Archives For Clint Archer

One online encyclopedia (yes, I am a Wikiholic) describes a flash mob as:

a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and seemingly pointless act for a brief time, then quickly disperse, often for the purposes of entertainment, satire, and artistic expression…”

The dubious honor of inventing flash mobbing belongs to Bill Wasik, the senior editor of Harper’s. He claimed the idea appealed to him as an oddball social experiment, as well as holding the promise of potential notoriety for him being credited with starting the next big thing. Ironically, it kinda worked.

heart flash mobOn June 17, 2003 Wasik employed nascent social media networking to arrange for about 150 people to meet at four staging areas in Manhattan bars. There they received their mission, and proceeded to converge on a specific locale, namely a particular rug in the furnishing department on the ninth floor of Macy’s.

The atmosphere was electric as this bevy of strangers suppressed knowing smiles and did their best to maintain a poker face as they each answered the repeated question of the sales assistants. Whenever they were asked what they needed or if they could be helped, each of the flash mobbers simply explained that they were all part of a commune that occupied a bare warehouse, and that they were collectively deciding on a “love rug” that they all liked.

And then, as suddenly as the mob had convened, it dissipated like a colony of startled ants disgorged from the department store and vanished into the anonymity of New York City’s sidewalks.

What is the point of all that effort and co-ordination, you may be excused for predictably asking. The answer is: nothing. And that’s the point.

The term “flash mob” was added to the 11th edition of the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, whose definition included the distinctive of this crowding as being “unusual and pointless” as opposed to purposeful public gatherings, like protests.

There is another spontaneous crowd formation in history that seemed pointless to some observers, but in reality was the most meaningful public gathering in human history.

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Warren Buffett, nicknamed the Oracle of Omaha, is known as the world’s greatest investor. In 1950, at age 20, he had saved $9,400 (about $100k in today’s money). He set out to invest it, applying his long-term, value-based, focussed portfolio philosophy, which his author Robert Hagstrom termed “The Warren Buffett Way.”  Buffett increased his net worth to $62 billion, making him the richest person in the world. Nipping at his heels for that enviable title was the young Microsoft mogul, Bill Gates.Bill Gates and Buffet

The two richest men in the world were friends, with a friendly rivalry about their wealth. They were not competing to see who could have the most money. Instead, paradoxically, their rivalry was a race to give away money to worthy causes. Together the Buffett Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation were donating hundreds of millions and billions of dollars to a long list of charities, including the global eradication of polio, child vaccination efforts, HIV research, and neglected tropical diseases such as leprosy.

But on July 25, 1996 the rivalry came to an abrupt and unpredictable end.

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Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales is a collection of entertaining stories narrated by Medieval pilgrims to pass the time on their journey. One storyteller who spins a yarn for his ambulant audience is the Pardoner. He is a priest whose job it s to dole out penance and grant pardon to the penitent for their sins. As it turns out, this empathetic Pardoner is himself intimately acquainted with the very debauchery he so liberally pardons. His findings are encapsulated in the Latin dictum: Radix malorum est cupiditas (literally, “the root of evil is greed”).Money on the brain

The plot of the Pardoner’s Tale concerns three men who blame Death for all the pain and suffering in the world. (Bear in mind that the Pardoner’s opinion is that greed is to blame, not death).

The three friends vow to find Death and kill him once for all. On their quest they meet a old, poor man, who tells the determined young hunters where to locate Death. He promises that they will find Death waiting for them under the old oak tree. They bravely head out to said tree.

When they arrive at the designated oak, what they find astonishes them: a huge stash of gold coins. The gold is enough to make all three of them rich for the rest of their lives, if split equally. But, naturally, they all covet more than their rightful share, and they each begin to ponder ways of acquiring a larger slice of the pie.

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This post is an excerpt from a book I'm writing for Sterling Publishers, scheduled for release in October 2014. working title: "A Visitor's Guide to Hell"

I don’t mean to be disparaging of anyone else’s favorite literature, but some tabloid magazines seem to go out of their way to invite ridicule. The best way to prove this is simply quote it.Satan's face - tabloid

PRUDHOE BAY, AK -  Something is emerging from Hell!

That is the horrifying warning of more than 60 eyewitnesses who have seen the monstrous shape roaring out of a mile-deep Alaskan oil well amid stinking clouds of sulfur.

“If I had not seen it with my own eyes, I would not believe it,” said John Merritt, a foreman with BP, which operates the oil field.

“The giant demon head of Satan has already escaped and his body has been slowly coming out for weeks.

“White-hot flames are billowing out of the well, the skies have been darkened by strange clouds and the area is full of an evil stench so oppressive and overpowering that most people can only stand to remain there for a few minutes.”

The oil field, about 400 miles north of Fairbanks, has been ordered shut down by the government and the area has been cordoned off. Only military and clergymen who have been called in by the oil company to aid in the crisis are admitted to the area, and Alaskan officials have slapped a tight lid of secrecy over the story.

Many are looking to politicians for a response; Alaska’s reserves have been a source of this year’s presidential debates over energy independence.

Alaskan Governor and Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin immediately downplayed the incident, stating, “This is nothing to worry about! It’s just the Devil playing tricks on us! He wants to see our country run out of oil, just like the terrorists. We gotta stand up for ourselves and keep on drilling!”

Delaware Senator and Vice-Presidential candidate Joe Biden was far more concerned. “I have consistently voted against exploration in the Alaskan National Wildlife Reserve, and this is the perfect example why. We don’t yet know the long-term environmental effects, let alone Biblical ones.”

As for the hole? “No one is allowed within 50 feet of the oil well,” said foreman Merritt. “We’re just waiting to see what happens next.” (accessed 7 Jan 2014).

This far-fetched urban legend has been pin-balled around inboxes of the gullible since the 1990s. It first emerged as a story about “The Well to Hell” in which a deep borehole well was drilled in Russia. The crew apparently then lowered a super-heat-resistant microphone into the pit and recorded sounds of the damned souls screaming. Yup. Thankfully the farce has petered out somewhat and has been debunked.

So, do we dismiss every aspect of the report? Um, yes.

And yet, Russian boreholes not withstanding, the episode exhibits the concept many people insist on, that Hell is not merely a state of mind, but a real place. So is it?

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AcquariThe sun was setting at about 7pm one balmy Summer day during the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. The stadium was emptying after a day of track and field events. The 20 mile marathon’s gold medal had been awarded about an hour earlier. Suddenly the sound police sirens caught everyone’s attention. They were clearing traffic for a lone figure to enter the stadium.

John Steven Acquari was the last runner in the marathon. Wearing the colors of Tanzania, he was grimacing in agony as he hobbled onto the track for the final 500 yards.

He had taken a serious fall in the race and had ripped a hamstring and badly grazed the skin off his legs. He was bleeding and cramping, but tenaciously shuffled around the field toward the finish line. The crowd quickly gathered to cheer him on. They were clapping and shouting encouragement to him as he finally collapsed over the finish line in sheer exhaustion and pain. After he had recovered somewhat a journalist asked him the question on everyone’s mind: “You were so seriously injured, why didn’t you just quit running?’

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iMagnetOne of the most graphic and disturbing war movies is Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan. Set during the Second World War, an American widow, Mrs Ryan, is informed that three of her four sons have been killed in action, during the Normandy invasion. The army decides to bring her youngest son home. They dispatch a platoon on a quest to locate and rescue Private Ryan.

The platoon of intrepid soldiers risk their necks, brave terrifying circumstances on this perilous mission, and several of them lose their lives in the effort to save his. But when they finally find Private Ryan and announce the good news that they have come to rescue him, they encounter the one obstacle they could not have anticipated: he refuses to come with them. He doesn’t think it’s fair for him to be saved while his compatriots are left behind. And so he “resists” the rescue.

Instead of removing him by force, they decide to fight alongside him to protect him where he is, until he changes his mind. {Spoiler alert…} In the process the valiant rescuers all die, failing their mission to save Private Ryan. *Sniff*

I hope I’m not being overly “relevant” to suggest that the film illustrates all that is wrong with the Arminian view. Jacobus Arminius taught that God’s saving grace could be resisted by an exercise of the free will of the person God extended his grace to. What the Bible teaches, on the other hand (and what John Calvin’s followers articulated in the “I” of the TULIP acrostic), is that when God’s invincible grace dispatches his Son to die for a sinner and his Spirit to save that soul, the mission of redemption will most certainly be accomplished. The grace of God is thus irresistible.

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