Tuesday, December 20, 2016

series review: One Week Friends

Yuki Hase has notice that a girl in his class, Kaori Fujimiya, spends a lot of time alone and has no friends, so he decides to try to become friends with her, and with a little persistence after an initial refusal, a bit of a friendship develops between them. But as the school week ends, Kaori tells him the reason why she doesn't really want to be friends with anyone. She suffers from a strange form of amnesia. For a past few years, every Monday morning when she wakes up she has lost all memories from the week before of her friends and any time she has spent with them. Hase isn't sure if this is true, until he meets her at school on Monday and sees that she really has no idea of who he is, and he has to start over again in winning her friendship.

A few weeks go by, and with the help of a couple of other friends, Kaori begins to open up around others in the class, making new friends, and her memory seem to be improving. Then someone who knew her when they were children shows up again, and seems to be angry with her for some strange reason. Meeting him causes her memory problems to relapse, and she again forgets who Hase and her other friends are. Fighting discouragement, Hase continues to try to help Kaori, and he eventually finally learns what really happened on the day that Kaori's memory problems began.

Friends of Friends
A special mention should be made of the two friends of the main characters, Shogo Kiryu and Sagi Yamagishi, whom I respectively and affectionately think of as The Vulcan and The Space Cadet. Shogo is a friend of Hase's when the series begin, and his serious and logical demeanor provides some support for Hase's more up-and-down temperament. Sagi is a girl who shows up a few episodes in, and her own more conventional forgetfulness, laid-back personality, and occasional ignoring of other's personal space does give the anime some light-hearted moments.

Love is...
I don't want to go too far in comparing Hase's concern for Kaori to what the Bible says about love in I Corinthians 13, but a bit of a look might be good. And just to be clear, I'm not using “love” here in the strictly romantic sense, but more for a concern for another person's good.

For example, let's take “love is patient and kind”. There are times when Hase displays these things very well. He tries to be very understand of Kaori's difficulties, both with her memories and with the problems that can cause other people. He is the one who suggests that she start keeping a diary that she can read to remind herself of what she's forgotten, and even spend considerable time and effort trying to find it for her when she has lost it and forgotten about it.

On the other hand, he has bouts of jealousy, too. He wants Kaori to be like a normal student with lots of other friends, but as she begins to make these new friends, he begins to fear that his friendship with her is becoming less special. This jealousy causes a bit of conflict early on between them.

Or look at where I Corinthians 13 says that love bears, believes, hopes, and endures all things, and then look at the last couple of episodes, where they learn what happened to Kaori as a child that caused her memory to be bonkers. At this point, Hase stumbles a little, as he gives in to a fear that somehow him being close to Kaori might hurt her and lead to a return of her memory problems. This does get corrected, and the series ends on a nice, satisfying note.

Anime doesn't have the best of reputations when it comes to hot it handles these kind of stories, and to be fair, the problems are often too real. Gratuitous fan service, hyper-sexualizing characters who are little more then children, annoying harems, and other tropes are far too common and far too distasteful.

So, it's good to say that such things are absent from this series. Instead of relying on those things, this series has a solid story with believable and sympathetic characters. True, Kaori's amnesia does seem contrived, though I know mental problems can be very tricky so I can't say this kind of thing has never happened, but if you can suspend you disbelief concerning her memory problems, then I think you'll have few other problems.

I give this series a very strong recommendation.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

a bit of music: Solar Fields, Cobalt 2.5

Don't know if I'm ready to say this is better than the original Cobalt, which I like a lot, but it's still good. Enjoy.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Lunacy in Writing: Stop telling a story, you storyteller

If you've tried to write a story and have let be evaluated, you've likely been hit with the chestnut of advice, “Show, don't tell”. The use of this bit of advice can become so extreme that you might need to fight back the temptation to tell the people saying this to you that, if they really want to be shown the story, they should put down the book and go watch the movie.

Now, I've no doubt there is a time and place for this advice. There are times when “Tom watched a scary movie” needs something more, like “Tom sat on the couch, his eyes wide and fixed on the television, as the movie monster stalked its next victim through the dark, fog-filled forest.”

But I also think this advice can be given wrongly, too.

One way is by insisting on needless physical descriptions when something plain and basic could work just as well. For example, take the phrase “She felt nervous”. Maybe not a great sentence, but functional, and even appropriate in some situations. But “show, don't tell” people would insist on being shown her nervousness, by having writers tell about sweating palms, twitching eyes, stammering speech, or any of the other many manifestations of nervousness a person might have.

And there will be times when such descriptions are good, too, when they actually do add something to the story. Maybe when she is nervous, she starts lisping, and that lisp plays a part in the story. Or maybe her eyes do start twitching, and that affects her vision when she gets nervous, and that's important to the story.

But to just go into such physical descriptions, without any good reason relevant to the story, simply doesn't seem smart. Why insist on mentioning sweating palms or some other nervous twitches when they are not important? If saying “She felt nervous” will tell us all we need to know, then it seems like that should be enough.

Another way gets back to the bit of sarcasm in the first paragraph, the one about those who want to be shown a story should watch the movie. That was facetious, yes, but it does point to the idea that it seems like “show, don't tell” insists that all the elements and events in the story should involve only how character's act or say, with some room for scene descriptions thrown in.

But that's not how good story writing works. Reading a story is not the same as watching one, either on TV or in a movie. Each has it's own strengths and weaknesses, and one of the big strengths of writing is that it allows the reader to get into the heads of the characters, to see their thoughts and motivations.

Again, let's take “She was nervous”. While going into physical descriptions might be helpful, there may be other information that would be good to know, too, that can't be conveyed by physical actions alone. “She stood five feet from the cliff's edge, too nervous to walk any closer, feeling dizzy even this close to the long fall”. “She knew it was silly and childish, but she still felt nervous when she saw him him walking over to her table, hoping he would remember it was her birthday”. We start to understand her a little better this way.

A few months ago, I got the CD discs for the series Building Great Sentences by Brooks Landon, from Great Courses, and I think listening to that series has helped me understand better what might really be behind “show, don't tell”. It's the idea that we should be more descriptive in our writing, going into greater details, skillfully adding necessary information to our stories and writing. Landon would likely put it differently then I have here, and goes more into methods and mechanics and I would greatly recommend his lectures as being very helpful. While I'm not so sure that longer sentences are always is needed, especially some of the rambling ones Landon mentions at times, it does seem like that notion of making longer sentences to give the reader more information is pointing in the right direction.

Friday, December 2, 2016

YWAM's Fortune Cookie Bible: Example 1

This is part of a booklet I've been working on, concerning what I think is a very silly way of "hearing God's voice" taught and encouraged in YWAM. This is one example I've found of it in their writings, and I try to explain why it's unsound. Hopefully, the booklet itself will be finished and available sometime soon.

Example 1

The context of this account is that Joy Dawson's son, John, has joined YWAM, and while working at one base has noticed one of the girls there. There came a time when John asked his parents to pray about the relationship, which all other things being equal I would have considered a wise thing for him to do. But the questionable part is what Joy Dawson writes about the supposed confirmation.

“It was several weeks before we were able to contact John again. When we did, I said to him, “You’ll need to fasten your seat belt while I tell you how and what God spoke to me.” I shared that I had simply asked God, “Is John to pursue Julie in a serious friendship?” God spoke into my mind, “Turn to Second Kings, chapter fourteen.” I hadn’t a clue what was in that chapter until I looked it up and found verse nine, “Give your daughter to my son for a wife.” Wow! I could hardly believe my eyes.” Forever Ruined for the Ordinary (Kindle Locations 301-305, section 2)

Here is the context of that phrase.

II Kings 14
In the second year of Joash the son of Joahaz, king of Israel, Amaziah the son of Joash, king of Judah, began to reign. 2 He was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Jehoaddin of Jerusalem. 3 And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, yet not like David his father. He did in all things as Joash his father had done. 4 But the high places were not removed; the people still sacrificed and made offerings on the high places. 5And as soon as the royal power was firmly in his hand, he struck down his servants who had struck down the king his father. 6 But he did not put to death the children of the murderers, according to what is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, where the LORD commanded, “Fathers shall not be put to death because of their children, nor shall children be put to death because of their fathers. But each one shall die for his own sin.”

7 He struck down ten thousand Edomites in the Valley of Salt and took Sela by storm, and called it Joktheel, which is its name to this day.

8 Then Amaziah sent messengers to Jehoash the son of Jehoahaz, son of Jehu, king of Israel, saying, “Come, let us look one another in the face.” 9 And Jehoash king of Israel sent word to Amaziah king of Judah, “A thistle on Lebanon sent to a cedar on Lebanon, saying, ‘Give your daughter to my son for a wife,’ and a wild beast of Lebanon passed by and trampled down the thistle. 10 You have indeed struck down Edom, and your heart has lifted you up. Be content with your glory, and stay at home, for why should you provoke trouble so that you fall, you and Judah with you?”

11 But Amaziah would not listen. So Jehoash king of Israel went up, and he and Amaziah king of Judah faced one another in battle at Beth-shemesh, which belongs to Judah. 12 And Judah was defeated by Israel, and every man fled to his home. 13 And Jehoash king of Israel captured Amaziah king of Judah, the son of Jehoash, son of Ahaziah, at Beth-shemesh, and came to Jerusalem and broke down the wall of Jerusalem for four hundred cubits, from the Ephraim Gate to the Corner Gate. 14 And he seized all the gold and silver, and all the vessels that were found in the house of the LORD and in the treasuries of the king's house, also hostages, and he returned to Samaria.

15 Now the rest of the acts of Jehoash that he did, and his might, and how he fought with Amaziah king of Judah, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel? 16 And Jehoash slept with his fathers and was buried in Samaria with the kings of Israel, and Jeroboam his son reigned in his place.

17 Amaziah the son of Joash, king of Judah, lived fifteen years after the death of Jehoash son of Jehoahaz, king of Israel. 18 Now the rest of the deeds of Amaziah, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? 19 And they made a conspiracy against him in Jerusalem, and he fled to Lachish. But they sent after him to Lachish and put him to death there. 20 And they brought him on horses; and he was buried in Jerusalem with his fathers in the city of David. 21 And all the people of Judah took Azariah, who was sixteen years old, and made him king instead of his father Amaziah. 22 He built Elath and restored it to Judah, after the king slept with his fathers.

This account is about Amaziah, a man who appears to have been a decent king of Judah, but who let some success on the battlefield get to his head. After soundly defeating the Edomites, He challenged the King of Israel, Jehoash, to battle, and got the reply in the form of a small story, which is where we find the phrase Dawson singles out.

“A thistle on Lebanon sent to a cedar on Lebanon, saying, ‘Give your daughter to my son for a wife,’ and a wild beast of Lebanon passed by and trampled down the thistle. 10 You have indeed struck down Edom, and your heart has lifted you up. Be content with your glory, and stay at home, for why should you provoke trouble so that you fall, you and Judah with you?”

So, Jehoash compares Amaziah's challenge to be like a thistle giving orders to a cedar tree, trying to tell it what to do, in this case give the thistle a daughter to marry. But the thistle is a weak plant, and a beast can come along and stomp it down. Jehoash is essentially mocking Amaziah, telling him that he's weak and in no position to order Jehoash to do anything. And when it finally does come to battle, Jehoash backs up his boast and defeats Amaziah.

Joy Dawson's use of this phrase is atrociously bad. She ignores the passage as a whole, ignores the immediate context of Jehoash's reply, and even ignores the small story in which the phrase was given. Why, for example, did she stop with that one phrase, and ignore both parts of the rest of the story; the first part about a thistle giving orders to a cedar tree, and the last part about a wild beast coming along and trampling down the thistle?

Not only does Dawson's guidance depend upon only one phrase, but it's a phrase that is so badly taken out of context that her interpretation of it, and the advice she gives her son based on it, are essentially the opposite of what the context shows the phrase to be about.

Context is important, especially when it comes to interpreting and understanding the Bible. To take a phrase out of context, and to insist that God is giving you a message from that out-of-context phrase, is a bad idea of immense proportions.

God was not the one who gave told Joy Dawson to turn to II Kings 14. He was not the one who pointed out this completely out of context phrase to her. This passage was never intended as any form of marital advice.