Archive for the ‘Pinheads’ Category

Memo For File CVII

Monday, February 15th, 2010

I’ve decided the time has come to honor the advice of The Bastidge, and follow it. There is certainly a valid point to be made that the world, and therefore the populace that inhabits it, straddles a chasmatic divide separating two unacknowledged communities, and that each of these communities in perfect isolation would enjoy a harmony that must elude us as we co-exist with each other as a monolith. The divide has something to do with order versus chaos, clarity versus obfuscation, substance versus packaging, individual rights versus community obligations, opportunity versus security, pulling your weight versus fitting-in, logic versus emotion.

We’re seeing it right now with the health care debate. And it substantiates the point all the more when we observe that much of the controversy and dissention swirls around this ramshackle, oxymoronic thing called a “public option.”

I called this “Yin and Yang” out of a desire to get to the bottom of what causes people to pursue, throughout their entire lives, one way of thinking over another. The Yin work within boundaries; the Yang do not. The concept is centuries old, and dates back to periods in different world cultures in which femininity itself was a concept synonymous with the stewardship of quiet, contemplative female chores. In societies like this, it naturally follows that men think of things the way women do in ours, and women must think of things the way men do in ours. Here’s a litmus test: Friend of a friend buys a new car. Or, gets carjacked. It’s a great story to tell for sure, but who is to spend time talking about it?

In an agricultural setting, what happens to one has at least the likelihood of impacting everybody else. And so it makes good sense for people to get together somewhere and swap stories. But these are “Shut Your Girl Mouth Men Are Talking” societies. To whatever extent checking-this-out evolves to become a necessary household chore, it is a manly chore. A railroad’s coming to town, maybe (how does this change things?). Farmer Brown’s crops got wiped out by the cold weather (are ours next?). Who goes down to the saloon to find out about this stuff. It’s not the Mama; there are meals to be cooked, a floor to be swept.

Now, we have the automobile. The printing press. The Internet. Womens’ Lib. And when the time comes to swap tidbits of useful news, who does that? Here is what a lot of people are missing: This is a perfect reversal. We do not have mead halls where the men go to drink beer out of steins and compare prices of bushels of corn. It would be awesome if we did, for sure. But it’s not happening, because the gender roles in our society have flipped around in a perfect one-eighty. Men retreat into their own little worlds, not unlike the kitchens that enveloped their great-grandmothers. Their “kitchens” may be just about anything: A computer with a stubborn virus on it; a classic car that’s being rebuilt; a ham radio or a model train set down in the basement; but there is always a project, it always has a border around it, and that’s what men do.

This awesome Art of Manliness article offers a chronicling of what happened to our mead halls. It began, irony of ironies, with us guys being decent and kind enough to give the ladies the right to vote. Prohibition followed that, and…

For centuries, a man could visit a bar and be in the exclusive presence of other men. Because drinking was seen as a corrupting influence on the “purity and innocence” of women, bars were completely off limits to ladies (exceptions were made for prostitutes, of course). Out of the presence of women and children, men could open up more and revel in their masculinity over a mug of cold ale. However, the bar as a men’s only hangout would quickly see its demise during the dry years of Prohibition.

By banning alcohol, Prohibition forced drinking underground. Speakeasy owners, desperate to make a buck, accepted all drinkers into their establishments, regardless of gender. Moreover, the economic and political empowerment women experienced during the 1920s and 30s made drinking by women more acceptable. By the time Prohibition was repealed, the female presence at the local watering hole had become a common appearance.

World War II only further eroded the male exclusivity of bars and pubs. As more women entered the workforce, it became acceptable to socialize with their male co-workers in taverns and lounges after work.

Today, there aren’t many bars around that cater only to men (gay bars being an obvious exception). Instead, bars have become a place where the sexes come together to mingle and look for a special someone.

Note the article’s title: “The Decline of Male Space.” Men used to own the world. Now, we don’t. We have relinquished the privilege and obligation of socializing, turned it over to the gals, and toddled off to the basement to go play with our train sets. The women do what we used to do — they hold court and they compare their notes with each other, try to see if there’s some hidden meaning of everyday events that might affect the family.

This is precisely what their great-great-grandfathers did. The very same thing.

And so I grow weary of having to explain this. Yes, “Yin” is traditionally female, although I use it to describe a personality attribute that predominantly is to be found in our males. Yang, likewise, is traditionally male, although it describes things our women usually do and that our men, typically, don’t. The concept didn’t flip around, the gender roles did. And so, I have to concede that The Bastidge is accurate in his critique:

Your theory’s alright, if a bit vague and rambling. But Yin and Yang have a specific meaning, and you’re using them more or less backwards.

Yin is a concept roughly aligned with the female, but the concepts covered in your theory- group consciousness, socializing, consensus, softness, weakness, emotion, passivity, are all associated with it.

Yang is roughly male, but also strong, factual, direct, resolute, hard, aggresiive, etc.

In their crudest, most basic form, yin and yang refer to the female and male sexual organs.

My use of these names was arbitrary anyway, and that was on purpose. For the last five years I have seen these as placeholders for something more descriptive that would, and should, come later. After I’d given it another think. Well, with this morass of a health care “debate” that has been taking place, and will surely flare up again later this year, I’ve been forced to give it another think. Besides of which, I’ve met lots and lots of manly-male guys who do their thinking in a much “Yangy-er” way than a lot of the females…so the genders don’t fit well in any case.

And I think the terms are these:

Architects and Medicators.

The word “Architect” is chosen with care. Way back in our history, when written language was a novel idea, architects were “master builders” (which is the etymology of the term). These things they labored to construct, with every little piece of it not put in place properly, could very likely collapse and wipe out an entire family in a heartbeat. And so laws were passed condemning failed architects to a death by stoning (Code of Hammurabi, Law 229). That’s a little gruesome, but it had the effect of galvanizing their chosen profession into a noble discipline.

In their own little community, a “Climategate” e-mail scandal would not, could not, have been tolerated even for an instant. Things were the way they were — period. An angle was ninety degrees, or it wasn’t — period. Up was up and down was down — period. There was no room for bastardizing the peer review process into some mutation of what it was intended to be, to ostracize and excoriate colleagues who spoke measurable truth. The architect, hundreds of years before Christ, lived in an object-oriented world and thought about that world in an object-oriented way.

Okay, now let’s look at what I’ve set up as the polar opposite.

“Medicator,” similarly, is chosen with deliberate thought and intent. “Physician” doesn’t work because physicians are supposed to adhere to the Hypocratic Oath and First Do No Harm. The verb “medicate” is applied to addictions, primary among those being mind-altering substances. It speaks to a process of adjusting one’s emotional response to reality as a first priority, with recognizing that reality as a distinctly second-place priority. Medicators do not heal. Nor do they seek to do harm. The long-term welfare of the body is simply outside of their concern. It isn’t that they don’t care, it’s that there is an emotional well-being that they prize more highly.

To recognize reality as it really is, and to adjust one’s emotional profile in response to the reality so that it is unconditionally cheery, are two mutually-exclusive goals. It may not seem to be the case when reality happens to be pleasant. But when reality is unpleasant you can choose to wrestle with it to whatever extent is required to fix a problem, or you can choose to ignore it in order to keep your emotions on a high and even keel. The sacrifice of long-term satisfaction in order to achieve a short-term high is, of course, a defining hallmark of medicating.

One Revolution AwayNow, these people trying to shove this fustercluck of a health care bill down our throats: It’s no mystery at all where they come down. They are medicators. It is not a primary goal of theirs to actually treat illnesses, heal the sick, bring “healthcare” or “access to healthcare” to “the uninsured.” Nor are they trying — architect-style — to solve any kind of a problem, President Obama’s unceasing speechifying notwithstanding. Think on it: When is the last time you heard anyone in Washington use those phrases above? Been awhile, hasn’t it? No, lately it’s about “getting this done.” Beating the opposition. Winning. Make things the way they/we want them to be. But wait just a second…we’re half way through an election cycle, one that began with their decisive victory. They already beat the opposition. Their victory is forgotten, however, just like a druggie’s high, and they find themselves incomplete, hungry, after-buzzed, struck with a raging case of Delerium Tremens if they don’t score another victory. And after they get that done, of course, they’ll need another and another and another. They live out their lives on a hairpin turn, just like a druggie. Time loses all meaning for them. Bliss is constantly one hit away.

It’s not about health care, of course. It’s about how we think about the world around us. The medicator lives in a gilded cage, waiting passively for someone to come along and fix the latest problem. He does not solve real problems, he does not support anyone who would solve real problems, he does not live in reality. He considers reality itself to be an inimical force. This, ironically, provides a liberating effect. Of course it’s all about the way one does one’s thinking to perceive the world around him, and with someone else assuming the burden of actually fixing the problem, the thinker enjoys the luxury of thinking about things as a non-architect. In a non-object-oriented way. With every little thing on God’s creation, melted together into a sloppy mess. And this overly-medicated “thinker” does not think, in turn, about the resulting mess; instead, he picks up an emotional vibe from it, and shares it with other self-medicated thinkers. That’s the model of reality as perceived by the medicator: A great big ball of warm, gooey wax that’s all melted together, and is now giving off vibes. Hopefully good ones, but if they’re bad ones then someone else needs to fix something — or it’s time for another “hit” of something via one-more-revolution.

Disciplining a child provides a similar contrast. To the architect, everything is cause and effect: The child engaged in undesirable behavior, therefore something needs to be modified about what the child perceives as proper or improper. The solution is to teach the child a new taboo. This can be done through direct communication if the child shares the desire that his behavior should be proper, or through punishment if he does not. First of all the transgression has to be properly categorized — bad attitude, or simple misunderstanding? Then we assess what the child understands about etiquette and go from there. In the Architect’s world, that’s what we do.

In the Medicator’s world, the exercise really is one of medication! Concentrating on something is not a task that was, for one reason or another, failed in this case; it is an ability that has gone missing because the child’s “brain isn’t wired quite right.” Of course the solution is to put the child on a prescription for some goop that will alter his emotional state, and make the process “easier for him.” (It’s nearly always a him.)

Another acid test is when a complex system of any kind starts producing the wrong output, because some unit within it starts to go all wonky — with all the other units in good order. To the Architect and Medicator alike, this is a no-brainer, but they come up with polar-opposite solutions. The Medicator wants to chuck the whole thing and start from scratch, whereas the Architect sees a puzzle to be solved in separating what’s good from what’s busted. Think of Blondie and Dagwood getting in one of their matrimonial melees about whether to call the plumber.

I commented last month that I had finally expunged the malware from my HP Mini notebook. My victory announcement was premature, it turned out. The beastie lived on, downloading other crap onto my platform. It shames me to say it, but if I were to act purely on logic and reasonable cost-benefit analyses, I would have taken the “scorched earth” approach much, much earlier than I did, and lost a lot less time. It became an Ahab/whale thing; I lost sight of fixing the problem, and concentrated instead on figuring out entirely useless trivia about it. Where’d I pick up this thing? What exactly does it contaminate? How come these packages over here can detect it and fool themselves into thinking they’re cleaning it, when they’re not? How come that package over there seems to have “wounded” it (toward the end, it locked up the netbook instead of popping up an ad, which is what it was clearly trying to do)…but can’t quite get all of it?

See, neither Architects or Medicators enjoy a monopoly on always having the right idea. Medicators throw things away in bulk — they are much more inclined to announce “this entire thing is bolluxed!” That is often the right approach, and I have to make a confession…my second one, now…that I’ve often missed out on this advantage when it comes up. Medicators seem to think life has no puzzles in it, none whatsoever. And they probably think this because, in the world they construct around themselves by accepting some responsibilities and simply walking away from some other ones, they’re absolutely right. Choices confront them — choices in which the wrong answer results in some kind of personal suffering — and they become petulant, unpleasant, and then someone else swoops in and solves it for them.

In their world, the question of who gets the “rep” as a problem solver, is completely isolated from the record of who did or didn’t actually solve problems. At no time has this been more evident, than this first year of watching our new President struggle with the demands of His new job. He is a dedicated Medicator. He fixes nothing. The only responsibility He takes is to refine the emotional buzz that comes from this thing or that one…and having failed even at that, He has a ready finger-of-blame to point somewhere else so He can give Himself a good report card. Which He did, actually. That one single act speaks volumes not only to how He thinks about the world and the challenges within it; it is a tip-off to how medicators think as well. You’ll notice this about them if you know some really dedicated ones personally. They enter into conflict with others, because they tend to demand the final word about their own work. It was up to par, the other guy just has a mistaken interpretation of “par.” They followed the instructions they were given, it’s the other guy’s fault for not giving them the right ones.

Running a meeting is yet another good litmus test. Some meeting chairs do it right: Agenda item, question, answer, does anyone have any objections, next agenda item — boom, boom, boom. Others engage in this ludicrous and time-consuming practice of using the forum to adjust the emotional tenor of the participants, as if it’s a high school pep rally. Buying a car: Any salesman will tell you, some people turn their thoughts to the TCO with considerations such as gas mileage, service records, availability of parts. Others worry overly much about how they look when they’re tooling around in the car, what strangers will think of them.

Homeowners’ Association bylaws can be written to accommodate one of these halves of humanity, or the other, or both. This is a rather interesting situation, because the bylaws represent an attempt to “architect” a successful neighborhood, through the “medication” of the emotions of the people who observe it. Here and there, though, we see stories in the news surrounding HOA bylaws that are, to turn a rustic phrase, just plain stupid. They don’t do anything to make people feel good and it seems extravagant and far-fetched to suppose they could have anything to do with preserving the value of the property. Banning the American flag is the one example that springs immediately to mind, since those stories have a way of jumping onto the front page.

The last time we linked one of these, the story in question showcased a persistent trait among the Medicators: proxy offense.

[M]anagement told them the flags could be offensive because they live in a diverse community.

The controlling curmudgeon lays down the curmudgeonly rule, and the curmudgeon is silent on whether he or she personally finds the emblem, the e-mail, the cologne, the pin-up calendar, et al, offensive. It’s much more often proxy: Some third party is offended. Or some third party could be offended. The impossible-to-meet “Could Be Interpreted As” standard of cleanliness. It is conceivably possible, therefore the contraband has to go. The curmudgeon will oversee the removal. But it’s business and not personal, see? Just like something out of The Godfather: “Tell Michael I always liked him, it was business, not personal.” Some nameless faceless anonymous person complained, or could complain.

This dedicated Architect says — Medicators really shouldn’t be running anything. They don’t want to. They don’t want the responsibility. This is why these columns are now coming out, some serious and some satirical, that speculate openly that President Obama is perhaps bored and disenchanted with His own job. I no longer consider it to be commentary outside my sphere of knowledge, to proffer that President Obama had some serious misgivings the first time He made a decision about something that had little-or-nothing to do with winning an election, saw that His decision had a direct bearing upon the outcome, and emotionally recoiled. I have seen this happen too many times, up close. In the months since then, the country has been buried in this “awkward stage” in which He tries to confront each and every single challenge with a vision that, as this-or-that chapter reaches the final page, the emotional buzz of those watching has been fine-tuned and frothed up into a desirable state of bliss. This is, I’m sure, why we’ve seen so many speeches out of Him during His first year, and will doubtless see about that many out of Him during His second.

We live in a society in which our every want and need is met, with resistance or inconvenience that is at best negligible. It may not seem like that to us at the time because we’re spoiled; we tend to mistake a temporary slow-down, or wrong turn, or setback, for a real possibility of failure in acquiring what we’re trying to acquire. Deep down, we all know we’re not really being challenged by much of anything; we will get what we are trying to get, one way or the other, so long as some minimal quantity of our peers are also trying to get the same thing. If all else fails we’ll band together and our populist rage will force someone to give it to us. We’re supposed to be so worried about “the economy” but we have our beer, our coffee, our big teevee screens. The only things that are really in jeopardy are the self-respect and dignity that come from having a job, and the same for our children. All other things are guaranteed, in one way or another. They don’t face any real jeopardy.

This state of hyper-safe hyper-civilization has aggravated the divide between — whate’er you wanna callzem, Yin and Yang, or Architects and Medicators — as I’ve pointed out before. It creates a bigger divide on such fundamental questions as: What is a good speech, anyway? What is a convincing argument? Is it thinky-thinky or feelie-feelie? In other words, do you progress systematically among the first three pillars, basing your opinions/inferences upon available fact and things-to-do upong the opinions/inferences. Or, do you just stir up a whole lot of motivating emotions in your audience, get them all outraged against some straw-man Snidely Whiplash, anti-logical exuberance for your “ideas,” Obama-style?

And the fact is, Architects have a definite idea in mind about the answer to such rudimentary questions.

Another fact is, Medicators have a definite idea about the answer as well. These ideas are not the same. They are opposites.

Another fact is, neither side is willing to budge on such issues. If you have a pulse, and a brain, and you’ve been using your brain to solve problems that confront you here and there…each day you stay alive further enmeshes you in the answer you chose, way back, before you were five years old.

And the least inconvenient fact of all is that if we cannot agree on questions like those, we aren’t going to agree on anything else.

We are engaged in a discourse between people who understand how to make real decisions, and those who do not understand this and do not seek to understand this. They don’t see the need. But since they’ve “won,” for the time being it is their job…even if they continue to find ways to weasel out of it, and blame others when the job goes undone.

The LA Times Defends Limbaugh

Sunday, March 29th, 2009

Andrew Klavan, writing in the opinion column:

If you are reading this newspaper, the likelihood is that you agree with the Obama administration’s recent attacks on conservative radio talker Rush Limbaugh. That’s the likelihood; here’s the certainty: You’ve never listened to Rush Limbaugh.

Oh no, you haven’t. Whenever I interrupt a liberal’s anti-Limbaugh rant to point out that the ranter has never actually listened to the man, he always says the same thing: “I’ve heard him!”

On further questioning, it always turns out that by “heard him,” he means he’s heard the selected excerpts spoon-fed him by the distortion-mongers of the mainstream media. These excerpts are specifically designed to accomplish one thing: to make sure you never actually listen to Limbaugh’s show, never actually give him a fair chance to speak his piece to you directly.
Therefore, I am throwing down my gauntlet at your quivering liberal feet. I hereby issue my challenge — the Limbaugh Challenge: Listen to the show. Not for five minutes but for several hours: an hour a day for several days. Consider what he has to say — the real policy material under the jokes and teasing bluster. Do what your intellectual keepers do not want you to do and keep an open mind. Ask yourself: What’s he getting at? Why does he say the things he says? Why do so many people of goodwill — like that nice Mr. Klavan — agree with him?

The mainstream media (a.k.a. the Matrix) don’t want you to listen to Limbaugh because they’re afraid he’ll wake you up and set you free of their worldview. You don’t want to listen to him because you’re afraid of the same thing.

Don’t believe me? Well, then, gird your loins. Gather your courage. Accept the Limbaugh Challenge. See what happens.

I dare you.

Hat tip to Rick.


Saturday, September 20th, 2008

Via Rachel:

She commands us to “review the cultural ideals and models of the radical rurals from the Great White Northwest and find out for sure where Gov. Palin stands.” Based on bits of apocrypha about Palin’s “pro-censorship” positions (?) and selected anecdotes across Idaho, Montana and Colorado. She defines an entire region as being — to boil her various ten-dollar words down to their bare essentials — bad. Not because of the anecdotes she manages to pick out from recent history, but because of a paucity of ethnic minorities living there.

She wrote a hatchet-piece. She is a bitter person (just read the hatchet-piece). She’s an egghead, History Department Chair at Connecticut College. She has two last names.

Gleaning some attributes of her personal favorite stereotypes from what she’s managed to observe, and simply allowing her imagination to fill in the rest. A tenured angry-woman prof with two last names, writing a poison-pen screed…did this.

Failing, apparently on an epic scale, to see the irony; let alone savor it.

Well, I grew up in the Pacific Northwest myself. I wish Ms. McNicol Stock would swing on up there and take a look for a week or so; something tells me this would be a new experience for her (she never does say anything to indicate otherwise). That strikes me as a far more productive use of her time, and a far less abusive use of her emotions and passions, compared to jotting down a bunch of directives to millions of total strangers to hold a vast region of her country in scathing contempt…said vast region probably being something completely outside of her personal experience.

It has been years since groups such as the Montana Militia, the Posse Comitatus and the Sagebrush Rebels, and individuals such as Terry Nichols and Ted Kaczynski have made us wonder why so many “angry white men” populated our rural regions. Many of us have forgotten the threat once posed by domestic terrorists and instead have turned our attention to foreign terrorists. But we should never forget that in the late 20th century, ultra-Christian, antistatist and white-supremacist groups flourished in the states of the Pacific Northwest – called by many the “Great White Northwest” – the very region that Sarah Palin and her family call home.

Wow. That’s just some real higher-level upper-cruster ivory-tower quality thinkin’ goin’ on there. Think I’ll kill shoot me a squirrel for dinner and strike up a tune on my harmoniker while I burn a cross on my neighbor’s lawn, then try to figger out them big words one more time.

Really, I’m just so happy we have these blue-bloods around to teach us how to be more tolerant of each other. Or, at least, to point out when we’re not. Who’d have thought…an entire quarter of the United States, failing to value diversity. We know they/we are all messed up that way, because of where they live. Cool.

There’s only two things I hate in this world. People who are intolerant of other people’s cultures and the Dutch. — Nigel Powers, Goldmember (2002).

My Favorite Batman Quote of All Time

Saturday, August 9th, 2008

From the old, silly one, actually.

We are gathered here today to prove that Catwoman, Joker, and their men are guilty of several major offenses. To wit: robbery, attempted murder, assault…..and battery! Mayhem…(dramatic pause)…and overtime parking.

It seems to possess a social-commentary parallel against real life, does it not? It’s hard to take an indictment seriously when it offers up a major-minor juxtaposition like this. Butchering a hundred girl scouts and failing to return a library book on time. And yet so many impassioned prosecutors, stewing in their adrenaline, lost and drowning in it, so offer.

George W. Bush is guilty of war crimes, violating the Geneva conventions, lying about weapons of mass destruction…and acting like a cowboy.

Americans…spew more than their fair share of carbon, thereby poisoning the entire planet…and are fat.

Men…assault their wives on Super Bowl Sunday (which was nothing but an urban legend in the first place)…and aren’t in touch with their emotions.

Republicans…want to force women to carry pregnancies to term, against their will…and aren’t funny.

What follows next is something I don’t like writing because it’s an exercise in belaboring the obvious. And yet, it seems, the people who most need to understand it, don’t: When the minor indictment is included, the major one is damaged. The major indictment may contain a kernel of truth, but no more than that. He who accuses, cannot be taking the accusation as seriously as he’d like it to be taken by whoever is being presented with the accusation. This would not be consistent with the way people function as they evaluate guilt in other people.

Simply put, if you really do think George Bush is guilty of war crimes you don’t give a rat’s ass whether he smirks & swaggers or not.

That’s why these Batman-prosecutors aren’t taken seriously. Hmmm. Maybe I should keep my mouth shut and let them go on the way they’ve been going.

Meister on Those Scolding Europeans and Will Smith

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008

3. Accept all criticism, even when it makes absolutely no sense. Become less of what you are, until people decide you’re okay, even though they never will.
4. Even as you accept unreasonable criticism, avoid criticizing anything anybody else does, unless someone else is already criticizing it.

Those are two of my tips about how to earn a eulogy full of awkward, empty bromides. Agree with everything negative ever said about you even though it makes no sense, and don’t say anything negative about anything else — unless that’s become “The Thing To Do,” in which case you should dish out scoldings by the bushel. In short, let the bandwagon be your “something’s-wrong-with-that” compass.

So is Will Smith earning a eulogy full of awkward, empty bromides? He certainly seems to be trying to, I can see by Pam Meister’s expose in Pajamas Media today. The lad is younger than me, stronger than me, looks much better than most of us and who wouldn’t love to have a house and a bank account like his?

But whatever eulogy I have coming my way, I’ll keep it warts-and-all, thankewverymuch. Mr. Smith can hang on to his. I’m sure there’ll be a few non-awkward sprinklings in the nice things said about him when it’s time, his charities, his movies, funny things he did, etc. But by-and-large, he represents exactly what I was describing.

Just when you thought it was safe to go back to wading in the Hollywood cesspool, another witless celebrity decides to trash America.

Will Smith is the latest overpaid navel-gazer to join the “Embarrassed to Be a Rich American Celebrity Tour.” On a recent Today Show appearance to hawk his upcoming movie Hancock — which, if this report is correct, is likely to be a box office disaster — Smith had this to say about his recent travels abroad:

You know I just, I just came back from Moscow, Berlin, London, and Paris and it’s the first, I’ve been there quite a few times in the past five to 10 years. And it just hasn’t been a good thing to be American. And this is the first time, since Barack has gotten the nomination, that it, it was a good thing.

How incredibly popular this has become; how many Will Smiths there are. You complain about George Bush, so I’m going to complain about George Bush. If it’s nonsensical to complain about X but you’re doing it anyway, I’ll help you complain about it. If it makes lots of sense to complain about Z but nobody else is complaining about Z, I’ll keep my silence on it. The bandwagon is the compass.

Pam Meister continues to opine, raising the fascinating rhetorical question of just who, exactly, died and made the Europeans boss:

It does surprise me that Smith refers to being relieved of his embarrassment in Berlin, considering that country has moved to ban Scientology, something Smith has been dabbling in for some time now. Is the German government’s move to ban a, er, religion — in light of Germany’s history of religious tolerance — something the Germans should be embarrassed about when they travel abroad? Perhaps the next time I see a German tourist I’ll ask in somber tones, “What do you think about your government banning Scientology?” in the same manner so many Europeans like to ask Americans, “What do you think about your president?” and if you reply in a positive manner they stare at you as though you have just sprouted a second nose.

Ouch. That’s gonna leave a mark.

Mr. Smith is only among the most entertaining and appealing elite of what has become a majority, a vocal majority if no other kind, of bullying nonsense-peddlers. They insist the rest of us accept their judgment as a lodestar, while proffering that sense of judgment only as a proxy. None of ’em take responsibility for anything. They criticize, not what it makes sense to criticize, but instead what lots of folks among them are already criticizing. This has become painfully obvious as it has become later into George W. Bush’s second and final term: We can debate into all hours of the night whether or not President Bush deserves criticism, but we can’t debate whether it makes sense to criticize him. It doesn’t. What’s the other guy going to say when you make your criticism stick? “Oh that does it then, I’m not gonna re-elect him“?

So what do you say at Will Smith’s eulogy? He had the courage to criticize some things it made no sense to criticize, when a bunch of other people were already doing it. That’s an awkward, empty bromide if ever there was one.

How much company does he have? Consider the contract made by people like him: LET ME INTO THE CLUB. I will voice my opinion courageously, after others have already done it…and there is no residual question remaining about whether it is the voice of the majority or not. I will add my energy and my charisma, but never my judgment for my judgment will simply be a clone of what others have judged.

I will lean on the oar. My hand will stay off the tiller. I am propulsion; I am not direction. I change the vector but not the bearing.

I will not change the outcome. In anything. But it will be lots of fun to look at me.

What do you say about someone like that when their time comes? You say you will miss them — and then what? The thing that floats just under the surface, the elephant in the room that makes the eulogy truly awkward and unbearable, is that all fun things come & go and we adapt just fine. We will learn to get along without ’em. After we so learn, we will be better people than we were before.

That isn’t the case with people who have the courage to change an outcome — stamping their individual identities under the changes. In the middle of droning out their eulogies, you wonder what in the world is going to happen now. You wonder how things would have been different. It’s a different eulogy. Trust me, I know; I’ve delivered them. It’s a tough one to do, but I’d much rather deliver that kind, than the kind of eulogy you give for someone who has no memory worth cherishing, no outcome changed because of his presence, the guy who criticizes only that which others are already criticizing. Human cattle.

Well, maybe the fact that no eulogy can be comfortably delivered, is the point. Green burials are becoming increasingly popular in the Europe from where Will Smith takes his marching orders, and some of these are lacking in a headstone or even a ceremony. So it’s not as if these folks have failed at anything by passing through their entire lifespans without making a real difference in things. Except — Will Smith actually does good things for charity. Good for him, but I wonder how he reconciles this?

When you’re trying to avoid upsetting the status quo in looking for things to criticize…avoiding any decisions for yourself, avoiding making any disruption in what has already been decided by others…but then you want to “make a difference” in things other people will think are nice and wonderful — the common thread devolves to a singularity. And that is earning the approval of strangers. Once that becomes what life is all about, it makes for a very awkward eulogy indeed.


Monday, June 23rd, 2008

Big Peace SignThe kollege kids in Ithaca, NY want a Guiness representative to validate their claim to the largest human peace sign.

The previous largest human peace sign was made by 2,500 people at the University of Michigan. Ithaca is now waiting for Guinness to sanction its new record of 5,814 people.

Organizer Trevor Dougherty, a high school sophomore, says the effort was a show of support for world peace, not just an attempt at a record.

Yay. Yes, the world could use some more peace. We could start with our left-wingers pledging to work more closely with our right-wingers. Compromise a bit more often. Heh…funny how that one item seems to be left out.

You know, it occurs to me that “peace” stands alone as having it’s own simplistic, easily-reproduced sign. It is the one intangible noun that defies a solid definition. Next to “greed” and “hate crime.” “Racism” seems to have slipped a few teeth in the cogs as well; it used to mean a personal belief in the inherent superiority of one race over another, and lately I’m seeing a lot of things that don’t incorporate that being called “racist.”

But I digress.

You show people a peace sign…everyone understands it refers to the word “peace” but we have so little collaboration about what that really means. Stop fighting? Ban guns? Sign a non-proliferation treaty, and just hope the other guys are demolishing their munitions when they say they are? Does it mean start inspections, or call a halt to them? Does it have something to do with Marxism? Why or why not?

I can think of a few other things that could use a simple, internationally-recognized pictogram, to make it easier to promote them. These are things much more worthy of such promotion than the same-ol’, tired old war protest.

Graphics artists, your submissions are solicited. Make ’em simple as possible, and preferably fitting in a circular border. Who knows, maybe one or two of ’em will have ten thousand able-bodied supporters, and before the summer is out we can break the record.

1. Skepticism about global warming. I doubt you can save the planet by unplugging your toaster.
2. Critical thinking, in general. We used to have some. Let’s bring it back.
3. The Wolfowitz Doctrine.
4. The willingness to provide others who are weaker with a terrible, deadly defense. (The U.S. Marines have a nice logo that says exactly this, to some.)
5. The idea that maybe we should keep putting violent criminals in jail until there’s nobody around to commit violent crime anymore. That’s what the “peace symbol” means to me, but that’s open to individual interpretation.
6. Hooray for capitalism.
7. You can have my gun when you pry it out of my cold, dead hands.
8. Say no to crack: Pull up those pants!
9. Hooters girls, on the other hand, are awesome.
10. So is cold beer.
11. So are buffalo wings.
12. I wish cars were still built so we could tear ’em apart and put them back together again.
13. Commies leave. This country isn’t for you.
14. Nerds are cool.
15. Any country that is our ally only until we take steps to defend ourselves, is an ally we don’t want or need.
16. Thing I Know #70. Courage has very little to do with being outspoken.
17. Drill here now. Sign Newt’s petition.
18. Peer pressure sucks.
19. Canada, shame on you for your Human Rights Commission!
20. Keith Olbermann, go away.
21. Guilt is a useless and nonsensical human emotion.
22. It’s a futile endeavor to try to be better than everyone else when you’re also trying to be exactly like everyone else.
23. Let’s make it easy for young people to find work. There’s nothing wrong with a seventh-grader mowing lawns for money.
24. Rule For Living With Me #2. Show how mature you are. All things do not necessarily have to be said.
25. Go away, Oprah.
26. Thing I Don’t Get #24. Men shouldn’t get piercings in their junk and I don’t know why they’d want to.
27. Teach your child how to drive a stick-shift!
28. Same-sex marriage: It isn’t a human rights story, it’s a human-interest story.
29. Getting your news out of The Daily Show is a bad, bad idea.
30. Thing I Know #52. Angry people who demand things, don’t stop being angry when their demands are met.

Stan Fields: What is the one most important thing our society needs?
Gracie Hart: That would be… harsher punishment for parole violators, Stan.
[crowd is silent]
Gracie Hart: And world peace!
[crowd cheers ecstatically]

Update 6/24/08: Phil submits the following for #17. One down, twenty-nine to go.

The Second Most Important Issue IV

Tuesday, December 4th, 2007

As I’ve stated repeatedly, the most important issue of the elections next year, by far, is which candidate is going to bring me the biggest pile of crispy fried dirty dead terrorists each month of their administration if elected. There really is no more important issue than that. However you feel about — for example — abortion…if you think the candidate who agrees with you about that, will bring us 500 dead terrorists each month, and the candidate that disagrees with you on that issue will bring a thousand, you really do have a moral obligation to drop your favorite pet peeve in favor of killing more terrorists.

Because we’re talking about bringing the fight to people who want to destroy us. How much is your peeve really worth?

And the second most important issue is a question…it is made important because of the fact that, although a lot of people won’t admit it, many of us are wondering if democrats are simply ignorant & easily fooled…or full blown knock-down drag-out wombat-rabies bollywonkers crazy. I think even the voters who sympathize with the silly donks — even if the silly donks don’t carry away the White House when it’s all said and done — would like to know this. To whom did their votes go? An imbecile, or a freakin’ whack-job?

All of us who have the means to do so, really should be gathering whatever evidence can be gathered in order to figure this out. This is a long-lived issue. Regardless of how the elections go next year, it is relevant to the future of our country to get an answer to that question. Unless we can send the donk party the way of the Whig party…which, although hope springs eternal, may not happen for a decade or two.

The latest exhibit, courtesy of Hot Air, is here. This has profound implications upon the first issue as well as the second one: None of these guys sound ready to bring us any crispy fried dirty dead terrorist bodies anytime soon.

This clip is further proof of what we already know, although fewer and fewer of us have the plain old-fashioned balls to admit it. Real life presents us with one scenario after another, in which the willingness to wage war equals life — and a stubborn reluctance to do so equals death. And “peace” is a word often synonymous with oppression.

If this comes as a huge shock to you, the muse that is History is wondering if you’ve got peanut butter packed in your ears or something. Woodstock is over, hippy. Come home.

Adorable, Until…

Thursday, September 27th, 2007

Thanks to blogger friend Phil for sending me this in an off line e-mail.

Hillary Clinton ‘could cost Democrats dear’
By Toby Harnden in Washington
Last Updated: 2:29am BST 27/09/2007

A leaked Democratic poll has suggested that Hillary Clinton, the frontrunner in the race for the party’s presidential nomination, could lose the 2008 election because of her “very polarised image”.

The survey by the Democratic pollsters Lake Research indicated that both Mrs Clinton and Barack Obama, second in the Democratic race, trailed Rudy Giuliani, the Republican front runner, in 31 swing congressional districts.

The private memo, leaked to The Washington Post, painted what researchers described as a “sobering picture” for Democrats who believe that President George W Bush’s disastrous favourability numbers almost guarantee they will capture the White House next year.

All party preference polls show that Democrats are much more popular than Republicans. But when the names of individual candidates are used, the gap narrows considerably.

“The images of the two early [Democratic] favourites are part of the problem,” the memo said.
The poll found that Mrs Clinton, in particular, could damage the chances of congressional Democratic candidates on the ballot. The sensitivity of the issue was underlined by the reluctance of Democrats to discuss the survey.

“We’re not commenting on this poll,” said Daniel Gotoff, co-author of the memo accompanying the Lake Research poll. “It was leaked and obviously not by us.”

It really got me to thinking. If I was a donk party chieftain way high up, responsible for writing party platforms and doing the cool “kingmaker” stuff, figuring out who was going to get nominated…how would I handle this, exactly?

It’s a little awkward for them. See they’ve got this name for themselves…they don’t call themselves “donks,” they call themselves something that has to do with the ancient Greek word demos, for “The People.” And if you call them that but leave the “ic” off the end, they get really cranky — right before insisting you call the Boy Scouts a “hate group.” But for the donks to get out of this malaise they’re in, it seems there’s no avenue available to them except to go by that ancient Greek name, and start living up to it.

But see, they can’t do that. The People want a bunch of things the donks aren’t going to tolerate, let alone promote. Let us have guns. Stop reverse-discrimination on the basis of skin color. Build a border around the country that actually means something. Make public school students repeat grades until they pass the requirements academically…in English. Put the United Nations in the business of bringing food and medicine to those who need it — and nothing else — and put them in the position of supervised, not supervisor.

And, bring me the bodies of dead terrorists. The more the better. Preferably, a little singed around the edges with horrified expressions etched onto their dirty dead faces. But quantity over quality; the bigger the carcass pile, the better.

Take your glowbubble wormening and shove it. Drill in the Arctic. Lower my taxes. Get people off welfare. Let me listen to whatever radio station I think deserves my attention, and let those radio stations broadcast what they think will attract and hold my interest. Treat businesses more like they’re real people…which is what they are…and treat unions as if they’re not, since they aren’t.

They can’t do any of this. And so they are left to make noise about scandals that involve Republicans, so that those scandals end up toppling careers, and direct us to “move on” from scandals that involve donks, so that those scandals don’t.

They do other things to make their image all friendly and happy — and, in a grievous assault upon that Greek name by which they would choose to go, everything they do seems to begin and end with a shady smoke-filled back room handshake with the right people. Union bosses endorse the donk candidate in an important election, and then in so doing insist on being called “the police” or “the firemen.” Our print media journalists, also in the right place at the right time during the back room handshake deal, obediently comply. That funny Greek name, come to think on it, makes perfect sense — as long as you don’t interpret “The People” to mean all of the people. What it means is, the “right” people. Union thugs, crooked politicians, heads of states that sponsor terrorism, or in some other way fail to have our interests at heart. People antagonistic, for whatever reason, to capitalism. Gun-grabbing Nazis. The important thing is, all the definitions are laid out with the captains of all those teams…behind closed doors. Those “people.”

The riffraff, the hoi polloi, they’re just kind of a hydraulic fluid agent through which it’s all supposed to be made to happen.

But the donks do have this going for them — they are popular. They are much more popular than Republicans. Until they select a candidate, and then the worm turns. Any candidate.

How can I not be amused by this? They’ve clearly got something going in their favor right now, even if that something is limited to them simply not being Republicans. The ideas they have, the “principles” under which they operate, if you want to call ’em that…loser.

Their candidates…bigger losers. We don’t like them because after all the money’s been spent making them likable, the candidates remain anything but. The worst part of it is that just before the candidates stop being likable, what they do to end their likability, has something to do with explaining what they plan to do after they win.

It must be awfully frustrating. Especially when you have that razor-thin window of opportunity after you’ve sent all these faux-grassroots voices out there with their phony bumper-sticker slogans, about so-and-so being “the real deal,” before so-and-so opens his or her mouth and spoils everything. That must be more frustrating than if you didn’t have that narrow window of political victory at all.

Hillary has a good defense here. Nominate her, and she can win — with good timing. If ballots are punched while people are still thinking about poor, poor Hillary and her husband cheating on her, and by golly it’s high time we had a woman in the White House, and oh she is so strong-willed just like someone on a Lifetime television movie airing on a Sunday night…but before they think about issues, and lying, and “I don’t recall,” and Rose Law Firm, and subpoenaed billing records…as long as the election takes place within that narrow window of time, she can win.

If it happens anywhere outside that narrow window, she’s a dead duck.

But the same is true of anybody else who could be nominated. It all demands careful handling and public relations. Very, very careful, with surgical precision…just like any other bad idea.

The other thing that impresses me about this, is that in spite of Thing I Know #212

Some of the words that end with “ist” seem to support weighy, urgent ideas, but enjoy very little by way of definition, especially the ones tossed around over the last thirty years. Chauvinist. Racist. Feminist. People who use these words the most often, seem to be frustrated by something. Maybe they’re frustrated because nobody has any way of knowing exactly what it is they’re trying to say.

…there is something decidedly sexist about Hillary’s star appeal, and the primary force behind it. I’m referring to husband Bill’s chronic infidelity. Were it not for that, I wouldn’t be talking about her, and neither would anybody else.

Now, what would we be saying about a male candidate whose wife was screwing every pair of trousers in town because she had all the scruples of an alley cat? It’s not difficult at all to speculate, with remarkable confidence. We’d probably be abuzz with something like…how, if he can’t preside properly over his own household, does he dare to offer himself in equivalent service to his country. How good can a leader of anything be in a leadership position, when his wife sleeps with other guys? Something questioning his manhood, and his lack of willingness to stand up for it.

We certainly wouldn’t be cluck-clucking over how the poor dear fellow is so put-upon, and deserves to be President. I’m sure very few would be saying anything even remotely similar to that. Even fewer would admit to saying something like that.

People who like Hillary, are often heard to ask a question: “Is America ready for a woman to be President?” My counter-question is whether America is ready for a cuckold to be President…a male cuckold. And the fact is, the country is decidedly NOT. She won’t be. The cuckold’s other qualifications impeccable, unquestionable, polished to a mirror-finish, he wouldn’t last as long as a snowflake on a red hot stove.

But Hillary’s failure to keep her spouse happy — let’s face it, if she was a man, that’s exactly what we’d be calling it — isn’t just a stumbling block that has managed to stay out of her way. It helps her. It is a virtual qualification for the office she seeks.

Arguably, her only one.

Why it’s gotten Hillary this far, is something someone should be called-upon to explain. I’d love to hear the composition of it, although I imagine the substance of it wouldn’t hold much surprise. It says something about women, or more precisely, how they are perceived by those who hold themselves up as tireless champions fighting for the interests of women. And what it says, however it is phrased, can’t be good.

She Seeks to Sanitize

Wednesday, July 18th, 2007

Soylent Green, which you will spoil for someone only if you’re a somewhat inconsiderate jerk, was a profound movie that we don’t discuss very much anymore, saturated with a “Where Are They Now?” cast. So I had to flip open the Internet Movie Database page and skim over some of the trivia.

And I came across a year-and-a-half old comment that I think speaks for many. I find it a little frightening. It offers some evidence that, even though our climate is fine, our soil is wonderful, our food is plentiful and nobody’s paying $150 for a jar of strawberry jam, maybe our “civilization” didn’t survive the twentieth century intact after all. Maybe we only think we did.

Just bear in mind — this is not a lonely voice singing in the wilderness. She’s in great company. And wait for the zinger at the end.

I’ll admit that by the time Heston tells the furniture [kept mistress] to “get on the bed” I kinda started tuning out. I was born in 1969, and I had a feminist father who told me “don’t settle for less than you deserve”. This point in the movie made me stop caring what happened in the rest of it…It’s like the protagonist in any other movie saying halfway throught it “I’m an a**hole, so why should you care about what happens to me?”
I wasn’t outraged; just bored beyond belief by the time this scene arrived and then only moderately interested afterward.
I guess that this is a good example of how films can “disaffect” those of us who are so far removed from their origins, that we don’t have emotional connection to it…I have a secret penchant for good science fiction movies. But this disappointed me, and I don’t understand how it’s rated so highly here.

I am not here to trash the movie – I just want some feedback. I welcome your comments and enlightenment – I’m always open to learning something new. [emphasis mine]

Just as a reminder. Feminism, the kind she’s talking about and the kind she seeks to project, isn’t about women getting all they deserve; it’s about controlling authority, and how authority is wielded. It’s about ending the career of anyone in a position of power who doesn’t have the “correct” values, according to some progressive-minded individual or group falling outside his jurisdiction, lacking any stake in the outcome should he fail in his mission.

I think we’d all be rightfully horrified at the thought of a Catholic police commissioner losing interest in an armed-robbery or murder case after finding out the victim of the crime was Jewish or Protestant. This brand of feminism seeks to create exactly that sort of a world. There are good values and bad values; people attach themselves to values, and in so doing become good or bad; and events, like movies, become interesting or boring based on what kind of people they involve. In 2007 we find ourselves constantly debating what kind of “human rights” people have when they may have been guilty of perpetrating the ultimate evil. We need a new word, I think, to describe this kind of progressive feminism. It seeks a disturbingly breezy alliance with this “least among us are entitled to the most” doctrine, while asserting a sort of “those who disagree with us are entitled to the least” counter-doctrine.

I infer from this that according to the counter-doctrine, you’re less deserving of a denial of some made-up on-the-spot “right” if you’re an accessory to terrorism, than if you are caught voting for a pro-life candidate. I don’t know that this is the mindset, but I’d love to see some evidence to the contrary.

Now if you haven’t seen the movie, Charlton Heston’s character of Detective Thorn is a decidedly Byronic hero. He has character flaws, and they aren’t the sort of character flaws a Michael Douglas character might have before he cheats on a loving wife. Thorn’s character flaws are defined for the purpose of telling the story about his wretched environment. From what I can see, there is no other point to all these examples of his thuggish, rogue behavior. If it makes his character more-or-less interesting in some way, that’s a secondary effect. But the primary mission of the first half of the film, is to define the world of 2022 America. Not Robert Thorn.

And the feminist loses interest, ultimately questioning why the movie got a better-than-lukewarm rating regardless of the famous spoiler, or the profound moral involved in the storytelling. Because the antihero failed to properly reflect her personal values.

She might as well reject an entire subgenre of movies. Anything in which the central character takes a pass on attracting the constant adoration of the audience; anything outside the Arthurian mythos. She freely admits that once a story strays outside this narrow sliver, she’s got a tough row to hoe in trying to pay attention. She Can’t Be Told Anything. She’ll come up with the expected personal incredulity, if & when someone else comes along and expresses favorable opinions about the movie.

That’s her. That would be fine with me if it was her and nobody else. I find it scary because she’s not alone. She seeks, first, to disapprove of things. To question favorable ratings given to those targets, regardless of by whom, or from attention to what details, which she herself has failed to take in. She seeks to coerce, to sanitize. And she doesn’t even know it.

Quite to the contrary, she’s laboring under the delusion that she’s “always open to learning something new.”

I think we’re living in that world after all. I think, perhaps, the infamous “scoop trucks” were metaphorical. And now we’ve got them roaming the streets, intangibly, all the time — we don’t even need to wait for Soylent Green Day.


Saturday, April 21st, 2007

I’m afraid Mr. Hasson has completely lost me.

He started off on a high note, making a point I know to be sensible because I agree with it: Things that are a certain way, have no need to announce they are a certain way. So he doesn’t like 300 because the men are all strutting around communicating to the audience how manly they are, by acting manly. The “doth protest too much” thing.

Okay, it’s a fair point…not without its share of problems. For starters, how come the “doth protest too much” cudgel is only swung around with regard to manly men? If I explore the Storytellers blog for a few minutes will I find another screed about…Rosie O’Donnell being outspoken and having opinions? How about Bill Clinton being compassionate, or Hillary being intelligent and strong-willed? Right off the top of my head, there are three loudmouths not known for missing opportunities to demonstrate to everybody that they are a certain thing — whose sense of purpose to the rest of us, would be forever lost if it was to be demonstrated they were something else.

But he’s a storyteller. So how about…Raymond on “Everybody Loves Raymond” being an insecure, cowardly, incompetent boob? Hey — there’s twenty-two minutes per episode, spend ’em wisely. And the minutes are spent defining the character attributes of this guy who, having sat through the episodes already, I already know to be that way. Got anything to say about that Mr. Hasson?

Another problem with that point. It simply isn’t enough to make a movie bad. That’s just a simple fact. Characters are defined a certain way, and certain devices are deployed in order to inform me that these characters have these traits. If I don’t like the device — and I very often don’t, in movies nowadays — the story is still advanced, I still have an understanding of what this character is supposed to be. It may be an entirely legitimate nitpick, but a nitpick is what it is. Nothing more significant than that.

But then we spiral downward…

The movie could so easily have been good. Here are a few options:

The movie could have been about what a hero is. We would have seen how real men become real heroes, by showing us how much they overcome hardships and sacrifice. And then, as the plot progressed, and as the heroes overcame unbelievable obstacles, they would actually achieve superhuman feats. There really have been superhuman feats in history – even in the last few decades – in which real people did the impossible. But if you don’t show real people doing something real to achieve something heroic, then you’re not showing heroes. Had the movie been done this way, it would have been a true epic yarn about heroism.

I’m taking it as a given that his point is not “why, oh why, does nobody ever take the initiative and do this.” What he wants carried out here has already been done, here and here and here and here and here and many other places as well. What is his point, that these things are never done and he wishes they were? Surely it can’t be that. So many other examples I’ve not mentioned. This is where he’s lost me. What’s his beef?

The movie could just as easily have been about the bad side of being heroic. There are times in human history in which it became necessary for a group of good men to become inhuman monsters, efficiently programmed with the fight and nothing more. Although people actually do this to survive, once it is done, it cannot be easily reversed. In addition, if you release the testosterone monster in men and make it all-important, there would be an immediate price to pay (more in-house violence, rape, and so on). Had the movie been done this way, it would have punched its audience in the gut.

…which was also done before, here and here and here and here and here.

The movie could have been an examination of what it is to be a man lost to war. It would have taken a normal man, and seen how each human part of him must be put aside so that the fighting machine can exist. Had the movie been done this way, it would have been tragic.

And that’s been explored with a great deal of exuberance, here and here and here. The hero dissolving into a reflection of the very thing he sought to defeat, I daresay, is one of the oldest memes in storytelling history. It has no problem with underexposure or even with wearing out it’s welcome anytime soon.

The movie could have been about real men who had left real lives behind, and then were killed on the battlefield.

Oh, pul-leaze. The young puppy-faced corporal who turns to his buddy, flips open a locket and yells over the mortar explosions, “That’s Louise! She’s the girl I’m gonna marry just as soon as I get home!” was a tired old saw when my Dad was taking my Mom out to the movies, over fifty years ago. It’s like being the guy in the red shirt beaming down to the planet with Kirk, Spock and McCoy. Some young kid is foolish enough to tell his squadmembers about a telegram relaying the happy news of his wife’s new pregnancy…you crack open a cold one. Just try and shotgun it while the kid’s still breathing. You probably can’t. Kid might as well have dug his own grave, hopped inside and pulled the dirt down over him. Announcing your wife’s pregnancy in a war movie is the dumbest thing you can do if you want to live. It’s like being in a horror slasher-flick and yelling “I’ll be right back!”

The movie could have been about how men choose how to die. Knowing they would lose if they fought and lose if they didn’t fight, real decisions would have to be made. Had the movie been done this way, it would… well, it would have been a great movie.

I hate to keep picking on you, but Lordy this is getting tiresome. It’s like that time they re-designed Superman’s costume and started taking away some of his powers and giving him other ones…why not just make a new superhero? Why don’t you write your own movie? We have this…and if you ask me, it was ruined because it was way to predictable. There is this, which completes a mutually-destructive coupling because those two movies were released the same summer, were about the same thing, and surely brought in less revenue because of the unfortunate timing. That pairing was not only bad for business, it lifted the lid on the absolute lack of creativity going on in Hollywood. Now that 300 has fixed that, here you are saying you want more of the same-ol’ same-ol’. Well, this certainly counts, and so do a bazillion James Bond movies and Star Trek episodes. C’mon.

The movie could have been about the power of women over men. If the queen had sent the king to a war he didn’t want to go to using her womanly wiles, that would have made a good movie, too.

Okay, I think now we’re getting to the bottom of things.

300Guy Hasson, if I’m understanding him correctly, is not demanding a greater supply of imagination, creativity, variety and good storytelling; he’s asking for less of these things. A tough, hardy, intelligent, skilled and disciplined band of brothers have been portrayed as intrinsically understanding the most noble course of action, and then taking it upon themselves to hunker down and get it done. They laid down their lives and endured agonizing death in order to protect the weaker — and at the moment the final arrows hit, they were exactly what they were when the opening credits rolled by. No transformation. No loss of innocence. No “Omigaw, I just screwed up.” No “Omigaw, I was sure I’d make it back again.” No “Omigaw, I became what I went to fight.” Complete omigaw-free. Just manly men in the purest sense, doing what manly men do, understanding from start to finish what that all entails.

It’s too much. Where’s the petulant, pissy snarking at the manly-man? I’m just so used to seeing it, it seems to be missing here.

This is very telling. As the box office performance of 300 shows, we’re living now in an age where people are hungry for heroes. Resourceful, capable men who can look at something bad going down, and say to themselves — if I do nothing, X will happen, and if I do something Y will happen even though I’ll get hurt. X simply cannot be, so in we go.

We’re pretty evenly divided on this thing. The audience eats it up and begs for seconds, and the critics are rolling their eyes, waiting for the subject to be changed.

I don’t really care which side eventually prevails. Movies come out every year, and if I don’t like them I don’t pay to see them. But I’m endlessly fascinated with people who are hostile toward, and recoil with disgust from, manliness. Courage — untempered by ironics surprises later on that shake all the moral messages to the core. Resourcefulness. Ability. Individuality. Good old-fashioned rugged determination to protect those incapable of protecting themselves, and if possible to vanquish evil so it can never see the light of day again.

What is so wrong about that? Why does it rub so many people the wrong way? Honest to Pete, I’d really like to know.

Living in a KOSsack World

Wednesday, April 11th, 2007

I had to preserve a link to the comments from the DailyKOS kids about the Imus situation. Nothing surprising behind the link. Just a bunch of leftists coming up with imaginative and refreshing hateful invective about Don Imus’ situtation. Just indulging in a creative-writing exercise to ingratiate themselves with each other.

One wonders how they would react to a bunch of 700 Club viewers doing exactly the same thing, to a different target.

I don’t know that any of the KOS kids are ladies on the Rutgers basketball team. Most folks are hesitant to get offended on behalf of a third party, because their mommas taught them to let other kids fight their own battles. Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe for the last generation or so, mommas haven’t been teaching little boys and girls to let their friends fight their own fights. Seems we’ve got a lot of “proxy” outrage going on lately.

Along the same lines, the crooks and liars at Crooks & Liars would like to announce they think all their readers are raging idiots.

Jesse Jackson Hops Onboard

Tuesday, April 10th, 2007

Well, Jesse Jackson has joined the glorious effort to try to end Don Imus’ career. Video.

Someone please tell me what Mr. Jackson’s title is?

I’ve been wondering this since I was a little kid. Yeah, sure, you’d have to be living on Mars in order to not know who he is…that’s true enough. But throughout all of my adult life, respected newspapers have talked about what he’s doing lately, introducing him as “Jesse Jackson” as if he, and I, and the guy writing the newspaper article all went to the same church or lived on the same block or worked at the same company. If I was too stupid to know who Jimmy Carter or Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton were, the newspapers would consider it proper protocol to tell me who the current United States president was. But Jesse Jackson — he’s just Jesse Jackson.

There’s something unseemly about such a high honor. Kind of like having your name put on a coin while you’re still alive.

One difference, though. I can’t quite tell you what the worst thing is that will happen, if you’re still alive and we chisel your likeness into a coin. I really can’t justify that taboo. But I can say what’s wrong with newspapers talking about Jesse Jackson without qualifying exactly who he is. It could be…and in fact, the appearance is given that this is exactly what is taken place…that if anyone in professional journalism begins to ponder what Rev. Jackson’s position is in the grand scheme of things, they’ll be forced to ponder why exactly it is that we care about what he’s doing. And once they start to ponder that, they’ll come to the realization that there’s no reason to pay attention to him at all.

And the first little boy who cries about that emperor’s lack of clothes, is sure to be targeted for the next shakedown. Well, that’s my theory anyway.

Either way, it’s awfully weird. The President, the Pope, God Himself…if they’re mentioned in the news, it’s obligatory to tell me who they are just in case I don’t know. Jesse Jackson — he’s just Jesse Jackson. Like I said. Weird.

What Offends Me

Monday, April 9th, 2007

Although Don Imus’ two-week suspension comes right after his own admission that his on-air race-based joke “went way too far,” I’m relieved to see one thing: It is based on “legitimate expressions of outrage.”

Good. I’d hate to think careers can be ended based solely on people like Al Sharpton just sniffing around for blood. Hate to think we’re living in an environment like that, or something.

Beginning Monday, April 16, MSNBC will suspend simulcasting the syndicated “Imus in the Morning” radio program for two weeks. This comes after careful consideration in the days since his racist, abhorrent comments were made. Don Imus has expressed profound regret and embarrassment and has made a commitment to listen to all of those who have raised legitimate expressions of outrage. In addition, his dedication – in his words – to change the discourse on his program moving forward, has confirmed for us that this action is appropriate. Our future relationship with Imus is contingent on his ability to live up to his word. [emphasis mine]

One thing is missing. Can anybody guess what it is? Anybody? Anybody at all?


Okay…here’s what I would have expected to see by now. Here it is. Drum roll, please…I would have expected to see…the legitimate expression of outrage.

Which, I would expect…would be a lady who plays for the Rutgers basketball team, the “target” of Imus’ stupid crack. As Imus himself said, and this is something I found to be contrite, well-written, sincere, and really a model for future apologies — I’ll let his words stand as he delivered them

…I’m not inclined to try to weasel out of these comments, which is why, when I reached out to Reverend Sharpton and he invited me on his program, I’m grateful that he is allowing me to come talk to him and his audience, so—he is still calling for me to be fired and that’s his right, but at least he is going to let me talk to him.

So, these young women at Rutgers, they don’t know who I am. I mean, they pick the paper up, and they don’t know—they don’t know whether I’m some right-wing racist nut, whether I was angry, whether it was some kind of diatribe, whether I was drunk. They don’t know whether I just came on the radio and said hey, the young women of Rutgers are yada, yada. So let me provide a context briefly for them—not as an excuse, not that this makes this okay, nothing makes this okay. But there is a difference between premeditated murder and accidental, the gun going off accidentally. I mean, somebody still gets shot, but the charges are dramatically different.

Now, I disagree with Imus on a lot of things, and I think it’s fair to say he offends me quite often. But in this apology, although by his own admission it doesn’t make his comment any more tasteful or acceptable, it does do one thing. And his critics, to the best of my knowledge, haven’t done this: It addresses the feelings and sentiments of his “targets” who are in the “best” position to be offended.

I haven’t heard Reverend Al do anything like that. All I’ve heard of him doing, is going on and on about some “line” or what “should” be tolerated or what’s “unacceptable” — according to HIM.

Time to scribble down some observations. Pretty obvious ones. Observations that are never mentioned by anyone, but, since I have a survival instinct like anyone else, some pretty safe ones.

First. Imus is a “shock jock.” That is not to say I think it’s an excuse for what he did. I’m not saying that…I’m simply saying this. His position, the socket in which the Imus cog spins in the corporate machinery, is one which provokes. That is his purpose. His job is not merely to provoke, but to provoke optimally. OF course it is a well-established rule by now that there is a line somewhere, and shock jocks should expect that once they go over it, punitive events will take place. This should be a surprise to no one. But there is a penalty for underperforming too…a penalty of pointlessness. I would compare it to Blackjack. It’s exactly like Blackjack. Draw twenty-one, you win. Draw twenty, and if your opponent draws nineteen or less, you still win — your opponent, for that hand, is a big nothing. He might as well have drawn a two. There is no second place, so get as close to twenty-one as you possibly can. But draw twenty-two and it’s all over. So there is a line somewhere. Everybody knows this is the case with shock jocks. Nobody ever points it out, because it doesn’t personally benefit anyone to be the guy pointing it out. But there is a line, everything revolves around that line, and that’s how it works.

Second. The line has no absolute location, which is interesting because everything is decided by what has crossed the line and what hasn’t. Absolutely everything.

Third. Just as Imus makes his “living,” if you want to call it that, by drawing twenty-one or something close to it — Sharpton makes his living taking down people like Imus. It is what he does. He’s a predator. If Imus minded his P’s and Q’s, Sharpton would be reduced to taking down insignificant microorganisms. Like for example, some guy who writes for a blog nobody reads. On the other hand, if Rush Limbaugh did something vile and stupid, Imus could scream the n-word into his microphone all day long and Sharpton wouldn’t give two shits about it because he’d have bigger fish to fry. To compare Sharpton to a hyena is an insult to hyenas because hyenas hunt in packs, have a social order they need to observe, and an ostracized hyena is sure to be a dead hyena. They have their own code of honor, of sorts, such as it is. Sharpton is more like a buzzard. He circles what he has calculated to be road kill or soon-to-be road kill, and pecks away at it in a manner most economically viable to him alone.

Four. His words notwithstanding, Sharpton has not even a passing clue where the “line” is. He’ll draw it himself based on his calculations of where he may get away with drawing it, and excite people into phony outrage.

Five. And this is most obvious of all…and the least mentioned. Given how people like Imus make a living, and how people like Sharpton make a living — nothing is being solved here. It’s a perpetual cycle. Imus makes money offending people, Sharpton makes money being offended. Whether Imus shakes this thing off or not, we’re due for another lap around the track next year and the year after.

Six. Investing anything more emotionally substantial than a blog-posting or an eyeball-roll in any of this, is a discredit to onesself. And as a society, we discredit ourselves by allowing it to continue over and over again.

All of those are completely obvious. Everyone with a room-temperature-or-greater I.Q., consciously or not, knows all six points to be true. Put them all together, and it’s impossible to escape how meaningless, senseless and downright stupid all this stuff is.

One thing does kind of bug me a little bit though. Remember, I don’t know of any Rutger’s ladies who personally heard Imus’ comments, and personally reported being offended by them. I don’t doubt such a lady athlete exists. I’m sure she does, or that they do. But I wouldn’t be willing to bet too much money on it, frankly.

Contrasted with that…

…there are some things that go on fairly regularly that I know for a fact, offend people. I know this for absolute-certain, and I haven’t heard Reverend Al say butkus about any of them. How do I know these things offend people? Because I’m one of the offended.

They Offend MeI thought I’d make a list. Al Sharpton presents himself not as the predator I know him to be, but as a crusader against things that are offensive. If I am to take him seriously, I must necessarily expect him to prioritize all these things over and above the Imus/Rutgers thing. I therefore anticipate him to crusade on all these issues, bullhorn in hand.

Although I’m a compulsive list-maker, I draw the line at having two lists in one post so I’ve moved my list of offensive things to a separate page.

Hey Reverend Al, there’s two dozen things in there and I’m not even counting the Tawana Brawley mess from twenty years ago. They all offend me, and therefore, I can guarantee someone somewhere finds all 24 offensive. I can swear an oath to that effect. In all honesty, I can’t do the same with the Imus debacle. Are you the scourge of offensive things, or aren’t you?

Olbermann’s Best Person

Monday, April 9th, 2007

Keith Olbermann has a “shocking announcement” to make. Why don’t you watch it.

Regarding the O’Reilly/Rivera dust-up: Those two have kissed & made-up. Which is to say, they & their bosses figured out the publicity value involved in the little drama had exceeded the point of diminishing returns, and they’re telling us what they think they need to tell us in order to keep the ratings high.

What to make of this? Well I agree with this editorial over here:

Fox broadcaster Bill O’Reilly has certainly stirred up the city of Virginia Beach. Two Virginia Beach teenagers Alison Kunhardt, 17, and Tessa Tranchant, 16, were killed recently when their car was slammed into by a vehicle driven by Alfredo Ramos, 22. Ramos is an illegal alien with a record of three-alcohol-related convictions.

Mr. O’Reilly has criticized the lenient sentences Ramos received in his prior DUI convictions and attacked Virginia Beach for basically providing “sanctuary” for illegal aliens.

In defending his city, Virginia Beach police chief Jake Jacocks made a stunning statement. He said he found it “ironic that had the intoxicated driver been born and raised in Virginia Beach, little notice would have been given to this senseless tragedy by the media or the community at large.

If that’s true, it’s appalling. A great deal of notice should have been given when a man has been convicted of DUI three times is still on the road. The driver should have been in jail.

In jail, and/or out of the country.

However, the rest of the Chief’s comments do carry a certain logic. Immigration enforcement is the responsibility of the feds. I’ve not yet seen any facts to confound the notion that O’Reilly is, effectively, making scapegoats out of the Virginia Beach city officials for a problem that primarily rests with the federal government.

That’s O’Reilly’s first mistake. Losing his temper was his second.

But if he must blow his stack sometime, what a great occasion for it. What exactly was wrong with O’Reilly’s indignation, Geraldo didn’t say; I don’t think he can do so. I’m absolutely confident that the salivating fans of Olbermann and Rivera can’t tell me, or if they do, their answer will be anything but unified from person-to-person. What did Rivera say word for word…something about illegal immigrants committing fewer crimes than citizens? That’s a load of crap. Illegal immigrants are lawbreakers by definition. If there are statistics that say they commit fewer crimes, that’s a sign that the method of gathering the statistics is busted.

And how could you expect the method not to be busted? You’d be comparing more-or-less complete records, with incomplete ones. That’s what illlegal means — you don’t know the record. Geraldo understands this.

So since he’s proven himself utterly untrustworthy and completely unconcerned with the truth, I’ll state his argument for him. Geraldo is from the anarchy crowd. Anti-law-and-order. Some of us are weary of seeing people hurt by malicious or negligent people, and we want something done about it — other folks are mad at us for becoming weary, and have drummed up a plethora of reasons why we shouldn’t be weary yet. But they aren’t defending any principle. They’re just suspicious of human machineries dedicated to law-and-order. They don’t trust them, and for this reason, prefer chaos. They’re prejudiced against the idea of Matt Dillon riding in to town and locking up the guy in the black hat. They have a childish desire to see Matt Dillon gunned down instead, and as for the guy in the black hat, well, let the chips fall where they may.

Keith Olbermann, according to his own remarks, has also engaged in a “first.” He’s handed out a “Best Person” award. For what? Well, I’ve given a summary of the reason in the preceding paragraph. It is the only coherent one you’re going to see; you’ll certainly see nothing clearer or plainer coming from the folks who agree with Olbermann and Rivera. The point about discriminating against illegal aliens, is a complete crock. We’re supposed to discriminate against them. They’re criminals. The point about illegal aliens not breaking the law, is an even bigger crock.

In my book, this shows Olbermann is in favor of people getting drunk and killing other people, as long as the drunk driver is an illegal alien. I’m sure that notion gets under the skin of a lot of readers, and I’m sure a lot of them think I’m curtailing someone’s rights…even though, all I’m doing is making up my own mind as a private citizen, and writing it down. But unlike Rivera, Olby made his comments without anyone talking over him. He had plenty of time to say what he wanted to say. And what I saw was 1) O’Reilly pointed out the deaths were utterly preventable and that city officials should be held accountable; 2) Rivera gave a bunch of bullshit reasons why this is not the case; 3) O’Reilly lost his cool; 4) Olbermann — for reasons he’s afraid to state, or thinks unnecessary to state, or both — gave Rivera the first-ever “Best Person” award. An award he could have handed out at any other time over the last two years. For anything. He thought this was the right occasion. Making a stand for………illegal immigrants who break into the country, and get drunk, and use their cars as weapons and kill girls. He wanted now to be the time, so he could be crystal-clear about what he supports and what he opposes.

Am I to conclude something else?

On Generous People II

Wednesday, March 28th, 2007

Here we go again, generosity from an unexpected source. Or to put it more accurately, a source we were instructed to believe was a modern-day Ebenezer Scrooge…and darn it, those inconvenient facts keep getting in the way.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. increased its U.S. charitable giving 10 percent last year to $272.9 million, the world’s largest retailer said Tuesday, likely defending its position as the country’s largest corporate donor of cash.

The rate of growth was lower than a year earlier, when Hurricane Katrina relief helped push the annual rise to 19 percent, but it was ahead of Wal-Mart’s 7 percent rise in net profit last year. The company’s profit for the fiscal year that ended Jan. 31 was $12.2 billion.

Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart released its annual donation numbers a few days after publicizing its annual bonuses to hourly store workers as it seeks to counter union-led critics by defending its record as a corporate citizen.

Wal-Mart said most of its U.S. giving was in cash, about $250 million, vs. $22.9 million of in-kind donations.

We’ve discussed this before, here and here.

I thought the quote at the bottom of the story was ironic and absolutely priceless. Isn’t this just the very definition of a Scrooge?

Critic isn’t swayed
Union-backed critic said the increase in giving did nothing to dampen their claims that Wal-Mart exploits its workers.

“Charity is always good, but what is not good is Wal-Mart forcing poorly paid and uninsured workers to depend on charity,” spokesman Chris Kofinis said.

Wal-Mart has repeatedly denied those claims, defending its wages as competitive and its health coverage as affordable.

Bah! Humbug!

When the facts are on your side, pound the facts; if they aren’t, pound the table.

Red Bikinis and Racist Cartoons

Sunday, March 11th, 2007

I don’t have the Google Image Search (GIS) skills needed to find a shot of Sheri Doub in her red bikini. I’m either not bright enough, or I don’t have the right aptitude…or the picture is simply not available. And I’m not alone in this deficiency, judging by my Siteminder referrals. Hit after hit after hit, The Blog That Nobody Reads hosts an inquisitive visitor combing through the world wide web in search of Sherry Doub’s swimsuit picture…and apparently still unsatisfied.

I do not know if I’m missing something. And I do not know if this image remains so well-hidden. But I do know this: I can’t find the cartoon. I can find lots and lots of people instructing me and countless others to come to the conclusion that the cartoon is racist.

Without showing it to us.

Why? More importantly, how? With what kind of befuddled, gullible readers are these pundits accustomed to dealing?

Racist the cartoon may be. But whoever directs me to think such a thing, without showing me the evidence, represents are far greater societal problem.

We’ll just have to wait to see if the cartoon surfaces in the next couple days. It will be small consolation if & when it finally does.

What incredible nerve.

Update: Here it is.

Which I suppose might get some folks in a froth. Three criminals are shown; all three, it would appear, are black. Okay, some people find that offensive and racist. Point one: Why do I need to go looking for this? People find the cartoon offensive, and that is somehow “news”; the cartoon, itself, is not? How can it not be, if the conclusion drawn from it, is? And point two: Are those frothy people, going to get so frothy about this

Before the movie spun, the motion picture industry had inserted a one minute infomercial on the evils of movie piracy and intellectual theft. To make their melodramatic point, they showed a criminal stealing a cell phone….Of course, in the pre-movie infomercial, all three criminals were white men. Which got me to thinking. In the make believe land of movies, television, and commercials, if there is a heinous crime to be committed, 99.9% of the time, it’s now going to be done by a white guy. In fact, it has to be done by a white guy.

Political correctness and the fear of offending, or worse yet, getting sued or picketed, is such, that you will no longer see blacks, Hispanics, most minorities, or even women for that matter, commit a fictional crime. No. Hollywood and the ad agencies have decided that criminal activity on film is now the sole domain of the “too successful for his own good” white male. [emphasis mine]

Maybe the shock value isn’t due to our moral sensibilities about skewed representations; maybe it’s due to our own skewed perspective about what’s normal. Criminals in movies, ads, cartoons — must be white male. And we’re just not used to seeing anything different.

Or, the guy who drew the cartoon could really be racist. But that brings us back to my original question: If you can’t spare the space for the cartoon itself, how can you spare the space to report on people getting all peeved about it, and telling your readers what to think about it?

Here and here and here and in the link up top…they just can’t quite seem to spare the column-inches to reproduce the cartoon itself. Just lots of huffing and puffing about how awful it is.

Update: Sheer coincidence, last month Neal Boortz had a similar observation to make.

I’m just waiting for the day when some home alarm company … ADT, for instance … actually has the nads to put an ad on television that shows a family being threatened by a black intruder. Have you noticed that the intruders — the people trying to break into those homes — are always white?

Boortz didn’t manage to channel much populist passion behind his little observation there, nor do I suspect he had much expectation that he would.

And yet, we’re supposed to take to the streets with pitchforks and torches in hand, up to the offices of St. Mary’s Today. Because three criminals were depicted, and all three were black.

The double-standard is somewhat offensive, but not nearly so much as this notion of journalistic elites instructing the commoners when to get offended about things, and when not to be offended — without taking the initiative to show us what’s offensive.

Update: Some more on the unfortunate Ms. Doub. Still no picture. Sorry, web-hunters.

Sheri Doub was a manager at the Citizen’s Tri-County bank on Signal Mountain. She was fired allegedly for posing in a bikini in the Lifestyle section of the Chattanooga Times-Free Press newspaper…She says everything was fine, until a picture of her appeared in the Chattanooga Times Free Press Lifestyle section in May 2005. It was part of a story on the beginning of summer and new styles in swimwear for 2005. Doub says she was fired the following day, when the bank’s president hand delivered her a termination letter and she was escorted her out of the building.

Commit Blasphemy, Win Free Stuff

Friday, December 22nd, 2006

Richard Dawkins is going to get you a free DVD and a chance to win other cool stuff if you videotape yourself blaspheming the Holy Spirit.

The comments underneath the linked post are pretty interesting. There seems to be a deep schism within the atheist community. Some don’t give a rat’s ass about Christians, and others live for the purpose of cheesing off the Christians — they’re left each arguing with the other, about how much attention to pay to the Christians.

Some atheists leave me convinced by their conduct that they should just get together, build some temples and arenas out of marble, get ahold of a bunch of lions, and get it the hell over with. It’s like — they want to be given all this credit for pursuing a “logical and reasoned” process, subordinating their cognitive pursuits to nobody…and then they end up orbiting around the Christians, like an insignificant little moon orbiting around a large planet. They wake up wondering what they can do to tick off the Christians, and if they go to bed not getting it done, they wake up the next morning wondering how to do a better job of it.

Well, look. I’m not going to sit here and type in a bunch of foolishness to the effect I know the atheists are wrong. I don’t know that. Faith is called “faith” for a reason, after all.

But if you want to deny the existence of a higher power because of your “logical and reasoned” process, and you have refused to subordinate your cognitive pursuits to outside authorities, and you truly think for yourself — if this leads you to the conclusion that God is a fairy tale, the following seems just obvious. You aren’t going to care who agrees with you and who does not. You’re supposed to be relying on your own internal sense of right, wrong, proven, unproven. That means the opinions of others, are irrelevant or mostly irrelevant. Whether you’re in good company or not, is going to be decidedly off-topic.

And you sure aren’t going to be starting any contests or giving away DVDs.

It would appear these folks, Dr. Dawkins included, have given up one religion and accepted a different one.

Dark Times

Thursday, November 30th, 2006

Historians look back on the thousand-or-so years between the fall of the Roman Empire and the Renaissance, and call them the Dark Ages. This is because science took a back seat to sectarian issues, and y’know, the big “we” didn’t do a whole lot. History during that time, for the most part, is a bunch of people bonking each other over the head and taking land back after it was taken away from them by some other guy bonking someone over the head. No cool theories about gravity, not much going on with communications or the written word, no real value placed on the acquisition of new information.

Well, there’s bound to be some similarly derogatory name invented for the twenty years or so in which we’re living right now. Our handicap, however, is not so much cognitive as it is cogitative. A thousand years ago, people weren’t too good at, or too keen on, acquiring information; nowadays they get ahold of it, and for the most part just jerk off into a wet paper bag when it comes time to figure out what the information means. The whole thing has some hope, just a faint one, of making sense to you only if you live in these times. To a future generation looking back, it is sure to be unexplainable, just as the things people did a millenium ago, to us, are incomprehensible.

A perfect case in point: The letters page of the Sacramento Bee from yesterday (third one down) (link requires registration). The burning of the six Sunni Muslims as they were leaving prayers over the long Thanksgiving weekend. Supposedly, in retaliation for attacks on a Shiite slum earlier, someone doused a family of Sunni worshippers with kerosene and set them alight. Iraqi police stood by and did nothing. Some other folks who tried to put the flames out, were stopped by the attackers. The Sunni Muslims burned to death.

Well, Flopping Aces has been looking into this and finding more and more and more problems with the story. You can get started on the whole sorry saga here. As of this writing, it’s probably most accurate to say the Associated Press has been working with the Iraqi police to try to verify the story — and, collectively, they’ve hit a rough patch. It would not be a departure from the realm of the undisputed, to go a bit further and say some parts of the story have been proven false. Like for example the employment status of a certain “spokesman” who got the whole story going.

So as a supporter of the war, I’m getting this finger waggled in my face about how I voted for it therefore I own it. But the basis for this argument is based on pure bullshit. Easily-detected bullshit. And furthermore…assuming the Sunnis and Shiites are fighting in something that could be called a “civil war,” since obviously there is some sectarian violence going on, nevermind the facts getting in the way…doesn’t this all just go back to the old debate about people & guns? I get mugged, I get shot, I get killed, who’s to blame. Society, or the asshole who pulled the trigger.

What is the argument being made with all the talk about civil war? People are killing each other and it’s America’s fault? That’s laughable. People were killing each other before we invaded. Is this all supposed to support some thesis about how Iraq was a lot better off when Saddam was in charge? If so, why has it become so rare that anyone has the balls to just come out and say that. Someone like Jonathan Chaitt, who thinks we should put Hussein right back in.

Or is it just that our hands are dirty. That it’s better to have people killing each other without our involvement, than with our involvement. Hey, it’s an argument worth making, all I ask is that when people make it they have the honesty to admit that is the argument they’re making. Is that too much to ask? Maybe we should come up with a name for this. They think everybody should behave like the cowardly citizens of Hadleyville in High Noon. That’s it. The Hadleyville Paradigm. The dictum that civilized people, when bad guys come around, crouch in their living rooms and peek out from closed shutters.

Yeah, yeah, you know what the Hadleyville shutter-peekers are going to say. They’re going to say if I believe so strongly in this war, I should be over there fighting it, and since I’m not it proves I’m some kind of hypocrite.

Problem with that argument: One guy goes over to fight the war — just one — and the argument is defeated. Forever. You need only one Marshal Will Kane to walk the lonely streets, and the Hadleyville shutter-peeker is reduced to the position of saying, “he shouldn’t be out there, he should be in a living room, pretending not to be home, peeking out from between shutter slats just like me.” And everyone’s going to understand this is a ludicrous argument, fitting only the Darkest of Times. It’s going to look like exactly what it is: Someone taking the easy way out, getting nasty because other people are taking a more courageous stand, thereby making him look bad.

And so instead, they’d rather talk about people like me. That, too, looks like exactly what it is: A distraction. It is an argument that must be inconsistent, and must everlastingly stay that way. I think we need to do a lot of things. I think we need to cut some taxes, and yet, I’m not running for Congress. Does that make me a hypocrite? I think the United Nations should be doing a lot of things differently, and yet if they have elections whereby I’m given the opportunity to energize this opinion into action, I’ve missed every single one. Does that make me a hypocrite? I like beer. I am not in the business of brewing beer. I have not put any of my investment dollars into beer companies. Hypocrite?

No, it really comes down to law and order. How long do we think bad guys should have, to just run around being bad guys? Saddam Hussein had twenty years before the invasion even got started. The shutter-peekers, picking up all this enemy propaganda and old-wives’-tales and urban-legend-gossip, and translating it into some argument of “we never shoulda done it” are trying to support a position that twenty years was not enough. Saddam Hussein should have had unlimited freedom to be a bad guy — forever. Which means all of the bad guys should have that long.

Shutter-peeking, forever.

And note, it’s an absolute position. Much was done before the invasion of Iraq, to get other countries “on board” with it, to justify it with broad factions of people with disparate interests in human rights, weapons threats, etc. Seventeen resolutions ignored! Surely, it’s an absolute position to take, that this is somehow not enough; it’s a moderate position to take that y’know, maybe seventeen is enough, and it’s time to do something.

Future generations are sure to look back and raise the question: If the war is going so badly that the shutter-peeking can be made, somehow, to look good…wouldn’t this have been possible while relying on true things? Why all the urban legends? Why the propaganda?

And if anyone asks me, I’m going to have to give an answer to the effect of…well, even though a few years after the invasion we’d been snookered by an awful lot of stuff…somehow, at the end of 2006, verity was an attribute that still didn’t have a lot of value for many people. I don’t see any way around giving that answer. I hope nobody asks me to explain it. The best I can come up with, is that truth has a connection with justice; you need the former to get the latter. If what you want is anarchy, just bad guys marching down the streets of Hadleyville, while shutter-peekers peek out their shutters and hope the bad guys get bored and walk away — maybe this has an effect on you. Maybe this causes truth to not have much importance for you.

Maybe it comes down to that: justice through boredom. What is the attention span of a bad guy? Do bad guys get bored and stop being bad guys? Is boredom an adequate substitute for Gary Cooper? Can we have an orderly society in which, whenever there’s trouble in the town, we just come up with some arguments as to why it doesn’t concern us and then shutter ourselves up in our living rooms, until the bad guy gets bored?

Yeah, it does make sense. Facts wouldn’t matter too much to someone who thinks that way. Come to think of it, there’s only one question on which such an ostrich-type shutter-peeker would have any interest whatsoever, all others being trivial: Is he gone yet?

Flesh! Oh, No! VIII

Wednesday, August 9th, 2006

Flesh! Oh, No! VIII

As this story came out, I had feelings of real ambivalence about whether-or-not to give a rat’s ass. Things other countries do, culturally…it’s pretty hard to get me all uppity & slobbery about those things, whatever they may be. I’m a live and let live type guy. Ultimately, my phobia about letting noteworthy items pass off into the ether, never to be seen again, uncaptured, unsketched, undocumented, won out. I decided I needed a quick write-up about it. The deciding factor, was that overseas or not, the decision described is just plain harebrained. We like to capture hairbrained decisions. We, here at The Blog Nobody Reads, like to explore the yawning chasm between the things people do, and the things that would make more sense. We make lists of such things; if we do that, and said lists are missing items like what you’ll read about below, it places unnecessary doubt on whatever else remains on the lists.

In the meantime, the story has lost its freshness, so news-junkies are advised to skip this one.

No swimsuits for Cambodia’s Miss Universe contenders
Mon Jul 31, 2:46 AM ET

PHNOM PENH (AFP) – Cambodia is to choose its first
Miss Universe contestant in more than a decade, but organizers have said that the qualifying competition would lack the customary swimsuit round.

Kem Tola, marketing manager for Planet Communication which will run the Miss Cambodia pageant, said the competition will begin next month and winners will be announced in October.

“We hold this event because we want to make our culture known worldwide,” Kem Tola told AFP.

But he said the competition’s co-organizers, the ministry of culture, had slapped a ban on the swimsuit section of the event in the interests of Cambodian culture.

Sim Sarak, a director-general of the ministry of culture, said the last Miss Cambodia contest in 1995 also went ahead without a swimsuit round.

“We are not that civilized yet but we want our culture to be a sustainable one,” he said, adding that no pageant had been held for 10 years because the government thought it was a waste of money.

The winning Miss Cambodia will receive about 1,000 dollars prize money and will likely be nominated to take part in next year’s Miss Universe contest, Kem Tola said.

Now, you see the source of my ambivalence. I really don’t care about the political influence of Cambodia’s Ministry of Culture, whether that is a formal influence like a constitutional-type thing, or whether it’s more of a mafioso-type influence involving bribery and blackmail and horse heads in beds. I don’t care. But the thing I have to keep reminding myself, is that it’s impossible to be “passionately apathetic” about something; to not care about something, means to not care about whether ensuing events cause you to someday care. There is difficulty in that for us all. Someday, maybe that would be a subject worth exploring.

But as members of the human race with a God-given gift for logic and intellect, whoever these people are in the Ministry of Culture — which, according to AFP and Yahoo! News, I guess isn’t even deserving of capital “M” and “C” letters — have sold out to something, I know not what. Look what they’re doing here. They’re having a national competition, carefully expunged of that oh-so-offensive swimsuit competition with the “unsustainable culture,” from which they will produce a winner. Said winner, who may or may not have the assets necessary to partake in a swimsuit competition, may then be nominated to partake in the worldwide Miss Universe pageant, where…well, do I really have to draw a flow chart?

You know, as a guy who appreciates good-lookin’ ladies in swimsuits, I can think of just a few things that are important for a female who wants to look good in one, and/or compete with other females in one. Not being a woman, I’m pretty sure my list falls short of the real story, but what’s on the list is stuff about which I’m pretty certain. I’ll bet you some good money if I were fortunate enough to interview a Miss Universe, or someone who actually competed there, the list would lengthen considerably.

All of which gives me cause to wonder. Could this decision be explained, by anybody, with some genuine passion? As opposed to an apathetic talking-head like Sim Sarak, simply mouthing the words because her paycheck depends on those words being mouthed? I suspect not, but what do I know.

Flesh! Oh, No! VI

Monday, June 26th, 2006

Flesh! Oh, No! VI

People like to watch The Daily Show with John Stewart, which discusses current events, and then injects a unique brand of humor into the process of reporting them. If those people were approached by someone who said “I’m pleased as punch that you like the Daily Show, but I’ve decided you should like it because of the news, not because of the jokes…and since I have authority in this matter, I’m going to enforce my decision by forcing John Stewart to not be funny anymore.” Those people would say screw you, I’ll watch the show for whatever reason I want to watch it. We’ll get you fired Mr. Authority Person, and if we can’t do that, we’ll probably stop watching.

People like to listen to Dr. Laura Schlessinger’s radio show for a number of reasons. Some of them like to hear Dr. Laura’s words of wisdom, some like to gather dirt on Dr. Laura so they can bash her somewhere else, and other people just like to listen to stories of airheaded sluts cheating on their boyfriends and husbands. If Dr. Laura were to come on the radio and say “I’m glad you’re all tuning in, but I’ve decided you shouldn’t be tuning in to take prurient delight in these stories, so I’m going to get rid of them.” People would stop listening, of course. Just before they tuned out, they would bear a lot of rage, and probably express it, at the attempt to control their very preferences.

People like to listen to the President of the United States give speeches. Some like to hear what the President has to say so they can make up their minds on whether to support his initiatives; others simply wait for the President to screw up on pronouncing something, so they can make fun of him. Consider what would happen if a radio/television network announced “We know some of you are tuning in just to add on to your lists of ‘Bushisms,’ and we don’t want to give you any ammunition, so just know in advance that if the President makes an embarrassing slip-up we’ll bleep it out with the benefit of our ten-second delay. But we think you should still tune in, and listen for the reasons we think you should be listening.” Gawd, can you imagine the backlash that would take place then. The backlash…and the futility.

Well, Wimbledon has figured out people like to watch tennis matches just to watch good games of tennis…and to look at good-lookin’ women in skimpy outfits. What was just a silly hypothetical, in the above three recitations, is reality in this fourth one, according to this brief snipped from The Sun.

KILLJOY tennis chiefs have outlawed skimpy outfits at this year?s Wimbledon, which starts today.

They want spectators to keep their eye on the ball, not on the athletic figures of the gorgeous female players.

So they have issued a strict new dress code banning gear deemed too sexy or low-cut.

That means a bevy of babes must cover up. What a glaring fault ? especially when you check the form of stars like former champ Maria Sharapova.

The Sun has put a prohibition on using their images without licensing, so I got the above graphic from somewhere else. Hope that’s okay, The Sun does not own Wimbledon so far as I know.

Awhile ago I said something about the European mindset, and this mostly-European tendency to make rules about things without regard to whether those rules can be expected to be effective. The author of a not-very-readable comment, appeared to take offense, although I’m not sure about this. Well…this is a great example of what I’m talking about. What is going on in your head when you tell someone “come on over, bring the kids, watch our tennis matches…but only for the reasons we think you should be watching them.”

It’s enough to make you want to throw tea in the harbor all over again.

Here is what I want to see before we get too much farther into the summer “Fire Women For Wearing Bikinis” season. Let’s get a woman, dressing modestly, who fainted…then maybe another one, maybe a couple more. Three total. Add to this, some ruminations on global warming, and about how this is the hottest year ever recorded in human history. Somewhere, someone is willing to say so, I’m sure. Then, let’s get some egghead college professor who makes a living being quoted, to add a sound bite about how women are feeling intimidated by social pressures to wear more clothes, and running into a disproportionate number of health problems because of it during this hottest-year-on-record. Like dehydration, and fainting.

In other words, let’s get the public-policy goo-gooders to feed on their own. Our egghead propeller-beanie clipboard-and-white-coat goo-gooders are forcing women to wear more clothes, and our global-warming propeller-beanie goo-gooders and our female-health-malady and unfair-cultural-pressures propeller-beanie goo-gooders say it’s high time something was done about it.

I’d pay money to see that.

Like I’ve said many a time before…we are all here, because a lusty man thought a woman’s body looked good. Red-blooded straight guys who like to look at young ladies in skimpy outfits, are doing the Lord’s Work. If anybody’s looking for an apology, don’t look here.