Archive for May, 2007

Friends and Family II

Monday, May 28th, 2007

Received this by e-mail from a friend/family member type guy…too good to ignore.

My New Red Cadillac

I bought a red new 2007 Cadillac and returned to the dealer the next day complaining that I couldn’t figure out how the radio worked.

The salesman explained that the radio was voice activated. “Watch this!”

He said, “Nelson”! The Radio replied, “Ricky or Willie?” “Willie”, he continued, and “On The Road Again” came from the speakers. Then he said, “Ray Charles”, and in an instant “Georgia On My Mind” replaced Willie Nelson. I drove away happy, and for the next few days, every time I’d say, “Beethoven,” I’d get beautiful Classical music, and if I said, “Beatles,” I’d get one of their awesome songs.

Yesterday, a couple ran a red light, and nearly creamed my beautiful new car, but I swerved in time to avoid them. I yelled, “Assholes!”. Immediately the French National Anthem began to play, sung by Jane Fonda and Barbara Streisand, backed up by Michael Moore and The Dixie Chicks, with John Kerry on guitar, Al Gore on drums, Dan Rather on harmonica, Nancy Pelosi on tambourine, Harry Reid on spoons, Bill Clinton on sax and, Ted Kennedy on scotch.

Damn, I love this car!

Jokes That’ll Get You Arrested

Monday, May 28th, 2007

Too funny.

Just click.

Still laughing.

Disclaimer: Some folks won’t find it funny. Some folks have reasons not to find it funny…I can respect that. That’s what makes the world so cool. Lots of different kinds of people living in it. Deal.

Romney vs. Edwards

Friday, May 25th, 2007

Hugh Hewitt says it is going to be Romney vs. Edwards. I am inclined agree…although I’m probably going to offer more modest odds on it than Hewitt. Romney Tancredo, versus Edwards…Kucinich. Heh. Then Secretary of State Fred Thompson after Mitt lifts his hand from the Bible.

A fella can dream…

Anyway, I just want to save the clip for my own later viewing. It’s like the first good news I’ve had all year, that the 2008 election might shape up into a yelling-match over whether we’re fighting something bigger than a “bumper sticker slogan.” Are we, or aren’t we.

Yes, by all means. Let that be what it will be all about. Let The People decide.

On Atheism

Friday, May 25th, 2007

I’m not exactly brimming with skill when it comes to figuring out what a bunch of people are thinking. I’m usually among the last to do that within any given setting, and when I arrive at a conclusion about this I’m very often wrong. But there is a great deal of hard evidence around us, it seems to me, that atheism is popular lately. Hugely popular. Either that, or our atheists are getting much louder about their atheism. One way or t’other, the atheistic noise is hitting a crescendo.

Well, that’s quite alright with me. I’ve got a blog, which has my opinions about things written in it, and I’m certainly not about to upbraid someone else for coming to a conclusion about something and then voicing that conclusion. It’s exactly what I do. Should there somehow be an urgent need to condemn this by itself, I’ll take one step backward with everybody else, and let someone else volunteer to do the condemning. I’m unfit.

Having said that, though, I can’t help noticing something. The atheists I have seen lately, don’t behave the way I do. I may believe in God, but there are other things in which I don’t believe. Some of which I don’t discuss often at all.

Let’s come up with an example…the lottery. The lottery, to me, is the very embodiment of issues that are 1) decided by individuals according to their personal values, and 2) relatively insignificant, insofar as the necessity they present for winning converts. In other words, if I were to recognize a compelling need to get as many people as possible to look at the lottery the way I look at the lottery — why, I would have to get cracking. Goodness gracious. What a lot of work I’d have ahead of me. Everyone I know, I daresay, plays that damned lottery.

And I do have my little monologues to deliver on such a thing. There’s not much point to them, though, because the judgment to be made from their content, is limited to things I shall or shall not do by myself. So…I have a blog with a zillion posts in it about this-or-that, and my beliefs about the lottery don’t end up anywhere in it. Not very often, anyway.

Other people want to do something different from what I would do, because they get fun out of it. I respect that. Others really and truly think this might be the one…and I don’t see much point in trying to talk sense into them. When the office collects for the pool on Fridays, I decline politely, and quietly. Pressed for a reason, occasionally I will make up something silly about a made-up religious denomination frowning on lotteries. Anything to be left-alone on the matter. The monologues stay under wraps, until such time as someone indicates they want to hear them. And then after I recite them, the usual outcome is I’m heckled in some good-natured roasting horseshoe arrangement.

Think of Reservoir Dogs: Mister Pink doesn’t believe in tipping. It’s like that. Except I don’t talk as loud about lotteries as Steve Buscemi does about tipping.

This is not how our atheists talk about God, I notice.

Simply put, they don’t treat it as a personal decision. They treat it as a community policy decision. I mean, the loudest ones treat it that way. Consider the case of Intelligent Design from two summers ago, when President Bush went on record to say both sides should be taught in school. Both sides, meaning…evolution, and the hated Intelligent Design.

This touched off a firestorm.

Why? I dunno.

I don’t believe in the lottery, but if someone else does, fine. If they wanna teach their little sweetums’ that no weekend is complete without the purchase of one or several lottery tickets, that’s just great. Teach them in the public schools…I’m down with that, too. It wouldn’t be in the curriculum I’d put together. But hey. Takes all kinds.

See, I just don’t like to play it. I don’t think it works out in the long term. I think it’s entertainment…people should be willing to admit that’s what it is. That is all it is.

Now if I’m right about that…and the little crumb-crunchers have been taught how to think — not what to think, but how to think — eventually, they’ll come ’round to my way of thinking. If I’m wrong, well, I’m still just on the heavy side of forty. There’s still time, maybe I’ll come ’round to theirs.

But I don’t care if, in their elementary-school years, the little curtain-climbers are given a good intellectual shove off in my direction. It doesn’t matter to me one little bit.

Our atheists, laying their naturally-selected eyeballs upon an instance they might, by some stretch, be able to call “Creationism,” see a threat. Oh horrors, the next generation might not believe as we do. They act like this is some form of genocide. Simply to allow both sides.

And then they uphold themselves as the guardians of logic, while inflicting incendiary broadside attacks upon that logic. Case in point is Jerry Coyne’s essay from that tumultuous time, The Faith That Dare Not Speak Its Name. The point to this is that Intelligent Design is simply Creationism masquerading under a different label. And as Intelligent Design went on trial subsequently, there was ironclad evidence that this is indeed the case. Someone tried to get Creationism into the classrooms, they were struck down, and they tried again by turning Creationism into Intelligent Design.

Mmmkay. So the material was rejected because it was too Judeo-Christian, so someone made it less denominationally-flavorful and gave ‘er another go. Seems sensible to me. But Coyne’s argument is essentially that these insidious forces should be silenced forever because their intent remains the same.

Okay. But with a little bit of innocent scope creep, Coyne meanders from his mainstream argument of pure paranoia, down a bunny-trail of reason and logic and relatively solid common sense. And in crafting the argument about why we should all be so enlightened as to not hear any of this, he presents a few tidbits I personally find fascinating:

Consider the eye. Creationists have long maintained that it could not have resulted from natural selection, citing a sentence from On the Origin of Species: “To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree.” But in the next passage, invariably omitted by creationists, Darwin ingeniously answers his own objection:

Reason tells me, that if numerous gradations from a simple and imperfect eye to one complex and perfect can be shown to exist, each grade being useful to its possessor, as is certainly the case; if further, the eye ever varies and the variations be inherited, as is likewise certainly the case and if such variations should be useful to any animal under changing conditions of life, then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, though insuperable by our imagination, should not be considered as subversive of the theory.

Thus our eyes did not suddenly appear as full-fledged camera eyes, but evolved from simpler eyes, having fewer components, in ancestral species. Darwin brilliantly addressed this argument by surveying existing species to see if one could find functional but less complex eyes that not only were useful, but also could be strung together into a hypothetical sequence showing how a camera eye might evolve. If this could be done – and it can – then the argument for irreducible complexity vanishes, for the eyes of existing species are obviously useful, and each step in the hypothetical sequence could thus evolve by natural selection.

See, we’ve lost track of what the argument is about, and both sides are much better off for it. It turns out — questions about how we got here, and what the evidence has to say about how we got here and how we didn’t, are all fascinating, and endlessly complicated and involved. I think Coyne has done everybody a wonderful service by inspecting, at least at a cursory level, something about which so many other authorities would just as soon keep their silence.

Well, I’d rather know about it. And if the argument is about whether the childrunz ought to be taught all this stuff or not, I’m sold. They’ll learn not only about eyeballs and nerves, they’ll learn about people. I don’t see the downside. I know Coyne wants me to see one. But he’s made a compelling, bulletproof case that President Bush was right. If the proposal were not on the table for both sides to be taught, I wouldn’t have learned this fascinating stuff.

One thing though. “If this could be done – and it can – then the argument for irreducible complexity vanishes…” This is a mishandling of logic, and it’s kind of disturbing that a University of Chicago professor would indulge in it. Although I suppose we all are human and we all have our prejudices.

Prof. Coyne, here, is transgressing against Blogger friend Phil’s Thing I Know #6: “The mere fact that plausible argument can be made does not mean that its conclusion is valid.” Perhaps it would have been more accurate to say, if Intelligent Design were an ineluctable conclusion prior to the investigation of these variations-of-eyeballs, then after such investigations, it no longer is.

That would be a clumsy wording. But it would be accurate. Prof. Coyne will have none of it, though. In his world, the argument has vanished. Should an argument be friendly to his side of things, once such an argument is shown to be plausible, this is as good as proof.

It’s simply not a healthy way to noodle things out. And in Ann Coulter’s book from a year ago, Godless, this is the chink in the Darwin armor that she exploits mercilessly throughout the final third of it.

But if a lot of people want to run around, coloring outside the lines of Phil’s Thing I Know #6, I think we can survive that. To rigidly pursue the finer rules of logic to the extent you can learn about why we’re here and how the world works, that is a completely different thing from figuring out how to put your pants on one leg at a time. Scientists should follow science. Non-scientists can do what they want.

But the other trend is mighty disturbing. People who do not believe in God…lately…have begun to apply intelligence tests to strangers. Pass-fail intelligence tests. You are a blithering idiot if you believe in the “Sky Fairies.” And if you’re a good, righteous, straight and true atheists — one must restrain onesself from tossing in “God-fearing” — then maybe you have something working between your ears.

It is a breathtakingly simple illustration of circular reasoning, with a little bit of third-grade playground name-calling thrown in. There can be no God, because everyone who believes in Him is a stupid chucklehead. And I know they are stupid chuckleheads, because they believe in God.

Based on what I’ve seen, even that summation goes beyond the “logic” atheists have been using to arrive at their atheism. I have to confess, I nurse strong doubts about logic having anything to do with it.

If I were pressed to comment on a cause for this widespread atheism, I blame video games.

I think the atheists were once children, and their childhoods were filled with Sundays. It was time to go to church, they had to put down the controller and go to church, and they just didn’t wanna. Conflict arose. And they became atheists.

That’s as complicated as it gets. I can’t prove it. But I’m convinced.

If, when video games were starting to hit their stride in the early nineties…back then, you were about thirteen years old — you are twenty-seven or twenty-eight now. This is the face of the twenty-first century atheist. He’s a grown-up child who didn’t want to hit “save” and stop playing Super Mario 64 long enough to go to church for an hour or two. And this has molded and shaped his perception of whether there is a God or not. Eyeballs and finch beaks have nothing to do with it. Coyne, preaching to his choir, might have saved himself the trouble and avoided all that hard science; they don’t care.

They want what they want when they want it. They like beer, Cheese-Whiz straight outta the can, Gears Of War, and as much sex as they can get.

Simply put, God hasn’t seen fit to show what He can bring to the table in bringing them all that stuff.

Which is perfectly okay by me. I just wish our video-game atheists would abstain from believing in God — quietly — just as I abstain from buying lottery tickets. Because if I understand the overall argument correctly…it has something to do with everyone living their lives as they see fit, without interference from others. Right?

Fire Melts Steel?

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2007

Found this clip on Flopping Aces. Immensely funny stuff. But decide that for yourself, I guess.

Womens’ Characters That Should Be Models For Others

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2007

Jessica AlbaJessica Alba doesn’t understand what she’s doing to herself. Gorgeous body…irritating mannerisms, displayed deliberately, ostensibly to portray someone who can get along without anyone else’s approval…but beneath the surface, craving it. Does this have some staying power? Well, whatever happened to Dark Angel?

Despite a strong fan base (and a second season finale directed by James Cameron), Dark Angel was cancelled in 2002 after just two seasons due to budget costs and low second season ratings.

Not hard to see coming. I predicted it the very first time I heard Alba open her mouth and deliver a line. Being a smartass before the bad guy is really dead. Mistake. Building a television series around it. Bigger mistake. Letting five-times-married misogynist James Cameron have something to do with something about strong female characters: Huge mistake, done over and over again.

Alba, I’m convinced, is a walking reflection of that funny birthday card. The one with a gorgeous woman with a perfect body sunbathing on the beach in a bikini resembling two band-aids and a cork — and the caption is “No matter how hot she is, someone somewhere is tired of her shit.” Would you like to start shacking up with Jessica Alba? Not just sleep with her whenever you want…not just brag to you buddies about shagging Jessica Alba…but listen to her smack wise at you all day, ever day, for months.

People don’t have an apetite for it. Even if they share the agenda of building a generation of female smartasses, you hunger for this stuff only so long. Otherwise, Dark Angel would have had a third season.

Her smartass mouth betrays the problem:

Jessica Alba – ranked No. 2 on this year’s “Hot 100″ list by Maxim magazine – has a rebellious side. “I love challenging authority,” the 26-year-old actress tells InStyle in its June issue, on newsstands Friday. “It probably wasn’t easy being my parents. The second somebody says ‘no’ to me is the second I’m going to jump up and say ‘yes!’”
:
She’s finally “getting to play characters and dive into things and not just be sort of this version of ‘this girl,’” says Alba, who found she was typecast as “some kind of little tart.”

“Because obviously, if you have a womanly figure, you’re not allowed to have a brain or any idea of the world whatsoever. You just have to be hot and use your body to get ahead.”

Doing it to yourself, sweetie. Doing it to yourself. Speaking for myself…and trust me, I’m labelled as a male chauvinist pig about as often as the next guy, not that I find these accusations to be well-thought-out or anything…I would go so much further out of my way to see what Scarlett Johansson is doing in a new movie, than Ms. Alba. And that’s not a good thing if you are Jessica Alba. Scarlett has a pretty nice body too, and she seems to be a sweet girl. I think if Scarlett and I were the last two people on the planet, I’d stay sane for awhile. I can’t say the same about Alba.

Scarlett JohanssonFear of strong women? Some people would say so. Johansson, however, doesn’t impress me as being submissive or weak. Just like the “Alba Zen” of developing a sudden taste for Coke, when you see I want a Pepsi, is not exactly the definition of strength.

But while Alba’s comments are intellectually vacant, to say nothing of repititious, the question that is opened by her observations is well worth pondering. Mankind has been working on incorporating female characters into drama, for — well, all of recorded history, it turns out. As a science, this remains hit-or-miss. People who have devoted their entire lives to figuring out how to do it, overseeing the investment of hundreds of millions of dollars into it, often know nothing significant beyond what can be observed by someone watching a movie or reading a book for the very first time.

But we do have some patterns. If anyone takes a minute or two to jot them down. So I thought I would.

First, women have a specific role to play in books and movies, and it’s a role men don’t support quite as well. Regardless of our sexual preferences or the agenda we have in mind for women, it seems we all identify with the ladies when they learn things. This is why the most intriguing female characters are never in James Bond films. It isn’t because of chauvinism from a bygone Cold-War era; it’s that in spy movies, the all-important task of figuring out what’s going on is supposed to be done by, well, the spy. Even in situations like those, where men step into the female role of detective, it’s done differently. James Bond steps into a hotel room and the audience expects him to get on a phone and meet his local contact. Instead, he searches for bugs. He finds some. Aha! I didn’t know there would be bugs in the room…James Bond did. He’s one step ahead of the audience. He knew something, the audience did not.

No matter how feminized some of us are, we just don’t tolerate this in female characters for some reason. We learn what they learn…as they learn it.

And it’s okay for the audience to know things the female character does not yet know. It just can’t work the other way.

That’s not to say, however, we want our film ladies to be quivering wallflowers. We do want them to be resourceful in their own way. They should be captured by the bad guy, and usually, if they try to escape, their attempt at escape should fail. You need a hero to escape. Is that sexism? It could be…it might be defended, however, as constructing a strong story. A villain isn’t threatening if he can’t perform the simple task of keeping a captured woman captured. But also, while a woman is captured, she can help develop her own character as well as the character of the villains in proximity. When this communication is coed, it’s more interesting than two guys talking smack at each other. We would rather see boy-girl. So captured the damsel shall remain.

But the best female characters, while in captivity, outsmart the villain in some way. This is a matter of balance. The villain has already done some outsmarting in his own way; she’s his captive, no? So without escaping, she can turn the tables on him. Trick him into revealing something. The result is we’re forced to keep watching, because we don’t know who’s going to “win.” Good drama.

Female characters question the hero’s loyalty, but never his competence. We are programmed to think that if a woman regards a man as weak or ineffectual, she must be right — and if that’s the case, this isn’t a very intriguing hero. We end up looking forward to the end of any scene that flaccid hero is in, so from then on, when the hero is at center stage the audience is being bored. So she views the hero as a maelstrom of unlimited power. Her issues with him, while she has some, have to do with where that power is being applied.

She has an emotional hold on the hero. This is important. If he doesn’t care what she’s doing, what she thinks, what happens to her, how she’s feeling, then she can’t motivate him. The best heroines provide a sense of purpose to a mission that, otherwise, would be without purpose. They define a hero who is motivated out of love, and we are more captivated with that hero than with any other.

Also, she should place pressure on the hero. She should be good at what she does, and in this way impose a necessity on him to prove things. She should offer him friendly competition. In short — she should use a number of tools to make him better than what he would otherwise be.

We are somewhat more intrigued by a female rebel breaking rules, and producing results that would have been unrealized had protocol been followed — than masculine figures doing the same thing. This is why the “cop movie” was mostly a fad of the 1980′s. You know the one. A rebel cop, or duo of black-cop-white-cop, breaks all the rules, ends up suspended, after being constantly yelled at by his “Lieutenant,” who in turn was almost always portly and black. Started with Dirty Harry, ended with Lethal Weapon. The Byronic hero, who subjects himself to endless torment because he just can’t stay within the lines, begins to bore us after awhile. Not so with the ladies who do the same thing. There is the additional angle that they can use their feminine charms to get out of trouble, and we never know how well this will work for them. A guy breaks a rule, we expect he’ll get his come-uppins…through someone yelling, at least. Gets boring after awhile.

And of course, no primary character should do what is expected of them all the time. So a female character should break some rules.

We are always fascinated, I suspect, when a female knows how to do things spectacularly well. It’s often a big help when the hero knows what to do, how to do it, and his plan involves about thirty steps…and before he can get started, the heroine comes along and gets it all wrapped up in one or two.

There are quite a few things a woman should not do. There is, for example, the slasher-film tango, the big bundle of physical things a woman does right before she is snuffed. Taking long sultry showers, walking backwards, closing medicine cabinet doors and moaning “Is that you?” and “It’s not funny anymore!” In 2007, this is all beyond tiresome. And of course she should never, ever, have arguments with the hero about whether she’s coming with him or not.

Being hysterical, assuming there was ever an audience for this, I’d say has just about run its course. Elegant storytelling means the audience knows what to feel. Do that job right, and we won’t need a walking cue card.

I’ve personally never cared for women being brainwashed. Someone somewhere must have been endlessly fascinated with this, perhaps sexually. Most recently we had Dark Phoenix in X-Men III, and the trend started…sometime in the sixties. The Star Trek episodes where Captain Kirk had to smack one of his female Lieutenants across the face, knocking her out instantly of course, so that she’d stop being hysterical and they could all leave the doomed planet before it exploded…or the monster…or whatever. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, in whch Blofeld sought to destroy the entire world’s agricultural products through an army of hypnotized, brainwashed women. Somehow, the women lose control of their intellectual faculties. This has strong appeal for someone somewhere. Not for me.

The women who have captured our attention, have never limited themselves to sitting around waiting to be rescued. Victims are boring.

Compelling female characters do not cheat. It compromises the hero’s character. They may cheat on the villain, but even that diminishes the woman’s character. They aren’t remembered later. Look at poor Diane Lane; everybody knows her name, but nobody can remember the name of any character she played. Her characters are almost always married, and straying outside. People find this titillating, but they don’t respect it.

The female characters who have spoken loudest, to me…

1. Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

What a stroke of brilliance it was to give her a “super power,” which was the endless capacity for imbibing alcohol without getting tanked. It starts out as a seemingly useless skill, and she ends up working it into an escape plan. Perfect. She respected her hero, didn’t entirely trust him, overcame a broken heart but still carried herself with confidence. Easily the greatest female movie character of all time.

2. ElastiGirl (Holly Hunter) in The Incredibles (2004)

The movie is divided cleanly into two segments, in the first of which Mrs. Incredible has to find out what Mr. Incredible is doing, and after that they unite in a common cause. She loses a point for arguing with her leading man about whether she’s coming with him or not. Other than that, everything a strong female should be. Not sure about what’s going on — until she is — and then she quickly re-solidifies the union with her husband and helps to save the day. And what a stunning rear end. In the right mood, I’d rather stare at her than Lara Croft.

3. Dagny Taggart in Atlas Shrugged (Book) (1957)

Probably the best execution of “heroine trying to figure out what’s going on” in literary history. She’s interested in things other women find vulgar, bored by things that are supposed to define the whole world for other women, and she’s not the least bit concerned about any of it. Confidence personified.

4. Helen Tasker (Jamie Lee Curtis) in True Lies (1994)

Her issues with trusting her husband, after finding out he’s been a spy since two years before marrying her without telling her, define the central storyline for the entire movie. She looks amazing in her undies. This is metaphorical; just as even Jamie Lee Curtis’ fans were surprised about how she still looked and what she could do, this reflected Harry Tasker’s surprise at what his wife could do. A metaphor involving the actress herself, what an amazing achievement and how difficult it must have been. And it’s the brainchild of the guy who did Dark Angel. James, why can you do it some of the time but not all of the time?

5. Mary MacGregor (Jessica Lange) in Rob Roy (1995)

She was responsible for starting the chain reaction that would lead to good finally winning out over evil. She loses a point for doing it by going blubbering to a big powerful man, but it’s a very small point she lost. This was all the power a woman of her station would have in the young British Union. But she gets it back again by never, ever arguing with her husband about whether she was coming with him. She argued, instead, about whether he was going at all. Best of all, she agreed with him about his principles, admired him for having them, and simply disagreed about how far he would take them because she didn’t want him to die.

Simply put, the perfect movie wife. Perfectly capable of managing day-to-day without her spouse — but decidedly incomplete.

6. Holly Gennero McLane (Bonnie Bedelia) in Die Hard (1988)

Holly McLane has all of the ingredients. She’s in love with her husband, she respects him as a potent, powerful fighting force, she doesn’t trust him entirely, she doesn’t think highly of the way he does things, she finds him frustrating and irritating. She gets kidnapped. She outsmarts the bad guys, in her own way. She figures out what’s going on and the audience figures it out with her. The only thing she takes a pass on is getting in on some of the action. But she covers that, too, in the last couple of minutes in the movie by slugging that reporter.

7. Caroline “Ma” Ingalls (Karen Grassle) in Little House on the Prairie (TV) (1974-83)

She thinks for herself. But she’s motivated by exactly the same goals as her husband. If she thinks she has a need to stop what she’s doing and question him, she will.

8. Kay Adams (Dianne Keaton) in The Godfather (1972)

Tragically, here we have a woman with some good reason to question what her man was doing. But she knew Michael was lying. He really did intend to make the Corleone family legitimate, but he was doomed to fail. She probably knew this better than he did. She’s a critical pillar in the story, and she makes it work.

9. Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand) in Fargo (1996)

What a woman! She faces down the bad guy as he is feeding his partner’s body into a woodchipper. Sees to it that justice is done, in her third trimester, without breaking her water. Comes home, snuggles up to her husband, and points out that his three-cent postage stamp is going to be just as important as any other. That is just so touching in it’s own way.

10. Ophelia (Jamie Lee Curtis) in Trading Places (1983)

Another one played by Curtis, how interesting. She’s easy on the eyes whether she’s from Austria, or Sweden, or just plain doesn’t know herself. She’s got a plan for making it, with or without Dan Akroyd. Akroyd’s character isn’t nearly as resourceful. But she goes with his plan, and in the end they both end up far wealthier than either of them would have been alone. Well, with Eddie Murphy’s help, but the formula is there. And best of all, in the very last scene of the movie, all the guys are fully clothed and the women are wearing next to nothing, as the Good Lord intended.

11. Evelyn Cross Mulwray (Faye Dunaway) in Chinatown (1974)

The only one on my list who knows something the audience doesn’t. Thanks to Faye Dunaway’s talents, we just can’t stop watching her, and we’re constantly wondering what will happen next until the very end of the movie.

12. Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) in Alien (1979)

She’s not there to yell at people or to act tough, she’s there to solve a puzzle. There’s the magic formula again: What she knows, the audience knows, what remains a mystery to us, is a mystery to her too. If she was a man, it wouldn’t work nearly as well. Well, I suppose Roy Scheider did the same thing when he faced off against the mechanical shark. This could be thought of as Ridley Scott’s answer to that. It works. The feminine mystique adds more depth than the outer space setting and the unseen enemy from another planet.

13. Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) in X-Files (TV) (1993-2002)

The bitch is always wrong, and in ten seasons she never learns to shut her mouth. “But Muuuuuulllder!!! I can’t believe you think these cows were eviscerated by beings from another planet, there’s no eeeevvvvvviiiiidence!!!” Ugh. He’s Mulder. He read the script. Just go with it.

But give her a lot of credit. It was much more fun to watch these two, than Jack Webb and Harry Morgan. And it wasn’t because of the glowing creature emerging at midnight from the swamp, or the government conspiracies. It was because she was a beautiful, intriguing, intelligent, complex woman.

14. Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) in Silence of the Lambs (1991)

There we go again. A woman applies some critical-thinking skills to the problem at hand, and we feel compelled to watch her do it. Sexual preference doesn’t matter, everyone likes to watch a woman solve a puzzle. We feel what she feels. A man can’t pull it off as well. But Clarice is no ordinary woman. She’s got scars from her past, she’s bright, energetic, capable, independent, married to her job. She’s a whole new character. Dented and flawed. The Byronic hero in female form. Somehow, it works.

15. Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) in Terminator (1984)

The movie starts, she has no clue what is going on. The weird stuff starts happening, she has no clue who she can trust. After building the pipe bombs with Kyle Reese, she’s still somewhat clueless about what she’s fighting. But she learns to be resourceful, and figures out how to lower the press on the evil crawling metal skeleton. She is the best embodiment of Joseph Campbell’s “Hero with a Thousand Faces.”

16. Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) in 300 (2007)

Now, this was interesting. She saw Leonidas off to war, bidding him to come back home again carrying his shield, or on it. It was up to him to fight the physical battle, and face down Xerxes himself, but back at home she was left to confront an enemy her husband was spared: The Fifth Column. In this way, the masculine energies were leveraged against Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, while the feminine mystique was positioned opposite Harry Reid and Howard Dean. A story for our times.

17. Adrian Pennino (Talia Shire) in Rocky (1976)

Okay, she is made great through a single line, and for that the bell gets most of the credit. But you aren’t human if you don’t get chills when she says, simply, “win.” That’s the job: He is transformed into something far greater than what he would be without her.

18. Charlotte Seccombe (Lynn Redgrave) in Centennial (TV) (1978-79)

She knows how to get her man away from the filthy clutches of Clemma Zendt. And it’s a delicious scene, which would have failed to blossom with the talents of a lesser actress — like Jessica Alba for example. You don’t want to mess around with Charlotte.

Those are all the ones I can think of for now. But you see, the point is this is something much more complicated than saying “yes” when someone else says “no.” And perhaps it’s an unfair burden that the male characters don’t have to share; the females have to define what they’re all about, at the same time as they do the same for other characters.

I think the gals have the long end of the stick on this one, though. It takes much more talented writing in order to use what they have to offer, properly. And once this is done, you have a kick-ass story. All those other staples, like dizzying photography or spellbinding music, you can pitch back if you want.

Now, try this. Go through a list of cream-of-the-crop movies. The innernets are covered with lists like these…Star Wars and Godfather and Shawshank Redemption always at the top. You will find — there are a whole bunch of movies that have no women. War movies. And some others…

This is not to say female character make a movie bad. They make the movie more challenging to make. Those best-of-the-best, that have no women in them as primary characters, they simply sidestepped the challenge. And you’re going to find the photography in those movies is breathtaking. Because it has to be. The music is original. And it just blows you away. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be seeing the movie on a top-one-hundred list.

Characters can contribute enough to make that expandable. Coed, not male-only. If the female characters are complex, and walk that fine balance between dependence and independence. Ditzy wallflowers don’t get the job done. And neither do smartass attention-whore rebels. For this, you need works of art, not tiresome tropes.

And I’m afraid, due to vapid sentiments given voice by Ms. Alba, this is an art that is gradually being lost. Too many more “Gotta Make A Boat Payment” movies, with cookie-cutter female characters, and the females are going to be lowered into yet another cultural malaise.

And we all know what happens then. Ho hum…BLAME THE MEN…must be rampant sexism out there.

Well, I’m not on board with any of that, so don’t send any of the blame my way when the time comes. And I hope it doesn’t get that far, because now that movie tickets are north of the ten dollar mark, I haven’t got much patience for crappy movies anymore.

Best Sentence XII

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2007

I have no idea what this blog is all about, but I’m going to go ahead and bestow upon it the twelfth Best Sentence I’ve Read Lately award. Careful, some images .

If only my toilet offered frequent flyer points.

What I Meant To Say Was…

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2007

Carter's ProjectionWe learn via Cox and Forkum, via our friends at The Saloon that former President Jimmy Carter has broken rank with his fellow high-profile hardcore left-winger America-bashers and tyrant-appeasers…in that the pressure in this bubbling stewpot his poorly-advised ramblings have landed him in, have forced him to walk the flaky-man walk and start backpedaling.

Former President Jimmy Carter backed off Monday from harshly critical comments he made of President Bush over the weekend after the White House offered a biting rebuke to the former president by calling him “increasingly irrelevant.”

“My remarks were maybe careless or misinterpreted but I wasn’t comparing the overall administration and certainly not talking about anyone personally,” Carter said in an interview Monday when asked to explain.

The comments “were interpreted as comparing this whole administration to all other administrations when what I was actually doing was responding to a question about foreign policy between [President Richard] Nixon and this administration, and I think that this administration’s foreign policy compared to Nixon’s was much worse. … I wasn’t comparing this administration with other administrations throughout history but just with President Nixon’s,” he told NBC’s “The Today Show.”

Carter, whose administration was plagued by sky-high inflation and a 444-day American hostage crisis in Iran, was filling in a quote Saturday in which he said, “I think as far as the adverse impact on the nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history.”

You know, we’ve got much more important things to talk about than which administration was the worst in…well, I dunno what. It’s pretty clear that when Carter says “the worst in history” he doesn’t want his words to be interpreted that way. I mean, y’know, just because that’s exactly what he’s saying. And anyway, if that’s what we’re trying to settle — as James Taranto pointed out yesterday, this would reflect more poorly on the man from Plains, than perhaps he’s expecting — what with the Kamikaze Bunny administration finishing in 34th place compared to the current administration’s 19th.

But let’s just leave that alone. Nobody seems to be terribly concerned about it. Instead, if I were to name one single issue that has aroused the most passion all across the fruited plane, from sea to shining sea, it would have to be — to what extent, exactly, does each noted personality hate President Bush, who is going home no matter what happens in 2009?

That’s the number one issue. Don’t ask me to explain why. But it is.

And isn’t it odd that nobody wants to settle it. Monday Wednesday and Friday, our left-wingers are out there having their little contest about who hates George W. Bush the most. Tuesday Thursday and weekends, after others have taken note of what they’ve said, they’re clarifying themselves, placing careful limits on this hatred as it is to be perceived by the public…more often than not, getting righteously indignant about so-and-so questioning their patriotism. You know, the “don’t put words in my mouth” thing.

Give Carter some credit here. He’s not coming out swinging, grandstanding, showing off with phony outrage which has come to be a customary part of the act. Maybe that page fell out of his copy of the playbook.

But it’s mighty interesting. There’s a right way and a wrong way to read what he said…if you took his words literally, you were doing it wrong. The correct interpretation, that Bush is better than some of the other 42 administrations, but worse than Nixon — doesn’t seem to have had anything to do with what Carter said the first time.

I’m just taking it as a given that the context bears little relevance here. I mean, in my lifetime I’ve heard Nixon called a lot of things. But “history” is not one of those things.

Speaking of history…as a figure of it, Carter teaches us something very important, and it has nothing to do with Republicans or Democrats. Carter is a representation of the hero who will rise out of the ashes, when a large institution is rocked by scandal. In his own way, he is a genuinely good man, I think…or he wants to be one. In the White House, he was also the very picture of a man who was wrong for the job. You hear about how that office ages people. Poor Carter, between 1977 and 1981, managed to etch more lines in his face than anyone who served in that capacity in my lifetime, or anyone about whom I’ve managed to read. Ever have a boss who just wasn’t right for the job? They aren’t very happy day-to-day, are they?

So every generation or so we seem to get a reminder that when a just-past scandal figures prominently in the reasons for choosing someone, that someone is going to have an inglorious tenure in whatever responsibility it is with which they’re about to be entrusted. We’re seeing it now, with our “Mark Foley Congress.” Trouble is, it takes thirty years or so for this to happen.

And you might have noticed yesterday if you happened to see my ruminations about that FARK thread — the question under consideration was whether you’d swap President Bush for President Carter, on September 11, 2001. A lot of FARKers had some grandiose and bumptious answers in the affirmative. If you managed to click their profiles and read-up, you’d see a lot of them were in their lower thirties, or below. Hey, that makes you five-and-under when Carter was actually serving.

So the folks who would have Carter serving again, are the ones who are too young to know how bad he was.

That’s the problem. To apply the lesson, you have to be middle-aged or thereabouts, because it takes thirty years to see incompetence elevated by scandal again. And the thirty-and-under crowd, is the loudest crowd.

I’m not going to go the next step and condescend to them with a paragraph about “they talk when they should listen.” Perhaps that’s true, but it’s clear I’m not the one to do the lecturing. But I will say this; people with opinions, who want their opinions to be worth something, ought to be able to figure out for themselves when to shut up and listen. If we’re talking about some guy who was President when I was still crapping my pants…and in my case, I guess that would be Lynden Johnson, who was controversial in his own way…why, it just seems silly to try to shout down other folks who were actually paying attention to what was going on in the world, when the subject under discussion was actually in office. Look at the thread again. I kept my silence, here and there you’ll see some other folks with good sense, try to draw attention to what a spectacular failure Carter really was. Those folks, by & large, are over forty. They could read news when Carter was President. They know he was a bad seed. This does nothing to phase the young people who want to intone, ignorantly, how much better-off we would be with another Carter era.

Not good.

Or at least, do some reading and gather some facts about what life was like back then, with a failed President. All these problems…no solution in sight. Foreign policy. Hostages. Interest rates. Gas prices. Energy crisis. All of it bad, and getting worse, with light at the end of the tunnel.

Bad leadership, or bad luck? Well, embarrassingly, we got our answer in 1981. Hostages released, energy crisis over, inflation solved. Think it was all coincidence?

Turns out — and we tend to forget this, it’s a hard thing to remember — there are worse things than scandal. Incompetence is worse. Maybe if the thirty-and-under crowd did a little more reading and a little less talking-over-people, then as a whole, we’d remember lessons like this a little bit better. And millions would be the better-off for it.

But of course Carter himself isn’t under thirty. And if we’re trying to improve our lot in life, he’s the first one I’d like to see stick a cork in it. Seems like all the more of a good idea, if he just has to backpedal later on anyway.

My List of FARKLiberals Has Doubled

Monday, May 21st, 2007

…or grown substantially, anyway, in the last few minutes. How did I do it? By reading through this thread (TOTALFARK subscription required, you can get one here).

So who submitted the link?

Hmmm…someone who lurks on FARK…someone who likes to pop simple, easy-to-understand questions, to find out just how off-the-left-end people are. Someone who reads Neal Boortz every day. Someone who doesn’t think too highly of Jimmy Carter. Hmmmm…

I think I can understand why this submitter would want to quiz the FARK population this way. The average FARKer is a potent illustration of tomorrow’s leaders, and personally I find that to be a very sad thing. Mr. Average FARKer is bright, creative, energetic, resourceful whenever a Photoshop contest rolls ’round. Looks to me like nose-per-nose, three out of four of him is currently attending a major university, FARKing every day on the campus computer system. Two out of three of him is an angry left-winger. Near as I can figure, every single one of those left-wingers are Michael Moore fans, and believe every tidbit they’ve seen out of every single Moore movie. They all fancy themselves to be critical thinkers.

They post repeatedly. So even though the left-wing tilt on FARK is about two out of three or seven out of ten…on a post-for-post basis, it’s more like nine out of ten.

Oh, and he was born in 1980, or later. But you knew that, didn’t you. From looking over the comments, a lot of them seem to think Jimmy Carter was an okay President, and would be a good one today. You pretty much have to have been born after 1980 to think that.

For those who lack the TOTALFARK service, you can view the Boortz link here. This is the one that inspired the link that was submitted. Er, I mean, that’s what I’m guessing.

Memo For File XLII

Monday, May 21st, 2007

SimpsonI was given cause to think about that funny essay about the discovery of beer leading to the splitting-up between liberals and conservatives. What made me think of it was the story from out in Madison about a laundromat that serves beer. Yeeeeaahhh…

Now, here is where beer becomes a fascinating staple, carrying sociopolitical overtones far more important than those involved in simple tasty mildly-alcoholic carbonated beverages. Beer is a lodestar. We got some people running around, shooting their mouths off, voting and whatnot — who HATE MEN. They don’t admit this on a word-for-word basis. That is what makes the man-haters so dangerous. What you have to do, is listen to them recite the list of things that earn their disapproval, and then sift through all these things trying to find a common theme. And the common theme will be masculinity.

He isn’t in touch with his feelings. That soldier shot those insurgents when I don’t think he had to. He needs to have a gun in his house to make himself feel all big. He’s a redneck. He watches NASCAR. He drinks beer. He goes to Hooters and stares at waitresses in skimpy clothes. His car has a big engine. He eats red meat. He’s a cowboy. He, he, he.

The beer thing usually comes first. Where the vegan man-bashing hardcore feminists take over, the first thing they expunge is the beer. Therefore…where you find beer, overall you tend to find friendly people. I mean, generally speaking. In fact, where there is beer, it’s not too unusual for you to find other people who just want to escape the negativity.

So yeah, this looks like my kind of laundromat. Pretty cool.

On the subject of people telling you what to do and what not to do. Fascinating article in The View From 1776 about Misguided Christians and Liberals.

Some individual Christians, within Evangelicalism and within Catholicism, believe that society should be channeled into “correct” behavioral patterns by political edict.

Pope Benedict confronted this materialistic doctrine in his recent journey to Brazil. Variously known as liberation theology or the social gospel, the belief that the political state has the capacity, as well as the duty, to compel its citizens to follow certain ways of thinking and behavior, is not Christianity, but socialism.

I’ve been noticing this for awhile. With all the yelling going on, the notion of a divide between “conservatives” and “liberals” has been sprouting problems like zits on a teenager’s face. Conservatives…don’t want to “conserve.” You have cheapasses like me who drive little cars because we don’t like to pay for things we aren’t using. My ass is only so big, it doesn’t need a Lincoln Navigator. I’m not doing it for the public good, I’m doing it because I like to pay $30 to fill up my car instead of $50 or $60. That isn’t really conserving, that’s being cheap. When you talk about “conservatives,” most of them are like me. We skimp. That’s as close as we get to conserving anything.

Nor are our liberals liberating. Quite the opposite. They’re more about telling other people who they should respect, how they should live, what they should do, who should be fought, how intensely. Now if you come up with someone you know is up to no good, like Saddam Hussein, or some low-life thug who broke into your house to steal your…well, your beer…this is when liberals take on their live-and-let-live stuff. Ooh, maybe he was hungry. Saddam was not a threat to us. Sovereign nation, blah blah blah. The rest of us, who are at least making an attempt to play by the rules…there’s a mile-long laundry list of rules for us, courtesy of our liberals. In sum, liberals like to tell people what to do, provided those people have demonstrated the capacity and will to obey. All others can do as they please. Liberals like to decree things without conflict. What they want is a kingdom to rule without fighting to conquer it or to hold it.

This essay is very interesting, I find, because it shows how errant Christians end up in bed with secular liberals, fighting for a common cause without realizing they’re doing it. I would boil it down further by taking everyone who is making noise right now, about whatever…and splitting them up into four groups. Four groups of people who would, in turn, sign on to…

- We were put here by a Higher Power. If you do not follow certain rules, you negate the purpose that Higher Power had in mind for you when He put you here, and therefore contradict your very existence, so listen to me.
- We were put here by a Higher Power. If you tell me what to do, you negate the purpose that Higher Power had in mind for you when He put you — and me — here. I am fulfilling His will every bit as much as you are…so leave…me…alone.
- We were not put here by a Higher Power, we grew here just like a lump of mold on a loaf of bread. This whole business of a Higher Power is an ancient fairy tale devised by holy men in an age-gone-by so they could tell the peasants what to do, and I’ll not put up with your shenanigans. Leave me alone.
- We grew here like mold on bread, and now that the evolutionary process is complete, everyone needs to live their lives according to what I’ve decided. If they don’t, they’ll have to answer for it someday…to whom, I’m not sure. Still working on that.

The last of those four groups is the most delusional.

It seems to be the most prevalent. I’m entirely lost as to why this is. It seems logical to me that if we have a bunch of taboos that come from the notion a Supreme Intelligence placed us here, and in your mind you reject the notion of said Intelligence, therefore accepting the mold-on-bread axiom — the taboos fall away. They must. And there can be no taboos filling the void.

But in my forty years on the planet, I have yet to see an atheist sign on to the following: “Now that evolution has put us here, what do we do. Don’t ask me. You decide that for yourself, let nothing stand in your way, and respect no limits.”

Haven’t seen that once. Our secular people, the loudest among them especially — they all seem to have suspiciously long lists of things that are decent, and demand approval from all, and things that are not and do not.

In the animal kingdom, it’s perfectly alright for a lioness to chase down a zebra. But the human race is different. Nothing, no act of social interaction, no living object in humanity, can simply…be. There’s always something to be deplored. Or applauded. Usually deplored.

Claude Henri de Rouvroy, Comte de Saint-SimonPerhaps it started with the first man to codify the rules of socialism, mentioned in the article itself, Henri de Saint-Simon.

Saint-Simon envisaged the reorganization of society with an elite of philosophers, engineers and scientists leading a peaceful process of industrialization tamed by their “rational” Christian-Humanism. His advocacy of a “New Christianity” — a secular humanist religion to replace the defunct traditional religions — was to have scientists as priests. This priestly task was actually taken up by two of his followers — Barthelemy-Prosper Enfantin (1796-1864) and Saint-Amand Bazard (1791-1832) — who infected the whole movement with their bizarre mysticism and ritual.
:
Although Saint-Simon was one of the first to identify the process of “industrialization” as it was happening in Europe, his concern with the laboring classes was more reserved, although noting the “unnaturalness” of unemployment. In general, Saint-Simon’s bourgeois elitism distinguished him from the later more “labor-orientated” socialist thinkers — notably those radicalized by the 1848 Revolution, such as Blanc and Proudhon. Indeed, Saint-Simon’s enthusiasm for the “spontaneous harmony” of the “organism” of industrial society has led some to claim that he was really a Classical Liberal in disguise. The famed Saint-Simonian critique on private property was due more to his followers (notably Enfantin) than himself. But Saint-Simon was clearly a dirigiste in economic policy matters.

That means, the government says what happens and what doesn’t happen. You got too much money, that other guy has none, you need to fork some over. Opposite of laissez-faire.

Secular-humanism…hostility to God. Man in charge of man. It leads to the men in charge, naturally, telling everyone else what to do. How could it not?

But if the promises were good, God’s Throne, once He was unseated from it, would remain empty. There would be no priestly scientists rushing in to fill the void. You ask a roomful of passionate atheists what it is they hate about religion, and nowadays the word that keeps bubbling up is “oppression.” And nobody ever seems to learn — socialism, in the eighteenth century as well as in the twenty-first, is all about oppression. That priest we just burned at the stake, he told you what to do because he said it was the word of God. I’m telling you what to do because it’s the word of ME.

I wish people demanded more out of their secular-humanists. We get rid of God so we don’t have anyone telling anybody else what to do…seems to me, if that’s the purpose, we ought to be coming up short in the “envisag[ing] the reorganization of society” department.

It never seems to work out that way. Always, it seems, there’s an entire layer of secularists pulling long cheat-sheets out of their pockets, covered with new rules for everyone top-to-bottom…pronouncing, “now that we got rid of that God guy, here are my ideas about how a society should function.” And of course if you don’t want to follow those rules, you should be forced to.

By whose authority?

Seven Lies I Was Told

Sunday, May 20th, 2007

In explaining to Buck, and anyone else wondering the same thing, how it is that I do my blogging…I made reference to the first triad of the nine pillars of persuasion. This traid consists of facts, opinions/inferences and things to do. Navigating through these is a skill. It is an individual skill, not a collectivist skill. In the latter part of the twentieth century, it assumed the veneer of becoming a collectivist skill, because when people navigated through these three pillars as part of a group, they became very loud. People like Walter Cronkite and Peter Jennings and Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw would broadcast the results of these deliberations, and other people who were not Cronkite or Jennings et al, would tune in to find out what to think. And before you knew it, everyone who had a television set, would stop doing this work on their own.

That is a crude summary. But it’s pretty accurate.

This is the malaise from which blogs are rescuing us. People aren’t perfect, after all. Look at it this way. You watch the news, all the way through the 1990′s. And every other year, something is going on with Saddam Hussein. Saddam is violating his no-fly zone. Saddam is oppressing people. Saddam Hussein is supposed to be showing weapons inspectors this room or that room, and he’s refusing to do it…and getting away with it. Not good. Congress is going to back off of impeaching President Clinton because there’s trouble going on with Saddam Hussein. Great, so now we have a liar governing the country, and we can’t do anything about it because of you-know-who.

And being a well-informed consumer of news, you think to yourself, what a colossal asshole. Someone needs to take care of that Saddam Hussein.

But here’s where the human frailty comes in. By the close of 2003, someone has come along to take care of Saddam Hussein, and you are instructed to believe it was all about stealing oil and getting revenge for a death threat on someone’s daddy. As human beings, we have brains that are wired…whether we like it or not…to think as part of a large group. The “group” says “eh, this was based on lies and Saddam Hussein was never a threat to us” — the natural inclination of your brain, is to hop on board. Uh yeah, whatever that other guy said.

This is where blogs can save the human race. I mean that literally. Save the human race, from our own failings. You’re reading a blog, like this one…and I say something like “You know what? I don’t think this asshole was harmless. I think Saddam Hussein was a punk-bitch and a menace and a loose cannon — and not only that, but I distinctly recall our democrat President saying exactly that.” And you think to yourself…hey, how that he mentions it, I remember that too.

Before blogs, the bandwagon-viewpoint receives an amplifier, the challenge does not. After blogs, both sides must be amplified. And therefore, they must both receive a fair hearing. It’s simply a superior forum in which to weigh competing ideas.

Ah, but who is to say that a blog is not the disease, rather than the cure? Well, the blog is written in hypertext. Which supports, and encourages, links to things. So the blog can link to things to support the viewpoint under discussion. Like in this case, the Iraq Liberation Act (ILA) of 1998. As approved by the House of Representatives, and as signed by President Clinton.

Haven’t seen Katie Couric do anything like that, have you?

We have to have this. We HAVE TO. You know why? Because when people who are paid good money to swagger, and use other primitive body-language techniques to drum up a phony sense of authority, they can sound like they really know what they’re talking about…while they’re peddling bullshit. This is true of the blogs as well. If I know how to write really well, I can make a stupid idea look sensible. But the thing is — if I do that, and someone disagrees with me, he can put up a blog showing how full of crap I am.

That is simply not true of six o’clock evening news broadcasts.

And it isn’t true of editorials in your local paper. It’s supposed to be. But it isn’t. You catch your local paper in a lie, or other kind of falsehood…you write a letter to the editor. Maybe they’ll publish it, maybe they won’t.

If you caught them in a lie they really, really want to sell…they won’t publish your letter.

In this area, blogs win. Hands down. You’re a blogger, I’m a blogger, I peddle some crap and you catch me at it, you can write me up. Your comments will be found by any blog-reader who wants to find them. Including some critically-thinking individuals who read my comments, and thought to themselves “I wonder if there’s another side to this?” Let’s face it — if Tom Brokaw or Katie Couric tell you some kind of nonsense, and you’re skeptical about it, you can’t scrape through the crap unless you do some work. Nowadays that means Google. In times past, when Brokaw was actually on the air, it was a trip to your local library. That’s just to verify/refute what Mr. Brokaw said. Not terribly realistic.

The reason this is such an important improvement, is that it’s not such a terribly unique experience to be told lies about things. Even highly-successful lies. I would venture to say, it’s far more of a rarity to be on the receiving end of a homeless guy’s shakedown sales pitch, than it is to be on the receiving end of one of these lies. In fact I’ll go even further.

There are seven lies to which we’ve all been subjected. All of us. At least, those of us who attended public school in the last forty years. Those seven lies are listed below. Since becoming a grown-up I’ve found all seven things to be ABSOLUTELY WRONG.

1. Republicans and Democrats want to get the same things done but have different ideas of how to go about doing it.

If you were writing fiction about the times in which we live, and had taken it upon yourself to include a passage about a teacher telling her class this crock o’crap, you’d probably excise the passage as soon as you had sobered up again. How could you possibly elborate on this, after all? What, for example, are these common goals toward which Republicans and donks are supposed to be laboring? What? There’s no substantial answer to such a question…and it is the single most rudimentary question to be posed.

Oh, I suppose a generation ago you could have defined the common ground as “increase the standard of living of most Americans.” How ’bout now? Quick– how does our left-wing want to increase the standard of living of most Americans? Name a strategy…something that doesn’t benefit the management of a labor union. Clock is ticking!

No, there isn’t anything left. How many things do you want that you can’t have yet? Get a nicer car? Take your family on more vacations? Just install a nicer refrigerator in your kitchen? Think of ten, and I’ll bet eight of them would result in increased carbon emissions. You know what Al Gore has to say about that. Shame on you.

So no. We have people…we have labor unions. One party is for one, the other party is for the other. PERIOD. Republicans and Democrats are not about the same goals. They aren’t even about the same ways of thinking, as I pointed out last summer in What Is A Liberal? You stand up for your own interests, think for yourself in doing so, and you’re contradicting the liberal agenda in a way liberals will not soon forgive. You can’t even fight to defend your country, municipality or family anymore. Not without their opposition you can’t. They have become the Not Worth Defending ideology.

2. Women can do everything men can do.

This one is so silly it is NAO, or Not Articulated Outright. But the arguments that depend upon it, you are no longer allowed to challenge. The arguments that would inflict assault upon it in some way, you are not allowed to support. Not without paying a social price. Not in public.

But…haven’t women achieved an amazing amount of stuff lately? Haven’t they set all kinds of records? Of course they have. Women have done all kinds of things for the very first time. Over and over again, from Danica Patrick to Nancy Pelosi, we’ve had a glut of women being the very first woman to do…something lots and lots of men have already done. To name a certain feat, and witness the first humanoid to achieving it, boasting a pair of tits and a verginer — that seems to be an event for which nobody holds out any hope any longer. That used to be the feminist dream, but no more. Women, now, settle for declaring victory after they’ve trudged along in a trail already blazed by men. Blazing the trail in spiked heels, is an abandoned dream. Whose idea was it to give up on that? I must be a radical feminist, because I wouldn’t have supported that.

But now, when you hear about the “first woman” to do X, rest assured. A bazillion guys have already done X. Lately, there’s no exception to this.

I hasten to add, however, that X need not be anything I personally have done. That is not my point. My point is simply this: When people say, or imply, or attempt to convince others, that women are just as effective doing certain things as the equivalent man — they are full of crap. Sometimes, thankfully, aware of how much crap of which they are full. Not always.

Men can write their names in the snow. Men can refill a car battery after all the electrolytes have leaked out. Men can inseminate, and have fun doing it, without complicated medical procedures. Men can invent things; yes, I know all about windshield wipers. Fact is, you find something a woman invented, I can show you a couple hundred things men invented, maybe more. No, it isn’t because the patent office discriminates. The simple fact of the matter is, the inventor’s brain is invested in the male skull. You do something out of the ordinary, against convention, and if your wife is around she’ll say — that’s not the right way to do it. Emphasis on the words the and right…not on way and do. It seems if the gals have us beat in something, it’s in figuring out convention, and following it. Reading the instruction manual, as it were.

Well, the wife is right of course. But the fact of the matter is, this is antithetical to inventing things. You simply can’t come up with new and improved ways of doing things, while busting your ass trying to do things the way they’ve always been done. Those are two different endeavors.

Here’s the irony though: If you are open to respecting what’s special about men, you can respect what is special about women. If you’ve got your mind made up there’s no point to having men around, you can’t appreciate the advantages to having women around either. And then the human species, men & women alike, becomes pointless. So I would characterize this one as being not only false, but unhelpful. In the extreme.

3. War is a consequence of people not putting enough time and effort into talking out their problems.

In my lifetime, all the wars I’ve been able to “witness” starting, involved two or more sides who seemed to understand each other just fine. Prior to my lifetime, the wars I’ve read about seem to have started under similar circumstances. I really can’t think of too many wars that started from a genuine misunderstanding, perceived or otherwise. Actually, not even one. I doubt anyone else can, either.

4. The Indians were kind to their own elders, and to the land, before we stole America from them.

This varies from tribe to tribe on the native-American side, as well as country-to-country on the European side. But the evidence seems to indicate no significant disparity in the level of concern and care extended to the environment, between Europeans and natives. With regard to “stealing the land” — there are challenges involved in defining this when the “invading” culture is the only one that understands the concept of a man or group of men owning a patch of land. Both sides were not sold on this concept. Therefore — and this is where logic has to be applied to the situation, and it’s not a comfortable process — were the process to be repeated a thousand times in a thousand different parallel universes, the problems and the bloodshed and the SNAFUs would have been repeated a thousand times. All these things were inevitable.

This is not to say the white guys did everything right. Before and after America came to exist, the things that were done to the Indians were quite reprehensible. But the simplicity involved in retelling these tales to the current generations, runs into a problem best articulated in Thing I Know #207: Dismiss all anecdotes and parables containing these three things: A hero who can do nothing wrong, a villain who can do nothing right, and a setting in which all events are hearsay and can never be validated first- or second-hand. You’re being snookered. Count on it. Doesn’t have to do with denigrating red people are defending white people. It has to do with plain ol’ critical thinking. Good Indians…bad white guys…real life just isn’t that simple. It simply isn’t.

5. Sen. Joseph McCarthy ruined hundreds of lives rooting out “communists” that never existed.

Google the Venona Project. Then read about it.

Over and over again, we hear about these lives being ruined without anyone taking the effort to list names. Occasionally an authority is pressed to provide such a list, and the results are invariably disappointing.

We simply should never have been putting up with this.

6. Democracy isn’t a perfect form of government, but it’s the best there has ever been because decisions are made to the satisfaction of majority rule.

Not only is a pure democracy an abuse of the basic rights of the minority, but it turns out those who founded America desired no such thing. Read Federalist Paper #10, among others.

7. In our hearts, we are all the same.

I just don’t know what to say about this one. I think I understand that people want other people to be more tolerant of yet-other people, who happen to have different colors of skin. I think that’s the intent. But the statement is flat-ass false. I would have to say it was rather soundly disproved on September 11, 2001. Many among us persist in believing it. I don’t know why, you’ll have to ask them.

This Is Good XXXIX

Sunday, May 20th, 2007

Ten Reasons I Didn’t Start a MySpace Account.

Yes, I have a blog, and I like to make fun of people who hate blogs, and at the same time I like to make fun of people with MySpace accounts.

Like Ralph Waldo Emerson said, consistency is the hobgoblin of simple minds. I notice the simple minds tend to whine a lot, why don’t you cry me a river, build a bridge and get over it. I think the blog is an idea whose time has come…for those of us who don’t want to be told what to think. I don’t like MySpace. That’s just things the way they are.

And I gotta say, #7 just really speaks to me.

Part of the beauty of most web pages lies in the fact that you can be listening to some of your own music while you consume them. This is not the case with MySpace profiles–no, you’re the victim of whatever whims of shitty music the user has chosen for you. Sure, you can turn it off, but that’s after the ten minute load time.

Amen, sing it.

Other things that are good:

You know the fellas have had too much to say about the wedding…when…well, take a look.

Calvin has a thought that makes more sense to us grown-ups than it should…

And, in response to one of my favorite movie jingles, Brian Boitano responds.

Q9: It’s brought to your attention that “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone are really evil overlords from a distant planet posing as irreverent cartoonists. What do you do?

BRIAN BOITANO: Ask them to take me to their planet.

Next up, IT Jargon You Love To Hate:

“Unique, first of its kind, leading provider of, infinitely scalable, aligning business with IT, revolutionary, breakthrough and any use of the word leverage,” says Don Jennings, a PR professional with Lois Paul and Partners in Boston, who chimed in with some of his favorite jargon that vendors should never use in a press release.

Damn straight.

Memo For File XLI

Wednesday, May 16th, 2007

Glenn Beck conducts an interview about free speech issues, as they relate to these shock-jock firings and the efforts to resurrect the Fairness Doctrine.

I’m liking this Debbie Lynn Wolf lady. She’s a babe. Her ideas make good sense too. I like the way she responded to these nit-pickers over here.

Here’s an observation I find interesting.

Most of us are on one side of this issue or another. By arguing against censorship — or to be more precise, this boycott-driven witch hunt — the anti-censorship people leave themselves open to charges of racism. They leave themselves open to the charge of agreeing with the speech they are fighting to protect, which is not necessarily the case at all.

The pro-witch-hunt people, on the other hand, leave themselves open to charges of molding and shaping the argument underway, in such a fashion that one side might prevail when it otherwise would not. They leave themselves open to the charge of, essentially, defeating what might be a good idea by declaring it “over the line,” knowing full well that if they were to try to attack it through logic and reason, they’d fail.

The anti-witch-hunt people are placed in the position of asserting and reasserting, that they are not bigots. They’re never done doing this. Someone is constantly accusing them of racism even when there is no evidence to support this whatsoever.

The pro-witch-hunt people…and I find this to be like an itch I cannot scratch…are never, ever called-upon to defend what they’re doing, it seems. Seldom do I see them called-upon to explain that actually, they’re ready willing and able to debate the statement they find loathsome in a free and open exchange of ideas. There is much evidence to suggest otherwise.

Irrelevant? Not from where I’m standing. Not when the pro-witch-hunt folks are trying to get someone censured, or fired, after uttering a serious policy idea that may or may not be good. This issue is all-important. If the pro-witch-hunt people are on a witch hunt against things they find offensive because they’re true — or sound — we can’t let them get away with it. We just can’t. Even if we disagree with the idea they’re trying to attack, we can’t afford it.

One good example? Profiling in the airports. There are good reasons not to do it, and there are good reasons to go ahead. I expect a lot of people disagree with it, and would still concede that it’s an issue deserving an open debate so all the points can be made. If someone supports it, are they a racist? Hey, it’s possible…but it doesn’t necessarily follow. But that’s not how we think about it. We think, if it could be a sign that someone is a racist — then that must be what it is.

And so we’ve surrendered that one to the pro-witch-hunt people. I suppose a lot of anti-profiling people are thinking, well great. What’s the problem? The problem is this: Here you’ve got a policy decision upon which our very lives depend. Perhaps, if we settled the matter using logic and common sense, the outcome would be the same. But I don’t know that. You don’t know that. We’ve surrendered this to the forces of anti-logic.

What’s next? Well, there’s a black guy running for President you know. Did you know there are a lot of people out there who think if you say something bad about a person of color, and you’re white yourself, that makes you a racist? There are, you know. Now you’re thinking…that’s nuts. I agree. Perhaps in a free and open exchange of ideas, you and I could defeat those people and settle the matter that just because you’re white, and you have a critical comment about someone who is not white, this doesn’t make you a bigot.

Sounds easy right?

But we don’t necessarily get our free and open exchange of ideas. We surrendered on the profiling issue, the precedent is set. One side accuses the other side of race-based pinheadedness, the other side has to shut up and back down.

It’s just not the right way to noodle things out. Everybody knows this deep down, but few people say so out loud, so we end up getting further and further entrenched in this muck.

Meanwhile, we’re all supposed to be concerned about our freedoms and civil liberties. Well, we don’t want to use our freedom and civil liberties to do our thinking…so what other purpose do we have in mind for them? Smoking our next joint, and nothing else?

The Blog That Nobody Reads

Wednesday, May 16th, 2007

LogoWelcome to my humble blog. The FAQ will answer any questions that you…well actually, on this point I can’t make any sort of promise. The FAQ answers what it wants to answer and then it comes to an abrupt stop, without apology. What an impudent little FAQ. But nonetheless, if you’re wondering where you are and would rather spend a minute or two trying to find out, than navigating away with a simple mouse-click — the FAQ is the place to go.

This is The Blog That Nobody Reads. When it started, that was really true; now, it has something of a following, which is divided right down the middle. A large bulk of the audience thinks that’s a stupid catchphrase and urges me to drop it post haste, and the remainder finds it titillating. The consensus among them is they wish they had thought of it first. As if they were collaborating behind the scenes somewhere, they have all chosen to honor some strange virtual trademark thought to be registered to myself. Well…okay. The blogosphere, or some tiny portion of it, chooses to think of it as my brainchild. My intellectual property. Well, I think of myself as undeserving. I’m honored.

It’s not a tidbit of self-depcrecating humor; “The Blog That Nobody Reads” reflects intent, or to be more precise, lack of intent. We aren’t attention whores here. There is good reason why we are not. It hasn’t escaped our notice over the past several years, that some of the doctrines of belief most assured to draw attention to those who hold them, like moths to flame, are the ones that are wombat-rabies bollywonkers crazy. Silly, paranoid things. Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction and was completely harmless. President Bush knew that planes were about to be crashed into the World Trade Center and did nothing about it. There is no terrorist threat. Fire never melted steel before September 11, 2001. Violence is a direct and predictable result of poverty and hunger. Maybe you’ve heard this one lately: The rich get richer, the poor get poorer, the middle class gets “squeezed out.”

You know. Stupid, self-delusional crap, upon which no sane man would gamble anything important to him, under any circumstances. Forget his own testicles. Forget his limbs. Forget his children. Think of…the steam off his own excrement. Think of pocket lint. Ideas that aren’t even worth that. This is the nonsense under which people place their virtual signatures, when they whore for attention on the World Wide Web.

This is not just humorous and harmless. It ias actually terribly dangerous. You say crap to get attention — much sooner than you think it could possibly happen, the crap gets much, much crappier. And you start to believe it yourself.

We prefer to win that game by refusing to play. We say stuff, here, that makes sense. Stuff we believe. Stuff on which we would place bets.

And to ensure we remain firmly entrenched in that mode, we loudly announce — and celebrate — our complete apathy as to whether anybody is paying attention.

That is why we are The Blog That Nobody Reads.

It should be obvious by now, we do not mean this as a slight toward the people who do bother to read. We are grateful to all of them, and most especially, to our regulars whom we consider to be close friends. If there is a purpose to blogging, we consider this to be it: Making friends. Phil. Duffy. Good Lieutenant. The Bartender. Karol. Misha. Alan. Jeff. Rick. David. Daniel. John D. Infidel. “aup”. Most of these folks have me “blogrolled” or “sidebar’d” as something like “must-read” or “daily-read” or “better than the average blog” or some such. I wonder if they understand what a jaw-dropping and heartstopping compliment this is; words, as the saying goes, fail to express. And then there are the folks getting some kind of group-collaboration project off the ground, making me some unofficial “staff” type person. James. Mike. John Rambo. And, although he is much more a hero to me than any kind of real peer — Gerard, who in my eyes is some sort of living legend. If you were to thaw out a literary giant from the eighteenth century, and somehow coerce him into teaching you how to write, you’d have to adjust the advice to fit the twenty-first century. Gerard is here, now, for free, for the benefit of anyone who chooses to pay attention. He talks, I stop what I’m doing and I listen. To me, Gerard Van der Leun didn’t just hang the moon, he built it out of his own two hands and then he took up a great big machete and hacked out a place to put it. He doesn’t need to acknowledge me, I consider it an honor for which I’d pay richly, just to read his stuff.

And then…then, there is Buck.

Buck Pennington is an interesting case. His personality seems to have a lot in common with mine, except he’s an older retired fellow, with a military background, and interests in things that have not yet captured my attention, like photography. I see him as a true “peer,” sharing both my strengths and my weaknesses. I’ll leave that unexplored, since to graphically explore Mr. Pennington’s weaknesses seems to be an example of rudeness he does not deserve, nevermind that I share them; and to inventory our strengths, strikes me as a failure of modesty on my part. Suffice to say he matches me item for item in both columns. He’s always impressed me as an older “carbon copy,” like if I were to travel forward in time and visit myself, I should not be surprised to find something eerily close to him. But more to the point, his blog has become an interesting place to visit for anyone, whether you’re trading links with him or not. He’s nurtured a very pleasing balance between personal anecdotes, and unique viewpoints on the very latest news. I’ve watched his site slowly evolve into a place where I genuinely look forward to giving him a hit, without a thought about his Sitemeter traffic, just to find out what’s going on over there. If I don’t get around to it, the day is missing something. This is a real accomplishment in Bloggerland — the very highest. And I get the impression he’s doing all this without trying.

Buck has asked a question I think is interesting, and I hope a large number of bloggers take the trouble to try to answer it. The question is: How do you blog?

What if one percent of the blogosphere sat down and provided a thorough, honest answer? What if we had blogs a hundred years ago, and such an event took place? What an amazing book that would be. Think about it. HOw many episodes of “American Idol” would you sacrifice just to thumb through such a book, for thirty seconds or so?

What a fascinating book that would be.

Let me repeat. What a fascinating book. Here we are, and we have the chance to write such a thing. To write it. How lucky we are. What have you got going on, that truly deserves postponing such a thing, for even a minute. Really. Is it some sense of modesty? Surely you must understand, this doesn’t count. If you are a blogger, right now, in 2007, you are toiling away in the eye of a tempest that is sure to change the world. You think future generations care nothing about the thoughts between your left ear and your right one. Why do you think such a thing? What would you give to read what a person such as you, thought about things like this, a century ago?

You are — we all are — worth a great deal more than you think. It won’t hurt anything to take the time to jot things down.

So here’s my take.

To me, it starts with a vision. I write for a blog read by, in theory, nobody. So I’m not going to whore out my ideas, saying outlandish things just to get someone to write me up so I can appear in People Magazine. No, I’m just going to jot down my ideas. My reactions. Something happened, or someone said something about something that happened. I have a reaction, and I’m going to jot it down.

At this point, I should scribble down an example. I’ve got a great one in mind.

Barbra Streisand says we should all do our part to fight global warming by hanging up our laundry to dry in the breeze. I think she’s nuts. If I jot down that and nothing more, what I’m jotting down is simply…a vote. Some of us think Barbra Streisand is a real American icon, others of us think she’s a wonderful entertainer but her opinions aren’t worth squat. Still others of us can’t understand how she ever got to be famous in the first place. And others think she’s a craven hypocrite. I don’t think it does anyone any good to simply pick something out of that list, jot some words down around it, and move on. That would be silly. Other folks would agree, others would disagree…what’s the point? Someone coming along to tabulate everything? No, nobody’s doing any such thing.

So if there’s a purpose involved in reacting to Barbra’s statement, the purpose would have to do with exchanging ideas. First thought in my head is, is Barbra hanging up her own clothes. And if she isn’t, she’s a hypocrite. Okay, if I put that on the Internet, folks come by and read it. If they disagree, they have my e-mail address. That’s useful — perhaps there’s another angle to this, and I’ve neglected to consider it. Clearly, it’s far more productive, and a better discipline, to put my ideas out there where they can be seen by others, than to stew in my juices and just nurse vindictive feelings against some spoiled Hollywood starlet.

But a lot of the disagreement about Ms. Streisand has to do with values. If you think she’s a hypocrite, it’s unlikely a new piece of information can change your mind…and the same goes for the folks who think Streisand is some kind of modern-day Messiah. To them, she can say whatever she wants, get busted doing whatever she will…and her star will never lose any luster. It all has to do with personal values.

Which means if someone comes along, reads my stuff, and says “Right on!” — maybe they share some of my values. Maybe not. But they probably do. And if they take the time to write, then this is the beginning of what’s called a friendship. At least, most of the time.

Values are big with me. There are some folks who don’t share mine, there are others who do. I don’t think I’m in the minority quite yet. I don’t think my side is even headed there. Or maybe my side really is an underdog and I don’t know. Either way, I will say this — I do think people who have my values, need to stick together. Anybody who shares ‘em, I’d like to know about them.

But I don’t have just moral values; I have intellectual values too. I think information should be handled a certain way. I think people who think and talk about what they think, have obligations to keep track of what they know and what they don’t. “Barbra Streisand is the worst sort of hypocrite” — of course I’m perfectly entitled to think that. I’m perfectly entitled to have that viewpoint without basing it on any facts. But at the same time, that would be wrong. If I think the lady is a hypocrite, I should say why. Or, at the very least, I ought to know. A real man thinks things, and he knows why he thinks the things he thinks. It’s as simple as that.

And so — pretty much just for the heck of it, you might say — I jot down what I think, and why I think the things I think. Most of the time I can’t prove the things that help me decide the things I think…most of the time, they are things I’ve been forced to conclude, based on what’s likely and what’s not likely. Proof is a luxury I don’t have. Life, you will find, is almost always like that. I would venture to say that over the last five years, we have seen this bite our own current President square in the ass. Sometimes, you don’t know a thing is so, but at the same time you don’t know it is not so. Sometimes — a lot of the time — a thing may very well be true and at the same time, it might not be true. And you are required to act on faith…and the best judgment you can muster. You are required to, in effect, gamble, whether you’ve a fancy for gambling or not.

I submit that this is what being a grown-up is all about. Doing what you want…or doing something in response to what you want to have going on, as opposed to what the evidence says is really going on…this is the domain of children. Grown-ups take in evidence, figure out what it means, and find a way to make the most of it, or to minimize the damage.

And so when I blog, all I’m really doing is opening up the hood on my grown-up engine, showing the workings as it spins away. What do I know? What do I not know? Based on what I know and what I do not know, what do I think about what is going on? And…based on what I think is going on, what do I want to do?

And this is why the blog is called House of Eratosthenes. This is why the logo of the site resembles a crude pictogram resembling a water well, with the midday sun shining through it all the way to the bottom. You see evidence of something — based on this, you devise an experiment, and you gather data from that experiment. Based on that data, you figure out what is going on. Eratosthenes himself did this, and figured out not only that the world was round, but exactly how round it was. With pinpoint accuracy, relatively speaking. That is what we try to do here. That is why we call ourselves House of Eratosthenes.

So when we blog here, we look through something…usually, although not always, the headlines in the news. Based on what is going on in the news, we form an argument. Not just the rustic definition of the word “argument,” but a composite thing that includes all of the vital elements. There are three such elements and here in The Blog That Nobody Reads, we call them the Vitals. We call them the First Triad of the nine Pillars of Persuasion, and you can follow the links to the glossary if you care to figure out what exactly they are.

Now, a lot of the time the navigation through the three pillars in the vitals, should be self-explanatory. That happens pretty frequently. In that case my own ramblings are decidedly second-rate on a scale of importance. In which case I say something like “Meh,” with a link to the story that I think is important. Posts like those are pretty short. I think of these kinds of posts as the very latest in bookmarking technology, and believe me since the Internet has come to be what it is, I’ve tried everything. I have recorded Internet addresses in text files. In Microsoft Word files. In Internet Explorer bookmarks. In Palm Pilot databases. They are all…each and every one of them…just like pieces of precious driftwood that I spot, as I float on down the river that is cyberspace, in some virtual canoe. If the driftwood is worth something, I must haul it aboard, or at the very least capture the place where I spotted it.

I think it’s fair to say at this point — no device, save for the humble blog, has worked out for me.

I create a post that says “Look at what this asshole said,” or “Pffft,” or “Geez!” or — something that has an amazing essay written around it. And from that day forward, I have it. Years later, I may look for it…and, one way or another, I’m going to find it. I can’t honestly say that about the text files or the Word files or the Palm Pilot database records.

Mmmmkay, there we have another reasons why we are The Blog That Nobody Reads. If nobody reads us, we still have a purpose. Through blogging, we manage to remember things…things we’ve not managed to remember any other way. Not long-term.

But that is how we record bookmarks. Sometimes…the post you’re reading now, case-in-point…we opine at great length. Tediously. I have been instructed to believe this has no value to anyone, anywhere, at any time. And yet I can’t help noticing — when people “grab” my stuff, give me credit for it, post it someplace where it receives significant attention — some might say an amazing, spellbinding level of attention — they don’t grab the nibbles. They don’t grab the tidbits. They grab the monster essays.

Buck wants to know how I, or rather we, blog. I am going to have to assume he’s asking about the monster essays. Nobody has anything good to say about my monster essays, but that is what people capture. That is what they link.

How does the House of Eratosthenes…The Blog That Nobody Reads…put together a Godzilla-sized essay. Actually, it takes no effort at all. I wish it did.

Good manners dictate that I skip over the first third of it. I have my baggage from the past; my inner demons. Little bits of myself, that aren’t completely at peace with other bits of myself…we should leave it at that. Lying in a peaceful slumber in the middle of the night, intertwined with the body of a woman who is far too good for me but who nonetheless spends her time in my company, now and then I become conscious of the demons churning away. Ghosts of persons no longer with us, some of whom I knew intimately, some of whom were mere strangers, all of whom I should have treated better than I did, and are now gone forever. Like Scrooge, I rise in the middle of the night and I’m unable to lie still. And eventually I stumble out of bed, my body weary but my mind on fire.

Perhaps the dead are visiting me in my dreams, and I can’t remember. But it is two in the morning, and a gorgeous naked woman is slumbering in the next room, richly deserving of my embrace until the eastern horizon turns orange. She deserves this, and I long to give it to her, but on occasion I cannot. Simply put, it is a case of insomnia. A bad one. I don’t like it. I’m trying to make a life with someone, who is ready to make a sacrifice I cannot match. I think she understands this, and I think she is hoping one day I will be able to do what I currently cannot. Tomorrow is another day. For now, I am wide awake, and it is two in the morning…

This is how I write. There is the matter of tools I use. There’s an awful lot of stuff going on in the world, and not a day passes by where something important hasn’t clicked, somewhere, or at least someone really important has said something revealing. We have people who track that stuff, and it’s a full-time job. Granted, the fact that collectively they end up doing it very badly, is what gives the humble blog a purpose. But the fact remains. It is a full-time job. I don’t have time for it all.

So I have to find a way to filter through it, making sure I don’t pluck out a few little dirt clods out of the pile and leaving the gold nuggets untouched. So I have a “big queue” and a “little queue,” the latter being a filtration of the former. You get to read the more elite, pristine one. The larger queue is the rough, unfinished stuff, the things I have time to scribble down just a one- or two-liner about, and consider at a later time for “publication.” This one is for my eyes only.

It must follow me wherever I go, so I use Google Documents for that. This has turned out to be a very helpful tool. The docs are web-based, they follow me around wherever I am, and they auto-save. So I have a large text document that is my scroll. Something interesting happens, I jot down a line about what it is, and save the link. Then I move on. This has been a life-saver, literally; it allows me to have a life.

How do I type in the stuff? There is a fellow at work named James whom I could most accurately describe as a grown-up hippie. Like me, he is a programmer. One day in the break room, he caught me and happened to make mention of this program called ConText. I’m using it to write this now; it is not a word processor, it is a programmer’s editor. You can get it here.

I start with the word wrap turned off. That way, every odd-numbered line is a paragraph, nevermind how long the paragraphs are. I write, and I write, and I write some more. YOu know the funny part of it? After I’m done writing, it’s like the blood rushes into a wholly different part of my brain lobes, from what was throbbing away while I was doing the writing. It’s as if I drifted off into a deep sleep, and Rumplestiltskin himself broken in and typed a bunch of crap, leaping out the window just as I woke up again. I swear, sometimes I’ll be reading my own stuff half-an-hour after I wrote it, and I’ll bust out laughing at a joke as if someone else wrote it. I honestly don’t understand it. It’s like some rejuvenated spirit of a long-dead ancient warrior took over my body and actually did the writing, while I did some more dozing.

And then, I hit Shift+Control+W to turn word wrap back on, and see the article the way my readers will see it. I add the links in. And then I add the pictures in. The pictures are no big deal, they’re hosted through ImageShack — and then they’re imposed over the text through simple HTML 3.0 commands. That’s it.

You see, there really isn’t much more to it than that. I’m just some guy who writes stuff, who knows what he knows and knows why it is that he knows it. Zoning out, as if he were strung out on acid or something. But not. Just rattling away on his girlfriend’s wireless keyboard, buck-ass naked, while she slumbers away buck-ass naked in a warm bed where my buck-ass naked body should be. And will be, at about three-o’clock. But for now, it’s only one-thirty. It’ll be light outside in a few hours, and the mad dash will be on to drag my ass into work in a frantic dog-eat-dog data center environment.

For now, though, things are relaxed. Things are clear. Tortured, yes…I am haunted by ghosts. Things I wish I had done differently. I am indebted to persons living and dead, but at least I have some sense of perspective. As the sun swings freely of the horizon in a few hours, I will lose that perspective and I will no longer be tortured. Life will, once again, redefine itself as an endless, pointless, wait in line at the local Starbuck’s. For the time being, although I am awake and I know I should not be, and sin hangs around my neck like a dead albatross, and in my own way I am tortured like Prometheus upon the rock, at least I understand the debt I owe to persons no longer with us. I see things as they really are. In twelve hours, I will be filing out of cubicle-land, with nine hours of flourescent lights absorbed in my body. Life, then, will achieve maximum distortion — it will look like a journey to a grocery store with a shopping list, and events leading up to that. That’s half a day from now. For now, I understand perspective. I understand people laid down their lives, so that I could live, and have things, and I owe them a debt I can never repay. And I can only hope to begin to repay such a debt, by doing my bit to make sure the next generation, also, sees things as they really are. Twelve hours from now, that will be blurry and unclear. For the time being, things are very, very clear. Painfully so.

I might as well write about it.

That’s all.

I am e-mailing this to some of you. I’m thinking if you were to forward it on to someone else who blogs, nothing bad could come from it, and perhaps something wonderful, will. How about give it a try?

Whedon’s Rules

Saturday, May 12th, 2007

A few months back I had expressed some of my regrets about picking on poor Joss Whedon. Whedon has accomplished some amazing things, and it’s a mystery to me why I don’t genuinely like any of them. I know I probably should. He’s got this cool post-apocalyptic world going on full of dusty old used-junk spaceships, interesting characters…I just can’t watch it. Ten minutes of it bores me to tears. And I don’t know why. This is true of all of Whedon’s work that has been brought to my attention. There’s something about it that just puts me in a coma. If I don’t know something came from him, I can figure it out pretty quick, and I don’t consciously know what tips me off.

So I went to Gamestop and grabbed a bunch of three-for-price-of-two used movies, and made sure Serenity was in there. I had heard nothing but good things about it, after all. And it is good, in it’s own way.

But it puts me to sleep. Quickly.

And I think I know why. Whedon, it turns out, has some rules that he observes very carefully. Whether they are good rules or bad rules depends on the viewpoint of the person watching. But in my book, they’re bad rules. And I can’t help but get the feeling that if every carbon-based life form on this planet agreed with me, And Whedon came to figure this out, he’d still want to keep all of them.

As near as I can figure, the rules are these…and I should disclaim, a lot of them are absolutes and I don’t know if they have been observed absolutely because I’m a damn sight far away from an exhaustive scholar of Whedon material. But this lock-step observation of these twelve rules, seems to cause me a lot of boredom very quickly, like in ten minutes or less. So they don’t have to be observed very tightly at all in order to sabotage everything. It’s sad, in a way, when George Lucas can tell a story better than you even with that crappy Lucas dialog, but let’s face facts: First time I saw any given chapter of the Star Wars saga, I had no idea what was going to happen next and it made the film a pure delight. With Serenity, I’ve got a pretty good idea of what’s going to happen next, even though I know far less about what’s going on, and don’t particularly care what’s going to happen to these carefully-developed characters. It’s just plain bad story-telling.

1. Character over story. It’s okay to chew up massive amounts of footage defining the characters, and nothing else. Heroes hold meetings to figure out what to do, but what is done cannot be the result of new ideas, compromise or negotiation; it is always the unaltered, undiluted, uncompromised vision of whoever “won.” Nobody ever, ever, ever yields half-way because that would be confusing.
2. It’s far more important for a line to be clever than for it to be convincing.
3. The audience should have no uncertainty whatsoever about who’s right and who’s wrong. It is preferable that the designated antagonist do some stuttering to remove all doubt. This is an attribute of the character. Whoever is wrong about something, can’t be right about something else later. That would be confusing.
4. When men and women share a scene, any revelations meaningful to the story must be delivered by the woman.
5. Men must not be too threatening. The largest man must be no bigger than 5’10″ and 170 pounds. Facial hair is for bad guys, and even on them it must be immaculately groomed. A five o’clock shadow is a metaphor for some deep, serious character flaw. This, too, is an attribute of the character. Whoever is clean-shaven at one time can’t be grizzled later, and vice-versa.
6. The telling-off is an all-important ceremony. At no time can fifteen minutes pass by without someone telling someone off. Women can tell women off, men can tell men off, women can tell men off, but it is never, ever, ever appropriate for men to tell women off. Women may implore men to calm down, men may not implore women to calm down because that might be threatening. See Rule #5. Calming-down is just as important as telling-off. Nobody is allowed to tell anyone else to calm down, without extending the right hand, opening it broadly, pointing the palm down to the floor, and shaking it while the left hand rests on the left hip.
7. Fight scenes can have action, but no suspense. There should be a designated victor. The victor sustains no blows, not even a scratch, unless he or she possesses some mystical power that makes physical injury impossible or trivial. The victor may be damaged, wounded, bleeding at the end of the fight — in fact, he/she must show some damage somewhere — but it is prohibited for this to have actually come from anywhere. Think of Chris Penn’s demise in Reservoir Dogs. If the story calls for the other guy to throw the first punch and start the fight, which is usually the case, this first punch must miss.
8. Amnesia, truth serum, alternative realities, brainwashing, and other forms of loss of mental control are indispensible story-building tools. Because they might be considered “abuse,” they are always inflicted on women, never on men. But refer back to Rule #6 — if a woman who cannot trust her own senses is in an argument with a man who can trust his, the man must yield.
9. Character flaws are reserved for men. Women do not have flaws; they have tragedies that took place from which they are continually trying to recover. They are never quite finished with this.
10. Nothing may happen quickly. All scenes, save for cut-scenes, must last two minutes or more. Three minutes is even better.
11. When the script calls for someone to interrupt someone else, it should be completely obvious. Whoever got interrupted, should yield immediately even if the line used to do the interrupting, meanders laboriously and awkwardly.
12. Whatever looks like a good idea at one point in the story, has to stay that way. The heroes cannot be deceived or betrayed, unless mannerisms and speech inflections are used to clue the audience in from the get-go that this is what is about to happen.

As The Seals Are Broken

Thursday, May 10th, 2007

And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;

And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.

And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.

And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains;

And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:

For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?

– Revelation of Christ to John, 6:12-17 (KJV)

If I were The Devil and it was my mission to bring about the end of the world, I would do it one baby step at a time. I would see to it that every generation of mankind is capable of doing less than the generation that came before, and has less a sense of perspective about what’s important.

I would bring about Armageddon, as the fulfillment of a desire people held in their own hearts, being unaware themselves that the desire was there. I would do what I can to make the human race look in the mirror, and see a loathsome, entirely expendable thing, unworthy of attention, maintenance or most of all, defense. Drop by drop, ounce by ounce, inch by inch.

It occurs to me that this is exactly what has been taking place. We all like to talk a good game about wanting to help each other, but lately there’s been a huge push for everyday folks to aspire toward being noticed and being watched. This has supplanted or subordinated all other desires. Making life easier for others, or building things that would make someone’s life easer, is decidedly passe. Maybe if someone takes the time to figure out what’s coming down the pike that we haven’t quite seen yet, sort of get ahead of this downslide if you will, we’ll be able to see how steady and predictable this is. So here’s my shot at it.

How long do we have to wait until…

1. Everybody is in entertainment, or nothing at all. Nothing is produced. Nothing is fixed. We sing and dance, we clean the toilets of those who sing and dance, we deliver bottled water to them, we advertise for them, or we do nothing. In short, the point to our existence, for those of us who still have one, is to get attention for ourselves or for somebody else.
2. It is tolerated, and commonplace, for new mothers to be talking on their cell phones during the delivery. Better than even odds the doctor is on a cell phone too. “Me? Aw, nuthin’. Delivering a baby. What’re you doin’?”
3. Objects seem important when they possess attributes, and gender is an attribute. Gender must therefore disappear. Men wear cowboy hats, and goatees…and sundresses. So do the ladies.
4. There is a sequel to the Dukes of Hazzard. It is a “reboot.” Daisy Duke is now Duke Duke, a guy who runs around in a thong all day every day, works as a waiter in a gay bar, and drives a little white jeep named “Dixie.” Beau and Luke are now Bee and Lara, a couple of hard-driving ass-kicking ozark women. Uncle Jesse is a pre-op transgender. The General Lee has been renamed the Secretary-General Annan.
5. Sacrifice becomes ceremonial and loses all substance and meaning. Already you can buy a carbon credit, sponsoring someone else to conserve, so you don’t have to. Tomorrow you can buy a virtual carbon credit. You would essentially be paying someone to think about buying a carbon credit, so you don’t have to think about doing that.
6. As we trivialize boundaries that ought to be given more respect, we are divided across differences that ought not matter. A new U.S. Mint is opened that prints special money for gay people. Every time someone finds a vending machine that still takes only “straight” money, there are protests and candlelight vigils.
7. 60 Minutes does a piece on people who live in East Pennsylvania who are so poor they put signs in their cars that say “Car Radio Already Stolen.” Congress passes a law that all motorists with working sound equipment must put up signs that say “Audio Equipment Not Stolen Yet.” The inventory of said audio equipment is to be printed alongside, and is required to be kept accurate and complete. This is enforced through random inspections.
8. People decide for themselves whether their ways of living are helpful to the poor, facts be damned. Barbra Streisand shakes down the homeless population to buy her next mansion because she can’t afford it herself.
9. The media becomes more and more emboldened in giving us instructions on how to vote. Already, it has become routine to blindside Republican candidates with some silly question about how much milk costs, and take a pass on doing the same to the democrats. I see a future where infrared technology is used to measure greenhouse gas emission and power consumption at the Republican convention of ’08. An expose — government-funded, of course — broadcasts the results of this. No corresponding hit piece against the democrats, or any other party holding a convention. Nobody questions any of this.
10. The Fairness Doctrine is restored. Rush Limbaugh is forced to let Al Franken guest-host his show 50% of the time. His ratings start to look like Air America’s. He retires. Franken takes over the entire show, demands huge salary, EIB Network files for bankruptcy, capitalism is pronounced a failure.
11. Technology continues to expand, ostensibly for the purpose of bringing us information more quickly, but in reality, to service our growing demand for more attention. Cell phones can “message” live, high-quality moving pictures. You don’t have to go on American Idol anymore. You can phone in performances along with votes. This becomes so popular that new houses have universal cell phone “tripods” built in to the childrens’ bedrooms.
12. Disability becomes strength. There are pills available to give you a disability if you’re tired of being too normal and therefore failing to qualify for special treatment other people routinely receive in contracting, admissions and hiring. The pills are color-coded according to what disability you want. There is an ADD pill, a race pill, a stupid pill, a cocaine withdrawal pill, a homosexual pill, a Tourettes pill. The ACLU sues the pill company on behalf of the color-blind.
13. Parenthood continues it’s decline, and evolution into a needlessly-painful institution. Producers of kids’ television cartoons decide to come clean and make a show called, “Just Tune In And Give Your Parents A Migraine.” It has no plot, no story, no characters, no voices, not even any pictures. It just emits an annoying buzz. Oh, and when you tune to this channel your volume setting automatically goes all the way up, your power locked on, your channel frozen in place.
14. Mankind continues to envision “peace” as a commodity, with no price attached, free for the asking, unconditionally. All branches of the Department of Defense are closed, except a brand-new “Peace Division.” Boot camp in this branch: Learning to cry, fingerpainting, nap time, puppet shows, sensitivity training. The mission: Invading underdeveloped countries filled with poverty-stricken people, and teaching them how to…form labor unions, tax capital gains, and oppose the death penalty.
15. Work continues to be attacked, and denigrated into pointlessness. More things, staples and luxuries alike, are available with or without work. You have a right to gas. You have a right to toothpaste and deoderant. You have a right to food. Naturally, if you’re stubborn enough to try to buy your own, even a mayonnaise sandwich will be devastatingly expensive.
16. News networks stop pretending to bring us news. Tune in to the evening news and you will see NO FACTS, just instructions about who you are supposed to trust and what you are supposed to think. Tune in to the morning news, and you’ll see three perky people seated around a coffee table telling you what your favorite color is for that day.
17. “Civil liberties” are cherished, but real freedom is abused and ignored. In the privacy of your own home, it’s a misdemeanor to look at a pictorial representation of someone smoking a cigarette. It’s for the children after all.
18. The evisceration of the Second Amendment is complete. Nobody under the age of 30 has ever seen a gun, and few can remember what one looks like. Only mugging victims. The guns must be coming from somewhere, of course, so homeowners are “encouraged” to open up their houses for inspection.
19. New World Order. One-World Government. Global income tax. Sovereign nations still have their own governments, but it’s a little tough for anyone to explain or comprehend why.
20. Language, as a tool for person-to-person communication, disappears entirely. As people approach a service counter, they fully expect to waste their time instead of acquiring useful information, and the service people have lost the expectation that they’ll dispense any good answers or be able to help anyone. Words do not convey ideas, now that it is rare for any two strangers to be speaking the same language; shrugs and grunts and pointed fingers are the currency of exchange now. The newer versions of Microsoft Word have no spell-checking, a new “phonetic” alphabet is invented that consists entirely of gutteral sounds.
21. There is a virtual “moratorium on brains.” Creativity is history. Nothing is invented, nothing original is ever written, every song is a remix, every movie is a remake or sequel of something else, even public speeches consist entirely of quotes copied or plagiarized from elsewhere. Trivial Pursuit ends in a stalemate everywhere it’s played because nobody knows the answer to anything, and is eventually relegated to the dustbin of old fads. The brightest schoolchild knows nothing, but can sing rap tunes non-stop. He mumbles. Nobody really knows what he’s singing. Nothing is ever built, very few things work, and when they break nobody knows how to fix them. The very last human skill to disappear: Dialing a phone number. Everyone spends all day talking on a cell phone — about nothing important — to someone they wouldn’t know how to reach, without their own one-button speed dial directory, which someone else transfers for them from one phone to the next. Invariably, this involves shipping the phone to another country and bitching about how long it takes to get it back. Unintelligibly.

She Can’t Fit Here, Period

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2007

Joan Baez was invited to perform at Walter Reed Army Hospital by John Mellencamp but the Army says no. Must be a conspiracy theory. What did Karl Rove know and when did he know it?

Folk singer and anti-war activist Joan Baez says she doesn’t know why she was not allowed to perform for recovering soldiers recently at Walter Reed Army Medical Center as she planned.

In a letter to The Washington Post published Wednesday, she said rocker John Mellencamp had asked her to perform with him last Friday and that she accepted his invitation.

“I have always been an advocate for non-violence and I have stood as firmly against the Iraq war as I did the Vietnam War 40 years ago,” she wrote. “I realize now that I might have contributed to a better welcome home for those soldiers fresh from Vietnam. Maybe that’s why I didn’t hesitate to accept the invitation to sing for those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. In the end, four days before the concert, I was not ‘approved’ by the Army to take part. Strange irony.”
:
Baez’s manager, Mark Spector, told the Post that Mellencamp’s management invited Baez to perform in March and handled all the arrangements. The Post said Mellencamp’s manager, Randy Hoffman, did not return calls requesting comment and that Mellencamp’s publicist said the singer was ill Tuesday and unavailable.

But Mellencamp earlier told RollingStone.com: “They didn’t give me a reason why she couldn’t come. We asked why and they said, ‘She can’t fit here, period.’ “

Someone call Scully and Mulder to investigate this strange phenomenon. Could little green men from another planet be programming cigarette-smoking men in our government to kick Joan Baez’s wrinkly peacenik ass out of military hospitals?

Well wait, I have Google. I can do some investigating of my own:

I’ve never had a humble opinion in my life. If you’re going to have one, why bother to be humble about it? — Joan Baez

Instead of getting hard ourselves and trying to compete, women should try and give their best qualities to men – bring them softness, teach them how to cry. — Joan Baez

That’s good enough for me.

There are other countries worth being defended by soft men who know how to cry. Not my country. Not America. She’s too good of a country, worthy of an aggressive defense by hard, intelligent, critically-thinking men who know more about killing than crying.

Benevolent and protective when the situation calls for it — cold-blooded killers on occasions when one can be benevolent and protective by no other means.

America deserves no less. Maybe that’s what the military meant when it said she can’t fit here. Period.

Case closed.