Category Archives: Art

Best Halloween Cinema #30: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

So begins the list of the #30 best things to watch for Halloween (I by no means claim this is a definitive list and the ordering is rather arbitrary).

We start this month of horror films off with a TV show. But not just any TV show, the single greatest TV show in the history of human civilization (at least up to this point…Whedon could easily come out with something new that would surpass it in a few years). That show is of course Buffy The Vampire Slayer. High tragedy, high comedy, deep understanding of the human condition, skill in writing, acting and directing, and of course a hopeful view of humanity that forgiveness is possible and that people can grow and improve themselves. There is simply no show in the history of television that has dealt such profound philosophical themes without being heavy handed and with characters who were human and never just two dimensional cutouts who were allowed to followed a predictable pattern.

The reason such a great work of art gets put last in this list is that it’s really not a horror story. Yes there are vampires and werewolves and monsters of all stripes. But even though it has all the tropes of horror, it is not focused on death as any good horror story is, rather Buffy is focused on life, specifically the growing up part of life. And in this respect it works as a good counterbalance to everything that’s going to come after, but that does not mean it does not have its horrifying moments.

So let’s do a quick rundown of some of the more terrifying episodes.

The Gentlemen from “Hush”

“Hush”: Possibly the most horrifying episode of Buffy. Corpse like emaciated men dressed in 1920’s style suits come to town, steal everyone’s voice and rip out their hearts. It’s frightening for several reasons. The first is the villains, The Gentlemen. The scariest monsters are always the ones that look human but are just a slight bit off, the fact that they were so concerned with manners and courtesy in their actions toward one another just adds to the horror because it is so out of place when you’re about to cut out a live and awake person’s heart. The other reason that it’s such a terrifying episode is that it takes away from the characters something they take for granted: their voice. The idea of not having something we have been so dependent on that we take it for granted, like our ability to communicate brings up the simple question in our minds: “what would I do in that situation?” It’s not a pleasant question. We use our voice for so many things and the idea that we should have to live without it–not a pleasant thought. And of course there is the fear of death. Few episodes have shown people so helpless as this episode when being killed, they’re restrained almost immediately so they can’t run away; they have no voice so they can’t scream for help and then they feel everything as their heart is cut out. One of the things that frighten people so much about death is that they think it is something out of their control, that it will come in the night without warning or rhyme or reason and there is nothing they can do about it, and they are utterly powerless in the face of the unknown. It’s powerlessness against it that frightens them (it’s why waiting for the diagnosis of cancer is worse than the diagnosis itself, when you know what it is, you have a name, an MRI, an idea you can fight against or give into, it’s your choice—but when you’re waiting you still have no choice about anything). It is this powerlessness that the scenes of death in this episode capture so well, and remind most of us of our own fears of death.
Helpless: People run a lot in Buffy. But either they’re one episode’s extras whom we’re not really all that invested in, or they’re main characters and we know Buffy will save them. But when it’s Buffy who is doing the running because she has had all her powers taken away, that adds a lot more terror. The safety net of “Buffy will save the day” is gone, and being Joss Whedon, we never had any reassurance that he isn’t willing to kill main characters, so there’s not that usual safety net either.

“Restless”: There is something terrifying about the unknown and the bizarre to most people. If they can’t understand and make sense of it, it frightens them. So putting our four main characters in a rather symbolic and random dreamscape with an unknown assailant killing them, is quite terrifying. Oh and there’s cheese (if you’ve seen the episode you’ll get that).

“Fear Itself”: Finally my favorite Halloween episode in Buffy. The Scooby Gang faces off against a demon who makes them live out their worst fears and then face the fear demon itself. Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” This episode shows how foolish that is. Why? Because the fear demon is three inches tall, which is possibly the most insightful and genius representation of fear I have ever seen in of all of literature. Fear is something small, something insignificant, and something if you use reason isn’t worth worrying about…yet we let it control us because we refuse to look at it. If we did confront it head on we would probably find that most of our fears are so small and so insignificant that they can just easily be squashed and ignored.

Xander: Who’s the little fear demon? Come on, who’s the little fear demon? Giles: Don’t taunt the fear demon.Xander: Why? Can he hurt me?Giles: No, it’s just… tacky

Honorable Mentions:

None these are exactly great films (not that the top 30 are all Oscar Winners) but they get trotted out every Halloween and I would say they do meet my criteria of an unhealthy obsession with death.

Constantine: An epic battle between good and evil with a poorly executed story of redemption.  Fun but ultimately pointless.

Stigmata: It’s not exactly a horror film, (and I’ll probably deal with it later in my blogs about movies for New Agers) but with all the blood and suffering it has many of the tropes of a horror film.

Bless the Child: Certainly not as dense and preachy as the novel it’s based on, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t still just a little preachy.  And then there is just the rather low quality direction.

The Shinning (TV movie 1997): You know the Nicholson/Kubric version of the film is actually well done, the problem is that it seems to completely ignore that there is actually a great book that it’s supposed to be based on. The TV movie, while not without its flaws was more true to theme and characters of the book and thus I prefer it to the older version.

Fringe: Again it’s not really about the fear of death, but there are some truly horrifying moments.  Like in the first episode where everyone’s skin is melting off, that’s frightening at levels I can’t begin to describe.  And that 3rd season episode where they guy is playing with a corpse and through levers and pulleys make it dance ballet, that’s disturbing at a level I seldom see.

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Filed under Art, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Death, Faith, Fear, Free Will, God, Halloween, Joss Whedon, Movies, New Age Movies, Popular Culture

Cable TV, A La Carte Purchasing, and its Political Implications

 

Cable TV

And maybe 3 things to watch among the entire bunch…

So there has been a lot of talk lately about the bundling of cable TV stations. For those of you who don’t know, bundling is that part where your cable provider makes you buy all those cable channels in a block whether you want to or not…you want FoxNews, you have to get MSNBC too…you want the Comedy Central you have to buy Animal Planet and quite a few others as well. All of this is opposed to a la carte ordering…I want TNT, USA, FoxNews, and well that’s it. And it looks like bundling’s time has come. Intel and other companies are looking into new technology. Major distributors are pushing for cable companies to not bundle channels. Even that worthless idiot John McCain is pushing for a law that would require cable companies to unbundle their channels.

Before we get into all the implications of this let’s first deal with McCain the Moron’s plan to outlaw bundling. Even when he’s right, he’s wrong. King of the Idiot RINOs, John McCain, is proposing legislation to stop your cable companies from forcing you to buy packages of channels. I like the idea of cable companies selling station A la carte for many reasons, and deeply wish to see it happen. However, USING UNCONSTITUTIONAL GOVERNMENT POWER TO FORCE PRIVATE COMPANIES TO DO SOMETHING is about as immoral, illegal, and idiotic as you can get…in other words everything we have come to expect from this corrupt piece of shit. Market forces should and are already bringing forced bundling to an end, expanding government power is not the answer now, nor should it ever be the first option of convenience rather than the option of last resort when all else has failed. Between Netflix, Hulu, Apple TV, online TV shows, Intel developing a device that would allow for people to buy channels a la carte…there’s plenty of incentive right now from the private sector. Even major content producer Time Warner is slowly pushing away from bundling. We needed bundling in the beginning to allow for the infrastructure to take off, but now that that is set it is becoming economically viable to stop doing that and soon you will see the collapse of bundling. Without government intervention! But even if there wasn’t then still the government shouldn’t get involved. You don’t have a right to cable. You can always choose to not buy, and just because RINO McCain thinks that’s unfair it does not give the government the right to say what a company can and can’t sell you.

But while I’m sure McCain’s idiocy is going to die before it ever has a chance to become law, it is all but inevitable that bundling will end. With the success of Netflix shows like Arrested Development’s 4th Season as well as the steady increase in web series, the cable networks themselves will soon demand a la carte options just to stay alive (ESPN, TNT and FoxNews among others are not going to allow themselves to die just because people don’t want to pay $30 for a host of channels they never watch). Unbundling is inevitable.

 

So what does this mean? Well once you get a la carte purchasing, while I’m sure you will still be able to buy bundles if you want all the channels, in reality 90% of us are just going to buy the 5 channels we actually watch. I don’t care if unbundled networks are only about $2….there are dozens of channels people are going to go ‘eh, I just watch one show on that, and it’s not that great, I can live without it.’ Within 6 months of a la carte programming you will see networks die because people just aren’t watching them and they can’t make budget. Is this a bad thing? No. First, because this means that the networks that survive (and especially the ones on the edge of surviving versus not surviving) will buy up the shows that actually do attract ratings. Which means that there will no longer be networks that survive on only one show, but rather you will see extended primetime lineups of good shows. You will also see the death of shows that people might watch if there’s nothing else on (reality TV I’m looking at you) but which might not actually stand up in head to head battles against real programming.

Of course this also means that now with cable channels probably offering better or at least on par programming with the regular networks, and available at rock bottom prices for everyone…you will likely see a much larger than usual hit to regular TV. And what this means is that at least one major network will probably die…hmmm…I wonder which one…probably NBC which had to just cancel half of its lineup for the new season because so much of what they put out is crap.

But, let’s ignore all of that. I said this has political implications. What are the political implications?

Mainly in the fact that this introduction of free market principles will kill the left’s propaganda machine. Think about it. Comedy Central isn’t a strong network. It doesn’t make the top 20 of overall viewers and it only makes #17 during prime time…why? It has exactly two shows people watch. The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. How many people do you think are going to look at paying for a whole channel just for two half hour shows? Comedy Central will take a hit. And I’ll bet you anything those two shows will be one of those shows that gets moved to another network (probably to Viacom’s higher rated Spike network)….but in addition to make it a more marketable product (because right now they don’t have to compete for you to actually buy the channel, they’re there if you buy basic cable) they’ll tone down some of the overwhelming leftist tripe (I’d even go as far to say that while The Daily Show will likely survive, Colbert could easily find himself once again just Stewart’s sidekick without a show of his own).

MSNBCAlso, if a la carte buying causes a contraction in the number of networks, you will almost certainly see a contraction in number of cable news networks (i.e. Al Jazeera buying Gore’s Current TV may actually be dead before it even starts). And what cable news network is already falling like a rock and thus most likely to hit the chopping block in this situation: why none other than the ideological inheritor of Joseph Goebbels himself: MSNBC. MSNBC and it’s “The left can do no wrong, and the right is nothing but a bunch of racists” string of lies will die with the advent of a la carte purchasing (and CNN will probably have to be become a little…ahem…fair and balanced…if they too wish to survive). This is especially true as I pointed out that their parent company NBC is also dying…(don’t believe me, they’ve so completely run out of plots they have a show called, “Dracula” coming out next year…I wonder how that ends…but I’m sure there isn’t any scrapping the bottom of the barrel over at NBC…oh they have a show about pirates too!) I’d lay money that the NBC name will be dead by the end of this decade.

 

So without MSNBC spewing lies and Stewart constantly making fun of conservatives 90% of the time, what does that leave the left as a propaganda tool? Well there’ the L.A. Times…oh wait the Koch brothers are buying that and will probably turn it back into a news outlet instead of BS propaganda…and I guess there’s the N.Y. Times which is about to die from lack of sales. Air America? No that’s been dead for years. The fact is that the death knell of leftist hold on media is coming. Now that does not mean that we should embrace all their sins on the right, but we don’t have a track record of it. As biased as the FoxNews or the Washington Times gets the left is a thousand times more biased. We are looking at being very, very close to not having to fight such a biased war of propaganda and rather letting arguments and facts speak for themselves.

Just imagine a nation where the majority of the media doesn’t try to hide the fact that the coward-in-chief left 4 people to die in Libya. Where a reporter who would dare to interject her incorrect opinion into a presidential debate would be fired immediately. Where Rachel Maddow is never heard from again (honestly that alone is worth it).

So what can we do to hasten this?

You’re not going to like it, but, call your cable company and stop all non-news cable channels (you still need information)…or if you’re comfortable getting your news off of clips from the website and reading most of it online…just cancel your cable entirely. And when you do make it very clear you are cancelling because of having to purchase channels you do not want. Explain that you will be more than happy to buy cable channels if you are allowed to purchase them a la carte but until that time you will not buy cable.

If everyone who reads this does this, and shares it with all of their friends and convinces just 2 or 3 of them to also cancel, I’m not going to say we’ll bring the cable industry to their knees…but if we could cut into 5% of their revenue, they’d notice, they’d respond to the already building forces in the market. Come on you’re so behind on your reading (you know you are) and there is enough crap on Netflix to keep you busy for at least two full years. At least. Isn’t missing the newest episodes of this show or that show for a couple years worth dealing a death blow to leftist propaganda?

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Filed under Art, Capitalism, Economics, Evils of Liberalism, Government is useless

Before I go see Into Darkness…

EnterpriseI need to get it off my chest how horrifically, unbearably, atrocious the reboot of Star Trek was.   I’m not being hyperbolic, if you tracked down every single copy on DVD, Blueray, the original film and any other form it may exist in and launched them into the sun, the world would be a better place.

UglyassEnterprise

It’s bulky, clunky, disproportionate. It’s just ugly.

However, before I go into why I loathe this reboot, let me state a few things.  First, as far as I can tell the general rule seems to be that anyone who grew up first with the Original Series of Star Trek rightfully hates this abomination of a film—whereas the culturally bereft among you who grew up first on The Next Generation (or god help us Voyager or Enterprise) seem to be okay with mockery of all things Star Trek.*   Second let me say that I’m sure that even if I hadn’t seen all the Original Series before The Next Generation came out; by the time I was 6 I’m sure I had seen most of the Original Series (and all the movies that had come out by that point).  I’m a Trekkie.  Always have been, always will be.  My early teens were a bit more obsessive about the show than I am now (I have been to one convention 20 years ago, and I have no intention of ever going back, unless I have a booth selling copies of Destiny’s Knights and other fiction novels).

So that’s where my biases come from.

However that does not mean I was meant to hate it.  I could have easily loved the new version.  I liked the Tim Burton Batmans but I acknowledge that Nolan’s vision was vastly superior, and Daniel Craig’s more serious Bond is a major improvement.  If the Star Trek reboot had been better, or even on par with the original, I probably would have liked it…but it wasn’t. This film was inferior on every level.  And not just because it was from the writers who brought you such horrifically bad movies as The Island, The Legend of Zorro, and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen…not to mention having been writers for Hercules and Xena (depending on when you grew up you might have some fond memories of the campiness of those shows, the writers of this movie didn’t write the episodes you have fond memories of).

Okay some people have covered some of the major reasons why this was a dumb film… but let’s cover some of the reasons not covered there.

StarTrekposter

Are they all trying to look evil or is just bad acting?

So three-quarters of the film is spent drilling holes into planets (let’s just ignore why a mining ship has more firepower than the entire Star Fleet).  A lot of time is wasted drilling holes.  Why?  So they can drop this plot device called red matter that creates a black hole wherever it is dropped.  So why not just drop the red matter on the surface?  A blackhole will still suck the entire planet in whether it’s on the surface or in the core of the planet.  And in general this is a major problem throughout the whole movie.  Star Trek has always skirted the laws of physics, but it has done it in such a way you usually don’t notice until the second or third viewing.   Usually the story of a Star Trek episode or movie (I’m not counting anything from Voyager) was good enough that you could suspend your disbelief enough to not notice the glaring errors in science.  Here you couldn’t do it.  Not in their crappy understanding of black holes, or theoretical time travel (yeah going through a black hole doesn’t send you through time it only crushes you…this isn’t an advance theoretical physics concept, this is high school physics), or even throwing out your own rules of how transporters work (yeah let’s beam them onto a ship with shields up going at warp speed…why?…because our crappy writers put us in this situation with no way to get us out beyond that little bit of insanity).  One of Star Trek’s long standing virtues was that it tried (tried didn’t always succeed, but it tried) to have a loose understanding of science…but not with this crappy reboot.

SpockandChapel

Do you see this woman? The character’s name is Christine Chapel. If Spock is meant to end up with anyone it’s her.  Might as well write Moneypenny out of Bond or Lois Lane out of Superman.

Oh and then there was the fact that every character is different.  EVERY CHARACTER (except Bones for some reason, way to go Karl Urban for actually doing some study of the character).  And what had changed?  Some captain no one ever heard of died and so did Kirk’s dad.  Yes I understand Kirk’s dad, played by Chris Hemsworth, is Thor, god of thunder…but even that strains belief that he would change how everyone turned out.  Let’s run down some of the differences.  Chris Pike has gone from a man who considered leaving Star Fleet and selling Orion Slave Girls to a sage like father figure who is a couple of magical powers short of Obi Wan and Gandalf.  Spock suddenly became hyper emotional, illegally marooning cadets, assaulting people on the bridge, kissing Uhura (WTF?)…so everything that people loved about Spock, the cold logic, the wry sarcasm, the only hints of emotion…all gone.  Uhura developed a personality.  Chekhov developed some useful skills.  Scotty turned into a comedian…with an ugly Ewok as a sidekick.  Wow, even if you believe in the butterfly effect, it’s a little hard to believe that Kirk’s dad had that much of an effect on the universe.  (Let’s also realize that this reduces all life to nothing more than a B.F. Skinner ideal of all there is is the conditioning of our environment, hell there isn’t even a genetic component to your personality, only the environment…and don’t even get me started at how this implies there is no soul, only a malleable thing conditioned by circumstance…thematically it comes off a tad cold and meaningless when compared to, well, any other incarnation of Star Trek.  Of course really you’d have to have a theme before we use the word thematically, something this movie lacked).

NewKirkSpock

I feel a battalion of tribbles could take these two down.

Oh and let’s talk about Jim Kirk.  The rebel without a cause, purpose, plan, brain, or clue.  And the punchline of numerous jokes throughout the film.  Part of what made the Original Series so good (beside the writing) was that the character of James Kirk (despite questionable acting at times) was, on the whole, an admirable figure.  Like the character of Horatio Hornblower whom Roddenberry used as a model, was a strict and disciplined commander, whom despite his appearance of bravado only cared for his ship and his crew.  This little punk was all ego.  And how the hell do you go from cadet about to be court-martialed one minute and, like a week later, promoted to Captain.   I’d follow him, how about you?  Quite frankly when I first heard Benedict Cumberbatch in the new trailer say he was better than this Kirk in everyway I rolled my eyes and said, ‘well, yeah, it’s not a high bar to reach.’  Nothing about this character makes him admirable, nothing.  You can like Shatner’s acting or not, but you have to admit when the script and directing were good Kirk was an admirable, likable, virtuous character.  This cocky little punk just needs to be punched in the face, often.  (Oh, by the way, Chris Pine will also be playing Jack Ryan later this year…yeah thanks for ruining another of my favorite characters.)

IntoDarknessCumberbatch

“I am better than you…in every way” No shit, Sherlock. Janeway and her bunch of losers were better in every way compared to this lot.

And then, of course, is the relationship these films had to their source material.  Nicholas Meyer (writer of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country…otherwise known as the good ones) said one of the first things he did when given the job of writing and directing Star Trek II was he sat down and he watched all the episodes of the original show.  Doing this he not only discovered the heart of the show was the friendship of Kirk, Spock and McCoy (utterly nowhere in this movie).  Was the original series inconsistent in quality and have some really bad moments?  Yeah.  If a Trekkie can’t admit that “Spock’s Brain” may have been the dumbest episode in the history of science fiction, they’re not looking at things rationally.  But the original series also had some of the best moments in science fiction history as well.  And what made the good movies good was that they respected and took from the best of the series, paying little homages to the source material all over the place.  Meanwhile I’m not convinced anyone associated with this film has seen anything beyond Futurama’s parody of Star Trek.   Nothing.  There is no connection to the original beyond a couple dead red shirts and Pike ending up in a wheel chair.

And before I end this let me talk about the preposterous villain for  a second.  So we have Nero, a Romulan commander.  But not the cool, cold, calculating Romulan Commanders we have come to love…no he’s in charge of a mining vessel.  But don’t worry his mining ship has more firepower than the entire Star Fleet…I knew the Romulans were a paranoid bunch…but really?  So his genius plan is to wait 25 years for vengeance, and apparently this guy, whose command skills were only good enough not to get him assigned to a garbage ship is able to keep his entire crew also hellbent on his personal madness for 25 year and nobody mutinies.  You believe that don’t you?

There is so much more that pisses me off about this movie, from horrible directing, bad acting, truly lazy writing, production values that think you should be blinded by light in every scene…I could go on.  It’s not really that I’m upset that they tried to reboot Star Trek, I’m upset they did such a poor job at it.  Just ask yourself this, if you took away the name Star Trek and changed all the character names…would you call this a great film…or would you compare it to other such sci-fi jokes as Wing Commander or whatever original movie is on SyFy this week?

*I’ve never actually met someone whose first exposure to Star Trek was Deep Space Nine, so I have no way describe their feelings toward the reboot

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Filed under Art, character, Free Will, Movies, Popular Culture

Hope, the American Way, and the “Man of Steel” Trailer


So there appears to be some brouhaha over the newest trailer for Man of Steel.  I have seen complaints about this on no less than 3 different political web sites, which seems a bit much for a trailer, but since they want to make a federal case over it, it should be pointed out that their case is baseless.   Namely the problem seems to be with the following lines:

Lois Lane: What’s the “S” stand for?

Superman: It’s not an “S.”  On my world it means “hope.”

Lois Lane: Here it’s an “S.”  How about Super…ManofSteelsymbol

Now the first complaint is that this is changing the story, where it has always stood for Superman.  This is a silly claim, especially for a comic book movie, which is based on comic books that have been restarted so many times with so many variations D.C. comics actually had to come up with a storyline about multiple universes just to keep all the versions straight (still didn’t help).   When you’re translating a story from one medium to another it’s pure insanity to think everything can remain the same.  Further, yes you might be justifiably angry at those changes…but only if those changes make the story worse.  The new Star Trek stripped all the good out of the original series and created a cheap sci-fi film that would never have gone anywhere without banking on the greatness of the original…so there bitching about the changes is justified.  Conversely, Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy took the Batman story from a more simplistic action/detective comic and created one of the deepest most meaningful films ever made.  Those changes made the story better, and so whining about purity of the original story is just bunk.  Rewriting stories is a part of literature dating back to when Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides rewrote the works of Homer for stage, nobody in their right mind claims they ruined the stories.  Now it may be that whatever changes Nolan and Snyder have made to the Superman myth in this film may make it better or worse, we’ll have to see, but change is not necessarily good or bad on its own.

The other reason this is silly (and keep in mind I’ve never read a Superman comic in my life, and even I could find this out easily) is that in terms of the meaning of the “S” they haven’t really changed anything.  In the original film starring Christopher Reeve, the symbol stood for the House of El, the Kryptonian family that Superman is a part of. But what about the “Hope” thing?  Apparently some on the Right are having knee-jerk reactions to the word and thinking that this is intended to be a reference to Obama.  It’s not.  This actually is taken directly from the 2004 comic Superman: Birthright written by Mark Waid (Obama had only come onto the national scene at the 2004 Democratic convention in July, the comic came out in September which means it was probably written well before July).  I will shortly come back to why using Waid’s work as a basis for this movie is a very, very good thing.

Finally there are of course the constant complaints still going on about the line from the last movie “Find out if he still stands for Truth, Justice, all that stuff” and how the writers shoved away the phrase “the American Way” and the worry that this will still continue in this film (this of course ignores that the line came from Perry White, the most cynical character in the Superman universe who probably would find the phrase silly).

ManofSteelAfter this trailer I especially find this fear also fairly unwarranted.

Why?

Well what is the American Way?

Contrary to what many believe, it has nothing to do with land, or resources, or economic success, or military prowess, or scientific achievement. America is America because of our ideals.  The ideals of liberty, of meritocracy, that anyone can achieve by their own will.  Or as I have stated before:

We’re the nation that fought to create a republic where the haves and have-nots gave equal measure.  We’re the nation that fought our own citizens to free slaves.  We’re the nation that pioneered capitalism and law that gave liberty and opportunity and progress to more people than any other country in history.  We’re the place where “tired, the poor, the huddled masses” come to be energetic, successful and stand on their own feet.  We’re the country that conquers whole nations so that others may be free then tries to rebuild them and then leaves without tribute or power.  If you don’t think we’re the “shining city on the hill” you don’t know history, philosophy or human nature.  We’re not perfect, we’re not always right, but we are consistently the nation that calls for the best in humanity to put down the worst.

The American way isn’t a habit, or a land, or a race, or even the citizens of this particular country, it is an ideal that believes the best in humanity can always rise above the worst in humanity, that the individual left to their own devices will rise to the pinnacle of achievement and not sink to the depth of depravity.

And just in this trailer alone, we see that way, that ideal.

We see it in Jor-El’s statement

What if a child dreamed of becoming something other than what society had intended?  What if a child aspired to something greater?

Are you going to tell me a line about how a single individual can rise above the shackles of whatever society throws on them, and achieve because of their own will and merit isn’t at the very heart of America?

Or perhaps Jonathan Kent’s:

I have to believe that you were sent here for a reason.  And even if it takes the rest of your life, you owe it to yourself to find out what that reason is.

The belief that life has a purpose.  It has been seen in philosophy since Aristotle, but it has never been realized until America.  And this quest to find meaning is a personal one, “you owe it to yourself,” not one laden down with obligations to family, or clan, or religion, or state, or culture, or history or whatever other un-American claptrap other nations have followed.

Or perhaps we should go to first trailer, with another line from Jor-El

You will give the people an ideal to strive towards.  They will race behind you.  They will stumble.  They will fall.  But in time they will join you in the sun—In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.

Shining city on the hill anyone?  The beacon of hope and light that America is supposed to be.

Oh I said “beacon of hope” which brings us back to the symbol and them taking that point from Mark Waid.  This is important that they are drawing form Waid’s version. Why?  I would direct you to an essay written by Waid in the book Superheroes and Philosophy entitled “The Real Truth About Superman and the Rest of Us, Too.” (It’s an excellent essay which you may want to read.)

The essay covers the thought process Waid went through when the head of D.C. asked him a simple question: “Why does Superman do what he does?  Why doesn’t absolute power absolutely corrupt in his case?”  He quickly found the stock answer of, because he’s Superman, to be unsatisfying to the employer who was hiring him to revitalize the franchise.

What follows is an argument that references two of my favorite philosophical beliefs.

The first is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  Waid starts from the premise that even though an alien, he has the same needs in the same order as any human.  Physical needs then Safety needs then Emotional Needs then Maslow's Hierarchy of NeedsAchievement needs then finally the need for Self Actualization.  (You’ll find that the American beliefs in liberty and capitalism parallel this order of needs quite well).  Now for Superman, the first two, physical and safety need, aren’t an issue at all.  So that leaves emotional, achievement and self actualization needs.  Now he might gain some emotional connections by just being mild mannered Clark Kent, but certainly not achievement or self actualization.  Which then comes to a question of how much does he need to achieve…and this is where Waid turns to another idea, a quote in fact (which I’m hoping against hope will make it into the movie):

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” [Italics on the last part added]

 

It is the realization that Superman is who he is because to do anything less would not lead to his Happiness, and that a central theme of the story has always been that we should all strive to the edge our abilities, as Kal-El does, not just to help others achieve their goals (You will help them accomplish wonders) but to also achieve our own Happiness (you owe it to yourself).

So this is why I’m happy they are pulling from Waid, with the concept of Superman being a symbol of hope, the city on the Hill, because it places the whole story in a very strong and correct footing of spiritual values and Aristotelian virtue based ethics.

Now while Waid, or Marianne Williamson who first wrote this in her book A Return to Love: Reflections on A Course in Miracles, don’t make the connection, it is only through the American Way of personal liberty and personal achievement that we achieve the heights of shining our brightest.  So I feel the need to again point out, that the American Way is being championed in this movie already, whether they say the words or not.

Now, no one has seen this film yet, so it could either suck or make the Dark Knight Rises look like an F film student’s half-hearted attempt…or anything in between. I am merely pointing out that the complaints based only on this trailer are completely unfounded.  This movie appears to appeal to the best in this story, the core ideals that have let it rise above whatever flaws have plagued the various incarnations over the years.

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Filed under American Exceptionalism, Aristotle, Art, character, Faith, Individualism, Marianne Williamson, Movies, Movies for Conservatives, New Age Movies, Patriotism, philosophy, Popular Culture, virtue

In Defense of Intellectual Property Rights

So, no matter how annoying RINO’s and the psycho-Santorum social conservative wing is within the GOP, the fact is that our problems are nothing compared to how the libertarians are going out of their goddamn minds. The argument between libertarians and conservatives used to be over the need for social constraints—libertarians believed we didn’t need any and conservatives believed those needs could be handled mostly by church, private charity, community organizations, and local government (with maybe just a touch of state government in special circumstances)*—but not anymore. Now libertarians are becoming a big tent party that has no ideological center, in addition to old school libertarians, the anti-war left, drug addicts, and anarchists seem to all be flocking to the name libertarian under a truly perverse idea of liberty.

For instance I’m now seeing an attack on intellectual property. This seems to come from the a response to the poorly conceived SOPA and PIPA laws, in addition to the continual and idiotic extension of copyright laws (driven a great deal by Disney Corp.)…but to say because there is bad copyright and patent laws we should get rid of the concept of intellectual property is about as logical and ethical as saying that because you can find some innocent people who were convicted of murder then we should simply stop making murder a crime.

First let’s go over the bizarre argument from the libertarian organization Learn Liberty**

So the argument is that intellectual property isn’t like private property.

Well before we get into this argument let’s look at why you have private property rights in the first place.

To do this we go back to John Locke and the Theory of Natural Rights. The theory of natural rights is always best understood in the context of living on a deserted island. So let’s say, like Robinson Crusoe, you get stranded on a deserted island for 10 years. You build a house, you farm the land, you pick fruit. Everything is yours. Why? Because according to the theory of natural rights you have mixed your labor, something that is most certainly yours, with something that no one had any claim to beforehand (the land, the fruit, the materials you used to build your house). Now let’s say someone else gets stranded on the same island. Do they have to bow down to you because you own the entire island? No. You only have right to that which you worked for. You have a right to your house, the land you farmed, and any fruit you picked up yourself, but the new guy has the right to start farming on any land you haven’t, to build a house with any materials you haven’t used, and to pick up any fruit you didn’t. On the deserted island you only have a right to what you worked for and you can consume it yourself or give it to anyone you wish.
Now moving to actual civilization where all the land is owned by someone and you can’t just mix your labor and property that hasn’t been claimed by because pretty much everything has been claims (anyone (and there are actually laws like prescriptive easements and homesteading), Locke and the theory of natural rights points out, that you are compensated either in money or by barter for your labor. And for the sake of ease, I will simply refer to money as property as well. So even though you are no longer mixing your labor with something no one owns, you are being compensated for your labor at a rate that you agree to. You have a right to all the property that is a result of your labor. Why? Because your labor is an extension of you, thus your property is an extension of you. Which is why Locke’s three basic natural rights were Life, Liberty and Property (which Jefferson later tied to the point of life, Happiness).***

Let me say that again: You have a right to all the property that is a result of your labor because your labor is an extension of you, making all the property you have earned an extension of you and your person.

But we don’t live in the state of nature, we live in a society, under a social contract. And under the basic theories of Locke we have given up a portion of our rights to maintain the rest (because all it takes is one jerk to turn the state of nature from paradise into a living hell, and for all of its potential, society certainly has more than one jerk in its midst). One of the rights we give a little on is the right to property—we agree that a government must be funded with taxes, which are an imposition on our right to property, but better to give a little to protect the rest than to have none at all. I would argue anything over 10% of your income is tyranny and anyone who wants to take more than that should meet the end of Julius Caesar, Caligula, Richard III, Charles I, and the redcoats armies, but that’s another debate for another time—we all agree that we give up a little of our right to property under the social contract, to maintain the bulk of our property. This will be important later so keep this in mind.

Now how is intellectual property different from normal private property? Now if you were to buy the argument of the libertarian/anarchist video above they’re not the same at all. The argument seems to be that you are entitled to the property rights that come from your labor but not from your mind. This strikes me as odd because, according to Theory of Natural Rights, property is yours because it has become an extension of you through your labor. I find it hard to believe that the labor of my physical body can make something an extension of me, but the inspiration of my soul and the creativity of my mind and the works thereof are somehow not mine. I have to say that an individual is much more their soul and their mind than they are their body. So why if the work of their body makes something theirs, but the work of their mind isn’t theirs. From the Constitution, to Adam Smith, to arguments of Friedman and Hayek, to the speeches of Atlas Shrugged, well articulated philosophy and understanding of history and human nature to poorly worded intrinsic understanding, people have understood that if you have the right to the results of your body you certainly have a right to the results of your mind. The work of your mind is even more you than the work of your body. And if you have the right to creations from your body you certainly have rights to creations from your mind. In fact before seeing this video, I knew of only one work in history that valued the works of the mind as lower in value than the works of the body: Das Kapital by Karl Marx. Remind me where that philosophic line leads to. To say you don’t have the rights to the works of your mind is actually worse than anarchy; it is among the most vicious foundations of socialism and collectivism. (This is also part of the liberal ideal that those that work physically are equal or greater than those that work with the mind).

Now the speaker in this video claims that intellectual property rights are intellectually incoherent. But only if you use his 3 part system. Absolute rights, rights created by the government, or no rights at all. What he seems to ignore is what we really have: absolute rights tempered by the needs of the social contract. The social contract does not create rights, it infringes on them here or there so that the bulk of those rights may be saved from the chaos of anarchy. Now taking the traditional view of natural rights, the first view, that intellectual property rights would continue on in perpetuity would actually be correct in the state of nature. In the state of nature your intellectual property rights would be eternal and you could will them to any inheritor you wished or to the public. However because of the social contract, something that is not addressed at all in this video, and actually quite conveniently ignored, we understand and enter into a state where there are certain limitations placed on intellectual property through copyright, trademark, and patent law.

The primary restriction on these rights is time. Copyrights, patents expire after time? Now we know the reason why, so people can build off of other ideas, stand on the shoulders of giants, and further society. No one denies that society is made better by building ideas on each other. But why should intellectual property fade where physical property doesn’t? The answer is quite simple, physical property does fade. Houses decay, land that is not worked produces nothing, business mismanaged fails, and all other forms of physical property decay. If a multi-billionaire leaves their entire fortune to their children, that fortune will not last forever. If the children are idiots they will quickly squander even the most vast fortune. Fortunes are only maintained if the next generation continues to work and continues to produce. All physical items will decay if they are not kept up, and up keep costs money which means either money for up keep will have to be earned, the items will have to be sold, or they will just decay. Physical property decays. Limits are placed on intellectual property not because they are special and should be treated differently from other property rights but so they are actually treated like physical property rights. The parchment Homer wrote the Iliad on has long turned to dust, but the idea still shines as brightly as ever, and thus to make both the physical and intellectual property rights equivalent the intellectual property rights must be given a end date. We can debate what that should be (I like life of the artist + 25 years or 75 years after creation, whichever is longer, for copyright, and 20 years for patents…but that is negotiable). So the argument that intellectual property rights are contradictory is simply intellectually dishonest.

Now the second claim that this video makes against property rights is that to enforce intellectual property rights “You have to interfere with people’s other property rights in real physical objects and to stop them from using those objects as they wish to.” This is just patently false and either a bald face lie or the speaker in the video ain’t bright. If I want to buy a computer, hack into Windows and rewrite as much code as I want I can do that. And nothing is going to happen to me. I have the right to buy anything I want, make modifications or changes to my property. And no one is going to stop me and no one is going to care…as long as I keep my property in my house. The kind of enforcement that he is talking about here is when you take something that belonged to someone else and either share it or try to resell your new product. In either case you’re offering competition to the original creator. Your cutting into the profits they worked for and are not enjoying any of the benefits of. In a lot of cases people are more than happy to have their patents used by others, so long as they get paid. Tesla was more than happy that Marconi got credit for inventing the radio, which Tesla invented, because Marconi had to pay him on 13 patents. Youtube and fanfic websites are allowed to operate and have so much copy-written material on them because it’s free advertising. It’s only when you start cutting into the profit share or start making money that patent and copyright holders start objecting. So it’s not that your property rights are violated, its that your hurting their property rights and they get kind of testy about that. Who’d of thought?

Then of course he makes the claim that you can still have creativity and invention without patents and copyrights. Let’s ignore the fact that Venice and Florence offered a version of patents and copyright in the 1400’s (remind me which cities were the center of the Renaissance in the 1400 and 1500’s) or that England and France have the origins of copyright and patent laws since the 1500’s (again centers of the later Renaissance and Industrial Revolution)…remind me again why the Spanish Empire kind of shriveled up and died intellectually and economically without any kind of those laws (might also have something to do with their love of the gold standard, but again another discussion for another time).

But the inherent claim is that free exchange of ideas leads to better creativity and innovation. By that argument fanfic site should have the highest quality literature in the world and Unix and Linux should be the most effective and user friendly systems on earth. Oh wait. The vast, vast, of fan fiction just sucks and Linux, while praised as a more stable system, is absolutely worthless to anyone who isn’t a computer geek. Also by that argument Open Office should be a better product than Microsoft Office. Pardon me while I laugh hysterically. Strangely enough you get what you pay for, and you can’t pay people for ideas when there isn’t protection for intellectual copyright.

Oh but wait they have a rebuttal that shows an artist can make money even without intellectual property rights.

Their example, Verdi. Since Verdi didn’t have intellectual property rights to fall back on, but still made enough to live off of, this shows you don’t need intellectual property rights. This again conveniently ignores little things, like the fact that Verdi was commissioned (i.e. he got paid upfront) to write several of his operas, and that his operas were quite famous in countries with intellectual property rights which he could fall back on if he had to. It also ignores that before intellectual property rights art existed only when the artist was paid by a patron, and that almost all scientific advancement for most of the dark ages was only in military science, because people were actually paid for that. It also ignores the problem for writers. A musician like Verdi could make money as a performance artist. A writer can’t. If there are no intellectual property rights, then when a writer publishes a book a publisher could theoretically just take the book and reprint it without paying the author and the author would have no recourse (see the history of Google Books)…it should come as no shock that as the patronage system died out the only place you found a lot of writers is in nations that had copyright laws.

One final point. If this video is supposed to be from a libertarian group then they should believe in liberty and capitalism (let’s ignore they already have given up on capitalism as capitalism cannot possibly operate without intellectual property rights). And as such they must believe in the sacrosanct nature of contract law (the current administration may not believe it’s sacrosanct, or even vaguely relevant, but any intelligent human understands that a contract is a contract is a contract). As such, many contracts legally include nondisclosure agreements. Without intellectual property rights I can almost guarantee you that every book, every movie, every album will come with a 20 page boiler plate contract that states ‘by buying this product you agree to not share…blah, blah, blah” having basically the same effect as copyright but taking up much more costs in court time as companies will have to exponentially increase prosecutions for contract violation and the fact that there will not be a standard (like copyright law is) so each contract will be slightly different and the merits of each judged individually. Yes, because I want a system that creates more lawsuits, I’m sure that will be wonderful for the economy.

Yes SOPA and PIPA and Disney’s efforts to keep Steamboat Willie under copyright are bad laws. The system needs correction: we need to reduce the length of time for copyright, to make patents more logical, to stop giving special considerations to fields that don’t deserve it and stop regulating the patents in certain fields out of existence. And Tort reform, we need tort reform to get the companies to stop suing everyone for even the slightest unintended infraction of copyright or patent law. But just because the system needs work and we need legal reform is not a reason to just do away with the natural rights of property to the creations of your mind and soul. The argument of these videos are that because the system is broken we should just do away with everything—throw the baby, the crib, and that entire nursery out with the bath water.

Intellectual property is the heart and soul of capitalism and without capitalism there is no liberty. So Learn Liberty should learn what liberty is based on, things like intellectual property rights.

*Yes I will fully admit that the social conservative wing does not understand this part and that government should not be used to implement these social constraints.
**Whom I usually like, but in this case are out of their gourd.
***Now one last caveat that was more applicable in Locke’s time than in ours. Locke stated that there is a limit to how much you could own, that limit being you only had the right to own what you could use. For instance, let’s say a person could only farm 30 acres, then they had a right to only 30 acres unless they were willing to hire people to help them farm anything above that 30. This is a distinction that really only relevant in Locke’s time because with the advent of capitalism very little isn’t used. That land you own but don’t do anything with isn’t wasted, it’s collateral for future projects. That money sitting in the bank isn’t wasted, it is being used by the bank to make loans. With the advent of capitalism and investment nothing really is lies fallow, resources may not be used wisely but next to nothing is deliberately wasted. Yes I guess there could be a case of someone buying up food just to let it rot, but first I don’t think you’ll find many people that insane who have the capital to do that (at least outside of our government), and second any law you could make to prevent people from not wasting resources would be so impossible to justly enforce that it would likely cause more harm than the evil it wished to stop.

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The best and worst movies of 2012

So I have had time to reflect on the few gems among the tripe from this year and once again prepared to offer my Top 10 List of movies of 2012. And like previous years,  I can’t find 10.

I was hoping for a full list this year. But The Hobbit ran too long, focused too much on dwarves eating, paid more attention to effects than character, and then didn’t have an ending. I wanted a dragon, goddamnit, not as a tease but as a character! The Odd Life of Timothy Green was cute, would make a good date movie, but I can’t justify it on a top list. Red Dawn was great in terms of the patriotism and mood, but I’ll admit the production quality, while certainly higher than the first, is still a bit shaky. Brave, while well done, is not as good as some of its other Pixar counterparts. And I know I may be the only one, but I find John Carter endlessly entertaining.

Now just as a quick reminder I have 4 criteria for great art.
Remember I have 4 basic criteria for great art.
1. It must be enjoyable (I have some kind of positive emotional reaction)…so that throws out most of the critic’s picks out.

2. It must understand human nature
3. It must use the tools of the medium well
4. It must have a meaningful and correct theme.

So here we go. The top 7 films of 2012. (For the movies that I’ve done full reviews of, I have them linked in the titles.)

#7. Cabin in the Woods

“Cleanse them. Cleanse the world of their ignorance and sin. Bathe them in the crimson of – Am I on speakerphone?”

Usually you wouldn’t see a horror movie on any top list because it’s a silly genre. But Cabin in the Woods is a merciless critique of the horror genre and all its stupid tropes. And it is done with wit, with skill and with a wonderful mocking of the horror genre.
This is obviously a little weak at meeting my 4 criteria, but it’s lambasting a genre that never lives up to them, so I think the weakness comes from the source not the material itself.

The Avengers6. The Avengers

“With everything that’s happening, the things that are about to come to light, people might just need a little old fashioned.”

We all love this film. We all waited for the several years for it to come out. We doubted if it would be any good after we saw how bad Captain America was. But Whedon pulled it out and gave a film that was not only entreating but developed the characters in ways we had not seen in the previous films.

Right, wrong, or indifferent, comic book characters have replaced the myths and legends that pervious societies used to convey ideals of heroism and virtue, and for all the flaws of the individual Avengers, we see something to strive for in terms of human nature within them.

M Bond5. Skyfall

M: Not very comfortable, is it?
Bond: You gonna complain all the way?
M: Go on! Eject me! See if I care!

I would say this is both the best Craig Bond film yet, and the most mature Bond film of all time (I still say that GoldenEye is the best Bond, but that is certainly up for debate). The movie offers us a deeply moving closure to the Bond/M relationship, a chance for Bond to grow as a person, and of course all the final pieces of the Bond mythology (Moneypenny, Q, Martini’s shaken not stirred, not to mention the car from Goldfinger). And at last we had a Bond villain that was both frightening and over the top in the way only a Bond villain can be.

Its only flaw is that it didn’t continue with the plot that the last two films with the Quantum (SPECTRE?) organization. Just one line from Bardem of “I got information from your friends at Quantum, they really hate you Mr. Bond” or something like those lines, it would have kept the plot line alive without ruining the pacing of the film. I can only hope we come back to this plot in the next film.

Now some have complained about the pacing of this film, but I think it’s because they made this film a five act story instead of the three acts we have become so used to. It’s a more complex story requiring a more complex structure.

But this movie quotes my favorite part of my favorite poem. How can I not love that:

Though much is taken, much abides, and though we are not now that strength which in old days moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are… One equal temper of heroic hearts, made weak by time and fate, but strong in will to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

4. Trouble with the Curve

Trouble with the Curve
“Now get out of here before I have a heart attack trying to kill you.”

Not Eastwood’s best performance of the year (that would involve a chair), but it is still a great movie. It serves as a great counterpart to last year’s best film Moneyball. Moneyball showed up that in life we must adapt or die. Trouble with the Curve shows that any new innovation shouldn’t throw out all the old tried and true methods—that life is more than just numbers. That there needs to be balance. And it does this with three very unbalanced characters who together grow and learn from each other.

Okay those are the also rans who are on the list because a Top 3 would be rather sad…now let’s get to the three I actually had a hard time ordering.

3. ArgoArgo

“Bad news, bad news. Even when it’s good news, it’s bad news. John Wayne in the ground 6 months and this is what is left of America.”

This is the movie that the best director Academy Award should have gone to (stupid Academy). Affleck manages to have this movie go from a good thriller to a hilarious dark comedy and back to great thriller seamlessly. The skill required to take the tone of movie in radically different directions without making it jarring or seem forced is something most directors are smart enough to not even try. Affleck does it without flaw.
Maybe it’s that Hollywood hates Ben Affleck. Yes he’s made some very questionable acting choices (he’s not a terrible actor but he does pick terrible scripts on occasion). But between Gone Baby, Gone, The Town, and now Argo Affleck has cemented in my mind as one of the great actors of this generation. While I disagree with him on most politics I am more pleased that he is not running for the Senate because this means there will still be more great movies to come.
Anyway Argo is a great film. It shows the creativity of our people in the intelligence services. It shows the unscrupulous and inept people whom an anti-Semite like Carter surrounded himself with (oh, let’s leave them all hanging because of the optics on a mission). Affleck manages to gives us excellent characterization on a large cast for a movie this short. The only reason I would say that this is not the best film is that the theme of this film is not as momentous as the next two films.

2. The Dark Knight Risesdark-knight-rises-cast-1920x1080

“A hero can be anyone. Even a man doing something as simple and reassuring as putting a coat around a little boy’s shoulder to let him know that the world hadn’t ended.”

Christopher Nolan outdid himself again with this film. In this retelling of A Tale of Two Cities we have a skillful critique of the philosophy that says all wealth is evil and an equally damning critique of those who would use this lie to gain power over. And to top it off they give us a philosophical discussion of the nature of fear, heroism and living the good life. I only give Affleck my call for best director by mere fractions due to his ability to switch tones in the film so well, but Nolan is also a truly great director who took a story that was little more than fluff and action and gave us three films of depth and soul. He made us care about Bruce Wayne the person, not just the costume, and he showed us what a hero is and can be.
This film should win best screenplay, but again I fear it won’t.

1. Les Miserables

“To love another person is to see the face of God.”

Les Miserables Posters
This film does stand a good chance of winning the best picture award it so richly deserves. While I have previously commented on some flaws in the directing and editing this movie still soars above the rest. It gives us salvation and redemption, tragedy and comedy, passion and vengeance. And it does it in possibly the hardest form to work in, the musical. It is without question the best film of 2012.

So what was the worst film of 2012? Promised Land for bad politics? Lincoln for finally proving Spielberg has only hype left and no talent? Life of Pi for taking a book with an infantile understanding of religion and spirituality (I liked the points it made, but it made them so poorly) and let it be directed by one of film’s worst directors? Taken 2 for the plot line of, dad didn’t want daughter to go to Paris because it’s unsafe, but hey, let’s have a family get together in Istanbul, because that’s gotta be safe? Atlas Shrugged II for being even more poorly made than the first even though it had more money (oh please let them recast everyone again for the third)? Cloud Atlas for being a pretentious and tedious attempt to redo The Fountain? Zero Dark Thirty for breaking more federal intelligence laws than any other film in history? Twilight for, well, being Twilight? The Lorax for being useless bullshit? Safe House and Flight for making me realize the glory days of Denzel are over, and I have no hope of them coming back.

No this dishonor of worst film of 2012 goes to Prometheus. Prometheus? Yes, Prometheus. This may come as a bit of a shock. After all, while not the best prequel ever, it wasn’t that bad. It was a great thriller, kept me on the edge of the seat nearly the entire time. It had some pretty good character development. It was well done. So why is it the worst film of the year? Well first I thought the movie was flawed because it asked massive questions about the nature of life, the universe and everything…but it failed to provide even a hint of answer. Which made it unbelievably dissatisfying. But that was only why it wasn’t going on the top of the list. Little did I know when I first saw it that there were answers in the original script. I’m not going to go into how bizarre these answers are, (I only have two words and a link, follow at your own risk: Space Jesus ) but let me just say that if that was the original intent of Ridley Scott then this is by far the dumbest movie I have ever heard of. Ridley Scott has made some of the best films ever created… this is not one of them.

Which movies am I looking forward to?
A Good Day To Die Hard (Mindless fun), 42 (could be pointlessly preachy, I hope not), Oblivion (I’m still unsure what this is about), Iron Man 3 (mindless fun), Thor 2 (mindless fun), Much Ado About Nothing (Whedon does Shakespeare, need I say more), Man of Steel (Nolan please give me a fourth great superhero movie), Red 2 (mindless fun), Ender’s Game (this all depends on the visuals for the game).

As you can see not exactly a list composed primarily of deep films. So it will be a short list again next year in all likelihood.

What do I have no intention of seeing?
Star Trek and Hangover III

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Filed under Art, Movies, Movies for Conservatives, Popular Culture

Reflections on the Election: Why I was wrong, Why Obama Won, and what the GOP needs to do. Part III

It’s been a month since the election…and as you can tell from the limited number of posts, I’m still kind of depressed Obama won, America Lostabout this (and overworked at work, but that’s another story).  I’m still shell-shocked that people could be that stupid—even I, who believe the masses are idiots, can’t fully comprehend that people are so fucking stupid as to vote in a tyrant not once but twice.  It baffles the mind.  If you care about only what you can get you should have voted for the guy who would guarantee a higher chance at raises and better jobs: Romney.  If you cared about other people you should have cared about the guy who would have done the most to improve the middle class: Mitt.  If you care about character it would be the guy who personally does charity whenever he can: Willard Mitt Romney. Intelligence, that would be the guy who got his J.D. and MBA in the same 4 years: The Governor.  Experience, class, vision, leadership, surrounding himself with qualified people.  On every criteria you can come up with it’s a no brainer, but, but, but…

People are really fucking short sighted, envious and dumb.

But are we just powerless to do anything? Are we at the mercy of party leadership to pull us out of this tailspin the country has voted itself in (dear god that’s a depressing thought)?  Luckily no.  Unfortunately I’m not promising anything easy either.

So what can we as individuals do?

Well first I would like to turn back to the exit polls.  Now looking at ethnicity or gender or even age is pointless because there is nothing we can do to change that.   People are what they are.  (Yes, age changes, but it’s not like we have any actual control over it).

2012 exit polls education

Now education can change (complete shocker that Obama the no intelligence/no high school bracket and the no real world experience/postgraduate bracket) but unless you’re a parent most of us can’t really affect people’s education.  If you are a parent, I might suggest that you state you’re not paying for any kind of college education unless they get a degree in the Math/Science area and thus have marketable skills (if they want to get a dual major and have a liberal art as well, well you can negotiate) but parents do not pay for Sociology degrees they are worthless and breed dumb liberals.

2012 exit polls single

Next we turn to gender and marriage status.  A lot of to do was made about women in this election, but as you see it wasn’t really women so much as single women.  And I have seen conservative writers talk about how the single women pose a threat to liberty as they seem to look to the government for the security nets…but it if you look at the data single men are also pretty dumb. The conclusion I’m drawing here isn’t that women are liberal, it’s that single people on the whole are liberal and need to be stopped.  (Yes, I as a bachelor, may not want to throw stones in a glass house, but I’m not as dumb as my fellow singles who voted for Barry…but if you are or know any single, intelligent, conservative, spiritually open women in the Phoenix area…well…my email address is posted…).  Now does this mean we should all go out and get married without standards or relationships, that marriage is an end unto itself. No.  One of the reasons we have a high divorce rate is that people don’t take the time to plan and make sure they’re making a right choice.  So really unless you want to start playing matchmaker which some of us are more qualified than others (this would certainly not be a skill of mine).

2012 exit polls religion

And then we see that Obama did well with the non-religious crowd* and Romney did well with the religious crowd.  Let me put these last two points in context. It doesn’t have as much to do with faith or companionship.  For a lot of people it is an issue of safety.  If you have a spouse, if you have an active church community you have someone you know you can fall back on if things go bad, if you don’t have these things, then the psychology of most people is to seek something you can fall back on: the government.  Now I would rather people evolve and see themselves as their fallback (or at least maybe God) but if we’re going to get there we first have to have an economic system that allows people to take care of themselves (i.e. we need to get rid of liberals and progressives at every level).

So what does this have to do with religion?  Well it means that if you’re a member of a church you need to encourage, push for, and if necessary demand, that your church be more active in the community—charity, public works and improvement projects, fundraisers not for the church but those honestly in need. This should have nothing to do with demonization or dogma.  Only about helping the community and strengthening the bonds of community.

If you’re not in a church, say a New Ager, it couldn’t hurt to find a non-pushy church out there and see if they would like help with those charity projects.

If you’re in a church that does do these kinds of charity projects then see if you can invite people you know to help, don’t proselytize, don’t make it about belief, only about helping others.  (Also may I suggest making your charity functions known to the local middle and high schools—students, especially college bound students, are more and more looking for community service on their resumes—and let them know their parents are invited as well).

This has nothing to do with dogma, it has to with a core tenet in every religion I can think of, charity, community, compassion.

Show people that government isn’t the only source that they can fall back on.  Look at it this way, the way people talk about others often shows how they themselves think.  I call it the “I am the world” fallacy, and I’m guilty of it myself sometimes, we all are.  We tend to make assumptions about the way people act based on our own habits and thoughts.  Conservatives naturally tend to think that the government isn’t needed because we ourselves are more generous and just assume everybody does the right thing.  Liberals assume others are avaricious, cruel, irrationally selfish, and miserly not because they’re saints and know everyone else is stingy, but because they themselves are not compassionate at their heart—they fear they will have no one to fall back on because in their heart of heart they know they won’t help other either.  (Liberals give to charity less than conservatives and they volunteer a hell of a lot less than conservatives, see Who Really Cares by Arthur C. Brooks).

But if we get people who might not usually attend church to come to charity events we can show them that people do care for people and that we don’t need government to care for us…and maybe we can even show them there is personal joy in compassion and charity.  Trust me, a person who does charity out of the joy it brings them never votes liberal, liberals give out of guilt not joy.

So get your church (or any other group that has the resources) involved in the community (if you’re not doing at least 3 events a month, it’s not enough), invite people to come just for the charity aspect, and watch their belief that the government is the only one looking out for them disappear (also with more human contact and larger social circles we might fix that single problem listed above).

Also this process will help destroy that one thing that Obama did well in “He cares about people like me.”

2012 exit polls key points

Charity and a strong community teach us that we are capable of caring for people who aren’t like ourselves.

But that can’t be all we have to do.  Liberals have done a great job with controlling the media.  News, movies, TV shows, you name it there are liberal messages.  But we cannot give in on this.

So there are a few things we can do.  The first is that we can try to pull their funding.  Here at the Conservative New Ager we’re going after that Goebbels style propaganda wing MSNBC.  We encourage people to write to their advertisers and pull their ads.  It works.  If a company just gets a hundred letters asking them to make sure the shows they are advertising on are only reporting the truth, they will either pull the ads or they will use the power their money buys them to get results.  We have already heard from P&G and UPS.

The next thing is that we need to expose people to the truth.  I would recommend everyone use all the social media they have to expose their friends to the truth.  Now you don’t have to repost a thousand articles every day, but don’t be afraid to share something for fear of losing a friend.  For everyone you lose you’ll likely help push a two or three that much closer to the truth.  (And if you’re like me you don’t have many liberal friends left anyway, it’s the middle we’re trying to win, not the ones beyond hope).

Also if you get a real newspaper (there aren’t many left: The Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times…if it uses AP articles don’t bother) take it to work and leave it in the break room every day.  It can only help expose people to the truth.

But on that note we need to share the media that is conservative we need to focus on the stuff that isn’t the news and isn’t explicitly political.  Liberals have tried to infect every book, every movie, every show with liberal messages and just habituate people into thinking in liberal terms.  The problem is that most good literature is more conservative in its themes.  Self sufficiency, rational thought, ethical behavior, connection to God.  These subtle themes are in literature everywhere, even when it’s written by artists who are liberal themselves.  George Orwell was a socialist, but 1984 and Animal Farm are scathing critiques of the very state Orwell would likely have supported.   Given time, the truth will out, as a conservative writer once put it. What conservatives make the mistake of doing is trying to give people Atlas Shrugged and Ann Coulter and Thomas Sowell.  It doesn’t matter that we enjoy those, those books only preach to the choir.  If someone isn’t open to those ideas, if they’ve been indoctrinated to think conservatives are evil, Rand was psychotic, Coulter is vicious and Sowell is an Uncle Tom, it doesn’t matter if the facts are there, their emotional reaction to those works will prevent them from seeing the facts.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t share books and TV shows with friends, family, acquaintances. I’m sure we know lots of people who are not conservative but if they were introduced to those ideas the logic and reason of it would come out.  That is why I am putting together a list of books, movies and TV shows that depict the conservative themes and that we agree with, without being explicitly conservative.   The Individual, reason, ethical behavior, long term thinking, the truth.  These are things that bring people close to conservatism.  I would take a look at this list (and keep coming back as I hope to keep adding to it).  Lend these works out to people who you think might be open to them.  Give them as gifts for any holiday and any excuse you can.  And then discuss them with the person after they’ve read or watched it (never give out something you’re not familiar with already!  You don’t want to get caught where they make some silly liberal interpretation and don’t have a comeback for it).  It seems silly but ideas have power, and once they’re in a person’s mind they spread not just to affecting the other ideas of that mind but in the way they behave to others and the way they influence the ideas of others.  And if they get more conservative in their thoughts introduce them to the more explicitly conservative works…but don’t start with those, they’ll just shut people down.

Finally it’s the old stand-bys.  Write a blog or letters to editors.  Donate to organizations that promote your beliefs (right now I would focus on Heritage and Freedomwork because they do not seem overly obsessed with the social issues which are dragging this party down and giving the left too many easy targets), volunteer for campaigns, get involved.  We have four years where we can do next to nothing to save the economy or well being of our allies across the sea.  Nothing.  We have this idiot tyrant in charge and he will wreck the place as much as he can through a combination of stupidity and malice.  Focusing too much on that will be somewhat fruitless for us as individuals—but as individuals we do have the power to influence those around us and help bring them to our side.

*Also Obama did exceedingly well with people who aren’t not affiliated with any religion but are spiritual  you know, the kind of people the Republicans and Reincarnation was written specifically for.  If you know some of these people, could it hurt to give them a copy?

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Weekly Meditation: Spirit, Body, & Mind

Sorry about not having a meditation this last week. Work has been a little more chaotic than usual and here’s a basic rule of keeping your energy levels at a healthy level: learn when to say no. This is one of those things I am horrible about, I’m an obsessive compulsive workaholic…but I actually learned to say no to writing a mediation when I was too tired to say what I wanted to in any semi-articulate fashion.

So over the last few weeks we have covered how to recover and grow energy in your soul and how to make sure your body is in harmony with the physical world. Today I’m going to go over the last part of keeping your mind up. This is important because if your don’t keep your body and mind up then your soul is stuck in a body (controlling it through your brain) when both don’t work in harmony (think of putting a NASCAR driver in a Yugo with the break lines cut…it doesn’t matter how focused your soul is if everything it has to work with isn’t working).

Balance between mind, body, and soul is hard…but it’s something we should strive for.

So how to keep your mind working in tune with your soul? It might be my bias as an English teacher, but I recommend reading.

Like the last few weeks this isn’t really a just this week kind of meditation, it’s more of a continuous habit.

There are three kinds of reading and I recommend them all*.

The first is for entertainment. We usually have this down if we’re reading, but if you’re weird like me you sometimes have to remember to put down the philosophic tomes and actually read something for fun.

The second is philosophy. This is reading heavier nonfiction books (not just for information but to question and think). (Various logic games, puzzle and riddles can also work out this logic side of the mind).

The third and final way is through art. At a spiritual level, life is about seeing patterns in the world around us and deducing the lessons that life is trying to teach us through these repeated events. Often we don’t see the patterns. We don’t see that being confronted over and over again with an overbearing boss is really a call to stand up. We don’t see that loss is really life handing us opportunity. Or that painful situations are actually places to learn. Life is trying to teach us the lessons we need to reach enlightenment, sometimes with all the subtly of an Ayn Rand speech, and yet we still miss those lessons. That is where art comes in. The stripping away of levels in art to find the deeper meanings, and the more obscured themes is the best training I know of for learning to see the patterns within life itself. (Aside of course from meditation and reflection, but as to an external action reading of art does this better than anything I’m aware of…please let me know if you know of a something better). Poetry, literature, drama at their highest levels they teach us to think in our most spiritual ways.

Now I would recommend taking time each week for a little of all of these. A mystery novel, some Thomas Sowell, and maybe a little Tennyson (the combinations are endless). Granted it would be nice to have works that balance all three parts but aside from Shakespeare (and even he doesn’t always perfectly balance, not to mention you have to know a lot about the times and the language to get everything you want out of it) I know of few works that balance even two of these points well…let alone all three.

And if you take time to work on all three aspect each week, in conjunction with paying attention to being in harmony with the physical world and your soul, I believe you will find greater balance in your life and get more out of all these other meditations.

*Actually 4, when you count reading for information, but honestly you’re reading a blog about politics and religion, I think you may have staying informed roughly down.

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Movies that show the rich as good #6 Pretty Woman

Vivian: Tell me one person who it’s worked out for.
Kit: What, you want me to name someone? You want like a name? Oh, God, the pressure of a name… I got it. Cinda-fuckin’-rella

We’re going to deviate from the star of the film and focus on the rich people in this film for just a minute (after all that’s what this series of blog is about).

This movie is a little odd in that it actually shows two rich people (arguably three if you count Morse’s grandson, but he doesn’t really play that much of a part aside from being likable) who are decent human beings.

Let’s deal with the minor characters first. James Morse, played by lifetime character actor Ralph Bellamy, is the owner of the shipyard which brings our main rich character, Edward Lewis, to L.A. His shipyard which he has clearly built from scratch through his own genius, effort, blood and sweat, is on the financial ropes (the movie was made shortly after the crash of the late ‘80’s when a lot of industries were on the chopping block for creative destruction…which is actually one of the fundamental principles of a functioning capitalist system.) However, Morse’s company is not so flawed that it is as easy a kill as it first looked. And this is where we see the character of Morse. He is not the kind of man who whines about it being unfair—his first reaction to Lewis’ statement that he intends to dismantle his company is “I’ll buy your stock back.” He deals with Lewis fairly and offers to make him a fair deal that says ‘I’m sorry that you didn’t feel your investment in my company has not paid off. I believe in my company, I won’t bother you with emotional outbursts, I’ll deal with you as an adult and offer you a fair exchange.” His next inclination is to fight for his company and put his own money where his mouth is, like any man of character would. And finally when he sees that he facing insurmountable odds he seeks to cut a deal that will leave those who have been loyal to him in a safe position.

“Mr. Lewis and I are going to build ships together, great big ships.”

Seldom do you see Hollywood portray any of these traits. Often they are depicted as whining, willing to use other’s money and in the end really only caring for themselves. (And sometimes that first trait is viewed as a virtue).

Now onto the movie’s other rich guy, Edward Lewis.* Our first impression of Lewis is that he has problems with his personal relationships, but given the brief but very happy reunion with an ex-girlfriend, who seems to remember him fondly, it is clear that while not a master of personal relationships, he is a very well liked human being. Further at all points when he is honest and blunt with people (except when bluffing about stopping Morse’s defense contracts, but as in all games bluffing is expected).

Now some would claim that being the kind of businessman who engages in hostile takeovers to break up the pieces and sell them off is heartless and evil…of course this ignores the basic fact that by doing so, by engaging in what economists call creative destruction—weak companies die or are taken over before death, their products sold cheap their workers tend to find jobs in the same industries which have been revitalized with new supplies and workers. (Or you can go with the despair of “too big to fail”…yeah tell me how that brings prosperity). But even this claim is far fetched with Edward Lewis. The contrast comes in with two statements he makes, the first is in reference to Morse saying he would destroy Lewis, “I look forward to it sir.” And the second is in critiquing of his slimy lawyer (do lawyers come in any other form?) when, after giving him the beating he so richly deserves, he points out “It’s the kill you love” as an insult of Stucky’s character. Lewis’ character is shown by these two points (as well of a lot of smaller moves) that what he loves is not the destruction of another’s business, as those who obsessively hate the rich might suggest, but rather the challenge his job presents. Like most people who are very good at what they do, Lewis is constantly seeking a challenge, something to push himself even further. And it just so happens that he finds an even greater challenge worthy of his skill in rebuilding a business rather than simply taking it over, which is why he cuts a deal with Morse at the end of the film to help revitalize the business.

But, I will admit it is clearly Vivian Ward who helps him get out of the rut of just taking over characters. Lewis was not able to do it completely on his own. He was getting lost in his habits, and overly influenced by his sleazy lawyer, and it was Robert’s character that broke him out of his trance. But this does bring up a tangential point I would like to bring up. Several people I know hate this film because they think it’s derogatory to women because Ward states “I want the fairy tale.” As if that somehow is sexist and degrading to women. They apparently missed both the nature of the movie where Lewis needs Ward to survive and be happy and be not just a good person, but a great one. The character of Vivian Ward needed 3 grand, a week’s worth of nice clothes (yeah they show her trying on a lot, but she leaves with only a couple of garment bags that she can carry by herself…granted the Rodeo Drive stores probably knock the price tag up to $20,000-$30,000, but really she walked out with a week’s worth of clothes and that’s it). So it took at most $33,000* for her to get her life together, it is clear that while she might not have been as happy, she would have been just fine and done quite well for herself on her own. Edward Lewis needed her. She didn’t need him; it was just an added perk. Everyone forgets, that’s how her fairy tale (and I think the one all sane people have) goes:

“What happens after he climbs the tower and rescues her?”
“She rescues him right back.”

*I’m really going to ignore the ethics of picking up a prostitute. Sexual mores are extremely personal and seldom based on unbiased reasoning (and that goes for people on all sides of these arguments). In the end everything that occurs is between consenting adults and we’re going to leave it at that.
*And before you try to make that out to be a huge sum, keep in mind the clothes have limited value beyond opening more doors than her previous attire. I could give lots of people I’ve known 33 grand in cash and they wouldn’t be able to significantly improve their life. The character of Vivian Ward is the kind who can use whatever she has to make the most of her life, which is why she was never overly impressed or awed by Lewis’ money.

Everybody comes here; this is Hollywood, land of dreams. Some dreams come true, some don’t; but keep on dreamin’ – this is Hollywood. Always time to dream, so keep on dreamin’.

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Movies that show rich as good #9 Castle

There are two kinds of folks who sit around thinking about how to kill people: psychopaths and mystery writers. I’m the kind that pays better.

Before anyone thinks that this is only going to be a list of movies made before 1970 where everyone in almost every film is wealthy and sporting more liquor than I would possibly know what to do with (don’t believe me, watch a Thin Man movie, fish drink less). But have no fear, this is not just a list of classics…

Take our number #9 pick: Castle and its eponymous character Richard Castle. Is Castle rich? Oh yeah, this bestselling author can buy a bar just because he feels like it or put out 100K just to help get a killer. The man certainly qualifies as rich enough to quit working and still have enough to live comfortably. (Which is arguably what he’s done since he’s now only averaging a book a year).

Richard Castle: Oh, I’ve been kicked out of all of New York’s finer educational institutions at least once. The irony is, now that I’m rich and famous, they all claim me as alum and want money.
Kate Beckett: It is just so rough being you.
Richard Castle: My cross to bear.

And what makes him so great?

Well there is one thing, his clear sense of justice…not just in catching the bad guys but in the sense of that this is a man who digs through old case files to see that the true love of a man who breaks his girlfriend out of jail for a crime

And let us not forget that Kate comes from money as well…not Castle money, but certainly from that line between upper middle class and lower upper class…and she is also shown as a hero without equal.

they didn’t commit ends with them being released not both thrown into prison. This is a man who puts his life on the line for friends and never does anything he even remotely considers wrong. (Immature to the nth degree yes, wrong no, and when he has screwed up he is remarkably willing to apologize).

Further, Castle while obscenely generous at times, he also understands the real purpose of money: to use it in furthering happiness. Yes Castle seems like he is irresponsible and devil-may-care…but that’s not because he can’t be mature (he has too many moving scenes with Alexis, Martha and Beckett for it to be that) it’s just that he has earned his second childhood through the hard work of writing over two dozen best sellers. He earned it and he’s going to enjoy it, and that’s more or less exactly what money is for.

Like most good people with or without money, Castle is a good child even to a mother of sometimes questionable skills (while we all love Martha at this point in her life, we all have to admit she was a terrible parent from some of the stories she and Castle tell). But like a good son Castle loves his mother, and for all of his annoyance is always there for her with a shoulder to cry on or a rent free apartment if she needs it.

And of course, forget Beckett and Martha, forget his generosity and devil-may-care attitude, the single most important thing is that Castle is admirable and that he is perhaps the single greatest father in the history of television. The character has raised a mature, self-reflective, high-achieving, self-sufficient daughter who is also well adjusted socially. And it’s just not writers shoehorning these characters in, the writing of the character of Castle is at all times supporting, caring, loving, and encouraging of his daughter and acts in exactly the way you would need to raise and encourage such a young woman. For whatever flaws of ego or clownishness the character comes with, his parenting skills and infinite love for his daughter more than wipe them out.

That is not to say money is a necessity of good parenting (although I think you’re rather selfish to bring a child into the world if you don’t have the money to support it) but the writers of Castle have gone out of their way to show a character who has more virtues than vices (and rather superficial ones as they disappear the second they are inappropriate), and they have made this character very rich without a moment of or scintilla of remorse over his well earned riches.

Like father like daughter?

Honorable Mention

Simon Tam from Firefly.  Yeah, Simon was uncomfortable and out of place.  But he gave us his whole extensive fortune for the love of his sister.  Have to appreciate that.

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The Conservative New Ager and The Snark Who Hunts Back Review The Dark Knight Rises: A Tale of Heroes, Politics and Death

This last week we (The Snark Who Hunts Back and The Conservative New Ager) went to go see The Dark Knight Rises together for the second time (the first being a trilogy marathon on opening night). We delayed writing a blog then because it became obvious there was so much we would have to see it again to fully appreciate the depth…and even on a second viewing we realized there is more than a single blog here.

But let’s get the overture out of the way. The final piece of this spectacular trilogy, like almost all of director Christopher Nolan’s recent work is thematically based off a work of literature…A Tale of Two Cities, in the case of The Dark Knight Rises. And while it might be hard to find the undercurrents of Othello in The Dark Knight, Faust in The Prestige, or Zorro in Batman Begins (which for symmetry should be renamed The Dark Knight Begins).

But it’s not just literary, it’s political…or at least it appears to be. The Dark Knight seemed pretty obviously a defense of the War on Terror, and The Dark Knight Rises seems a pretty striking assault on the morals of leftist economics. Now Nolan claims that his works aren’t political (a common defense by those who want to survive in a hostile political environment) and Occupy Wall Street thugs think they’re really smart in pointing out that the movie was written before OWS so it can’t be about them (this poor argument ignores that their rhetoric of evil has been spouted by the left quite vehemently in the last few years and also they clearly are so ignorant of the history of their own ideas that they don’t know their filth was spouted by demagogues in ancient Athens, and shown to be stupid then…so just because Nolan didn’t know about OWS doesn’t mean he wasn’t responding to the evil)…and even if Nolan is telling the truth that he didn’t intend it to a political statement (which I doubt) it works too well as one not to make some comments about the philosophy of the work.

Now ignoring the message of the trilogy taken as a whole (that’s another blog for another time) we think there are three main philosophical statements to this film: The nature of heroism, the politics of progressivism, envy and “social justice”, and the fear of death.

The Nature of the Hero

“A hero can be anyone. Even a man doing something as simple and reassuring as putting a coat over a little boy’s shoulder to let him know the world hadn’t ended.”

One of the more unbelievable complaints I’ve heard about The Dark Knight Rises was that it made it look like the common man can’t do anything for themselves, that they need the rich to save them. Never mind the fact that, by the end, Bruce Wayne barely had a cent to his name or that his money certainly didn’t help him climb out of the pit. We would just want to know if the person who made the complaint was even watching the same movie that we saw with our friends.

Not long after Bruce Wayne loses all his money, due to Bane’s attack on the stock exchange, he has a conversation with John Blake, a police officer who knows Wayne’s identity as Batman. Wayne tells Blake that the whole point of Batman was that he could be anyone, Batman was meant to be an inspiration to the people of Gotham, something that is repeated in both of the previous movies.

In Batman Begins Bruce Wayne tell Alfred:

“People need dramatic examples to shake them out of apathy. And I can’t do that as Bruce Wayne. As a man I’m just flesh and blood, I can be ignored, destroyed. But a symbol….as a symbol I can be incorruptible, everlasting…..”

In The Dark Knight, the Joker asks the fake Batman, Brian what batman means to him. Brian answers “He’s a symbol … that we don’t have to be afraid of scum like you”. And the whole point of Batman, as we see come to fruition at the beginning of The Dark Knight Rises, was not to create a legion of caped crusaders, but an army of men like Harvey Dent (before his psychotic break) and Jim Gordon—a group of people willing to stand up for what is right.

But we digress. The point is what made the average person a hero in The Dark Knight Rises.

At no point did John Blake, Commissioner Gordon, or the other members of the resistance, sit down and go ‘well, I’m just a common person, I’m just going to wait for the government or Batman to come save us’ (except for the character of Foley, who was rightly called out for being a coward). They worked tirelessly to find a way out on their own, they realized they were on their own the moment Bane took over the city and began to look for ways to free the city’s police force from the sewers.

When Batman did come back, in an a miraculous 11th hour miracle, they didn’t wait for him to clean up the mess. The police banded together and marched on Bane’s army, many of them dying in the fighting to save their city.

Selina Kyle, despite telling Batman that she was leaving the city as soon as she destroyed the debris blocking the tunnel, turned around and risked her life to fight for the city and to save Batman’s life.

Lucius Fox risked death and drowning , trying to find a way to stop the nuclear bomb from detonating.

Even Ra’s al Ghul (don’t you hate it when you agree with the words, if not the actions, of a villain?) says, during Bruce’s training, “The training is nothing! The will is everything! The will to act.”

The heroes who kept Gotham alive while Batman fought his way out of the pit

Every one of these people, training or no, had the will to act. They were all willing to give everything for their city, for their freedom. What could possibly be more heroic than that?

Fancy toys, nice cars, and a cool suit will only get you so far if you don’t have the will to do what is necessary, even when what is necessary may end your life.

Heroism isn’t about money, toys, or good looks; it’s a state of mind and living life, not with no fear of death, but with a willingness to die to defend others and defend your beliefs.

You may not be a superhero, but anyone can be a hero. That’s what The Dark Knight Rises shows us about heroism.

Politics, Socialism and evils of envy

“Repression is the only lasting philosophy. The dark deference of fear and slavery, my friend, will keep the dogs obedient to the whip, as long as this roof shuts out the sky.'”—A Tale of Two Cities*

You would have to have been pretty dense not to get that this movie was thematically inspired by A Tale of Two Cities. Even Dickens, for all of his sickeningly naïve progressive rhetoric, had an inkling of the evil of the French Revolution. A quick review of history if it’s been too long since that high school history class. Louis XVI in response to economic woes and civil unrest had given the public everything they wanted: an assembly, power of due process of law, and abdicated much of the absolute power of the monarchy. And while many where happy with these changes, the ignorant rabble who were open to the rhetoric of the most extreme thought it wasn’t enough. They stormed the Bastille, arrested Louis and his wife (who if you actually study history was not the vapid slut a layman’s understand of history tries to depict her as), and placed power in the hands of radicals like Robespierre and Marat. The Terror, Madam Guillotine, rivers of blood, atrocities on a scale that wouldn’t be seen again in France until the Nazi’s allowed the French to revel in their anti-Semitism. (A similar pattern would be seen when the Russians replaced the Tsar with a democratic government…but soon got rid of that in favor of a psychotically evil government).

She learned to hate her “ideal” world quickly enough.

This history lesson is important because this is the same pattern Nolan shows in Gotham. For all of it’s corruption in the first two films, Gotham at the beginning of The Dark Knight Rises was a city that had everything it wanted: Clean streets, an efficient police force (a city of 12 million with only 3,000 uniformed officers means an obscenely low crime rate), a healthy economy (the city could afford multiple simultaneous construction projects by Dagget, that means an incredibly good tax base, ergo strong economy…and football stadiums aren’t packed to the brim with every last seat filled during hard times), a mayor who has survived for over 8 years in office (usually a sign of prosperity) Even Selina Kyle’s words of decrying inequality ring hollow, he “old town” (suggestive of the gutter) apartment is hardly a shabby SRO or the slum heap of “the narrows” from the first film—and while in Batman Begins criminals could carry on with their nefarious dealings out in the open, or hide them in the vast slums, this is a Gotham where there are so few places to hide your activities you literally have skulk in the sewers (everywhere else is too bright and too well off to hide such activities)…Like the French they had everything they had asked for. And, like France, it took only a little fear and few mad men to stir the lowest rungs of society and bring about anarchy.
There are of course differences between A Tale of Two Cities and the Revolution it describes and the events of The Dark Knight Rises. The Bastille was stormed not to free prisoners (there were hardly any left in the Bastille by the time of the Revolution) but to gain weapons to take over the city. And even if you buy the myth of the Storming of the Bastille, the prisoners released from the Bastille were primarily political prisoners…not hardened thugs of organized crime. The fact that the Dent Law in The Dark Knight Rises was passed because there was a martyr to push through the law, does not change the fact that it, like all three-strikes laws and mandatory sentencing laws, are a particular point of hatred for the progressive who think it’s unfair that people who do evil and horrific things should, heaven forbid, be locked up where they can’t do any harm. But be it the Bastille and the release of a mere seven political prisoners or the opening of Blackgate Prison and letting a host of violent criminals go free, the result was ironically the same: The Terror.

The terror: a system where justice and trials are a mockery and the innocent are held as guilty for crimes they never committed…and where there is only one punishment: death. The terror, a system that provides so much that it makes everyone so equal that they are all starving and tearing at each other for daily sustenance (or like the Soviet Union or Gotham you could have food imported from the capitalistic society because you can’t produce any on your own). The terror: the utopia every half brained progressive idealist praises, only to lead to their own downfall.

In the real French Revolution the villain was Robespierre who used high rhetoric to justify rank thugery as a progressive march to fraternity and equality. In A Tale of Two Cities the villain was Madame De Farge, a woman so hell bent on avenging her family’s murders that she will see the whole world burn to get her pound of flesh. Nolan gives us both villains in the form of Bane and Talia al Ghul. Which of course leads us into the villainy of their perverse understanding of economics.

Let me spout the politics of envy and class warfare knowing it will only lead to your eventual destruction!

Before we get into showing how Nolan destroys the ideals of progressivism by showing what it brings, let’s dismiss one semi-intelligent objection: Bane and Talia don’t believe in progressivism, they’re trying to show how it is a failed system and how people must reject it. That’s not entirely an incorrect point…but what you need to also realize is that just because the villains may be a tool they don’t really believe in doesn’t mean that it isn’t showing the flaws of progressivism…and that just because they don’t believe in progressivism doesn’t mean they’re capitalist. Point in fact, the entire League of Shadows from Ra’s Al Ghul’s first words to Talia’s last is a world view based on feudalism and cronyism. The League believes it should be the one who decides who shall be successful and who shall fail. Bane says as much when he tells Wayne, “I learned here that there can be no true despair without hope. So, as I terrorize Gotham, I will feed its people hope to poison their souls. I will let them believe they can survive so that you can watch them clamoring over each other to “stay in the sun.” You can watch me torture an entire city and when you have truly understood the depth of your failure, we will fulfill Ra’s al Ghul’s destiny… We will destroy Gotham and then, when it is done and Gotham is ashes, then you have my permission to die.” As we stated above they rule through terror, not reason, not ethics, not law, justice—they dress their words up in the clothes of these higher ideals but their actions show them to be as hollow and lacking in substance on the inside as any scarecrow (especially if said Scarecrow sets himself up as the instrument of justice).

Politically speaking, there is much that is applicable to our current political situation in our country. Now, to be fair, I don’t believe that Christopher Nolan’s intent was to create a modern political allegory. This movie was written and being filmed long before the Occupy Wall Street movement, which shares many of the villains sentiments, began.

During the first few weeks of the Occupy movement we both remember having many conversations about the similarities between that movement and the early days of the French Revolution. Which is why the connection between The Dark Knight Rises and OWS comes so easily.

The views of Occupy Wall Street were shown almost perfectly in Bane’s and Catwoman’s words, as well as the actions of the people who jump at the chance to drag the rich out and punish them for their success.

Bane’s entire speech outside of Black Gate Prison is so reminiscent of something from a ‘mic check’ at Occupy Wall Street

“We take power from the corrupt, who, for generations, have kept you down with myths of…opportunity and we give it back to you, the people. Gotham is yours, none shall interfere, do as you please. We’ll start by storming Black Gate and freeing the oppressed…an army will be raised, the powerful will be ripped from their decadence and cast out into the cold where we all have endured, courts will be convened, spoils will be enjoyed…”

-Bane (apologies for mistakes, I was working from a VERY scratchy audio clip)

and for those of you who remember the scenes that accompanied the final lines of that speech, the violence is so similar to the rioting at Occupy Oakland that is was almost frightening, especially when you realize that this movie was written months before any of that every happened.

Selina Kyle (Catwoman) starts out with the same exact rhetoric as many an Occupy Wall Street supporter. In a conversation with Bruce Wayne she says “You think this is gonna last? There’s a storm coming Mr. Wayne. You and your friends better batten down the hatches. ‘Cause when it hits, you’re all gonna wonder how you ever thought you could live so large, and leave so little for the rest of us.”

Though after her betrayal of Batman she appears to change her tone in a way that OWS never did. Upon entering a home that had been ransacked after Bane’s Black Gate speech she comments on the fact that ‘this used to be someone’s home’ when she looks at a smashed family photo. Her friend says ‘now it’s everyone’s home.’ Kyle, unlike just about everyone in OWS who only has to look to the failure of the Soviet Union, the collapse of Greece or the repression of China and North Korea to know what a failed system socialism, when she saw what her ideals brought about very quickly had no problem seeing their evil and abandoning them.

The Dark Knight Rises shows what happens when give us capitalisms for anarchy or socialism. You have perversion of justice. You have to survive on the handouts and scraps provided to you. There is no growth. No prosperity. No civilization. Only blood and the terror.

Now on to a slightly more hilarious turn of events.

Shortly before the movie came out the Obama campaign (and liberals in general) noticed something they thought they could use as a brilliant attack against Romney.

Did you know that Romney had a business named Bain Capital?

Bain/Bane…get it?**

One of these guys is someone rich who could easily leave others to fend for themselves but doesn’t…the other is named Bane. Which one reminds you the most of the presidential challengert?

“It has been observed that movies can reflect the national mood,” said Democratic advisor and former Clinton aide Christopher Lehane. “Whether it is spelled Bain and being put out by the Obama campaign or Bane and being out by Hollywood, the narratives are similar: a highly intelligent villain with offshore interests and a past both are seeking to cover up who had a powerful father and is set on pillaging society,” he added.

As the Friday release date has neared, liberal blogs were the first to connect Batman’s toughest foe with Romney’s firm.

– Christopher Lehane (via Washington Examiner)

Yeah, they actually did that.

Hilariously, when Rush Limbaugh dared to point out the name similarities, liberal bloggers thought he was being insane and completely ignored that their side was the one who made the comparison first.

Luckily conservatives had a fellow conservative Chuck Dixon, comic book creator, and coincidentally, the co-creator of the villain Bane, to smack some sense into liberals.

In an interview with ComicBook.com Dixon had this to say.

“The idea that there’s some kind of liberal agenda behind the use of Bane in the new movie is silly…I refuted this within hours of the article in the Washington Examiner suggesting that Bane would be tied to Bain Capital and Mitt Romney appearing. Bane was created by me and Graham Nolan and we are lifelong conservatives and as far from left-wing mouthpieces as you are likely to find in comics…As for his appearance in The Dark Knight Rises, Bane is a force for evil and the destruction of the status quo. He’s far more akin to an Occupy Wall Street type if you’re looking to cast him politically. And if there ever was a Bruce Wayne running for the White House it would have to be Romney.”

-Chuck Dixon (Via ComicBook.com)

Romney is Bruce Wayne? That’s the best pseudo-endorsement I’ve heard all year. If I wasn’t voting for Romney before, I sure am now.

The Fear of Death

Blind Prisoner: You do not fear death. You think this makes you strong. It makes you weak.
Bruce Wayne: Why?
Blind Prisoner: How can you move faster than possible, fight longer than possible without the most powerful impulse of the spirit: the fear of death.
Bruce Wayne: I do fear death. I fear dying in here, while my city burns, and there’s no one there to save it.
Blind Prisoner: Then make the climb.
Bruce Wayne: How?
Blind Prisoner: As the child did. Without the rope. Then fear will find you again.

Now on the Conservative New Ager we have a fairly low opinion of the fear of death. In numerous blogs it has been ridiculed as the foolish, childish, ignorant paralytic it is. However, it must be admitted, that in the rush of these blogs to point out that “Wise men at their end know [death] is right” and that it is nothing to be feared but merely a natural part of life, that the wise also “do not go gentle into that good night.”

Bruce Wayne doesn’t fear death for the first half of the movie, that is true. He is not hindered by the fears that he once was. The problem is that in this attempt to rid himself of fear he went too far and rid himself of the desire for life as well. While the movie only uses the phrase “fear death” it might seem that it is encouraging people to embrace fear. But from context the movie is not telling people to embrace the paralyzing fear of death because it is this fear that encourages the federal government and the people of Gotham to stand ideally by, and the fear that causes Modine’s Foley to hide, while a terrorist takes over the city. Rather, the movie is encouraging a balance—that the proper way is to rid one’s self of the paralyzing fear of death of Wayne did in the first film, but to maintain the love of live, and the appreciation of death and knowledge that each moment could be your last and must be fought for, that comes with this love of life. It is only this appreciation of death, that pushes Wayne to make a jump that he could not otherwise make, because he knows that if he is to live he must push himself—and he cannot push himself without both the knowledge that there is no turning back or without the desire to do something other than seek his own end.

And then of course, as a final thought we can’t forget how wonderfully patriotic this film is. Okay maybe not so much in it showing the President to be a sniveling coward who gives into terrorist demands (patriotic or not that might be an accurate assessment)…or in how cowardly the bureaucracy is when they blow the bridge condemning many to die (again might be an accurate conservative message). But you will notice that the people of Gotham (not the scum the who follow Bain mind you, but the people who are terrorized by them) stand for “The Star Spangled Banner” and the only person shown to not have his hand over his heart is the scummy mayor (who apparently is close to an even scummier Congressmen…again perhaps an accurate assessment of current events). And along with the police it is these people who fight against Bain. And you’ll notice that on the day of the battle even a British director like Nolan knows to show the tattered remains of the flag still flying, still offering hope, and as a symbol that on that day evil will fall. Finally the last words about Gotham, which they say is America’s greatest city, is that it will rise from the ashes of this act of terrorism…you would have to be pretty dense not to see this as a reference to New York, and a testament to how quickly America did pick itself up.

You don’t owe these people anymore. You’ve given them everything.

Not everything. Not Yet.

And the sad fact is that we’ve only scratched the surface of this film…

*On a side note, it should be said that, for all of Dickens’ flaws, A Tale of Two Cities is Dickens’ best work…too bad he stole half the plot from Victor Hugo’s Ninety-Three.

** Oh and if you want to to play the silly let’s compare political figures to fictional ones…I see your Bane/Bain…and raise you…
(Romney Ryan photos thanks to Heather Parsons)
 

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Weekly Meditation: Who am I

So a little late, again, sorry (start of school year chaos).

So a week and a half ago I recommended you go over what you want in life.  Is what you want going to lead to your happiness?  Is it something you have control over? Is it something that only takes a change in attitude to gain?

This week I want you to look at the other question I put to you a few weeks ago:  Who am I?

It’s not an easy question.  Most of us will spend a lifetime trying to answer it.

For me the easiest way to understand who I am is the value and causes I champion.

These question about your self are directly related to the energy of your third chakra.

For me liberty is the all important virtue of the political world.  The lack of it I believe has been the greatest impediment to personal, social, economic, and spiritual growth for the last 6,000 years.   I believe it is a cause worth fighting for, worth dying for, and worth living for.  (The last one there is the really important part).

And from what I can glean about my past lives, this fight has pretty much been the defining issue in most of my lives.*

Not that this is what you personally should use to define your life.  But what is a life if it is not for something?  You have to be working toward something?  What is that you have that’s worth dying and living for?

Another good way I find to define your life is by the virtues you admire and wish to possess.

I’m not going to go through a list of the virtues I admire here, but as any regular reader of this blog probably can figure out, humility is not on my list…but just because it’s not on my list doesn’t necessarily mean it shouldn’t be on yours.  Use what you consider to be virtues not what other people do.  And when you have that list, ask yourself what are you doing to make yourself an exemplar of the virtues you admire?

And finally a good way to look at who you are is by looking at which people you admire and want to be more like.   Emulation has been a time-honored tradition of driving us to be our best and understand who we are from Aristotle’s Ethics to the slightly more trite WWJD.  Now honestly I prefer using fictional characters as the archetype to emulate because real people come with problems.  Either the person you’re emulating has numerous flaws (because they’re human) or they’re a saint.  And when looking for someone to emulate flaws can be a major distraction (especially if it’s someone you’ve idolized for a while only to discover later that they were really screwed up).  And as for saints, the virtues of a saint are not exactly what most people need in life, unless you’re a saint.  It’s why I don’t like the phrase “What would Jesus do?” because the correct answer for 99% of all possible situations is “Perform a miracle and give a sermon”—which fails slightly at being useful advice for most of the situations we might encounter.

Now I like fictional characters because unlike real people it’s easier to know them.  With a real person you either have to know them personally or you don’t understand all the complexities and reasons they had for certain actions (that and in reality very few famous figures in history in the modern world are not hideously screwed up individuals).  But fictional characters, for all their depth and layers, are people you are to able grasp the whole of their being.

Now for me personally I look to Don Quixote and Cyrano de Bergerac as my guiding stars.  Follow your convictions and beliefs, damn the consequences, you’ll be a better person for it.  And I have found this to be very true.  But what works for me may not work for you.

The main point to all of this is do you know who you are and do you know who you want to be?   Because if you don’t how do you know what you really want and how do you know how to act?

Who are you? What do you believe in?

These are questions you should reflect on this week.

*Before you make any comments about that sentence let me say that if you don’t believe in reincarnation, you are so incredibly on the wrong blog.

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The Most Patriotic Film Ever: State of the Union

“I can be interested in the county, without being interested in politics.”

State of the Union?  Haven’t heard of it have you?  (If you have you have to admit you’re in the minority on this).  Which is odd—it’s Tracy and Hepburn!  How can you miss Tracy and Hepburn?  And in a Capra film too!  It also stars Angela Lansbury as the woman trying to break our eternal couple up, and control Tracy…Lansbury always plays the villain, be it the communist mother in Manchurian Candidate or the weekly serial killer who always frames others for her crimes in Murder She Wrote (there’s no other way to explain the body count), she always plays the villain…

So since you probably are not familiar with the plot, let me quickly sum up. Estranged husband and wife Grant and Mary Matthews are thrown together when Grant decides to move from a highly successful business career to taking a chance at running for President in 1948.  But first he has to get the Republican nomination.  At first he speaks from his heart…but when swayed by Lansbury’s Kay Thorndyke, the other woman, and a W.R. Hearst-esque media baron, he begins to play the games of politics he had previously hated.  Here we see Capra in full swing detailing the cynicism of voting bloc politics, of playing one minority off against other, of making deals for votes.  This nearly destroys him, and his chances for election, until he’s brought back to his senses by his loving wife. Whether he wins or not, the movie doesn’t cover.

It’s a good story, but what makes this film so patriotic is that Matthews at several points makes comments on what does and doesn’t work in America. The character of Matthews is actually given to making some very detailed speeches, (which I sadly could not find clips of on youtube, found a couple edited to seem to benefit liberal positions alone, but not the full speech).  It is in these speeches that you see the virtue of America praised, and our flaws acknowledged and combated.

Matthews: Well the next time you’re up there, Mr. Conover, look down.  Look down on Pittsburgh, for example, what do you see?

Spike: Smoke

Mathews: That’s right, smoke.  From the steel mills.   Miles and miles of steel mills.  But you see something else, too, don’t you?  Farms, factories, lumber, mines, railroads, business, management, labor.  Not one able to exist alone, but together, working together with courage and imagination.  That makes America.  That’s a great picture from the air.  Yeah but come down to Earth and walk into one of those meetings like that one in Cleveland, and what do you find? Farmers, cattlemen, lumbermen, business, labor, they were all there.  All working together?  In a pig’s eye.  All scared to death, all fighting each other.  Each out for the biggest bite in the apple.  Well, there aren’t that many bites in the apple.

[…]

Because you politicians instead of helping pull the country together are helping to pull it part, just to get votes.  To labor you promise higher wages and lower prices.  To business, higher prices and lower wages.  To the rich you say, “Let’s cut taxes”.  To the poor, “Soak the rich”.  To the veterans cheaper housing.  To the builders uncontrolled prices. [Italics added]

Notice that here the win-win mentality of rational self-interest and capitalism is stated.  That capitalism is dependant on numerous individuals working together, out of their own rational self-interest, but together.  Rather than the greed and irrational, short-sighted self-interest of “what’s in it for me politics” of promising this group or that group something.  Notice this is in 1948, before the post-war boom, before the boom of the early 60’s before the boom of the 80’s and 90’s…and yet it foresees that our “courage and imagination” are the things that will bring about this great prosperity.  It subtly implies the truth, that while socialism simply divides the apple between this group or that, it is capitalism and capitalism alone that creates wealth (not just distributes it) so that there is actually an apple for everyone.

Or when he goes to see the White House while considering his run, a man chides him for bluntly stating the White House needs a new paint job:

Bystander: Do you know who lives in that historic mansion [the White House]?

Matthews: Yeah the spirit of all those who fought for human dignity lives there.  Moses, Buddha, Confucius, Christ, Paul, St. Francis, Thomas Aquinas, Roger Bacon, Joan of Arc, Martin Luther, Plato, Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, Michelangelo, Pasteur, Newton, Galileo, Edison, Franklin, Lincoln, Washington, Jefferson, Crispus Attucks, Lafayette, Garibaldi, Bolivar, Kosciusko.  The martyrs, the saints, and the poets.  Civilizations past and present. Man’s whole history. His evolution from worm to animal to Einstein, his long search for God, all those things live in that noble dwelling, but I still say it needs painting.

And of course the central point of the movie is when after giving an off camera speech filleting big labor he prepares to give an equally harsh speech against what would be called big business then, but now we use the more correct term cronyism. (Please note that in 1948 almost everything he says is the action we should have taken…from a man this principled however, the speech would be different on a few points, so please keep the times in mind as you read it).

Matthews: Those men [labor bosses] in there are the kind of men who are responsible for the wildcat strikes.  If I can make them see something bigger than their own jobs as head of their own locals and what little power they get from that…Why? What did I say to them? I just said that when the members stop running the unions, the unions start running the members.

[…]

Matthews: I’m going to tell them they do a lot of yapping about communism but as long as they think about high profits instead of high production, they’re playing the communist game.  High production is the way to kill high prices.

Conover: They want high prices.

M: High prices means inflation. Inflation today means depression tomorrow.  And a depression in these United State is exactly the ace card Moscow is waiting to draw.

C: They don’t want to hear these things.

M: They’re gonna hear them.  They’re going to hear that capitalism itself is being challenged.  If it doesn’t survive, it’s because men like themselves haven’t the guts or the imagination to make it survive.

C: You can’t talk to that crowd this way you’ll antagonize them.

All right.  So what?  So I’ll antagonize them.  I yelled my head off about labor, didn’t I, and its responsibilities.  Well, I’m going to lay it right on the line about industry too.  Now look here Jim, you know just as well as I do that there are men at that banquet who’ll be rooting for a depression, just so they can slap labor’s ears back.

C: And I suppose you have a few well-chosen words to say about tax reduction.

M: You better not worry so much about tax reduction until we accomplish some of the things we have to accomplish.  I’m going to tell the wealthiest nation in the world it is a failure unless it’s also the healthiest nation in the world.  That means the highest medical care for the lowest income groups.  And that goes for housing, too.  The one thing this nation is not rich enough to afford is not having a roof over our heads.  And I’m going to tell them the American Dream is not making money.  It is the well being and the freedom of the individual throughout the world from Patagonia to Detroit.  We can’t be an island of plenty in a world of starvation.  We have to send, food, clothing, machinery, and money to the bitter, impoverished people of the world.  Try to recreate their self-respect.  Give them the desire again for individual freedom.  And I’m gonna tell them that as long as dictatorships remain in the world, we better remain well armed.  Because the next time we’re not going to get two years to get ready.  They’re gonna jump us overnight.  And I’m gonna tell them that there’s only one government which is capable of handling the atomic control, world disarmament, world employment, world peace, and that’s a world government.  The people of thirteen states started the United States of America.  Well, I think the people of that many nations are ready to start a United States of the World.  With or with out Russia.  And I mean a “United” States of the World.  With one Bill of Rights.  One international law. One international currency.  One international citizenship. And I’m gonna tell them that the brotherhood of man is not just an idealistic dream, but a practical necessity if man is going to survive. [Italics added]

Here he correctly realizes that there are two sides to both labor and business.  In labor there are actual workers, and there are the corrupt union bosses who fleece their members, pad their pockets, and make ungodly campaign contributions to politicians who allow them to repeat the cycle. A bit prophetic in his critique of labor isn’t he?  I would never advocate for ending unions (except for public employees and professional), they serve an important function, but today they have become worse than the caricatured robber barons they were supposedly formed to end.

Meanwhile in business there are real businessmen like Matthews who enjoy making a great product and enjoy making profit off that great product (the heroes of an Ayn Rand novel) and there are those who like cronyism, who as this movie makes clear are very un-capitalistically for high tariffs, anti-free trade, protectionist legislation against competition from new inventions, and low taxes ON THEIR INDUSTRY (GE, GM, Google, Goldman Sachs, and basically all the biggest Obama contributors).  And I’ll forgive Matthews’ statement about not lowering taxes before we have paid for what we need to do, at least he’s advocating balanced budgets, and 10 years before Rand, 15 before Goldwater, 20 before Milton Friedman, and before Laffer and Reagan it’s forgivable to not know the truth and facts of supply-side economics (at least implicitly he understands the heart of supply-side economics by putting the focus on high production).  And before anyone thinks I’m giving up my conservative roots by praising his call for the healthiest nation and housing for all…go back and read your Hayek and Friedman…you need a safety net, it just should be at the local, not federal level (and in 1948, I can assume a Republican defines “the lowest income groups” as the bottom 5% not the modern Democratic definition of the “the lowest income groups” as the other 99%).

And I have to love the admission that America is not a nation of isolationists, as some would now have you believe.  We are the beacon of freedom in the world and that comes with a responsibility to spread freedom.  There’s a throwaway joke early on “After all Senator Fosdick was an isolationist.  I think he should be isolated.”  This was the correct view of isolationism: it doesn’t and can’t work.  Not just on pragmatic reasons, but on ethical ones.

And you’ll also notice that the ideal world government presented is one of a union of free nations, that will advocate and push for liberty around the world, not just throwing everyone into one body and being run through with corruption.

This is close to the kind of speech I want to hear now. Praising America’s greatness and condemning those who see it only as a way to make a quick buck for themselves and screw everyone else.

The movie is also quick to condemn the evils of identity politics and condemn those who trade in it (I’m looking at you Democratic Party).  It is expressed best by “Spike” McManous, a reporter sent to keep an eye on Matthews, “In Conover’s eyes a lazy people, an ignorant people, a prejudiced people are not free.”  And he’s sadly right; people who are lazy, ignorant, and prejudiced are always slave to those who would exploit those flaws.  And that is why it is the responsibility of Americans to keep themselves informed and reasonable…but it is also the responsibility of politicians to not to play to such disgusting habits.

And at the end of the film, when, after making a dozen crooked deals, Matthews realizes his sins, he takes to the air and gives an impromptu speech baring his soul and again showing what is great about this nation.

I had the right idea when I started to talk to you people of America. The idea that you voters, you farmers, you businessmen, you working men, you ordinary citizens of whatever party, are not the selfish scum that venal politicians make you out to be. I thought I could speak my peace straight out and forward. I thought I could tell you that this country of ours is young, it’s not old. That we’ve just begun to grow. That all we need is courage, and from out of that courage will come a greatness greater than we ever dreamed. I wanted to tell you that we Americans are the hope of the world, and the secret of our great plenty is freedom, and we’ve got to share that secret and that plenty with the other nations of the world. And I wanted to tell you that we face a great problem, because when people are cold and hungry and scared, they gather together in panicky herds, ready to be led by communists and fascists who promise them bread for freedom, and deliver neither.  [Italics added]

A sobering reminder we still need to this day.

As he says, we are a young nation.

Today we are 236 years old. 236 years old…just for comparison at 236 years the Roman Republic had managed to come up with a crappy constitution, get the city burned to the ground by Gaul’s and conquer most of Italy (which sounds impressive until you realize that France was once able to conquer most of Italy, and if France can do it, well…) and at 236 England had done…well…um….nothing. Same story for France. Certainly none of them were the center of the world at 236. Oh and before you ask none of these countries had art at 236 let alone jazz, rock’n’roll, Frank Lloyd Wright, almost all film, Faulkner, Twain, Hawthorne, Frost, Gibran, Whitman. Not bad for only 236 years.  None of these others were economic powerhouses, or beacons of any ideal. And that’s at 236 for nations that would leave an undisputed mark on history.  We’ve already begun to make our mark and it is one of spreading liberty, freedom, capitalism, and all that speaks to the best in human nature.

This movie, possibly more than any other, reminds me of what a great nation this can be, and what we are capable of.  It reminds me of our greatness that was, is, and will be if we just embrace the best within us and do away with the rest.

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Only 100 days to go!!!!

Only 100 days to go until the release of Atlas Shrugged Part II. I’m still not sure why they felt the need to replace the entire cast, but I assume there is method to the madness.

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Greatest Patriotic Films of All Time #2: John Adams

Join, or Die

Unite or Die

Appeal to Heaven

Liberty or Death

Don’t Tread on Me

These are the phrases that one sees during the credits for HBO’s John Adams (one wonders what happened to a network that could bring us great TV like Rome and John Adams that it has fallen to The Newsroom and Bill Maher so quickly).  But I think part of this film’s greatness comes from its director, Tom Hooper.  Hooper would later give us the great work of British patriotism, The King’s Speech, and is currently filming Les Miserables which speaks to French patriotism…let’s hope Hooper stops his world tour as films that speak to German patriotism tend to end badly for Poland.

Now there are numerous things in this seven part series to be proud of.  The least of which is an obnoxious, suspected and unpopular man with his outspoken wife doing anything and everything in their power and sacrificing everything they have to constantly do what they know ethics and morals dictate not just for their own lives but for the fate of their nation.  A liberal acquaintance of mine once tried to tell me that the deep love of the Adams was a Hollywood invention, that no man from that era would have held as his chief confidant a woman…clearly this ignorant wretch never had read the letters that John and Abigail wrote often to each other (In reality the show should have been named John and Abigail Adams as few men in history have so relied upon their wives as equals, partners, and true loves as much as John Adams did…which maybe why for all his fault he is possibly the most enviable of the Founding Fathers.).  And these letters are quoted heavily in the movie:

“My Dearest Friend,

Whether I stand high or low in the estimation of the world, my conscience is clear. I thank God I have you for a partner in all the joys and sorrows, all the prosperity and adversity of my life. To take a part with me in the struggle.” –John Adams to Abigail Adams

“Should I draw you the picture of my heart, you would know with what indescribable pleasure I have seen so many scores of years roll over our heads, with an affection heightened and improved by time. Nor have the dreary years of absence in the smallest degree effaced from my mind the image of the dear, untitled man to whom I gave my heart. You could not be, nor did I wish to see you, an inactive spectator.” –Abigail Adams to John Adams

In their letters she was his “best friend” and his “Portia” to her, he as her “Lysander” (see Shakespeare if you don’t get the references).  I hate to be really mean to other nations, but tell me which heads of state of any other power have had not just a position that was enviable, but a personal life that is almost the definition of what we want in our significant other.  And I may be reaching here, but for all of our problems in society, past and present, at least to me America seems to breed more of these true loves than other nation.

While probably not the greatest of presidents, (you’ll never be remembered for keeping America out of a war it couldn’t afford to fight at the time, only for the wars you get the nation into) there is the fact that it’s nice to think that as lacking humility Adams may have been, when he was in an office it was the good of the nation, not himself that took first priority (even if his abrasive nature may have made many an enemy).

Or that here is a man dedicated to liberty above all other things.

“We have a right to [our liberties] derived form our maker.”


But, of course it is the second episode, “Independence” that stirs the strings of patriotism the most for me.  And for obvious reasons—it is this episode where the Declaration of Independence is created and adopted.  I know I am very odd, but I cannot read or hear the Declaration of Independence with crying.  It is a singular achievement of man and the divine working in harmony…or as the character of Adams puts it:

“This is something all together unexpected, not only a Declaration of our Independence, but of the right of all men.”

And this is what America is supposed to be, not just a nation out for ourselves, but a beacon, a promise, and a hope that one day liberty will reign not just in America but the world over and that tyranny will only be found in history books.

But what also makes this section so stirring is the arguments during the Continental Congress for Independence against John Dickenson and his cowardly and treasonous ilk (at one point in the episode it becomes clear that Abigail would just as well shoot the man for opposing independence if she were to go down to Philadelphia…it’s sad no one in real life had her conviction and wisdom).

“I see hope.  I see a new nation ready to take its place in the world—not an empire, but a Republic.  And a Republic of

Adams, Jefferson and Franklin…the creators of the Declaration.

laws, not men.  Gentlemen, we are in the vey midst of revolution—the most complete, unexpected, and remarkable of any in the history of the world.  How few of the human race have ever had the opportunity of choosing a system of government for themselves and their children.  I am not without apprehensions, gentlemen, but the end we have in sight is worth more than all the means.  I believe, sirs, that the hour is come, my judgment approves this measure, and my whole heart is in it.  All that I have, all that I am, and all that I hope in this life, I am now ready to stake upon it.  While I live let me have a country.  A free country. ”

This film makes clear Adams’ vision that America and its promise of liberty is worth the fight. Of course what also strikes me is his statement:

“There are persons in Philadelphia, to whom a ship is dearer than a city, and a few barrels of flour dearer than a thousand lives.  Other men’s lives.”

It’s good to know that my current intellectual (I use that word loosely in reference to my opponents) battles with the un-American tripe that is isolationists, cowards, and Paulbots, that their kind isn’t just a recent phenomenon but rather a sickness that has been around for years. And it’s good to know they’re losing power—before they almost destroyed America before it began, and delayed our entry into WWII to save people from genocide…now they’re just an annoying fringe.  Maybe within a generation their evil will be as dead as John Dickenson would been if he had been justly shot.

But it is also one of the last scenes that stirs my patriotism.  Adams’ last words.  His last words in the series and in real life really were:

“Thomas Jefferson survives!” (even though Jefferson had died 2 hours earlier. Both died on July the 4th, 1726, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration.  Skeptics would call it coincidence, patriots a higher message in that.)

I’ve always liked to think that Adams, at the threshold of this world and the next, actually knew that the man was dead…but his vision “that all men are created equal and endowed with certain unalienable rights, among these the right to life, liberty, ad the pursuit of Happiness” not only survived in that moment but for all moments to come (but then again I am a hopeless patriot and man of faith).

My dearest friend whether I stand high or low in the estimation of the world, my conscience is clear.  I thank God I have you for a partner in all the joys and sorrows, all the prosperity and adversity

Should I draw you the picture of my heart scores of years

“Oh, posterity. You will never know how much it cost us to preserve your freedom. I hope that you will make a good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in heaven that I ever took half the pains to preserve it.” –John Adams

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