Monday, November 30, 2009

Reading to Architecture




I am almost completely at a loss when it comes to geeking out about architecture, but I can spot an interesting structure when I see one, and spotting one is easier when, as in the case of the Seattle Central Library, it has been the subject of so much commentary in architecture circles. In 2006, the New Yorker declared Rem Koolhaas's design

the most important new library to be built in a generation, and the most exhilarating. Koolhaas has always been a better architect than social critic, and the building conveys a sense of the possibility, even the urgency, of public space in the center of a city. The design is not so much a rejection of traditional monumentality as a reinterpretation of it, and it celebrates the culture of the book as passionately, in its way, as does the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue. The Seattle building is thrilling from top to bottom.
I'm not sure about the bulk of that, but I'll agree it is a thrilling building through and through -- modern without being cold, monumental in an age and a city known for irony, if not outright cynicism.

I could read there.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Seattle Marathon 2009 - Not Quite Sunny


Then again, the sun is overrated.

My butt hurts because earlier today I finished the Seattle Marathon in 3:23:31 (7:46 mi/min pace, official), a result for which I am happy given the difficulty of the course, my persistent and strong effort, and, maybe best yet, the absence of any muscle cramping.

It's a beautiful course as one would expect from such a beautiful city, and for today, at least, there was not a drop of rain, not even any of those teensy Seattle-size raindrops that always seem minutes away. I say that as though I would have minded the rain had it fallen, but I wouldn't have minded it at all.

I thank all the volunteers who were out in surprisingly large numbers, and I offer a special bit of praise to the Seattle Atheists, who operated one of the first water stations along the course. I was surprised, delighted, and encouraged to see their "we believe in you" banner.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Objects Unanalyzed

The Film Talk blog recommends the documentary Objectified:

‘Objectified’ is sedate, but not slow – peaceful yet thought provoking – it’s a reverie on the nature of the designed elements around us. Comprised of interviews with many the worlds leading designers and commentators on design the pic is a reflective – exuberant in a minor key – paean to both the practice of design and its effects on us.
I would call that an accurate and complete summary of the film, but for whatever reason -- maybe the title? -- I expected it to move past the idea that we live in a designed world and offer some reflections, possibly some arguments and criticisms, about the pros and cons of this. That is, I was expecting an analysis of design and its implications for the world, and less a straight celebration of design.

I should probably form expectations of films based on something more than the title, but then again, titles are 'designed objects' and they therefore involve elements of tone-setting, evocation, persuasion, arguably 'social control.' I expected the film to feature speakers with European accents making claims like that, or rather, wildly exaggerated versions of such claims delivered with absolute solemnity.

I wouldn't necessarily have accepted, agreed with, or declined to snigger at high-minded theorists waxing on about how Apple's, Ikea's, and Target's design choices are implicating humankind in oppressive totalizing metanarratives or whatever, but I expected perspectives that go beyond "design is awesome!" and I think the film would have been stronger with them.

Something along the lines of Jill Lepore's discussion of business consulting, scientific management and taylorism would have been a good corrective:
In 1911, Taylor explained his methods—Schmidt and the pig iron, Gilbreth and the bricks—in “The Principles of Scientific Management,” whose argument the business über-guru Peter Drucker once called “the most powerful as well as the most lasting contribution America has made to Western thought since the Federalist Papers.” That’s either very silly or chillingly cynical, but “The Principles of Scientific Management” was the best-selling business book in the first half of the twentieth century. Taylor always said that scientific management would usher in a “mental revolution,” and it has. Modern life is Taylorized life, the Taylor biographer Robert Kanigel observed, a dozen years back. Above your desk, the clock is ticking; on the shop floor, the camera is rolling. Manage your time, waste no motion, multitask: your iPhone comes with a calendar, your car with a memo pad. [emphasis mine]
The connection between human minds, human work, and human tools is far from trivial. Change an object, and you change the nature of a task and thereby reshape the mind needed to do it. Whether you liberate possibilities or foreclose them by design choices, and what those possibilities are, is a weighty and important question, one this film only glancingly addresses.

It's easy enough to understand why: design is awesome, and this film shows many examples of elegantly designed objects. It's hard to watch this film without walking away understanding why people get passionate about it. Design also strikes me as one of those fields of endeavor for which everyone considers himself an expert or a 'natural.'

Meaninglessness's Referent

Michael Shermer offers several reasons for the resistance to accepting evolutionary science, including this one:

The equation of evolution with ethical nihilism. This sentiment was expressed by the neoconservative social commentator Irving Kristol in 1991: "If there is one indisputable fact about the human condition it is that no community can survive if it is persuaded -- or even if it suspects -- that its members are leading meaningless lives in a meaningless universe."
Meaningless to whom? And how?

For what little it may be worth, this line of thinking -- "life is meaningful because god says so" -- is actually an infinite regress, or maybe something worse. If our memories, reflections, and feelings vis-a-vis one another are not enough to make life meaningful, what does god add?

More power? God is the ultimate social-moving dandy with invitations to all the big social scenes, audiences with all the world leaders, back stage passes to all the concerts, sporting events, upscale dinner parties. He runs in fancy circles, knows everybody's numbers, can cite charming anecdotes about anyone you can name. Or maybe this simply means he can squash us like so many gnats or make sure we never work in the industry again.

On this view, having a relationship with god is like having a relationship with Colin Powell or Bono or Paul McCartney, only a thousand times better. As we are social animals, this is a more or less valid picture of 'meaningfulness,' but it's pretty far from noble when regarded in the light of day.

More time? God was thinking and feeling about our lives before we were born and will be around to remember us after we leave sublunary life. So? If there is something meaning-endowing about being thought about, felt about, and remembered, I see no reason why the meaning-endowing powers of thinking, feeling, and remembering goes to zero if it does not last forever. What is 'forever' to us but a word, an abstraction built on the negation of our everyday experience of time? It's a phantasm.

Concretely, I don't know what to think of anyone who was thinking about my day-to-day three trillion years ago and will still be thinking about it three trillion years in the future. The idea of that bores me beyond imagining, and this is my own day-to-day I have in mind.

With or without god, and with or without evolution, we gain meaning by the experience of life and how we reflect on it. Any 'meaning' beyond this is guesswork, and we should take care that these guesses don't negate or occlude the meanings available to us. We should live for what we know, and this entails trying to expand what we know within our finite limits.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Origin at 150

Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species was published 150 years ago today. It revolutionized the science of biology, and arguably altered the way humankind has thought of itself ever since.

And everyone lived happily ever after. Yes?

Monday, November 23, 2009

This week, I am squirreled away in a super-secret redoubt somewhere in Cascadia, so blogging will continue to be even sparser than usual.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Stepping Up vs. Paying Up

Discussing the prospects of passing substantial health care and greenhouse emissions legislation, Matt Yglesias starts out soundly enough:

The crucial thing to remember is that Barack Obama didn’t emerge out of the ether with progressive policy proposals. Commitments to things like an aggressive carbon emissions target and a strong public option emerged over the course of a presidential primary campaign wherein activists affiliated with the environmental and labor movements created an incentive structure that led the main candidates to make those promises.
Only to arrive, curiously enough, at this:
[I]n general, what’s needed is more persuading and more organizing by the kind of people who did the persuading and organizing that got us the Obama agenda in the first place. [emphasis mine]
I realize what I'm about to say is anathema, heresy, terrible, horrible, no good, and very bad in some circles, but I actually think that now is precisely not the time for more persuading and more organizing. Now is the time for advancing the legislation for which all that effort was expended leading up to the 2008 elections. Now is the time for the president and the large Democratic majorities favored by all that organizing to enact the agenda those activists were promised.

This is especially true of matters currently before congress that were, as Yglesias outlined in the first passage cited above, the substance of so much organizing, persuading, strategizing, and campaigning leading up to the 2008 elections.

Grassroots organizing in the context of electoral politics is the vehicle by which favorable politicians gain power, whereupon it is their duty to use that power to make the changes that animated all the organizing and persuading. If it is not that -- if it exists merely to set the stage for more grassroots organizing, let alone on the same controversial political questions, then it is a complete waste of time. In which case it is even less something of which to say, "now is the time."

After much organizing and persuading, our side won. Now is the time for congress and the president to repay the hard work of those who organized, fought, persuaded, and voted them into power.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

They Complete Each Other

The Mentos ads alluded to here always did seem to lack something. I always assumed it was a reason to exist or a non-annoying characteristic, but no, this send-up makes clear that what they were missing was a blast of full facial Jesus.

Which is to say: having reached their optimum, having maxed out, having reached their natural zenith, the Mentos advertising can cease forevermore.

The same goes from the other side. Even in its sunniest presentations, Christianity had always seemed weighed down, anchored to an unnerving focus on death -- how to prepare for it, what comes after it, its inevitability, Jesus's particular experience of it, its failsafe program to elude it too often resolving to a preoccupation with it. And don't even get me started on the cannibalism.

No more! The flash of Mentos's (artificial) color and (chalky) flavor fills in all the gaps left by that unremitting bleakness. Here, a beaming Jesus is offering some brightly colored, sugared chalk, which is not much, but it's a considerable improvement over a chunk of his own flesh.

They each had a good run.

(via The ZehnKatzen Times)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Sterling-Cooper's Prescience on Global Warming


While it was not featured in any Mad Men episodes, I have to guess that this ad from 1962 was the product of Pete's uncanny ability to anticipate future developments combined with Peggy's efficient verbal craft.

I do wonder if Don signed off on it, however -- the exclamation mark at the end of the ad's headline doesn't strike me as a Don-friendly move. Maybe this ad was conceived and executed while Don was off jet-setting with the Eurotrash.

(via Grist)

John Yoo Too

Glennzilla quotes attorney general Eric Holder and then comments:

[Holder] Courts and commissions are both essential tools in our fight against terrorism . . . On the same day I sent these five defendants to federal court, I referred five others to be tried in military commissions. I am a prosecutor, and as a prosecutor, my top priority was simply to select the venue where the government will have the greatest opportunity to present the strongest case with the best law. . . . At the end of the day, it was clear to me that the venue in which we are most likely to obtain justice for the American people is a federal court.
[Greenwald] Does that remotely sound like a "justice system"? If you're accused of being a Terrorist, there's not one set procedure used to determine your guilt; instead, the Government has a roving bazaar of various processes which it, in its sole discretion, picks for you based on ensuring that it will win. Even worse, Holder repeatedly assured Senators that the administration would continue to imprison 9/11 defendants even in the very unlikely case that they were acquitted, citing what they previously suggested was their Orwellian authority of so-called "post-acquittal detention powers." Is there any better definition of a "show trial" than one in which the defendant has no chance of ever being released even if acquitted, because the Government will simply thereafter assert the power to hold him indefinitely without charges?
I would be delighted to be shown where Greenwald has erred in his assessment of the current administration's abuses. At best, I've encountered celebrations of the fact that Barack Obama is a constitutional law scholar -- Randi Rhodes likes to recite this factoid in her radio show -- but this intensifies rather than excuses the insult to what used to be American legal standards. Of all people, Barack Obama knows better than to do what he is doing, and yet he continues unraveling the rule of law with as much blithe indifference (or merriment, or cynicism, or whatever it is) as his worst predecessors.

John Yoo is also a constitutional scholar. Constitutional scholarship manifestly doesn't help.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

"I never thought I'd solve wet arms and sleeves"

It's literally true to say, as the improbably enthusiastic woman says toward the end of this video, that I never thought I'd solve wet arms and sleeves. Seriously, I have never thought that. Not even once -- not until this ad came along.



Now I know there's hope.

I suspect it would be very gauche to compare the appearance of anyone in this video -- I'm not naming anyone in any green shirt -- with this character from the seminal 1972 film Gargoyles.



(via Portland Mercury)

Atheist Ads in Puddle-Town!

Even here in the "People's Republic of Portland," where there's only a church on every other corner, putting godless ads on buses is controversial -- this local news story isn't quite panicky over it, but it dials up the drama:



I feel some sympathy for the TriMet spokesmodel featured here. I have no idea what's really circling through her mind as she speaks, but she seems to have no genuine interest in noticing, let alone commenting publicly on, the ads. But local tee-vee news being what it is, the reporter ratchets up the "controversy" angle, and thus comments must be extracted.

That I am only now learning of these ads, and of the "Portland Coalition of Reason," perhaps speaks to the cats-that-won't-be-herded mentality of filthy atheists like myself. Yay team?

By the way, the answer to the ad is yes. Yes, we can be good without god, and it's a good thing too, because it's the only way there has ever been to be good.

(via Domestically Challenged and Dave Knows Portland)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

This Decade and Others


Don't call me surprised:

Paste Magazine has just named their “25 Best Album Covers of the Decade (2000-2009).” Sitting atop the list at number one? None other than Neko Case and her latest greatest album “Middle Cyclone.” The good folks at Paste explain the choice, “For the multi-talented Case, making one of the best records of the year wasn’t good enough. She also handled the artwork, drawing and photography, casting herself—perched atop a 1968 Mercury Cougar—as the coolest hood ornament of all time.”
For me, the success of an album cover includes the quality and fit of the album title, and Middle Cyclone is intrinsically evocative while conveying something of the music.

On these grounds -- cover art plus album cover and what the combination suggests -- I find I like surprisingly few of the entire top 25, but I do adore the cover of Weezer's Raditude -- this is a perfect portrait of the idea of "raditude," crucially including the ironic scare quotes that go along with the word:

Off They Go

The Catholic Diocese of Washington DC is making threats:

The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington wants the city to change its proposal to legalize same-sex marriages to exempt the church from the law, but so far city council members aren't budging.

Catholic Charities provides social services to about 68,000 people, some of which are city contracts like the management of homeless shelters. The marriage bill would not require churches to perform same-sex weddings, but because Catholic Charities uses city money, the archdiocese fears it would have to offer employee benefits to married same-sex couples.
The diocese is threatening to cease its tax-funded social services work if it can no longer discriminate against gays in hiring, firing, and promotion -- or as neatly summarized by Jason Rosenhouse:
How charming that the Washington Archdiocese believes discrimination towards homosexuals is a higher calling than helping the poor. Sounds like they really have their priorites in the proper order.
I say: good riddance. Let the bigots go, and let this be an enduring object lesson in the flaws of using faith-based organizations to do the work of government.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

God Laughs


This bumper sticker is one of the numerous variations of the "pray for Obama" meme with which clever mouth-breathers are gracing the scene these days. The punchline, such as it is, can be found in the words of Psalm 109:8:

Let his days be few; and let another take his office.
Classy.

Get it? They want the president to die soon! Guffawing yet?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

For Blundering Harder

David Broder was paid to write this:

It is evident from the length of this deliberative process and from the flood of leaks that have emerged from Kabul and Washington that the perfect course of action does not exist. Given that reality, the urgent necessity is to make a decision -- whether or not it is right. [emphasis mine]
It requires an especially staggering magnitude and kind of stupidity to conclude that after years of blundering through a poorly-conceived, reckless occupation of Afghanistan and achieving nothing more than a costly stalemate, the next best step is to stop thinking, decide something or other, and start blundering harder.

I don't know what should be done; I strongly doubt the USA has any answers for Afghanistan, but we have seen what comes of shipping bottomless supplies of troops, contractors, and cash -- death and waste. It's reasonable to expect that more of the same will produce more of the same.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Beatles Remastered: More Cowbell


I've endlessly pooh-poohed enhanced, deluxe, remastered, or otherwise tarted-up reissues of existing recordings, but I have to admit that the new enhanced edition of Rubber Soul sounds better than the CD version we've had before, and the clearest point of distinction comes in "Drive My Car."

It now has more cowbell.

If you happen to have the two versions available to play side by side, you should be able to hear a difference here, and if you can't, your audio playback system may itself need more cowbell.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Poem of the Day: "Lullaby"

Here's a poem to return to whenever you need to rescue love from the fashionable madmen with their pedantic boring cries.


W.H. Auden, "Lullaby"

Lay your sleeping head, my love,
Human on my faithless arm;
Time and fevers burn away
Individual beauty from
Thoughtful children, and the grave
Proves the child ephemeral:
But in my arms till break of day
Let the living creature lie,
Mortal, guilty, but to me
The entirely beautiful.

Soul and body have no bounds:
To lovers as they lie upon
Her tolerant enchanted slope
In their ordinary swoon,
Grave the vision Venus sends
Of supernatural sympathy,
Universal love and hope;
While an abstract insight wakes
Among the glaciers and the rocks
The hermit's sensual ecstasy.

Certainty, fidelity
On the stroke of midnight pass
Like vibrations of a bell,
And fashionable madmen raise
Their pedantic boring cry:
Every farthing of the cost,
All the dreadful cards foretell,
Shall be paid, but from this night
Not a whisper, not a thought,
Not a kiss nor look be lost.

Beauty, midnight, vision dies:
Let the winds of dawn that blow
Softly round your dreaming head
Such a day of sweetness show
Eye and knocking heart may bless.
Find the mortal world enough;
Noons of dryness see you fed
By the involuntary powers,
Nights of insult let you pass
Watched by every human love.

Clash of the Titans: The Wrong Way but Faster

I will watch the shit out of this remake of Clash of the Titans, even as I expect it to be terrible:



The 1981 Clash of the Titans will always have a special place in my movie-going heart, as it was the first movie I went to alone. No, the real reason, and the reason this new version can match but not exceed the original, is the original's use of stop-motion animation, which holds a special kind of terror that no CGI, no matter how advanced, can match. Behold its terrible glory:



Back then, movie heroes didn't need muscle tone, even if they were cast in roles calling for sleeveless garments and feats of strength.


(via Institute of Jurassic Technology)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Failed Cultural Escape Hatches

In the November 2009 Harpers, Mark Kingwell winds down a review of The Language of Things: Understanding the World of Desirable Objects as follows:

Nor will consideration of our own place in the consumer economy necessarily lead to changes in what we value: this is theory, not therapy. Meanwhile, various inventive cultural escape hatches -- hi-lo cultural slumming, the dandyism of camp -- seem jejune if not flatly contradictory. There is nothing outside the system, and attempts at escape are always just higher-order versions of distinction. You can't win, and you can't stop playing.

Here's some advice: stop worrying about it. The point of analyzing desire is neither victory nor freedom; it is, instead, to indicate an alternative scale of value, according to which idleness and play -- the everyday gift of detournement -- are cherished as the most divine, because least encumbered, dimensions of human life. If we could see that, maybe the closed promises of consumption would give way to the open invitation of thought itself.
As a meditation on consumerism and its inter-nested traps, this has plenty to recommend it: I can attest to the futility of trying to use camp and irony to circumvent the charms of consumerism. It doesn't work, certainly it doesn't work to roll back the desire for the the new, the more, the better, whatever presents itself as the next to supersede and surpass. Nor does thinking about the shallowness at the base of it dissolve it. Focusing on the distance between the shallowness and any higher ideal does not close that distance, but maybe it qualifies as thought anyway. The unexamined life is not worth living?

So whatever. The real reason I reproduced that passage is that it's an instance of found prose that could almost serve as a precis of this precious, precious blog. Almost.

Creeds That Ring True

Look no further than this brief summary to see how Christianity makes more sense than all those other silly religions with which it competes for, you know, souls and cash donations and credibility and so on:

The belief that a walking dead Jewish deity who was his own father although he always existed, commits suicide by cop, although he didn't really die, in order to give himself permission not to send you to an eternal place of torture that he created for you, but instead to make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh, drink his blood, and telepathically promise him you accept him as your master, so he can cleanse you of an evil force that is present in mankind because a rib-woman and a mud-man were convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree.
Yes, people by the truckload are raised to believe this as the capital-T Truth. Try to believe that!

I came by this rendering at The Atheist Camel, though it's not clear whether it originated there. It sounds rather Bill-Maherish to me, and that's a good thing.

Anyhoo, believe it or you'll spend an eternity in hell.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

At Least One of These Is Wrong

Eulogizing the soldiers killed at Fort Hood, President Obama spoke, in part, as theologian-in-chief:

It may be hard to comprehend the twisted logic that led to this tragedy. But this much we do know -- no faith justifies these murderous and craven acts; no just and loving God looks upon them with favor. For what he has done, we know that the killer will be met with justice -- in this world, and the next.
It's a good thing our system of government does not actually grant the theologian-in-chief role to the president or any other office, because this theological declaration is wishful thinking, and more to the point, flatly false.

Taking the claims one by one, first, the logic behind the killing is not hard to comprehend: it has been spelled out again and again, and there's nothing abstruse in it.

Second, no, we do in fact have no trouble identifying at least one well-known, much-discussed faith that justifies these and similar murderous and craven acts.

Third, since we do know of a faith that justifies these deeds, and since that faith comes bundled with a god whose devotees zealously characterize as just and loving, it follows that a just and loving god looks upon these deeds with favor. Such a god and such devotees are ispo facto disgusting, despicable lunatics, but characterizing them so does not make them go away.

Fourth, we know nothing of what will happen to the murderer after death, and certainly nothing of whether it will be just or unjust. The available evidence indicates he will moulder away as his immune system, now as dead as the rest of his body, no longer opposes the forces of natural decay. Soon enough his body will be converted to food energy of other organisms; or perhaps his chemical constituents will be scattered by fire, erosion, corrosion, or some of all of these. Beyond that we know nothing.

The faith that the president finds so elusive, and the theology whose logic he professes to be so incomprehensible, is presented clearly in this video -- and while I don't speak the language, it's obvious that the speakers are confident of their theological declarations, at least as confident as the president was of his:



Disputes of this kind can never be settled by the confidence, sincerity, or brashness of the speakers. So long as opposed declarations are adjudicated by apparent sincerity, or by the number of supporting citations of ancient books (filled with still more wild claims), or by the number of believers, or by any of the assorted forms of wishful thinking, humankind will stumble along shouting baseless assertions at itself.

By contrast, those who want to say something definite, credible, and enduring should ground their claims in publicly available evidence. On that basis, all theology is bunk.

Not Cats

I see no reason to call this "cat fighting." That's a stupid term, and this is not fighting. One BYU player is shown throwing a mild elbow toward the beginning, but the rest is #15 for UNM:



In my blackest heart of little hearts, I admit that watching some Mormons take a beating is not the worst thing imaginable. And while my blackest heart of heart has the floor, it would like to suggest that it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world if NFL players took to policing the long hair look by yanking some fellow players down by their long flowing locks.

Come on, guys! It's a big, thick handle just waiting to be grabbed! Think leverage!


All of this is well past the bounds of sportsmanship.

(NFL photo source: NY Sun)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Mad Men - A Third Season Ends

I am still reeling from the season three finale of Mad Men; rarely has a mere tee-vee show so wantonly toyed with my emotions by cutting so close to life. Here's Heather Havrilesky, and I warn my three readers that there will be spoilers aplenty from this point forward:

Even as Betty and then Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) dress Don down with their unforgiving words, he almost seems to lean into their disapproval, as if he's relieved that finally someone's going to call him to the carpet for his clumsy, caddish behavior. Maybe he realizes he's been as much of a presumptuous asshole as Conrad Hilton, who cast aside his professional and personal relationship with Don the second he was no longer useful.
True enough, but I am not sure Betty belongs in the list of chasteners (more on that presently), and the list is incomplete without Roger Sterling and Pete Campbell. Bringing Roger into the conspiracy was the first instance in which Don had to abandon pride and set right a relationship he had abused, and it was Roger who expressly alerted him to the importance of valuing relationships.

Pete insisted on hearing from Don himself why the new firm needed his talents, and again Don abandoned pride and told Pete not only the truth but what Pete wanted to hear, that Pete Campbell has a genuine talent for seeing emerging novelties that others miss.

Most poignantly, Don confessed to Peggy that he sees her as not only a talented creator but a mirror of himself, a person who has survived to experience life from both sides of a profound trauma. From a man as vain as Don -- and we have to admit his self-regard is not without justification -- this is arguably the highest compliment he can give. To her credit, Peggy perceived the truth behind the vanity in this -- that for all his flaws, Don "gets" her and genuinely appreciates her.

Betty's dressing down of Don was of another sort, as I question whether she has anything to teach. When Don angrily confronts her over the relationship with Henry Francis, she affirms that all the affluence in which he has swaddled her is not enough, and then reminds Don that she knows enough to destroy him. Learning the full story of her husband's past has gone from riveting revelation to justification for separation to grounds for blackmail in a space of a few days. Both see that she is most of the way into her next relationship with a man of mystery who is issuing declarations of devotion and promises of support. For all her evident learning and polish, if she wants anything more than to be fawningly adored, she has failed to show it -- her father's characterization of her as a house cat ("an important person with little to do") seems vindicated. Don sees that this is not a relationship to value, and it's hard to see where he's wrong in that.*

More from Havrilesky:
The flashback to his father's death seems to signal that Don is finally going to put his daddy issues aside and shake off the shadow of his real identity once and for all. Now that his fake life is crumbling around him, something resembling an authentic life seems possible at last.

Uh, no. The real-fake boundary is one Don still has no way to bridge, and I don't see Don getting any closer to moving beyond his past. Indeed, the flashbacks in this episode were triggered by the looming reality that he would soon exit his children's lives, as his own father had done, so we learn, thanks to the strong kick of a horse. Don's separation comes from a different cause, but it is arguably more painful: the scene in which Don and Betty inform their children of their impending divorce is, I can assure you, one of the more true-to-life dramatizations ever to pass through tee-vee screens. Whatever successes and excitements attend the new firm the principals have founded, the pain of Don's alienation from his children will continue, and the flashbacks will come in train.

Havrilesky is mostly right with this:
Breathtaking, really, that each character's deepest desires and drives could be satisfied without screwing up the story or turning it into a fairy tale. In particular, the difference between Peggy and Joan and what they each want was beautifully expressed in seconds: Roger, Joan and Peggy are hunched over the books at the old offices, exhausted from their scrambling attempts to bring as much with them to the new firm as they can before they're locked out, when Sterling asks, "Peggy, can you get me some coffee?" Without wavering, Peggy snaps back, "No."

Next we cut to Don informing Joan, "I'm at the Roosevelt, but I'll need you to find me an apartment."

"Furnished?" Joan asks without skipping a beat, in that tone of professional nonchalance that makes her such a star. Sure, Joan's made to be a caretaker and organizer of men's lives, but does that make her miserable? No. She absolutely glows when she's s given an opportunity to do what she does best. [emphasis mine]
Truly we see a great step forward in Peggy's assertiveness in this small scene -- as well as the two scenes before with Don -- a step that is too long in coming. But I am struck by the diminishment of Joan Holloway's abilities as "a caretaker and organizer of men's lives," and I think Havrilesky has fallen into Matthew Weiner's trap of luring viewers into thinking that Joan's beauty somehow reduces her -- that because she is a beautiful woman, she has to be "dumb," whereas Peggy is more humble in appearance and therefore visually coded as An Intelligent Woman.

What an antiquated, pre-second-wave-feminism, 1950s-1960s way to think about women!

Yes, Joan is beautiful and aware of her sex appeal (and yes, willing to leverage that), but she is also strong, intelligent, and capable. When, a few episodes before, the unfortunate British newcomer had his foot nearly severed by a riding lawnmower, Joan ran toward the grisly scene and took charge as others fainted, shrieked, or backed away. She knows what everyone does (and how well), she knows where everything is (and where it should be), and shows a tremendous talent for organization, an unfailing eye for detail, and a careful insight into the strengths, weaknesses, and stresses affecting the people around her. This is no small collection of abilities, and goes well beyond "caretaker and organizer of men's lives," though it necessarily includes that. From the first episode of season one, Joan has has risen to every challenge placed before her, and I predict her role will expand and her merits will become more apparent in the new firm to which Roger shrewdly added her.



* There is more to say about Betty Draper. Certainly she has been betrayed, lied to, and neglected; more fundamentally, as much or more than Don, she finds herself in a life she clearly never wanted. From the fact that she has not outlined a clear alternative to marriage and children in a beautiful house in the suburbs, it does not follow that she has no basis for resenting the limitations of that life -- and this is so even if she had been living out the most perfect example of that life, i.e., with a husband who didn't withhold, lie, and cheat repeatedly. She has much in common with April Wheeler from Revolutionary Road, but lacking, I think, the same degree of self-awareness and ability (willingness?) to articulate her own agony. We know how well the self-awareness served April Wheeler in the end, so this may not necessarily prove to be a bad thing.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Never Trust a Glibertarian with Data

Really, given the glibertarian source of the data, I had a feeling it would come to this -- the spectacular failure rate of teen Oklahomans on a multiple-choice citizenship quiz, upon which I snarked in September, was very likely bullshit.

Absolutely definitive proof of fraud is not present, but Nate Silver, who is not a lying glibertarian determined to destroy the idea of public education, has the corrective:

Cannaday [also not a lying glibertarian] therefore had little difficulty setting up an experiment: he arranged to have all the seniors in the 10 secondary schools in his district take the Strategic Vision/OCPA survey. Cannaday tried to replicate the Strategic Vision survey to the greatest extent possible. The same exact questions were used, and as in the case of the original survey, the answers were open-ended rather than multiple choice. The survey was administered to a total of 325 seniors, including special education students.

Cannaday's survey however, found his students doing just fine: They answered an average of 7.8 out of the 10 questions correctly.
Sigh.

My apologies to the teens of Oklahoma, the teachers, the schools, and dearest Ponca City for accepting such a poor representation of the quality of learning in the state.

Hills, Valleys, and Dales

This is not an update.

  • Another Dale, not this Dale, has hosted the 45th Humanist Symposium.
  • Yesterday, despite gathering clouds, I had a pretty pleasant, albeit hill-rich, run of nine miles. Unfortunately, the weather proceeded to go from so-so to terrible, with strong rain pressed along by strong wind, and yet I still had ten more miles to cover before reaching the full nineteen that I had inexplicably set as my goal. When the lightning began, I was at in a clearing at the crest of Powell Butte. As much as I love Powell Butte and the principle of the Darwin Awards, I saw them as two great tastes that taste terrible together, and quickly headed to the vicinity of the exact same trees pictured here. That combined with some dumb luck kept me alive and miserable for the next several miles of puddles, piercing rain, numb hands, numb feet, and chafing. Yay!
  • I have nothing on valleys. That was a tasteless inducement to draw valley enthusiasts to this precious, precious blog. Do I feel badly about this legerdemain? No. No I don't.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Carl Sagan Day

I don't quite know what it means, but I like it since it favorably concerns one of my very first man-crushes, Carl Sagan: Carl Sagan Day is tomorrow!

I assume there will be lots of science-y stuff going on. Holy crap, I was right!

I would ask that Carl Sagan Day not be contrued as suggesting that we should ignore Carl Sagan's work on other days. Here is a little piece from Pale Blue Dot -- shortly over three minutes of the kind of awe-inspiration he exuded like so much excess aftershave.

The Question of Being Party to the Party

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) sends regular fundraising appeals to at least two of my e-mail accounts, and generally, I am fine with that. As a Democrat, I want Democrats to keep and enlarge their majority in the Senate.

But here's the deal, DSCC, and the following applies to all manifestations of the Democratic party: you are very much on trial right now. Now is the time to stand up and behave as a political party.

I refer, of course, to Joe Lieberman, the former Democrat who now threatens to join a Republican filibuster of the majority's already distressingly watered-down health care bill. Though not a Democrat, Lieberman caucuses with the Democrats, and inasmuch as this means a damn thing, it needs to mean he does not filibuster bills the vast majority of the party's elected officials and constituents support.

Senators who block Democratic legislation should be stripped of all rights and privileges they currently enjoy as members of the party caucus, from committee chairmanships right down to parking spaces at the capitol, and everything between. Everything the party caucus has the power to remove, it should remove under that circumstance.

If Lieberman -- or anyone else in the party caucus -- joins a filibuster of any bill the Democratic majority is attempting to pass, and if Lieberman is not immediately dropped from the caucus as a consequence, then I will never give another dime to the Democratic party. Never. Not a single dime, and not a second's worth of volunteer effort, not if I live to be 150. I will not lift a finger for the Senate; not for the House of Representatives; not for the Presidency; not at the state level; not at the local level. Never. Zero. I will still contribute time and money to individual candidates who demonstrably embrace a policy agenda I can support, but this will pointedly exclude those who have enabled the Joe Liebermans of the world.

A political party lacking this basic level of party discipline is not a political party at all. It is instead a dead and pointless abstraction, one for which life is too short and resources too finite.

KUFO Presents Weenie & The Butt

In what ought to be local news, I happened to be listening when Portland's KUFO radio began its on-air days-long sassy robot-voiced countdown to inaugurate the changeover from Rick Emerson and Cort & Fatboy to what have turned out to be forgettable, predictable, unfunny, dumb-ass shock jocks -- and out-of-towners to boot.

I gave the new KUFO morning show several opportunities to win me over, but in the brief snatches of time when the new morning personality wasn't guffawing at his own material, he was saying idiotic, graceless, charmless, tiresome things: for example, a day or two ago, his comedic sensibility brought us the funny side of his intern's father's long-term coma, which was was not funny in the least, no matter how avidly he laughed at it.

As with so much else, this particular dumbing down was foreseen by the creators of Family Guy:



The new shows are somewhere between Weenie & The Butt and the show that Brian & Stewie develop together, Dingo & The Baby, which was, well, a lot like Weenie & The Butt: inane, witless, and utterly unnecessary.

Going forward, I won't be catching any more on-air publicity stunts from KUFO, as it now joins the long list of radio stations I avoid.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

You'll Love John Cusack's New Yacht ... Or My Name Ain't Nathan Arizona!

Having just received the DVD of one my favorite movies ever, Raising Arizona, I admit I was expecting a little more from this mashup between it and the next big-budget piece of unwatchable crap coming at us, 2012. That said, I've seen worse, if only because Raising Arizona elevates everything it touches:



After the first ad-driven opening weekend, few will watch this film, and fewer still will be glad they did. The title is vaguely allusive to a bundle of nonsense, but really just vague; then again, who would go to a movie called Unpainted Huffheins (Cf.)?

(via The Film Talk)

"The tiniest sparks and the tenderest sounds" -- Middle Cyclone Awarded


I didn't quite realize amazon.com had editors, but it is apparently so, and they have named Neko Case's Middle Cyclone the album of the year for 2009. Huzzah!

For anyone not already aware of my hopeless fan-boy status with respect to Neko Case and Middle Cyclone, I refer you to my gushing encomium to the album from March of this year, and, if that's not fan-boy enough, to my pointlessly snarky kneecapping of some of the album's critics in May.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Mad Men: Back, and to the Left



To this spoiler-rich video summary of the penultimate episode of the current Mad Men season I will add the observation that its Betty-Don interaction can be construed as a vindication of blaming women for men's bad behavior.*

Consider that for all of seasons one and two, and continuing well into the episode previous to this one ("The Gypsy and the Hobo"), Don has been lying and philandering ceaselessly, treating his marriage vows in the same way that Dick Cheney treats the law. Betty has suspected this, she has at times known this, but she has stayed at Don's side, albeit less than happily.

Then comes "The Gypsy and the Hobo," the central drama of which was Don's complete, or nearly complete, self-revelation to Betty: he gave her a detailed account of his former name, his decidedly unheroic exit from the army, his previous marriage, such as it was. He let loose all his secrets, looking shaken and deflated as he did so.

Thus Don lost his mystique; the truth set him free in a way that years of flagrant philandering, lying, and scheming never did. Just one episode later -- just a few conversations later, really -- Betty is seen hiding away with another man, kissing him, cementing a new romantic bond, daydreaming of different ways of living, talking marriage. Disenchanted with Don -- mirrored by the larger society's sudden disenchantment based on seminal events in Dallas, November 1963 -- she matter-of-factly informs Don that she no longer loves him. To all appearances their marriage is over, and she's most of the way to a new man who looks the part but about whom she knows little.

One wonders if she'll be in much the same state with this second husband a few years down the line.

What would a Don Draper learn from this? Lie and cheat without serious consequences for years, but tell the whole truth -- unburden your darkest secrets, pierce the veil of mystery -- and everything falls apart. The truth, and truth's vulnerability, kills faster than a magic bullet.


* Note I said "can be construed as ...", which is not the same as "I believe ... " or even "the writer believes ... " I don't know what to believe, and I don't read minds. Not well, anyway.

Maine Reddens

Ah, Maine. I thought you were one of the good states, but no, you're still beset with bigots, or at best, idiots who will fall for the lies of bigots:

Maine became the 31st state to block same-sex marriage through a public referendum ... With 84 percent of precincts reporting early Wednesday, the repeal proposal had 53 percent of the vote, even though polls had indicated the race was a dead heat.
Fuck you, majority of Maine voters, and I mean that sincerely. The disparity between opinion polls and actual vote suggests the possibility that some of you have trouble admitting your rank bigotry to pollsters. That feeling is shame, and it's the proper feeling to have, because what you've done here is shameful.

While you're under the sway of my charms, I now request the same thing I requested of the narrow majority of Californians who undertook a similar lurch a year ago:
Document your vote -- take a photograph of yourself, or write yourself a brief e-mail, or mail yourself a post card, or something of the sort. On the document, affirm that you voted to ban gay marriage in your state, and if you wish, write down the reasons for having done so. Put the document in a scrapbook, photo album, family archive, or some other safe place. Note that I am not asking you to show the document to anyone else, now or ever. Keep it as private as you wish.

The following is my prediction.

At some point in the future -- maybe a year, maybe three years, maybe ten years -- you will regret having voted this way. You will find yourself less and less willing to openly admit that you took this stand. You will look over your stated reasons and find them embarrassing. You will come around to the realization that being gay is simply a way of being human, and you will see the injustice in canceling and preventing the marriages of consenting adults, every bit as much as you presently see the injustice of banning interracial marriage or voting against someone on the basis of sex or race.

When that realization comes to you, I want the document to be there to remind you that you participated in and furthered injustice and inequality of the grossest sort.

I hope you enjoy the victory you've scored for bigotry today, because I honestly believe you'll be ashamed of it later.
Meanwhile, again: fuck off, and rest assured the inkling of shame some of you feel is not misplaced. For the unashamed among you, I believe it is only a matter of time before you realize how profoundly wrong, hidebound, petty, and indecent you've been. It won't be soon enough, but I trust it will happen.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Nietzsche, Man of Straw

TBWBoSRaDH* nicely captures what makes Nietzsche so many Christians' favorite atheist:

Friedrich Nietzsche was the product of a line of Lutherans pastors, so it should not surprise that his atheism engages so directly, and inverts so forcefully, the thrust of Christianity. As philosophy goes much of what Nietzsche had to say was captivating, but then I also find science fiction captivating, as well as some portions of the Bible. The atheism of Nietzsche plays on the terms of Christianity, and that is why Christians often admire his work. It is entirely intelligible to them insofar as it operates in the same universe of morals, albeit characterized by inversions. So naturally Christians castigate atheists who are not Nietzschians, such a stance creates much greater difficulty in fashioning rhetorical thrusts. Too many presuppositions simply are not aligned. [emphasis mine]
Nietzsche merely inverted some of Christianity's central claims -- mercy displays weakness rather than nobility, forgiveness is for the craven rather than for the virtuous, etc. -- and more fundamentally, his "god is dead" is most profitably read as his despair at a vast, meaningless, and disorderly cosmos.

All this said, making definite statements about what Nietzsche believed is a tricky business. By contrast, so-called 'new atheists' write and speak clearly, and challenge faith on terms its defenders prefer to wish away, namely, reason and evidence. This doesn't make them right, but it engages the questions on terms that mere assertions of faith, no matter how impassioned, sincere, or captivating, can never ultimately succeed. Nietzsche's acceptance of Christian frames and terms, together with his penchant for self-contradiction, bombast, bamboozlement, and obscurantism, makes for a superficially easier target. Like dissolves like.

Good luck with that one, Christians.

* Cf.

A Very Wikipedia Birthday

I blame our base ten numbering system for the emphasis I can't quite help placing on the fact that I turn 40 tomorrow. Normally, I strive to avoid ill will toward numbers and numbering systems, but the arbitrary assignment of meaning would seem incomplete without a little arbitrary casting of blame.

Wikipedia has a surprisingly rich write-up of the number forty, which begins rather matter-of-factly before warming up to the subject:

40 (forty) is the natural number following 39 and preceding 41.
Indeed it is! In my palsied dotage I am gratified to see Wikipedia conform to my longstanding bias for stating the obvious.

Not that it's any consolation, but P. Diddy and Matthew McConaughey are also turning exactly 40 tomorrow, joining a long list of celebrities that share the birthday but turn some other age. The clock ticks and bell tolls for bigger-than-Jesus rappers and extremely talented actors too.

A lot of interesting stuff has happened on our planet's collection of Novembers fourth, including last year's election of Barack Obama, the 1979 taking of the Iranian hostages, the 1956 Soviet invasion of Hungary, the 1783 debut performance of Mozart's 36th symphony, and the 1677 marriage of William and Mary, without which the college of William and Mary would have a different name but would still suck ass at all varieties of football.

Sigh. I'm too old to be writing this. I honestly thought I would "grow up" before becoming "old." When can I expect to be issued my astronaut diaper?

(image source)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Justifying the Ways of Twitter

A blogger has certain responsibilities, among these being thoughtful answers to Norm Geras's questions about Twitter:

(1) Why would I want to record my daily activities for other people to follow? (2) Why would I want to follow the detailed doings of anyone else over the course of a day, and another day, and another day? ... (3) Who has time for it?
As this is my blog, my answers will have to do instead, and I answer as follows, based on my own rich, creamy experience with Twitter, which stretches all the way back to March of this year, a veritable eternity in the context of online social media.

(1) I would want to record my daily activities because I am vain, small, petty, self-promoting, and damnnear boundlessly narcissistic. There, I said it. Anyone who claims higher motives in reply to this is attempting the tired maneuver of concealing self-regard in false modesty. Yawn.

To be clear, there may be genuine reasons in addition to pure narcissism -- promoting sales and brand recognition are common wellsprings o' tweets, trying to lure inbound links to other online thingies is another common one, luring men into thinly-veiled prostitution operations appears to be a very common one, etc. One could distinguish between these promotions and rank narcissism, but to a close first approximation, a strong element of rank narcissism is behind every tweet ever.

(2) This very much depends, of course, on the entity followed. I want to follow, say, PZ Myers, Matt Yglesias, and Glenn Greenwald for the same reasons I want to follow their blogs: because they often express things I find informative, interesting, or otherwise agreeable. I want to follow Pandora because I like what Pandora does and I accept a certain amount of money-chasing mendacity if it provides a quick way to see their news feed and technical updates. I want to follow everyday human beings I know because knowing them entails, with or without Twitter, the desire to wedge myself up in their business.

(3) People who have time to read and write tweets include the unemployed, the unemployable, and people stuck at keyboards or text messaging devices all day -- you know, the usuals. I would guess that most users of twitter are like me in this way: I don't go to great lengths to read every tweet that comes from the people I follow. I know I've missed plenty of good ones, but I do what I have time to do and don't spend any time agonizing over what I've missed, whether I am following the right entities, or whether I have done justice to my follows in the way that I'd worry over a book I purchased but haven't found the time to read. Twitter is free; easy come, easy go; what is not worth doing is not worth doing thoroughly, etc.

Adding to the above, I have come to appreciate how Twitter provides a window onto our fickle, mutable Zeitgeist. Granted, the Zeitgeist is what it is, and always includes a strong proportion of Complete Crap, but the momentary vagaries of culture are famously varied in quality, seriousness, usefulness, and so on.

If Something Truly Big is happening in the world, it can be expected to surface on Twitter quickly. Twitter may not tell a complete version of it -- it probably won't, though it can become entwined with events in important ways -- but it will point the way to resources that do not have the 140-character limit, and this surfacing will happen in real time.

Browsing through the "trending topics" list has frequently acquainted me with fancies I would otherwise miss -- today's include "#unseenprequels," which is a meme in which people tweet the titles of movie prequels that have never been made. Without Twitter, these ten minutes during which countless thousands of people try to think up unseen prequel titles would pass by unnoticed, and our collective cultural imagination would be correspondingly impoverished: I, for one, shudder to think of an alternate reality in which I would never have even thought to type "Awkward Hook-Up at Tiffany's #unseenprequels", "The Gradually Coalescing Gas & Dust Cloud of the Apes #unseenprequels," "Drafting Private Ryan #unseenprequels," or "2000: A Space Iliad #unseenprequels."

Sadly, Twitter is exactly as stupid and pointless as social interaction itself.

Fair and Balanced

Something has gone wrong in Britain:

About 54% of the 973 polled Britons agreed with the view: "Evolutionary theories should be taught in science lessons in schools together with other possible perspectives, such as intelligent design and creationism."

In the US ... 51% agreed that evolution should be on the curriculum alongside other theories, like intelligent design.

Across the 10 countries, 43% agreed with this statement.

It was found that Britons were almost three times more likely than Egyptians to want creationism and intelligent design to be included in the teaching of evolution.
Britons are more amenable to non-scientific material in science courses than Americans? More than Egyptians? How odd!

Of course, polls can be misleading in various ways, and perhaps an unusually high proportion of British respondents had something like this in mind:
Alison Ryan, policy adviser of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers Union, said that if a "good teacher handled the lesson", presenting creationism and intelligent design need not be problematic. "Science teachers could introduce creationism as a theory that some people hold, but that is not based on evidence."
I could see the value of broaching creationism as an example illustrating the difference between science and non-science, but there's quite a bit to teach and learn in biology, so I would hope not too much time would be devoted to this in biology class.

I hope the above, or something close to it, is what many or most Britons giving the ostensibly pro-creationist answer had in mind. Whether they did or not, science is not determined by popular vote, so even if 100% of Britons came to believe that creationism is a valid explanation for the diversity of life on earth, it would not make it so -- it certainly would not constitute evidence for it (millions and millions of people can indeed be wrong!) -- and it would not make it a good fit for science curricula.

Creationism in schools? Sure, in the "Bullshit 101" course, or the critical-thinking courses, or perhaps in the history of ideas courses -- but not in science.

(image source: Stephen Law, though it did not originate there)

Some Common Misunderstandings



Determined to rescue the sacredness of every sperm from the satirists and the naysayers, The Anchoress offers her services:

I can tell you what my own understanding is, and it may help some who just dismiss the stance of the Church as utter nonsense.
These florid words are the ones that may help:
Our creation is no accident, but the Love of God made manifest, and the “tools” or “materials” that He uses for that creation – committed love and the mysterious and miraculous products of that love – do, simply by their designation as “tools of God” demand a certain respect and recognition, because they are a great deal more than the equivalent of nasal mucous or earwax. They [sperm and ova] are the essentials of human creation, within us but as remote and mysterious as stardust, and therefore they are of staggering value and import. In THAT sense, yes, every sperm is sacred.
It's not clear what "in THAT sense" is doing here; the sense of "every sperm is sacred" under discussion sounds exactly like the one we know from Monty Python, only stripped of mirth and presented in dead earnest. Sperm cells are "essentials" of "human creation" never to be trifled with, and as such carry "staggering" levels of god-imposed significance. In a more properly observant world, priests would deliver last rites to every sperm cell that doesn't fertilize an egg; and given the numbers involved, I suspect this would severely cut back on the time available to rape children, and speaking for myself (not necessarily The Anchoress or her church), I call this a good thing.

I could quibble with "remote and mysterious as stardust," since neither sperm/ova nor stardust are nearly as remote or mysterious as they were when the Catholic Church still had enough sway to stifle science, but the more interesting question is where these weighty assertions lead. In the hands of The Anchoress, they manage to permit sex-for-procreation, and it alone, except when they don't:
every sex act, if it is truly to be respectful of God’s design and creation, must be opened to the possibility of new life ... if they take steps to suppress that possibility, then they have – essentially – excluded God from the act.
It goes without saying that god needs to be included in all sex acts, but The Anchoress helpfully went ahead and said it anyway. Allowing for the possibility of procreation is required of any sex act that god will join, and yet
sooner or later fertility ends, that does not mean sex ends. One of the common misunderstandings is that “the church says sex must always and only be about procreation, and if it’s not possible, then sex is a sin.” This is nonsense. Sex is the gift and privilege of married couples, both pleasurable and procreative. When fertility has come to an end, when the possibility of new life is no longer there, that means the procreation part has ended, not the pleasure.
Oddly, The Anchoress has now attached the words "gift" and "privilege" and even "pleasure" to sex, thereby leaving things far from the earlier twaddle about "essentials" of "human creation" with their "staggering" degrees of god-soaked meaning, and opening the door to the wanton obliteration of sperm cells.

So there you have it: contrary to common misunderstandings, every sperm is sacred except in cases where every sperm is not sacred; non-sinful sex is sex that can lead to procreation except where non-sinful sex is sex that cannot lead to procreation; Catholic teaching on these matters is a sound reflection of clear thinking and genuine authority except where it is a slapdash wreck of absurd superstitions and confused prejudices.

(via Sullivan)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Creation, So-Called

It's great to see that Creation, starring Paul Bettany as Charles Darwin and Bettany's real-life wife Jennifer Connelly as Darwin's wife, Emma, has found a distributor and will appear in US theaters.



It may or may not turn out to be a memorable film, but I will watch it with interest, and not only because Jennifer Connelly is in it.