Thursday, January 20, 2011

Criticizing what he doesn't understand

Most sensible people will at least do a little research into a topic before they offer their opinion on it in writing. Mormon blogger William Monahan however is not burdened by the need for pesky things like facts and accurate information and instead chooses to dive in head first, armed only with vague notions and shoddy straw-man images of what he's attacking. The result reads more like a parody of conservative Mormonism than anything else. Let's take a look at Mr. Monahan's mental meanderings for a good laugh.

Please note, the use of text from his writing constitutes fair use under US law.

A world crazy for magic and divination will ultimately reject the majesty of the divine.

Tell that to devotees of Catholic Mystics.
While loveable vampires, werewolves and the Harry Potter craze may be titillating broomstick fiction, their supernatural romps are anything but super.

There is a reason for the exploding popularity of 1-800-PSYCHICS and the invasion of ghouls, magic and wizards. Predictably, the natural man substitutes the mystical for his Maker, growing fat on his own self-pleasing conceit. Thus conceited, he is free to cannibalize fantasy for faith.

The main problem with this bold assertion is that is presumes that people who are turning to Twilight and Harry Potter for entertainment are necessarily turning away from God in the process. Unless Monahan offers some actual evidence that this is the case, he might as well be attacking NASCAR or random prime time television programs for luring people away from God. The mere fact that a particular form of entertainment does not explicitly glorify God does not mean it is drawing you away from God.

Dungeons and Dragons

Some years ago I set apart a young man for full-time missionary service. Within two days of his arrival at the Missionary Training Center, he had to be sent home. He was suffering withdrawal symptoms from an addiction to "Dungeons and Dragons," a popular video game. Because he was engrossed in levels of magic, he was unable to level his focus on the magic of his mission.

I call bullshit on this claim. For starters calling Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) a video game makes it clear Monahan doesn't even know what D&D is. I'll give Monahan the benefit of the doubt and assume he's talking about a computer game that's either based upon D&D or is at least somewhat wizard and orc related, as opposed to something sci-fi related. Second, what kind of "withdrawal" is he talking about?

The "levels of magic" line is an early clue to just how poorly Monahan understands what he's attacking. It's the first indication that he doesn't understand the difference between fantasy and reality. He does not appear to realize that people who play Dungeons and Dragons aren't actually learning magic spells. They aren't actually summoning demons and the books about the game do not give directions on how to do either. This fundamental misunderstanding will be reinforced in the rest of his essay.

Sadly, some fans of the dark arts get sucked into the occult. They confuse mysticism with miracle, and spiritualism with spirituality. Perhaps their days would be better spent searching the scriptures than groping cobwebbed halls and creaky staircases.

Ahh, here we see the problem. Monahan is one of this ignorant idiots who, knowing nothing about role playing games other than what his pastor told him, is convinced that playing D&D means you learn actual magic spells. He's equating computer games with trying to learn magic. This is a bit like claiming all churches crucify a parishioner at Good Friday services, or that the NBA beheads the coach of the losing team, just like the Aztec game that inspired Basketball.

The next section of his ramblings, "The evolution of horror and the occult" is nothing more than a list of a few horror movies. Aside from a few template claims like "Taro readings were common and Ouija boards dotted the teenage party scene" there isn't much of interest there.

When the seedy creeps from the shadows

What was once reserved for drunken sailors and seedy dives is now mainstream
Wait, is he about to diverge from attacking D&D to claim public intoxication and syphilis riddled whores are now mainstream?

Sadly, no, but such a claim would make more sense than the rest of his essay.
Like all things seedy, vampires and wizards operate best from the shadows. They are repelled by the sunlight. Perhaps that is why millions of fans line up at the box office at midnight. Enough of vampires.

Does this guy think vampires are real? He seems to think D&D players are learning real magic. Does he think vampires are real too?

Where are the dentists? It's common sense: no pointy eyeteeth, no blood sucking forays into innocent necks.

That was random. I'm sure it made sense in his wee little head. Seriously, what point is he trying to make with that line?

And wizards? I'd rather fight evil with the character of Christ than a novelist's flawed characters.

Of course a novelist's characters are flawed. Perfect characters who never make mistakes are BORING to read about. Monahan seems to have real trouble separating entertainment from reality. D&D players are not ACTUALLY trying to fight demons. "Lord of the Rings" fans are not ACTUALLY trying to smuggle gold rings into volcanoes with the aid of wizards who have a tendency to die and come back with cooler clothing.
Pop culture is on the move

Pop culture is always on the move, but the motion sickness can make even the elect of God queasy. Just because something gyrates for attention doesn't mean we should pay attention.

Clearly, Monahan is not a Lady GaGa fan.

All kidding aside, this is more an issue of a youth oriented culture than anything demonic or occult. The youth oriented culture tends to annoy most people over the age of 35, but trying to cast that cultural flaw as an epic battle between good and evil is misleading. It's also idiotic and will do nothing to resolve the problem.

The net result of a world thirsting to mainstream the seedy is an unquenchable thirst for more, thus parching the seeds of faith.

Here we see that Monahan is apparently ignorant of Biblical text. After Jonah was vomited up by the sea creature that swallowed him, he went on to, against his will, minster to what was allegedly one of the most evil cities around. You know what they did? They repented. If Monahan was any kind of an evangelist he'd see a culture awash in pleasures of the flesh as a fertile ground. If worldly pleasures really are as spiritually empty as Monahan is likely to have been taught, then the current culture is one ripe for God's word. In a world of drowning people, Monahan is complaining that people need life preservers while sitting on a stack of them.

This guy appears to be more interested in complaining about there being un-Mormon entertainment in the world than doing anything to try and save souls. I have a quick tip for Monahan, spewing a bunch of nonsense that misrepresents the people you're trying to save is NOT going to win anyone over, it just makes you look like an ignorant, hypocritical ass.

The prophets warn

For centuries the prophets have warned us against magic, divination and the occult. "There shall not be found among you any that ... useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch ... or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord. ..." (Duet.18:10-12)

If Dungeons and Dragons players or horror movie fans were actually trying to cast spells or summon demons that verse might have been relevant. All Monahan has managed to do here is alienate anyone who actually HAS played Dungeons and Dragons. They know from personal experience that Monahan's essay is nonsense.

The sad byproduct of a world entranced by magic, vampires and ghosts is the more we assault the senses, the less sensitive we become to holy sensations.

Fans of the genre cannot escape God's warnings by claiming vicarious thrills in fiction.

They can however dismiss Monahan, as he does not appear to understand the difference between reading a fiction book about witches and deciding to gut a cat and try to read it's entrails to see who will win the next Superbowl. Watching "The Witches of Eastwick" is not the start of a slippery slope that will lead to you getting knocked up by a demon. Most people can tell the difference between entertainment and reality. Those who cannot have mental disorders that need to be treated.

Warning to parents

Parents who wink at mystical fantasy as "innocent fun" may be closing a blind eye to the not so innocent. There is something irresistible to our youth about escaping reality, and when they do, fantasy can become their unintended jailer.

Citation needed. I want to see the psychology research that shows playing Dungeons and Dragons leads to people rejecting the religion with which they were raised. I want some actual data and not the ramblings of a man who can't be bothered to differentiate between watching a horror movie and summoning a demon.

By guiding our children’s interests to an abiding interest in the divine, they avoid the shadows where bad things happen.

Ahh, the "Bury their head in the sand" guide to parenting. Instead of raising kids who can deal with the real world, they raise kids who are often shattered when they venture beyond the safe borders of the social playpen their parents construct.

I'm sorry, but I want my son to be able to deal with the real world, not hide from it.

Mysticism is not miracle, and howling for the undead is not a prayer for life eternal.
Again, we see that Monahan can't tell the difference between entertainment and active participation in the occult. His inability to differentiate between fantasy and reality is troubling.

While we can't protect our youth from every devious thing the world offers, we can offer the armor of God in the safety of a gospel-centered home.

Here we are near the end of Monahan's drivel an he has yet to actually give people a reason to see D&D as a threat, other than his inability to separate fantasy from reality.

The power of prayer, the sacrifice of service, the iron will of the iron rod: These are things that produce faith leading to Jesus.

These things are not magic, but their transforming effect is truly magical

I know plenty of Christian and Jewish people who play Dungeons and Dragons. It has not hurt their faith that I can see. Of course, unlike Monahan, they're capable of separating reality from fantasy.
William Monahan is a 1980 graduate of BYU Law School. He practices law in Gilbert, Ariz. A former Phoenix stake president, he serves on the high council for the Queen Creek Chandler Heights Stake.

That's right, this drivel was brought to us by a graduate of the The Brigham Young University Law School. It looks like Monahan has lived in a Mormon cocoon for his entire life. You'd think a lawyer would want to actually learn something about what he's attacking before he attacks it. I hope whatever Monahan does with his law degree involves more competent research than his babbling about religion.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Quinoa Spaghetti with Chicken and Yam Sauce

It was 9:00 at night. I had just finished removing the labels from some empty wine bottles so I could reuse them to bottle my home made prickly pear mead. I was standing by the stove. A back burner was rendering the fat from two pounds of bacon so I could use it to make soap this weekend. A front burner was simmering ketchup on the stove. I was lamenting the fact I'd accidentally turned the ketchup into BBQ sauce by adding too much molasses. I was trying to work out a way to de-BBQ the sauce when it occurred to me I haven't been blogging much about my kitchen adventures.

I think I'll start with what I made for dinner tonight. Sadly I have no pictures handy, having neglected to take some at dinner. Perhaps I'll take one if I have the leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

Dinner consisted of quinoa spaghetti with chicken and yam sauce.

Serves 3 to 4.

Total cook time: 20 to 30 minutes.

1 package quinoa or other spaghetti
1 chicken breast
1 green bell pepper
1 medium onion
1.5 cups frozen yam, yellow squash, butternut squash or cauliflower puree
2 tsp chicken seasoning of your choice
1/4 tsp salt if the seasoning contains none

  1. Slice the chicken breast into slightly smaller than bight sized pieces. Sprinkle the pieces with salt and the seasoning. Set aside.
  2. Heat the water for cooking the spaghetti. The goal is to have the spaghetti finish around the time the sauce is ready.
  3. Dice the onion.
  4. Core the bell pepper and slice it into bite sized pieces.
  5. Put the diced onion in a 12 inch skillet with 2 tsp olive or vegetable oil. Cook on medium-high heat until it starts to turn golden.
  6. Add the chicken. Cook until the largest chicken pieces show no pink when sliced.
  7. Add the bell pepper. Cook until it begins to soften, about 3 to 4 minutes.
  8. Add the spaghetti to the pot and the frozen puree to the skillet. The spaghetti should take about 8 to 10 minutes to cook, which should be just enough time for the frozen puree to melt and heat.
  9. Stir the sauce periodically.
  10. When the pasta is cooked, drain and mix with the sauce. Serve hot, with a few grates of pepper and some grated hard cheese.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Mother Forces Her 5-Year-Old Daughter to Wax Her Eyebrows

For the woman in this video, the child is not her flesh and blood, a human being she's raising in the hopes of producing a healthy, well-adjusted adult but merely a tool for vicariously re-living her own glory days. The child is a means for aggrandizing the mother, raw meat to feed her ego. The child is reacting badly to having her eyebrows waxed is not a cause for compassion or maternal concern, but annoyance at a tool not responding in a convenient matter.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Some idiot has decided to castrate Huck Finn

Disclaimer: I am a big Mark Twain fan.

Some idiot has decided to castrate Huck Finn.

This is not the first time someone has tried to censor Huck Finn and it won't be the last.

Mark Twain wrote the book AFTER slavery had ended. One of the things it did was capture a time and place for future generations so we could SEE how ugly and vile racism could be. Censoring it whitewashes the past, making the evils and oppression committed against slaves seem less vile than they really were.

Huck Finn is one of the most banned books in history. It was banned in many Southern states when it first came out, not because it dropped the N-Bomb about as often as people actually used it, but because it offended white sensibilities by portraying Jim as a better human being and father than Huck's own Pappy. At one point Huck has an internal debate about the morality of helping a slave escape. He was taught by the preacher that what he was doing constituted stealing and he'd go to Hell for it. In the end Huck puts his loyalty to Jim ahead of his own soul and decides that if he has to go to Hell for helping Jim, then he'll go to Hell.

Back in the 1990's "The Oxford Mark Twain" was published, a multi-volume collection of the Twain books that were published in his lifetime. They contained introductions and afterwords by famous authors and scholars. I highly recommend going to your local library and checking out Toni Morrison's introduction to Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

The butcher "modernizing" (Castrating) Huck Finn is described in some sources as a "Mark Twain scholar." I can't see how a serious student of Mark Twain's work could seriously consider gutting Huck Finn to be a good thing. This isn't a case of removing some of the anti-Indian racism in "Roughing It" because it's embarrassing, this is vivisecting a vital component of Huck Finn for the sake of an abstract ivory tower fantasy of political correctness.

I foresee two groups being fans of this neutered Hick Finn.

1. Hand-writing, OCD academics and activists who are more concerned with word counting than the actual content of the piece.

2. Racists and white supremacists who are happy to see the racism of the past toned down so it doesn't seem as bad to modern readers.

Monday, January 3, 2011

English Muffins

In December of 2010 I started making my own English muffins. My initial efforts were based on the recipe English muffins and crumpets: an (almost) shared recipe. I've since made some modifications and am getting increasingly better results. Here is the modified recipe I used for my last and thus far best, batch. Each step only takes a few minutes. The wait time between steps in absurdly flexible making this a surprisingly convenient recipe despite the multiple stages.

Warm water, 1 1/2 cups
Yeast, 2 tsp

Sugar, 1 tsp
Let yeast "proof" for a few minutes. Once you see bubbles mix in:
Bread flour, 2 cups.

Cover and set aside for 2 to 24 hours or longer. The longer you let it rest the more of a sourdough flavor you'll get. You can use an active sourdough starter instead of the mix above, but you may need to increase the flour by a few tablespoons in the next step.

Flour, 1 cup
Salt, 2 tsp (The original recipe called 2.5 tsp salt, but my wife and I found that too salty.)
1/4 to 1/2 Cup grated cheese. (Optional, I prefer extra sharp cheddar)

Knead well and set aside for 30 minutes or more. You may need to add a tablespoon or two of water to get the new flour and salt to incorporate. I've found a three to five minute knead works better than mixing with a spoon. You can use a dough hook and a mixer.

Roll out the dough and cut into rounds. A water cup or clean tuna can works nicely. You can let the rounds rise for 10 to 20 minutes, but this is optional.

Heat a pan, griddle or cast iron skillet to medium-low heat. Add a bit of oil or butter if not using non-stick or cast iron cookware. Cover and cook the muffins for 8-10 minutes per side until lightly browned. You can reduce the cook time by increasing the heat, but anything above medium to medium-high heat risks blackening the muffins. The rule of thumb from the original recipe was to cook the muffins a bit cooler than you would cook pancakes with the same cookware.

Let the muffins cool on a wire rack. If you eat them while still hot, the cheese will still be a bit gooey inside, almost as if the muffins had already been buttered. Refrigerate or freeze any muffins you don't plan to eat within the next 4 to 5 days. They freeze very well.