Forward Thinking, Backward Driving:

A few years ago, I was given a box of old radio and television industry magazines.

During my initial skim-through of the material, an article caught my eye from the February 1961 edition of Radio-Electronics magazine.

The author, Manfred von Ardenne, speculated that for safety reasons, cars of the future would be driven backwards since rear-facing seating can provide superior head-to-toe shock absorption during a collision.

Picture of futuristic car from a 1961 magazine


Note that the driver would rely on a “panoramic” video monitor for his view ahead of the vehicle. The system would also boast infrared camera filters for improved vision in the fog.

Meanwhile, in the event of a catastrophic failure to the car’s closed-circuit video system — no worries! — an emergency periscope would be available to the driver.

Such was the technological optimism of 1961–

Elusive “Unicorns” of the Sea:

National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen says he has unsuccessfully searched for Narwhals in the Arctic for 10 years.  He finally found this group far offshore using an ultralight airplane.

It must have been a magical moment:

You can also follow his work on Twitter.

The Lion, the Ass and Coffin:

Link to William Sloane Coffin's Wikipedia PageIn the past year, a friend of mine gave me a copy of the book, Credo, by William Sloane Coffin.

My friend met Coffin at Yale in the late 60’s when Coffin was Chaplain there. And this friend, having discovered that he and I share a few of the same theological and political views, thought I’d appreciate Coffin.

And he was right.

I’ve just finished Credo, and my copy is now full of dog-ears, notes, highlights and underlined text. Among them, this sober critique of the Religious Right, offered with a touch of humor:

I want to urge … the leaders of the so-called moral majority to “work out their salvation” with a little more “fear and trembling.” I agree that the Bible contains all the answers, at least all the significant ones. But I would insist that no one understands the Bible until he has seen and lived at least part of its contents. Like any book, the Bible is something of a mirror: if an ass peers in, you can’t expect an apostle to peer out!

Though surely not his specific intent, Coffin’s ass reference reminds me of C.S. Lewis’ The Last Battle, where a shabby lion pelt is thrown over an unwitting donkey in an effort to fool folks into thinking Aslan has returned. This fake “Aslan” is the deliverer of many false teachings and instructions – and causes quite a bit of trouble in Lewis’ depiction of the End Times in Narnia.

Maybe this connection is Freudian for me: a moral majority of unwitting asses presenting themselves to the public disguised as apostles.

Meanwhile, thanks to YouTube, Coffin’s appearance on a 1966 episode of William F. Buckley Jr.’s “Firing Line” is available for your consideration. It’s an extremely polite give-and-take between two men who obviously have a friendly personal history, despite their political differences.

* Note: Harry Potter fans will no doubt wonder if Barty Crouch Junior has assumed Buckley’s identity via Polyjuice Potion. The quick tongue licks to the side of his mouth are an obvious tell.

The Scottish Wildcat:

ScottishWildcatEditI’d never heard of this wildcat of Scotland until some random surfing through Wikipedia yesterday. This particular strain of wild feline predates today’s domesticated cats. There are only 400 left in the wild, according to estimates.*

The one pictured here looks quite a bit like my Maine Coon who passed away a year or so ago. But these wildcats are said to be untamable.

*Update: Now, fewer than 100 are thought to exist in the wild (as of 2/20/2015).

Christian Non-Violence

On Veterans Days, Memorial Days, etc., (especially at a time like this, when our country is at war) it’s not uncommon for Americans to make a point of expressing their sincere thanks to the memories of U.S. soldiers who have paid “the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom” — that is, those soldiers who have died on the battlefield.

It’s the most natural thing in the world for a citizen to feel indebted to the sacrifice of a soldier. And, on its surface, the phrase “the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom” seems a most fitting description for such an act.

But, in recent years, I’ve noticed how some politicians are quick to conflate this secular and patriotic use of the term “freedom” with the Christian understanding of spiritual freedom.

For instance, I’ve often heard George W. Bush declare that “God’s greatest gift to mankind is freedom.” The implication being that God’s gift of spiritual freedom is very much the same as the physical and worldly freedom a government might provide its citizens — or a soldier might die for.

But, as a Christian, I can’t go there.

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The Bright Side Of Four-Dollar Gas?

Google Earth view of C.S. Lewis' old walking groundsIn his autobiography, Surprised By Joy, C.S. Lewis writes:

I number it among my blessings that my father had no car, while yet most of my friends had, and sometimes took me for a drive. This meant that all these distant objects could be visited just enough to clothe them with memories and not impossible desires, while yet they remained ordinarily as inaccessible as the Moon. The deadly power of rushing about wherever I pleased had not been given me. I measured distance by the standard of man, man walking on his two feet, not by the standard of the internal combustion engine. I had not been allowed to deflower the very idea of distance; in return I possessed “infinite riches” in what would have been to motorists “a little room.”

The truest and most horrible claim made for modern transport is that it “annihilates space.” It does. It annihilates one of the most glorious gifts we have been given. It is a vile inflation which lowers the value of distance, so that a modern boy travels a hundred miles with less sense of liberation and pilgrimage and adventure than his grandfather got from traveling ten. Of course if a man hates space and wants it to be annihilated, that is another matter. Why not creep into his coffin at once? There is little enough space there.

Published in 1955.

* And thanks to Andrew Sullivan’s “The Dish” for the link love.

Winter Daydream:

Picture of Australian Rock PoolLiving in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, where the temperature reached 90-degrees a couple of days ago (before a cold front — thankfully — blew through later in the day), I’m in no hurry to say good-bye to the cooler winter weather.

But when I come across a story like this in The New York Times, I can’t deny there’s a part of me ready to fast forward to the outdoor swimming season. And, as a lover of natural pools, like Barton Springs in Austin, I’m not surprised that surfing pics of the saltwater rock pools of Sidney, Australia, has been my choice of time-waste in the last 48 hours.

My favs? How about: The Ross Jones Memorial Pool. The Newcastle Bogey Hole. And… the Whale Beach Rock Pool.