Monday, June 30, 2008

'But it's the law'

I had a little epiphany today as I conversed with a co-worker about fireworks, which technically are illegal in yet another one of those victimless crimes lawmakers invent. He lapsed into sarcastic mode and said, "Yeah, why should anyone worry about something silly like obeying the law?" and I responded in kind, "Well, going 67 on the highway is against the law, too ..."

But as often happens, the true comeback seeped into my head sometime later in the day, as I read Wendy McElroy's essay "The Thin Blue Lie" (and thanks Wally for the link). And all of a sudden I realized why we have so many idiotic laws.

Having spent a great portion of my life in the news biz, I have met quite a few of the people who make our laws, and I've spent some time trying to fathom how they think. I long ago understood why we have so many idiotic laws, but I just never put 2 + 2 together before.

It's as simple as Forrest Gump: Stupid is as stupid does. Garbage in, garbage out. Idiot lawmakers, idiotic laws. Doh!

Happy Independence Day fireworks season, BTW. And when you're setting off your illegal fireworks, be careful! As with all things that go boom, treat them with respect and you'll have lots of fun.


B.W. At The Movies: WALL•E

A charming, often hilarious dystopian science-fiction tale about Earth filled with garbage and grossly deteriorated humans finding their way back home after centuries of allowing themselves to devolve into machine-dependent blobs?

Hey, why not? Pixar is now affiliated with the same studio that made a charming, often hilarious cartoon adapted from a book about a baby deer who learns that humans will shoot your mother and your best friend without a second thought.

I must say that the only reason I didn't completely lose my head over how terrific a movie WALL•E is, is that the hype and reviews for this are so overwrought ("Greatest American film this year!!!!") that I walked in fighting the expectation that this could be one of the best movies I've ever seen. That said, hey, it's a terrific movie. Find the most glowing review of it you can find and take my word for it, it's true. I laughed, I cried, I did all of the things that the moviemakers wanted me to do. I was helpless for 97 minutes. It's great.

And then I spent the weekend driving Sweetie crazy by occasionally stopping what I was doing and saying "Wallllll-eeeeee" in various emotional pitches. Every so often I'd throw in an "Eeeeee-vaaaaaah" just for variety's sake. It's an infectious film.

BUT. It was not even the best movie on the screen. The short flick Presto had me laughing harder than the first time I saw the first five minutes of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? And I didn't think I'd ever laugh that hard again. Brilliant.

I don't know what's in the water at Pixar, but they consistently churn out above and beyond the most entertaining movies being made in this day and age. They've hit some clunkers (I didn't get Cars at all), but when they're on, they don't just hit home runs, they knock 'em into the next county.


Friday, June 27, 2008

Ignorance in action

Widely quoted from Justice John Paul Stevens' dissent in the U.S. Supreme Court's District of Columbia v. Heller decision: The court majority "would have us believe that over 200 years ago, the Framers made a choice to limit the tools available to elected officials wishing to regulate civilian uses of weapons." Evidence of that choice is "nowhere to be found," Stevens wrote, presumably with a straight face.

WTF is the Bill of Rights, if it isn't a list limiting the tools available to elected officials wishing to infringe on individual rights?

It's long past time for the ball to be taken from Stevens' hands.

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Big Buffy Finale

This post is about something I wish I hadn't known before I saw the series finale of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Serves me right, I waited five years to watch the thing after it originally aired, and then I saw the promotional blurb to the "Buffy: Season 8" comic book series, which spells out the big difference between Buffy's world and the world after the end of the TV show. Clearly the big finish was designed to be a surprise.

I knew Joss Whedon had a reputation for the empowerment of women. It's clear from his major achievements — Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly/Serenity — that he likes writing about strong, confident women. But I was blown away by the scene where Buffy pulls out her Kobayashi Alternative to defeat The First, the source of all evil in the Buffyverse.

Rather than presume I'm the last man on Earth to find out what Rosebud is, I will take the unusual step of continuing this essay in the comments. If the Buffy finale is still in your future and you think you don't want to know how it ends, don't click here. Oh, and don't look at anything having to do with Buffy Season 8, either.


I think this probably was the perfect ending for a series that followed a powerful woman and her friends for seven years. It's interesting, because I also thought the end of Season 5 would have been the perfect ending — but, it turns out, not as perfect and life-affirming as the final finale turned out to be.

As I wrote dribs and drabs along the way, I picked up a consensus that Buffy was at its peak during the first three years, as our heroes muddled their way through high school, and that things sort of lost their way after graduation. I still found it all entertaining, but yes, if Season 7 hadn't redeemed it all, there would have been a couple of Jump the Shark moments. The idea of a paramilitary operation devoted to tracking vampires and demons struck me as a bit over the top for even a program with as wacky a concept as a vampire slayer named Buffy.

And I actually took several months off after finishing the dreadful sixth season. Every season had its own "main enemy," and the foolishness of three geeks banding together to form a nerdy evil trio was just exhausting in its stupidity. Saved somewhat by the drama of the Dark Willow saga, I really really disliked that storyline. I imagined fans tuning in every week hoping against hope and deciding that the show should have ended after five years after all.

But then it all came back together. They even found a way to redeem the nerd subplot. I'm surprised to learn that the show's cancellation was a bit of a surprise because the series finale was so perfect — but then the Season 3 and Season 5 finales would have been terrific ways to end the story, too. I guess Joss Whedon just has a knack for wrapping up a story arc with an air of finality. Look at Serenity (as I have a dozen times or more)!

This isn't everything I meant to say — we're talking seven years of quality TV here (well, six) — but it's a long enough post, so I'll stop here and return to this subject another time.

P.S. The little softball player, Demetra Raven, also plays one of Young River's classmates in the opening moments of Serenity. Cool, huh?

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The importance of refusing to be afraid

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich said that the Supreme Court decision affirming that the rule of habeas corpus applies to all people, not just U.S. citizens, could lead to the nuclear destruction of a U.S. city. No, really. Read it and/or see it here.

It's amazing that even those who supposedly champion the principles upon which the U.S. of A. was founded are willing to scare people into surrendering those principles. Anytime one of these fear mongers sends a chill through your heart, take a deep breath, step back and examine what the speaker's agenda is. Gingrich favors waging war in the name of a U.S. police state, and such tyrannies are only possible when the populace fears an outside force more than it fears the loss of liberty.



Nirvana for cat lovers

The next time Sweetie tells me seven cats is too many, I will remind her of this video.

My favorite line: "When I was a child, all I wanted was a kitten, and my mom would not let me have one. Well — she's sorry now."

Never get between a person and her dreams!!


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

'Reality Break' returns, starting with Eisner

OK folks and fans of great science fiction et al, here's cool news - Dave Slusher has revived his old radio show Reality Break as a podcast. The first episode features his 1998 interview with Will Eisner. That's enough for me to recommend it without ever hearing it. It's all here and ready to roll for ya.

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Two and a half years after entering the Buffyverse, we watched Season 7, Episode 22 Sunday night.

It's the first time since the introduction of home video that I've watched a seasons-long program from start to finish, which speaks volumes in itself. I have many thoughts to organize, but my masters require my presence at wage-slave central, so it will have to wait.

The short version: Started with a bang, dipped for a while, really took a dive in Season 6, and soared to a magnificent finish. Wowzer.

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Monday, June 23, 2008

The world is a less funny place this morning

Friday, June 20, 2008

I have nothing to say

... but it's OK. Good morning! Good morning! Good morning-uh!

Huh. Clever marketing ploy of the week? I pulled up the "Sgt. Pepper" album on my iTunes (No, it's not available yet but it's a music player that you can load music onto, don't ya know) to make sure I had the opening lyrics right.

When you play a band on iTunes, the software shows you other available music by that band. Sure enough, when I clicked on "Good Morning Good Morning," a link appeared to an album by an electronic duo named "Beatless." Odds they picked that name for that very reason? Pretty low — looks like their album came out in 2001, before the iTunes revolution. But it's one of those things that makes you go "huh" before the caffeine fully kicks in.

Hey, it's like I said: I have nothing to say. But it's OK.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Fool me once, shame on you ...
fool me a hundred times ... ?

Having once been a rabid attack-dog Republican, I am tempted to give Bob Barr the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps he really has rethought his positions about the war on drugs, gay rights, freedom of religion, and all of the other areas where he once was as libertarian as Barack Obama or John McCain ... as John Roberts notes ...

Though he has softened somewhat with regard to the drug policy reforms so popular with Libertarian activists, for instance, Barr was once an ardent critic of medical marijuana and an over-the-top advocate for militarizing the "war on drugs."

Barr has also been a big-government man when it comes to restricting abortion rights (he's 100 percent anti-choice), marriage rights (he sponsored the Defense of Marriage Act) and freedom of religion (he once pressured the Pentagon to bar the practice of Wicca in the military).

When Barr was booted from Congress in 2002, Libertarians ran television ads condemning him.

Now he's their candidate.

Now, 10-12 years ago I may have held some positions that seem foolish to me now, so I will not spend any time questioning whether Bob Barr is sincere or just looking for a side road to the White House. After all, the next Libertarian presidential candidate to win the election will be the first one, so either he's sincere or he's insane enough to commit political suicide.

But there are some crystal clear facts about life. One of them is that states exist to suppress individual rights, even those states based in documents that assert states are created to "secure those rights." That's why 18th-century individualists insisted on another document that spells out some of the rights that the state is not allowed to suppress. That even seems to work from time to time, although most rulers feel free to ignore those documents with impugnity.

Another crystal clear fact is that going to a polling place operated by an oppressive state lends a false sense of legitimacy to that state. Barr is welcome to campaign for president, and he certainly offers a better statist alternative to those offered by the two branches of the major political party. Again, though, the least of three evils is still evil.

Liberty will be advanced outside of this political process, which has been corrupted beyond recognition. Freedom will be advanced one nonviolent individual act at a time, including the act of rejecting the charade that free people choose our leaders. Free people lead our own lives.

Once upon a time we thought of choosing representatives to represent our political views in the halls of government, but those representatives inevitably confused themselves with rulers. Give it a try if you wish, Mr. Barr. Just don't come to this corner looking for aid or comfort.

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Friday, June 13, 2008

Certain, unalienable rights

Maybe it's time we stopped talking about constitutional rights. The phrase implies that the rights affirmed in the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution did not exist before the document was written.

As in: The reference to the Supreme Court's "declaring for the first time that Guantanamo detainees have a constitutional right to a hearing in U.S. courts," as written in this article about this week's ruling that, for once, indicates at least five justices read the Constitution.

It's pretty clear the Bill of Rights doesn't protect only the rights of U.S. citizens. The Sixth Amendment, for example, reads, "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, etc." (my italics) So the decision should have been a no-brainer, although four justices still had a problem sussing that out.

But in the hours following the ruling's release, I happened upon a couple of radio talk shows that made reference to the rights granted by the Constitution and whether they were intended to be granted to non-citizens or, in this case, "enemy combatants." That's such a common goof that I think the shorthand needs to be dropped.

The shorthand calls these "constitutional rights." We need four more syllables, as inconvenient as that might be. They are "constitutionally protected rights," if words on paper have any power to protect someone from a determined tyrant.

The U.S. Constitution is not the source of these rights, and they are not conferred only upon U.S. citizens. The document was written by folks who, 12 years earlier, had rallied around a document that asserted: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights ..." Notice, again, that word all.

The rights affirmed in the Supreme Court ruling are not constitutional rights; they are certain, unalienable rights that apply to every human being. The writers thought that by writing them down in the Constitution, they would be protecting these rights from the whims of an oppressive government, but pre-existing rights could not be created by the Constitution. They come with the package: We are created with these rights built into our nature.

Much of the world hasn't caught up with the folks who wrote those founding documents — sadly including, of course, the vast majority of the people operating the government founded by those documents. But that doesn't change or reduce the self-evident truths affirmed by those 18th-century writers.


Monday, June 09, 2008

Your help urgently requested

Don't take my word for it, here's Sunni to tell you all about it with the proper links and all.


A modern-day hippie blues

Days like this come along more frequently as time goes by ...

Sunday, June 08, 2008

The return of Uncle Warren's Attic

It's been a while, while we've been puttering around with those print projects, but the guy with the disheveled hair finally dove back upstairs for Uncle Warren's Attic #51, now playing in a pod near you. A salute to a couple of departed friends of sorts, including a reference and dramatic reading of kyfho's entry on this blog.

It's funny how much you realized you missed something even though you didn't when it wasn't there ...

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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Revenge of the Quotidian

Click on the toon for a better view.

Stephan Pastis clearly has bumped into the treachery of the quotidian that we mulled over last fall on these cyberpages. Another nice bit from the talented Mr. Pastis.


Tuesday, June 03, 2008

B.W. At The Movies: Fixing 'I Am Legend'

So this is how the recent film I Am Legend was supposed to end, not with Will Smith's character blowing away the "bad guys" but with a moment of understanding:

According to's "5 Awesome Movies Ruined by Last-Minute Changes," this ending didn't play well with test audiences, so they replaced it with the scene in which Smith suicide-bombs his lab, killing himself and all of the attackers after packing his companions away in a place where the flames won't reach them. As Cracked points out:
This brings up the other problem, which is that all of the little hints that had been inserted along the way indicating the creatures had intelligence (the complex traps they set, the same creature reappearing in some kind of leadership role) are completely ignored. In the new ending, the vampires are mindless savages with no other purpose but general horror movie mayhem.

Perhaps the saddest thing about all this is that it shows that no one involved really believed in the message of the final product. They didn't produce a film in order to convey any kind message, they just strung together a bunch of cool scenes and called it a movie.
The original ending has its own set of problems. I'd probably be happier with a line or two where Smith's character explains his new understanding — I'm not sure it would be that clear to someone not familiar with the story. But it certainly makes more sense than the final product.

To me, the released version of I Am Legend is one of the most senseless disappointments in movie history. But who am I to argue with the makers of a film that has grossed $256 million and currently stands at #41 on the all-time chart? "If you dumb it down, they will come?" Since the original ending wasn't given a shot, we'll never know.


Sunday, June 01, 2008

B.W.'s Book Report: Listen, Little Man!

OK, when both Jomama and Sunni M highly recommend something, it's worth a look. The glimpses they (and the link that quotes a big portion) gave into Wilhelm Reich's book Listen, Little Man! were enticing enough that I used overnight shipping to buy (if the computer is to be believed) the last copy had in stock the other day.

Having now digested the full 128-page tome, I found Herr Reich to be a little carried away with his own personal greatness, and the persecutions he suffered along with it. But in between examples of how little people failed to recognize his genius and chose a lowlier road than the one they'd find if they'd only trust his insights, Reich has some extremely important things to say about the greatness within each soul that could be tapped if we only dare reach for it.

Written in 1946 — or perhaps written over three years beginning in 1943 — the book is described on the back cover as "a great physician's quiet talk to each of us, the average human being, the Little Man." Heck with this "quiet talk" nonsense; Reich slaps the reader upside the head with a 2 by 4, grabs him by the lapels and gives a good shake.

Reading between the lines, little men and women have taken their toll on the author, who seems to have developed a theory of healthy living that involves a more free application of sexuality than was common in the early 20th century. And he really lays it on thick over some now-forgotten personal slights and abuses. "I understand your cancer, and your little Health Commissioner forbids me to experiment on mice. I teach your physicians to understand your case, and your Medical Association denounces me to the police." From time to time it becomes, "Jeez, Will, give it a rest and get to the point."

But his point — whoa.

Take his medical theories with however many grains of salt you like — even embrace them if they make sense to you — but pay careful attention to how Reich describes the person living a healthy life. At points in this book I was ready to set it down and say, "Enough!" as he seems to come from the school of education that rips the student to metaphorical shreds before rebuilding him in the teacher's image. I felt like I was being exposed to a drill sergeant ("Listen up, maggots!") as Reich describes how little men through the ages have made the wrong choices and led nations and societies into the gutter. But way back in the distance is a sense that Reich's harshness stems from the frustration of someone who knows how great this life could be if "little men" would simply take responsibility for their personal fates and live free in every sense of the world.

And from time to time, especially at the end, he brings that sense from the background onto the front burner. See what he sees as a healthy lifestyle:
You'll have a good, secure life when being alive means more to you than security, love more than money, your freedom more than public or partisan opinion; when the mood of Beethoven's or Bach's music becomes the mood of your whole life — you have it in you, little man, somewhere deep down in a corner of your being; when your thinking is in harmony, and no longer in conflict, with your feelings; when you've learned to recognize two things in their season: your gifts and the onset of old age; when you let yourself be guided by the thoughts of great sages and no longer by the crimes of great warriors: when you cease to set more store by a marriage certificate than by love between man and woman; when you learn to recognize your errors promptly and not too late, as you do today; when you pay the men and women who teach your children better than politicians; when truths inspire you and empty formulas repel you ...
There's much to be found in Listen, Little Man! about the individual who discovers that his worth is defined within himself, not by adherence to a state or by allegiance and blind obedience to "bigger men." "You yourself are your own liberator," he says early on as he's getting warmed up. Reich loses me a bit as he bemoans his travails against some of the littler little men, even sounds a bit whiney in spots, but his tract redeems itself with his message of individual worth and the joy that could come to every man and woman, if we just weren't so afraid of it.

This one's going to stick with me for a while. Let me be the third this week to say it: Highly recommended!

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