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CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Monday, April 30, 2012

CIVILIZATION AND ITS ETHICS

"Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine."
-Song of Songs, 1:1

Dirty Bible
Part of the structure of civilization is that it has rules; if you remove the rules, traditions, and patterns of a civilization, it collapses until those are replaced by another set. If no other set is offered, there will be no civilization, that's impossible to avoid. The reason for this is that in order for there to be any semblance of a shared culture and society required for advancement and civilization, the people involved must have a natural affinity toward a certain view of life, and a common structure of behavior and thought behind their differences.

This is why the push for diversity, destruction of tradition, and efforts to wipe out shared identity (called "nationalism") by some is so stupid and self-destructive. To be sure, they have a plan for their ideal society they would replace it with, but the ideal is absurdly impossible (to the point of being childish) and the attempts to replace it are so destructive they just end up ruining instead of deposing.

Yet sometimes, perhaps often, these rules aren't necessarily good. A culture can be built around, say, intertribal warfare and hate as so often happens in less civilized areas, and should be replaced. Sometimes the problems are more subtle, such as a culture in which mockery, selfishness, and envy are the primary characteristics (western culture, far too often).

In Christianity, there's a sort of prim pietism that often is built around the church which is cultural, but isn't necessarily part of the faith. I have written about this before, in brief. Christians are loathe to talk about sex, and as a result leave out significant portions of the Bible, such as the beautiful Song of Songs (or Song of Solomon, in older reference). There are portions of the Bible its self which are frankly embarrassing to Christians and even other people.

Not only are parts of the Bible incredibly violent (great slaughters, staking heads to the ground, assassinating a king and then telling his guards he's out to take a leak, and so on), but some of the Bible is really, really racy. As in, the kind of thing Christians would be shocked if you said out loud. These are the verses that Bible studies tend to avoid. For example:
For she lusted for her paramours,
Whose flesh is like the flesh of donkeys,
And whose issue is like the issue of horses.
-Ezekiel 23:20
Yes, that means exactly what you think it does: Egyptians are really well hung. No doubt a favorite verse of the Coptic Christian men. From Lot being seduced by his daughters, to Lot offering his daughters to be raped so his guests could be protected, to Jacob sleeping with his daughter in law who thought she was a prostitute, to the particularly lustful verses of the Song of Songs such as these:
2:3 - I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.
4:5 - Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins.
4:16b - Let my beloved enter his garden
5:4 - My beloved put his hand By the latch of the door, And my inmost being yearned for him.
7:1b - The curves of your thighs are like jewels, The work of the hands of a skillful workman.
Now, these verses and the whole of the book are so starkly sexual and physical in their nature that for a long time Christians have tried to allegorize them. This doesn't actually mean sex, he's not really describing her amazing funbags, this is about pure, Christ-like love, its about the church and Jesus! Which isn't completely wrong; in a certain sense the whole Bible is about Jesus Christ. But it is also, and primarily, about two lovers and their desire for each other.

See, one of the things a lot of non-Christians, and even some Christians, don't seem to understand is that God made things, He likes things (declared them "good" at creation), and he made sex fun and pleasurable on purpose. That wasn't a result of the fall, it was a result of God's blessing. Paul makes it abundantly clear in Corinthians that married couples are not to go without sex for very long except in extreme circumstances (great injury, for example). In other words: God commands you to get it on.

And its not just sex that's avoided by Christians sometimes. Some are very squeamish and uncomfortable with the war and bloodshed in the Bible, often told in horrible, graphic terms like stories of babies having their heads bashed out against rocks. But almost every Christian avoids some parts because they seem... crude, and unChristian.

Take Paul's writings on self righteousness. Paul was extremely concerned that everyone understand that their own efforts and holiness would never, ever save them. He wanted everybody to understand that they were completely, helplessly dependent up on the grace of God to save them through the work of the holy spirit on account of the doing and dying of Jesus Christ.

And to make that point, he'd use terms that would shock people out of their complacency. Take this verse:
Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ
-Philippians 3:8
Well that's kind of strong right? Except when you look at the Greek original, Paul didn't use "rubbish," he didn't even use the word "dung" which some translations offer. He used the vernacular. He said "my righteousness is shit." And he did it on purpose, to try to force people to understand something about salvation and works.

Isaiah made the same point:
"But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteous acts are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away." Isaiah 64:6
Well that sounds bad, but once you get to the actual Hebrew term, its a bit more powerful a point. The word translated "filthy rags" actually means "bloody menstrual rags" as in "used tampons." If there's any one untouchable icky concept left in western culture, its this one: all together now ewwwwww. And that's why Isaiah used it.

Now, if you talk to almost any pastor in America (or elsewhere, for that matter) he will admit that this is what these words mean. Then he'll say something like "but I can't say that or the church will start looking for a replacement." And that bothers me.

If the Bible is honest and open enough to talk about this, to use this language, upon what possible basis can we claim higher moral authority to avoid it? I avoid using profanity on this blog on purpose, I want it to be G rated and something I wouldn't mind my dear departed Grammy reading. I know that kids read blogs, and I want this to be something I wouldn't mind children reading.

At the same time I have to deal with certain concepts and topics which aren't necessarily appropriate for children (usually sexual in nature) or avoid large portions of the news. When I wrote about that sick man arrested for sex with a horse, my point was how corrupt society has gotten when they had to gin up an animal cruelty charge to bust the pervert instead of just nailing him for having sex with a horse. But to write about that point, I had to talk about a guy sexing up a barnyard animal, which isn't exactly appropriate for young eyes. I try to put that content under the "read more" fold, so parents can move on but I don't want to avoid the topic if I have something I believe is important to say on it.

Here's my point: I avoid profanity here for the audience I'm trying to reach. I try to avoid it elsewhere because I am a Christian and am trying to make a specific statement about Jesus Christ and the church, to avoid some things the culture engages in to show a distinction. And as my mother wisely said, swearing shows a "bankrupt vocabulary," if you can't come up with any other way of making your point, apparently your vocabulary and education are lacking.

But at the same time, there's a time and place for swearing, and not just when you hit your close your hand in the car door. Its an empasis in our language, like some languages have. Russian, for example, can add the word "zhe" (difficult to transliterate into English) which has no real meaning of its own, but acts to enhance the word it is connected to. Like saying "where the hell are you?" instead of "where are you?"

And when the Bible uses this kind of thing to make a point, who am I to say it cannot be used for at least that same point? It seems like as a culture we've built up a series of rules which maybe are taking things a little too far, at least in Christian circles. When we think we're better than the Bible, that's when we're wrong.

Which is why Martin Luther was such a fresh, powerful voice. He wasn't afraid to drink beer, swear, and throw things. He was earthy and powerful and fearless. He would say and do things that frankly shocked people at times, and today are stunning to read from a Christian, but were not wrong, just violate certain social mores we've come up with. Maybe we as Christians should have a bit more of that - not too much more, but at least some?

BULLY FOR YOU

"We can learn to ignore the bulls$%t in the Bible and what it says about gay people."

Hypocrites
A lot of folks on the internet are writing about the anti-bullying guy who spoke at the National High School Journalism Conference, giving the man a lot of name-level publicity and notice but its worth noting because of how he spoke and why. Allegedly this man from the It Gets Better foundation was supposed to give a talk on bullying, but instead he ended up being a bully himself and attacked people who dared disagree with him.

His attack was primarily based on a typical leftist misconception of Christianity and the Bible, acting as if the only possible opposition to homosexual activity Christians might have is based on the book of Leviticus. This isn't just ignorant of Christianity, its ignorant of the Bible. Its like standing up and mocking fans of the Lord of the Rings for being gay because Tom Bombadil was a fay, dancing fruit. Well yeah, that one character, at that one time, but that doesn't mean the rest of the entire series is that way.

Without going into too much theological depth, suffice it to say that homosexual activity is in no uncertain terms condemned as sinful in the New Testament. For more thoughts on the Old Testament laws and how they are seen today you can read my bit on Religion and the State.

But the key to this isn't so much that he got the Bible so hilariously wrong or mocked Christianity, its that in the process of trying to tell kids about bullying, he did exactly what he said should not be done. He was trying to tell everyone that being different (homosexual) is perfectly fine and nobody should bully anyone for that, and in the process savagely attacked people for being different, and mocked them out loud in front of a jeering audience of teenagers "It’s funny as someone who is on the receiving end of beatings that are justified by the Bible how pansy-assed people react when you push back."

In other words: I was bullied for being queer, and now you get yours. In the middle of an alleged anti-bullying speech. Apparently to him, bullying is bad... unless your target is Christians. But it goes even further.

His speech didn't so much say "don't pick on, antagonize, and beat up people." He was commanding people to think differently, to believe differently about homosexuality. Bullying is behaving badly, being brutal and thuggish toward someone. Ending this behavior is not enough for this speaker, he was telling everyone to abandon their faith and reject the Bible. To "get over" their beliefs, in a sarcastic, bitter tone. He redefines bullying down to a thought crime, for daring to think differently. You can think and believe anything you want... except in ways that make me unhappy. Then you are stupid and have to change.

To me it seems like this was just another gay guy who felt guilty and low about himself, blamed others for it, was told his actions were sinful and hated people for bringing it up, and finally got a stage to lash out at the people who made him feel bad, in his mind at least.

So to sum up, he was ignorant, bitter, hypocritical, and tyrannical. And this guy has a career talking about bullying and teaching kids? By the way, he's President Obama's "Anti-bullying Czar." Just something to keep in mind.

SONGS I LIKE - 2112 Side 1 (Rush)

And the meek shall inherit the earth...

2112 back cover
Rush is one of the most enduring rock bands of all time, starting up in the mid 70s and carrying on until this day putting out new material. Their live shows still pack stadiums and they are one of the most popular bands on album-oriented "classic rock" stations. Neil Peart does most of their song writing and all their drumming, and his songs are quite unusual for a hard rock power trio like Rush.

Instead of songs about chicks and cars and how mean parents are, Rush's songs tend to be more thoughtful and introspective, dealing with literature and difficult questions of life. They also tend to be quite left-leaning, which is why the 2112 Overture was so interesting to learn about.

According to the band, when they started work on 2112, Rush was almost fired. Caress of Steel didn't sell very well and the label wanted more "song" songs rather than concept pieces and long prog rock think pieces. So Rush who figured they were on the way out anyway, went all out for 2112, and did half an album as just what the label said they didn't want, and half with just songs to show the label they could do that, too.

For the concept piece, Neil Peart took ideas from a book he'd been reading recently called Anthem by Ayn Rand. This book is about a totalitarian country so oppressive that the word "I" has been demolished from the language and ideas of the people. There is no music, there is no individual friends, and no artists except those the state approves. There is no individuality, only the collective, and the quasi-religious state controls all.

Ayn Rand's call for individuality vs totalitarianism appealed to Peart, as did the rejection of organized religion (the song "Tom Sawyer" is basically his statement of belief, as is "Free Will" from the same album Moving Pictures). He loved the wiccan ideal of doing anything you wanted and being left alone, as long as you didn't hurt anyone else.

From this, Peart envisioned a world where music was controlled by a quasi-religious sect which controls all of life, and the discovery of a guitar by some individual who rushes to the temple of Syrinx to tell the priests about it, and is crushed by the all powerful state. Eventually he commits suicide (as I understand the song) and an invasion by a powerful force that breaks the power of the Solar Federation, formed to control the planets after a great war. The introduction to the songs in the liner notes reads:
I lie awake, staring out at the bleakness of Megadon. City and sky become one, merging into a single plane, a vast sea of unbroken grey. The Twin Moons, just two pale orbs as they trace their way across the steely sky. I used to think I had a pretty good life here, just plugging into my machine for the day, then watching Templevision or reading a Temple Paper in the evening.

My friend Jon always said it was nicer here than under the atmospheric domes of the Outer Planets. We have had peace since 2062, when the surviving planets were banded together under the Red Star of the Solar Federation. The less fortunate gave us a few new moons.

I believed what I was told. I thought it was a good life, I thought I was happy. Then I found something that changed it all.

The massive grey walls of the Temples rise from the heart of every Federation city. I have always been awed by them, to think that every single facet of every life is regulated and directed from within! Our books, our music, our work and play are all looked after by the benevolent wisdom of the priests...
The suite starts out with a rock reimagining of the 1812 overture, complete with cannons, and the hopeful thought from the teachings of Jesus Christ in the Sermon on the Mount: "the meek shall inherit the earth." Peace and love, man. It ends with the announcement of freedom from the people who left long ago and return with vastly superior technology, crushing the Solar Federation. Neal Peart thought of them as the cavalry, coming in to save the day. I am not so sure, it sounds more uncertain to me: is this new force any better?

Which is partly why this is such a great piece, you listen and it becomes the story you understand it to be. Peart's version is hopeful, mine is a bit more dark (a new tyrant has arrived), and in the end, its just all about the music and how it makes your life better. Sadly, the second side is not nearly as great, although it made the label a lot happier. It had catchy singles that got radio play, but then so did the "2112 Overture" and "Priests of Syrinx" songs from side 1, despite being long and unusual. And 2112 became one of the classic albums of all time, helping define progressive rock.

What's interesting to me is how a left leaning group like Rush can read Ayn Rand and walk away liking it and agreeing with at least parts of it enough to put a subscription on the liner notes of "with acknowledgment to the genius of Ayn Rand." They wrote "Trees" which could be taken as a rejection of hacking people down to make them equal, but the tone is objective and uncertain: its like a news report rather than a condemnation. Rush's lyrics are almost uniformly supportive of leftist ideas, except like many, they hold to positions that their politics actually would destroy.

Leftists tend to claim they are for liberty, individual freedom, leaving people alone to "do their thing" and so on. But their policies to achieve these goals actually give the government ever greater power, reduce liberty, and focus on a concept of equality so crushing that everyone ends up equally miserable and debased under the government's all-powerful thumb of statist control. In the search for individualism and freedom, they want to impose collective tyranny.

Which is exactly what Ayn Rand warned against. And Rush is a perfect example of how that plays out in their minds. In any case, 2112 is a work of art that deserves a listen.

And the meek shall inherit the earth...

II. Temples of Syrinx

We've taken care of everything
The words you hear, the songs you sing
The pictures that give pleasure to your eyes.
It's one for all and all for one
We work together, common sons
Never need to wonder how or why.

We are the Priests of the Temples of Syrinx
Our great computers fill the hallowed halls.
We are the Priests, of the Temples of Syrinx
All the gifts of life are held within our walls.

Look around at this world we've made
Equality our stock in trade
Come and join the Brotherhood of Man
Oh, what a nice, contented world
Let the banners be unfurled
Hold the Red Star proudly high in hand.

We are the Priests of the Temples of Syrinx
Our great computers fill the hallowed halls.
We are the Priests, of the Temples of Syrinx
All the gifts of life are held within our walls.

III. Discovery

What can this strange device be?
When I touch it, it gives forth a sound
It's got wires that vibrate and give music
What can this thing be that I found?

See how it sings like a sad heart
And joyously screams out its pain
Sounds that build high like a mountain
Or notes that fall gently like rain.

I can't wait to share this new wonder
The people will all see its light
Let them all make their own music
The Priests praise my name on this night.

IV. Presentation

I know it's most unusual
To come before you so
But I've found an ancient miracle
I thought that you should know
Listen to my music
And hear what it can do
There's something here as strong as life
I know that it will reach you.

Yes, we know, it's nothing new
It's just a waste of time
We have no need for ancient ways
Our world is doing fine
Another toy will help destroy
The elder race of man
Forget about your silly whim
It doesn't fit the plan.


I can't believe you're saying
These things just can't be true
Our world could use this beauty
Just think what we might do.
Listen to my music
And hear what it can do
There's something here as strong as life
I know that it will reach you.

Don't annoy us further!
We have our work to do.
Just think about the average
What use have they for you?

Another toy will help destroy
The elder race of man
Forget about your silly whim
It doesn't fit the Plan!

V. Oracle: The Dream

I wandered home though the silent streets
And fell into a fitful sleep
Escape to realms beyond the night
Dream can't you show me the light?

I stand atop a spiral stair
An oracle confronts me there
He leads me on light years away
Through astral nights, galactic days
I see the works of gifted hands
That grace this strange and wondrous land
I see the hand of man arise
With hungry mind and open eyes

They left the planet long ago
The elder race still learn and grow
Their power grows with purpose strong
To claim the home where they belong
Home to tear the Temples down...
Home to change!

VI. Soliloquy

The sleep is still in my eyes
The dream is still in my head
I heave a sigh and sadly smile
And lie a while in bed
I wish that it might come to pass
Not fade like all my dreams...

Just think of what my life might be
In a world like I have seen!
I don't think I can carry on
Carry on this cold and empty life

My spirits are low in the depths of despair
My lifeblood...
...spills over...
http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif
VII. The Grand Final
Attention all Planets of the Solar Federation
Attention all Planets of the Solar Federation
Attention all Planets of the Solar Federation

We have assumed control.
We have assumed control.
We have assumed control.


This is part of the series.

PICTURE OF THE DAY



Meanwhile, in Detroit...

Quote of the Day

"Remember when the country rallied around you in the hopes of a better tomorrow?  That was hilarious."
-Jimmy Kimmel, to President Obama

Friday, April 27, 2012

WORD AROUND THE NET


"So I got that going for me, which is nice"
-Carl Spackler, Caddy Shack

Slow Growth Good!
Don Surber has had a blog since before I started, over seven years at the work. He's had some of the best material out there, and I've often linked to his work. Well, he's retired from blogging, which is unfortunate for all of us. He'll still be writing for the Charleston Daily Mail but he just doesn't have enough time and energy to keep up the blogging and the rest of his life.

Democrats have for years now every election cycle lamented how the right wing controls the Republican Party and how sad it is that moderates are squeezed out by those crazy conservatives. Yet look at the Democratic Party. Jennifer Rubin did:
But the irony is rich here: While the GOP is nominating the least right-wing of the presidential candidates, the Democratic faithful are purging moderates from their party.
She links a NYT article telling about how more centrist Democrats are being shoved out of the way. And they were ignored while the Dems controlled both houses of congress. The truth is, moderates don't have much say in political parties largely because of their political apathy and distrust. Moderation is rarely leadership, or even enough drive to get things done.

Gross Domestic Product numbers are out again, showing a 2.2% growth. When Bush was president yadda, yadda. Expect this to be adjusted down by a percentage point or more in a few weeks. Every single growth report by the Obama administration has been adjusted down later. Oh, and the debt is still just over 100% of GDP of the US. But its "radical" and "crazy" to talk about cuts.

Romney once saved a family from drowning. In 2003, he helped save a family of six from a leaking boat by leaping on his jet ski with his son Josh. Oh, and there was a dog he rescued, too. Its indicative of our culture and the current tone of the campaign that the dog gets the focus.

President Obama's most horrible and bloody scandal hasn't gone away despite the near lockout in the press. Fast & Furious was so inept that a suspect was arrested and releasedthree times:
Mr. Acosta was first arrested in April 2010 in Phoenix with cocaine and handguns hidden in his truck. He was released and not charged. Then, in May 2010, immigration stopped him from crossing the border because he had 74 rounds of ammunition hidden his car. According to The LA Times the top Fast and Furious investigator, Special Agent Hope MacAllister, put her phone number on a $10 bill and gave it to Mr. Acosta after he pledged to cooperate and keep in touch. But, of course, he didn’t.
Yes, he was busted with drugs and guns, yes he was breaking the law, and yes they let him go over and over again. Why? Who knows, but it looks an awful lot like he was a useful gun pipeline and the Justice Department didn't want it shut down.

Part of the right-wing answer to illegal immigration is to make it economically unfeasible to illegally come to the US and find work. The argument is that if its harder to find work, then illegals won't come here. And recent economic stats compared to the immigration data supports that notion:
A four-decade tidal wave of Mexican immigration to the United States has receded, causing a historic shift in migration patterns as more Mexicans appear to be leaving the United States for Mexico than the other way around, according to a report from the Pew Hispanic Center.
...
Nearly 1.4 million Mexicans moved from the United States to Mexico between 2005 and 2010, double the number who did so a decade earlier. The number of Mexicans who moved to the United States during that period fell to less than half of the 3 million who came between 1995 and 2000.
If you're coming to the US to make money but there aren't jobs, well you will not stick around. That means illegals are "self-deporting."

Mini nuclear power plants are something I've mentioned in the past as a very viable concept for structures like apartment buildings, universities, business complexes, and so on. I've even called for nuke trains, with a mini nuke engine. Westinghouse is looking to build a mini nuclear plant in Missouri for a utility company called Ameren, and it would mean a big economic boost for the state. Of course, they're begging for federal dollars, which is ridiculous, but I'm curious if this especially "green" form of energy will be okayed by the Obama administration.

Having traveled all around the world and met world leaders from nearly every nation, the Dalai Lama listed one that he loves: President Bush. He may not have liked all of the things Bush did as president but as a man, the Dalai Lama loved him. And that's pretty much what everyone who is honest should be like: you have to like the man and his character, even if you didn't care for all his policies. There's no mention of whether or not the Lama gave Bush the blessing of total consciousness on his deathbed.

Harvard University has a new course: Obama 101. Charles Ogletree is one of President Obama's former mentors, and he's teaching an "Understanding Obama" class at the prestigious university. Much more of this kind of thing and it won't be so prestigious any more.

Vanderbilt University, on the other hand, is dealing with extremism, bigotry, and intolerance. The problem is, its coming from the administration, rather than being combated by them. A Christian group on the campus had in its bylaws that the leadership had to be a professing, practicing Christian. Vanderbilt says that violates University nondiscrimination rules. The conflict seems to stem from the group removing an openly gay person from their fraternity which the university says violates their nondiscrimination rules and it appears the college just wants the frat to shut down or water its self down so as to be meaningless.

Recently the New York Times noticed that it was remarkably light on any critical coverage of President Obama - not negative, but objective, deep investigation and reporting on anything that might be perceived as less than glowing.
The Times needs to offer an aggressive look at the president’s record, policy promises and campaign operation to answer the question: Who is the real Barack Obama?

Many critics view The Times as constitutionally unable to address the election in an unbiased fashion. Like a lot of America, it basked a bit in the warm glow of Mr. Obama’s election in 2008.
I'll believe any real change in policy takes place when they start following through. My guess is the same as Ace: this is just to give them the veneer of objectivity, something they can point to and say "oh yes, we dealt with that, we aren't totally in the tank for him."

Also at the HQ, Ace quotes pollster and pundit Dick Morris predicting that the press will turn on President Obama. I say no, not ever, and here's why I think so. I think the ultimate test of how far in the tank the legacy media has become is how they didn't turn on John Kerry after his 2008 loss. By all rights they should have tore him apart as a horrible candidate, and idiot, out of touch, a wooden plank with stupid dated ideas, and a loser.

I predicted they would. They didn't - and it proves how nuts they've gotten. To do so would hurt their cause, they fear. They will not, will not turn on Obama, ever. No matter what. That's not even in their intellectual or ethical vocabulary as a choice. If president Obama is defeated in November, it will be explained away as clever marketing, racism, stupid voters, Diebold!, racism, lies by the Republicans, racism, dirty tricks, and racism.

These days its not a great time to be a global warming alarmist. Most people mock the idea any more and fewer and fewer people - even heavily indoctrinated children - buy into the hysteria. The problem, alarmists, claim, is a heavily oil-funded cabal of clever anti-science nuts who love their SUVs so much they'll doom us all. Which is probably why you get rants like the one in Forbes magazine by Steve Zwick calling for people to burn the houses of skeptics. Well take heart, we're not skeptics any more. We're just science supporting realists.

Remember Jon Corzine, the guy who "misplaced" hundreds of millions of investor dollars after being drummed out of congress for corruption and bribery charges? Well he's still around, still free, and facing no consequences for his monetary tricks. In fact, he's bundling donations for the Obama reelection campaign. Well if they had any ethics, they'd send Bill Maher his check back. The money matters more to the Obama team. Except with Corzine, there's no guarantee you'll actually get that money.

Just weeks after the nation of South Sudan was formed, North Sudan has declared a holy war on them. Shocking, I know, who'd have thought that radical Arabic Muslims in charge of the North would wage the same bloody murderous war they have been for years on oil-rich black Christians in the south?http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif

Ever wonder why there's so much money and so much effort by leftist environmentalist groups to stop Shale Oil harvesting? Well part of it is a concern for the "emissions" and pollution, but there's another level they probably aren't entirely aware of. Walter Russel Mead explains:
North America’s shale gas boom is chipping away at the market for gas producers like Russia. What’s more, if the United States becomes a gas exporter, Russia’s customers (especially in Europe) could decide to cancel expensive contracts with Gazprom in favor of cheaper American natural gas.
It is an open secret that the Soviet Union funded and ran or heavily influenced leftist groups in the United States, and they never gave those ties up just because the government abandoned Communism. Russia doesn't care for competition, and they'll use any means, so to speak, to the end of fighting it.

Oregon's Attorney General John Kroger is resigning from his $70,000 a year position of Attorney General, claiming health issues. He will be taking up the job of president of Reed College immediately which pays six figures a year. Apparently that will help him get past his health issues.

One of the most outrageous, idiotic lies we were told during the push to pass TARP was that it would earn the country money and help pay down the debt. It was an investment! We were told, like how bailing out GM for stocks would make the US rich! Instead, its costing the taxpayers money, increasing the debt. Christy Romero is the Special Inspector General for the TARP program and ini a 327 page report, she noted:
"The most recent cost estimate for TARP is a loss of $60 billion. Taxpayers are still owed $118.5 billion (including $14 billion written off or otherwise lost)."
Expect that number to keep climbing. So far, these IGs seem to be doing their jobs quite well - then they are being fired by the Obama administration for doing it. TARP was nothing but a bailout for big time friends and donors, and a way to help crony corporations like CITI and Goldman-Sachs make money in the crisis.

Denmark has a law which criminalizes saying anything that a group finds offensive, even if it is true as long as they're part of a protected group. Recently a pastor was arrested for saying true things about Islam, and his case made it all the way to the Supreme Court. The court threw out his conviction, not based on the idea that its free speech to say true things, but that the state couldn't prove he knew that his statements would be widely spread to the public. Freedom of speech doesn't mean what the Danish government thinks it does.

Batman would have a lot of explaining to do in the courts, according to Overlawyered, where Ted Frank enumerates the various lawsuits and corporate legal violations that Bruce Wayne and Batman would be flooded with based on the movie Batman Begins. These charges range from lawsuits after the Microwave Emitter blew up half the city to corporate law violations in buying stock through a proxy. Law, not justice.

"When will we finish with the damn mosques?" That was enough to get thrown in jail in Dubai. Now, in a way I think the contractor who said this is an idiot for not being more careful, but he wasn't damning Mosques, he was damning the work for being slow, but some concepts don't translate well over cultures. Meanwhile when his conviction was upheld, the judge demanded to know when Muslims ever insulted Jesus Christ or Christianity. Maybe it doesn't happen much in Dubai but....

California's legislature is looking at a bill that would outlaw therapists or counselors from trying to move young people away from homosexuality. There's nothing in the law about trying to convince children to become homosexual or give into urges or curiosity, however.

President Obama is running about talking about school loans again, which might help him get a few votes back from the young adults he won support from in 2008. However, he's not being exactly honest in his efforts, such as his claim that he and Michelle couldn't get their loans paid off until 2004. The problem with this story is that in 2000-2004, the family pulled down more than $200,000 a year, each year. If its true they waited that long to pay off their student loans, they did so by choice not because of hardship.

Egypt is examining a few laws, the one getting the most attention is the "Farewell Intercourse" bill which would allow necrophiliac activity with a wife up to 6 hours after death. Whether its true or not (and who knows, as Allahpundit puts out the Egyptian state newspaper is run by the military government which doesn't want the Islamic radicals to take over power). Eugene Volokh comments:
I should say that the lowering of the age of marriage to 14, and the apparent proposal to limit women’s rights to get a divorce (“Many members of the newly-elected, and majority Islamist parliament … wish to cancel … [the Khula] law that allows a wife to obtain a divorce without obstructions from her partner”; “Prior to the implementation of the Khula over a decade ago, it could take 10 to 15 years for a woman to be granted a divorce by the courts”) are much more likely than the “Farewell Intercourse” law to be actually harmful to women.
And the effort to repeal the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, even more so.

Blue collar Democrats - yeah there are still some left - are being heard finally. For a long time people have been disgruntled by the extravagant, expensive, and frequent vacations the Obama family keeps taking. President Bush may have technically taken more vacations, but they were almost all to his home in Texas or Camp David, rather than the French Riviera, Spain, and Martha's Vineyard. Only recently, because of a pollster, has the Democratic Party taken heed of this annoyance, however.

And that's the Word Around the Net for April 27, 2012

HOW'S THAT WORKING OUT FOR YOU?

"It’s a good thing my dear old mum and pup are no longer alive. They’d cut off my allowance."

It might be just sour grapes or mean spirited bitterness but most conservatives suspect that President Obama didn't really write his books. There's not a little evidence for it, and few big time public figures actually write their own books, but we have no proof. Christopher Buckley, though, thought it was a wonderful indication of superior humanity. Buckley wrote in his 2008 Daily Beast column:
I’ve read Obama’s books, and they are first-rate. He is that rara avis, the politician who writes his own books. Imagine.
Yes, what a special person, he wrote his own books. I'm challenged to believe Buckley actually did read the books, or if he did his memory and reading comprehension must be severely challenged, because he then went on to write:
But having a first-class temperament and a first-class intellect, President Obama will (I pray, secularly) surely understand that traditional left-politics aren’t going to get us out of this pit we’ve dug for ourselves. If he raises taxes and throws up tariff walls and opens the coffers of the DNC to bribe-money from the special interest groups against whom he has (somewhat disingenuously) railed during the campaign trail, then he will almost certainly reap a whirlwind that will make Katrina look like a balmy summer zephyr.

Obama has in him—I think, despite his sometimes airy-fairy “We are the people we have been waiting for” silly rhetoric—the potential to be a good, perhaps even great leader. He is, it seems clear enough, what the historical moment seems to be calling for.
Well how's that working out for you, Chris? He made it pretty clear in his books he was a hard core leftist who was raised and taught by marxists and radicals, what did you expect?

I think this piece has been shredded and "fisked" and run over thousands of times in the past so I'm not going to go into much here, other than to say that Buckley left himself an out. He said that if President Obama acted like the hard core radical leftist he is, well then that wouldn't be what he voted for.

Guess what: he's exactly what we warned he would be, and you feared, Buckley. The difference is we didn't vote for or endorse him. And while I've written several of my own books, I didn't go to Harvard or Yale. Funny how I could work out what you seemed incapable of.

Of course a few years later Buckley admitted that President Obama was becoming everything he warned against and that he was now opposed to the man as president. Well we didn't need to wait.

I was reminded of the Buckley Column by King Shamus at Baldilocks.

MARRIED AROUND THE WORLD

"I tried to get Al to fix the driveway a long time ago. But his philosophy is why improve a home you're only going to live in anyway?"
-Peg

Married... With Children was the first hit of the fledgeling Fox Channel back in the late 80s. Most of their content was lousy, but some of it was good enough it helped the network not just survive, but prosper. Starting up a new TV network when cable was really becoming a powerhouse was a gutsy, some said stupid, move, but Fox had a plan: edgy shows targeted at 20 something guys with content you couldn't see anywhere else.

Married... With Children is kind of a cliche now but back then it was fresh and unusual. Instead of a happy family with loving parents, a strong, smart dad, and fairly obedient kids, you had the opposite. Dad was a lazy good-for-nothing who didn't really like mom. The kids were rebellious. One was a little bratty smart kid, the other a vapid tart. Mom was lousy at cooking and looked more like a mob wife. The neighbors were obnoxiously perfect.

So many things about the show clicked so perfectly, from Al bashing the head of would be boyfriends as they were shoved out the house to Peg's hapless scheming, to Christina Applegate's beauty and good-natured dimness (she's not really that stupid, although to this day its hard to convince myself of it). It was a huge hit, and ran for eleven years, from April 5, 1987, to June 9, 1997. Its still on reruns and still is funny, although with the lack of cell phones, internet, console games (not that Al could afford any), and modern clothing it seems a bit dated these days.

And its still on the air around the world. Leslie Kasperowicz at Cinema Blend tells how far around the world it goes:
Ever wonder what the Bundys would like like in say, Germany? Or perhaps Hungary? A Spanish Kelly? Well Neatorama has the goods on these and many more versions of the show. Twenty-five years after it first aired, Married…With Children is still influencing television. It’s been remade in these and many other countries around the world, with the characters and even the set as recognizable to Fox viewers as the original.

Check out the pictures from around the world; even Peg herself has got to be jealous of the height the Hungarian version of her character is getting on that hair. And you have to love the literal translation of the Hungarian title: A gruesomely decent family in Budapest. I think Fox missed the boat on that title.

The Polish version has been on the air since 1999, which is pretty successful, while the British version only saw 7 episodes (let’s face it, the Bundy’s aren’t a British bunch). Russia actually translated the scripts from the original for their series, which ran for many years.
Argentina, Australia, Bulgaria, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Russia, Spain, Turkey, and the UK all have run or are still running versions of Married... and almost all of them were hits.

There's something universal about the worn down high school star dad who just wants some peace and rest when he comes home from an awful job, the wife who thought she married a star and got a schlub, but just wants more attention from her husband, and the loser kids who keep disappointing.

Its an easy translation, you just need an average guy, a cute daughter, an annoying son, and a wife who wants to be glamorous but can't seem to quite pull it off. And despite all their flaws they're all likeable and fun. And it works so well because it deals with ordinary life, not grand sweeping issues, Very Special Episodes, politics, or anything that makes you roll your eyes and switch channels.

These days every sitcom has basically the same formula that Friends established and was so successful with, just like in the 80s they were all following the Family Ties/Cosby Show template. That was shattered with hilarious success by Married... With Children and certainly the industry could use something fresh and interesting today. Fox gave us The Simpsons, Married..., 21 Jump Street, X-Files, Cops, America's Most Wanted, Beverly Hills 90210, and In Living Color all within five years of each other. That's not just a great line up of shows, but an astounding level of innovation and creativity.

These days Fox is a lot less innovative in its programming and you have to go to cable for shows like Pawn Stars, Breaking Bad, Justified, and Sons of Guns. But at least someone out there is trying to do something interesting and unusual.

PICTURE OF THE DAY


Rapper 50 cent, converted to Malaysian Ringgits in a Reuters article.

Quote of the Day

“My confidence in the American people is stronger than it was when I came into office.”
-President Obama

Thursday, April 26, 2012

COMMON KNOWLEDGE: Living in Sin

"Nobody gets married any more!"

-Alicia Silverstone, Blast From The Past


moving in
Something my ex-fiancee brought up was a concern about "sexual compatibility," which she said would be challenged by my No Sex Before Marriage rule.  How could we know?  Its generally understood that sex after marriage is lousy and you have to have a trial run to make sure you can get along well together.  After all, with the high divorce rate in the west, its better to hedge your bets and make sure you can work it out first, right?

Overall, 70-90% of adolescents now have sex by age 18 and most dating couples have sex within the first month of dating. Its generally understood that this is just how you move the relationship along.  You have a date, go to holding hands and kissing, and then to sex, then eventually you consider maybe making things more permanent.  Its not uncommon in movies to have couples engaging in wild sex for a period before they say "wow, I think I'm falling in love with you" as if this is perfectly normal.

Living together used to be a social stigma, called "living in sin" by some.  It was considered immoral and a sign that you were not a very good person.  The term "make an honest woman of her" came from the fact that she had to lie about what you and her were doing behind closed doors.  Which indicates that things were going on that society didn't care to admit to, so it was more common than 50s TV shows suggest.

According to the 2010 US Census, there are 99.6 million unmarried people over age 18 in the U.S., or almost 44% of the adult population.  Unmarried households were 45% of all U.S. households.  And the principle is that you try things out first and see how it works, then maybe at some point you get married.  If you ask the average person, they'd nod sagely and agree: you're better off doing this.

And It seems like every single comedian on the face of the planet, every TV show, every movie, every book all tell the same story: sex before marriage was great, sex outside marriage is great, sex in marriage is boring, repetitive, lame, and downhill.  The same woman, every single day, for the rest of your life?  The horror!

But is this perception of sex, marriage, and compatibility even valid?  Is what everyone knows about sex true?  Not according to recent studies.

Comedian Mark Gross has a hilarious bit he does about the concept of "sexual compatibility."  He points out that we're all compatible in an engineering sense, we all "fit."  Its not like some of us have unique parts that only work with a small portion of the population.  And he's right.  I do understand what this term is supposed to mean, but its largely nonsense.  If you cannot adapt, grow, sacrifice, and learn in this area, how exactly is the rest of your marriage supposed to work?

I don't know where this concept came along first, but like most modern presumptions of sexuality and morality I suspect it came from the sixties, pushed by Kinsey and his allies, and is of dubious validity.  

And the concept of "sexual compatibility" presumes a static nature of humanity: this is how you and I are and will never change.  That's absolute nonsense.  Like everything in your life, things change as you get older, circumstances alter, illness or disaster strikes, and so on.  Every parent with kids can tell you that the wild "break the furniture" times before little Suzy and Bobby came along end with that first baby.  Even if you had the energy you don't have the privacy or the feeling of liberty. 

But when it comes to sex before and after marriage and living together being great for marriages and relationships, well, that's where things really start to become problematic.  Like all statistics these can be a bit misleading, but here's some raw data to consider first:
  • Couples who do marry after living together are 50% more likely to divorce than those who did not.
  • Only 12 percent of couples who have begun their relationship with cohabitation end up with a marriage lasting 10 years or more.
  •  Divorce rates for those who cohabit more than once are more than twice as high as for women who cohabited only with their eventual husbands
  • The likelihood that a marriage would last for a decade or more decreased by six percentage points if the couple had cohabited first
Now the problem with raw numbers is that they don't show everything.  For example, the divorce rate overall in America is around 50%, but that hides something: most of those divorces are multiple offenders.  If you add up all the weddings and divide by divorces you get around 50%, but the problem is some of those are people who were married and divorced 3, 5, 8 times.  Elizabeth Taylor alone skews the data. So that doesn't mean your individual marriage has a 50% chance of failing, it means the raw data overall gives you that number.

If you clean out the repeat offenders, the number is still far too high (around 30%) but not nearly as dreadful as it first seems.  But the truth is, the idea that living together will help you find a better, more "compatible" mate you can make a life with does not really hold up well to examination.  At best you're no better off staying married and the numbers seem to suggest you're actually worse off.  Obviously that doesn't mean you're doomed to divorce if you live together first or blessed with certainty if you don't but it does counter the common knowledge about shacking up.

And if you think about it, there's some logic to that.   If you approach a relationship as a series of ever-greater steps along the path that you can abandon if things don't work out as you hoped, then leaving a marriage when its not all you hoped or expected it to be is perfectly reasonable and consistent.

And when it comes to sex, well you can either take the word of married couples, or look at a recent study that claims sex is better in marriage than before it.  The study is by a professor at Brigham Young University and Dr Coyne at Psychology Today cautions that the study might not be especially accurate based on asking Mormons, but I suppose that would mean you either can't trust Mormons or that they're unable to represent average people.

The thing is, it makes sense that your sex would get better with someone you're married to. While that first thrill of a new person can be powerful, despite how its displayed on TV, sex is clumsy and not all that elegant, and what you learn about a spouse over time can serve you very well as opposed to hoping you get it right, feeling self conscious, not knowing exactly what and how they want things, and that performance pressure guys can often feel.

If you're married you get good at it with each other, instead of just being exciting.  I don't doubt that the excitement is powerful and welcome to return to but experience and skill are pretty good too, and more enduring.

Overall, marriage is about commitment, not excitement.  Its about sacrifice, not self fulfillment or personal pleasure.  Its about what you give to make a life together, not about what you get out of someone else.

And that's where the problems with common perception of marriage mostly come from: the idea that marriage is one more step to personal happiness and comfort.  That you marry because the other person makes you feel good or happy - and when that ends, well so does the marriage.  Living together as a trial run on marriage only reinforces that principle: will this make me pleased?  Sex before marriage is about personal happiness too, its about what you can get from each other more than what you give - sex in a lasting marriage is more about what you give to create together, or it ought to be.

If your first concern is how fulfilled you'll be, how happy you'll be, or what you'll get out of marriage, do us and yourself a favor and don't.

*This is part of the Common Knowledge series: things we know that ain't so.

OBAMA VERSUS FARMS, AGAIN


"I earned money by hauling hay when I was in high school. I don't think I suffered any ill effects."


Family Farm
This story has been getting a lot of attention from various right-leaning blogs around the internet, so I don't have to go into very much detail, but I had to write something about it.  The Obama administration is looking at new rules which would restrict child labor on farms.  From the Daily Caller, here's a brief explanation:
The Department of Labor is poised to put the finishing touches on a rule that would apply child-labor laws to children working on family farms, prohibiting them from performing a list of jobs on their own families’ land.
Under the rules, children under 18 could no longer work “in the storing, marketing and transporting of farm product raw materials.”
“Prohibited places of employment,” a Department press release read, “would include country grain elevators, grain bins, silos, feed lots, stockyards, livestock exchanges and livestock auctions.”
The new regulations, first proposed August 31 by Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, would also revoke the government’s approval of safety training and certification taught by independent groups like 4-H and FFA, replacing them instead with a 90-hour federal government training course.
The Department of Labor rules read like this:
Youths ages 16 and above may work in any farm job at any time.
Youths aged 14 and 15 may work outside school hours in jobs not declared hazardous by the Secretary of Labor.
Youths 12 and 13 years of age may work outside of school hours in non-hazardous jobs on farms that also employ their parent(s) or with written parental consent.
Youths under 12 years of age may work outside of school hours in non-hazardous jobs with parental consent, but only on farms where none of the employees are subject to the minimum wage requirements of the FLSA.
Local youths 10 and 11 may hand harvest short-season crops outside school hours for no more than 8 weeks between June 1 and October 15 if their employers have obtained special waivers from the Secretary of Labor.
Youths of any age may work at any time in any job on a farm owned or operated by their parents.
Now I'm not really sure how you define an "adult job" in any proper sense, but I am certain I don't trust city bureaucrats to do it properly. This is the same administration that thought dust kicked up by plowing fields is deadly pollution they have to regulate, and milk stored in dairy farms should be treated as an oil and regulated the same way.

I do understand the thinking behind these regulations - they think children are being taken advantage of and need protecting.  They think that kids have to be shielded from cruel employers by the benevolent government, and that we don't let kids work at any other business doing labor, so why farms?

But there's another layer of thought behind this.

That layer is made up of other considerations, like how there's no farm worker's union, and that needs to change.  Hilda Solis, big time Union promoter, is in charge of the Labor Department and came up with this scheme.  Getting kids out of the equation opens up the work to only adults, and they can unionize.

Another layer is how the small family farm is one of the last bastions of liberty and the free market left in the country and big government leftists rage in fury at how this can be left unregulated and uncontrolled by the all-knowing drones in Washington DC.  How can anyone run anything without a college-educated commissar making sure they do it properly?  They are the philosopher kings, they know how to do it all properly, not some hick in podunk middle America living on a farm!

The truth is, these small farms are one of the last places left where kids learn the value and importance of hard work, gain a work ethic, and learn to connect where food and money comes from to its benefits like that X-Box or food.  Most every young person living in a rural area has done this sort of work, be it at a farm, or working the yard for others, or delivering papers or whatever.  And they learn by it, grow stronger and closer to their community and most dangerously for the left, more independent and self reliant.

Its no coincidence that this comes from the same administration that wants to bury small farms with mountains of paper work detailing their every transaction and inventory, to destroy farmer's markets with regulations and rules, and control their pollution with absurd regulations.

To put it simply: these farms are outside the government's control.  They are too independent and able to survive without big government's help.  They are too small to get big subsidies, too isolated to be picked up by the usual federal radar, and too resistant to big government power.  They breed and raise generations of people suspicious of government, loving toward tradition and liberty, and strongly independent.  All of those things go against the collectivist, statist tendencies of the left.  And they must be stopped, according to the Obama administration.

What can you do?  Contact your state and federal legislators.  Vote for someone other than President Obama this November.  Vote for congressmen and local legislators who won't stand for this kind of thing.  And fight locally for people who will defy the federal government and refuse to play along.  You can't change the minds of anyone in the White House, they know better - according to them - and won't even listen.  But local people are more accountable, more tied into the community, and usually more accessible.

Watch in the coming months for a storm of this kind of thing to fly out of the White House, especially if Romney wins the presidency.  President Obama will want to bury the office in regulation and rules that will take ages to reverse or stop, get people in jobs that Romney won't want to fire, and hope that there will be too much stuff to fix, and at least some of it will slip through, even assuming a Romney administration would try to reverse any of it.

What's interesting to me is how things go in cycles.  For a long time, the Democratic Party was the home of the farmer and rural people in America but then in the early 20th century, Republicans ran on small farm rural ideas and it was the GOP that came up with the dreadful, unconstitutional farm subsidy idea, and won election after election on the shoulders of farmers struggling to survive.  Then after the great depression, the Democrats became perceived as the party of the little guy again and even in the 60s were all for small farms and rural ideals.  Now its reversing again, apparently.

And I can't help but think that President Obama figures he can't possibly win the small town rural America farm vote anyway, so he's going to let them have it with both barrels, and maybe in a generation or two create some dependency and leftist thought there, too.  I just can't see that as a winning strategy for him in the short run, but it is part of the "fundamental transformation of America" he ran on.  Hopefully the nation can survive.

*UPDATE: In a sinister reference, Dr Paugh in the Canada Free Press notes:
The Marxist-Leninist dogma said, “A small property generates capitalism day by day, minute by minute, spontaneous, and in mass proportions.” The small-time farmer feeding his family, with a little surplus, was seen as an individual member of the bourgeoisie, requiring squashing.
She learned a lot about how that worked in Romania - it was horrific. President Obama isn't a Marxist or a Leninist, but he's more than willing to borrow from their ideas as he works toward his vision of what America should be - one his wife can be proud of.

CASTING HEROES

"I'm Batman"
 


Spider-Man sans mask
I used to get a magazine called Wizard which is all about comic books and the industry.  Back in the late 90s it was pretty good; informative, consistently hilarious, interesting to read, and full of bits you couldn't get anywhere else.  Then it started to get political with the election of President Bush and became intolerable.

I'm not sure Wizard is even being published any more.  But one of the features they did a lot of was trying to cast superhero movies.  They would take actors and actresses and try to match them up with parts, and usually did a pretty good job.  Back then it was fun to try to make a good superhero movie up in your head, because all you had were the awful old versions of Captain America, Spider-Man, and The Punisher

Sure, Batman was pretty good but it rapidly went downhill as the studios were convinced they should be more like the 60s TV show than the comic book.  And the first Superman movie was actually quite good but the sequels got worse and worse at an astonishing rate.

It wasn't that they were incapable of doing Punisher and Cap well, it was that the studios thought this was trash property worthy only of a crappy effort, weak writing, low budgets, and minimal publicity.  The movies were terrible.

Well these days comic book movies are some of the only original properties being put out and often are quite good - sometimes incredibly good.  Movies like Batman Begins and 300 totally changed public perception of comic book films, and have moved the bar up a few dozen notches.  X-Men and the more recent Captain America have been great fun.

But when you look at casting choices, sometimes you wonder what on earth the studios were thinking.  I agree Keaton pulled off Batman better than you expected after seeing Mr Mom, but he still didn't work very well as the character.  His Bruce Wayne was tolerable, but he seemed more confused than suave.

Recently Duane Lester did his list of the 10 worst cast superheros in movies.  He runs down quite a few stinkers, some questionable ones, and then gives what he thinks are the best five.  Some of them I can dispute - I thought Nick Cage did fine as Johnny Blaze in Ghost Rider, it just was a poor movie.  And I liked the idea of Sylvester Stallone as Judge Dredd, he was just trapped in a horribly written film that violated one of the fundamental rules of the comic:
In Judge Dredd, John Wagner explains how this became a hard and fast rule for Judge Dredd comics:
It sums up the facelessness of justice − justice has no soul. So it isn’t necessary for readers to see Dredd’s face, and I don’t want you to.
That wasn't Stallone's doing, he was just the actor.  And if you're going to complain about that, complain that Spider-Man whips off that mask every five minutes in all the latest movies, including the new one, judging by the trailer.  Its tough to emote and act with a bag over your head - although if you've seen V for Vendetta then you know it can be done by a talented actor.  Hugo Weaving wears a head-to-toe costume through 99.9% of the film and that one glimpse is only of his hands.  Yet he does a wonderful job.

Some that he missed are Jessica Alba as Susan Storm, Michael Chiklis as Ben Grimm, Julian McMahon as Dr Doom, James Marsden as Cyclops (although part of that was the writing, they gave him absolutely nothing to do),  Val Kilmer as Batman, Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane (part of that is her limited range, part of it was the writing, she was the one weak part of the two Spider-Man movies).  Malin Ackerman in Watchman was a disappointment too, she looked awkward in the costume and wasn't engaging at all - and she's such a central character.  And Mathew Goode was no good (so to speak) as Ozymandias, who is supposed to be massively charismatic and compelling and was really neither.  

Seth Rogan was awful as Green Hornet in an awful movie that totally missed the boat with awful writing and acting all around.  Just terrible, and Green Hornet wasn't a very good property to begin with.  Michael Madsen was terrible in Sin City, the only flat note, the only guy who didn't seem to get what he was doing.

And while I really was entertained by Christopher Reeve in Superman and he played the role well, he's just too small.  Superman is huge, he's big as a house.  He's the kind of big humans can rarely hope to achieve.  The man is like 6'5, 300 pounds of rock solid muscle, but still agile.  So its tough to try to actually portray him in real life, but they keep picking these sleek, sculpted pretty boys and none of them look right.  And the jaw, he has to have a granite square jaw.

As for the good they missed, well there are quite a few.
  • Thomas Jane - The Punisher
  • Bruce Willis - 
  • Ian McKellan - Magneto
  • Everyone but Michael Madsen - Sin City
  • JK Simmons - J Jonah Jameson
  • Willem Dafoe - Green Goblin, that laugh was so chilling
  • Patrick Stewart - Professor X (actually Wizard cast him in the part)
  • Eric Bana - Bruce Banner
  • Alec Baldwin - The Shadow
  • Michael Rosenbaum - young Lex Luthor in Smallville
  • Toby McGuire - Peter Parker
  • Jack Nicholson - Joker
 I'm going to end with some controversy.  Hugh Jackman isn't that great as Wolverine.  He has moments, but he's not furious and animalistic enough, and he's too nice too often.  Wolverine is short and Jackman isn't.  But at the same time, Wolverine is really built, and Jackman is just in real good shape.  Think more Robert DeNiro from Cape Fear, but six inches shorter.  With nearly the same attitude.  Jackman is okay, but he doesn't really nail the part in either appearance or behavior.  He's too much a romantic type and not enough tightly held fury and grim old age trapped in a young body.

PICTURE OF THE DAY


Another pulp fiction cover, this time of a Tijuana Casino in the late 20s.  Amazing use of colors, particularly to invert warm and cold.  The lit, bright areas are all in "cold" blues and greens, while the darker shadow areas are in "warm" reds and yellows, the opposite of what is ordinarily done.  And its fascinating how effective it is.

Quote of the Day

"Since this is an era when many people are concerned about 'fairness' and 'social justice,' what is your 'fair share' of what someone else has worked for?"
-Thomas Sowell

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

CONGRESSIONAL UPDATE

Poly = many

Ticks = bloodsucking parasites



Congress keeps being busy, even though the legacy media tends to pay attention elsewhere.  Two particular events are worth attention because of how they may affect you.

The first is a move by the Democrats in congress to head off a Supreme Court decision.  As you probably know, the Obama administration publicly misrepresented the Arizona immigration bill as some kind of door smashing fascist cruelty where Mexicans are pulled off the streets and demands for "papers" are issued by bigoted haters.  They sued the state for trying to enforce federal law, and the case is moving through the Supreme Court (and its not going well for the White House).

Other states have also come up with immigration laws, and typically they are immediately sued by the Holder Justice Department immediately thereafter.  And the Democrats are not confident the Supreme Court will rule the way they want.  So they're working on a bill to bar states from passing any immigration laws.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said his legislation would establish federal primacy in immigration by blocking states from taking any action. That would not only preclude state law enforcement efforts like the Arizona model now before the court, but also would overturn a Supreme Court ruling last year that upheld a different Arizona law requiring businesses to verify their workers’ legal status.
“I believe it is simply too damaging to our economy and too dangerous to our democracy to have 50 states doing 50 different things with regard to immigration policy,” said Mr. Schumer, chairman of the SenateJudiciary Committee’s immigration subcommittee, as he convened a hearing on Arizona’s crackdown law, known as S.B. 1070.
Unfortunately for Senator Schumer, the US Constitution actually protects the states and their right to create laws that impact them only. But when has the constitution or the ideas of the founding fathers ever stopped him before? I'd say that this bill, should it manage to pass, wouldn't survive Supreme Court examination, but I thought that about Campaign Finance Reform, too.

If you figure there's no way such a bill would pass anyway, consider this next story.

The US Senate passed a rule as part of the compromise with the GOP last year to get the debt ceiling raised.  Well that rule has been eliminated with a 62-37 vote.  John Hindraker writes at Powerline:
Last summer, Republicans in Congress agreed to increase the federal debt limit in exchange for the Democrats’ pledge to cap future spending at agreed-upon levels. The compromise was embodied in the Budget Control Act; discretionary spending was to increase by no more than $7 billion in the current fiscal year.
Why did they do this? Well the Post Office is run poorly, pays its union workers too well, and is hemorrhaging billions of dollars a year, so they need money. The Democrats tried to slip through a $34,000,000,000 hand out to the post office to keep it running and Senator Sessions (R-AL) challenged it, stopping the action, so they had a vote to override the Budget Control Act.

Hindraker doesn't know yet and I can't find anywhere which Republicans voted for this, because at least 3 had to, but you can guess that the usual suspects were involved (Olympia Snow, Susan Collins, Lindsey Graham, Scott Brown, Lisa Murkowski). When it comes to giving away more of your money - or even money that doesn't exist - you can always count on congress to find a way, and its not always Democrats.

This isn't making the news anywhere yet, probably because "your government wasting money" is a bad narrative for Democrats, but if some way to hurt Republicans can be found, it will show up, I'm sure.

GAMING OUR RELIGION

"There cannot be a hotter potato"-Richard Molyneux

The portrayal of religion by popular entertainment has long been a source of concern.  Rarely has anyone gotten it right, even long ago, because it has been typical for centuries that the people involved in acting and putting on entertainment tend to be less religious than the general populace. When religion isn't misunderstood or oddly portrayed by an outsider, its insulted, mocked, or belittled.  Especially lately its gotten pretty standard to shower spite and misery on any Christian in any popular media with a few very stark exceptions which only serve to prove the rule.

Video games are no exception here.  Recently Gamespot posted a video examining how religions are portrayed in video games.  Aside from the quasi religion of the Jedi invented by borrowing from lots of sources (mostly Buddhism), religion is largely ignored in video games.



There have been examples, such as El Shaddai, Dante's Inferno, and Messiah.  However, those are more settings and premise based and don't really deal with religious issues or theology, as the narrator points out. Most games just have an atheist perspective.  People aren't religious, or anti-religious, they just don't bring up the subject and it doesn't exist in the world.  Avoiding the topic of religion helps avoid controversy and annoying buyers, so game designers just don't touch the subject at all.

A few do, however.  Bioshock is largely built around a rejection of religious authority, but reasonably does have people seeking something beyond their lives, particularly during war.  And most fantasy games have some sort of religious presence, such as the Elder Scrolls games which have a fairly well fleshed out system of good and evil, gods, blessings, priests, and so on.  Others tend to view religion in their setting as more a prop for types of characters to have power.

Interestingly enough, in the 3rd age after Oblivion, Skyrim is set when a human that became a deity has had his religion banned and a group is hunting down and slaughtering all worshipers and leaders of the former religion.  And the game series Mass Effect has always had religious aspects, speculating on how they might change with interstellar travel and alien encounters.

Islam is rarely portrayed unless the setting is one where the religion is practiced.  Assassin's Creed, for instance is set in the Middle East, as is Prince of Persia, but the religion is a background thing, like the decor or plants.  It just exists as something you move past, not interact with.

Part of that is because of the concern with enraged psychopaths who hack heads off and riot burning down things when Islam is mentioned.  Often, the bad guys are Muslim, such as in recent Counterstrike which is Americans vs Terrorists.

The interview with the Muslim Tamoor was pretty useful because he's a Muslim and thus most people on the left will find him less intimidating and culturally problematic than a Christian.  He says basically what most Christians would say: just include us as a normal part of the world.  Some good guys, some bad, just a part of people's lives.  Make your characters have more depth by giving them faiths but don't make that their cookie cutter defining characteristic.  Don't make "Bob the Christian", make Bob the cautious grocer who collects old magazines as a hobby and happens to be a Christian.

I did find it interesting that he felt the need to identify Islam with Arabic culture, however, when Christians view their faith in terms of the religion its self, not any particular cultural setting.  We don't think it should look and feel Roman, for instance.  I think perhaps when Islam can get away from that tendency it will make a big step toward moving away from the crazy murderous types.

The piece went out of its way to note that most people in a faith aren't like the ones that get quoted in the news - Christian, Muslim, Hindu, or otherwise.  And that's generally true, you can't really judge a religion as a whole by the crazy guys that get on camera.  Media has a lot of biases, but the biggest one is spectacle, they love a crazy guy who looks interesting and gets your attention.  And the worse they can make Christians look, for instance, the happier a lot of them are.

So my advice for game companies (as well as other entertainment media) would be this: don't let complaints about your product force you to make changes unless they are reasonable and objectively just criticisms.  In other words, don't change your game because a small group of people get upset you used a line from their holy book in a song, but do change it if a group of people are annoyed that you only and go out of your way to portray them as bad.

Because like it or not, religion is a very powerful, interwoven and inextricable part of all our lives, history, culture, and future.  Leaving it out of your work makes your setting seem sterile or unnatural, and deliberately so.

CUTTING SOUTH KOREA


"You must endure pain to be beautiful"


Americans are obsessed with looks and use their vast wealth to buy and even get surgery to fix themselves up, right?  Well yes, but as it turns out other nations are even more obsessed and even thought hey aren't as wealthy as America get even more work done.

At the Economist, they recently posted a chart showing relative amounts of plastic surgery done, per capita, in various nations.  The US comes in sixth:

Number one is Korea, where an estimated one in five women have gone under the knife.  The bulk of this work is for hair extensions, facial modification, and liposuction.  And due to a boom in popularity of Korean bands and movies in China, they're getting a lot of Chinese customers these days as well.
According to government data, overall medical spending by foreign visitors hit a record $116 million last year. Fourteen percent sought plastic surgery or skin treatments such as botox.
Almost a half of all foreigners seeking a nose job, a facelift, a jawbone reduction or a tummy tuck were from China. Their number nearly tripled from 1,657 in 2009 to 4,400 in 2010.
South Korean plastic surgeons are perceived as the best in Asia, if not the world, and with all the practice they're getting that may be true. Most of the work seems to be done in making eyes "bigger," reducing cheek bones, and making chins less rounded. To me, it looks a lot like these women are trying to look like characters in a manga story, or at least less distinctly Korean. According to reports from Seoul, its not uncommon to see women with bandages on their face.

It used to be something kept more secret, but these days with the internet making "before and after" pictures so easy to find, actresses, singers, and other public figures are open about it. In response, women especially have begun thinking this is normal and desirable for themselves. According to that New York Times article, A 2010 government survey found that 31.5 percent of residents 15 or older were willing to undergo surgery to improve their looks. In 2007 the percentage was 21.5. And there are at least some doctors who pressure young women to get work done:
Recently, a local television station secretly filmed a hospital official trying to sell a double-jaw procedure to a woman. “You want to get married?” he asked. “Then you have to do this, you have to take the risk.”
At present, plastic surgery is not covered by the state health plan, but I would expect that it will be soon, given the popularity and money its bringing into the country. Its too bad these women think that they have to remove their natural looks to impress others and think they are pretty, because its almost all women and few men. Interestingly enough its the guys in Greece who get more plastic surgery done, apparently they feel... inadequate, shall we say.