Friday, March 30, 2007
His essential point, if I have it right, is that modern liberalism (which is as illiberal as any political movement in American history) is premised on not discriminating. They believe that one should believe in nothing and judge nothing. He does not say it, but the ruling philosophical premise of contemporary liberalism is subjectivism. What’s true for you might not be true for me -- anything goes.
Sayet’s most brilliant identification is that being indiscriminate inevitably leads the left to being on the wrong side. If not judging is good, then anyone who makes a judgment, they conclude, must be evil. If there are no standards, then anyone who maintains standards must be a close-minded, bad person. If all cultures are equal, then anyone who denounces middle eastern terrorists must be racist. If we can’t judge Saddam Hussein, then any country that invades Iraq must be doing it to steal their oil.
Sayet really makes you understand just how far gone modern liberalism is. My only problem with Dr. Peikoff’s opinion that the religious right is America’s most dangerous threat is that he doesn’t seem to recognize that the New Left is a greater threat than the Old Left. To hear him speak, today’s Democrats are the party of FDR’s New Deal. No, today’s liberals are something worse. They are working their way toward totalitarianism.
Thursday, March 29, 2007
Diamond Jim knows you only live once and he wants to live in style. He is very particular in his demands and he only wants the best. When he goes to his favorite restaurant, he expects the valet to park his Cadillac in a special spot and to keep an eye on it. He expects the maitre d’ to seat him at his favorite table by the window. He makes special demands on the waiters.
The grubby socialist who sits at the dark corner table glowers at Diamond Jim in resentment. Why can’t he accept the normal service everyone gets? What makes him special?
After dinner Diamond Jim likes a waiter to serve him a cigar on the patio and even to light his cigar. Furthermore, Diamond Jim expects the waiter to stay with him to engage in conversation, and he demands that the waiter be a Christian-socialist-environmentalist because he likes to argue with fools as he smokes.
Do the valet, maitre d’ and waiters hate Diamond Jim? Quite the contrary, they love him; they even arrange their schedules to be working when Diamond Jim shows up. They do this because Diamond Jim tips like Frank Sinatra on New Year’s Eve. You see, Diamond Jim lives by the Spanish proverb: take what you want and pay for it. He pays for it.
Now, imagine the Senate has passed the Inspector-Van Horn Act, which outlaws tipping. Inspector and Van Horn, the Senate’s two most notorious communists, resent tipping because they think everyone should be paid the same for the same work. Tipping forces individuals to think about how much they should tip, which causes “fears.”
So what do the restaurant workers think of Diamond Jim now? They loathe him because he expects more work from them than the other customers, but they do not get any more money for it. Diamond Jim’s quality of life disappears because he cannot tip. The grubby socialist at the dark corner table cackles with glee because Diamond Jim has been brought down to level of everyone else.
This story, like all satire, exaggerates to make a point. Inspector and Gus Van Horn, I am fairly certain, would not advocate a law against tipping. However, they want restaurants to voluntarily do away with the practice.
An individualist, capitalist society is a horn of plenty, offering each individual many choices in every aspect of life. Each individual has the option of choosing his own values, no matter how different or fancy, as long as he can pay for it.
If 90% of the people like blue towels, the other 10% is not forced to buy blue towels just because it is the collective norm. Red towels or yellow towels or checkered towels might cost more, but if someone is willing to pay for them, chances are they will be produced.
Tipping is a force for individualism. Doing away with tips, like all egalitarian actions, penalizes those who want more than the average guy. It forces people with higher standards to accept the service that the statistical average are content with.
Those who have average standards would not be affected by being unable to tip. Collectivists would be delighted because everyone is treated the same.
Only the passionate valuers -- people who think about what they want and then go after it in every aspect of life -- only those people would suffer. Of course, egalitarians don’t care about those people.
Life without the ability to pay for individualized service would be a bit grayer than it is today. It would be one more step in the value-deprivation that is suffocating modern culture.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
I heard a news reporter say that the Iranians objected to "300" because it makes their ancestors look like "bloodthirsty savages." The DJ replied, in essence, "Hey, the Greeks were bloodthirsty savages, too. They all were back then."
That is liberalism in a nutshell -- multiculturalism and moral relativism. Not a twinge of anger at the Iranians, not a trace of spine, just immediate collapse. The DJ could not fall to his knees fast enough to grovel to Iran.
My response would have been: "Today's Iranians are the bloodthirsty savages. It is an insult to the Persians to mention them in the same breath with the Islamic totalitarians. The Persians came before western philosophy, before the Roman Republic, before the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, John Locke, the Declaration of Independence, the Industrial Revolution, capitalism, and every other achievement of the last 2,500 years. The Persians had an excuse for being mystics and despots. The Islamic Fundamentalists of today have no excuse; their depravity is far more wretched and unforgivable."
I think I would last as a Portland DJ about 10 minutes.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
They have taken over Congress by a very clever and very disciplined strategy of constantly criticizing the Republicans, without taking the risk of presenting an alternative for whose results they can be held responsible.
It has been painfully clear that Speaker Pelosi was serious only about scoring political points. Her big grin when she won a narrow vote for a non-binding resolution was grotesque against the background of a life-and-death issue.
You don't grin over a political ploy that you have pulled when men's lives are at stake.
Why do the Democrats lack seriousness on the war? Is it because they are cynical and will manipulate any issue to gain power?
Only an American defeat in Iraq can ensure the Democrats' political victory next year. Their only strategy is to sabotage the chances for a military victory in Iraq without being held responsible for a defeat.
That is the corner that they have painted themselves into with their demagoguery that even their own supporters see through.
I think their lack of seriousness comes from their inability to understand that we are at war. Part of the reason we are in this mess is because many in Washington for decades refused to consider terrorism as a matter of war. Instead they thought of it as a criminal justice matter. John Kerry voiced that opinion in the last presidential election, three years after the World Trade Center attacks. A nation does not go to war against another nation in response to individual criminals.
Nancy Pelosi’s grin and the Democrats’ games show that they still do not really believe we are at war. They still believe that if we just sit down and talk with Iran and the rest of the totalitarian Islamists -- and if we buy them off with enough foreign aid -- then we can fly on by the seat of our pants as we have for decades. In the sophisticated enclaves of Manhattan and Aspen and Napa Valley, the idea of war must seem like an overreaction of the great unwashed masses -- all those jingoist fools who lose their reason in presence of the American flag.
Meanwhile, the enemy is still alive and planning the next attack.
Saturday, March 24, 2007
At the end of the audition, a director asked, "Are you in Equity?"
"No," I said.
The female director next to him asked, "SAG?"
"That's hard to believe," said the woman.
Well, that was a nice compliment.
Whether I get into this company or not, I'll probably move to Hollywood this summer to begin looking for acting work. Much of an actor's life is tedious -- sitting around on a movie set all day to say, "They went thataway." But then, my day job in radio is tedious, so I might as well do tedious acting work and get paid for it.
I'll have to do TV and movie work for money, but my first love will always be classical acting on stage.
Friday, March 23, 2007
Today he came up to me and said, “It’s time to nationalize the oil companies.”
“Really?” I asked. “Why?”
“Because gas is $3.22.”
“So you want the government to steal private property at the point of a gun?”
Ed was stunned. He had expected me to say something like, "Yeah, those greedy bastards are gouging us! How is the little guy supposed to make ends meet when gas is $3.22?"
Ed stammered, “But…but what else can we do?”
“Let the free market work. What you want is communism.”
Again he was stunned. “Communism doesn’t work,” he said, among some other stuff I couldn't make out. (If Ed knows that much, it must be generally accepted knowledge now that communism does not work.)
“Well, nationalizing the oil companies is communism.”
I’m sure I could have done a better job explaining how the free market works if I had the patience. Teaching is not my strong point.
There is no way Ed could read Ludwig von Mises or George Reisman and understand their arguments. Hell, I have to work to understand them. But even a mildly retarded man can advocate nationalizing the oil companies. Ed is an exaggerated example of the stupidity we are up against in today’s culture. Understanding capitalism requires an ability to think in higher abstractions and principles. With progressive education teaching people to think in the opposite manner, in isolated concretes that never integrate into principles, we're in big trouble. Stupidity and freedom do not mix.
UPDATE: Thanks to Two-Four for linking. My hits are way up. That Billy Beck has some throw.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
UPDATE: Dean Barnett asks about Al Gore,
The remarkable thing is not that I was attacked. But that the attacks have been so feeble. The ice-core data was the jewel in the global-warming crown, cited again and again as evidence that carbon dioxide 'drives' the earth's climate. In fact, as its advocates have been forced to admit, the ice-core data says the opposite. Temperature change always precedes changes in CO2 by several hundred years. Temperature drives CO2, not the other way round. The global-warmers do not deny this. They cannot.
Has there ever been a man who so desperately hungered for greatness who was so thoroughly suffused with mediocrity?
Rudy Giuliani leads the Republican field. He is getting support from social and religious conservatives, despite his being liberal on issues such as abortion. Why? The war, stupid.
There is the war, which overwhelms everything as the major issue in the eyes of the base. No group in the country backs the war on terror as fervently as social conservatives, whose main criticism of the president's policy is that it has not been aggressive enough. To them, Rudy is the ultimate warrior, a man who not only survived 9/11 and rallied the city, but whose success in routing the gangs of New York is a template for engaging the Islamic terrorists, and an indication that he has the resolve and the relentlessness to carry this bloody task off.Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton is losing support among Democrats. Why? The war, stupid.
Democrats said in interviews last week that a that a critical factor contributing to her decline in the polls was her unwillingness to apologize for her vote for the Iraq war and admit it was a mistake. "Her Iraq war vote is coming back to haunt her. She's said everything except that she made a mistake. Voters see this as Hillary wanting it both ways," said pollster Del Ali of Research 2000.So, despite disagreements on issues, the Republican base is supporting Giuliani because he is strong on the war. Despite agreement with Hillary on every other important issue, the Democrat base is leaving Clinton because she refuses to apologize for supporting a war that saw the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s murderous dictatorship. The Republican base is better than I had thought and the Democrat base is, if possible, worse than I had thought.
A lot can happen between now and November, 2008, but right now one issue overshadows all others: war. If this remains the case, the Republican will win easily because independent voters tend to be pro-American and pro-defense. All the anti-war types are on the left, not in the middle. (The Republican might be a paper tiger like George W. Bush -- and America might actually be safer with a Democrat than a Republican who pretends to fight a war, but does not -- but the perception of strength is likely to be for the Republican among voters.)
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Yes, it is complicated. Gore does not go into this minor complication of the evidence: the rise in CO2 is consistently several centuries behind the rise in temperature. In other words, the evidence points to the opposite of Gore’s central point – a rise in temperature causes a rise in CO2. Perhaps this is because higher temperatures are good for life. Living fauna and decaying flora both emit CO2 into the atmosphere.
If Gore is at all aware of what he is saying and what “complication” he is evading, then he is dishonest. But he might not really understand what he is talking about. He might just be parroting what environmentalists tell him to say. Either way, if what The Great Global Warming Swindle says is true, we must conclude that Al Gore is either a liar or a fool.
(A young liberal I know asked me to watch An Inconvenient Truth. I said I would not. She said if I watched it, she would read any book I gave her. So I sat through Gore's masterpiece of propaganda, then gave her a copy of Atlas Shrugged. As far as I'm concerned, she got the better end of the deal. Especially since I paid for both my movie ticket and her book.)
We might be watching the climax of environmentalism. If people understand what a huge con job has been put over on them with global warming, I don’t see how environmentalism can recover. But this might be wishful thinking. A widespread understanding of the truth depends on the MSM reporting the truth without liberal bias. Furthermore, clarity depends on a philosophic theory that supports the concept of objective truth. Postmodernism would consider the truth about global warming merely a “narrative” that plays into the hands of greedy capitalist corporations. Since there is no objective truth to postmodernists, the environmentalist narrative is just as valid – more valid to liberals because its intentions are good (altruist), and it results in statism and sacrifice of the individual to the collective.
Imagine you are a young reporter at CBS or the New York Times who has been taught at Columbia University that there is no truth, just competing narratives. Which narrative do you choose to report? The one that helps selfish robber barons who engage in conspicuous consumption and keep the working man oppressed as wage slaves? Or the one that turns us all into “volunteers” for the community and promotes selflessness?
In the end, we still face a philosophic challenge, whether the science of environmentalism is refuted or not.
My only question at this point is: How long until she runs for office as a Democrat? She would fit right in with the Dem base and in the right district she would easily win.
As Rosie writes on her blog, “remember 2 breathe.”
Monday, March 19, 2007
During World War II, Gandhi penned an open letter to the British people, urging them to surrender to the Nazis. Later, when the extent of the holocaust was known, he criticized Jews who had tried to escape or fight for their lives as they did in Warsaw and Treblinka. “The Jews should have offered themselves to the butcher’s knife,” he said. “They should have thrown themselves into the sea from cliffs.” “Collective suicide,” he told his biographer, “would have been heroism.”Senator Thompson is right and Gandhi was wrong. Collective suicide is not heroism.
UPDATE: Senator Thompson on the Iranian reaction to 300. He's looking more and more like Presidential timber.
Shakespeare was a great playwright, but not much of a thinker. He consistently looks backward to glorify the medieval order of things.
2. The new angus burger from McDonald’s is really good. It does not taste like a McDonald’s burger at all.
3. This weekend I get a treat. I will be watching some hard-to-find movies by my favorite director, Ernst Lubitsch. Reviews will follow.
4. I recently acquired Plays of Edmond Rostand, 1921, a two-volume set of all his plays with some nice art nouveau illustrations. Bill Bucko says the version of The Eaglet in this set is better than the adapted version I read 20 years ago. This set also has a play I’ve never seen anywhere else, The Woman of Samaria.
5. Most readers of this blog have probably already watched The Great Global Warming Swindle, but some of my non-ideological friends might not have. I would urge anyone who is alarmed about global warming to watch this British documentary just to get the other side – a side that is ignored by the MSM. The version I linked to on Youtube is split into eight segments of 9:29 each. It is well worth sticking it out to watch all eight segments.
Einstein used to say he welcomed anyone who could prove him wrong, because he was more interested in the truth than in being considered right. That is the spirit of science. The global warming advocates, on the other hand, try to shut up dissent and label those who disagree as “heretics” and “deniers.” Global warming is not science, it is politics, and bad politics at that.
6. Crucible and Column has some interesting posts.
Saturday, March 17, 2007
As I drove to my 10am rehearsal at the Redlands Shakespeare Festival, I stopped by Blockbuster to drop off the DVD’s I reviewed in my last post. Perhaps this chore could have been ignored because Blockbuster says they don’t have late fees. How does that work? Wouldn’t people keep DVD’s forever?
Remember when video stores were all VCR’s? Or, if you’re old enough, remember when video stores did not exist? Back then people examined the TV Guide closely to find out when good movies were playing on TV. Technology is the march of more and better choices for the individual instead of being at the mercy of centralized entertainment providers.
The rehearsal was of the crowd scenes in Julius Caesar. The director is going for a real Cecil B. DeMille cast of thousands look. These crowd scenes are the hardest thing to rehearse. They try everyone’s patience. It’s best if actors just SHUT UP so the scenes can be gotten through as efficiently as possible.
In the first half I am part of the mob. No respectable play set in Rome lacks a mob. Both Julius Caesar and Coriolanus have fine mobs. In our production Marc Antony must scream “Friends, Romans, countrymen” at the top of his voice to shut up the mob. The director did this on purpose, and it is a much better choice than having a calm Antony say those famous words in a stately, corny oration.
In the second half all of us who were mobsters become soldiers as the scene shifts to the Battle of Philippi. I’m sure most readers of this blog know their history, but for any young people who were recently released from 12 years of servitude in government schools:
The Battle of Philippi was the final battle in the Wars of the Second Triumvirate between the forces of Mark Antony and Octavian (the Second Triumvirate) against the forces of Julius Caesar's assassins Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius CassiusThe most interesting thing to me about this battle is that the poet Horace fought on Brutus’s side.
Longinus in 42 BC, at Philippi in Macedonia. The Second Triumvirate declared this civil war to avenge Julius Caesar's murder.
The battle figures in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar (background of the story in Acts 4 and 5).
After the assassination of Julius Caesar, Horace joined the army, serving under the generalship of Brutus. He fought as a staff officer (tribunus militum) in the Battle of Philippi. Alluding to famous literary models, he later claimed that he saved himself by throwing away his shield and fleeing.He was a coward in battle, but he lived to write glorious poetry.
In the battle scenes I march in with the army of Brutus, imagining that I am Horace. We meet the army of Cassius center stage and form one big army. Later the army of Octavian and Marc Antony march onstage. Then actors pretend to be Conan the Barbarian with plastic swords.
After some four grueling hours of rehearsal, I had to crack a joke. I turned to the army I was in and asked, “Now, are we the Sharks or the Jets?” It got a pretty good laugh.
As we were laughing, I heard the director call my name. I thought, “Oh, shit – I’m in trouble now.”
“Where is your script?” he asked.
“In my pocket.”
“Good. You’re playing Titinius.”
Apparently, the actor they had originally cast as Titinius dropped out. So I ended up with a part that has a nice emotional moment talking about the dead Cassius, then I get to kill myself with Cassius’s sword. I watch a lot of Samurai movies, so I’ll probably scream something Japanese when I do it.
I felt like Ruby Keeler in 42nd Street. I walked onstage a nobody, but I walked off a star! Well, I walked off with more lines, anyway.
When I got home I turned on the TV Guide Channel to see if a Lakers game was on. As the channels scrolled by on the bottom third, the upper two thirds of the screen featured a show called “Look Alike.” I sat there watching a bunch of gays fuss and coo over a woman until she looked like Reba McEntire. Entertainment does not get better than this. Then a show called “Idol Chat!” – complete with exclamation point – came on. In this show pretty young people talk about “American Idol” for an hour. At this point it occurred to me that if I watched the TV Guide Channel one more minute I would put a bullet into my brain, so I turned it off and survived to write this post.
Scorsese’s use of color and light is excellent. There is one superb chase scene on foot, worthy of Hitchcock, in which the rat follows the mole, trying to get a look at his face. Great suspense.
The characters are all modern and naturalistic; they’re neurotics or worse. The dialogue is full of profanity. The story is brutal and depressing. But there is enough tension and suspense to make the movie a passable entertainment for a few hours.
Office Space. This is an older movie I just got around to watching. Anyone who has ever worked in a cubicle will find plenty to laugh at here. Apparently, the movie has become something of a cult favorite, and some of the lines are famous, such as “Looks like somebody’s got a case of the Mondays.”
Borat. I’m conflicted about this movie. I’ve read a lot about how anti-American it is, how sick the humor is and what a horrible person Sacha Baron Cohen is for tricking people into thinking he was real and filming the results. All this is true, but still the movie made me laugh. Yes, he makes fun of Americans, the same types Mencken attacked 80 years ago when he wrote about the “booboisie.” You could also call the movie anti-Kazakhstani, because he makes that country look even worse.
As Steve Martin said, comedy isn’t pretty. If you’re going to do satire, you might as well go all the way. Cohen went ALL the way. I mean, when you wrestle naked with an obese man, taking the fight into a crowded elevator and then into a convention hall, that’s commitment. A lot of the movie is jaw-dropping, as in “I can’t believe he did that.” And there is something nihilistic about abusing people’s trust just to get a laugh. (Pamela Anderson, by the way, was in on the joke.) Still, there are moments of brilliant, hilarious satire, like the way Borat reacts to the Jewish owners of a bed and breakfast. At one point he thinks they have shape-shifted into cockroaches in the middle of the night and he throws money at the bugs to make them go away.
Our politically correct age has a neo-puritan aspect. Today there are just as many things polite people do not say as there were in the Victorian Age. It's fun to see Cohen say the things the rest of us censor. Watching him with a group of Manhattan feminists is priceless. It’s a funny movie, but not a lovable one.
Friday, March 16, 2007
As I commented on that post: These statements are stunning, but I'm glad they make such honest statements instead of lying. Critics of environmentalism get a lot of mileage out of these lapses of honesty. I don't know how many times I've read the quote about the right virus wiping out a billion people, or the one about crocodiles eating humans as their “dainties.” Within the last 10 years another environmentalist said something to the effect that keeping people alarmed was more important than scientific accuracy. This honesty should be encouraged, because the environmentalist movement has thrived on lies from the beginning. People think environmentalism is about keeping the air and water clean, when it is really an assault on capitalism, progress, technology, etc.
Individualists want freedom; collectivists want power. Environmentalism is just the latest manifestation of “the will to power.”
As Ayn Rand explained in The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution, now republished as Return of the Primitive, the Old Left boasted that it was more productive than capitalism. It is hard to fathom now, but in the 1930’s many people thought the west was doomed because the Soviets had five-year plans and America had no plan. By the 1960’s it was obvious that planned economies are NOT more productive than free markets – in fact, planning leads to chaos. This left those who lust for state power over free individuals in something of a quandary: how do they justify state power when it is less productive? The New Left found the answer to that problem: make productivity itself bad. Thus was environmentalism born.
Environmentalism has disguised its purpose from the beginning. But I think that as the movement ages and becomes part of Western Civilization, it will become more open and honest about its intentions, and this is good. The motto of one radical group is “Back to the Pleistocene!” The more people understand that environmentalists really mean it, the better. There will always be people who respond, “Oh, they don’t really mean that! They just want to clean up the smog and purify our drinking water.” As the truth spreads, fewer people buy this myth. Why, 10 years from now the only people who believe that environmentalism is about cleanliness might be the elderly readers of the New York Times.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
I would conclude from this that about a third of the general population and a little over half of the Democrats are really, really stupid. No, that's not fair. Let's put it this way: they are people who get their news from places like CNN and the Los Angeles Times, without reading the other side on the internet, and they believe what they read. Why do environmentalists and their allies in the media lie and foment hysteria? Because it works.
A Gallup Poll on global warming has some interesting data on poll respondents' attitudes toward the consequences of global warming, but this one piece of data stood out:
55% of all self-identified Democrats believe that "human life would cease to exist on Earth" as a result of global warming.
29% of independents had the same belief; 12% of Republicans shared this belief; while overall, 33% of the poll's respondents believed that global warming would extinguish life on Earth.
"Never bother to examine a folly; ask only what it accomplishes." -- Ellsworth Toohey
UPDATE: Rewritten so that I don't call a third of Americans really, really stupid.
"Well I'm going to leave that to others to conclude. I'm very proud of the gays and lesbians I know who perform work that is essential to our country, who want to serve their country and I want to make sure they can."
The woman is afraid to take a stand on this issue because doing so might lose her votes. This is the kind of thing that gives politicians a bad name.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
(But let’s not forget the Athenians, who defeated the Persians in the naval Battle of Salamis and on land 10 years earlier at Marathon. When the great playwright Aeschylus died, he had written on his tombstone that he fought at Marathon. Forget the Oresteia or Prometheus Bound, he wanted people to remember that he helped kick the Persians’ ass.)
300 does a good job telling this story. It builds to a nice climax that I won’t spoil here. The movie is stylish and visually stunning. The director avoids a pet peeve of mine in action movies, that of making the action scenes an incomprehensible, Heraclitean blur of motion in which you can’t tell what is going on. There is none of that in this movie, perhaps because the visuals follow a comic book, which is by nature static, non-moving pictures.
I went to a 10pm showing on Monday night, thinking I would waltz into an empty theater, as I usually do. I was stunned to find a 30-yard line at the box office. The theater was packed – at 10pm on a Monday night! A quick check of Box Office Mojo confirms that the movie is an enormous hit:
300 was anything but spartan, reaping $70.9 million on around 4,800 screens at 3,103 theaters in its opening weekend. That eclipses all previous ancient battle pictures by a wide margin, including Troy and Gladiator, and ranks fifth among comic book adaptations.Frank Miller and the screenwriters meant well in this movie. It was interesting to hear in the dialogue that the heroes were fighting for reason, justice and freedom and the bad guys were fighting for mysticism and tyranny. No question, there is an Ayn Rand influence in the writing. I wish with Literatrix that the concepts of reason, freedom and so on were more than empty abstractions mouthed by the characters. The only abstractions that were concretized in the action were the ones King Leonidas says in his last line, “My queen. My wife. My love.” We knew what he meant by those from the action, but reason and freedom were just words.
The $65 million computer-generated battle picture conquered the March opening record, previously held by Ice Age: The Meltdown's $68 million. It's also the third-highest grossing start for an R-rated movie, behind The Matrix Reloaded and The Passion of the Christ. 300's opening included an estimated $3.4 million from 62 IMAX venues, surpassing Superman Returns as the biggest IMAX debut ever.
Of course, the real historical Sparta, a bizarre culture that glorified war, didn’t give a damn about reason or freedom. (Epaminondas of Thebes, one of the very greatest generals of Classical Civilization, finally gave the Spartan bullies what they deserved in the 4th century.) Had the movie been about Athenians – yes, the same Athenians that Leonidas sneers at as “philosophers and boy lovers” – maybe the movie could have given us some understanding of what the concepts reason and freedom mean. But this criticism is as much as to say that the script does not rise to great literature. No, 300 is not great literature, but it is a damn fine movie, which is more than I expect from Hollywood these days.
UPDATE: Let me pick a few nits with this film now that I have slept on it.
First, the decision to give Xerxes a godlike voice was a terrible choice. It sounded phony. An important part of the story is that Xerxes depended an aura of invincibility that the Spartans cracked by standing up to this "god." Part of the inferiority of the east was that they believed a man was a god, whereas the Greeks knew better. However, with his reverberating bass voice, we can forgive anyone who thought Xerxes was inhuman.
Second, the hoplites were effective because they stayed in formation. This type of warfare was all about breaking lines. Once a line was broken, the battle was over except for the mopping up. In most of the movie, though, the Spartans were shown running solo through the enemy like a bunch of berserk Vikings. If they had done that at Thermopylae, they would have been wiped out in an hour.
This lapse of historical reality is especially egregious because the movie itself makes a point of the importance of staying in line! Leonidas rejects the hunchback because he cannot fight in formation with his shield high enough to cover the man next to him. But hell, the way they ended up fighting, the hunchback would have fit right in.
Oh, well -- it's a movie. The filmmakers did what they always do: sacrifice historical accuracy for a good shot or an exciting sequence. Can't blame them for that, I suppose.
Monday, March 12, 2007
Whether or not you agree with them about, say, homosexuality and abortion — and we emphatically do not — it is antiquated to limit the definition of morality to the way humans behave among humans.The Times knows what it is doing when it makes environmentalism a moral issue. Conservatives can argue the facts of science, and I believe the facts are not on environmentalism’s side. However, conservatives cannot argue against altruism, because they accept the fundamental premise that a man has no right to live for himself. They might argue that man must serve God, whereas the left might argue that man must serve the collective or the planet and all its inhabitants. They’re just arguing over who gets the benefit of sacrifice, and surely they can hammer out some compromise that will satisfy both the left and the right.
Those days have been over ever since it became apparent that humans — busy thinking only about their own lives — had the power to destroy huge numbers of species, whole landscapes of habitat and, in fact, the balance of life on earth. The greatest moral issue of our time is our responsibility to the planet and to all its inhabitants.
Altruism puts the focus of morality in the other; before environmentalism this meant other people. This Times editorial extends the other to mean everything on Earth. The moral person can live for rocks, chimpanzees, the ozone layer -- anything but himself.
Morality is not primarily about an individual’s relationship with others, whether they are humans or spotted owls, but about what an individual chooses to do with his own life. If an individual were on a desert island, then his survival would depend on his morality. Does he believe in rationality or acting on whim? Does he believe he should think for himself or pray to a supernatural being? Does he believe he has a right to change the desert island for his own happiness or that nature has an intrinsic value apart from what he wants? Does he want to live or die? Does he believe he should focus his mind or evade reality? What should he do? What should his cardinal values be? What is virtuous action to attain those values?
Morality is about what man should do in order to live. What he should do in relation to other people or in relation to “the environment,” whatever that is, is not the essence of morality, but a secondary issue. Altruism evades the heirarchy of ideas that support a rational morality to begin its argument on a subsequent issue because the fundamental questions of morality are about what a person should do to live his own life.
The greatest moral issue of our time is not “our responsibility to the planet and all of its inhabitants.” It is the question of whether man has a right to live for his own sake without sacrificing to any other, be it God, the collective or the percentage of oxygen molecules in the atmosphere.
Friday, March 09, 2007
It is so good and thoughtful that our beloved leaders take the money I slave to make. I am very wasteful with my money and I know that towering geniuses such as Barbara Boxer and John McCain and Sheila Jackson Lee will spend my money more wisely than I ever could.
And yet, I find myself wondering -- why don’t I give more than just what they take from me? I am such a silly goose that I selfishly spend the money they neglect to take at the point of a gun! I must remember to write them a note urging them to take more of my money before I frivolously spend it on myself!
But I will not let my selfishness darken this wonderful day. Today I celebrate my service to the collective. Today I feel the full reality of the fact that I am a selfless shmoo who exists merely to serve others. This day of sacrifice under compulsion proves my morality and makes me feel, just barely, that I have earned the right to continue breathing and to toil another year for the state.
It is comforting to know that I exist for the state and the collective; if I existed merely for my own sake, then I would have to think for myself and be responsible for my own welfare and surely that would be too much for any man to bear. It would be too much like adulthood. This way I get to go through life in a kind of infantile existence, knowing that Big Daddy and Mommy in Washington, D.C. are always there to care for me and tell me what to do and how to think. Now I can let my mind go blank and just kind of drift through life in a foggy, unfocused daze. How warm and fuzzy and secure it all is! I thank my masters for taking care of me!