Monthly Archives: April 2003

briefly/debate

I’m definitely going to have to get cable after I move, if only to watch the Daily Show. I just saw a clip (Realplayer required) from a foreign policy debate hosted by said show, between two significant political figures – President George W. Bush, and… Governor George W. Bush.

review/constraints

Identity is a secret.

Identity is a mystery.

Identity is a killer.

Identity is a rental.

I saw this movie Friday night, and was actually quite impressed by the first half. It was a great setup for a standard thriller premise, a group of strangers being mysteriously killed off one by one. Unfortunately, the second half ruined the experience by presenting a wholly dissatisfying ending.

The best examples of this genre constrain the list of suspects by the circumstances of each death, until the viewer can’t figure out how any of the remaining characters could be responsible, or have the wrong one in mind. Then when the real killer is revealed it’s all very twisted and unexpected. One of Identity’s mistakes is that it constrains the possibilities too far, so that the ending was transparent about halfway through the film. Another mistake is that when I figured it out I thought, “That better not be the answer, because it’s really lame.” Sadly, I was quite correct.

One almost has to wonder if it was this particular screenplay being parodied in Adaptation with The 3.

The reviewer over at Slate makes similar points, and Mr. Cranky offers some sage advice: “I suggest paying for half a ticket, leaving after 50 minutes and imagining a decent ending.”

Also, my friend Jenny suggests the following alternative tagline: Identity is an operator.

reaction/privacy

Probably you’ve all heard by now Senator Santorum’s progressive statements on homosexuality and the right to privacy. If not, here’s the transcript, which is a very funny read until you remember that he’s the 3rd highest ranking member of the Senate. My personal favorite quote is from the astonished interviewer:

AP: I’m sorry, I didn’t think I was going to talk about “man on dog” with a United States senator, it’s sort of freaking me out.

The original topic of discussion was the Texas anti-sodomy laws, but maybe “man on dog” is what Santorum should really be concerned about here. Because, as Andrew Sullivan points out, In the same year that Texas passed its current anti-sodomy law for gays, it repealed the law against bestiality.
Between that revelation and reading about the show Mr. Personality, I started to wonder if I hadn’t awakened this morning in an alternate universe. Seriously, how is it that the same legislature passing anti-sodomy laws repeals the anti-bestiality laws? Who’s the legislator who’s going to propose it? Who the hell wants a pro-bestiality vote on his voting record? Is there a massive constituency for this in Texas? A powerful lobby, perhaps? Just what year was this?

I’m sure my readers would love for me to explore this topic in depth, but I’m sure I’ll already be drawing some disturbing Google searches. So, back to the original topic – Santorum is described as a rising star among the GOP, which causes concern over just what kind of views the Republican Party is prioritizing these days. (Shocking that I should be concerned about this, I know.) Also, the AP article I just linked describes him as a “compassionate conservative”. If this is compassionate conservatism, what’s the alternative? Fred Phelps, I guess.

If it’s decided, as Santorum argues it should be, that the Constitution does not guarantee a right to privacy, said right should be added to it with all possible speed. Surely all those proponents of limited government in the Republican Party would agree…

planning/soreness

I am really sore after working out yesterday. Hope I didn’t overdo it. The idea is to be in better shape in a couple months, which is when I plan to start going to karate practice again.

There’s a chapter of Shotokan Karate of America here in Berkeley, the same organization as at Caltech. On top of that one of their black belts is a postdoc in the physics department and a former Clarke group member. So I’ve decided to do this rather than one of the university clubs, since I’ve trained in the style and I know somebody there already.

Soon I should be as badass as this guy.

contemplation/pacifism

I thought I should clarify that my previous entry was not supposed to be an argument for pacifism; I’m not a pacifist and I certainly don’t think George W. Bush, of all people, should be one. Instead it was an argument about consistency of beliefs.

In other words, I don’t see how a Christian – someone who believes in the divinity of Jesus – can avoid being a strict pacifist. The verses I quoted last time are among Jesus’ most famous sayings, and I don’t know of any that allow for exceptions. (“Uh, yeah, I suppose if thou art acting in defense of thyself, thou may smite thine enemy with the Lord’s blessing, yea verily.”) Immediately proceeding the quote about turning the other cheek, Jesus says “Do not resist evil”. Do not resist evil! You can’t get more direct than that.

(The justification presumably is that one should concentrate on living one’s own life as best as one can, which means not hurting other people, and letting others live their lives as they choose. Then in the afterlife everyone is judged according to what they did. This makes perfect sense if there’s an afterlife and judgement and all that. But if the material world is the only battleground there is, resisting evil is pretty much required. That’s why if evil threatens me, I’ll confront the hell out of it, and I hope the President will do the same. However, the beliefs he claims to hold say he shouldn’t!)

So, it bugs me that Bush gets enormous political mileage out of claiming to be such a pious and devout follower of this dude Jesus, while totally ignoring some of his most well-known teachings. But, all the Christians who vote for him can see that he’s not a strict pacifist, and yet they don’t care. In fact I can pretty clearly assume that many, if not most Christians are not themselves strict pacifists despite all this! Rather than just assume they’re all massive hypocrites I must conclude that there is some theological rationale for Christians to use violence. So, can anyone enlighten me on this? Under what conditions is it permissible for Christians to disobey Jesus’ instruction not to resist evil, and why?

followup/pentagraham

Lots of interesting (I think) discussions on Plastic today; in one of them, we godless liberals are again annoyed by the rev. Franklin “wicked and violent religion” Graham. Seems he’s been invited to preach at the Defense Department on Good Friday, and Muslims at the Pentagon aren’t happy to see this eloquent ambassador of Christianity despite his obvious concern for their fellow Muslims in Iraq.

This raises some obvious questions:

(a) Why is anyone preaching in the Defense Department on Good Friday? Are there no churches in Washington, D.C.? That can’t be it, I’ve been to one.

(b) What does one preach about at the Defense Department? I guess one opens up his Bible and finds some relevant passages to talk about, like perhaps:

Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. (Matthew 26:52)

Wait, that’s no good. Maybe he could go with:

Whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. (Matthew 5:39)

No? Hmm, here’s one:

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. (Matthew 5:9)

I guess that one’s definitely out. Hey, has Bush even read this thing? I thought the guy who said all this stuff was supposed to be his favorite philosopher. Maybe he actually meant this guy.

(c) If God really does exist, would he mind terribly taking time out of his busy schedule to smite the rev. Graham around a bit? Maybe just give him a lisp or something so he sounds ridiculous whenever he tries to talk about Islam.

Anyway, although we are at war with Islamic fundamentalists, what the rev. Graham doesn’t seem to realize is that the problem is that that they are fundamentalists, rather than Islamic. In fact, Christian fundamentalists are probably an equal threat to American democracy even though they kill people in smaller volumes.

And yet, most people seem more worried about us atheists taking “under God” out of the pledge.

rant/crusade

There’s been a lot of talk about Franklin Graham’s eagerness to rush over to Iraq and bring the newly liberated infidels to Jesus. A lot of talk in some places, at least, but not from the White House, who won’t touch it with a ten foot pole. While it would be nice if George Bush suggested to Graham that he was perhaps being counterproductive, it’s probably for the best that the administration is staying out of this one. After all, if Bush were to say what he really thought about evangelizing Iraqis, I think I’d be sorry he did.

There was a Pagan Pride parade here in Berkeley yesterday. Maybe Franklin Graham should come here instead; I’m sure he’d be welcome.