Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Claire on insights and and the need for time away

Read this without getting an incredible urge to turn off the computer and get away from the commute and the office politics and the meetings and distractions for a few days ... or weeks ... or months.

I dare ya.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

B.W.'s Book Report: A Time For Truth

I'm not sure whether to be excited to find a book that articulates so well what's wrong with America today, or discouraged because the book was written in 1978 and The Vast Machine has had 28 more years to forge the economic chains that bind us to dictatorship. As usual, perhaps irrationally, I choose to be excited.

Former Treasury Secretary William E. Simon wrote this best-seller a year into the Carter administration, a year after voters rejected the Gerald Ford administration in which Simon played a key role, and some of it can be taken with a grain of salt for that reason. But the book (which I admittedly encountered in an 82-page paperback condensation produced by Reader's Digest in 1979) is packed with terrific libertarian observations - not surprisingly since it apparently was ghost-written by libertarian writer Edith Efron. And the amazing thing is the extent to which the book could have been written yesterday.

"... the reason for discussing economic issues is not to inspire a national passion for bookkeeping, but to inspire a national awareness of the connection between economic and political freedom. The connection is real and unbreakable. To lose one is to lose the other. In America we are losing both in the wake of the expanding state."

"... freedom is difficult to understand because it isn't a presence but an absence - an absence of governmental restraint" on the individual.

"The overriding principle (that needs) to be revived in American political life is that which sets individual liberty as the highest political value ... By the same token, there must be a conscious philosophical prejudice against any intervention by the state into our lives, for by definition such intervention abridges liberty."

"The essence of dictatorship, if one understands that concept in principle, means that the state is using its police powers not to protect individual liberty, but to violate it."

Simon and Efron do a nice, concise job of presenting something that becomes increasingly clear as one dips into history - that Franklin Delano Roosevelt helped set the United States on the downward spiral.

"Political freedom means only one thing: freedom from the state. FDR, however, invented a new kind of 'freedom': a government guarantee of economic security and prosperity ... By this single ideological switch, FDR caused a flat reversal of the relationship between the individual and the state in America. The state ceased to be viewed as man's most dangerous enemy, to be shackled forever by constitutional chains. It was henceforth proclaimed to be the precise opposite; it became man's tenderhearted protector and provider. Statism and collectivism were brought into this country by the back door - and, ironically, were heralded thereafter as the saving of free enterprise."

I found myself thinking how much Abraham Lincoln and FDR are celebrated among our greatest presidents, even though Lincoln presided over the evisceration of the concept that America is a federation of independent states and Roosevelt set in motion a 70-year erosion of liberty that is increasing in speed year by year. I suspect it has something to do with how history is written by the victors - and at this stage in our nation's history, those who oppose states' rights and individual rights clearly have the upper hand. When the original concept of America is restored, Lincoln and FDR likely will be redefined as among our nation's greatest villains.

I don't know if the unabridged version of Simon's book is as compelling, but I'd heartily recommend you hunt this puppy down and devour it as I did this evening - oops, I guess I mean to say "last night." Simon, who died in 2000, and Efron, who died a year later, were clearly voices who need to be heeded forever.


Friday, February 24, 2006

Dick Cheney's Quail Hunting School

This is a hoot. The only downer is it seems to have given me a cookie, so when I tried to show it to Sweetie, instead of loading the game it kept loading the graduation certificate I earned at work. Your goal is to shoot 10 quail within the alloted time without winging Harry. Good luck!

Under the spreading chestnut tree

"Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows." - from the diary of Winston Smith

I've been retracing my steps to try to figure out why I've been not having enough time to compile these little observations lately. You may not have noticed the drop-off in quantity, but I have.

The answer was as obvious as two plus two makes four. Since last Friday night, my free time has been spent watching:
Five hours of American Idol;
Two hours of the film Lord of War;
About 95 minutes, including "let's see that part again," of the 78-minute film (minus closing credits) Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit, along with about 45 minutes of special DVD features;
a couple of hours of miscellaneous Olympics coverage;
one hour of House;
one hour of 24;
and probably an hour or two that were so forgettable I can't recall exactly what they were.

When you have a finite amount of time to write - perhaps an hour or two in the morning and a couple of hours at night - spending more than 13 hours in front of the telescreen in a week will have an impact. No wonder folks are so content with submitting themselves to conditions that Orwell wrote about as if they were the horrifying stuff of tyranny: We don't allow our minds enough time to add it up - but when you get right down to it, two plus two makes four.

I'm going to aim to spend more time in front of this screen and less time in front of that one. But as long as I invested so much of my life into this, let me just say we can skip the next three months and place Chris Daughtry and Taylor Hicks directly into the finals - they just tower so high over the other 22 candidates it will be hard to maintain interest ... Lord of War is a disturbing but absolutely great, must-see movie ... and Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit is one of the sweetest, funniest films I've seen in years. If it wasn't for Serenity, it would be my favorite film of 2005. I'm absolutely crackers over it.

Reflecting on the past week, however, I think it would be most appropriate for one of the Idols to inject this song into the competition:

It was only an 'opeless fancy,
It passed like an Ipril dye,
But a look and a word and the dreams they stirred
They have stolen my 'eart awaye!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony

I'm humbled to be mentioned in the introduction to the February edition of Sunni's Salon, Sunni Maravillosa's monthly online magazine, and it's kind of nifty how my recent e-conversation with her has bubbled over into our respective online musings. Much of what I've written about liberty the last couple of months springs forth from Sunni's marvelous talk at the Freedom Summit ("Things You Need to Know About Freedom - But Probably Don't Want to Hear") and our subsequent back-and-forth on the topic.

I'm touched by what Sunni admits is probably a youthful misreading of the famous Coca-Cola song "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing," because even if it was a misreading, it's a wonderful way to view what freedom is all about:

I remember as a kid tearing up when those ... commercials played; my idea of perfect harmony wasn't every voice blended in a nice unison with like voices: It was that every voice could be heard, in all its unique glory; and it brought tears to my eyes thinking that someone else thought similarly. It didn't even occur to me until years later that it was probably intended to suggest the boring blandness of sameness or equality enforced by law.

She's probably right about what the song was intended to mean; but I think Young Sunni was on to something especially important. The whole point is that we each bring a different voice to the table. Some blend nicely with others; some are best when they're flying solo; some sound tone-deaf to us.

And in a free society, no one is silenced. And perfect harmony is when every voice can be heard, in all its unique glory.

I'm not talking about a place where every viewpoint is considered equally valid - that leads to classrooms where Hitler's death camps are looked upon as one culture's choice that can be justified in its proper context. But I am talking about a place where every voice is respected and you don't get sent to prison, injured and/or killed for having a wrongheaded or boneheaded viewpoint.

I'm not talking about a place where it's impolite to get angry and argue vehemently. I am talking about a place where sharp or explosive words are the only cutting edges and bombs that get tossed about, a safe place where my rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness don't step on yours and vice versa.

Sunni also writes about the human tendency to condescend to those we perceive as wrongheaded and boneheaded, drawing from a very wise line in Orson Scott Card's review of Serenity: "... you can't build a powerful community on a sneer."

When faced with a crowd like the 80 percent of Chicagoans who say they're content and even happy to live in a city where the number of goernment surveillance cameras is numbered in the thousands, pleased to know Big Brother Is Watching, it's almost knee-jerk for those who still love freedom to sneer at the proles who embrace the loss of their right to slip about minding their own business unseen by The Authorities.

But we're not going to teach anyone to love liberty by grabbing them by the lapels and snarling, "Listen, you clueless bonehead ..." And sadly, it's reached the point where we do need to teach folks what liberty is all about, all over again, from Square One.

Our ideas are better than theirs. But we are not better than them. If we start there, the urge to sneer melts away and maybe we can start communicating. Slowly, maybe even surely, we might learn to sing in perfect harmony.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

B.W.'s Book Report: The Freedom Outlaw's Handbook, in the context of Montag's revelation

I've been having fun and taking liberty for granted. I have an optimistic streak that is based in part on a conviction that I'm preaching to the converted; that even those who encounter me outside of the freedom blogs, in the pages of the publication I'm associated with under a different name, agree with me in their heart of hearts that good old American Don't-Tread-On-Me freedom is a sacred thing worth preserving. As long as the First Amendment exists, I'd be cool.

Well, two things have shaken my sense of having fun and my optimisim. One is reading The Freedom Outlaw's Handbook: 179 Things To Do 'Til The Revolution by Claire Wolfe. I have a fairly modest readership that comes to visit from places like Claire's and Sunni Maravillosa's and Wally Conger's hangouts, so I'm probably the last person left in the gang to read this book. But as chock full of good humor as it is, it's also a sobering read for its laundry list of the ways in which our culture is flushing freedom down the drain.

And the other blow to my cheerful outlook is this, a Chicago Tribune poll that finds 80 percent of the Windy City's denizens perfectly OK with the idea of a citywide surveillance system of cameras watching them with Orwellian efficiency.

The city's surveillance network includes more than 2,000 cameras in such sites as transit stations, streets and public housing complexes. Included are about 100 police devices, featuring flashing blue lights, on utility poles in high-crime areas. ...

Community leaders say, "`Do something about the problem,'" the alderman said. "`The drugs are killing us. The gangs are a major problem. We want the cameras.'"

Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 turns out to be the most chillingly accurate of all the great dystopian novels. Montag the fireman learns to his astonishment that book-burning began as the result of popular demand. "Ignorance is strength!" they yelled - well, OK, actually that phrase was in Orwell's 1984, but that's the gist of Bradbury's point: People were tired of the way books made them feel uncomfortable, so they demanded that government burn the offending bits of paper. It wasn't an oppressive government forcing this on them; it was the citizenry deciding it preferred oppression to discomfort and inconvenience.

And so it is in our world today. The cameras really began as private enterprise's way to try to prevent shoplifting and drive-off gas-ups. We grew used to the surveillance cameras in more and more places. And now an overwhelming majority supports, even demands, government cameras everywhere. This is not a time for optimism after all.

I choose to remain cheerful anyway; at times when the choice is to laugh or to cry, laughing is always more pleasant. But where the other day I was careless about tossing bits of my privacy away here and there, sharing with strangers the deepest secrets of Brian Richardson, now I'm feeling more guarded even with those I'm sure I could trust. It's not paranoia, though it might sound like it. It's more a recognition of how precious a thing privacy is, and how hard it might be to reclaim once lost.

So, fellow freedom lovers, now I have a better understanding of what you've been talking and writing about. But Simon Jester is still my favorite revolutionary, so don't expect me to get too gloomy and doomy anytime soon. Just more careful.


Saturday, February 18, 2006

Rearranging the deck chairs

I've made a few small changes to the sidebar, most notably adding some music sites and shrinking the comics pages to my daily must-reads and the two best comics sites, Comics.com and uComics.com, so you can browse for your own favorites.

I also added a link to my latest favorite, David Alvarez's Yenny, the story of a young lady who yearns to be a supermodel but her, um, feet are too big (Learn more at Yennycomics.com). Alvarez, who apparently has been drawing the Looney Tunes comic book forever, makes Yenny very appealing to those of us who have male hormones. I just met her the other day, but she seems ... nice.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Where does freedom come from?

A new visitor (and/or first-time poster), Gaurav Ahuja, wondered Thursday about something I said way back when I wrote about freedom and Bobby McGee (and am I glad for any excuse to look at that lovely photo of Janis again).

Gaurav wrote: "I wish I could believe that statement about we set most of our freedom instead of the government. But, the thing is others are also responsible for our freedom. New technology sets us freer, and that takes millions of people buying, selling, investing, thinking etc. The fact is our freedom does depend on others, otherwise we would see no need to type about liberty."

It's a good question: Where does our freedom come from? I subscribe to the position that (and I wish I could find who said this first) freedom is the default condition of human beings; we are born free, and as time goes on we are taught or coerced to surrender that freedom.

City buses are often equipped with a device called a governor; it's a machine that keeps the bus from going faster than city buses are supposed to go, speeds they would otherwise have the engine power to attain easily. It's the perfect illustration of the meaning of the word "govern" - To govern something is to place limits on it.

To put it in more familiar language: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal ... with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness - that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. We free men and women give power to the government; government does not grant us our freedom.

A government by definition is something that places limits on freedom; that's why the Bill of Rights theoretically restrains the government from placing improper limits on our freedom. I say "theoretically" because Gaurav looks at the way the world is and sees that the government, and "others," try to tell us that the Bill of Rights created those freedoms and that government has the power to create liberty.

The reality, however, is you and I are the ones who give the government permission to act this way. You are free to do anything you like, if you are willing to accept responsibility for your actions and if you do not intrude on anyone else's freedom. Authority can only limit your freedom, and then only with your permission; it cannot give you permission to be free anymore than it can give you permission to breathe. Just as breathing comes naturally and automatically, so does freedom.

I'm not saying that insisting on your right to freedom of worship, freedom of speech, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures, freedom to keep and bear arms, is not a dangerous proposition. We are increasingly assailed by those who would take those freedoms away for various excuses, and many laws that gut the Bill of Rights are seen in contemporary America as right and necessary.

I am saying, however, that governments derive their powers, just or otherwise, from the governed. A government that does not have the consent of the governed can't govern effectively.

Freedom is the default. You hold it in your power to press the reset button anytime you can gather the courage.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Watching the shell game

It's always wise to look around when the world gets fixated to see what's really going on. After hearing about Dick Cheney's marksmanship and Neil Entwistle all morning, I checked.

Patriot Act moves closer to renewal

U.N. report equate Gitmo to torture

China defends right to police Internet

(That one's interesting for the statement by spokesman Qin Gang that in "managing" the Internet, "China has also borrowed and learned from the United States and other countries in the world.")

France says Iran seeks nuke weapons

Israel weighs punitive measures against Hamas

... and that's just from the front page of Yahoo! News.

It's fascinating to see what's really going on, compared with what the managers of the Puppet Theatre think we want to see.

'Pitchers and catchers report to camp'

I admit it. My interest in baseball has waned - I yearn for the days when a fat guy named Babe who drank too much was the sport's greatest legend and the game was played by regular guys, not pumped-up steroid poppers - but the start of spring training still gets my blood racing.

"Just 112 days after the Chicago White Sox completed their World Series sweep of the Houston Astros, spring training began Wednesday when pitchers and catchers reported to a half-dozen of the 30 major league training camps in Florida and Arizona.

"Workouts start Thursday, and the Minnesota Twins become the final team to report on Sunday. Position players are due in next week, and before you know it will come the April 3 opener, when Cleveland visits the White Sox."

Sure, it has more to do with the promise of spring than the promise of peanuts and Cracker Jacks, but it's good to hear that the ball diamonds are getting active again somewhere.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Snow days

Twenty-six inches of snow at Central Park. Fifteen inches at my dad's house, around 17 at the airport near my hometown. Not quite that much where I am.

I tell myself to enjoy it; this, after all, is why we stay in northern climes - this is the season we mean when we say "the four seasons." A peaceful feeling does settle in when the snow is falling and you're cozy and warm inside, looking out at it, and no one has broken out the snowplows and snow throwers yet.

Once upon a time I was learning to cross-country ski and it was fun going out on a weekday when no one else was on the trail. I wonder why I stopped doing that ... These days, I prefer to live my winters vicariously, behind glass.

I like a cold bite in the lungs and a nip in the nose and cheeks; I would rather be outside when it's 20-below than when it's 95 and muggy. Truth be told, though, best of all I like April and May and September and October, when it's not too hot and not too cold. The spring, with its promise of new life; the fall, with its abundance of tomatoes fresh off the vine in the backyard.

It always seems the biggest snowstorms are in February and March, and when they come it's a sign - soon it will be spring, soon this will be over; here's a blast of winter, enjoy it or endure it while you can, because soon it will be gone.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Embracing true diversity

When football player Reggie White died a year or so ago, I remember someone talking about how he was such a humanitarian guy but he put his foot in his mouth sometimes. The specific reference was to some speech he gave once where he talked about how blacks are athletic, and Asians are good mathematicians and business people, and Hispanics have great family values, or something along those lines.

The point was that he lumped groups of people into stereotypes. The implication is that doing so is racist. I agree.

So what's up with the celebration of "diversity"?

I heard a guy the other day talking about how we need to embrace our area's diversity and how every race, culture, sex, sexual orientation, age, etc., has something to offer. And then he was talking about making sure we encourage that diversity, making sure every public body and business has measured success in embracing diversity, and so on and so forth und so wieder.

I think it's cool how some folks celebrate different holidays and how their ancestors dressed and all of the other cultural trappings - but let's see if I can make something clear: Lumping people into groups is racist whether you do it for positive reasons or negative reasons. Not all blacks are athletes, not all Asians are sharp business people, and not all Hispanics take good care of their families.

Damn right I embrace diversity, but not in the narrow-minded way that the diversity crowd means that phrase: not by pigeon-holing human beings into categories.

Yep, this is a diverse country - almost 300 million diverse individuals, each with their own background, each with their own perspective on life, each taking their unique abilities and their cultural background and their family life and making something out of it. It's stupid to make assumptions about you based on your skin color, your nationality, whether you're male or female, who you have sex with, and whether you celebrate Christmas, Yom Kippur or Cinco de Mayo or Ramadan. No two people are alike, and thinking (for example) a Lithuanian woman will enhance an organization simply because she is a Lithuanian woman is simply wrongheaded. That individual's contribution will depend on where she is going, not where she came from.

Saying we need to recognize and embrace differences between groups of people sounds good on the surface, until you realize you are not liberating the individuals you lump into those groups - you are limiting the way others view those people.

We don't need a world where every group is valued. We need a world where every individual is valued.

Friday, February 10, 2006

The first day ...

This morning I have a meeting that could take me out of my comfort zone. I have been directing my skills one way for a very long time, and today could lead to a new direction. It would be a scary prospect if I wasn't armed with the late Peter McWilliams' writings about days like this.

In Do It! Let's Get Off Our Buts, John-Roger and Peter McWilliams write about how the energy generated by the fear of stepping outside our comfort zone can be harnessed. Growth always occurs outside this zone - that's why it's uncomfortable.

The book is peppered with quotes relevant to the subject. In dealing with the comfort zone, the authors cite Dr. Rob Gilbert - "It's all right to have butterflies in your stomach. Just get them to fly in formation" - and Eleanor Roosevelt - "You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.' You must do the thing you think you cannot do."

Today is no horror. It's an exploratory meeting with an old acquaintance I would like to make a friend. I expect it might even be fun. He's had great success in his field by forming his own company. I may end up working for him or for myself, or the visit may remind me what a good deal I have now. What's to be nervous about? It's not like "this is the first day of the rest of my life" - every day is.

Wish me luck.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Forgive me for the bellylaugh

I swear, your honor, for a little while Wednesday CNN's story had the headline "Bush calls for end to cartoon violence." It was hysterical despite the awful reality of the story.

Sadly enough, somebody else must have laughed and they changed the headline.

Amen already

Wally Conger noted my concerns about a certain recent lethargy among the pro-freedom bloggers and took the opportunity to post a link to his classic rallying cry, "Hey Libertarians - Cheer up!" And not a moment too soon!

A real vision for victory isn’t the “nuts ’n bolts.” It’s “Give me liberty or give me death!” It’s “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice!” A vision for victory stirs the juices. It starts pulses pounding. It rouses the sleeping masses. It drives people to the barricades. It promotes a “will to win.”

Give it another read. It's good for what ails ya.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Don't mourn for the Lost Liberty Hotel

So it looks like seizing Justice Souter's house to build the Lost Liberty Hotel, using the Kelo decision as a precedent, is not going to go on the ballot in Souter's hometown next month.

I suppose this is a loss for Just Deserts, but you could think of it as a blow for freedom.

After all, the message is: Just because the Supreme Court says it's constitutional doesn't make it constitutional. It was an illegal thing to do to the people of New London, Conn., and it would have been an illegal thing to do to Souter. Somebody out there "gets" it, even if they don't quite realize it.

The best Super Bowl ad

At first I thought it was a remake of the famous Macintosh Super Bowl ad with its vision of a dark totalitarian future. But a few seconds in, I sat up in my seat and said, "Hey! It's a trailer for V for Vendetta!"

Oh my, does it look tasty. And the ad even featured the immortal tagline: "People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people." A wonderfully Revolutionary thought, in the 1776 tradition.

Things have seemed a little wintry on the freedom blogs lately - much bleak news, many of the regulars I frequent seeming tired. Or maybe I'm just projecting my winter blahs on others. In any case, V for Vendetta is looking more and more like a fresh breath of spring. No, the bread and circuses of a good movie can't change anything - or maybe it can. A Serenity here, a V for Vendetta there, and eventually people might start thinking for themselves.

So others may have liked the FedEx caveman, or the magic fridge, or the baby Clydesdale - but the V for Vendetta trailer was the Super Bowl ad highlight for me, for the surge of energy and excitement that shot through me when I saw that mask. I'll be in a theater near me March 17, soaking it in.

P.S. My hapless computer didn't run the trailer very smoothly, but no doubt you have a fancier machine than I do. Enjoy!

Friday, February 03, 2006

Tough love

After all that sneering I did about the State of the Union address, Tuesday night I worked late, missed "American Idol" completely and listened to most of the address while driving home. That's some sort of poetic justice.

As the latest phony to preside over the erosion of our freedom, President Bush was a tad irritating as he crowed about how we're going to export freedom to the world, not to mention ironic as he warned Iran it can't just do what it wants within its borders. Little bit of a mixed message, there.

But the mixiest message, I thought, had to do with the entire Middle East. At one point he talked about the exciting movement of freedom across that region and how America is going to stand there with our liberty-loving brothers and sisters. Later on, he talked about how our goal is by 2025, we will be free of our dependence on Middle East oil.

Feel free to check my logic, but as we zip around in electric cars and power them and our homes with electricity generated by clean nuclear energy (both good ideas, I should mention), what will the new democracies of the Middle East have to sell the biggest consumer nation on Earth? Unless a worldwide shortage of sand develops, it seems to me the message was "We're going to stand with you, but 20 years from now you're on your own."

My brain hasn't completely connected the dots here, but I'm thinking we're going to end up with a tobacco-like conundrum, where smoking is evil but the Vast Machine is dependent on revenues from ever-higher cigarette taxes. Unless ...!

What with the U.S. of A. being on a 30-year hangover from The China Syndrome and all, maybe the plans to build new nuclear plants here will never get off the ground because of our raving-mad fear of nuclear energy. Then we can be dependent all over again - on all that cheap nuclear-generated electricity being produced in free Iran ...

Yep, I think I'm onto something. Of course this is all presuming we don't bomb the Middle East into the Stone Age in our effort to set them free so we can be free of them. There's always the possibility, however remote it might seem, that our leaders aren't that clever.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Breaking news: B.W. predicts the future

From "Who'll get fooled again?" Jan. 6, 2006 - "My thought for today is: In our litigious society, how long will it be before some slimy lawyer conceives a class-action suit against Apple on behalf of those too stupid to ignore warnings, who claim it never occurred to them that constantly placing their eardrums in close proximity to extremely loud sounds may make them deaf? After seeing the success of those who got rich by claiming they never knew smoking could wreck their lungs, anything goes."

Less than a month later ...

From the Washington Post, Feb. 1, 2006 (Registration may be required) - "SAN FRANCISCO -- A Louisiana man claims in a lawsuit that Apple's iPod music player can cause hearing loss in people who use it ... The devices can produce sounds of more than 115 decibels, a volume that can damage the hearing of a person exposed to the sound for more than 28 seconds per day, according to the complaint."

Stranger than truth!

B.W.'s Book Report and Movie Review: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe

I suspected as much!

Charmed as I was by the fairy tale aspects of the movie based on C.S. Lewis' first book in The Chronicles of Narnia, I found myself a bit flabbergasted by the grand battle scenes at the climax, which reminded me very much of the big battles in the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy.

I only knew the Narnia books by their reputation, but never did I associate that reputation with mythological creatures meeting on the battlefield like some sort of supernatural Braveheart. My confusion at last drew me to pull out that used paperback of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe I bought a decade or so ago. Not very long afterward - it's a short book! - I had my answer.

Just as I suspected, the huge final battle, which the movie spends so much time and emotion on, comprises slightly less than two pages of a 186-page novel with big print and wide margins. Lewis' emphasis is on the gentler, fairy tale aspects of the story - the talking animals, the mean witch who turns her adversaries into statues, the great lion Aslan whose presence counters eternal winter, the return of Father Christmas. In most other ways the movie is remarkably faithful to the novel.

Why raise the violence in a mostly gentle book to such prominence? Was this simply Hollywood playing to the lowest common denominator? That may be the case, but it also could be that glorifying war as a solution is a theme someone wants to emphasize among us masses.

On the other hand, it's hard to completely dislike any movie that encourages resistance against an oppressive regime that snoops into every aspect of life but masks its evil nature by feeding candy to children.

P.S. And how about National Treasure? A fun little action thriller that appears to be a trifle but manages to sneak in a line about how the most important passage in the Declaration of Independence is "whenever any form of government becomes destructive of those ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it." Gotta love it!


Debunking the soylent green myth

Sometimes you don't have to write a novel to speak volumes. This little post by Vache Folle sums up the foibles of our fine federal government perfectly and makes me chuckle at the same time.