BATS!

Two kinds, I guess. First, the Mets are 2-0 up on the Yankees in their current interleague series. When people said the Yankees were buying the best, I never though it meant the best performance enhancing drugs. I’ve never disliked the Yankees, but this is an interesting development.

Oh, and the Rockies won today, so that skating rink on the river Styx might be opening soon.

The other bats are the kind you find in caves, or at one time in my attic. Some would say in my belfry, but the joke’s on them because I don’t even have a belfry. Okay, you know what I’m going towards here: Batman Begins has opened in theaters to rave reviews. I’d like to be able to say something about how the critics are misled, but I just can’t. In fact, let me add my own rave review.

The story opens with visuals of bats, and lots of them. Sucks you right in because, lets face it, bats are not the nicest thing to think about being in the middle of. I’ve been more engrossed by movies; I did deconstruct a bit, but on the whole from the bats to the fade out (opening credits at the end, as is in vogue these days) I enjoyed the film a great deal. I hate to wholeheartedly agree with Roger Ebert (I don’t know why but I do.) However, let me echo what he said in his televised review: “This is the film where they finally get Batman right!” Yep. It’s still implausible if you think about it too much. I mean, a guy in a bat suit? Even the Bruce Wayne character jokes about the guy “having issues.” Still, it’s plausible if you suspend disbelief, where none of the others ever have been. They’re better than the TV parody with Adam West and Burt Ward (who played a ward, which was nice) but still nowhere near true to the Batman we’ve come to know and love from DC comics.

For those of you who follow character archetypes, Batman is a Lost Soul (Deluxe.) This movie shows us how he got lost, and in beautiful detail. It is beautiful detail, too. I kept wondering which city they’d used, but it actually appears to look sort of like New York, sort of like Chicago, and even sort of like Los Angeles, but it isn’t a real city: it’s Gotham City, the metropolis of dark dreams and hard lives. Bruce Wayne moves invisibly through the city using skills he learned from the League of Shadows. When he refuses to join them the League becomes his worst enemy. They cost him plenty before it’s over. Not the girl though. If I say more I might give away too much for you, so I’ll stop right there. As you’ll assume while watching, she is unharmed at the end.

Speaking of the end, it may have been my favorite scene. Jim Gordon, Sgt. Gordon, Lt. Gordon (he gets promoted a lot apparently) is talking to Batman when he mentions a serial criminal. Once again I must desist from going further. It’s difficult, but I’ll do it. It’s a great way to close, though. I’ve heard that there are plans for two more installments, and unlike the other Batman movies it’s really something to look forward to.

I write movies myself, so here are a few credits. Bob Kane created the characters; David S. Goyer wrote the story; Christopher Nolan directed the film. You’ll know the actors I’m sure. Christian Bale, the recently infamous Katie Holmes, and don’t forget Michael Caine as Alfred. You do know who Alfred is, don’t you? There is a cast of dozens, most named, although there are also roles such as the one referred to as “Enormous Prisoner” portrayed with sensitivity and taste by Turbo Kong.

All in all a very good movie, one I’m glad I paid my money to see. Go, you’ll like it!

Patriotism and All That

Karl Rove disgraced himself the other day by saying that liberals were not patriotic. In fact, he pretty much called them wimps who would sell out the country. It’s just another example of the effing web of lies and deceit from the right wing lately.

I’ll tell the truth here, that I never voted party line until the “moral majority” grew into the “new right” and took over the Republican party. I’ve voted for Republicans (Nixon even) and Democrats and Independents over the years and I don’t regret any of my votes. But although I am a fairly tolerant person when it comes to beliefs and even behaviors (which is one reason I like living in Nevada) I absolutely cannot stand to be lied to. And lied to is about all I get out of the right side of the political spectrum these days.

Al Franken, in his book Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them does a much better job of delineating the breadth and depth of the right wing’s smear campaign against decency than I have space or patience to do here. But, for example, consider Ann Coulter and her “It’s in the footnotes” explanation for her assertions in her idiot lying books. They are not footnotes in the first place; they are endnotes. And in the second place, they do not illustrate what she says they do. This is what liars of the right’s ilk depend upon: nobody is going to bother checking such small-print and seeming trivial details. Except that it’s not trivial, although the print is very small.

The thing Franken does that Coulter and the other usurpers of truth and justice don’t do is actual research and fact checking. But in a lot of cases, you can’t trace the source of the lie anyway. For example, just after 9-11 I received an email about a congressional hearing led by Al Gore in which Oliver North warned of the danger posed by Osama Bin Laden only to have Al blow him off. That’s a pretty serious charge, and maybe I’d be outraged if not for the fact that Oliver North himself declared it to be untrue. Unfortunately there was no email campaign involving Col. North’s information, so what many people remember is the closing line from the email, which was to the effect of “aren’t you glad Al Gore wasn’t President on 9-11?” Sure. He might have done something stupid like stop reading a childrens’ book and fly to DC to be in control of the situation. Just a thought.

Actually there is only one way a President could react after such a thing, and of course Bush certainly did, as would have Al Gore, or Mickey Mouse for that matter. It’s obvious to anyone who thinks about it that any other sort of reaction was pretty much unthinkable, but people don’t think about it much, partially because of the wonderful web of lies spun by those in the once honorable right wing.

Here are some broader lies to ponder. The Republican Party has convinced a lot of voters that they are the party of the small people, and of states’ rights. Excuse me? Wasn’t Lincoln a Republican? I’m not dissing Lincoln or taking sides in the Civil War here, but one thing Lincoln was not was a states’ rights advocate. And there are perfectly good arguments for favoring large business and expecting the little people to fend for themselves, but the Republicans don’t want to make that argument because it would not be popular, or so they believe. So they flat out lie with a straight face and people whose daddy was a segregationist buy into it along with all sorts of folks from Middle America who should know better. By exploiting the differences between the coasts and the rest of us to the fullest extent and by lying whenever it suits them, they have managed to create enough of a societal rift to ensure their continued chance to hold the reins of power. You gotta love ’em because otherwise you’d just be too frustrated to concentrate on anything else, you’d end up losing your job, and with them in power you’d end up living under a freeway overpass for sure.

Friends, the Republican Party is about as against states’ rights as you can get. That’s okay because that’s where there history lies. They generally favor laissez-faire capitalism, at least domestically, and that’s okay too because that’s also been their historic party line. What isn’t okay is the flat out bald lying about these historically Republican positions. It’s beyond not okay, it’s downright unethical, immoral, and in the case of the lies about the reasons to go to war with Iraq, deadly for a great many of our young people. Mostly poor young people, you know, those ones who are a bit darker than the folks at the country club, are the ones sent off as cannon fodder. And Bush claims to follow Jesus of Nazareth? I guess the Parable of the Sons Sent off as Wartime Sacrifice must be one that I somehow missed. I’ll bet it’s in the Book of Execrations.

Okay, I’ve ranted enough for one day. I’m going to let things lie for the moment. But I’m going to do some real research on any political stories I hear, and you, my friend, should go and do likewise.

Long Term Planning Redux

I was just reading an article about a Japanese security firm that is concerned because by 2040 one in three Japanese will be over 65 and they are wondering where they’ll get manpower. Their answer so far is a new robot they’ve worked up to patrol and report problems. And why not? But my point is that they are worried about a problem in the future and using accurate demographics in their predictions. Now, we beat those guys in a big war once, or at least I was told that we did, but we’re not smart enough to do the same? Golly, the people get the people they deserve, don’t they?

Later,

S.

I Know a Guy Who Knows a Guy

I think my profile mentions that I write screenplays. One in particular is set in Las Vegas. I decided to write it when I did a ‘what if’ to the effect that it would be fun to see what would happen if you had a vegetarian, non-violent hard-boiled detective. It’s set in Las Vegas because this town is hot, and pretty much for that reason only. Also since I live here I can be accurate about what’s what in the area. (For example, that’s Lake Mead, not Meade, as it’s not named for any Civil War general.) It took a few iterations but I got it in fairly good shape. So here comes the seque into the topic of the title of this post.

My wife works with a guy who has connections and who agreed to read it over. He’s making notes, and his comments were pretty much favorable. With a bit of rewrite he says he’ll show it to some people. In other words, I know a guy who knows a guy. Honestly, it’s a TV movie. I didnt’ start out to write a TV movie, but that’s what it is. It’s got a high concept hook, but there just isn’t enough to it to be theatrical (unless maybe it were adapted for Bollywood.) But I’m pretty excited about it. He even suggested that it might be a pilot for a series. Boy, would that be swell. In a case like that I’d get some sort of royalty every time an episode played even if I never touched the thing again. Now that would be very hard to take, yes very difficult.

The detective? Well he does actually use a gun in the climax to bring down the bad guy, so he learns not to be so dogmatic. Besides, he only thinks he’s hard-boiled in the first place. If you want more, I guess you’ll have to wait for it to appear. Given project timelines in any industry, and in entertainment especuially, I’d say about 2007 or 2008 maybe, and that’s assuming all this stuff works out. Still, knowing a guy who knows a guy is the way to go.

By the way, if you read these rants, you might think I’m preaching when I write a script, but nothing could be further from the truth. True, every character comes out of my imagination, but that’s true of the protagonists and antogonists alike. Frankly, the bad guys are more fun to draw, especially since you can do anything you want to the poor schmucks. Anyway, I try to write commercial fiction, not issue pieces. Besides, anyone familiar with the entertainment industry knows that the actual powers are about as conservative as you can get; they’re just very very pragmatic about things. Why do they hire ditzy talent? Because the ditzy talent brings in the audience. That’s like my attitude when I write a story: I have my viewpoint, but it may be dull as anything. My characters, whatever viewpoint they have, need to be interesting, and a good story is a lot more important than any political posturing. So, if I ever do get my stuff produced, I hope nobody is disappointed if politics never enters in.

By the way, speaking of politics entering in, next week’s Penn and Teller’s Bullshit! on Showtime will be discussing Michael Moore among other things. And since I just brought it up, I highly commend that series to your attention. They’ll take on anything that seems suspicious, most recently hair, but they’ve covered new age mysticism, bottled water (my favorite episode), second-hand smoke, death, the bible and quite a few other topics sure to entertain or enrage (or maybe both) the viewer.

I almost forgot. Here’s a link where you can read the first page: http://screenwriter.stevefey.com/

Long Term Planning

To open, here is a quote from an article in today’s New York Times: “In other words, most investors tend to ignore events that are scheduled to happen more than five years into the future. They are like drivers who ignore warning signs about slippery pavement just around the bend, and instead wait until nearly the last second to apply the brakes.” Looking Long Term? Get Your Glasses! by MARK HULBERT Published: June 19, 2005.

Well, by gum, don’t that explain a few things though? Apparently some economists have conducted some research and found out for certain what seems pretty obvious to a casual observer: people plan about as far as the tips of their noses. This is not a new phenomenon. I remember in High School I was talking with a bunch of friends when one of our bunch posited that someday rock and roll would be the “Muzak” of elevators, department stores, etc. Only he and I agreed with that prediction; several others expressed the opinion that such a thing would never happen. Millions of us, comprising the dominant social force in the country for most of our lifetimes (including now, and I do apologize for that) and they didn’t think that our taste in music would take over. What is, was and ever more shall be, I suppose, is what they believed. I see the same thing with the Social Security issue today, where an even bigger bulge of babies, not to mention immigrants, will swell taxpayer ranks considerably more than is needed. And as for long term thinking on environmental issues, international politics, or for that matter planning where to put a subdivision, you might as well forget you ever heard of the idea.

For example, consider the arctic refuge oil drilling dispute. First, consider that the United States consumes about 18 million barrels of oil per day, or 18,000,000 barrels expressed numerically. The arctic refuge area is estimated by the most optimistic estimators to contain about 32 billion barrels of recoverable petroleum, or 32,000,000,000 numerically. All you have to do is divide 32,000,000,000 by 18,000,000 to see the most optimistic estimate of how many extra days’ oil we would receive if the most optimistic estimates are true.

Okay, I’ll do it for you here on my calculator. The product of that division is 1227.78 days (actually is 1227.7777777777 forever days, but I can’t count that many 7s.) In years, 1228 days (I’m going to fudge up for optimistic purposes) is 3.64 years. So we will extend the agony of slowly running out of petroleum by a little under 4 years if the most optimistic estimates of oil in the arctic refuge are true. Rather than worry about caribou per se, a better question is to ask if 3.64 years worth of oil is worth the risk to the area? Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, but we may never know until it’s over because that debate requires thinking ahead by decades, or centuries, and not many in this country are prone to do such a thing.

It’s a shame, because long-term thinking yields long-term results. There’s a great deal to be said for maximizing value for stockholders, but why not do it long-term? Well, because they’ll dump your stock and buy elsewhere. According to the research cited in the article, though, looking out 7 to 10 years and investing today in companies favored by demographic trends over that time period, then selling at the 7 to 10 year mark, is a great way to make a fortune. And the research on demographic trends is, amazingly enough, freely available, often from the federal government.

Well, I warned you. If you don’t get rich now it’s your own fault, you know? Now, go forth and be demographical . . .

Fateful Decisions

This was originally published on a nother blog. It’s the only thing from that blog that I thought was worth keeping when I deleted it, so without further typing:

Fateful Decisions

You probably have made a few fateful decisions in your day, right? Every so often I decide something and then later I wonder what would have happened if I’d decided something else. Before I go on, here’s a true story.

Last year I worked at a Star Search audition in Denver. Boy, were there ever a lot of people at that audition: singers, dancers, you name it. One person there was this young guy, maybe eighteen, maybe not even, who was afraid to audition. Several of us tried to talk him into staying and performing, but to no avail. He wasn’t having any, probably because he was afraid he’d blow it. That, for him, was a fateful decision.

I did something similar when I was nineteen. I could have auditioned to perform at Cedar Point, in Sandusky, Ohio. Every summer they hire a gang of performers, pay them minimum wage, and have them perform before the IMAX shows and other places. I decided instead to get a conventional job with IBM in Boca Raton, Florida. Boca’s a nice enough town, and I really did enjoy the beach. And, on my twentieth birthday I stopped by for a few days in New York City with a friend on my way home (it was great to be young in those days.) But, I’d always wanted to be a folk singer hero. What if I’d gone to the Cedar Point auditions and been hired, and what if that had been the start of a career in music? Where would I be today? In Las Vegas, only headlining? I’ll never know. There’s no way to know. That, if you will, is a prime cause for regret.

Like I told that kid at the Star Search audition, the only regrets I have is for things I could have tried and didn’t. Things like working at an amusement park rather than what turned out to be counting parts in a warehouse. One big reason I’m in Nevada right now, starting some businesses of my own, is that I’d rather regret falling flat on my face than regret not trying. So, moving to Nevada was, for me, a fateful decision. Was it good or bad? I honestly don’t know yet. Will I make a success here? That’s an open question. Will I regret deciding to move? Maybe I will, but it will be less than I’d have regretted not deciding to move. My advice to anyone is, for your own sake if nothing else, go try out for Star Search, or Cedar Point, or try moving to Nevada, or Delaware, or try whatever it is you think might be a risky and fateful decision.

You might fail, I know. And failure can bring regrets. But, you can learn from failing, try again, and succeed because of the new things you’ve learned. You’ll never learn a thing by staying safe, and that’s a fact.

My Treatise on Religion (as promised)

Religion would be a funny thing, it is a funny thing a lot of the time in fact, but for the fact that so much misery is caused quite deliberately in the name of some religious dictate or another. I have some credentials in religion of my own. I was raised to be a Methodist; I received a God and Country Award from the Boy Scouts; I studied Philosophy of Religion in college; I helped found a church, but it was Unitarian Universalist so maybe that doesn’t count. I’ve read the bible, old and new testaments, more than once, and with a critical eye. I’ve read some history, too, which tends to yield a broader perspective on religion than does just going to church every week. An important part of most religions is belief. The religions that cause the world the most trouble all seem to involve belief in revealed truth. Those would be Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, in case you hadn’t figured that out. You don’t hear so much about violent Buddhism, but you never know when those saffron-robed rabble rousers might strike, do you?

From the point of view of a non believer, there is no way to tell if one version of revealed truth is any better than another. For instance, Jerry Falwell says he’s a Christian. So does Billy Graham. So do Pope Benedict XVI, the Patriarch of Athens, and a bunch of Copts living in the African desert, where they say that they have the Ark of the Covenant given to Moses as related in the book of Exodus. The Ku Klux Klan, when they were murdering people on a regular basis, considered themselves Christian. Mother Teresa called herself a Christian. Torquemada called himself a Christian. Is there a pattern, beyond that they all call themselves Christian? Not that I can see. Torquemada, in case you didn’t know, was the brains and driving force behind the Spanish Inquisition. He and the Klan are pretty clearly skewed pretty far in what most would call an evil direction. The others are none of them evil, but probably all would disagree on some basic tenets of Christianity if asked. To me, not being Christian, they all must be Christian because they say so. All believe that they are operating on the basis of revealed truth. Most of them, at the least, must be wrong.

Islam has similar schisms. Mohammed was definitely real, and he dictated what he claimed to have been told by God directly to his secretary every day. When he died, though, there were at least two branches of his family who felt that they knew the proper way to translate, preserve and interpret the revealed truth Mohammed had dictated. I think it was in 727 that the Sunn and Shia branches started fighting. Watch the evening news, even on Fox if you prefer, and you’ll see that they’re still at it. There have been other schisms over the centuries such as the Sufi, which is my favorite because they use humor to teach. Neither Shiite nor Sunni is a monolithic movement; there are factions within factions just like in Christianity.

If you believe that the fight that started in the eighth century within Islam was really about the words of Allah as revealed by His Prophet, then I’ve got a bridge to sell you. Mohammed left an earthly empire and his family was large. Naturally more than one relative wanted control of the empire, and the fun was on. That’s typical of how religion develops: by reconfiguring to adapt to social and geopolitical necessity. A few centuries after that schism, the descendants of the Prophet were in Jerusalem. Jerusalem is a holy city, or so I’m told. A city held sacred by three great religions, in fact. The name is derived from Aramaic for “City of Peace.” Uh, yeah, right. In the eleventh century the city of Jerusalem was a vital port of entry to the trade routes to India and China. If that sounds like a small thing, consider that there was not much to spice one’s soup with growing in Europe in those days. If you wanted black pepper you had to pay someone to travel for eighteen months and risk bandits and starvation in the desert in order to get it. That made pepper and other spices extremely valuable, and whoever controlled Jerusalem was able to collect taxes on all of the spice that passed through.

Merciful heavens, the trade passing through town was worth billions (in our dollars) per year, and the Europeans (Christian) didn’t like the idea of paying through the nose to the Arabs (Muslim) to get the spice and other goods that they were darned well going to have to buy anyway. You can’t just up and say you’re a greed head who doesn’t want to pay taxes. Even today the tax rebels never consider themselves greed heads, although one could argue that they are. But reclaiming the holy city for Christendom, now that’s a noble cause, and the Crusades were on. For their part, the Saracens (as the Islamic occupiers were known to Europe) were spreading the word of Allah and glorifying His name. That, and collecting beaucoup taxes, of course.

Religion is fraught with hidden agendas, making any religious dictates extremely suspect to us non believers.

Consider the origins of Christian orthodoxy (largely cemented by the time of the crusades.) When the Roman Emperor Constantinius had a vision of a red X or cross in the sky he wondered if it was a Celtic cross or the symbol of those Christians who had an army camped just outside of town. He needed an army, and the Celts couldn’t deliver for months. But there were the Christians, ready for duty, and so Rome became a Christian nation. Constantine himself didn’t convert until his deathbed, but he liked what the Christian armies could do for him. Unfortunately for him there were differences of opinion among Christians as to which were the proper tenets and dogma of the church. Being a Roman, Constantine couldn’t abide that sort of thing, so he called a series of council meetings where the big issues were decided upon. For instance, a council at Nicea decided that the Holy Trinity was the valid way to look at the divinity. The councils edited scripture, keeping most of the really weird stuff out, but leaving in the Gospel of John and Revelations to sop the feelings of the ascetic branch. It didn’t entirely work, as the Copts went back to their desert and remain there to this day, but it did settle things in the Emperor’s mind. Was this congress of mere humans divinely inspired to properly interpret the revealed truth of Jesus of Nazareth? They certainly said so, and many continue to believe them. Not me, but many. The same sort of thing kept happening over the centuries, which is why we can observe such core beliefs as “sex is bad unless it produces offspring” and “priests should not marry.” All of these tenets were originally committee decisions. I don’t recall reading where Jesus said a word about either topic, but then I’m not divinely inspired.

It might be noteworthy that the Buddha, whose real name was Siddhartha, was a literate man who taught for many years. His followers are decidedly less warlike than Christians or Muslims, possibly because what he wrote is still extant. Of course, one thing he wrote is, “I am not divine. Do not worship me.” You see how well people listen.

Latter day religions keep springing up. The Mormons were founded by a fellow who claimed to have been visited by an angel who gave him golden books, as it were, and an implement to translate them with, and then ordered him to destroy everything once the translation was done. Does that look fishy to a non believer? Are the Rocky Mountains made of rocks? The Seventh Day Adventists were founded by a man who led a bunch of followers onto a hilltop in Ohio on the day he calculated that the world would end. After several such attempts over a span of years he gave up on his predictions, but his followers persist to this day. The most amusing modern religion to me, though, is Scientology. L. Ron Hubbard was a science fiction author. At a science fiction convention one year he bet Robert Heinlein and Harlan Ellison, fellow authors, that he could found a relig
ion. This is a documented fact; I have read Ellison’s account of the conversation as well as accounts from others who were there. I don’t know what the bet was, but I hope the others paid off, because Hubbard certainly did what he said he could do. That Scientology could have serious adherents given the precise knowledge of the origins of the religion is mind boggling, but there you are.

To a non believer, there’s not that much difference between Scientology and Christianity or any other system of revealed truth. “Evidence be damned, I’ve got an explanation” seems to be the guiding principle of such organized faith. Again, as a non believer, I think I can offer a way to quickly spot if a religious claim has the air of being a sham. It is this: if the claim has anything to do with knowing the intent of the creator of all things, or the meaning of life, or a promise of guaranteed fulfillment, then somebody is trying to sell you something. Do yourself a favor and just go another way. There’s plenty of misery and divisiveness in the world without another new religious convert adding another dose.

The ironic thing about the relationship between religion and wars is that religion, as the name says, is something that binds people back together. No kidding. It’s Latin: re, meaning once again, like redo or reorder; and ligere meaning tie together. You see ligere in the word ligament also, because a ligament ties your body together. Everyone wants to feel they have meaning, from about the age of two on. As soon as you realize that there’s I and not I in the world, you need to make sense of it all. Meaninglessness doesn’t seem to be an acceptable state for a human, witness the number of suicides that mention “meaningless” existence in notes they leave behind. Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer to the question of why we’re all here. As Gertrude Stein wrote: There ain’t no answer, there ain’t ever been an answer; and there ain’t ever gonna be no answer. That’s the answer. Somehow that’s enough for me. I like breathing and eating and all the other fun stuff you get to do when you’re alive. If there’s an afterlife, I’m going to miss it all. (Heaven seems terminally tedious to me, judging by the descriptions people write.) It is not enough for many people, however, simply to dismiss the question of the meaning of life as unanswerable. So, failing any definitive answer, what do you do?

You make stuff up! “In the Beginning,” you write, “God created the heavens and the earth.” What always strikes me about that statement is the clear implication that there was something before the beginning. Where, that is, did God come from? Wherever it was, for a believer, anything that challenges the belief system isn’t just an intellectual challenge; it’s an existential threat to the very core of their spiritual being. No kidding. That’s why you get bullshit like “scientific creationism,” which is a lot like “jumbo shrimp” in humor content but less useful as a description. Actually I’m all for teaching creationism. I’d start with the Jewish version, because that’s where most of our ancestors came from. But then I’d go over the Hindu stories about Vishnu dreaming the world, and the Navajo stories about the journey up to this fourth and perfect world, and add in examples from cultures all over the world. I think that such exposure would be wonderful for children, illustrating the common human dilemma of existence while giving some solid reasons for tolerance at the same time. So long as religion is allowed to interfere with civic life at large, though, I doubt that such a curriculum will appear in the public schools.

That’s too bad, because religion is basically coming from a deep and worthwhile urge within us humans. The belief system I admire the most is rational empiricism. When the fundamentalists accuse the rational empiricists (scientists) of using science as a religion, they’re not wrong. The difference I see is that science tends to work every time. That’s what science is for, in fact: to predict things. You don’t have to sacrifice to turn on a light (other than paying the electric company, which seems to some to be a sacrifice.) Everything that happens, according to science, is theoretically understandable. Science as a religion gets broader and broader, taking more and more of the universe as it grows. Science as a religion also has the ability to be wrong, which is more than you can say for most other religions. It isn’t a threat when something fundamental in science is found out not to be true after all. Even Einstein didn’t like the conclusions his theories pointed toward, but every time someone sets out to disprove the scariest of them (gravity is not really a force; we move faster through time when there’s more stuff around) they so far have only managed to demonstrate how well the theory works. Honestly, the theory states that gravity is not a force, and treating gravity as if it weren’t a force yields good predictability; better than treating it as if it were a force. That’s pretty damned counter-intuitive, but it works. If a scientist wanted to see how many angels could dance on the head of a pin, he’d gather a big bunch of angels and experiment. Can’t find any angels? Huh. Can’t find out then.

By understanding what’s really happening in the universe, we become better able to influence the universe, and therefore more connected to it and to each other. That’s a completely religious thing to accomplish, and science does it without risking war with a competing scientific system from across the lake. Either things work, or they don’t. If they don’t, you try another theory. Evolution? Sure it’s a theory. So is gravity. Try stepping off of a cliff like Wil E. Coyote in defiance of gravity and see what happens. The theory of evolution, like the theory of gravity, is so solid that no rational empiricist would think of disputing the basic tenets. Even if gravity isn’t a real force, you’ll fall down if you trip, and the rate of your fall can be calculated quite precisely. If a Christian could promise that sort of reliability, I’d sign up. But none can, and neither can a Muslim, a Jain, a native shaman, nor any religion outside of science itself. My faith is in what is, and it’s as simple as that.

Well, there a bit of another element. I also believe that no matter why things exist, their existence is going fine, and since I exist for a time, I’m going fine as well. As for the continuing ascent of science over less rational religions, I’m sanguine about continued progress, so long as we are free to communicate without fear. Frankly, a religion that works every time has to appear superior over the long haul to a religion that suffers schism after schism as a result of doctrinal differences. It’s leadership by example, and that beats a messianic message every time.

June 17th Already!

June 17th is a significant day for me because that’s the last day I ever got to sleep in. My son was born, weighing seven pounds something, and about the size of a loaf of bread. I don’t know what he weighs now but he’s six four and wears size thirteen shoes. I think I might still be able to wrestle him to the ground, but I’m not sure. He’s now 25 years old and has a job he likes digging in the dirt. Booyah!

If you read this blog you know that I enjoy ranting about the stupidity of government. However, I was thinking today, always a dangerous thing, and I do see some solid reasons to be optimistic about how things are going.

First, the economy gets better, then it gets worse, and it doesn’t really matter, looked at historically, who is in office at the time. Shit happens, in a phrase. But that’s not why I’m feeling optimistic.

I’m optimistic about the long-term effects of the superstitious idiots who so loudly attempt to influence public policy, and often succeed. That’s because I’m immersed in popular culture (I write movies, so I have to be) and I notice what’s playing and what isn’t. Yes, the idiot reality shows are big, but not nearly so big as CSI, Law and Order, NCIS and other forensic dramas. Nice, you say, but so what? Well, Griswold, Law and Order and/or CSI are on right now on some cable channel or other, and it doesn’t matter when you’re reading this. They are hot stuff, and watched by almost everybody in the country.

Yes, yes, you say, but still, so the heck what? Okay, kids today, even kids of superstitious idiots, are watching these shows where the way to solve a problem is presented as careful analysis and following the evidence in spite of any gut feelings or personal prejudices you might have. Pardon my wet blanket, reverend, but no true believer is ever going to judge anything by evidence untainted by personal prejudice. Hell’s Bells, I’ve heard people say that the “Darwin Fish” bumper sticker is anti-Christian. What? It’s just a joke, folks. I’m not anti-Christian, I’m just not a Christian.

So, to drop my mini-rant digression, those kids are going to think that solving problems by relying on ancient and well edited texts is inferior to finding out what’s really happening. The short version is that they’ll be considerably less likely to argue for “scientific creationism,” which is a crock to any objective analysis, or to, as have some people, question the results of an obviously rigorous autopsy. They will be more likely to think, as do I, that if the observed facts don’t fit your theory, it’s your theory, not the facts, that has a problem with it.

I should do a thesis on religion and post it here, but that’s definitely for another day, and for more thought and work than I put in composing on line at work. Stay tuned; I may get ambitious and do it before tomorrow night. What a thing to look forward to, huh?

Steve

EARTH SHATTERING NEWS!

The earth-shattering news I refer to is the revelation that John Kerry is apparently just as big a doofus as G.W. Bush. Okay, earth-shattering is sarcasm. The fact is, lame as GW can be in his decision making process, Kerry had no idea how to capitalize on his opponent’s weaknesses. Why not? Because he shared them! Doh! Judging by the reaction of Democrats to Howard Dean’s actions, quite a few of them share the distinction of being mediocre people in positions of authority. So what, you say? Well,

Was George Washington mediocre? Was Tom Jefferson mediocre? How about John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, Tom Paine, Andrew Jackson, Grant and Lee? Uh, no, they weren’t. Times are perilous, or so we’re told, and we’ve got a bunch of C students in charge of our response to the problems. Ain’t that swell? The worst thing FDR ever said (he wan’t mediocre, but this is a bad thing to say) was that “freedom from fear” was a basic right. Say what? The world should be safe and convenient? Since when? Like the motivational poster says, if you’re a lion or a gazelle, you’d better be running when you hit the ground. The lion could starve to death; the gazelle could prevent that, but not voluntarily. Life is all cutting edge conflict, not safe, for god’s sake!

A lot of people seemingly hated the last president, affectionately known as Slick Willie. You remember him? At least we knew he was getting laid, which is something, but the big supporters of the mediocrats who followed his administration still hate him. Oddly, they talk about hate mongering from those who dislike W., but that’s another topic so I’ll quit my digression right here. My point is that Clinton is not mediocre, whatever else he might be. Maybe the reason he was more content to “contain” Hussein is that he had the subtlety of mind to figure out how to do it. It isn’t that he didn’t attack Iraq, you know; he did it with robots, though, at considerably lower cost. And, now that the truth is out about WMDs in Iraq (why didn’t we hear doubts prior to the start of the war? Oh, yeah, that was unpatriotic, I forgot. Don’t use your brain or you’ll be a traitor to your country or some such bullshit.) As I was saying, now that the truth is out, we know that whatever he did apparently worked, too. Of course, it didn’t stop Bin Laden, because Bin Laden hates Hussein maybe even more than W. does! They’re on opposite sides in a civil war going back to 727! Of course, knowing that would require reading about history. Clinton reads history; I’m not sure W. even reads. Can an IQ of 110 focus on text?
Bitter? Well, yes, actually I am. I don’t have the answers. I know that. The thing is that dummies don’t have the answers either, but they think that they do. That’s okay with me when they’re running a department store or even the DMV. But when they have the power to send thousands to their premature deaths? Ouch! Big Ouch! I’m bitter because stupid people have been, through the miracle of media manipulation and inattention from smarter quarters, allowed to run the country for entirely too long. Appolonius H. Christ, people, wake up and pay attention, will you? Do you really want somebody as confused as you running the country?

Twice in three days: a new record?

So I’m not at work but what the heck I think I’ll post anyway. I’m up, after all. Michael Jackson was acquited today. I figured he was innocent. He’s just too big a wacko to be judged by outward appearances. For instance, there’s a rumor that he’s a black guy under there. Then Lisa Marie Presley was grilled by Oprah who asked “the question” and the answer was, “Yes, perfectly normal.” Damn. Whod’ve guessed? But then when his ex-wife, called as a prosecuation witness, said nothing but nice things about him, what are you going to do?
Not go to a party as his house, I can tell you that!
I work at Wynn so this acquital is of interest because il Capo di Wynn, Steve Wynn, is a friend of Jacko’s and has been trying to get him to be the house act, sort of like Celine Dion is down the street a ways. Well, I’ve got to admit, I’d rather go see Jacko perform than Celine, but if either never appeared in public again I’d be okay with it. Still, he may be a client, as it were, so I’m really wondering how that will work out. It would be a way out of his financial difficulties if he sold Neverland and moved to Vegas. And besides, in Vegas, who’d notice his lifestyle? The mayor endorses gin and takes pictures of playmates for Pete’s sake. (The thing that amazes me about the mayor is that some people actually criticize him for that stuff. Hey, this is Las Vegas, not Omaha!)
Speaking of Wynn, it’s odd to see all the people down in the EDR (Employee Dining Room) because there’s a wide variety of entertainment types there, as well as domestic types (cooks, maids, etc.) and even more conventional office types like me. Wynn has the best looking coctail waitresses on the strip (as you’d know is only natural if you lived here) but I get to see them in hoodies and fuzzy slippers with the little over the butt skirt sticking out. It’s actually sort of cute. I have no idea how they tolerate that job, but I know at least one person who got a Master’s degree doing just that. (And yes, there’s a judge in Henderson who put herself through law school as an exotic dancer. Vegas is not your father’s town, bub.)
Any way, I’m in the middle of three days off. If I don’t see you before then, I’ll post something more early Thursday morning.
Ciao!