People are dead because the United States fucked up.Before storming on with my angry rant. We should take a moment to let that sink in. Human beings are dead. Their loved ones grieve them still. And, if it matters, if it sinks in deeper, many of these people were American soldiers, they were ours. Our country and our leaders owed them a duty to give them our best, because they promised to give us theirs, and we fucking failed. And, there were other soldiers of others countries, civilians, children, parents, fiancées, spouses, teachers, neighbors, security officers, public officials . . . dead, when they didn’t have to be, when they shouldn’t be.
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
The intake for the water line was clogged. This meant a hike 900 feet up into the hills behind our cabin in order to clear the intake filter. We brought the shotgun. It was pretty unlikely that we would encounter a bear, but better to have and not need, and all that.
Gun use and gun safety was one of the first things we ran through after getting off our float plane and dropping our bags in the fishing cabin, that would be our home for the next three months, on the south end of Kodiak, Island. I had grown up around commercial fishing, bears, and guns, but my long time friend and co-crewman had not. So a gun lesson was high on the list of to-do's before my father left, and the two of us were left to fend for ourselves.
Kodiak Island is home to the largest bears in the world. As salmon and berry eaters, they don't have to be dangerous, but as enormous wild animals they certainly are. I am a fairly large athletic guy, but the weight ratio between an average Kodiak Bear and me is the same as the weight ratio between me and a two year old toddler.
The short hike up our waterline was not bear country. The bears should be up at the streams, eating their fill of salmon. But, we had specifically switched to using black electrical tape on the water line instead of silver duct tape because the duct tape seemed to attact the attention of wandering bears, and result in bite damage, bears could wander to this area.
When we reached the water line I handed the shotgun to my friend and began clearing the filter. That's when he said it:
"I could kill any animal on earth right now."
I looked at him, and saw that the statement was made, not in bloodlust, but in astonishment. He was right. A 12 gauge loaded with 8 slugs packed a lot of potential punch. Now, I don't know how it would do against a bull elephant, or charging rhino, but that wasn't the point. The point with this simple tool my friend was transformed from a slow, awkward ape with a large brain, to a contestant for most powerful animal on earth.
There are a lot of fantasy stories which center around the corrupting influence of power. In the fantasy setting it usually takes the form of an item of great power which the good guys must destroy. Inevitably someone suggests that they use this item for good, to defeat the big bad. It is just a 'tool' after all, surely they could harness it. But the item has a corrupting influence, it cannot be used for good, not because of some innate feature of the 'tool,' but because of the influence it has in the mind of the wielder.
In the super hero setting the source of power cannot be destroyed. Instead it must be harnessed, and most super heroes get an early lesson in the corrupting influence of their power. Learning that they have to respect their power, and that there will always be a temptation to abuse it. Those who don't learn this lesson become villains, lured away by the corrupting influence of power.
Power is intoxicating, and meant to be used. Power wants to be used.
So you see, my friend wanted a bear to attack us, and so did I.
Throughout my life I've killed dozens of bears. I've rescued my family, friends and strangers from vicious bear attacks. My friend and I were charged by bears numerous times while cleaning the water filter, and each time I was forced to use my training and save us from the charging animal. Because, when you're warned that something terrible could happen, and when you're prepared, a part of you, sometimes a large part, wants that thing to happen. You see it, you picture it, you act it. It's part of being ready. Even if it never actually happens outside of your own mind, it happens.
I don't know what happened during the shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman. But I do know that Zimmerman wanted to be attacked that night. Because I know what it is to carry a gun. More specifically, I know what it is to fear something and to no longer fear it because you're carrying a gun. Zimmerman had shot Trayvon lots of times before that fateful night. He'd shot him to stop robberies and burglaries. He'd shot him defending himself, and he'd shot him defending others. He was ready. He had a gun. He was the most powerful thing on earth.
Spend time with people who spend significant time in rural Alaska and you'll find a common approach to nature: respect. The best bush pilots know not to test the weather, the best boat captains know when to stay in harbor and all Alaskans know that you don't mess with bear safety. The so called "Grizzly Man" was a source of fascination for many. But in Alaska he's a fool who lacked proper respect for the 'wild' part of 'wild-animals,' and his lack of respect got someone else killed. But this respect is just a recognition that you're dealing with something much more powerful than yourself and your tools.
Nature makes us feel our own powerlessness. Everyone in rural areas knows of someone who has fallen victim to the merciless cruelty of the great outdoors. A plane crash, freezing waters, and yes, the occasional bear mauling.
But there are those moments when nature makes you feel invincible. Standing strong in the path of something furious, something truly mighty, is empowering. Being at sea in a storm, having your tent hold up to powerful winds, reaching the peak of an intimidating mountain, and yes, facing down a charging bear - gun in hand.
Most of us, of course, do not live in anything that could be described as wilderness. But, we do live in just as intimidating environments. The truth is that life is fragile, and that many of us are powerless. A big city, a big nation, a crowded highway, a cruel economic system, can cast us aside or smash us under its heel as easily as a winter storm or 1200 lb. animal. An emperor, king or dictator wields impossible power, you can no more stand up against that, as a naked individual, as you can stand up against the ocean.
Guns are a tool. A tool designed for killing. That's their design, but their effect is to dramatically transform the power of the wielder. Hold a gun, and you are capable of anything. Therein lies the true power of the tool. There in lies it's corrupting influence. Therein lies the fantasy. When you hold a gun you secretly hope you're attacked by a bear. You secretly hope someone attacks your family. Because if that happens, you can stop it, you can stop it with your gun.
The intoxicating psychological effect of a gun is central to our discussions about them, and too often ignored. Guns are tools of power. Some tools are purchased to be used. You buy a table saw to cut wood. If you never need to cut wood, you don't buy a table saw. But a gun serves a powerful purpose without ever being used. In all those hikes up that waterline, we never fired a single shot. But in all those hikes up that waterline, the gun we brought served its purpose.
If you face a bear attack, without a gun, your best option is to play dead. Lay down, don't move, and hope the bear loses interest before inflicting too much damage. You cannot run from a bear, they run faster than quarter horses. You cannot out climb a bear, they are quite effective climbers. Running downhill from a bear will not cause it to tumble head over heels and facilitate your escape. Play dead, hope the bear buys it, and live. It's not the kind of scenario that allows for heroics, even in one's imagination. Bear attacks may be extremely rare, (until just last week there had never been a person killed by a bear in Denali National Park in Alaska) but they happen all the time in the minds of hikers and campers. You look into the brush around you and think "what if . . ." Without a gun, that imagined scenario should always end with you laying still, trying not to move, waiting for the danger to pass on its own.
You can't fight a revolution against modern military technology with an automatic rifle. But if you have a gun you're never forced to play dead when you ask the question "what if . . .." When you have a gun you can create any number of scenarios, any number of possibilities can answer that question. The gun has transformed you from powerless peon in an impossibly large system, to the most powerful animal on earth.
The low probability of needing a gun does nothing to change this psychology of power. If I tell a gun owner that he is extremely unlikely to need a gun to defend his home from burglars, his person from muggers, or his neighborhood from "suspicious" characters, how is that different than telling me and my friend, walking along that water line, that we really weren't in an area bears traveled. We weren't. But what will we think we ponder "what if . . ."
And if I point out to that gun owner that they are so powerless, so insignificant, that even with their gun, they could not stand against a modern military, that their tool of empowerment is futile, aren't I just reinforcing the very feeling of impotence in the modern world that the gun serves to counter? If the gun is a tool which primarily creates a feeling of power, how could I possibly undo the gun's hold on our culture by more emphatically pointing out just how powerless we all are?
Gun culture is not built on the need of guns. Guns are designed to kill. It's preposterously rare for any of us to need to kill anything, and yes, that includes bears in bear country. Gun culture is built on the feeling of powerlessness we all feel in the face of things larger than ourselves, be they mountains or be they governments.
Sometimes, late at night, I contemplate whether I should have a gun for home safety. Sure, I don't live in a dangerous neighborhood, but I'm responsible, I'm careful, and it's better to have and not need, than to need and not have, isn't it? What options would I have if someone broke into my home, if someone attacked my family, except to play dead, except to hope the danger passes without choosing to do too much harm?
The truth is that I haven't held a loaded weapon in several years now. The guns are safely stored, locked away, far from where I live. The ammo somewhere entirely different. But, you see, my gun makes me feel powerful. With it there is no danger on this earth that I couldn't give a run for its money. Sure, that's not technically true. But if it feels true, it doesn't really matter does it? It's not like I actually think black helicopters will come for me, or that armed criminals will assault my home, so it doesn't matter what my actual chances would be. It matters how I feel.
To change gun culture, we have to change the way people feel, not the way they think.
Friday, June 15, 2012
I would like to take this opportunity to launch my far less expensive "don't shoot people"(tm) defense plan. If you pay me just $50 a year I will send you a daily email which states:
Do not shoot anyone today. Yes, even if they are trying to take your stuff. If you think someone wants to hurt you, try going somewhere where they are not.As an added bonus to the plan, if you actively retreat from someone and they track you down with a deadly weapon and you are forced to shoot them, and you are still prosecuted with a crime, then I will personally fly to your location and take the bar exam in your state and defend you for free.
This deal is too good to pass up. Please send me my free money now.
Monday, June 4, 2012
As someone who used to suffer from being 'friend zoned' and felt wronged by it as a 'nice guy' I'm appalled that I was unable to see that the entire idea behind the friend zone relies on the primary value a woman has to offer a man being her vagina, and that if she refuses to offer up that vagina in reward for patient friendship she is somehow wronging the male friend.
Friday, June 1, 2012
My first reaction to this poll is to think that there's something in the question itself skewing the results. It has been shown time and time again that the phrasing of a poll question can dramatically change the results.
Certainly most Americans believe that God guided human evolution . . . so that kind of belief is getting mixed into these results. So let's look at the exact question asked by Gallup:
So, lets look at the answer 46% of American respondents gave:
God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so.Again:
. . . within the last 10,000 years or so . . .So, ok, this isn't some polling error. This is the response people gave. 46% of people asked feel that people were created in their current form sometime after the oldest cave paintings, or petroglyphs.
My second reaction to this poll is to wonder who these people are. Where are these 46%? It accents to me exactly how insulated I am from a huge portion of American culture. I just don't regularly encounter nearly half of the people who live in this country. At least I hope I don't, because I would not hesitate at a dinner party conversation about politics or science to openly state that creationism is a preposterous position. Apparently I would be insulting 4-5 out of every 10 people.
My final reaction is to tell myself that many of these respondents are just defying the position they are "supposed" to have. So that this response is more about defying authority than it is about actual ignorance on the topic.
It's not a good choice. Either a huge portion of the population is amazingly ignorant about basic human history, or a huge portion of the population feels a desire to express ignorance as a way to say 'you can't tell me what to think' to scientists and pointy headed intellectual liberals.
The Catholic Church embraced evolution as part of God's grand plan in 1996, the end of a road started in 1950. It amazes me that the American populace can't seem to catch up.
Monday, April 2, 2012
I think he's blurring a few issues here. Hate crimes legislation doesn't intend to perfect human nature, it seeks to distinguish crimes that are, in my opinion, meaningfully different. I think the term "hate crimes" seems to focus too much on the emotion and belief of the perpatrator; the real focus should be on the intended effects of the crime, and therefore, I'd just call almost all hate crimes "terrorism."
First, Hate Crimes law has never been about regulating speech or belief. Neither is constitutionally permissible or and the latter isn't possible anyway. You're free to go to Klan rallies or Pentecostal churches or neo-Nazi meetings and say whatever you want. Keller says that "the government is authorized to punish you for thinking those vile things, if you think them in the course of committing a crime," but that's not exactly true. The government is authorize to punish you not for thinking those vile things but for committing an act motivated by those vile things. Similarly, you can be punished differently for a murder intended to eliminate a witness, and we're not surprised that your thoughts, intents, and motivation affect your sentence. If your motivation is independent, you're off the hook, at least on that wing.
He also spends too little time on the point that hate crimes are different because they terrorize an entire community, saying that any crime will instill fear in neighbors. True, all crimes do that, but all crimes are not intended to do that, and I think that's a very important difference. If you break every window of every synogogue in a five mile radius, your act has a fundamentally different effect than if you're just causing random mayhem. You are aiming your gun at people not present, and illegally coercing them. You create a very real and immediate threat of violence to those who aren't your victim, and it's not a side effect but your intended act. That's a real problem, and not one that's captured if we treat all acts of vandalism equally without noting these community effects. Furthermore, you're either tacitly or explicitly recruiting by acting this way. Perpatrators of hate crimes don't see themselves as criminals, like a mugger does, but as heroes. When uncaught, they seek to define their acts as those of the community, and when captured, they hope to be a martyr to the cause and inspire others to match them. Again, these aren't true of ordinary crimes.
He then skips past arguments that we must protect the vulnerable by pointing out others are vulnerable, too, and we don't protect them. But we do! And I'd happily argue that we should expand those protections. And we never have hesitated to punish pedophiles differently and worse than other sex criminals. We're happy to pick out these motivations and bring down more justice.
This is another red herring: "The distinction Hurd makes — convincingly, I think — is that when you penalize intent you are punishing matters of choice. One can choose not to pull the trigger, not to throw the rock, not to steal the purse. 'You can’t choose not to be prejudiced or biased — at least not willy-nilly, on the spot.'" No, you can't choose not to be bigoted. Not really. But we're not really asking citizens to forbear their bigotry. We're asking them not to commit crimes motivated by bigotry, to keep their bigotry nonviolent. And that's far from an impossible task.There are patterns of violence which you can't participate in and pretend they're outside the pattern. They're manifestly different crimes. And sure, we can't execute people twice, so to some extent, hate-crime-murders aren't really important, it's all the other crimes where there's a scale to be made. But this isn't about trying to convert the hateful. It's about restraining behaviors to remove specific threats to the peace which differ from their underlying crimes.
Friday, March 9, 2012
Waiting in line. We’ve all done it. So, it’s not difficult to imagine yourself waiting in line. For purposes of illustration lets imagine you’re in line for movie tickets. Your happiness in the moment will likely depend on the speed of the line. Even if you are very patient when it come to lines, spending 5 minutes in line is better than 30 minutes. So let’s say you spend 15 minutes in line. Now your happiness has been adjusted down by a set amount equivalent to spending 15 minutes in a line. That’s probably not really an adjustment at all. You, like most people, will be about as happy as you were when you started waiting in line.
So now let’s add to the scenario. Instead of one line for movie tickets, there are four. Four separate lines, and you pick one at random. Now imagine standing in line while three other lines move toward the same goal: precious movie tickets. This time, your line whizzes by, while the other three lines stand relatively still. That feels pretty good. So if your speedy line still takes 15 minutes, you’re probably a bit happier at the end than you were in the single line scenario.
But what if, and you know where I’m going by now, your line moves like molasses. It seems that every person ahead of you line contemplate for ages on which movie to see, and then decides to pay in pennies dug from the bottoms of their pockets. You’re line still takes 15 minutes. 15 agonizingly long minutes while the other three lines move forward with a steady efficiency. We’ve all been there. It’s frustrating.
So in all three scenarios you wait in line for 15 minutes. It’s the same result. And yet the emotional reaction to each scenario will be dramatically different.
So what do people want? One of many answer is that people want to be better off than other people. It’s hard wired into our very being. We’d like to think that we want that line to move quickly. But, when it comes down to it, we’re pleased if our line moves faster than everyone else’s line.
It’s a disturbing reality that poisons a lot of political discourse on government benefits, wealth and employee benefits.
The Republican Party is largely the party of privilege. White Christian men trying to hold onto the privilege afforded to them by the nature of their position. Privilege is really just a stand in for doing better than others. Even a poor man is master of his wife. Even an uneducated white person can look down upon the immigrant.
So much of the Republican Party rhetoric seems to be about slowing down other people’s lines. About taking away food stamps, or benefits, or retirement. This message taps into something deep and dark within people.
Unfortunately it isn’t an easy message to counter. It takes clarity of purpose and reason that isn’t always easy to communicate.
The difference is the difference between hearing that a retired California government worker is living on a six figure retirement income and thinking “why does he get all that” versus thinking “why don’t more workers get that”
Monday, March 5, 2012
Adults talking about "snitching" is not a productive part of society. Reporting wrongdoing, even anonymously, is heroic. It took down Richard Nixon, it stopped the abuse of Abu Ghraib, and it will make the NFL safer. It's protected by law under whistleblower statutes. Grow the hell up, Barkley.
Sunday, March 4, 2012
I'm never loath to quote superhero comics when making a serious point. They deal with issues of such exaggerated importance they'll occasionally give us a moment of really profound wisdom. Here's a chance to use Uncle Ben's best line, from Spiderman: "With great power comes great responsibility." Usually that's the kind of thing that comes up in political situations, but it's almost never applied so literally. These guys carry enormous power on the field. Literal force: they clobber each other. We understand that that creates a risky game, where injuries are a part of life. Legitimate moral questions are raised even in the day-to-day experience of football, and the answer to those questions is deeply tied to the NFL's ability to assume the responsibility created by the violence of the game.
Sometimes the responsibility emerges cleanly: after Kevin Everett was paralyzed after a collision during a kick return in Buffalo, he regained the ability to walk thanks to advanced techniques researched under grants from the league. The NFL also has funded extensive research into concussions, and consistently updates its rules to limit the hits that cause them.
But this is a new ballgame. We're not talking about the incidental risks of a dangerous activity, we're talking about deliberate violence, intended not to win the game but to break the opponent, in ways that destroy seasons, careers, and lives. A sadism induced by thousands of dollars. That's why the NFL needs to bring the maximum penalties in its jurisdiction against Gregg Williams. A lifetime ban is a minimum beginning. Public release of all documents pursuant to the investigation, and availability of league resources to any pending criminal cases or liability suits. And then, they need to find out where else this is happening, and bring down a similar wrath.
Thankfully, most fans are outraged by this, but there are plenty who are saying that this is just part of the game. And they're matched by players who refer to it all as no big deal; just an incidental burst of violence among the rest. This is obviously more evidence of the coarse sadism that I've written about before, but there's a secondary point to be made here: this is evidence of objectification of people.
Objectification is most commonly thought of in terms of sexual objectification, of which plenty has been written. I'm not trying to compare them—but the point is that this is a result of the same phenomenon. Fans stop thinking of the players as people, but something less. Not even animals: Michael Vick's dogfighting ring gained far more universal condemnation than Gregg Williams humanfighting ring. We're looking at men as machines, or perhaps, simulations. We forget that there is a human cost to Sunday's results.
We overcome the objectification of football players when we afford them essential human dignity—their safety is public concern, we respect the emotional and physical cost of the game and respond appropriately. To some extent, even fans' resentment of players' ability to negotiate pay for their services smacks of this objectification. The players' personal agency is dismissed. Shut up and play the game. That's what we need to stop.
The players' own indifference to injury or the bounties is no counterproof. They are surely under significant pressure to act as tough as possible, to prove to teammates and coaches and fans that their performance is unimpeded by any personal concerns. Beyond that, they have spent their entire lives in this enviroment—and in a culture that reinforces it—and are willing to objectify themselves, and take on a false consciousness about their role as humans. This is not to completely dismiss their statements on the matter—resisting objectification demands that their subjective views of the matter be fully relevant—but under no circumstances can this continue.
Roger Goodell, you've been a commissioner with a strong hand in punishment and a crucial concern for player safety. End this now.
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
God is not afraid of science
of course we look at the shape of mainline Protestantism in this country and it is in shambles, it is gone from the world of Christianity as I see it.
"Yes, the government can help, but the idea that the federal government should be running schools, frankly much less that the state government should be running schools, is anachronistic."
(Aside from schools for the children of military personnel, the federal government does not actually operate schools. Most U.S. schools are supported primarily by state or local funding, or a combination of the two.)
Santorum said the public education system was an artifact of the Industrial Revolution, "when people came off the farms where they did home school or had a little neighborhood school, and into these big factories … called public schools."
Sunday, February 19, 2012
* Urban vs. rural: I think this is an element that makes things particularly compelling. The castle is replaced by the polis for affairs of state. I think the results of this is a much larger political universe: medievalist fantasy usually focuses on the conflicts between the king and the nobles, or the various squabbles of competing petty warlords. There's a lot more to deal with if you're in charge of a city - fully capable political classes to contest authority, and powerful nonpolitical actors: guilds, mobs, organized crime, artists, beggars, merchants. And of course, those things are all interesting to explore beyond political struggles - there are more people doing more different things in a city than in a pastoral setting, where you're either a knight or a farmer. Maybe an innkeeper.
* Power of the state: There's a bit of a paradox here - the classical ruler is more checked by rival powers in the city, but simultaneously much more potential authority, should he dominate those elements. Medieval kingships tended to be low-stakes affairs, and royalty was its own prize. The greater organization of a Roman-style state opens up a lot more avenues for characters to interact with the state, both successfully or otherwise. Or attempt to interact with the populace, should they be rulers themselves.
* Range and diversity: I think in a classical setting, your characters are much more able to travel. A medieval affair tends to concern itself in one realm, which is fairly homogenous. Rome encompassed Egypt and England alike, and you are able to regularly mix things up with different cultures, religions, or powers running across things. You have cosmopolitan characters able to seek these things out, too, and more places to flee. At the same time, there's much more of a continuum between insiders and outsiders. A foreigner is not nearly as obvious.
*Monarchy vs. republic: A medieval setting almost never considers the idea that maybe people shouldn't be ruled by a king. A classical setting can really take up this argument, all the more urgent if the choices are a republic or an empire. Warlords can aspire to more power by claiming the imperium, and dissidents can do more than support the just and fair younger brother of the king. You get to inject very potent, resonant idealisms into a conflict over power.
*Barbarians at the gates: Always a loaded question, I think in a classical setting you can explore more the line between civilization and barbarism - and at the same time, undermine that distinction. As above, it's not an insular society like so many medieval kingdoms, instead you have a very distinct line that separates the Romans from the Germans, which characters are going to lean on. It's also a way to empower emperor-types, who are going to win prestige by turning back the hordes, and use fear of same to command their authority. Their supporters will be more complex than the toadies of the evil king.
*Thinkers: more than plotters, you get to have characters who are philosophers, and able to influence events with ideas. With consequences as disastrous as anything else, of course, as Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle were able to witness.
*Atmospherics: Here's where we get the robes-for-chain mail swap, but some of this is interesting in its own right. You get to move away from the colder north lands to the lush Mediterranean, and from wood and stone to marble. Villas. You can play a lot with tone here.
Friday, February 17, 2012
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
This is seriously messed up. You know what's not a tool of parenting? Firearms. Discharging a gun and saying "this is what you deserve" is not something you do around people you love, it's what you do when you're a sociopath. It's certainly not a valid response to a kid whining about chores on Facebook. Whining kids are annoying, I'm sure. I get that. But guns are designed to kill people. Kill animals. Kill intruders. Eliminate threats. Whatever your stance is on gun control, the point is that guns aren't made to fix things. They're made to destroy things. Invoking your power to use an implement of raw destruction when angry is terrifying. “This right here is my .45,” he says, before unloading nine bullets into a laptop. Nine bullets.
But honestly, this guy is the least of my problems. Some people are crazy, I can deal with that. What bothers me is that the poll attached to the article has over 2/3s of voters supporting him. Unscientific polling or not, I'm guessing that there's probably a real majority position there. And the reason for it, as is increasingly dominant in American culture, is one of sadism: those who we dislike are to be neither corrected, convinced or reformed, nor contained, isolated, and ignored. They are to suffer. And so, we get to read the supportive commenters, who say that bratty kids deserve pain, humiliation, and suffering.
"[M]aybe he should have affixed a pic of "lil precious" to the laptop b4 he'd emptied the clip in it!" adds the most egregious of them. Others wish she had been physically struck along with threatened, and more just congratulate their conquering hero, who decided to use his gun to teach his daughter a lesson about "respect."
The other examples of the sadist culture are easy to find. Those cheering, on national talk shows, Marines who urinated on dead Afghani soldiers: so quickly can inalienable human dignity be discarded. Those who cheered at Rick Perry's execution hit list, or at Ron Paul's calls for the poor and sick to be left to die. Or Liz Trotta, in the post below by Agis, who supports rape against women who dare to join the military. The point isn't about who the person is on the other side, whether they're as heroic as female combat soldiers, as ordinary as whiny teenagers, or as loathsome as murderers and enemy soldiers. The point is that we, as a society, are finding moments of glee in our ability to inflict pain on these people, and it is this essential element that denatures our claim to do justice in the world and turns us into cruel tyrants seeking revenge.
Monday, February 13, 2012
Ingredients: High fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, sugar, honey, fructose, less than 2% coloring etc.
Sunday, February 12, 2012
TROTTA: ...just a few weeks ago, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta commented on a new Pentagon report on sexual abuse in the military. I think they have actually discovered there is a difference between men and women. And the sexual abuse report says that there has been, since 2006, a 64% increase in violent sexual assaults. Now, what did they expect? These people are in close contact, the whole airing of this issue has never been done by Congress, it's strictly been a question of pressure from the feminist.It's hard to muster any kind of response to this. After calming down slightly, and trying to imagine a place where this kind of 'commentary' needs any response at all, I would think that if one was upset about needing to spend millions to prevent sexual assault within our military that person would be upset that people are getting raped and harassed in the first place.
And the feminists have also directed them, really, to spend a lot of money. They have sexual counselors all over the place, victims' advocates, sexual response coordinators. Let me just read something to you from McClatchy Newspapers about how much this position on extreme feminism is costing us. "The budget for the Defense Department's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office leapt from $5 million in fiscal 2005 to more than $23 million in fiscal 2010. Total Defense Department spending on sexual assault prevention and related efforts now exceeds $113 million annually." That's from McClatchy Newspapers.
So, you have this whole bureaucracy upon bureaucracy being built up with all kinds of levels of people to support women in the military who are now being raped too much.
SHAWN: Well, many would say that they need to be protected, and there are these sexual programs, abuse programs, are necessary --
TROTTA: That's funny, I thought the mission of the Army, and the Navy, and four services was to defend and protect us, not the people who were fighting the war.
Friday, February 10, 2012
Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Dr. Pepper is delicious. Diet Dr. Pepper is the best tasting diet pop ever. Unfortunately, the owners of Dr. Pepper decided that running ads that say "diet Dr. Pepper is delicious, you should drink it because it tastes good," is too easy. Instead, they created a new product called Dr. Pepper 10. At first the ads are offensive. Then they are stupid. Then, they are so stupid they become offensive in an entirely new way.
Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Sunday, January 29, 2012
Monday, January 23, 2012
It seems likely that this pattern will repeat itself indefinitely into the future, providing unmeasurable entertainment.
It is also true that the new Star Wars movies (Phantom Menace, Clone Wars, Vader is Back - or something) have provided a near endless supply of entertainment for Star Wars fans. However, 99.9% of this entertainment comes in the form of sitting around and talking about the ways the movies could have been better.
It is impossible to talk about these movies without, even by accident, mentioning a way by which they could have been improved.
Most of the methods of improvement can be summarized quite simply. They are ways in which the movies could be *better*. Better characters, better story, better moments, better casting, better writing . . . etc.
I can agree with that, but I've always had one huge issue with the challenge presented by Episodes I-III of Star Wars: at the end, the bad guys win.
That seems to me to be a structural flaw in the story that no amount of "better" is going to fix. At the end of the movie Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda, two cherished characters from the original movies, lose. A moment which I imagine goes something like this:
The bottom line is that Vader and the Emperor standing triumphant over a crushed republic and hundreds of dead Jedis is an ending that no amount of "better" is going to rescue.
Yoda: How did your battle with Anakin Skywalker go?
Kenobi: Great, I cut off all his limbs and left
him on fire next to a river
Yoda: At least the terrible evil who
betrayed us all and killed the Jedi is
Kenobi: . . . .
Yoda: He is dead right?
Kenobi: . .
. so, uh, how was your fight with Palpatine?
Yoda: oh, that . . . yeah, that
was fine, y'know,
Kenobi: like mine?
Yoda: yeah, uh, limbs .
. . lava . . . or something
Kenobi: . . .
Yoda: . . .
Kenobi: So, want to go hide out on remote planets for the next twenty
Yoda: sounds good
Don't get me wrong, I can appreciate a serious movie with a serious ending as much as the next guy. The Thin Red Line is one of my favorite movies of all time, and it ends with the harsh realities of war. But there are limits. You can't make a prequel of Saving Private Ryan that ends with the Nazis celebrating in the streets of France. That's going to be a terrible movie, even if it doesn't have Jar Jar Binks.
Those limits are especially applicable to an action movie about cowboy ninja wizards in space.
So how do we fix it?
The fact of that matter is that Episode IV starts in a dark place. The Jedi are dead, democracy is toast, and the Death Star is complete and blasting planets out of the sky. The prequels have to get us to that bad spot.
The answer, as with the corrections to all of George Lucas' idiocy, is pretty simple.
Episode III needs to end the moment before Episode IV begins. This way the triumphant ending of the movie can be the rebels successfully stealing the plans to the Death Star; the very theft which initiates the plot of Episode IV.
It's not that tricky to do. Simply lop off Episode I entirely. This way the first Star Wars movie is about the friendship and training between Obi Wan and Anakin. The second movie is about the betrayal of Anakin, the emergence of the Emperor and the fall of the Jedi. Then the third movie can be about the rise of the rebellion, and mostly center around Princess Leia. At the end, she manages to organize a group of rebels for the daring theft of the Death Star plans.
The third movie has the added benefit of allowing an explanation for why Yoda and Kenobi, the two most powerful good guys in the galaxy, are hiding in caves on remote planets. Yoda and Kenobi helped to organize the rebellion initially. However, their strength in the force allowed the Emperor and Vader to detect their presence, and could be used to give away the location of rebel bases and outposts.
This structure would mirror the basic outline for the first three movies. The first one is where we meet our characters and learn a bit about their struggles. In the second one the bad guys win. In the third, the good guys regroup and emerge with a gritty victory against all odds.
It's the formula by which all cowboy ninja wizards in space should live.
Friday, January 20, 2012
It's a dude writing an advice columnist asking for permission to skip a wedding because his girlfriend - who is the maid of honor - has, in the past, kissed other members of the bridal party. I can't muster a better response than....REALLY?
I can note that somehow, this fella is a member of my chosen profession, which is depressing, and manages to use the phrase "the repercussions of her actions" to describe his bowing out.
I have a lot of tolerance for teenagers acting like morons. That's why I put up with weird characters on teen shows. You can allow it, they're undeveloped! But law students have to be adults, and it's just frustrating and nothing more when they're these kinds of dillholes.
Technically you're not asking your wife for an open marriage if you've already been fucking another woman for six years. You're presenting your wife with an ultimatum. That doesn't make you a proponent of open marriage, Newt, it makes you a CPOS.
"Swingrich" is a CPOS masquerading as a swinger/polyamorous person. "I thought he was ethically nonmonogamous but he was just a swingrich."
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
But in a general conversation about Star Trek, a basically culturally literate person will know who Kirk and Spock are. They'll probably know Data, if we're talking about the true pop culture nerds that make up just about all of my friends. Picard is played by a legendary actor, and thus carries enough cache to break through. But then, we get to: the Riker Line.
William Thomas Riker is not a famous character. If you bring up Riker, if you reference Riker, if you call him "the Riker of the West Wing," you will only be understood by Star Trek fans. If you're talking about Sisko, or Worf, or Miles O'Brien, you're past the Riker line. But you can mention the Vulcans in relative safety.
There are a few very minor moments where the line is permeable. You can refer to "Scotty," perhaps, but "Montgomery Scott" is too far. You can talk about Nichelle Nichols work as Uhura being praised by Martin Luther King Jr. for having an interracial kiss with Captain Kirk, but that's about all you can know about her. Geordi LaForge gets you only as far as the visor and the treasured name Levar Burton, but not his work as an engineer on the Enterprise. But fundamentally, anything more obscure than Commander Riker gets you across the line.
But this makes me think of what other pop culture spheres have their own Riker Lines. I'd put Harry Potter's Riker line at Neville, I think. Star Wars line is at Bobba Fett. I haven't seen Lord of the Rings through, but whoever comes after Legolas fits the bill. Any others?
Monday, January 9, 2012
Saturday, January 7, 2012
But I do know this: those guys are all dead. Or they're living with debilitating injuries, or severe brain damage. That's a real problem.
I don't like watching and enjoying an activity that causes a lot of harm to real people. I understand they're well compensated (although the vast majority of people who play football try to play like the pros, and they're not compensated). But I don't think that's the way to just absolve the issue that real injuries are happening to real people for the purpose of entertainment. I think there's a prerogative to make football as safe as it can reasonably be. And that's why I support Goodell in all efforts to reduce violent hits and make the game safer. Nuts to you, James Harrison.
But what really confuses me is why people are so virulently against these kinds of changes. James Harrison, at least, makes a lot of money and gains his fame on these kind of hits, so I understand his motive. But the average fan isn't getting paid for the hits. Is he paying for the hits? I doubt it - the ratings keep going up no matter what the NFL does in regards to violence in the game. I like defensive struggles as much as anyone, but I really am skeptical that anyone hates high scoring games with the passion they express. They're mostly just people whose teams are losing high scoring games. And besides, the talk is all pretty moderate around rules about pass interference or defensive holding. The talk is always about late hits and defenseless WRs and out of bounds contacts or hitting a QB in the knees. Driving to the ground. All stuff that doesn't directly affect the outcome of the play. And really, improves defense most of the time (tackle with your arms, not your shoulder!)
The fundamental issue appears to be one of sadism: a desire to see people get injured. There's a real undercurrent of sadism in American life these days - a feeling that suffering is an objective good: for people who have sex, we'll get rid of abortion so you can suffer more. Remember the cheers for Ron Paul telling those without insurance to die? Or for Rick Perry's executions? It's one thing to support those positions as necessities, but they seem to be lauded as objective goods. It's important to cause suffering.
Part of this is that the love of violence rarely seems to carry over into incidences of fair fights in sports. Boxing is getting less popular every year, wrestling is gone, and MMA is catching on, but still very peripheral. These are all sports that are violent, but are based on a set of rules, with voluntary fighters. Even hockey is the least popular "major" sport, where the fights are entered into on equal terms - the player basically agree to fight each other, punch and grapple, and stop. It's a totally different scenario than leveling a receiver over the middle. It seems to be a crucial difference.
So we get the great defenders of what are essentially dangerous cheap shots. Because people don't like seeking violence: they want to see pain.