Why should the devil have all the good computer games?

When Larry Norman sang Why Should the Devil Have all the Good Music in the seventies he was fighting back against a religious world-view that said music could not be ‘Christian’ unless it was played on an organ and written in old English.

Which is not to say there’s not some great music in that genre, but when it came to Christian rock, Larry was proclaiming it was time to hear some music which was ‘good’ in its own right. And the message it carried would be lifted as well:

“I ain’t knockin’ the hymns, just give me a song that has a beat.
I ain’t knockin’ the hymns, just give me a song that moves my feet”

I can still hear Larry’s nasally voice in my mind when I read those words…

Anyway, time has moved on and there is plenty of good Christian music, in fact arguably, contemporary Christian music, musicians, songwriters and singers breath much-needed life into rock, soul, R & B and all kinds of music every day.

We are still waiting to see the same commitment to artistic imagination and excellence in the realm of film and literature but there are plenty of people trying. Which is sometimes the problem.

And now a Sydney Morning Herald blog writer has opened up a whole new area of discussion with the question, “why are Christian games so often so bad?”

Now I’m not really a big fan of computer gaming – mainly on the principle that there are games that you can play for 80 hours a week for the rest of your life and never come to an end… and there are too many people trying to accomplish this.

But Ash Walmsley’s blog tackles the whole arena of faith and culture via reference to gaming (having arena and via in the same sentence is a nice Roman touch I think, they liked their games too…)

He writes:

“Joshua Topolsky, founding editor in chief of The Verge writes for the Washington Post about his recent trip to E3. ‘Finally, one thing I found surprising and more than a little disappointing was the increase in graphic violence in games, as well as developers’ apparent inability to think of anything more than a gun to place in the hands of lead characters,” Topolsky wrote.

“‘There were a handful of games that explored a space outside the run-and-attack mechanics of many titles, but few tried to tell adult stories without gunshots and stabbings.’

“The world has become scared to acknowledge God. Do that, and you have to acknowledge sin and eventual judgement, which is as uncomfortable as the itchy, high-hitched trousers your mum used to make you wear to Sunday School. And yet we have greater acceptance in some areas, such as school chaplains being given the OK by the High Court (although the funding model needs a tweak).

“Could innovative, soul-searching, conscience nudging, mortality-facing games with Christian themes take gaming to another level? I shall be keeping my eyes on the Gamesmen catalogue to find out.”

Bad does get boring and once the rabid R-rated gaming fraternity wears itself out on its newly won ‘bound-freedoms’, perhaps they’ll even come looking for something more…

Read more of Ash Walmsely.

PS I love a line adaptation in Larry’s Youtube clip above: “Why should the devil have anything?”

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Domain name change leaves readers searching…

  A couple of weeks ago I took up the domain mapping option offered by WordPress for my blog. I had previously registered http://www.utterance.com.au with another company and was sending http://www.utterance.com.au to http://www.peterhallett.wordpress.com successfully and with no apparent loss of traffic. To qualify for the new WordPress advertising option, AdWords, I switched domain mapping to WordPress and the hits have […]

In a digital world, hackers are the new guerilla warriors

If something strange happens to Utterance in the next few days, it has been probably been hacked. If it can happen to a French magazine, a Mexican drug cartel and Iranian nuclear facilities, it can happen to anyone.

With so much of life, business, industry and finance heavily reliant on computer and digital processes, it make sense that groups of hackers would begin to use their skills for a cause, not just to create havoc. Some have government backing while others are loose networks of computer geniuses but either way, they are emerging as powerful new players in the world’s political, religious, criminal and even national conflicts. Consider the following three examples.Read More »

Oslo shooter ‘Christian’ label questioned

Claims have now surfaced that the supposed Facebook page for Oslo terrorist Anders Behring Breivik may have been altered to make it appear that he had conservative Christian beliefs.

While the issue should not overshadow the grief and suffering of victims of the atrocity, the issue of why Breivik would act as he did is obviously important to those directly affected but also the millions world-wide trying to come to terms with the crimes.

And as news breaks of a 1500 page manifesto and video from Breivik that delve into his motivations (see below), the use of Facebook information initially and the labelling of the shooter as a Christian fundamentalist still warrant examination.

Utterance was first alerted to the fake Facebook claims by a commenter on our previous post, Oslo misery compounded by shooter ‘Christian’ claim. John Covert claimed to provide a link to the Google cached version of the page. It does not show a reference to Christian belief.

Other bloggers go further and display the Facebook page allegedly as it appeared just before being removed by Facebook with no reference to Christianity and another later version that contains the Christian belief and conservative politics references.

The issues this raises are:

  • It is dangerous when the media reports that crimes may have been motivated by certain religious or political beliefs (and that applies across the spectrum) when they have no corroborating evidence. (This evidence has reportedly now surfaced – see below).
  • Using people’s private social networking information as the basis for news reports is bad journalism as it may be an invasion of privacy and open to inaccuracy – how many people misrepresent themselves on Facebook etc?
  • The ability to manipulate internet information (as may or may not be the case here) means even if it is not considered an ethical problem to access the information, it should still be viewed as in need of corroboration.

People who regard themselves as conservative, Christian or fundamentalist obviously felt targeted, ashamed or unfairly associated with the crimes of Breivik and this might be useful insight into how people of other faiths or political persuasions feel when the actions of an individual or group are used to taint all those of similar beliefs.

It’s important for Christians to remember it is their actions day to day that will have the most influence on what people think of the Christian faith. Headlines come and go and are quickly forgotten, but our lives are daily on display.

STOP PRESS: New sources of information are appearing regarding Anders Behring Breivik’s beliefs and the motivation for his shocking killing spree. Reports indicate he left behind a 1,500 page manifesto likened to an al Qaede document except from a European Christian perspective and also a video summarising his views. 

Read the New York Times report

Fox News shows some of the manifesto

The original Facebook page of Anders Behring Breivik?
The altered page of the Olso shooter?

Chinese officials float over road and around the world

Utterance more often than not tackles relatively serious and reflective issues but can’t resist the hilarity that has surrounded China’s three levitating officials inspecting roads in Huili, south-west China.

The original badly doctored photo has spawned a creative range of imitations and even prompted a re-issuing of the original photos.

The three men will probably remain nameless forever which is a shame, I hope they can have a good laugh with the rest of us. And let’s hope the person who posed them floating over the new road is not locked up! Enjoy…

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John 3:16 leads Bible verses on the internet

Image via Wikipedia

Believe it or not, there is a website devoted to ranking the most popular Bible books, verses and even chapters appearing on the Internet.

Top Verses claims to analyse thousands of pages of teaching material to determine the most frequently referenced Bible verses. This information is entered into their search engine enabling it to return the most familiar verses first.

Read the full story at Australian Christian News.

The youngest of Jesus disciples and the last to write an account of the Christ, John, would be interested to learn three sections of his writing are leading the trends in this digital age:

1. John 3:16.     2. John 1:1.    3. John 14:6.

That most versatile of Paul’s letters, Ephesians heads the list of top Bible books followed be the more confronting James and the unexpected Titus.

Top Verses also list the most popular chapters, and as someone who has written a daily devotional on James it was interesting to see two of its chapters, James 4 and James 1 make the top 10.

I love James’ letter for its balance of personal faith, social action and supernatural ministry even though the book is usually known for tough talking.

Check out Transform Your Faith – 55 daily readings on the book of James and keep watching for the newly updated version which will be known as Faith Revolution.

Jesus reigns supreme on Facebook

It’s list time at Utterance and first up is a look at the most interesting pages on Facebook, in which Jesus is a clear winner.

Unofficial Facebook resource, All Facebook, records the fan numbers and interactions of dedicated Facebook pages across the globe.

While noting that Justin Bieber had taken a leap forward, the site says that “he is ultimately left in the dust yet again by two religious pages that have spent all of June in the top two spots.”

Basing their list on the number of page interactions (comments, likes etc) All Facebook has Jesus Daily in first place with 1,645,286 interactions in June (5,948,071 fans) followed by The Bible with 1,071,096 interactions (7,609,076 fans).

Justine Bieber came in third with a mere 933,719 interactions (from a massive 29,756,538 fans) followed by Mario Teguh with 838,761 interactions from 4,221,188 fans.

Others in the top 20 include Lady Gaga, Harry Potter, Manchester United and Britney Spears.

But other Christian pages are also found in the top 20 including Jesus Christ in 13th place and Dios Es Bueno (God is good) in 14th. One way or another, Jesus is alive and well in the world of social networking.

Another interesting phenomenon is the influence of the growing use of social media – Facebook in particular – in non-Western nations.

A page called MTV Roadies is in the top 20 thanks to adoring Indian viewers of the reality television show of the same name while in Egypt, We are Khaled Said continues to be a very vocal page of the Egyptian uprising.

Logos leads the way in innovative use of the Internet

20110620-100852.jpg One of the world’ leading leadership and business authors, Seth Goddin has highlighted an innovative book pricing mechanism used by Logos, a Bible software company.

In Goddin’s most recent blog post, titled Coordination, he discusses a new more collaborative approach to internet business, made possible by technology and cited Logos’ Community Pricing strategy as an example.

According to the Logos website, “Community Pricing offers some amazing deals on classic works in the field of biblical and theological studies. Thousands of Logos users have gotten books for less than the price of a latte or a gallon of gas (which is around $3.00 in Bellingham, Washington).”

Community Pricing works by online customers indicating on a graph how much they would be willing to pay for a specific title. At some point in the process enough customers and a high enough price cover production costs and the book can be released.

Logos explains it this way: “If it costs $4,000 to produce an electronic edition of a book, the costs can be covered by 4 people paying $1,000 each or by 1,000 people paying $4 each. The more likely scenario, though, is that no one wants to pay $1,000 and there aren’t 1,000 people interested in the title, even at $4. But there may be 200 people who would pay $20 each.

“Community Pricing is about finding the lowest price that covers the production costs.”

Customers bids are tracked on an online graph to provide some guidance as to how to bid and when a price is set, it is the lowest possible price which is paid by all bidders, even if they bid higher.

It is another example of how the book industry specifically and retail in general is changing due to digital communication.

Godson loves the approach because it eliminates waste and allows customers to collaborate with the supplier.
It is great to see a Christian company at the forefront of change.

New Year’s Eve pictorial from Yarranabbe (Darling Point)

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A work colleague who I’ve only known a few months kindly invited us to share the Sydney’s New Year’s Eve fireworks from her harbourside location at Darling Point.

I calmly mentioned would she mind if seven of us showed up and in the great Australian tradition of hospitality, she warmly welcomed a few Halletts and relatives from Canberra.

During the wait between the 9pm and midnight fireworks, I was reminded of the new world of technology in which we live when my brother-in-law rang from his header on his farm near West Wyalong.

As the GPS system guided his large grain header through the heavy but rain-affected crop, I stood a hairbreadth from Sydney harbour and we chatted about our shared lives.

Grateful to hear that it was dry enough (for now) to harvest without getting blog, I wished him a happy new year in time to turn around and see my nephew playing with another boy on his iPad, seated on the lawn, surrounded by the panorama of Sydney.

Darling Point… originally named Mrs darling Point after Governor Darling’s wife. And previously known to the Aboriginal people as Yarranabbe, the name of the street we were in…

God apparently appreciates Gran Turismo

God-Spotting:

A radio advertisement in Australia for the new Gran Turismo 5 PlayStation 3 computer game, has the following dialogue (paraphrased):

‘Hello, I’m God, and I made the world in seven days – look how awesome it is! Gran Turismo 5 took five years to make, think how awesome it must be!’

Two positives:

#1 God is acknowledged as Creator.
#2 You don’t have to shoot, maim or kill anyone in Gran Turismo – just drive the car of your dreams. Most be a lot of car lovers out there as the game sold more than 2.5 million units in its first week.

Cycling to revolutionise cinema

A friend from UTS, Greer Allen, is helping to put together the first Cycle in Cinema in Australia where you can not only ride your bike to see the film, you can ride it to run the equipment!

Magnificent Revolution (UK) has built quite a few bicycle powered cinemas over the years, from a single bike generator Mini Cycle Screen to a Magnificent Cycle Cinema system which uses up to eight bicycles (16 legs!)  to power 600 watts of audio-visual equipment for public film screenings or projections.

A group of motivated Australians have approached Magnificent Revolution in the UK to get cycle cinema happening here in Australia.

Magnificent Revolution Australia (MRA) will be able to set up in parks, on the beach, in your backyard – anywhere. Imagine an outdoor cinema without any cars, where audience members can ride their bike to the event and use them to power the system, completely off the grid.  

MRA will be a not-for-profit social enterprise with a mission to inspire and empower a wider understanding and uptake of renewable energy technologies and create a movement towards Australians reducing their energy consumptive habits.

The Cycle In Cinema is one part of the MRA project, which aims to launch pedal power sounds systems for event hire and pedal power workshops in Australia early next year.

Check out how you can support Cycle-in Cinema in Australia.

Practical tips to avoid information overload

Futurist Alvin Toffler popularised the term ‘information overload’ in his book, Future Shock, written in 1970. He highlights the negative impact of vast amounts of information on making decisions: ‘When the individual is plunged into a fast and irregularly changing situation… his predictive accuracy plummets. He can no longer make the reasonably correct assessments on which rational behaviour is dependent.’

Read more at Suite101: Practical Tips to Avoid Information Overload.

How will we create in 2020?

Ever wondered where the rapid spread and influence of technology, particularly in the area of digital communication, is taking us?

Author John Maeda has some interesting ideas of what our lives might look like in 2020. For him, digital technology will become more of an unconscious norm leaving us free to major on more nuanced, creative and physical realities.

‘We’ll witness a return to the integrity of craft, the humanity of authorship, and the rebalancing of our virtual and physical spaces. We’ll see a 21st-century renaissance in arts- and design-centered approaches to making things, where you-the individual-will take centre stage in culture and commerce.’

This may have implications for churches (and already is) where technology allows small, boutique churches to be heavily related to their own indigenous culture while powerfully connected in an organic way to global communities.

Read Maeda’s full article in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Apple, Wikipedia push back porn

Apple CEO, Steve Job, fresh from launching the Ipad and Iphone 4, has apparently taken a stand to keep pornography out of applications for these devices.

In doing so he has been congratulated by many who support his aversion for porn, but he’s also raised the almost maniacal ire of the rampant ‘don’t you dare censor my internet use’ community, made up largely of pale men in their 30s and 40s.

‘…we do believe we have a moral responsibility to keep porn off the iPhone. Folks who want porn can buy an[d] Android phone,’ he is reported to have said in an email.

He defended his position when criticised by the Gawker blog, saying the Apple ‘revolution’ was about freedom, including ‘freedom from porn.’

At the same time, Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia’s founder, has come under fire after personally deleting ‘many’ images he deemed pornographic from the digital encyclopaedia.

Just when you were losing hope for humanity… PH

One brain for double the information – every 18 months

Some years ago I heard it said that there was more information in a Saturday newspaper than a person from the 17th century would experience in a life time.

Now this from Seth Godin

‘Redoubling to system failure

Every 18 months for the last decade, the world has doubled the data it pushes to you.

Twice as much email, twice as many friend requests, twice as many sites to check, twice as many devices.

When does your mind lose the ability to keep up? Then what happens? Is it already happening?’

Seth is a champion of the inter-connectivity of the internet and technology – if he’s worried, we should take note. PH