of paired DNA building blocks as Pandora, and the prevailing type of these base pairs was similar to the kind that dominate the Mimivirus genome.

Researchers kept with the ominous mythological theme and dubbed their find Pithovirus, from the Greek pithos, the type of amphora, or jar, that Pandora opened (it was not a box, after all).

Pithovirus still has an unusually large genome -- 600,000 base pairs, which the researchers predict would include genes that code 467 proteins. The genome of Pandora virus contains more than 2.8 million base pairs and about 2,500 coding genes. For comparison: the tiny HIV retrovirus has 9,749 base pairs and nine coding genes; the virus that causes mononucleosis has about 172,000 base pairs and about 80 genes.

The prospect of finding additional viruses that prove to be viable in a host remains uncertain. Microbiologist Brent C. Christner, of Louisiana State University, who has done similar work on frozen microbes but was not involved in the study, cautioned that DNA is easily damaged and that viruses cannot replicate or mutate without a host. “They have no source of energy,” he said. “They have to hijack the mechanisms of the host cell.”

Nonetheless, the study further challenges the notion that viruses can be fully eradicated, Christner said. The genome described in the study, he noted, encodes 125 proteins involved in transcription, DNA repair and replication.

The researchers plan to reexamine large viruses that have been mistaken for bacteria in the past -- one such specimen, found in 2008, had infected an amoeba living in a 17-year-old woman’s contact lens solution.

They also plan to look more deeply into the Siberian ice cores. "We have a sample that dates to 3 million years old,” Abergel said.

Those samples could harbor ancient forms of relatively modern human pathogens, including smallpox, which was rampant in Siberia. Fragments of a smallpox virus, for example, have been identified in Siberian mummies dating from the late 17th century.

“I would not be surprised that those viruses are still in the ground,” Claverie said.

:shock:

Ukraine Crisis

by snowman1989

March 2, 2014

Surprised no one has commented on this yet. 25 years ago everyone would be shitting bricks over something like this. :shock:

This isn't the first time Russia has invaded a post-Soviet nation, but the fact that it's over the Crimea and in a country that is bigger and better armed than tiny Georgia is cause for alarm. Also, the invasion is really Putin's worst-kept secret. I mean, just because the troops and mechanised infantry he sent in had no national markings but kept the Russian license plates? And they have state-of-the-art weapons, have surrounded and sabotaged all major Ukrainian bases and lines of communication in the Crimea and just happen to speak Russian?

Putin is an epic failure when it comes to subtlety.

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Also posting to let you guys know I haven't karked it yet. I've been a bit busy.

Fall of Kobol

by Loki Kola

March 1, 2014

The BSG mod for Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion. Trailer proceeds: object

Hereby endorsed by our very own...

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:lol:

Link here: Sins of the Fallen: includes Fall of Kobol

EDIT: Also, these video embeds aren't showing up for me for some reason.

Tales From the Borderlands

by CWS

February 19, 2014

I'm sure by now everyone is already aware of this, but it still needs a topic, dammit!

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Alien: Isolation

by CWS

January 8, 2014

Of course, I must post about this.

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The trailer's accompanying description:
Quote:

How will you survive?

Discover the true meaning of fear in Alien: Isolation, a survival horror set in an atmosphere of constant dread and mortal danger. Fifteen years after the events of Alien™, Ellen Ripley's daughter, Amanda enters a desperate battle for survival, on a mission to unravel the truth behind her mother's disappearance.

As Amanda, you will navigate through an increasingly volatile world as you find yourself confronted on all sides by a panicked, desperate population and an unpredictable, ruthless Alien.

Underpowered and underprepared, you must scavenge resources, improvise solutions and use your wits, not just to succeed in your mission, but to simply stay alive.
Aliens: Colonial Marines was a pretty bitter disappointment. But this looks potentially intriguing because the entire approach it's taking looks so different, with an emphasis on survival and suspense rather than on shooting legions of xenomorphs.

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