Tuesday, July 30, 2013

And to prove our July 4th celebrations

Well, they weren't as festive as in years gone by.  Our neighbors used to set off rather illegal fireworks while our town's fireworks display was going on.  They were quite impressive.  And quite dangerous.  I mean, I've seen smaller displays in large cities.  A couple times the rockets didn't get high enough, and I thought we were going to have a conflagration on our hands.  It was a guilty pleasure.

This year, rain kept everything subdued.  And again, our nation's vibrant recovery seems to have caused folks to rethink priorities when it comes to spending loot on things that eventually explode away.  Plus, people move.  Neighbors come and go.  Time passes.  Since it was raining, it was too wet to do much.  The rain stopped in time for our town's display, but we've only gone there once, me not being a fan of large crowds and it being located in a pretty jam-packed location.  Not to mention we couldn't even cook out, an annual event much anticipated.

We still bought the smokers, but in keeping with the trend of the modern free market, there were fewer to a pack that cost more.  So we had less to work with.  Still, we did do our nightly run around the house at night, chasing each other with sparklers amid the backyard trees and betwixt them and the garden cornstalks.

The national fireworks were a bit of a drag, and except for a rousing Neil Diamond at the Washington performance, and some heartfelt tributes to our forgotten veterans of our forgotten wars, they were less than stellar.  Some, like New York, set to hip-hop and modern sex and narcissism music, made me realize how far away our country is from the greatness this day is to celebrate.  So a day of mixed experiences.  But as always, the boys manage to bring about some good feelings and a bit o'fun.

He gets into the act, lighting legal fireworks, otherwise known as smokers

Somehow he has a knack for making everything look exciting and adventerous

Our oldest, on the other hand, has a typically subdued approach

The smoke lit, the boys kick into action

And then marvel at the expected choking fit that comes from running about in a smoke cloud

Happy belated birthday Little Bit

"Little Bit" is something that became a nickname for our youngest, and it's stuck.  Though I call him Little Brit, being a bit of a lifelong Anglophile.  It was a good day, a fun day.  Gone are the days when stacks and stacks of presents adorned our living room and, in someways, I'm glad.  Back in the day when my sister was well-to-do, and more relatives had more resources, our boys would be overwhelmed, sometimes growing bored with unwrapping birthday presents.  I had asked for subdued giving, but I think it was a race by different branches to show just who could give the most.  Now, thanks to our nation's recovery, there is far less money available to a growing segment of the nation, and when it comes to fewer presents, that suits me fine.  FWIW, I think it did our youngest just fine, too.  He seemed to enjoy himself, and appeared to love what he did receive.  So happy birthday #4!  May you have a blessed and joyful year and years to follow.

His oldest hero joins him in examining some of the loot

Almost in high school, looking pensive with an unintended soft glow

Have I mentioned he's usually like this?

There is no way in the universe this picture wouldn't be posted

In approaching the candles, he stalks like a leopard

He was victorious!

A gorgeous sunset ending his big day, courtesy of his brother's photo skills

On blogging

Here's something I've noticed.  In addition to readership declining whenever I've dropped off from blogging, I noticed I was going to other blogs with less frequency.  And you know what?  I've been the happier for it.  Sure, I still visited a few, an atheist blog here, a Catholic one there.  But I've not had time to comment, or when I did, it was the same old, same old.  Mostly people reacting in a way I can't imagine happening if we were all sitting in a pub, enjoying a nice draught of Guinness.

Don't know what it means.  Just something I noticed.  Some years back, I felt the boys were watching too much TV.  After a round of discussions and protests, I just cut to the chase and yanked the TV chord for about a month. It was one of the happier months we've ever had.  And while I haven't been 'blog-free', the less I've read, the happier I've been.  I certainly don't feel any less informed.  I have visited blogs, but they've been either help blogs (gardening, home school), or they've been interest blogs (Medieval, hobbies).  Even some of those I approach with caution, since they can use such things to ramrod modern society's religion down your through (the religion of my socio-political opinions).

Again, don't know what it means.  It means I'm having a hard time getting back to the blog, since I've read few others, have cared less of what I've read unless it was some clever insight on Medieval culture or help with gardening, and don't suddenly feel enraged and bothered and driven to throw out counter-opinions.  I've certainly been happier, and can't help but wonder if following suite with others is doing anything for my happiness, or anyone else's.  I'll have to think on it.  Anyway, just something I've been tossing about.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Where things are

Blogging has been light of late.  The reason is simple: life happens.  June was officially the lost month, with the health scare of my oldest, to the problems both my sister and my Mom had, in addition to my Mom's subsequent broken arm, to the usual difficulties we have just getting by.  We also had to start getting ready for the upcoming school year, have the boys tested to make sure they fit with the mandates for homeschooling, and tend to several out of the blue financial situations.  All of that made July a month of catch-up.  From the garden to the yard to just basically getting things back on track.  Finances needed some work to trim down an already skeletal budget.  Someday I'm going to write a book about how to keep a family of seven fed on a single low income beneath poverty levels.  In the meantime, we had some birthdays, a nice, if not subdued, July 4th celebration, and our boys made it through their homeschool evaluations, so should be able to be homeschooled another year - finances allowing.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Proof that God exists

Jimmy Akin kicks around the idea of proving God's existence.  It's a popular Atheist shot nowadays.  Religion has to prove God.  Religion has made the claim.  Religion now must prove the claim.  Of course when they say prove, they often mean prove it scientifically.  They may say they want logic or reason, but usually they mean subject God to scientific study using the scientific method, and if that approach doesn't work, then God doesn't exist.  It dawned on me some time ago that assuming God can be, or should be, proven using the scientific methods appears to be every bit the faith claim.  Nonetheless, Mr. Akin walks through a bird's eye view of who really has to provide the proof, and why such discussions go so wrong when the burden of proof is so obvious.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Bill Maher goes after Neurosurgeon

Yep, you read right.  One of the most ignorant and hate filled bigots in modern society has turned his cross-hairs on a neurosurgeon.  Really.  That's like Glenn Beck going after Einstein, or Justin Bieber going after Mozart.  Again, if you start thinking that the secular left might have some credible insights, just spend some time reading and listening to the appointed celebrities of the secular left.  That should energize faith in traditional values and religious views like nothing else.

The church of atheism

Yeah.  For your amusement.  Modern atheism continues to be an intellectual embarrassment to thoughtful atheists who sincerely seek the truth.  Expecting proof from everyone but themselves, and blaming everything on everyone else while insisting atheism is a non-not-negative-unthing that you can't blame for anything, now atheists are insisting there is no such thing as atheism while establishing churches in the name of atheism which is not.   Sigh.  If the media and educational systems had stones and brains, there might be some level of popular giggles attached to this.  As it is, expect serious reporting and thoughtful commentary on something that deserves less regard than pet rocks.

Could this be why modern block busters reek

So here, and here, and here, and here, and here are stories about Comic-con.  Really?  I admit I'm not big fantasy/comic/sci-fi fan.  Not that I don't enjoy a fantasy book or occasional alien romp here and  there, but usually it's not my neighborhood.  Partly because of those I knew in school way back when who were into those interests.  Interesting types them.  And sometimes a bit difficult to get on with.  And it wasn't just in the days of moonwalking and parachute pants.  Back in the heyday of Harry Potter, I noticed that my school age observations were not far off the mark, as Potter fans derided with almost hellish hatred those who failed to see the glories of St. Rowling the Holy Potter.  Catholics who were fans christened the work the most expansive unpacking of the Paschal mystery since the Apostle John, and derided as spiritually inept and intellectually stunted those who couldn't see the obvious.  I mean, you could have denied God or urinated on a crucifix and received less of a thrashing than suggesting Potter was anything less than inspired.

So the whole genre is just not something I've ever related to because I've never really taken the time to try.  Now I can't help but think when it's become a corporate phenomenon, and that group clearly guides the decisions and planning of studios interests, the products don't finally represent what most folks want in a movie.  So perhaps that's why many of these recent attempts at block busters, all of which seem geared more and more toward this particular demographic, have tanked.  First, fanboys are a zealous bunch, and will boycott and condemn if things aren't as they should be.  But also, a movie made with that particular demographic in mind, a demographic that seems to take pride in shunning most of the surrounding sea of humanity as somehow inferior for not being onboard, might also come up increasingly short in the mass appeal category.

Don't know. Just a thought.  I had a similar one once about the tendency of the Catholic blogosphere to be populated by self-proclaimed geeks and what it might mean.  I could be wrong.  But something in the back of my mind suggests I'm not too wrong if I am.

I love King Kong

Not the laughably flawed and preachy 1976 remake.  Nor Peter Jackson's bloated and over-directed 2005 remake.  I mean the original.  It ranks on my top twenty list with no problem, and on my better days, it ranks in the top ten.  It has problems, and I'll admit it's been a while since I watched it because of those problems.  Not problems really, but what Kong did to me as a youngster watching it on TV.  And not the problems that our hipster, enlightened and morally superior post modern neo-puritans have with it today.  Nonetheless, I love it. It is awesome in every way that awesome can be, warts and all.  And here's why I think this.

"Did you ever hear of ... Kong"?  So the commercials heading toward Thanksgiving on WUAB, Channel 43, Lorraine/Cleveland would open, anticipating the annual tradition of King Kong and Miracle  on 34th Street on Thanksgiving night.  Don't know how it happened, but it did.  From as far back as I remember, this was a staple, and a sure sign that Christmas and my birthday were just around the corner.  Fan of monster movies that I was, and in the days before VCRs and DVDs, I set aside each Thanksgiving night to watch Kong, Fay, Robert, and the rest of the hapless cast take us through a roller-coaster ride of thrills, chills, and terror.

And that's what it was.  In all of motion picture history, there are few films that move at such a pace as Kong.  Once the action starts, it never stops.  From the moment we meet Kong, about forty minutes into the film, to the finale on the streets of New York, it is almost non-stop excitement and adventure.

I won't waste time with the plot.  If you don't know the story, then go watch the movie.  Instead, the reason I love it is because it captures a moment in time like few other movies before or since.  Much has been written about it's meanings, messages, and Merian Cooper's own ideas about what it stood for.  But in the end, it captures the twilight of the pre-techno age, when parts of the world were still mysterious, America was emerging as a super power, and technology and industry were changing the world forever.

The lost island, the fallen civilization, the ancient wall.  The jungles and prehistoric creatures, not the least of
which is the title character himself.  And on the flip side, New York City, fast on track to surpassing Paris and London as the center of civilization, airplanes, motion pictures, radios, and the icon of America's industrial might and ingenuity: the Empire State Building.  Everything came together to make this a movie that could present its story without doing what movies do today, and that's bludgeon the audience with the points being made.

When I would sit in front of our old manual dial television set and watch this, I was almost shaking by the time the first break in the action happened, shortly after Kong's fight with the T-Rex/Allosaurus.  It was at times disturbing.  Though not because of a "message". There was no overt moral sermonizing, other than the obvious story: Carl Denham just doesn't know when to quit.  Even then, Denham is not 'the bad guy'.  Not like he would be today.  Nor were
the natives altogether bad.  Sure they did bad things.  Sure Denham did wrong.  But it wasn't as if the movie was trying to say 'there, serves them right.'

When the sailors rush into the jungle, it's to save Ann from the clutches of Kong.  They meet terrible, horrifying deaths.  Not because they deserve it.  But because that's what happens.  The dinosaurs aren't 'evil.'  They're there, in their world.  And the sailors have run into these primal forces of nature they're ill-prepared to deal with.  But they don't have to die because.  They aren't killed because.  They're killed because they run afoul of creatures too horrible for them to handle.  There is no scene where they spout off some diatribe about how inferior the natives were, or
how they love killing puppies, or how they would love to rape the land for resources.  Nope.  They die because the dinosaurs and Kong are too big for them. They're actually just trying to do the right thing and rescue a girl.

Kong is also sympathetic.  Sure, the goal is rescue the girl and eventually kill Kong.  But it isn't as if there is a moral force in his actions.  He's just doing his thing.  When he shakes the sailors off the log, it's because he's defending what's his.  He beats dinosaurs and airplanes for what's his.  He's doing all he knows to do, and the film never says otherwise.  People in New York who die aren't evil, or spouting bigotry or anti-progressive ideals.  They are just in the wrong place at the wrong time.  And when Kong is dead at the end (sorry for no spoiler alert, but if you didn't know that by now, you didn't
deserve the warning), you feel a little pity for him, and yet you don't feel that you should pull a Zimmerman on Carl Denham.

Ah, that was movie making.  Today, of course, in the age of Political Control, all things have to advance the Cause.  The sailors must shoot first.  The natives must be some bizarre androgynous race deserving no more sympathies than marching zombies.  Kong and Ann must psychologically connect, and we must be shown that it's evil men and their wicked machines who are the bad ones.  And whoever is Denham or the Denham character must be stripped of sympathy and shown to be the force of evil that he is for toying with nature and the march of progress.

And the characters?  Derided by some hipsters today as shallow in 33, in our version they would be caricatures, types.  They would represent things.  The evil corporate mogul.  The sadistic hunter.  The racist white guy.  The religious fanatic.  And when they were trounced, eaten, trampled, shaken, crushed or whatever, you would know not-too-deep-down that they deserved it because of who, ore more important what, they were.

In 1933's Kong, the characters may not be deep - but it was 1933.  Watch those movies then and see how quick they were.  Movies were new, and they didn't feel the need to bring out Freud's couch and analyze every action and idea for hours on end.  Ann was a girl duped into following Denham's crazy ideas.  The skipper an old, crusty sea veteran.  The sailors, described at the beginning as rough and threatening, were sailors.  Yes, some old racial stereotypes like the Asian cook or the dastardly island natives. or at least natives doing what an American ideal of what natives did in 1933.    But have you ever watched non-Western movies that depict things in America and Europe? Watch 1963's Salladin the Victorious, and you'll stop forever beating up on American and European cinema for being uniquely racist.  The natives in Kong come off as angelic compared to how the Europeans are portrayed in much of that film (if not all of it, in parts - but then, the Natives in Kong aren't always bad either).

If Kong was racist, then it shows that bigotry is a part of the ages then and now.  In 2001, a made for TV movie version of The Lost World was released.  Injected into the story, and not part of Arthur Conan Doyle's book upon which the movie was based, was the character of Reverend Theo Karr.  Played by the late, great Peter Falk, he is the religious fundamentalist determined to keep proof against his laughably outdated biblical views a secret.  How?  He strands the heroes on the plateau, sentencing them to almost certain death.  Why?  Well because, he's a Christian fundamentalist!  It's what they do!  They're all killers, all of them, killing and murdering to defend their bigotry and idiocy!  So if you think unfair portrayals of people are limited to 1933, you're not paying attention to 2013.

Anyway, the story.  Why did it bother me?  Well, for that reason.  People died because they died.  There was no reason for it.  Shallow as they might have been, they weren't cardboard cutouts representing 'a point of view.' When Kong breaks into an apartment and grabs a sleeping woman, thinking she is Ann, he pulls her out  the window.  Bewildered and terrified, the woman screams for her life, helpless in Kong's grasp as he examines her dozens of stories above the streets.  Then, satisfied that it isn't Ann, he turns his hand and drops her to her death.  Horrifying.  I used to lose sleep over that.  Over the sailors, too.  They didn't die because they were bad guys.  Today, of course, critics are quick to point out their sadistic killing of a charging stegosaurus.  I guess that's supposed to mean they got what they had coming.  But I get the impression that in the mind of the 1933 movie goer, killing a charging stegosaurus was not grounds for capital punishment.  Nonetheless, they died.  And they died for the same reason the Natives died.  They died because they were killed.  By Kong, dinosaurs, whatever.

And that left an impression on me.  Something I think is missing today, and one that makes me wonder.  Being a fan of old movies, I notice something.  Often times, no matter how bad the people, there is a sense of 'that's horrible they died.'  When Scarlet kills a ransacking Yankee in Gone With the Wind, there is a moment of near horror as she and Melanie Wilkes realize what she has done.  Of course then their minds turn to more practical matters, but at least there is a moment.  When Fritz dies in Frankenstein, he may have provoked the monster, but there is still remorse.  And in Kong, Carl Denham emphasizes that "twelve of our party met horrible death." Yes, there are times when the odd extras die, or in the more overtly racist moments, a native dies and nobody cares except that he was carrying the supplies.  Again, bigotry then and now.  But there was usually a sense that dying was bad.  No matter the genre.  No matter how bad the villain.  When Guy of Gisbourne dies after the legendary sword fight with Robin Hood, there's not a 'cool! look at how gruesome that was!'  There is a sense of 'wow, he's gone, he's paid the price'.  It's a moment of gravitas, to use the popular term.

Today, and for some time, killing has become rather cheap.  Almost comic. And often deserved.  I purchased a movie a while back, Villa Rides.  I wanted it because it made me think of the current approach to the sequester cuts.  More on that later.  Anyway, I watched it, and was taken by how the killing was almost done to comic levels.  At some point, you got the impression you were supposed to laugh at Charles Bronson gunning down a radio operator questioning the mission.  By the 1976 Kong remake, you have no doubt that most who get killed have it coming.  When Charles Grodin ends up at the business end of Kong's footprint, you know that the movie's message is that he had it coming.  By the time the eighties are around, killing is mixed between the horrific and the cool and the justified.

Even movies like Raiders of the Lost Ark seem obsessed with 'how can we make the death more gruesome.'  Though in those cases, deaths are still seen as bad (swordsman notwithstanding).  Indiana Jones doesn't look at the man in front of the propeller blade and say 'ha!  serves you right!'   He turns away.   But when people die in Jurassic Park II, it's clear each and every one of them gets what's coming to them.  And you know what?  Generally, I don't care as much or am not as bothered by these deaths as I am the deaths of Sir Guy, Fritz the lab assistant, or a sailor on a tree on Skull Island.

And maybe that's part of the problem when we think of violence and movies.  Not that Kong was a racist movie and we're so enlightened because we know the right people to hate.  Not that the special effects aren't up to our awesome standards. FWIW, I can't even believe that people say that today.  Some day I'm going to write a post on how the Internet seems to have telescoped our perspectives rather than broaden them.  I watched this movie all the way through the eighties.  My friends watched it on VHS when it came out.  Star Wars had come and gone.  Huge leaps in special effects had occurred.  And guess what?  We never felt we needed to justify Kong's effects.  It was 19 freaking 33.  In terms of proportionality, those effects make Avatar appear made by Crayola by comparison.  And we understood that in the 80s when we considered this one of the best special effects movies of all time, post-Star Wars and all.  And for my money, the battle between Kong and the Rex would not shame most undertakings today.

So the problem I have with Kong?  I can't watch it because it was intense, it was true to itself, and it was what it was.  There was no sermonizing.  There was no preaching.  No PC.  No anything.  You were just taken on a whirlwind adventure, not to judge, condemn, or cast aspersions on this or that person or creature.  Like Larry Talbot, the Frankenstein monster, or even Senator Joe Paine, you almost sympathize both with Kong and with Carl Denham, with the natives of the island and the natives of New York.

In its odd way, it's more equal and inclusive than movies today, that see everything in black and white, red and blue, right and left, pro-this and anti-that.  When death comes Kong, no cheering is intended.  No celebrations.  No feeling that those sunsabitches had it coming.  You feel as horrified as you should in any good horror movie then and now.  And to be honest, more so than in many movies today that use death as the ultimately deserved punishment for those who have fallen from the modern faith.  Shallow though they may have been in 1933, they weren't caricatures.  And maybe that's what makes it so tough to watch even after all these years.  Why when Carl Denham utters that most famous of movie lines in 1933, you feel a touch of pity for all the victims, for Denham, and for Kong.  But when Jack Black butchers it 72 years later, you don't care, Kong was the victim, and everyone else got what they had coming.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

On behalf of Chris Matthews I apologize to all thinking people

Chris Matthews continues to show that anyone who thinks conservatism suffers from idiots in the ranks is off their rockers.  One of the biggest embarrassments to journalism in the history of journalism, Mr. Matthews has taken it on himself to apologize to all blacks on behalf of me and all whites. Demonstrating the joke that has become Martin Luther King's mission, thanks to the American left, Matthews continues to make me wonder what standards could possibly exist in the American media if he's still collecting a paycheck.

Friday, July 19, 2013

George Zimmerman was found not guilty

In case you missed the news.  Which would be just about impossible for anyone not living on one of Saturn's moons without electricity.  Just like the Tuscon shooting was exploited by the Left in an effort to encourage suppression of dissenting speech, however so subtly, this is being used to attack two things that had nothing to do with the shooting: race and stand your ground laws.  Of course that's why we know about this, as opposed to any one of tens of thousands of other cases over the last year.  It fits the media agendas.

The media are doing this more and more, making mountains where there aren't even any molehills.  Why?  I don't know.  But I'm sure it's no accident, coincidence, or blind luck.  After all, they all couldn't be wrong about the same things over and over again if that were the case.  But in any event, as I reflect on several media frenzies over the last few years: Tuscon, Rush Limbaugh and Sandra Fluke, George Zimmerman, Sarah Palin's ignorance; and as I reflect on other things that have gotten less proportional coverage than the annual Zucchini Festival of Edison such as the IRS scandal, Benghazi, Obama's drone attack powers, Joe Biden's ignorance, I just can't help but think of this:

I don't know why.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Elton John hearts Pope Francis

Wow.  This from a man who, only a few years ago, was quoted as saying if he would outlaw Christianity if he could.  I guess there's not much to say.  Take it at face value, and hope this means we can fine common ground on how to reach out and help others, even if we disagree with some of the beliefs and defining philosophies we have while we're doing it.  Anyway, for now, kudos to Sir Elton, whose music I always preferred to Billy Joel's (I always saw them as two kindreds on separate sides of the stage - I don't know why).

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Prayers for the Martin and Zimmerman families

Yeah, that's all.  As tempting as it is to join with the media and other special interest groups to ramrod agendas at the expense of two human beings, it's nice to remember the old Christian notion that humans aren't convenient chattel only useful for the ramming of agendas.  A young man is dead.  Another young man's life is forever changed.  The dead young man had issues that may be ignored to the detriment of those who idolize him.  And yet, it appears he was doing nothing wrong in the neighborhood in which he breathed his last.  The living man is already subject to such hatred that it chills the bones to witness it.  And in it all, two families have had their lives forever turned upside down.  Two families who have done nothing at all wrong, no matter what the two young men were guilty of.  They will need all the prayers they can get.  Prayers for healing.  Prayers for peace.  Prayers for forgiveness.  Prayers for safety.  Prayers for justice.  The list goes on and on.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The media has convicted George Zimmerman

I said a while back I wasn't going to comment on the case.  I'm not in the courtroom.  I'm not a lawyer.  I'm not legal expert.  I can tell, however, that the media has convicted George Zimmerman, and did so from the beginning.  Tom Robinson had a fairer trial than Zimmerman has received from the American News Media.  And in typical propaganda fashion, the media has been doing what it can to convict him.  From the horribly unethical editing of the call Zimmerman made to make it sound as if he was a racist, to the selective pictures used for weeks on end when it was obvious other, more recent pictures were available, the media has been doing what it can to lynch forward.

Now that the jury will be getting the case, it will be interesting to watch.  Again, I'm no expert, but when the prosecution's star professional witness could only deflect the cross examination by insisting he never even heard of the autopsy, that can't be good.  When the much heralded 'star witness' of the prosecution contradicts herself more than John Lovitz, and ends up testifying that the only racist slur used was used by Trayvon Martin, that can't be good.  When the prosecution ends up the saying that the defense's account might be correct, but there could be ways to see it as he's still guilty, that can't be good.  By all accounts, even begrudgingly admitted by some in the media, the prosecution's case sucked.

Now we wait.  What will happen?  Unless the media held back some big evidence shown, I can't help but imagine that there will be no murder conviction.  Manslaughter?  Maybe.  And I'm not saying the guy should walk.  I'm just saying that if Twelve Angry Men and To Kill A Mockingbird have any clout left in the post-modern age, unless I'm missing something big, Zimmerman doesn't get convicted of 2nd degree murder.

Nonetheless, media talking heads are buzzing tonight, trying desperately to find ways to insist the man should still be locked away for good.  We'll see.  But once more, unless there is some big piece of evidence we didn't hear about, unless there is some disastrous moment awaiting the closing arguments, unless there is something about the law I just don't know, if Zimmerman is convicted in the manner the media desires, then we may all owe the jury of Tom Robinson a great, big apology.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

George W. Bush continues to demonstrate

Why he will go down in history as one of our worst presidents.  Not the worst of all time, but one of a string of lousy presidents our country has suffered through in recent decades.  No president is perfect, and there is much partisanship and bias that goes into evaluating them.  And sometimes the flaws of their policies only come out decades later, and I'm not sure how you use changing values and hindsight to judge.  But some presidents were so disastrous that you don't need to wait.  You know.  And Mr. George W. Bush is one who needs no waiting.

Here he is, jumping into the gay marriage debate with all the passion he had following his reelection.  Basically, we know now that catering to the religious right was a tactic encouraged by Karl Rove that included immediately dumping those religious types once reelection was accomplished.  And dump he did.  The fight for traditional marriage was given all the urgency I give to whale gutting in the arctic.  And at the first sign of resistance, Bush dropped it like a hot potato and moved on to more important things.

In this interview, he uses the same biblical passage he used years ago in a Rose Garden press conference.  When pushing for an amendment that would define marriage as between a man and a woman, he quoted Matthew 7.5.  He's not going to judge, the amendment wasn't about judging, it was about establishing a solid moral standard for our society, which society has a right to do.

Now he uses the same passage again, this time as a dodge. What does he think of gay marriage?  Well, don't criticize gay couples, that's what.  Don't take the speck out of someone else's eye without looking at the log in your own.  Notice how he uses the passage in the exact opposite manner.  The first time, back in 2005, it was used to say one could pass laws based on moral standards without being judgmental.  This time, well, let's be honest, he's using it as a dodge. He's all but joining his wife in the pro-gay movement, without actually doing so.  He's using the passage to more or less say to critics of gay marriage 'shut up you hypocrites you', without technically jumping on the pro-gay bandwagon.  Sigh.  And conservatives wonder why many increasingly see being a Christian Republican is getting to be as difficult as baking Kosher ham.

This goes a long way toward showing why Bush was such a disaster as a president.  This is a man without core values, at least in areas that  traditional Christians care about.  Though he is a man who can never be loved by the Left.  This is a man who knows one thing to say, no matter how the context of him saying it has changed.  This explains why he probably imagined we'd stroll into Iraq and be greeted as liberating heroes.  It's what happened in the movies when we liberated France!  And that's what he knew. A man with no real depth to his thinking is not one destined for great leadership.

Of course he's not the only lousy president.  Our current president who has accomplished virtually nothing is well on his way.  The only reason we don't have an outcry is that the media had long ago put a down-payment on Obama's statue on the Mall, and history books declaring him the greatest leader since Moses were already on their way to the warehouses.  So little things like floundering economies and diminishing international standings are just swept away.

The same thing happened with Clinton, whose entire presidency was a mile wide and an inch deep.  Mostly, it was do whatever catered to high poll numbers, and ignore any serious problems until he was out of office and the next poor schmuck got the blame.  Most of the problems of the new millennium were sown or at least nurtured right under his promiscuous protuberance.

In fact, we've had three pretty dismal presidents in a row, each one reelected, for total of 24 years of solid lousy leadership.  By 2016, that will be the last 10% of the country's history under executive train wrecks.  Which probably says something about why we're at the stage we are.  And a big problem for at least a couple of them is demonstrated by this limp-wristed answer by Bush.  An un-answer given by a man with an un-opinion.  Un-principles make for bad leadership and examples.  As our country is quickly discovering, if it already hasn't.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

To the boys of Gettysburg

And all who've made the ultimate sacrifice.  May our generation finally wake up and be worthy of all that was given to us by those who came before: 

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war.
We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. 
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

When Washington crossed the Delaware and the Lone Ranger

Old dead guy, or hero worthy of worship? 
Steven Greydanus has reviewed The Lone Ranger.  The movie that is, based loosely on Jack Sparrow's exploits as an American Indian in the old West.  Mr. Greydanus and I don't usually see eye to eye on movies, but sometimes he makes some great points about the culture of movies and the world in which they are made.  The point in this review is less about the movie itself, as about our modern culture's tendency to deconstruct and trash our traditional ideas about heroes.  News flash, it's been going on for years.  Which got me to thinking, as I am wont to do.

Back in the day, when I was in school, much of what we heard was how ridiculous and naive those old timers were.  They idolized old, dead guys.  The believed smarmy sentimentality and mythical spins on events and people long gone. They denied the reality of America's past sins.  In short, they had concocted a false reality about our country's past.  About the past of everything.

Symbolism was debunked.  That was a favorite pastime.  Looking at iconic imagery, fanciful reactions, glorifying artwork was a common practice, as one after another the 'real' story was revealed, and the romanticized versions were deconstructed.  Case in point:

Famous picture.  Does it need an introduction?  Well, today it might.  It's a painting of Washington crossing the Delaware (river).  That is, Washington leading his men in a surprise strike against the Hessian outpost at Trenton on the morning of December 26, 1776.  That's right, just a few months after the Declaration of Independence was introduced to history.  It was painted in 1851 by German artist Emanuel Leutze.

This was a favorite target for our hip, enlightened scholars.  They loved, I mean loved, to debunk the inaccuracies and liberties.  From the size of the boats, to the wrong style flag, to the basic positioning of the characters.  They loved to point out the over-the-top romanticized vision of Washington, explaining that he would never have been able to stand in such a way.  The list of problems was endless!  And I have several books that point it out,  not just to cut Washington down to size, but to reduce that silly, simple generation of naive tribesmen who actually believed such hogwash when compared to our hip, enlightened generation that never buys into idol worship and knows to search for real truth, as opposed to romanticized garbage.

But a couple things have hit me over the years.  One, did people back then think it could have happened?  I mean, there's more likelihood that people in 1851 were acquainted with boats like this than most moderns today.  Did they look at this and say 'gee, it must have happened this way, the painting says so!'?   If they did, it is possible they know something we don't? Plus, as for the inaccuracies, and whether it happened that way or not for that matter, does it matter?  Is it possible that people who looked at, and loved, that painting understood it's actually very accurate, for what it was trying to portray.

For believe it or not, most people don't spend their lives living for scholarly debate or scientific investigation.  This painting, as far as I know, was not meant to be a scientific treatise of inter-coastal waterborne troop maneuvers with historically accurate reconstructions of clothing and battlefield insignia.  Best as I can tell, it was to celebrate what Washington did that night.  What his soldiers did that night.  And what did they do?  They saved the revolution against Britain, that's what.  We know the story.  A year of failures and losses, and most colonials were ready to hang it up and grovel back to mother England.  The service time was up at the end of the year, and Washington was losing support of his men.  He needed to do something, anything to give the cause a jolt.

And what did he pick?  He decided to hit the Hessians, German mercenaries known for their skill and ruthlessness, on the morning of December 26.  They would launch on Christmas day.  They would attack by stealth and surprise.  They would strike against overwhelming odds, in the hope that everything went exactly as it needed to, and chalk up a much needed victory.  And against all hope, they did the impossible.  That's what this painting is saying.  And it's doing it accurately.  Not in scientific detail or scholarly dissertation.  But in art.  In emotion.  Leutze captures the heroism, the bravery, the boldness and decisiveness with which Washington inspired his men.  It's totally accurate.  Not naive.  Not stupid.  Not smarmy sentimental slush.  It captures the reality of the event better than many a scholarly text.  And does so in a way that people would do well to remember.  Life is not an academic treatise.  

This isn't simple.  This is insightful.   This is from that age that understood heroes and their values, even if our age doesn't.  This reminds us that accuracy does not alone belong to the world of ivory towers and laboratories.  And perhaps the simplest people of all are the ones who become so obsessed about buttons on trousers or stars on a flag, and miss the greater picture.  Perhaps they want to miss it.  Maybe, they want to deny the greatness or would prefer to reduce the impact and accomplishment because it's easier to tear down the hero.  Or perhaps, they wish to, once again, apply whatever set of standards that excuses the dismissal of America's past greatness, while slyly ignoring such demands on the things that they now want to call great (and having much less of a leg to stand on in the process).  That would certainly explain this: 

Freedom is relative

On this, the celebration of our nation's independence, I'm reminded of something.  Freedom is relative.  Recently, most notably in a New York Times editorial a year or so ago, there have been some arguing that it's time to put aside these old notions of freedom of speech or religion as absolutes.  After all, it was argued, you can't just say anything.  You can't practice any religious devotion.  Never could.  Nobody would argue that you can today.  You can't, for instance, yell fire in a crowded movie theater (unless there is one).  You can't sacrifice virgins on a pagan altar.  You just can't.  So clearly we had some built in qualifiers when we said, from the get go, that our freedom of religion or speech will not be tampered with by the government.

The arguments go on to talk about what are absolute freedoms: reproductive health, gender equality, no discrimination based on sexual orientation, access to healthcare, and so on.  For these, so the theory goes, there is no qualifier.  We all agree that they should be protected without reservation or exception.  But that part is for another time.

Which brings me back to this strange story, about a student at Sonoma State University who was told to remove a cross during freshman orientation.  The student in question, from what I gather, was a helper.  Apparently, school officials feared that the crosses she wore could offend someone.  From what I can tell, many administrators now are backpedaling from this.  We'll see.

FWIW, I didn't even know there was a Sonomoa State University.  And yet, this shows something.  After decades of pounding the pulpit about a judgmental free society, a diverse society, a society of tolerance and open mindedness, I dare say we're more judgmental and less tolerant than any time in my memory.  At best, at absolute best, we're no better.  In fact, when cases like this are pointed out to those advocating for a more progressive revolution, it's often thrown back that old timers did the same thing.  Which, IMHO, is not exactly a stellar argument.  If the most your glorious revolution can provide is the same thing, then it's probably time to rethink the glorious revolution.

But in all fairness, all progressives, or liberals, or whatever you prefer to call them, are realizing is that lofty principles come with qualifiers.  That's where law vs. principle comes in.  A law is a law is a law.  We're a nation of laws.  Our nation was founded on the belief that laws are good.  Our faith speaks of laws as a good thing.  We have a priest from Nigeria who praises the myriad laws of the U.S.  As he likes to say, try living in a nation with not enough laws for a while and you'll see why.

Yet laws are there because all the freedoms we promise have to be checked by reality.  We have freedom of religion, that is true.  But we can't sacrifice children on fiery altars.  We have freedom of speech, but we can't slander people.  And it goes beyond laws.  Sometimes society, without laws, does a bang up job of qualifying  its principles.  Freedom of speech you say?  Tolerance you say?  Tell that to Paula Deen.

That's because progressives either always knew and lied, or are now coming to realize, that freedom, liberty, equality, all of these things are qualified principles.  Freedom to do anything?  Not drop the N-word apparently.  Not speak out against homosexuality.  Not try to regulate the abortion industry. Not believe that one religion can be more true than others, or that eternal consequences could arise from our choices of said religions.  Of course many of these things are still at the societal level of taboo breaking.  It takes a while for things to move from common values to common laws.

So if we aren't ready to accept the progressive template for reality, then folks had best stop fiddling around.  Next time a progressive throws it back and says 'it's no different than conservatives or traditional people of old', agree.  Say yeah.  The difference was, they admitted that there were absolute moral standards, and that when we said things like 'freedom', they were logically qualified.  Just like Jesus explained to the Pharisees, the law is made for man, not man for the law.  Freedom exists for our benefit, not as a slick slogan used to strip away the very freedoms it promises.

And then go on and remind them that, contrary to the liberal promises of old, this is not some Utopian paradise of no morals or values or laws of rules, this is no world of just everyone doing what feels good.  This 'liberal' revolution apparently has some definite ideas about what is and isn't allowable, and is as willing as an old time puritan to hoist those values on everyone.  It believes that all promises (take, marriage 'equality') are obviously to be qualified.  It feels that those who exercise freedoms in ways offensive to liberal sensitivities should be punished. In short, it's no more open or tolerant or morally relative than any other movement in history.  Its promises of freedom and liberty and equality are just as qualified as any pilgrim setting up shop at Plymouth.  Once that is established, perhaps we can sit down and make them realize it's all a question of debating one tradition's idea of moral standards versus the latest, hippest tradition's idea of moral standards that increasingly seem to qualify all those promises of freedom from moral standards.

You can't argue with true post-moderns

Mark Shea had a little post zeroing in on the Texas pro-abortionists who chanted 'hail Satan.'  A bit of a public relations nightmare three decades ago.  Today, probably a feather in the cap for most on the Left.  Anyway, an individual comes to slam Mark's assessment, and praise the fact that the old America is dying and the new America (presumably where people chant 'hail Satan' in their support of abortion) has arrived.

A discussion ensues.  And what a discussion it is.  The basic underlying point made by the intrepid guest SandyRavage: all evidence shows he/she is correct, because the evidence that doesn't is irrelevant.  It's a long thread, and my eyes glazed over many times.

My favorite parts: the individual appealed to Jefferson at one point to 'prove' Jefferson didn't think laws had a religious basis,
Even Thomas Jefferson laughed off the idea that America's laws were based off of religious values.
then later warned against appealing to Jefferson's 'rhetoric', presumably from the Declaration of Independence, to suggest Jefferson (or any of the Founders, who otherwise are called a diverse lot), thought our laws had a basis in religious belief:
And please spare me some simple rhetoric from Jefferson. The Founders were an incredibly diverse group of people, the vast majority of whom put no stock whatsoever in Locke's concept of natural rights.
And when appeals were made to the universal support for Jefferson's finished product?  Why, without evidence or quotes to back it up, we're informed that the Founding Fathers didn't really believe that part of it but cynically used it to accomplish a purpose:
They came to a compromise because they felt the document effectively gave a justification for declaring independence, irrespective of their personal feelings on its truth.They were politicians, politicians lie. Use your common sense
Again, no proof or quotes to back up this claim.  Apparently, it must be true because it is obviously true.

Later, the bold rebel appeals to Hamiltonian Federalists.  Another example of early Americans who dismissed this laughable notion of religion as a basis for laws.  Trying desperately to debate, someone posts a quote from Hamilton:
"The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for, among old parchments, or musty records. They are written, as with a sun beam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of the divinity itself; and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power."
Is there a problem with the claim that 'Hamiltonian Federalists' rejected the idea that God has anything to do with our laws, after being shown the above quote?  Not at all for a post-modern!  You see, sudden appeal to Hamilton's 'private doubts' is all that's needed:
Did you miss the part where I mentioned that they appealed to divine will publicly, but privately expressed doubts? You'll fine the same in the writings of Ben Franklin, Abe Lincoln, And Emperor Josef of Austria
FWIW, I did miss it, because until that point, the claim that they had private doubts was not made.  The claim was made that they disagreed, or lied, or used documents for cynical purposes, but never had the issue of publicly stating one thing and doubting been touched upon till that point.

And again, no quotes or anything from Hamilton's private doubts.  Not saying there weren't any, just I noticed there were no quotes.  But it is strange, since he/she seemed to suggest that any private doubts negate public sentiments.  If you doubt in private, you apparently don't believe what you say in public? I can only assume that this means the individual on the thread has no doubts whatsoever about his/her beliefs!  Which is odd for a movement proud of its disdain for moral certainty and a preference for open mindedness.

But alas, if you read the thread, you'll see why it's tough to counter the liberal/post-modern juggernaut.  Appeals to evidence or historical figures, only to dismiss those same figures or references later when no longer convenient.  When faced with evidence, appealing to secret knowledge without evidence, making assumptions based on the fact that obviously liberalism must be right, or making strange claims such as the notion that any private doubts must mean public statements are either false, or outright lies for political expedience.

You can't beat it with logic.  You can't beat it with evidence.  In a world in which we appeal to reason, truth, and common sense, the post-modern progressive has the definite upper hand.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Happy Birthday America

Without denying the problems, learn to celebrate the awesomeness of America and its heritage, and America can be great again, and it won't be seen as irony or sarcasm when we say we're proud to be American.  Speaking of which, a little B'day song to the country, courtesy of the late, great James Cagney as the equally great George M. Cohan:

Will you go Homer Bailey

Congrats to Mr. Bailey.  It's been a while since this much excitement was stirred in the land of WKRP.  His second no-hitter, and the first one in major league baseball since last year - when he threw his last no-hitter!  The Giants never knew what hit them.  It was one walk away from a perfect game (and there have only been  a couple dozen or so perfect games in the history of baseball, to keep that one in perspective).  But that wasn't meant to be, alas.  Nonetheless, the second no-hitter in two seasons, already one for the record books.  The Big Red Machine would be proud. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Atheists say the cutest things

Words of Wisdom: Why Have a Word For Anything?

No, we don't have words for people who doubt that Elvis is still alive.  But we sure would have a word for someone who said that Elvis never existed, but was simply a giant conspiracy of music industry insiders in order to bilk teenagers out of their hard earned money.

I know, this is one of those many things that atheists say that makes rational people scratch their heads.  And if I had more time, I could have more fun with it.  But big celebration of our country's birthday coming up, and time being what it is, I have planning and preparations to think about.

So here's my thing.  This whole 'atheism is not anything, it's the absence of all things, the great not-un-thing that means it's true because it's obviously right' argument is, to me, evidence of the desperation of atheism.  In the end, the cocksure belief that atheists of centuries past had, that the new found scientific methods and reliance on mathematical formulas would unlock all knowledge and demonstrate all reality apart from a divine, has more or less washed up on the beach.

In fact, few things bolster religious faith than looking back at what skeptics and secularists in the olden days imagined would deflate reasonable belief in the Almighty, and comparing it to what has happened up to date.  The worst thing is the realization that atheism can't prove anything about God or the absence thereof.  It has been entirely incapable of proving anything about the truth claims of religion.  Science, when properly understood and utilized, has nothing to say.  And as atheists are fond of pointing out, you can't prove a negative.

True.  But what atheists don't want to say, or admit, is that atheism is, in the end, a belief.  A subjective, personal, unverifiable belief.  It has statements of faith that would shame a south Alabama Baptist preacher.  Can science explain the origins of all things?  No.  But atheists are 'sure' it will some day, and will do so without relying on the divine.  Really?  And they 'know' this?  No.  They 'believe' it.  Just the thought that science alone should speak to the question of God's existence is a faith statement: how do they know all that exists is measurable by the scientific method?  How do they know that if a god existed,  it could be revealed through scientific study?  They don't.  They 'believe' it.

The point is, atheism is a subjective religious belief.  It is a belief about the reality of religious belief.  It doesn't exist in a vacuum.  Atheists aren't  idiots unaware of the fact that there's this thing called religion where people believe in God.  Atheists by their own admission have looked at the evidence and concluded that they cannot believe in God or the divine.  They believe that all matter simply is, and came from an origin that simply was.  With no evidence to buttress them, and relying on enough faith to fill a stadium, atheists declare these truths with no more evidence than that which a person of faith can muster, and sometimes not as much.

So in a desperate act of self-deception, atheists are inclined to say things like the above.  It stretches ludicrousness to the extreme.  And most people with the smallest shard of common sense can see such an argument is ludicrous, through they may not be able to pinpoint why.  But it's enough to know that such statements are acts of desperation from people who in all likelihood are smart enough to know the truth, and are hoping (dare I say, praying) that if they repeat such things enough, not only will others actually believe it, but most important of all, the atheists themselves will finally believe it, too.  Which they should be able to do, since so much of what atheists or other secularists bring to the debate is nothing other than belief in the first place.