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18/08/2014

“This is part and parcel of The Big Lie we Americans tell ourselves. That one about our vaunted exceptionalism. Heh, heh, exceptionalism. Riiiiight. Exceptionalism isn’t even a real word, but then that’s par for the course. Tell me, America, what’s so damned exceptional about fearing the police? About living in fear of authority? What’s exceptional about armed troops in the streets? About armored vehicles and automatic weapons on the corners, in the playgrounds, guarding the schools and the store and the police stations? About blockades and showing your papers? What’s exceptional about being shot down without trial or due process? What exactly is exceptional about dead kids in the street? What’s exceptional about tear gas and rubber bullets – or lead ones for that matter? But then what’s so exceptional about an armed population? About citizens who solve their differences with pistols and assault weapons? What’s exceptional about racism and inequality and disparity and naked hate? What’s exceptional about crime and riot? What’s exceptional about the arrest and detainment of journalists and reporters? What’s exceptional about political division that verges on civil war? These things are all too common around the world…If you want to be exceptional, America, then you have to be the exception.” — Jim Wright, Stonekettle Station

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Thinkage

30/07/2014

“Heterosexuality’s power lies in perception, not physical truth—as long as people think you’re exclusively attracted to the right gender, you’re golden.  But perception is a precarious thing; a ‘zero-tolerance’ policy has taught men that the way people think of them can change permanently with one slip, one little kiss or too-intimate friendship.  And once lost, it can be nearly impossible to reclaim…

“The zero-tolerance policy is legitimately scary, then, not just because it sticks you with a label, but also because it erases a lifetime of straightness…

“Indeed, such erasure is scary even if homosexuality itself isn’t a bad thing.  Even if religion and Esquire didn’t teach men to be scared of each other’s bodies, they would still be afraid of the way a brush with gayness can so suddenly erase the rest of their sexuality.  With so much on the line, it’s no surprise that men take up the job of policing this boundary themselves, lest it be policed by someone else, to their detriment.” — Zach Howe

Zits 20140307Zits by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman

 

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And As The Snake Whips Around…

8/07/2014

…to bite Hobby Lobby and SCOTUS on the ass…

William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!

Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!

Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!

A Man For All Seasons by Robert Bolt

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Thinkage

12/06/2014

“When the most powerful country ever to inhabit the earth finds it so easy to plunge into the horror of warfare but almost impossible to find adequate work for its people or to properly educate its young, it has lost its way entirely.” — Bob Herbert, “Losing Our Way”

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Thinkage

25/04/2014

“The problem isn’t the idea of aspiration itself, or of dedication and perseverance, or of inspirational quotes.  The problem isn’t the belief that relentlessly pursuing one’s dreams can lead to success, though it should be approached with the recognition that it takes a lot of good fortune and the right opportunities, and the empathy to understand that those who never have those breaks should not be figures of contempt or object lessons in failure.  The problem isn’t even the idea that people of unshakable will can change the world, though this should be tempered with the recognition of a moral context:  the unshakable will of Gandhi to change the world had a very different endgame than the equally unshakable will of Hitler to change the world.  The problem is that none of these are being presented honestly.  They are, instead, being presented in the form of marketing, in the form of advertising.  They are not personal messages of achievement and inspiration; they are commercials.  They are meant only to sell you something, whether it’s trinkets for a particular charity, or treatment at a particular hospital, or the idea that you should give up on such quaint notions as job security and benefits in our bold new digital economy.  Whatever they’re specifically selling, they are commercials, and commercials are never to be trusted, especially when the message delivered is one of contempt for the ordinary man, the average citizen, the person who could be you if you weren’t so unique and special.” — Leonard Pierce, Inspiration Disinformation

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Did PLANET OF THE APES Revive Creationism?

10/04/2014

Serious question:
Did the original Planet Of The Apes movie revive the fading creationist movement by unintentionally preying on the racial fears of rural and suburban white Christians?

SPLOWW indeed SNSPLOWW!! indeed

Planet Of The Apes was one of four major ground-breaking / trend-setting sci-fi media concepts that landed within an 18-month period of one another in 1967-68.[1]  It was the biggest popular hit of the quartet, launched a successful series of features, a not-so-successful live-action TV series, a somewhat more successful animated series, numerous novel spinoffs, comic books, and a host of imitators and rip offs.

Then as now the film was viewed (at least on one level) as a parable of American racial politics, with the apes implicitly understood to represent the downtrodden finally getting the upper hand over the previously dominant white culture.[2]

Michael Wilson and Rod Serling’s script followed the lead of Pierre Boulle’s original novel to show a satirical (albeit not particularly humorous) view of “normalcy” turned upside down.  In many cases it was done by showing humans used the way we use animals:  For taxidermy, research, and sport.  In others, it was an implicit criticism of dominant white culture with the promise / warning:  “You’ll get what’s coming to you.”

While the apes were presented as antagonists in the first two films of the series[3], African-American audiences tended to sympathize with them more than they did with stalwart Chuck Heston (even before his NRA days).

By the times Escape From… and Conquest Of… rolled around, the identification of African-Americans with the apes was clearly overt (albeit it in a sympathetic and not denigrating manner).  Conquest in particular hammers the apes / slavery issue home with a 12-lb sledge, and it’s pretty hard to whip up any sympathy with (predominantly white) humanity in either of those two films.

Recognizing this, and desiring the success of the series to continue, 20th Century Fox watered down the message in the fifth and final film of the original series, Battle For The Planet Of The Apes, which ends in a bright future where apes, humans, and mutants co-exist peacefully and happily.

That vision of the ape-ocalyptic future flopped miserably at the box office and the films series ended, tho it continued thriving on the small screen and in comics with the original potent message.

It’s hard for modern audiences to understand the impact of these films when first unleashed from 1968-73.  First off, nothing quite like this had ever been seen before.  The closest anyone might have come to it is The Wizard Of Oz with its myriad of bizarre cultures in an even more bizarre world, but that was a fairy tale and not meant to be taken seriously.  With the exception of a few post-apocalypse movies that featured mutants in cheesy make-up, nobody had ever tried to create not one but three entire species of realistic non-human characters for a film, complete with costumes, props, and buildings designed with apes in mind.[4]

And despite the nervousness of the studio, producer Arthur P. Jacobs & co. pulled it off with remarkable aplomb.  There had been serious sci-fi films before Planet Of The Apes, to be sure, but Apes was one of the first that easily crossed over into main stream audiences instead of relying primarily on the (admittedly growing) sci-fi fan base.[5]

But the cinematic / literary / pop culture impact was only a small fragment of what the world of 1968 – especially the United States of America – was going through at that time.

Consider: 
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was only four years old at the time Apes was released.

Had the nation not been in a period of shock and mourning in the aftermath of President Kenney’s assassination, conservative southern politicians would have probably blocked the act until the 1970s.

The nation was only four years away from segregated bathrooms, segregated diners, segregated water fountains.  Loving v Virginia was only one year old!

African-Americans were still pretty much invisible in their native land.  They were starting to make a few token appearances in TV shows and movies[6] but they were far from ubiquitous.

Planet Of The Apes, without directly referring to the apes as analogs for African-Americans, pretty much forced audiences to draw that unavoidable parallel.

And, yeah, there were some who sneered and hooted and derided contemporary blacks by likening them to the monkeys on the silver screen…

…but the inescapable conclusion was that
those damned monkeys were in charge!

…and things were not going to be
so rosy for Mr. Whitey in the future.

This was the first time a lot of white people were forced to realize that the times, they were a’changin’ and what they were changing into was not going to resemble the world they grew up in where everyone knew (and kept) their place.

Planet Of The Apes did not present its topsy-turvy world as one laid down by divine fiat, a wrathful God punishing sinners by letting apes rule over them.

Planet Of the Apes said pretty plainly that humans – white humans in particular – were not fit to survive, and that a more vigorous, more capable breed was going to take over.

That was classic evolution,
and there wasn’t a damned thing
white humanity could do about it.

Creationism was not unheard of or even unargued in the late 1960s, but it was pretty much losing its steam.  Evolution existed; there was no denying genetic changes in various species with common ancestors, and even prehistoric humanity had been guiding evolution along for their domestic plants and animals (“survival of the fittest” in this case meaning those most fit to serve humans).  Creationists were pretty much giving up on the new earth / six literal twenty-four hour days version of creation and instead arguing what is now referred to as Intelligent Design (only with God explicitly in control).

Their basic point was that God had a plan, and that everyone in the world was assigned a place in that plan, and if God ordained one race to be the masters leaders and another to be the slaves servants workers helpers then who are we to argue with God?

Planet Of The Apes pretty much says God is no respecter of species, much less persons, and in fact famously ends with Heston ranting and screaming that God has rightfully damned humanity for being a buncha murderous self-centered pricks.[7]  It was a pretty shocking ending for mainstream audiences at the time[8] and has been lampooned so often and so successfully that contemporary audiences have no idea just how chilling it was to Joe Six-Pack and Mrs. & Mrs. Suburbia.

…especially in light of the ongoing societal change / upheaval and
the rapid advancements in civil rights by African-Americans.

Mind you, the majority of white audiences seeing the film for the first time were not racists in the classic sense of the term:  They burned no crosses, lynched no victims.

But they kinda liked the fact that they got to live over here while those people had to live over there, and while many of them knew and genuinely liked black folks they encountered daily, few of them realized they held a protected and privileged position that was paid for by the sufferings of others.

Apes kinda sunk home the message that there might not be a soft landing for their genteel lifestyle, that rude awakenings and abrupt changes may be the order of the day.

And yeah, Planet Of The Apes is at heart a big budget goofy Hollywood movie, with a whole bunch spectacle & action and a smattering of smarts, not really the sorta thing that can withstand close logical scrutiny for long…

…but that didn’t matter.

The message is what mattered.

And the message was:  Time’s up.  Things are changing.

A lot of people did not like that change.

They rendered lip service to it, but were willing to do so only so long as things didn’t change for them.

Now, when faced with major changes in one’s life, there are two basic approaches one can take:

You acknowledge the change even if you don’t willingly embrace it; life may get rough but at least you’ll be prepared for it and it won’t catch you by surprise.

The other is to double down on the old system, to bet the heart transplant money that the way things are is The Way Things Are Meant To Be, and that if you just hold fast this faddish craze of modernity will pass and things will once again be good and wholesome and sweet with you in the driver’s seat, just like when you were a child and your father was a child and your great-great-great grandfather was a child.

It’s no accident that the big push towards homeschooling – which originally began among hippy-dippy parents looking to raise their children outside the conforming standards of the dominant class public schools – took off among rural and/or white and/or conservative religious fundamentalists in the south and midwest during this period.[9]

And it’s no accident that creationism takes – nay, demands – a centerpiece of that movement.

Because creationism allows the believer in it to deny the humanity of others, to deny their rights, to deny their equality.

Creationism allows the believer to dismiss all claims for justice with a derisive “God doesn’t want that” and never examine the basics of the question.

Creationism, as has been pointed out, is the handmaiden of Mammon, the self-righteous belief that one’s personal enrichment is God’s master plan for the universe, that every sub-atomic particle in every atom in every molecule of every speck of dust and wisp of gas up to and including the hugest of stars exists solely for the purpose of making your life materially easier and more comfortable…

…and maybe the lives of your immediate family as well…

…and perhaps even a few of your closest friends…

…but certainly not the lives of them – and especially if making their lives any easier requires you to give up an hour of TV or some outrageous demand like that.

Planet Of The Apes is downright terrifying
to people with that mind set.[10]

Small wonder so many conservative whites willingly and eagerly embrace a disproven anti-intellectualism that denies the reality of the world around them, because embracing that fantasy makes it possible to deny the change going on around them.[11]

Like little children threatened by a big mean dog, they sincerely believe if they squinch their eyes closed reeeeeeeeal tight that it will go away.

No, one single silly movie does not a religious heresy make, and in a different time it’s doubtful that the film would have had much more impact than as a popcorn muncher (much like the recent remakes and sequels have landed with resounding thuds).

But one thing Planet Of The Apes sure did was to give millions of scared white people a very very frightening glimpse of a future where they would no longer be in charge, when the first would indeed be last, and the low would be risen high.

And rather than embrace that spiritual truth, they flock to a self-serving myth that not only will fail to protect them, but will make the eventual change that much more painful for them.

As for me,
like Mark Twain wrote: 
When it’s steam boat time,
you steam boat.

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[1]  It isn’t an exaggeration to say the shadows from these projects – both in film, TV, comics, and other media as well as literary and other pop culture influences – is still being cast today.  The other three were the original Star Trek TV series, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Barbarella.  Of the four, Barbarella received the worst response from the public, a critical drubbing, and a commercial flop…and yet each year a loyal cult grew and grew around this film.  Today it’s a fondly remembered classic of the era and has aged better than the other four.  Go figure…

[2]  I may be wrong, but I can’t remember any African-American actors among the primitive humans in the original film, not unless one counts the ill-fated astronaut who ended up lobotomized.

[3]  Tho who wasn’t an antagonist in Beneath The Planet Of The Apes?  It’s the only major studio Hollywood production ever to end with the hero thinking that blowing up the entire planet was A Real Good Idea.

[4]  The world of the final film was much different that the original concept and script.  Jacobs originally wanted a world like the one in Boulle’s novel with full size cities, cars, and helicopters designed for apes.  By scaling the size back to a few isolated middle-sized towns with low grade industrial age technology, the film actually became more convincing than a modern version.  An exact ape parallel to our own world would have only invited laughter, but changing it significantly enough while still leaving it basically recognizable helped sell the idea to audiences.

[5]  And basically, because of all the projects of that era, Planet Of The Apes offered the one concept that every body in the audience, including the dullest witted, got right away:  The five-fingered shoe is now on the other foot.

[6]  And more importantly, cast in commercials as users of the product being sold, not servants making white folks’ lives easier, thus tacitly acknowledging them as part of the American fabric and not just an accessory after the fact.

[7]  …or words to that effect…

[8]  No matter than we fan boys saw it marching down the avenue from the moment the film started talking about archeological digs involving humans.

[9]  No, I am not saying Planet Of The Apes was responsible for that; it was the general societal upheaval of the late 60s and early 70s that scared much of the mostly white religious right into fleeing society with the hopes of one day leading a counter-rebellion against it.

[10]  And mind you, screenwriters Michael Wilson and Rod Serling managed to have their Darwinian cake and theologically eat it as well:  A strong argument could be made for the film as the mene mene tekel uparsin of mainstream American values, a judgment handed down from on high and executed with our own hands around our own throats – but holding to that argument requires denying human supremacy in general and American exceptionalism in particular and recognizing both our personal and national sins and shortcomings and, hey, who wants to believe that becuz America!  Right?  Right?!?!?

[11]  And embracing it not in a little way but going all out:  None of this namby-pamby “God created the universe billions of years ago and guides the natural processes in it” but “Bang! Done!  Full and complete in six twenty-four hour days and you can’t change it – ever!”

 

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Thinkage; or How To Price Records

1/03/2014

Some years ago I put out a set of records called Love, Serve, Remember.  The records – which had music, readings from the Gospel of John, and all kinds of neat things – came in an album with a beautiful booklet with text and pictures.  It was a wonderful package, and we sold we sold it by mail order for about $4.50.

I showed the album to my father.  Dad was a wealthy Boston Lawyer – a conservative Republican, a capitalist, and, at the time, the President of a railroad.  He looked over the album and said, “Great job here!  But, gee, you know – four and a half dollars?  You could probably sell this for ten dollars – fifteen dollars, even!”

I said, “Yeah, I know”

“Would fewer people buy in if it were more expensive?,” he asked.

“No,” I relied. “Probably the same number would buy it”

“Well I don’t understand you,” he pressed on.  “You would sell it for ten, and your selling it for four- fifty? What’s wrong, are you against capitalism or something?”

I tried to figure out how to explain to him how our approaches are differed.  I said, “Dad didn’t you just try a law case for Uncle Henry?”

“Yeah,” he replied, “ and it was a damned tough case.  I spent a lot of time in the law library.”

I asked, “Did you win the case?”  And he answered, “Yeah, I won it.”

Now, my father was a very successful attorney, and he charged fees that were commensurate with his reputation.  So I continued. “Well, I bet you charged him a hand and a leg for that one.”

Dad was indignant at the suggestion.  “What, are you out of your mind?  That’s Uncle Henry – I couldn’t charge him.”

“Well, that’s my problem,” I said.  “If you find anyone who isn’t Uncle Henry, I’ll rip them off.”

– Ram Dass

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Thinkage

27/02/2014

“The truth is, evangelical Christians have already ‘lost’ the culture wars. And it’s not because the ‘other side’ won or because evangelicals have failed to protect our own religious liberties.  Evangelicals lost the culture wars the moment they committed to fighting them, the moment they decided to stop washing feet and start waging war.  

“And I fear that we’ve lost not only the culture wars, but also our Christian identity, when the  ‘right to refuse’ service has become a more sincerely-held and widely-known Christian belief than the impulse to give it.” – Rachel Held Evans

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An Old American Proverb

25/02/2014

Life is like a s4!t sandwich:  The more bread you’ve got  the less s4!t you eat.

But maybe the eating of s4!t is inescapable if one insists on eating bread

Maybe we’re better off consuming something else

If you can only think in terms of bread, you will always be consuming s4!t

Maybe the people who disagree with this
are people who lack the imagination
to eat something else

Or maybe they are people corrupted by bread
and support the system because if they have to eat s4!t
they’re gonna make dang sure other people have to eat more


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Hamster Diddlers: Can You Trust Them?

21/02/2014

hamster diddiler drew friedman dwight frye

You’re stepping out for a night on the town with your beloved and just as you’re about to enter the very very tres ritze’ restaurant where you’ve booked reservations months in advance…

…you encounter the town’s most notorious hamster diddler.

And there’s no doubt this person diddles hamsters: 
Not only have they been convicted of hamster diddling in the first, second, and third degrees but they also have a website where they’ve uploaded selfies of themselves diddling hamsters.

And as you’re entering and the hamster diddler is leaving, they lean over to you and say:

“Don’t go in there,
the kitchen is on fire!”

Now, do you:

(a)  Ignore whatever that damned hamster diddler has to say because =feh!= they’re a hamster diddler, f’r cryin’ out loud! and proudly march into the restaurant.
………………… …or…
(b)  Do you look inside to ascertain if you can see smoke and/or cooks running around screaming with flames billowing off of their chef’s hats?

Because if — if! — the hamster diddler is telling the truth that’s valuable information to know!

Got into an interesting
online discussion with
someone regarding
the previous post.

Essentially the person I was discussing the topic with wanted no part of Bertrand Russell on the grounds he was an atheist[1] who favored big government.[2]

Okay, be that as it may,
does any of that negate
the validity of what he said?

The truth, as Agent Mulder frequently reminded us, is out there.
And it doesn’t matter from whose lips or depraved fingers it may fall.
It’s either true or it’s not.

The ancient church had no problem accepting the findings of pagans, polytheists, Mithrans, Muslims, Hindus, diests, Gnostics, and agnostics in matters pertaining to things outside the theological realm.

Their findings in science & math & metallurgy & medicine & engineering either worked…

…or it didn’t work.

And if it didn’t work it didn’t matter how bona fide their bona fides were:  It didn’t work!

And if it did work — It worked! — no matter how how suspect their philosophical and/or theological roots.

You are not betraying your faith — whatever it may be — to look at something a person of another faith[3] did and say, “Yeah, in that particular area they’re right”.

It doesn’t touch your theological underpinnings,
it doesn’t crumple up your church.
You just acknowledge it

Accept it

And move on.

We have far too often allowed ourselves to be divided[4] and have far too often followed blindly when some pundit tells us “We are always right, they are always wrong; ignore everything they have to say and especially don’t listen to anything that contradicts what you’ve been told by us!”

First off, anybody who is confident they speak / write the truth has no bashfulness re confronting contrarian opinions:  They will either expose weaknesses in their own thinking, or at the very least give us an opportunity to understand why those with opposing points of view possess those views.

Second, no mortal human being, not even yrs trly is always 100% right all the time[5], and even a sincere person who is absolutely right re a particular situation today may be wrong on that same situation tomorrow as new evidence comes in or conditions change.

‘Twas ever thus…

Bottom line:
Don’t automatically dismiss something a hamster diddler has to say.

Not unless you want to have your after dinner mints in the burn ward.

art by Drew Friedman

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[1]  Yes.

[2]  Arguable.

[3]  Or non-faith. 

[4]  And, truth be told, too willingly — nay, eagerly! — participate in the divisiveness.

[5]  Although some folks have some pretty decent batting averages.

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