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No Hell. Pastor Rob Bell: What if Hell Doesn’t Exist?

I am not as liberal as Rob Bell, I believe Hell does exist, but it is only reserve for truly evil people like Mao Tse Dong or Muammar Gaddafi (maybe George W. Bush too). I definitely won’t agree only Christians can go to heaven and everybody else goes to hell.

I am joining a reading group starting in May on Rob Bell’s book “Love Wins: A Book about Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. For those who are interested, please register here

By Jon Meacham, Thursday, Apr. 14, 2011, Times Magazine

As part of a series on peacemaking, in late 2007, Pastor Rob Bell’s Mars Hill Bible Church put on an art exhibit about the search for peace in a broken world. It was just the kind of avant-garde project that had helped power Mars Hill’s growth (the Michigan church attracts 7,000 people each Sunday) as a nontraditional congregation that emphasizes discussion rather than dogmatic teaching. An artist in the show had included a quotation from Mohandas Gandhi. Hardly a controversial touch, one would have thought. But one would have been wrong.

A visitor to the exhibit had stuck a note next to the Gandhi quotation: “Reality check: He’s in hell.” Bell was struck.

Really? he recalls thinking.

Gandhi’s in hell?

He is?

We have confirmation of this?

Somebody knows this?

Without a doubt?

And that somebody decided to take on the responsibility of letting the rest of us know?

So begins Bell’s controversial new best seller, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. Works by Evangelical Christian pastors tend to be pious or at least on theological message. The standard Christian view of salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is summed up in the Gospel of John, which promises “eternal life” to “whosoever believeth in Him.” Traditionally, the key is the acknowledgment that Jesus is the Son of God, who, in the words of the ancient creed, “for us and for our salvation came down from heaven … and was made man.” In the Evangelical ethos, one either accepts this and goes to heaven or refuses and goes to hell.

Bell, a tall, 40-year-old son of a Michigan federal judge, begs to differ. He suggests that the redemptive work of Jesus may be universal — meaning that, as his book’s subtitle puts it, “every person who ever lived” could have a place in heaven, whatever that turns out to be. Such a simple premise, but with Easter at hand, this slim, lively book has ignited a new holy war in Christian circles and beyond. When word of Love Wins reached the Internet, one conservative Evangelical pastor, John Piper, tweeted, “Farewell Rob Bell,” unilaterally attempting to evict Bell from the Evangelical community. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, says Bell’s book is “theologically disastrous. Any of us should be concerned when a matter of theological importance is played with in a subversive way.” In North Carolina, a young pastor was fired by his church for endorsing the book.

The traditionalist reaction is understandable, for Bell’s arguments about heaven and hell raise doubts about the core of the Evangelical worldview, changing the common understanding of salvation so much that Christianity becomes more of an ethical habit of mind than a faith based on divine revelation. “When you adopt universalism and erase the distinction between the church and the world,” says Mohler, “then you don’t need the church, and you don’t need Christ, and you don’t need the cross. This is the tragedy of nonjudgmental mainline liberalism, and it’s Rob Bell’s tragedy in this book too.”

Particularly galling to conservative Christian critics is that Love Wins is not an attack from outside the walls of the Evangelical city but a mutiny from within — a rebellion led by a charismatic, popular and savvy pastor with a following. Is Bell’s Christianity — less judgmental, more fluid, open to questioning the most ancient of assumptions — on an inexorable rise? “I have long wondered if there is a massive shift coming in what it means to be a Christian,” Bell says. “Something new is in the air.”

Which is what has many traditional Evangelicals worried. Bell’s book sheds light not only on enduring questions of theology and fate but also on a shift within American Christianity. More indie rock than “Rock of Ages,” with its videos and comfort with irony (Bell sometimes seems an odd combination of Billy Graham and Conan O’Brien), his style of doctrine and worship is clearly playing a larger role in religious life, and the ferocity of the reaction suggests that he is a force to be reckoned with.

Otherwise, why reckon with him at all? A similar work by a pastor from one of the declining mainline Protestant denominations might have merited a hostile blog post or two — bloggers, like preachers, always need material — but it is difficult to imagine that an Episcopal priest’s eschatological musings would have provoked the volume of criticism directed at Bell, whose reach threatens prevailing Evangelical theology.

Bell insists he is only raising the possibility that theological rigidity — and thus a faith of exclusion — is a dangerous thing. He believes in Jesus’ atonement; he says he is just unclear on whether the redemption promised in Christian tradition is limited to those who meet the tests of the church. It is a case for living with mystery rather than demanding certitude.

From a traditionalist perspective, though, to take away hell is to leave the church without its most powerful sanction. If heaven, however defined, is everyone’s ultimate destination in any event, then what’s the incentive to confess Jesus as Lord in this life? If, in other words, Gandhi is in heaven, then why bother with accepting Christ? If you say the Bible doesn’t really say what a lot of people have said it says, then where does that stop? If the verses about hell and judgment aren’t literal, what about the ones on adultery, say, or homosexuality? Taken to their logical conclusions, such questions could undermine much of conservative Christianity.

What the Hell?

From the Apostle Paul to John Paul II, from Augustine to Calvin, Christians have debated atonement and judgment for nearly 2,000 years. Early in the 20th century, Harry Emerson Fosdick came to represent theological liberalism, arguing against the literal truth of the Bible and the existence of hell. It was time, progressives argued, for the faith to surrender its supernatural claims.

Bell is more at home with this expansive liberal tradition than he is with the old-time believers of Inherit the Wind. He believes that Jesus, the Son of God, was sacrificed for the sins of humanity and that the prospect of a place of eternal torment seems irreconcilable with the God of love. Belief in Jesus, he says, should lead human beings to work for the good of this world. What comes next has to wait. “When we get to what happens when we die, we don’t have any video footage,” says Bell. “So let’s at least be honest that we are speculating, because we are.” He is quick to note, though, that his own speculation, while unconventional, is not unprecedented. “At the center of the Christian tradition since the first church,” Bell writes, “have been a number who insist that history is not tragic, hell is not forever, and love, in the end, wins and all will be reconciled to God.”

It is also true that the Christian tradition since the first church has insisted that history is tragic for those who do not believe in Jesus; that hell is, for them, forever; and that love, in the end, will envelop those who profess Jesus as Lord, and they — and they alone — will be reconciled to God. Such views cannot be dismissed because they are inconvenient or uncomfortable: they are based on the same Bible that liberals use to make the opposite case. This is one reason religious debate can seem a wilderness of mirrors, an old CIA phrase describing the bewildering world of counterintelligence.

Still, the dominant view of the righteous in heaven and the damned in hell owes more to the artistic legacy of the West, from Michelangelo to Dante to Blake, than it does to history or to unambiguous biblical teaching. Neither pagan nor Jewish tradition offered a truly equivalent vision of a place of eternal torment; the Greek and Roman underworlds tended to be morally neutral, as did much of the Hebraic tradition concerning Sheol, the realm of the dead.

Things many Christian believers take for granted are more complicated than they seem. It was only when Jesus failed to return soon after the Passion and Resurrection appearances that the early church was compelled to make sense of its recollections of his teachings. Like the Bible — a document that often contradicts itself and from which one can construct sharply different arguments — theology is the product of human hands and hearts. What many believers in the 21st century accept as immutable doctrine was first formulated in the fog and confusion of the 1st century, a time when the followers of Jesus were baffled and overwhelmed by their experience of losing their Lord; many had expected their Messiah to be a Davidic military leader, not an atoning human sacrifice.

When Jesus spoke of the “kingdom of heaven,” he was most likely referring not to a place apart from earth, one of clouds and harps and an eternity with your grandmother, but to what he elsewhere called the “kingdom of God,” a world redeemed and renewed in ways beyond human imagination. To 1st century ears in ancient Judea, Jesus’ talk of the kingdom was centered on the imminent arrival of a new order marked by the defeat of evil, the restoration of Israel and a general resurrection of the dead — all, in the words of the prayer he taught his disciples, “on earth.”

There is, however, no escaping the fact that Jesus speaks in the Bible of a hell for the “condemned.” He sometimes uses the word Gehenna, which was a valley near Jerusalem associated with the sacrifice of children by fire to the Phoenician god Moloch; elsewhere in the New Testament, writers (especially Paul and John the Divine) tell of a fiery pit (Tartarus or Hades) in which the damned will spend eternity. “Depart from me, you cursed [ones], into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels,” Jesus says in Matthew. In Mark he speaks of “the unquenchable fire.” The Book of Revelation paints a vivid picture — in a fantastical, problematic work that John the Divine says he composed when he was “in the spirit on the Lord’s day,” a signal that this is not an Associated Press report — of the lake of fire and the dismissal of the damned from the presence of God to a place where “they will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”

And yet there is a contrary scriptural trend that suggests, as Jesus puts it, that the gates of hell shall not finally prevail, that God will wipe away every tear — not just the tears of Evangelical Christians but the tears of all. Bell puts much stock in references to the universal redemption of creation: in Matthew, Jesus speaks of the “renewal of all things”; in Acts, Peter says Jesus will “restore everything”; in Colossians, Paul writes that “God was pleased to … reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven.”

So is it heaven for Christians who say they are Christians and hell for everybody else? What about babies, or people who die without ever hearing the Gospel through no fault of their own? (As Bell puts it, “What if the missionary got a flat tire?”) Who knows? Such tangles have consumed Christianity for millennia and likely will for millennia to come.

What gives the debate over Bell new significance is that his message is part of an intriguing scholarly trend unfolding simultaneously with the cultural, generational and demographic shifts made manifest at Mars Hill. Best expressed, perhaps, in the work of N.T. Wright, the Anglican bishop of Durham, England (Bell is a Wright devotee), this school focuses on the meaning of the texts themselves, reading them anew and seeking, where appropriate, to ask whether an idea is truly rooted in the New Testament or is attributable to subsequent church tradition and theological dogma.

For these new thinkers, heaven can mean different things. In some biblical contexts it is a synonym for God. In others it signifies life in the New Jerusalem, which, properly understood, is the reality that will result when God brings together the heavens and the earth. In yet others it seems to suggest moments of intense human communion and compassion that are, in theological terms, glimpses of the divine love that one might expect in the world to come. One thing heaven is not is an exclusive place removed from earth. This line of thinking has implications for the life of religious communities in our own time. If the earth is, in a way, to be our eternal home, then its care, and the care of all its creatures, takes on fresh urgency.

Bell’s Journey

The easy narrative about Bell would be one of rebellion — that he is reacting to the strictures of a suffocating childhood by questioning long-standing dogma. The opposite is true. Bell’s creed of conviction and doubt — and his comfort with ambiguity and paradox — comes from an upbringing in which he was immersed in faith but encouraged to ask questions. His father, a central figure in his life, is a federal judge appointed by President Reagan in 1987. (Rob still remembers the drive to Washington in the family Oldsmobile for the confirmation hearings.) “I remember him giving me C.S. Lewis in high school,” Bell says. “My parents were both very intellectually honest, straightforward, and for them, faith meant that you were fully engaged.” As they were raising their family, the Bells, in addition to regular churchgoing, created a rigorous ethos of devotion and debate at home. Dinner-table conversations were pointed; Lewis’ novels and nonfiction were required reading.

The roots of Love Wins can be partly traced to the deathbed of a man Rob Bell never met: his grandfather, a civil engineer in Michigan who died when Rob’s father was 8. The Bells’ was a very conservative Evangelical household. When the senior Bell died, there was to be no grief. “We weren’t allowed to mourn, because the funeral of a Christian is supposed to be a celebration of the believer in heaven with Jesus right now,” says Robert Bell Sr. “But if you’re 8 years old and your dad — the breadwinner — just died, it feels different. Sad.”

The story of how his dad, still a child, was to deal with death has stayed with Rob. “To weep, to shed any tears — that would be doubting the sovereignty of God,” Rob says now, looking back. “That was the thing — ‘They’re all in heaven, so we’re happy about that.’ It doesn’t matter how you are actually humanly responding to this moment …” Bell pauses and chuckles ironically, a bit incredulous. “We’re all just supposed to be thrilled.”

Robby — his mother still calls him that — was emotionally precocious. “When he was around 10 years old, I detected that he had a great interest and concern for people,” his father says. “There he’d be, riding along with me, with his little blond hair, going to see sick folks or friends who were having problems, and he would get back in the truck after a visit and begin to analyze them and their situations very acutely. He had a feel for people and how they felt from very early on.”

Rob was a twice-a-week churchgoer at the Baptist and nondenominational churches the family attended at different times — services on Sunday, youth group on Wednesday. He recalls a kind of quiet frustration even then. “I remember thinking, ‘You know, if Jesus is who this guy standing up there says he is, this should be way more compelling.’ This should have a bit more electricity. The knob should be way more to the right, you know?”

Music, not the church, was his first consuming passion. (His wife Kristen claims he said he wanted to be a pastor when they first met early on at Wheaton College in Illinois. Bell is skeptical: “I swear to this day that that was a line.”) He and some friends started a band when he was a sophomore. “I had always had creative energy but no outlet,” he says. “I really discovered music, writing and playing, working with words and images and metaphors. You might say the music unleashed a monster.”

The band became central to him. Then two things happened: the guitar player decided to go to seminary, and Bell came down with viral meningitis. “It took the wind out of our sails,” he says. “I had no Plan B. I was a wreck. I was devastated, because our band was going to make it. We were going to live in a terrible little house and do terrible jobs at first, because that’s what great bands do — they start out living in terrible little houses and doing terrible little jobs.” His illness — “a freak brain infection” — changed his life, Bell says.

At 21, Rob was teaching barefoot waterskiing at HoneyRock Camp, near Three Lakes, Wis., when he preached his first sermon. “I didn’t know anything,” he says. “I took off my Birkenstocks beforehand. I had this awareness that my life would never be the same again.” The removal of the shoes is an interesting detail for Bell to remember. (“Do not come any closer,” God says to Moses in the Book of Exodus. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”) Bell says it was just intuitive, but the intuition suggests he had a sense of himself as a player in the unfolding drama of God in history. “Create things and share them,” Bell says. “It all made sense. That moment is etched. I remember thinking distinctly, ‘I could be terrible at this.’ But I knew this would get me up in the morning. I went to Fuller that fall.”

Fuller Theological Seminary, in Pasadena, Calif., is an eclectic place, attracting 4,000 students from 70 countries and more than 100 denominations. “It’s pretty hard to sit with Pentecostals and Holiness people and mainline Presbyterians and Anglicans and come away with a closed mind-set that draws firm boundaries about theology,” says Fuller president Richard Mouw.

After seminary, Bell’s work moved in two directions. He was recovering the context of the New Testament while creating a series of popular videos on Christianity called Nooma, Greek for wind or spirit. He began to attract a following, and Mars Hill — named for the site in Athens where Paul preached the Christian gospel of resurrection to the pagan world — was founded in Grand Rapids, Mich., in 1999. “Whenever people wonder why a church is growing, they say, ‘He’s preaching the Bible.’ Well, lots of people are preaching the Bible, and they don’t have parking problems,” says Bell.

Mars Hill did have parking problems, and Bell’s sudden popularity posed some risks for the young pastor. Pride and self-involvement are perennial issues for ministers, who, like politicians, grow accustomed to the sound of their own voices saying Important Things and to the deference of the flock. By the time Bell was 30, he was an Evangelical celebrity. (He had founded Mars Hill when he was 28.) He was referred to as a “rock star” in this magazine. “There was this giant spotlight on me,” he says. “All of a sudden your words are parsed. I found myself — and I think this happens to a lot of people — wanting to shrink away from it. But I decided, Just own it. I’m very comfortable in a room with thousands of people. I do have this voice. What will I say?”

And how will he say it? The history of Evangelism is in part the history of media and methods: Billy Sunday mastered the radio, Billy Graham television; now churches like Bell’s are at work in the digital vineyards of downloads and social media. Demography is also working in Bell’s favor. “He’s trying to reach a generation that’s more comfortable with mystery, with unsolved questions,” says Mouw, noting that his own young grandchildren are growing up with Hindu and Muslim friends and classmates. “For me, Hindus and Muslims were the people we sent missionaries off to in places we called ‘Arabia,'” Mouw says. “Now that diversity is part of the fabric of daily life. It makes a difference. My generation wanted truth — these are folks who want authenticity. The whole judgmentalism and harshness is something they want to avoid.”

If Bell is right about hell, then why do people need ecclesiastical traditions at all? Why aren’t the Salvation Army and the United Way sufficient institutions to enact a gospel of love, sparing us the talk of heaven and hellfire and damnation and all the rest of it? Why not close up the churches?

Bell knows the arguments and appreciates the frustrations. “I don’t know anyone who hasn’t said, ‘Let’s turn out the lights and say we gave it a shot,'” he says. “But you can’t — I can’t — get away from what this Jesus was, and is, saying to us. What the book tries to do is park itself right in the midst of the tension with a Jesus who offers an urgent and immediate call — ‘Repent! Be transformed! Turn!’ At the same time, I’ve got other sheep. There’s a renewal of all things. There’s water from the rock. People will come from the East and from the West. The scandal of the gospel is Jesus’ radical, healing love for a world that’s broken.”

Fair enough, but let’s be honest: religion heals, but it also kills. Why support a supernatural belief system that, for instance, contributed to that minister in Florida’s burning of a Koran, which led to the deaths of innocent U.N. workers in Afghanistan?

“I think Jesus shares your critique,” Bell replies. “We don’t burn other people’s books. I think Jesus is fairly pissed off about it as well.”

On Sunday, April 17, at Mars Hill, Bell will be joined by singer-songwriter Brie Stoner (who provided some of the music for his Nooma series) and will teach the first 13 verses of the third chapter of Revelation, which speaks of “the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God … Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” The precise meaning of the words is open to different interpretations. But this much is clear: Rob Bell has much to say, and many are listening.

術數批判 – 陳雲

這幾年壞鬼中文系列捧紅了陳雲,他已經絕版的舊作「術數批判」得以重見天日。這本書是他大學年代,課餘浸圖書館的研究成果結集成書。陳雲大學主修英文系,現在卻以教人寫好中文聞名。說不定源於當年他沉迷術數,讀艱深的古文日子有功,才得以打好中文基礎的底子。

此書的內容偏頗為學術性,書中引用人類學,社會學,科學哲學,宗教學等不同的學術理論,去分析中國術數的深層結構。我唸過哲學,宗教學和人類學,對於陳雲在書中使用的理論也略知一二,加上書中提供專門學術名詞的英文,所以讀起來並不很吃力,只是把跟隨陳雲把中國術數分類放入已有知識架構內。但若果讀者不知柏普(Popper)為何許人,形上和形下之別,不習慣看引經據典的學術文章,恐怕讀這本書會很幸苦,甚至覺得此書其悶無比,與他壞鬼中文系列差天共地。

在書中陳雲從術數的本義說起,到比較中國古代科學觀和西方科學觀之不同,從宗教神秘主義性,到討論術數在社會的政治作用,他的學識淵博讓我深感佩服。文章中提出的論點與學術主流相近,把橫跨眾多學科的學術理論,加以整合並應用到中國術數上,但欠缺原創性的新理論。當然陳雲當年只是個本科生,還要只是課餘興趣寫此書,要求博士級原創研究自然強人所難。不過單看第一,二,十三和十四章,已經有學術期刊導讀式文章的水準。

除了那四章學術連貫性很強外,本書另外其他章節結構有點零碎,對中國術數進行逐個批判。其中有些文章,如風水,推背圖,體相,測字,作者詳細考據起源和變化,不時展露他的博學多材,為讀者上一門冷知識課。但其他文章,如籤占,打小人,占夢,擇日等,則明顯不是作者的專長,文章似是作者的閱讀筆記,把中國術數分門別類整理,不要遺留缺失了任何一項。

通常我是寫書評,但這篇談不上是評論,只是介紹「術數批判」一書。書本的內容是很實在的知識和理論,隨非我打算辯論其中某些的論點,否則沒法合理性地評論這本書,客觀的知識很難說得上有什麼感覺。這本書的知識密度亦很高,論點和參考資料層層遞進地推論,寫撮要如果省略其中一部份,恐怕會扭曲原意誤導別人。看過這篇介紹的朋友,如果仍然不嫌它太學術太沉悶的話,應該要把書弄來親自閱讀一篇,書皮學不是所有書也適用的。

現在雖然已經是二十一世紀,但很多香港人還是很迷信,看看書店中算命風水書的銷量便知。不知道有沒有書店會倒自己米,把這本書放在命理術數書專櫃上。如果讀者看完這本書,相信以後也不用再買其他命理書。一眾靠命理書收入的書店,恐防讀者知道真相後會損失很多生意,說不定有私底下讓這本書不見天日的陰謀,怪不得這書絕版多年了。

碎形 Factale

在看第一集的時候,我對「碎形」有很高的期望,充滿大自然氣息很清新的開場,重捨一份久違了的八十年代動畫風格。女主角乘白色滑翔翼出場,讓我聯想起「風之谷」的娜烏西亞。追捕女主角的壞蛋三人組,一高一肥穿黑色頭裝戴墨鏡, 很有「娜汀亞 」的色彩。到第三集男主角乘上飛船,與恐佈份子一家親地歡樂冒險,更活脫是「天空之城」的故事。奈何這套動畫空有宮崎駿外殼,拍出來卻變成四不像,正是導演眼高手低失敗的示範例子。

故事的世界觀設定很宏大,在遙遠的未來,碎形系統提供人類一切生活所需,通過虛擬網絡和植入式納米的電腦,照顧人類起居生活,人們不用做事只用享受。可是經過千年的運作,碎形系統開始崩潰,天上的逐漸衛星殞落。擁有重啟世界鎖匙的能力的少女,從維持碎形系統的修道院逃出來,被獨自生活的少年偶然救起。其後兩人遇上與修道院對抗失落千年組織。他們的目標是要把人類從網絡解放,讓人類回歸自然憑自已勞力生活。

大慨導演想表達反思科技的主題,可是拍出來卻完全帶不出中心思想,只見一干人等走來走去,時而氣紛歡樂,時而故弄玄虛。唯一拍出應有的味道,是主角少年與父親重遇那集。天上的碎形衛星失效,地上便出現沒法接收網絡訊號的空白區。區內的人民一下了失去生活的依靠,變成四處流浪尋找碎形訊號的難民。主角父親的心願是修復天線,讓碎形訊號重臨當地,只有一刻鐘也好,把癈墟回復成美麗的小鎮。失落千年拯救難民,教導他們自立生存之道,但人民卻留戀虛擬的碎形世界,正好表達出科技與自然的角力。隨了這集算是合格外,其他集數的劇情缺乏連貫性,故事氣氛轉折太過唐突,各個角色的目標混亂不清,結局解開謎題更隨便敷衍。加上間中人物面相更嚴重走樣,整體上有很嚴重的違和感。

這套動畫在日本收視慘淡,結局更只有0.4%的收視率。這套動畫集齊宮崎駿公式的所有成功元素,配樂舒暢閱耳,結果卻白白浪費了一個好故事和設定。如果換上一個功力深厚的導演,大慨可能成為今年動畫的精彩佳作。現在畫虎不成反類犬,變成了山寨宮崎駿的大笑話。

HydroRight Dual-Flush

The chain connecting the toilet handle to the flapper is broken, I set out to Canadian Tire to buy a replacement chain. Instead of buying a $2 little chain, I end up buying the HydroRigth Dual-Flush system to retrofit my ordinarily toilet to a dual flush toilet. A dual flush toilet save water by adjusting the water flow depending on your needs. You don’t need a full tank of water if there is only pee in the toilet.

The installation is really easy. As the box claim, no tool is required. Just take out the old drop handle and flapper, drop in the new flush system and you are done. The box claims it can be installed in 10 minutes, but it took me almost 30 minutes to adjust the optimal water level for half flush and full flush. The mechanics of the dual-flush system is pretty smart. The full flush operation is pretty much the same as lifting up an old fashion flapper. The trick is on the half flush operation. It has an internal adjustable buoyant control for the half flush operation, when the water level drops below the buoyant, it will close the flapper automatically.

The dual flush system saves half tank of water for every half flush, that adds up to lots of water saving over a year. With the new dual flush toilet installed, I am proud of having a green and environmental friendly life style by using water more efficiently..

狼人(動畫版)Wolverine Anime

美國動畫反攻日本,前一季有「鋼鐵俠」先打頭炮,上季便輪到「狼人」出場。今季更是大舉出動,X-Men全家總動員到日本。若果以前有看Marvel漫畫或看過X-Men的真人電影,看這套「狼人」的第一個反應,必定是嘩一聲叫出來,問怎麼一向形像粗獷的狼人,竟然整容變成尖口尖臉的美男子。在這套動畫中,狼人沒有穿上他黃黑二色的招牌制服,只是很師氣地著風褸牛仔褲。若不是他藏在手背的利爪,和擁有不死身的設定,只看人物設定很難把他和印象中的狼人聯起來。

下文包有劇情,雖然不用看也估到結局,還是循例作出溫韾提示。

美式英雄漫畫故事一向只有直線劇情,這次當然也不倒外。狼人的女朋友真理子給黑社會父親抓了回去,迫她嫁給黑幫頭子作政治姻親。於是狼人從美國千里迢迢追到日本,過關斬將去搶新娘,還順道把兩個黑幫消滅了。雖說女朋友是正印女主角,但她出場的戲份少得可憐,每集出來擺個苦瓜面,完全看不出她有多愛狼人。反而狼人在途遇上女殺手雪緒,要找黑幫頭子報殺父之仇,興狼人目標一至並肩作戰,她比真理子更像女主角,害我還以為狼人會移情別戀。兩個女角最後難逃一死,未來很凄美的劇情,因為劇本嚴重老土而變成很搞笑。

故事是很公式化的每週一怪,戰鬥場面比「鋼鐵俠」更脫力。很多動作用分鏡和快線略過,完全看不到狼人在打什麼。最不滿意是每場戰鬥一式一樣,都是狼人先落下風,只有被敵人挨打的份兒。最後卻忽然間大發神威,不知從那裏冒出一招把對手解決。動畫中原創壞人很夾硬,完全是為打而打才存在。不知道外父還是奸夫才算是最後大佬,外父的劍氣攻擊極度跨張,凌空擘劍可以連鐵柱也斬斷。奸夫手無縛雞之力,故事打算把他塑造成智能形壞人,可是他對付狼人的計畫十分白痴,不知道他如何統治罪惡之島。罪惡之島本身的設定已經極不合理,狼人走獄道可以直抵龍宮,途中遇上的低科技陷阱完全得啖笑。最頂癮是巨投石器在地底升上來,但投石器竟然要人手操控,幾個衣著古怪的人隨機器升上來。不知道他們是獄道的警備長駐在投石器上,還是狼人入侵獄道後,才吹雞招集人手。唯一正常的敵人是從漫畫跟過來,狼人的宿敵極赤。只有那兩集的打鬥水準才算合格,其他集數的打鬥很勉強。

動畫的故事內容爛歸爛,正如電視連續劇的常用手法,每集結尾總故作緊張留下伏線,吊觀眾胃口吸引他們下個星期再回來看。儘管我邊看邊罵,我還是一個星期接一個星期追看完整套動畫。如此劇本既竟吸引到我來追看,大慨「狼人」本身差還不算差到貼地,還是只是在吃原著漫畫的老本。

The Terror of Code in the Wrong Hands

Here is a new term, software terrorist, who brings negative productivity to the team. I can attest that catching bug in poorly written code waste a lot more time than rewriting the code myself from scratch.

By Allen Holub, May 2005, SD Times

The 20-to-1 productivity rule says that 5 percent of programmers are 20 times more productive than the remaining 95 percent, but what about the 5 percent at the other end of the bell curve? Consider the software terrorist: the guy who stays up all night, unwittingly but systematically destroying the entire team’s last month’s work while “improving” the code. He doesn’t tell anybody what he’s done, and he never tests. He’s created a ticking time bomb that won’t be discovered for six months.

When the bomb goes off, you can’t roll back six months of work by the whole team, and it takes three weeks of your best programmer’s effort to undo the damage. Meanwhile, our terrorist gets a raise because he stays late so often, working so hard. The brilliant guy who cleans up the debris gets a bad performance review because his schedule has slipped, so he quits.

Valuable tools in the hands of experts become dangerous weapons in the hands of terrorists. The terrorist doesn’t understand how to use generics, templates and casts, and so with a single click on the “refactor” button he destroys the program’s carefully crafted typing system. That single-click refactor is a real time saver for the expert. Scripting languages, which in the right hands save time, become a means for creating write-only code that has to be scrapped after you’ve spent two months trying to figure out why it doesn’t work.

Terrorist scripts can be so central to the app, and so hard to understand, that they sometimes remain in the program, doubling the time required for all maintenance efforts. Terrorist documentation is a font of misinformation. Terrorist tests systematically destroy the database every time they’re run.

Terrorist work isn’t just nonproductive, it’s anti-productive. A terrorist reduces your team’s productivity by at least an order of magnitude. It takes a lot longer to find a bug than to create one. None of the terrorist code ends up in the final program because it all has to be rewritten. You pay the terrorists, and you also pay 10 times more to the people who have to track down and fix their bugs.

Given the difficulty that most organizations have in firing (or even identifying) incompetent people, the only way to solve this problem is not to hire terrorists at all; but the terrorists are masters of disguise, particularly in job interviews. They talk a good game, they have lots of experience, and they have great references because they work so hard.

Since the bottom 5 percent is indistinguishable from the rest of the bottom 95 percent, the only way to avoid hiring terrorists is to avoid hiring from the remaining 95 percent altogether.

The compelling reason for this strategy is that the 20-to-1 rule applies only when elite programmers work exclusively with other elite programmers. Single elite programmers who interact with 10 average programmers waste most of their time explaining and helping rather than working. Two elite programmers raise the productivity of a 20-programmer group by 10 percent. It’s like getting two programmers for free. Two elite programmers working only with each other do the work of at least 20 average programmers. It’s like getting 18 programmers for free. If you pay them twice the going salary (and you should if you want to keep them), you’re still saving vast amounts of money.

Unfortunately, it’s possible for a software terrorist to masquerade as an elite programmer, but this disguise is easier to detect. Programmers who insist on working in isolation (especially the ones who come to work at 4:00 p.m. and stay all night), the prima donnas who have fits when they don’t get their way, the programmers who never explain what they’re doing in a way that anyone else can understand and don’t document their code, the ones that reject new technologies or methodologies out of hand rather than showing genuine curiosity—these are the terrorists.

Avoid them no matter how many years of experience they have.

Software terrorism is on the upswing. I used to quote the standard rule that the top 10 percent were 10 times more productive. The hiring practices prevalent since the dot-com explosion—which seem to reject the elite programmers by design—have lowered the general skill level of the profession, however.

As the number of elite programmers gets smaller, their relative productivity gets higher. The only long-term solution to this problem is to change our hiring practices and our attitudes toward training. The cynic in me has a hard time believing that either will happen, but we can always hope for the best.

Armored Trooper Votoms: Case Irvine 裝甲騎兵 歐文檔案

「裝甲騎兵歐文檔案」是五十分鐘OVD,除了借用原著的機械人和世界觀外,與完美戰士奇利古沒有任何關係。百年戰爭結束後,機械人成為羅馬鬥獸場式的賭博工具。在邊境的一個星球上,只求安樂生活的退役王牌機師,對上以殺人為樂的瘋狂鬥獸士。故事十分簡單,從鬥獸場打到上街道,最後邪不能勝正,王牌機師克服了戰場陰影,保護了妹妹也抱得美人歸。

雖然故事行貨到不得了,但前後四場機械人對決十分精彩,不負「裝甲騎兵」這塊金漆招牌。先上演一場紅色戰狗以一敵眾,殘暴地把敵方戰敗戰狗分屍。其後紅黑兩台戰狗實戰初遇,黑狗活用地形和機動性,把紅狗壓迫至無反抗之力。可惜黑狗機師害怕開槍殺人,猶疑間讓紅狗有機會偷擊,失去左手後迅速逃離戰場。紅狗機師不甘受辱,寧破壞鬥獸場屠殺平民,迫使黑狗機師出來作宿命一戰。

曾幾何時「裝甲騎兵」是硬派軍事動畫的代名詞,當「高達」和「超時空要塞」也加入軟性養眼元素,「裝甲騎兵」還保留著男人濃烈的剛陽味。想不到現在也要向市場現實低頭,為訂好觀眾淪落至讓美少年當機師,並加入純萃賣萌的女角。不過只要機械人戰鬥場面打得好看,我對加入其他元素倒也沒有太大所謂。

告白 – 湊佳苗

儘管香港有為數不少的哈日族,日本電影一向也是小眾市場。去年日本電影「告白」竟然爆冷跑出,不單連續兩星期蟬聯票房冠軍,香港有過千萬票房收入。電影改篇自湊佳苗的獲獎推理小說,雖說是推理小說但內容推理成份不多,除了故事圍繞殺人事件外,把它分類為驚慄小說更為貼切。

我是先看小說版再補看電影版,因為已經知道故事結局,對電影版帶有先入主的偏見,認為小說版的人物描寫較全面。小學老師的女兒在學校泳池遇溺,殺人兇手是斑上的兩個小學生。在日本有少年罪犯保護法,末滿十六歲的少年殺人等同無罪,松隆子認定法律不能替她申張正義,她用自已的方法去復仇。小說的名字便是來自第一章中,她對著全班學生的告白,給兩個兇手喝下注入愛滋病毒的牛奶,從而展開她的復仇計畫。小說的寫作手法很特別,每章以不同角色的觀點作出描述,交織出殺人事件的前因後果,,以及交代那兩個兇手的下場。電影版不可能以時空交錯方式說故事,否則絕大部份觀眾也會看不明白,所以除了開場的獨白保留原汁原味外,下學期發生的事件改為按時序發展。電影作出這個改動無可被免,但卻破壞了小說最精彩之處,同一個故事前後五次敘述,每次敘述也加入以前沒有的細節,逐漸補元故事空白的部份,讀者要像玩拼圖遊戲般,把殺人動機和事件的真相重組起來。

以下內容包含劇情,未看小說或電影的讀者慎入。

有些評論說「告白」反映出日本的教育問是,沒錯校園欺凌是很普偏的現像,但小學生連環殺人未免太跨張,只會出現在小說中的情節。我在追看小說的時候,被作者高超的寫作技巧吸引著,沒有太注意內容不合理的問題。看電影時第二次再看故事,劇本中犯駁之處顯得太過著眼。松隆子的復仇計劃看似很聰明,但仔細推敲下卻錯漏百出。讀小說時見少年B被松隆子迫瘋了,不禁也有一點心寒恐怖的感覺。到電影再看同一段情節,只覺得少年B很荒謬搞笑。少年A的戀母情意結是小說的敗筆,松隆子把炸彈轉交少年A母親的結局也很兒嬉,大慨作者想不出更有說服力的結局。在小說中愛美是故事推進的關鍵人物,從旁觀的第三者被捲入復仇局中,在電影版中她卻成了個大花瓶,甚至她給少年A殺死那場戲,也缺少了小說中震撼力。小說第三章少年B母親的日記是故事的轉捩點,但在電影版中少年B母親的角色差不多全被刪掉。

電影版的影像很有風格,讓我聯想起黃精甫的電影,但我不是藝術人,電影的鏡頭不懂欣賞,只要不妨礙故事表達便行了。總括來說故事中的每個角色,全部都有神經病,只有愛美算是比較似正常人了。松隆子掛名是女主角,但她的戲份其實不多,只是開塌那段獨白和結尾現身。小說的結局是突然停下來,沒有再花費筆墨在少年A上,令結局在讀者腦中不停迴響。電影版把少年A唯美化,為讓松隆子出場,讓少年A軟倒在松隆子面前,他最後一刻面部表情特寫十分造作,削弱了小說中他在不知情下親手殺死母親的悲劇性。

一個推理小說只有一個結局,初看故事的驚喜只有一次,在小說和電影之間只能二擇其一,而我會選擇小說版的「告白」。電影版不是不好看,只是為遷就時序作出的改動,把原本故事中五重互相緊扣的告白,減剩只有松隆子開場的那段告白。

吃蟑螂抗輻射

甲甴

蟑螂是地球上生命力最頑強的生物,著名科學家曾說過,若果爆發核子戰爭,就算人類死光了,蟑螂還會活下來。清華大學核子實驗室最近進行一項研究發現,以核子輻射照射蟑螂,同樣的劑量會造成人類死亡,但蟑螂卻完全沒事。

有專家認為蟑螂的高抗輻射性體特,是因為其特别的基因排列,令蟑螂的細胞不怕輻射感染。只要人類多吃蟑螂,多吸收蟑螂的特殊基因,人類細胞也能生産輻射抗體,可以抵受更高的輻射量。有營養學家指出,蟑螂含豐富蛋白質,食用前只要清洗乾淨,並以攝氏一百度以上煮熟,徹抵殺死蟑螂體内的細菌,吃蟑螂不會對人體造成傷害。不過他亦同時指出,要小心避免進食帶有殺蟲水的蟑螂,應盡量挑選有機的新鮮蟑螂食用。

随著越來越人知道吃蟑螂能抗輻射的好處,内地的一些餐廰乘勢推出蟑螂宴。在武漢的一家知名食府,便推出九十九元人民幣,三菜一湯的超值蟑螂套餐。先上一客蟑螂鬚燉湯,主菜是椒鹽蟑螂,配麻婆蟑螂鬆炒飯,甜品是蟑螂殻白果糖水。店外更一度出現人龍,未能入座的食客引發騷動,要公安到埸維持秩序。内地網站有網民轉貼蟑螂食譜,互相分享交流蟑螂的烹飪心得。國家衞生部發言人,更鼓勵民眾多吃蟑螂,一來可以抵抗輻射,二來可以消滅害蟲,可謂一舉兩得。

現在日本福島核子危機持續,吃蟑螂能抵抗輻射這個消息,請大家把廣為轉載傳播開去,讓市民可以及早預防輻射。

哲學功課﹕The Coherence Theory of Empirical Knowledge

在傳統認知論中,知識等於真實的信念加上合理相信的理由。在尋找合理的理由時,我們采用歸納法,從已經被肯定的知識中,推論相信新知識的合理理由。可是這裹有一個問題,若每一項知識也是從先前的知識推論出來,那層層遞進地推論追溯上去,那最初的知識如何肯定呢。傳統上基礎主義認為在知識的最底層,是一些不需論證自我肯定的基礎知識,作為所有知識推論的基礎。調和主羲則否定有基礎知識的存在,所有知論的推論是個巨大的循環,只能檢視整個知識系統的一至性,有沒有內部矛盾或對世界觀測的不協調。這篇功課討論調和主義理論本身的問題,探討調和主義能否成立。

The Coherence Theory of Empirical Knowledge

In this essay, I am evaluating Bonjour’s coherence theory of empirical knowledge (CTEK) against foundational theory of empirical knowledge (FTEK). First, I will outline what is the regress problem and compare the responses from FTEK and CTEK. Then I will examine the objection against CTEK regarding its relationship with external world. I will further extend the objection by arguing CTEK is asserting a fundamental assumption that the external world itself has to be coherent for CTEK to be justified. At last I am going to conclude CTEK is unsuccessful in overcome the objection in strictly epistemological sense but it is successful in practical sense.

Since Plato, traditional view of knowledge is justified true belief. A piece of belief is only qualified as knowledge if it is justified. A belief is justified based on the validity and soundness of its argument, which is implicitly depends on the premises used in the argument are also justified. Each premise on its own is also a piece of belief which required the justification of the premise’s premises. As a result, we have a regression of justifications for premises that keep tracing back, which is known as “the regression problem”. FTEK deals with the regression problem by stating there are some foundation beliefs at the very bottom of chains of premises and the regression terminates when the basic beliefs are reached. There are two version of FTEK. The strong version stated that the basic beliefs are self-justified without the need of further premises. The weak version stated that the basic beliefs are initially credible that are likely to be true. The CTEK rejects the notation of basic beliefs, instead of having the regression of premises go on infinite linearly, the inference is circular. An epistemic system is justified by its internal coherence.

However, the circular nature of CTEK runs into the problem of begging the question, which a belief cannot be justified unless it is already justified. The solution is to reject the linear conception of inferential justification and uses a holistic or systematic conception of inferential justification instead. CTEK separate the justification into two categories, justification of a particular belief and the global justification of the entire cognitive system. The justification of a particular belief appears linear, since the premises regression will soon reached some acceptable beliefs in the context. If no acceptable belief is reached, the premises regression will continue moving in a circle. In this case, the justification of the overall knowledge system comes under questions. In CTEK, the justification of the entire system is based on its degree of coherence. A coherent system must be internally consistence, which means there is no internal conflict, but it has more than just consistency. Coherent is the systemic connection between the components of the system, how observable facts can be explained and predicted. The justified knowledge system is the one with the highest degree of coherences out of all the alternative consistence systems.

In the paper, Bonjour lists three objections to CTEK on questioning the fundamental questions of the connection between coherence and justification. Out of the three objections, Bonjour spends most of the paper in defending against objection number two, the relationship of CTEK and external world. I think this is the strongest objection against CTEK and I also think Bonjour successfully defends CTEK against this objection. However, Bonjour omitted an underlining assumption in his defence that the external world has to be coherent in order to justify his argument. In the following paragraphs, I will first out the objection, go over Bonjour’s response to the objection and illustrate his hidden assumption with a counter example.

The strongest objection to CTEK is that since CTEK is justified only in terms the internal coherence of the beliefs in the system, it does not have any relationship with the external world. A self-enclosed system of beliefs cannot constitute empirical knowledge. Bonjour’s defense is pretty straight forward, it simply link the coherent belief system in CTEK to observable facts from external world. He argues that in CTEK, the coherent system of beliefs must also coherent with reliable observation of the external world in long run. When a particular observation does not coherent with the belief system, CTEK can either neglect the particular observation as an incoherent exception to the belief system or refine the belief system to include the new observation. If there are too many incoherent exception observations accumulated in the belief system, the belief system will become less coherent with the world and eventually it will be replaced by a more coherent belief system. The belief system is continuously updating itself upon new observation to maintain its degree of coherence. The input from external world has causal relationship with the CTEK belief system where the belief system is justified by its coherence with observable facts of the external world. One of the key pieces in Bonjour’s argument is to establish what can be constituted as reliable observations yet at the same time is not a basic belief. He argues that spontaneous introspective beliefs on spontaneous sensa beliefs are very likely to be true. The reliability of cognitively spontaneous beliefs is part of the coherence system along with the observation of the external world. Therefore it is not a prior truth in the sense that it is required as the foundation for justification of the knowledge.

Bonjour based CTEK’s justification on the coherence of the belief system and the reliable observation of external world in long run. Let’s granted that the belief system and the observations are reliable, however Bonjour failed to address the underlining assumption that the external world is coherence in long run. If the external world is not coherence, then no belief system can stay coherent due to CTEK has a causal relationship with the external world. Bonjour uses the spontaneous visual belief a red book and the lack of spontaneous visual of a blue book to illustrate how the belief system is linked to the external world. What if there is a chance that the book randomly change colour every time I observe it? How can I conclude there is a red book on my desk but not a blue book on my desk? Even though I can trust my spontaneous beliefs from my sensa of the book, I cannot trust the object under my observation stays the same between my two observations. It is possible that the cover of the book is made of the latest colour changing e-paper technology, which in the case we can provide a coherent account for the observable fact. However, it is also possible that there is no scientific theory can possible explain why the book change its color. It could be the act of God and it is simply a miracle that the book changed from red to blue for no apparent reason. The CTEK justification adopt an objective clock work world view that rule out the existence of any supernatural power, such as an omnipotent God who defies all laws of physics.
In theory, we cannot epistemological justify the CTEK because we cannot epistemological justify the world is coherent. Hume argues that “Uniformity of Nature”, which is essentially the same as coherence of the world, cannot be justified, yet it is rational and non-optional for us to accept the habit of inductive inference. Practically, we can assume the world is coherent almost all of the time and take it as a weak foundation that it is probably initially true until shown otherwise. CTEK is actually a very weak FTEK in disguise; the base belief of CTEK is that the world is coherence to provide the foundation to build coherent belief systems.

However, it would be totally absurd to argue the world is not coherent. If the world is not coherent, then even FTEK is not possible to have any knowledge system. Just like FTEK cannot convince the ultimate skeptic, CTEK also fail to convince the ultimate skeptic that there is justification on any knowledge. Given the fact that assumption of the world is coherent must dialectically acceptable in the context of any knowledge theory to have any meaning, we can grant this assumption a priori status outside of any epistemic dialog. With this particular exception, I conclude that CTEK is successful in overcoming the objection regarding the relationship of coherent belief system and the external world.

Reference:
[1] Laurence Bonjour, The Coherence Theory of Empirical Knowledge, Philosophical Studies 30 (1976) p281-312