CU Boulder Predicts Colorado (and Electoral College) for Romney

23 Aug

From the University of Colorado, Boulder:

A University of Colorado analysis of state-by-state factors leading to the Electoral College selection of every U.S. president since 1980 forecasts that the 2012 winner will be Mitt Romney.

“What is striking about our state-level economic indicator forecast is the expectation that Obama will lose almost all of the states currently considered as swing states, including North Carolina, Virginia, New Hampshire, Colorado, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida,” said Kenneth Bickers of CU-Boulder.
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The Moral Case for the British Empire [Prager University]

20 Aug

A new course from Prager University was released today. Like all courses, this is a 5 minute video giving an overview of a certain topic with information that likely wasn’t presented to you in your undergraduate or graduate studies.

The Moral Case for the British Empire. Taught by H.W. Crocker, Author and Historian.

YouTube Preview Image

The British empire governed on Judeo-Christian values of freedom and peace-making. The largest worldwide empire was the empire the governed the least; without displacing cultures and often ruling side by side and through local leaders.

Ghandi said that he believed the best government was the government that governed least and that he found the British empire guaranteed his freedom and governed him least of all.

The British empire was the force that caused widow-burning to cease in India, and was the greatest force in ending the global slave trade.

My Take

The course does not present the empire as perfect, or deny there were abuses. For example, the abolition of slavery necessitates the presence of slavery first.  The emphasis, however, is that the British empire was a force that overall led to freedom, peace, and life. This is true especially in comparison to other empires throughout history. It’s this kind of comparative analysis that is emphasized in the course. Not that the British empire and everyone associated with it was perfect, but that it was the Empire with the most positive ethics and effects.

In the United States, we find that the freedom founded at the beginning of our nation carried on these ideals, not because the founders were against what Englishmen stood for, but because many were Englishmen  who were fighting for the continuation of the same values.

Another worthwhile course from Prager University. I’ve included the video above, but you can also enroll in Prager University for free and accrue credits just by watching the 5 minute videos online, taught by Dennis Prager, Adam Carolla, Jonah Goldberg, and many more.


2010 Obama: Ryan’s “is an entirely legitimate proposal” bad to say “the other party is trying to hurt our senior citizens.”

16 Aug

In January, 2010, President Obama spoke about the Paul Ryan budget proposal at the time. He compliments Ryan as stepping above the political fray and proposing a serious and legitimate proposal.

There is a political vulnerability to doing anything that tinkers with Medicare. And that’s probably the biggest savings that are obtained through Paul’s plan… I raise that because we’re not going to be able to do anything about any of these entitlements if what we do is characterize whatever proposals are put out there as ‘Well, you know, that’s the other party being irresponsible…the other party is trying to hurt our senior citizens.’ That’s why I say: if we’re going to frame these in the way that allow us to solve them, then we can’t start off by figuring out a) who is to blame; b) how can we make the American people afraid of the other side. And unfortunately that’s how our politics works right now… That’s how we operate. It’s all tactics. It’s not solving problems. (full text at the end of the post)

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This was just 2 years ago. Today, unfortunately, Obama, his campaign, his party, and the Leftist media only seem to be carrying forward:

what we do is characterize whatever proposals are put out there as ‘Well, you know, that’s the other party being irresponsible…the other party is trying to hurt our senior citizens.’… That’s how we operate. It’s all tactics. It’s not solving problems.

The Obama campaign released a scare video about the Ryan budget that Obama praised in the above video.

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Here’s the full text of 2010 Obama praising Paul Ryan and condemning the 2012 Obama’s campaign tactics:

President Obama: I think Paul [Ryan], for example, the head of the Budget Committee, has looked at the budget and has made a serious proposal. Ive read it. I can tell you whats in it. And there’s some ideas in there that I would agree with but there’s some ideas we should have a healthy debate about because I don’t agree with them. The major driver of our long-term liabilities, everybody here knows, is Medicare and Medicaid and our health care spending. Nothing comes close. That’s going to be what our children have to worry about. Now, Paul’s approach, and I want to be careful not to simplify this, I know you’ve got a lot of detail in your plan, but, if I understand it correctly, would say, were going to provide vouchers of some sort for current Medicare recipients at the current level No?

Congressman Ryan: No we protect the program for Americans 55 and above [those in and near retirement]

Obama: I understand there’s a grandfathering in.That’s why I said I wanted to make sure that I’m not being unfair to your proposal. I just want to point out that Ive read it, and the basic idea would be that, at some point, we hold Medicare cost per recipient constant as a way of making sure that that doesn’t go way out of whack, and I’m sure there some details

Ryan: We increase the Medicare payments with a blend of inflation and health inflation. The point of our plan is, because Medicare as you know is a $38 trillion unfunded liability.

Obama: Right.

Ryan: It has to be reformed for younger generations because it wont exist. Its going bankrupt. The premise of our idea is look, why not give people the same kind of health care plan we here have in Congress? Thats the kind of reform were proposing for Medicare. [applause]

Obama: As I said before, this is an entirely legitimate proposal. There is a political vulnerability to doing anything that tinkers with Medicare. And that’s probably the biggest savings that are obtained through Paul’s plan. And I raise that, not because we shouldn’t have a serious discussion about it; I raise that because we’re not going to be able to do anything about any of these entitlements if what we do is characterize whatever proposals are put out there as ‘Well, you know, that’s the other party being irresponsible…the other party is trying to hurt our senior citizens.’ That’s why I say: if we’re going to frame these in the way that allow us to solve them, then we can’t start off by figuring out a) who is to blame; b) how can we make the American people afraid of the other side. And unfortunately that’s how our politics works right now. Every time somebody speaks in Congress, the first thing they do, they have all the talking points, I see Frank Luntz up here, he’s already polled it. I’ve done a focus group, they way we’re going to box Obama in on this one, or make Pelosi look bad on that one. That’s how we operate. It’s all tactics. It’s not solving problems. And so the question is: at what point can we have a serious conversation about Medicare and its long-term liability, or a serious conversation about Social Security or serious conversation about budget and debt where aren’t simply trying to position ourselves politically. That’s what I’m committed to doing.

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25 Books Every Christian Should Read

14 Aug

I’ve previously mentioned my men’s book club, “Book Burning” briefly once before. I’ve always tried to alternate between new and old books, based on C.S. Lewis’ advice, though this January things took a turn.

The books selected for a book club are typically books that one or more members have previously read and enjoyed. Because not everyone reads the book before discussion, sometimes the only reading is re-reading by those who already love the book. Alternatively, books can be taken on the recommendation of another. Yet whose recommendation does one take? We aren’t interested in an Oprah book club.

Enter 25 Books Every Christian Should Read by Richard Foster’s Renovaré. Frederica Mathewes-Green was on the board, which lent it a great deal of credibility for us, as her Gender: Men, Women, Sex and Feminism was one of our most discussed books previously read.

15 Books Every Christian Should Read Cover

Compiled by a team spanning Orthodox, Catholic, Evangelical and Anabaptist traditions, the chronological list begins with Athanasius’ On the Incarnation and ends with The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri J. M. Nouwen. Books are both fiction and non-fiction, and only books whose authors are now deceased were allowed. This is important as I would have avoided the book had some of the end-of- book recommendations of contemporary books been included in the official list.

I ran the idea of following the 25 Books recommendations by a few guys who are part of Book Burning and we started in January. We’re interspersing other books for a third of our Burnings. I was afraid that reading ancient Christian literature might not draw as many guys, but we’ve had more guys show up for these discussions than we did when we picked books on our own recommendation.

I figured 25 Books Every Christian Should Read would be similar to 10 Books That Screwed Up the World and 5 Others That Didn’t Help, which summarizes the author’s background and book content. What I didn’t realize – but now very much appreciate – is that 25 Books is structured as a guide for discussing the book with others. It’s perfect as a guide for Book Burning.

It also allowed me to add new direction and purpose to the book club. It’s still about hanging out with friends, eating, maybe smoking a pipe, and discussing books; it’s now also about spiritual transformation. Thanks to the books we’ve read, I see my faith and life differently now.

Since January I’ve begun to forget some of my take-aways from and responses to the books. I plan on writing up, briefly, my thoughts and bits from our discussion about these 25 books so I don’t permanently forget them.


Stella’s Coffeehaus and Jasmine Pouchong Tea

13 Aug

In my search for alternatives to Starbucks, I’ve happened upon Stella’s at the recommendation of our friend, Wanderer Jen.

Stella’s is located in Denver at 1476 S. Pearl street between Florida and Arkansas. The place is huge. It seems they connected two older townhouses resulting in several large rooms with different atmospheres. There’s additional seating outside on the front porch.

Tonight I’m drinking Jasmine Pouchong tea. Jasmine is one of my favorite teas, probably due to all the Jasmine tea my family had with Dim Sum and other Chinese food when I was growing up. As I got my computer set up for a few blog posts, the refreshing aroma of the Jasmine tea drifted to my nose as a reminder of my unfinished series of posts about coffee and tea places as Starbucks alternatives.

The final straw for this move was Starbucks’ choice to spend profits to lobby governments on controversial issues unrelated to their products and business, about which I’ve already written. Another reason relates to G. K. Chesterton’s political and economic model of Distributism, as I read in The Outline of Sanity, which includes a very strong emphasis on small business and shopping locally.

interior of stella's coffeehaus

Stella’s is clearly a liberal establishment, with Obama stickers on the door and mints mocking Sarah Palin for sale near the entrance. Yet even if the owners decide to use company profits to lobby government, it won’t have near the power of Starbucks, which is funneling money from stores around the world to lobby state governments one by one.

The tea choices are plentiful, both loose-leaf hand-bagged teas and blooming teas. The Wi-Fi is said to work on occasion, yet tonight I’m again connected through my cell phone’s data connection. Though it’s crowded, there are still many tables of various sizes and shapes and with unmatched wooden chairs available.

I feel strangely old at Stella’s, and out of place if I don’t have my (work supplied) MacBook Pro with me. It feels like a college campus common area, with many students working on homework, others flirting, others stating quips loudly as if they’ve reached epiphanies of eloquence by repeating theories they don’t understand but have heard from their professors.

This creates an environment in people and conversation that is undesirable when I seek to read or write, but I’m able to block this out enough to enjoy the wooden furniture and brick walls when I’m alone. Yet the loud (and giggly) atmosphere would make this place fine for talking with friends or playing a game.

Solid Grounds is my new place of choice, but they don’t stay open too late. While not open 24 hours, Stella’s has a better environment, better tea, and much more seating than Fireside Books & Coffee.

Verdict: Stella’s is my choice when I’m out later than Solid Grounds is open and I have enough time for the extra drive past Fireside.


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A Gay Chick-Fil-A Employee Speaks Out… and Continually Contradicts Self

02 Aug

Sandwich, fries, and a drink From Chic-Fil-AThe Daily Beast has an article today written by a closeted homosexual employee of Chick-Fil-A, who states she wanted to vomit when she heard people singing God Bless America and wished that her customers would die of asphyxiation.

The self-contradictions really show the double standard that epitomizes this writer and probably those trying to shut down Chick-Fil-A because the president holds a different political opinion than they:

On the one hand, PLEASE DON’T PROTEST MY WORKPLACE. If you do, you’re just being self-righteous:

Boycotting Chick-fil-A doesn’t hurt the company. It hurts the employees. And it’s hard enough working for a place that doesn’t think you should get married. But it’s work. Don’t take it away because you feel righteous.


We had two protestors outside, and I took five minutes to run out, hug them, and tell them: if I weren’t working here now, I’d be out here with you. 

On the one hand, hoping someone goes hungry for boycotting, you know, food is evil: arrogant, self-righteous, and desire for others to suffer:

One kid, age 19, said “I hope the gays go hungry.” I nearly walked out then and there. That epitomizes the characteristics of these evangelical “Christians”…

That arrogance, self-righteousness, and desire for their opponents to suffer: that’s the least Christ-like attitude of all.

On the other hand, wishing the family value advocates die is just fine:

I remember thinking, under stress, “I hope they choke.”

One of the silliest parts:

no one called the restaurants and said “Hey, you may be flooded with customers. Thaw extra chicken.” Not one of the employees in those congregations gave the restaurant a heads-up. That sort of consideration wasn’t even an afterthought. The ministers, and through them the congregants, didn’t think about the consequences of their actions, or who it might screw over. And it ended up screwing us rather thoroughly.

August 1 as Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day was national news for more than a week beforehand, declared from Mike Huckabee on Fox News, not just a few local pastors. If your management or franchise owner wasn’t paying attention to a major news story about her/his business, that’s their fault, not your customers’ fault.


The Hero and the God (The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Monomyth Chapter 3)

01 Aug

Book cover of The Hero with a Thousand Faces

…the adventure of the hero normally follows the pattern of the nuclear unit above described; a separation from the world, a penetration to some source of power, and a life-enhancing return. – p 35

This is the most basic outline of the rather circular hero story. Unlike the outline of any old story, the conflict, the uncomfortable realm, is supernatural in some way in the hero story.

Everywhere, no matter what the sphere of interest (whether religious, political, or personal), the really creative acts are represented as those deriving from some sort of dying to the world; and what happens in the interval of the hero’s nonentity, so that he comes back as one reborn, made great and filled with creative power, mankind is also unanimous in declaring. We shall have only to follow, therefore, a multitude of heroic figures through the classic stages of the universal adventure in order to see again what has always been revealed. This will help us to understand not only the meaning o those images for contemporary life, but also the singleness of the human spirit in its aspirations, powers, vicissitudes, and wisdom. – p 35-36 (emphasis added)

Campbell lists the steps of the universal hero story, which are also the chapters in his Part I (We’re still in the prologue for this and another chapter):

1 Departure

1.1 The Call to Adventure
1.2 Refusal of the Call
1.3 Supernatural Aid
1.4 The Crossing of the First Threshold
1.5 Belly of The Whale

2 Initiation

2.1 The Road of Trials
2.2 The Meeting With the Goddess
2.3 Woman as Temptress
2.4 Atonement with the Father
2.5 Apotheosis
2.6 The Ultimate Boon

3 Return

3.1 Refusal of the Return
3.2 The Magic Flight
3.3 Rescue from Without
3.4 The Crossing of the Return Threshold
3.5 Master of Two Worlds
3.6 Freedom to Live

– p 36-37

He draws a distinction between a “hero of the fairy tale” and a “hero of myth” : “Typically, the hero of the fairy tale achieves a domestic, microcosmic triumph, and the hero of myth a world-historical macrocosmic triumph.” – p 37-38

He writes:

The godly powers sought and dangerously won are revealed to have been within the heart of the hero all the time. He is “the king’s son” who has come to know who he is an therewith has entered into the exercise of his proper power-“God’s son,” who has learned to know how much that title means… the two-the hero and this ultimate god, the seeker and the found-are thus understood as the outside and inside of a single,self-mirrored mystery, which is identical with the mystery of the manifest world. The great deed of the supreme hero is to come to the knowledge of this unity in multiplicity and then to make it known.

My thoughts & questions

  1. The story of the hero demands the supernatural. Campbell as an atheist doesn’t believe in the supernatural, yet he believes we must live out the subconscious hero story for our own well-being. His conclusion is thus that we just need to go through the motions.
  2. What if, instead, the repetition of this same hero story in every human heart and in every culture is a story written by an author, directing us to the life we’re supposed to be living and/or to the real ultimate hero of all reality? I don’t think the data drives the conclusion, but the worldview of the author.
  3. Campbell’s desire to go through the motions includes stepping through a stage of rebirth. Isn’t being born something that someone else does to a person? How does one walk through a passive step in denial of the one who births? Or is this just a weakness of language?
  4. One of my ongoing questions is whether the biblical call to discipleship is a call to all to engage in the hero story themselves. The quote above lends itself well, as he is using biblical language of dying the world and being reborn. Biblical Christianity speaks of this being a spiritual reality as well as the symbolism of baptism. In this case, it seems that delaying baptism is putting the breaks on the story, not really engaging with it; being stuck in what Campbell calls The Refusal of the Call.
  5. How does this compare with the list compiled by Lord Raglan I posted yesterday?

Mythic Heroes

31 Jul

Anonymous super hero pose

What follows is a copy of one of my first exposures to the idea of the universal hero story a few years ago. The web page is now offline, but I found a copy through the Wayback machine. Here’s the unedited text of the page. The content is not my own, but is content that I find interesting.

Mythic Heroes

It has been known for over a century that many biographies of legendary heroes have remarkably similar overall plot lines. One of the scholars who has discussed this in detail is a certain Lord Raglan, who wrote a book, The Hero, back in 1936. The more important parts of this book are reprinted in Robert Segal’s collection, In Quest of the Hero, which includes Otto Rank’s discussion of the birth stories of numerous heroes and Alan Dundes’s discussion of Jesus Christ as a mythic hero. Lord Raglan had prepared a composite hero biography; I will check on how well other heroes fit, after making certain clarifications and changes.

Here is Lord Raglan’s original list:

  1. The hero’s mother is a royal virgin, while
  2. his father is a king, and
  3. the father is related to the mother.
  4. The hero’s conception is unusual or miraculous; hence
  5. he is reputed to be a son of a god.
  6. Evil forces attempt to kill the infant or boy hero, but
  7. he is spirited away to safety and
  8. reared by foster parents in a foreign land. Besides this,
  9. we learn no details of his childhood until
  10. he journeys to his future kingdom, where
  11. he triumphs over the reigning king and/or a giant, dragon, or wild beast, and
  12. marries a princess, often his predecessor’s daughter, and
  13. becomes king himself.
  14. For a while he reigns uneventfully,
  15. promulgating laws. But
  16. he later loses favor with his subjects or with the gods and
  17. is driven from the throne and the city and
  18. meets with a mysterious death,
  19. often atop a hill.
  20. If he has children, they do not succeed him.
  21. His body is not buried, yet
  22. he has one or more holy sepulchers.

Several problems are apparent immediately, especially when one considers Lord Raglan’s examples:

  • Oedipus
  • Theseus
  • Romulus
  • Hercules (Heracles)
  • Perseus
  • Jason
  • Bellerophon
  • Pelops
  • Asklepios (Asclepius, Aesculapius)
  • Dionysus
  • Apollo
  • Zeus
  • Joseph (from the Book of Genesis)
  • Moses
  • Elijah
  • Watu Gunung (from Java)
  • Nyikang (from the Shiluk of the upper Nile)
  • Sigurd (Siegfried)
  • Llew Llaw Gyffes (Llew Llawgyffes)
  • King Arthur
  • Robin Hood

In several of these examples, the hero’s mother was not quite virginal when she had the hero, though many of these heroes are first or only children. This suggests splitting the first criterion into two: The hero’s mother is a queen who has had no previous children. Likewise, “royalty” ought to be interpreted somewhat broadly as “having a high status”, which includes anything from rich people to deities. And in some cases, a human father or seeming human father is hard to identify, so I will list that as optional. Lack of mention of details of a hero’s childhood (9) may seem to be a very normal thing, but it is signficant when the hero’s infancy is described in detail, as is the case in many hero stories. Furthermore, some hero stories feature stories of unusual precocity; I believe that that ought to be added to Lord Raglan’s criteria. Likewise, having an uneventful reign (14) may be only relative. Criterion (11) may be interpreted generally as triumph over some great enemy, and criterion (18) may be interpreted as an unusual or unexpected death. One problem I have with some of Lord Raglan’s examples is that he includes temples in (22), even if they are generalized temples rather than tombs. Also, Lord Raglan often uses the most “mythical” variant to construct a score, which may make his scores upper limits.

So here’s my modified list:

  1. The hero’s mother is a queen,
  2. who has had no previous children, while
  3. his father, if human, is a king, and
  4. he is related to the hero’s mother.
  5. The hero’s conception is unusual or miraculous; hence
  6. he is reputed to be a son of a god.
  7. Evil forces attempt to kill the infant or boy hero, but
  8. he is spirited away to safety and
  9. reared by foster parents in a foreign land. Relative to this,
  10. we learn no details of his childhood, aside from unusual precocity, until
  11. he journeys to his future kingdom, where
  12. he triumphs over some great enemy — the reigning king and/or a giant, dragon, or wild beast — and
  13. marries a princess, often his predecessor’s daughter, and
  14. becomes king himself.
  15. For a while he reigns relatively uneventfully,
  16. promulgating laws. But
  17. he later loses favor with his subjects or with the gods and
  18. is driven from the throne and the city and
  19. meets with a mysterious, unusual, or unexpected death,
  20. often atop a hill.
  21. If he has children, they do not succeed him.
  22. His body is not buried, yet
  23. he has one or more holy sepulchers.

I’ve used the male pronoun here, because most of the examples I know of are male; it would be interesting to see some female examples.

Here is some of my scoring. I will use some of the better-known examples, both from Lord Raglan and from elsewhere; I will also include some real people who have experienced some mythification.

Jesus Christ

  1. Mary is a commoner, but according to some apologists, the Luke genealogy applies to her instead of to Joseph. (0 – 0.5)
  2. She’s not called the Virgin Mary for nothing. (1)
  3. Joseph, though a commoner, is descended from King David (Matthew and Luke). (0.5)
  4. Only very distantly. (0)
  5. A conception which resulted in the Virgin Birth. (1)
  6. Yes, he’s the Son of God, God, and 1/3 of God, depending on which interpretation one prefers. (1)
  7. King Herod orders a massacre of all the baby boys of Bethlehem (Matthew). (1)
  8. His parents flee with him (1)
  9. to Egypt, where he spends his early childhood. (0.5)
  10. We only hear stories of unusual precocity (learning at the Temple, the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, the Arabic Infancy Gospel). (1)
  11. He goes into the wilderness and then to Galilee (synoptics) or to Jerusalem (John). (1)
  12. He successfully resists the Devil’s temptations, which include rule of “all the kingdoms of the world”. (0.5)
  13. He is described as single, but the Gospel of Philip describes him as kissing Mary Magdalene on the mouth, and there has been abundant speculation about a JC-MM relationship, but she had been a commoner without any special ancestry. (0)
  14. He becomes a famous religious prophet. (1)
  15. Although he worked many miracles, these were relatively small-scale. (1)
  16. His teachings are often considered laws. (1)
  17. After his famous Temple temper tantrum, he is arrested and his followers desert him (mainly Matthew). (1)
  18. He is put on trial by the Jewish and Roman authorities, and a lynch mob wants him dead. (1)
  19. He “dies” on that cross, despite his ability to jump off of it. (1)
  20. Yes. (1)
  21. He is childless; if (say) Mary Magdalene had had his children, we do not learn of them. (1)
  22. His body was only temporarily buried; he woke up three days later, appeared to his followers, and then rose up into Heaven. (1)
  23. Yes. (1)

Score: 18.5 – 19

Assessing Jesus Christ as a myth is bound to be controversial; Lord Raglan had avoided doing so for that reason. However, the difficulty of distinguishing the historical Jesus, if any, from the abundance of mythology about him has caused some to conclude that he had been a myth, notably Richard Price and Earl Doherty.

The Virgin Birth, for example, is rather obviously mythological, with numerous legendary pagan heroes having gods as their biological fathers. This includes some historical people supposedly having such fathers, such as Pythagoras (Apollo), Plato (also Apollo), and Alexander the Great (Zeus). Which implies that their human “fathers”, like Joseph, had been cuckolded by gods!

One counterargument may be phrased as follows:

The Christian God did not have sexual relations with that woman, Mary!

This phrasing is in analogy with former President Clinton’s evasive and hairsplitting defenses of his sexual conduct. I believe that “defense” to be equally evasive and hairsplitting, because the divine impregnation is the important thing about such a story. Interestingly, Mormonism teaches that God had indeed had sex with Mary to produce JC.

The reference to Jesus Christ being the Son of God, God, and 1/3 of God is an attempt to be uncommittal about the Trinity, which in my opinion is a hopelessly tangled theological knot.

The Infancy Gospel of Thomas and the Arabic Infancy Gospel are noncanonical Gospels that describes Jesus Christ as having performed several miracles during his childhood. Thomas includes miracles like bring to life statues of small birds that he had made, raising some dead people, and zapping a boy who bumped into his shoulder.

And the comment about jumping off of the Cross was imspired by the miracles that Jesus Christ had allegedly worked: walking on water, conjuring up bread and fish, turning water into wine, healing sick people, driving out demons, raising the dead, and zapping a certain fig tree. Yet he was either unable or unwilling to jump off that cross.

Back to the list of scores.


  1. His mother is from the priestly tribe of Levi. (0.5)
  2. The text suggests that Moses is her first child, (1)
  3. His father is also a Levite. (0.5)
  4. Only very distantly. (0)
  5. No sign of this. (0)
  6. No hint of this. (0)
  7. The Pharaoh tried to kill all the baby boys — which included him. (1)
  8. He is put in a basket which floats down the Nile, (1)
  9. and raised by the Pharaoh’s daughter in the Egyptian royal court. (1)
  10. Correct. (1)
  11. He returns to his fellow Israelites — twice. (1)
  12. He kills an Egyptian who had been tormenting his fellow Israelites, and he later liberates his people from the Pharaoh. (1)
  13. He marries a daughter of a priest of Midian, (1)
  14. and eventually becomes the Israelites’ leader. (1)
  15. After liberation, the Israelites wander around in the Sinai. (1)
  16. and Moses issues lots and lots of laws. (1)
  17. God tells him that he will not be allowed in the Promised Land, (1)
  18. and he is stuck in the land of Moab. (1)
  19. He was in good health up until he died (1)
  20. on top of Mt. Pisgah. (1)
  21. He is succeeded by Joshua son of Nun — and not by any of his children. (1)
  22. His body was buried, (0)
  23. but nobody knows where. (0)

Score: 16

My score is lower than Lord Raglan’s, because I am using only the Biblical account of him, and not later Jewish legend, which may have additional details (can anyone fill me in on this?). Also, I’ve counted being raised in the Egyptian royal court as being raised in another country, becuase that was a place very different from where his parents had lived.

Back to the list of scores.


  1. Rhea Silvia, daughter of King Numitor.(1)
  2. Romulus and Remus were her only children. (1)
  3. In some versions, King Amulius, wearing his armor, had raped Rhea Silvia. (1)
  4. King Amulius was Rhea Silvia’s uncle. (1)
  5. Though the wicked King Amulius made Rhea Silvia a Vestal Virgin, sort of like a nun, to keep her from having children, (1)
  6. the god Mars made her pregnant with R and R. (1)
  7. King Amulius, upon discovering RS’s children, puts them in a wooden tub, which he puts in the Tiber, (1)
  8. but it floats down the river, (1)
  9. and R and R are reared first by a wolf, then by a (human) peasant family. (1)
  10. Correct. (1)
  11. Correct. (1)
  12. He helps Numitor defeat Amulius. (1)
  13. Nothing special about his wife Hersilia. (0)
  14. He founds Rome and becomes its first ruler, killing his twin brother along the way. (1)
  15. The kidnapping of the Sabine women, and the other wars he led, count against this. (0)
  16. He set up Rome’s laws and institutions, like the Senate. (1)
  17. According to some versions, Romulus turned into a tyrant. (1)
  18. In those versions, the Senate condemned him. (1)
  19. Romulus disappeared into a storm, with Mars taking him into heaven in a fiery chariot, with those alternate versions featuring the Senators executing and dismembering him. (1)
  20. His trip to heaven was from Capra Palus (Goat’s Marsh), which was likely very flat. (0)
  21. Correct. (0)
  22. He became worshipped as the god Quirinus. (1)
  23. Lapis Niger (Black Rock) in Rome’s Forum had supposedly marked his grave. (1)

Score: 19

The accounts of him are rather contradictory; I’ve followed Lord Raglan’s procedure, despite it producing some score inflation. But using only one of the variants, such as him being taken to heaven vs. him being executed by the Senate, would not lower his score very much.

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Hercules (Heracles)

  1. Alcmene was daughter of King Electryon of Tiyrns. (1)
  2. Correct. (1)
  3. Her husband was King Amphitryon, (1)
  4. who was a first cousin. (1)
  5. Hard to tell. (1)
  6. Zeus was his real father, appearing to Alcmene in the form of Amphitryon and making her pregnant. (1)
  7. Hera tries to spite her husband Zeus by first trying to intefere with Hercules’s birth, and then by trying to kill the baby Hercules with some snakes. Which he strangles. (1)
  8. No. (0)
  9. No. (0)
  10. Yes. (1)
  11. Not sure. (0)
  12. He kills a lion, among other feats (1)
  13. He marries King Creon’s daughter Megara (1)
  14. Not sure. (0)
  15. Not sure. (0)
  16. Not sure. (0)
  17. King Eurystheus becomes displeased with him on account of some murders he had committed (1)
  18. and sentences him to performing his famous Twelve Labors. (1)
  19. He disappears from his funeral pyre (1)
  20. on top of Mt. Oeta. (1)
  21. His sons do not succeeded him. (1)
  22. His body is not found, (1)
  23. but he is worshipped in temples. (1)

Score: 16

Lord Raglan claims that he had become king of Calydon for a while, complete with uneventful rule; I was unable to find that in my sources.

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  1. His mother Devaki is a sister of the wicked King Kamsa; her father Devaka was rich enough to afford a dowry of 400 elephants fully decorated with golden garlands, 15,000 decorated horses, 1800 chariots, and the hiring of 200 pretty young ladies to follow her. (1)
  2. She had seven sons before having Krishna. (0)
  3. His father Vasudeva was the son of sort-of-king Surasena. (1)
  4. No hint of that. (0)
  5. Devaki learned that she was pregnant with someone special when she became pregnant with Krishna. (1)
  6. Krishna is considered an avatar of the great Hindu god Vishnu. (1)
  7. King Kamsa had imprisoned Vasudeva and Devaki, and had killed their previous offspring. (1)
  8. When he was born, he was switched with Yogamaya, daughter of Yasoda and Nanda (mother and father), thus frustrating Kamsa. (1)
  9. Yasoda and Nanda return to their home and raise Krishna there. (1)
  10. There are some childhood details, such as his learning to dance, his destroying some wicked demons, and his cavortings with some gopis. (0)
  11. King Kamsa invites Krishna and a friend to a wrestling match, hoping that Krishna will be defeated. (1)
  12. But Krishna wins, prompting Kamsa to order Krishna’s foster father and several others murdered. Whereupon Krishna kills Kamsa. (1)
  13. Krishna marries some beautiful princesses. (1)
  14. He becomes a king. (1)
  15. The Kurukshetra War counts against this; Krishna also fights more demons and plays his flute, Krishna’s fun loving is a rarity among religious prophets; only Jesus Christ comes anywhere close with his turning of water into wine for a wedding party. (0)
  16. Krishna delivers the Bhagavad-Gita to Arjuna at the beginning of that war. (1)
  17. His family misbehaves, leading to their destruction. (1)
  18. With his family destroyed and his kingdom torn apart by civil war, Krishna leaves the place to wander about by himself. He saw the destruction of his clan and kingdom. (1)
  19. He was shot in the foot by an archer named “Jara” (“Old Age”). (0.5)
  20. In a forest by the seashore. (0)
  21. He has no successors. (1)
  22. He rose up into heaven. (1)
  23. Several places are supposedly his last resting place. (1)

Score: 17.5

Other Hindu religious figures are known to have Mythic-Hero-like biographies.

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Siddhartha Gautama (The Buddha)

  1. Not sure about the royal origins or the virginity of his mother Maya (0.5),
  2. Yes. (1)
  3. His father Suddhodhana was a king, or at least a noble. (1)
  4. No hint of this. (0)
  5. He was conceived when Maya dreamed that a white elephant had entered her body through her side. (1)
  6. He was an enlightened being on his last reincarnation before achieving Nirvana. (1)
  7. King Suddhodhana tries to keep him from his future career by pampering him, keeping him from an awareness of suffering and death, instead of by trying to kill him. (0.5)
  8. A pampering which continues through his childhood. (0)
  9. Maya dies and he is raised by her sister Mahaprajaprati. (0)
  10. Apparently so. (1)
  11. He sees an old man, a sick man, a dead man, and an ascetic, and he deserts his wife and son in search of enlightenment as to what he saw. (1)
  12. He goes on a long quest, mortifying the flesh, and experiencing Mara the Tempter trying to lead him astray, until he achieves enlightenment under a Bodhi tree. (1)
  13. He effectively stays single the rest of his life. (0)
  14. He becomes the leader of his new religious movement. (1)
  15. He decides to spread the word about what he has learned. (1)
  16. Correct. (1)
  17. He issues his teachings, which contain laws of a sort. (1)
  18. Does not seem to happen. (0)
  19. Does not seem to happen. (0)
  20. He dies from eating a meal of tainted pork, an oddity because Buddhism has the ideal of vegetarianism. (1)
  21. Nothing special about where he died. (0)
  22. His son does not succeed him. (1)
  23. He is cremated. (1)
  24. He has no tomb, but there are temples containing his relics, like the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy, Sri Lanka. (1)

Score: 15

Though at first sight, being pampered is very different from someone trying to kill him, that pampering had the same intended effect: keeping Siddhartha Gautama from becoming a religious prophet. So that is why I include it in the “evil forces try to kill him” criterion.

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Mohammed, Founder of Islam

  1. Nothing special. (0)
  2. Not sure. (0)
  3. Nothing special. (0)
  4. Nothing beyond their both being Quraysh. (0)
  5. No sign of that. (0)
  6. No sign of that. (0)
  7. Does not happen. (0)
  8. Does not happen. (0)
  9. Does not happen. (0)
  10. No infancy details makes this irrelevant. (0)
  11. He goes to a cave in the mountains, where he starts receiving revelations. (0.5)
  12. He brings his new religion back to Mecca, defeating pagans. (1)
  13. He marries Khadija, a rich businesswoman. (0.5)
  14. He becomes a leader as well as a founder. (1)
  15. He has to flee to Medina, and later triumphantly reconquers Mecca. (0)
  16. He keeps on receiving revelations. (1)
  17. Never happens. (0)
  18. Does not really happen, unless one counts having to flee to Medina. (0)
  19. He gets sick and dies in a normal sort of fashion. (0)
  20. He dies in Medina. (0)
  21. Correct, though Shiites believe that the descendants of Ali, Mohammed’s cousin and son-in-law, are Islam’s legitimate leaders. (1)
  22. He was buried in Medina. (0)
  23. Only relevant if his body had mysteriously disappeared. (0)

Score: 5

I have omitted the part about him riding a flying horse to heaven, because I am not sure how that fits in with the rest of his biography. If he did not really die, but instead rode such a horse to heaven, then that raises his score by 2.

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John Fitzgerald Kennedy

  1. His mother Rose Fitzgerald was the daughter of a notable Boston politician, John “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald. (0.5)
  2. She had Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. before having JFK, though he died in WWII. (0.5)
  3. his father Joseph P. Kennedy was a successful businessman who was involved in politics. (0.5)
  4. No evidence of this. (0).
  5. No evidence of this. (0).
  6. Even the biggest JFK groupies don’t claim this. (0).
  7. Does not happen. (0)
  8. No need to. (0)
  9. He was raised by his biological parents. (0)
  10. No infancy details makes this irrelevant. (0)
  11. He enters politics in his home state, Massachusetts. (0)
  12. Defeating Richard Nixon in 1960 is hardly a very great triumph. (0)
  13. He married Jacqueline Bouvier, who had come from a rich family. (0.5)
  14. He became President. (1)
  15. His Presidency was rather tempestuous, with the Bay of Pigs would-be invasion and the Cuban Missile Crisis. (0)
  16. His record was rather mixed; he was slow to support civil rights, and he proposed landing on the Moon only late in his Presidency. (0.5)
  17. Does not happen. (0)
  18. Does not happen. (0)
  19. He was assassinated by a lone lunatic who got a good shot at him. (0)
  20. He is killed in his parade car. (0)
  21. His son JFK Jr. was a lawyer, journalist, publisher, and sex symbol; his daughter Caroline has not been as notable. (1)
  22. His body resides in Arlington National Cemetery. (0)
  23. Not sure what would qualify as one. (0)

Score: 4.5

The death of JFK has been the subject of much speculation and conspiracy theorizing, but calling it a mystery would raise his score only by 1.

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Charles Darwin

  1. His mother, Susannah Wedgwood, came from an aristocratic family. (0.5)
  2. She had four previous ones before having him. (0)
  3. his father, Robert Darwin, came from an aristocratic family; his father was the noted biologist Erasmus Darwin. (0.5)
  4. No evidence of this. (0).
  5. No evidence of this. (0).
  6. Even his most fervent admirers consider him 100% human. (0)
  7. Does not happen. (0)
  8. No need to. (0)
  9. He was raised by his biological parents. (0)
  10. No infancy details makes this irrelevant. (0)
  11. His voyage aboard the Beagle might possibly be interpreted as that, but he becomes convinced of evolution only well after that voyage. (0)
  12. He publishes the Origin of Speciesand other important writings. (0.5)
  13. He marries Emma Wedgwood, from his mother’s family. (0.5)
  14. He gets hailed as a great scientist. (1)
  15. He continues to be productive, though it is hard for him to compete with his magnum opus. (0)
  16. His discoveries may or may not qualify as “laws”; they are descriptions, not decrees. (0.5)
  17. Does not happen. (0)
  18. Does not happen. (0)
  19. He dies a normal sort of death. (0)
  20. in his house. (0)
  21. Some of his children become notable scientists, though in different fields. (0.5)
  22. His body is buried in Westminster Abbey. (0)
  23. Not sure what would qualify as one. (0)

Score: 4

If Charles Darwin had lost favor with his scientist colleagues, they would have dismissed him as a crackpot. But they did the exact opposite, and he got buried in the most honorable place in Britain.

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Source: Originally found at


Monomyth in NBC’s Community

27 Jul

The universal story, the monomyth, that exists in every human psyche, is Dan Harmon’s tool for mapping out nearly every aspect of the NBC TV show Community. Harmon has distilled the monomyth into a handy guide for tv writers.

I wonder – is it because of our cultural lack of mythology and/or because of our secularism (a denial of every claim of a real myth), that we have to deconstruct and bullet-point what a story is?

Here’s an excerpt of a very interesting article about Harmon, creator of Community, with multiple charts displaying the Monomyth in various levels of detail.

The circles are everywhere, if you know to look for them. They’re on the whiteboards around Dan Harmon’s office, on sheets tacked to his walls, on a notepad on the floor of his car. Each one is hand-drawn and divided into quadrants with scribbled notes and numbers sprouting along the edges. They look like little targets.

Harmon, 38, is the creator of Community, a sitcom about a group of community-college study buddies and the most giddily experimental show on network TV. He began doodling the circles in the late ’90s, while stuck on a screenplay. He wanted to codify the storytelling process—to find the hidden structure powering the movies and TV shows, even songs, he’d been absorbing since he was a kid. “I was thinking, there must be some symmetry to this,” he says of how stories are told. “Some simplicity.” So he watched a lot of Die Hard, boiled down a lot of Joseph Campbell, and came up with the circle, an algorithm that distills a narrative into eight steps:

1. A character is in a zone of comfort

2. But they want something
3. They enter an unfamiliar situation
4. Adapt to it

5. Get what they wanted
6. Pay a heavy price for it
7. Then return to their familiar situation
8. Having changed

Harmon calls his circles embryos—they contain all the elements needed for a satisfying story—and he uses them to map out nearly every turn on Community, from throwaway gags to entire seasons. If a plot doesn’t follow these steps, the embryo is invalid, and he starts over. To this day, Harmon still studies each film and TV show he watches, searching for his algorithm underneath, checking to see if the theory is airtight. “I can’t not see that circle,” he says. “It’s tattooed on my brain.”