Tuesday, January 13, 2004
Back from a long hiatus, and refreshed by the holidays, I come to you again with an opinion piece. Next up is a review of Return of the King or possibly Bruce Almighty, depending on which I finish first.
Freedom From Religion?
There are two things one must never discuss over the dinner table. Everyone knows what they are - politics, and religion. Why? Because these are deeply personal issues that are symbolic of a person's very identity. What you believe in the realm of politics and religion is indicitave of what you believe about life and its purpose. To insult someone's beliefs is to insult their identity.
Most people tend to err on the side of caution here. No one wants to insinuate that their beliefs are better than someone else's. No one, no one, wants to say that they have a handle on absolute truth. Searching is rad. Being sure is uncool.
And so we have the basis for a culture where the establishment of religion is not only free from government restriction, but also completely uncriticised by the general public. It's one thing to be respectful of other people's opinions; it's quite another to not have an opinion of your own.
Former President Clinton was the first to officially celebrate Ramadan in the White House. President Bush carried on this tradition. Why? Because he wants to show his tolerance of those whom he is fighting in this war. If he did anything else, he'd be criticised. I'll be the first to argue that tolerance does not include adopting someone else's beliefs as your own.
As President, George W. Bush should set an example for the rest of the nation by celebrating with his family whatever holidays his religion dictates, and encouraging all Americans to do the same for themselves. Celebrate what you like, what you believe in, without fear of judgement from anyone else. Do you think President Bush, if he was at home with his family out of the view of millions, would celebrate Ramadan?
Why, then, does he now? Is he trying to impress Muslims with his respect for their religion? Maybe so. I, personally, do not think this is the case. Bush and his advisors are far too intelligent to think it will make a difference. There is a handful of American Muslims who support Bush, and another handful that think he is evil. No one is going to change his or her mind about Bush because he decides to celebrate Ramadan.
Who is this window-dressing for, then? Is it for the liberal establishment that fears and hates oppression above all things, and worships love and tolerance in all their various forms? The conservative establishment is, for the most part, disgusted. But the moderates, the large percentage of the nation that remains undecided until the last minute - those are the votes to be won. Those are the people that must be pandered to.
Bush is living in fear of a culture where the only sin you can commit is making judgements.
Islam is the religion of peace. Peace that is driven forward by the machine of war, by the iron fist of a god who constantly enacts his vengeance on those who do not appease him. There will be peace on earth - when the infidels are dead.
Not all Muslims believe this. But enough do. In its natural habitat, in the Middle East, it is a religion that gives way to the oppression of women, and to intolerance of other peoples. Regardless of what is stated in the tenets - Muslim scholars, as a side note, tend to dissagree violently on major issues, due mainly to the archaic language of the Qu'ran - it has become a religion of hatred.
Christianity has, at times, been twisted towards this same end. Many religions have. But look at the world with your eyes open, and you will see the truth. Christendom is far from perfect, but at least it tries. With basic concepts of freedom, justice, equality, love, brotherhood, and mercy, it strives onward. Progress is its friend. It helps other nations. Maybe its help has been misguised in the past, or even today...but name one country that has done more for the world than, say, the U.S. Name one that consistently rebuilds its enemies after they have been destroyed in war. If we do it out of pure Capitalist greed, hoping to increase trade with all the nations of the world, then so be it! At least we're out there. At least we're doing something.
At least we're not purposely killing innocent people with suicide bombers. At least we're not taking over other country's planes and driving them into their buildings. At least we're not trying to kill the innocent.
Not all Muslims are bad. Some are. Not all "Christians" are bad. Some are. But compare any Muslim nation to any Christian nation, and look at the difference.
So maybe certain religions are better than others. Maybe they are all inherently good, but placed into the hands of man, running their natural course, some become worse than others. Or maybe not. Maybe it's all relative.
Or maybe it isn't.
fawnthefactotum at 5:32 PM
Monday, December 29, 2003
Just letting everyone know I'm not dead. I'll be posting a new article soon. Really!
fawnthefactotum at 3:33 PM
Friday, December 05, 2003
Eloquent Movie Review:
I just saw "The One" starring Jet Li. I have 2 things to say.
bowpack at 11:00 PM
Friday, November 28, 2003
Well, this being Thanksgiving weekend, I've been wiling away all my time on Photoshop projects...no new article. Sowwy. (Of course I could post an old article and no one would know, since this is a new blog...ha! I run circles around your logic.) I've decided to share something rather unusual.
My friend was attempting to write a story, but abandoned it when she decided it was "stupid". I thought otherwise, and decided it could be turned into a Princess Bride - esque masterpiece. I spiffed it up a bit, added some parentheticals, etc. I kind of almost like it. But it's up to you folks to decide whether or not it's worth continuing. Comment away.
Many years ago, when Scotland was still wooded, there lived a unicorn. (Actually, in that time there lived many unicorns, but they do not concern us.) This particular unicorn was different from the rest: ugly to some, beautiful to others. I cannot tell you which was true, for it is a matter of taste, so I shall leave the choice to you.
Let's start with the hooves - Large and cloven (up). She was young at the time, fourteen to be exact, but quite tall. She was slender. Not fat, not skinny, and surprisingly proportionate, but with slightly knobby knees. (But this was before proportions. Well, not really, but no one called them “proportions”. Someone was simply ugly or beautiful, and no one paid attention to mathematical details.) Her mane and tail were purple and green, just like her birth stone (alexandrite, except this was before alexandrite, so she was simply referred to as having purple and green hair) and her horn was platinum (Yes, you read correctly). As for the sleek fur covering the rest of her body, it was pure white but with a diamond-like sheen. (This was after diamonds, but before jewelry stores.) So, what do you think? Ugly or beautiful?
(If there is a boy present, you should probably leave, since if you haven't already puked, YOU WILL! Trust me on this one!)
She smelled of roses, vanilla, lavender, and orchid. (This was after flowers.)
(I told you to leave! Try to aim AWAY from the book!)
She loved to eat forget-me-nots, and no one ever forgot her! (Only this was before they were called “forget-me-nots”, so neither she nor anyone else realized the significance of this.) Her name was Tinuriel, after a famous Elf, but everyone in the glade where she lived called her Elle. (This was long before Tolkien, but around the same time as the people he wrote about.)
So, on one of those boring, generic days - lots of rainbows, sunlight, chasing faeries, etc.-she decided to have some fun. (This was after fun, but most everything is.) She sorted through her dried herbs (for all unicorns collect such things) and chose some of her favorites; lavender, rose leaves, orchid petals, and chamomile. She put them on a large amethyst block and proceeded to stomp on them until they were finely ground. After that, she mixed the powder with sweet grass and jasmine oil, and poured the liquid into a bottle. She studied the finished product.
Elle was fond of making potions (it was the unicorn equivalent of gourmet cooking). This, however, was a mixture she’d never tried before. I wonder what it does... she pondered. Perhaps I shall test it on someone. Her conscience berated her; her parents had always told her to “never give anyone a potion if you don’t know what it does!”
She thought for a moment.
“I know!” she whispered (for this was after unicorns learned to talk, but before there was anyone there to listen.) “I’ll test it on Loch!” She scampered off, giggling.
Loch was Elle’s evil nemesis, according to her anyway (not to mention her verbal punching bag.) (This was before punching bags, but, believe me, Loch was one.)
"Perhaps he will turn into a frog!" she mused hopefully, "now, where is he..... Probably in the bog, knowing him."
She was correct in her speculations. He was in the bog all right, smearing bog goo in his mane. (Boys will be boys, human or otherwise.)
Loch was a young, awkward unicorn with fur the color of goldenrod and an off-white tail and mane. (Actually they might have been pure white, for all anyone knew, but they were always dirty so there was no way to tell for sure.) He was tall and ungainly, and always managed to make a fool out of himself given the slightest opportunity.
Well? Er...it's a little stupid. I guess. While I'm at it, why don't I add a parodyish work I did a little while ago...
Les Miserables: The Musical
Super-condensed by Liz Nast
Jean Valjean: I am Jean Valjean!
Javert: I am the law, and you are scum.
Jean Valjean: Yeah, I guess you're right.
(he STEALS SOME STUFF)
Javert: You scum! Now I've got you!
Religious dude: I gave him that stuff.
Jean Valjean: That religious dude let me go free. I am moved. I shall live the rest of my life as an honest man.
(a LONG TIME passes)
Fantine: Woe is me, I have a child, but I'm poor and she's starving.
Foreman: You won't sleep with me. You're fired.
The Mayor: (ignores)
Prostitutes: Join us!
(everyone ATTACKS Fantine for no apparent reason)
The Mayor: Leave her alone! Come with me.
(they go to a CONVENT)
Fantine: Take care of my daughter.
The Mayor: I swear I will.
Javert: Mr. Mayor dude, you're really Jean Valjean, aren't you?
Jean Valjean/Mayor: Bugger.
Javert: I'll catch you!
Master of the House: I'm a landlord. Behold how slimy I am!
(Master of the House's wife is MEAN to Cosette)
Jean Valjean: Cosette, Fantine's daughter, come with me.
(a LONG TIME passes)
Gavroche: These are my people. They live on the streets. I lead them, even though I am extremely small.
Schoolboys: We need to have a revolution.
Street people: Yay!
Marius: Eponine, you are my friend.
Eponine: I am madly in love with you.
Marius: Too bad, I'm madly in love with that girl I just saw. Find her.
Enjolras: Let's fight!
Marius: I'm in love.
Enjolras: Who cares?
Eponine: I'm depressed.
Marius and Cosette: We're in love.
Marius: I must fight.
Javert: I am on your side!
Gavroche: No he's not. Let's kill him.
Jean Valjean: No, let him live.
Eponine: Hi, Marius.
(she is SHOT)
Eponine: I love you.
(The schoolboys FIGHT. Everyone DIES.)
Javert: I can't stand being alive, knowing that Jean Valjean isn't as scummy as I thought.
(He JUMPS OFF A BRIDGE)
The women: Everyone is dead. How sad.
Marius: Everyone is dead. How sad.
(Cosette and Marius get MARRIED)
Master of the House: Look, I'm in high society! And I'm still a slimy landlord!
Jean Valjean: I'm dying.
Fantine and Eponine: Yes.
Jean Valjean: Bye.
The people: Well, now that was pointless wasn't it? Let's sing a marching song.
Dead people: Hey, look! We are no longer dead!
Victor Hugo: To love another person is to see the face of God. I suppose I could've just said that in the beginning and saved a lot of time, couldn't I?
fawnthefactotum at 11:07 PM
Tuesday, November 18, 2003
Because of my high opinion of the EiC, I'm following his rigorous schedule of "post whenever you want". I'm getting a little political and moral today. Sorry. Er...please keep the rotten vegetables to yourself until you've read it.
Perusing through this week's big stories, I noticed that - oddly enough! - the press is still tearing into Rush Limbaugh like starving wolves on a sick buffalo. I forgive them. It's irresistable. He's a prime target, and the only reason he's a prime target is that he put himself in the limelight. If you want a safe place to screw up, you stay indoors and order groceries from Albertsons.com. Rush is a celebrity. He's fair game.
But to put all this in perspective, let's talk about addiction for a moment. As Dr. Drew Pinksy is fond of saying, it's a disease that is needlessly stigmatized - some people are prone to addiction, and if they don't know it, they can get hooked on prescription medication that was given to them legitmately by a doctor. And once you're hooked, it's very hard to stop.
Not that this is an excuse. Thousands of people successfully recover from these kinds of addictions every year. All it takes is time, determination, and some dough. But it's so much easier to just pop another pill...you feel so energized, so alive, at the end of the day you can look back on all you accomplished...and you're pain-free!
It's human nature. We always go for the easy way out first. When that caves in on us, we head to the straight and narrow. Sometimes.
Rush screwed up. No doubt about it. He had a serious back problem, the surgery didn't fix it, and so he took pills to deal with the pain. When the pills stopped working, he took more. When the doctor stopped prescribing, Rush turned to the black market - an easy step to take, in the haze of addiction. But still wrong.
And he got his punishment, didn't he? The pills made him go deaf in one ear. He kept taking them, kept buying them. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
Now Rush has done the right thing. He's gone in for treatment, and plans to give up the pills forever. Good for him. But the wolves don't stop.
Why? Because they've been waiting for this excuse for a long time. They've been itching to knock Rush off his self-built throne, because he is loud, arrogant, and influental. Whether you believe what he says is right or wrong, you know who Rush is and you know what he believes, because he is an icon. Republicans were desperate for a mascot for so long, and then came Rush. They worshipped him because they had no one else. Rush is, has been, and ever shall be a paradigm of what his party stands for, so when he sinned, his enemies did not hesitate to descend on him.
And they have every right. It may not be the nice thing to do, but Rush is seldom nice to his enemies. It may not be the merciful thing to do, but who wants to show mercy in a world where even justice is in short supply?
All I'm saying is, let's not call him a hypocrite. Not, at least, until you find me a book, a radio drop, anything where he ostracized someone for addiction to pain medication. Remember, Rush was not elected, and Rush has no power except the power of his voice and his ideas. And even then, his influence depends on who's listening. The power Rush has is the power that you give him, and you can withdraw it at any time. So let him be. Stop the trash-talking. It's the least you could do. He's just another human, after all.
fawnthefactotum at 9:58 PM
Thursday, November 13, 2003
Right. EiC says to forget the schedule, so I will, and post whenever I feel like it. Just to clarify: I didn't write the AI review. Hence, "The Editor in Chief Speaks" title. And the "Matt's rating". And the fact that it was posted by "Matt". Right, just making sure. On to my latest review.
I've always been a filmmaker at heart. The stories I write are merely representations of a movie that's playing in my head. I love films, because I feel like I'm getting inside someone else's brain for a while - the character's, of course, but also the filmmaker's. I love to see where a movie will take me. As I thrill at a tense scene or feel my eyes water when things turn out happily ever after, I'm feeling an extra bit of triumph just for the fellow who created that moment. I'm proud of the writer, the director, my brothers in the craft.
I love watching movies.
In Signs, the "either you love him or you hate him" director M. Night Shyamalan took me places. The characters were real, the dialogue (with a few notable exceptions) was real, the movie felt like real life. Almost disturbingly so. I'd heard bad things about Shyamalan's Unbreakable. But I wanted to believe it would be just as good.
So when I pulled the video out of its case, I breathed a silent prayer that it would strike me just as deeply as Signs. I shoved it in the VCR. 107 minutes later, I was speechless. Yep. Struck.
David Dunn (Bruce Willis, of course) is an ordinary security gaurd working at an ordinary sports stadium. Nothing unusual at all about him. Until...his train on the way home from New York derails. Two passengers survive. One dies in the hospital. The other is David, and he hasn't got a scratch on him.
David goes to the memorial service for those lost in the wreck. On the way out, he picks up a note someone left on his windshield - "When was the last time you were sick?" Embossed across the front of the paper are the words "Limited Edition". David heads to the Limited Edition store with his son Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark), and there they meet a very strange man. Elijah (Samuel L. Jackson) is obsessed with comic books and comic book heroes, and has been all his life. He is cursed with a disease that makes his bones very brittle - they break at the slighest provocation. His theory: If there's someone like him in the world, who is so weak, surely there must be someone else in the world whose bones cannot break, who is infinitely strong - like a real life comic book hero. He watched all the disaster reports his whole life, he says, waiting for those particular words: "There is a sole survivor. He is miraculously unharmed." Because such a man must surely be the real life hero. Elijah believes he's finally found that man, and that it's David.
David scoffs at this, accusing Elijah of being nothing more than a con man, and leaves. Back to his home, to an estranged wife (Robin Wright Penn) and a son whom he is just getting to know. But Elijah will not let him be.
As time goes by, the reluctant David is faced with a truth he never suspected and doesn't want to believe. Gradually he realizes that being a hero isn't all it's cracked up to be. It's a hard lesson. But he also realizes that he has the power to undo at least a little of the evil that's been done in the world.
Unbreakable, like most of Shyamalan's films, is about a man struggling to discover who he is. Like Signs, it prominently features the hero's seemingly minor personal problems even in the midst of supernatural phenomena. These are real people, Shyamalan is saying. Just like you and me. Only...their lives turned extraordinary. Could yours?
This is a fascinating roller coaster of a thriller, while never losing that bizarre, experimental indie film quality that makes it Shyamalan. If you don't allow yourself to be drawn into its depth, you will think that it's shallow. So let go of logic. Go ahead. Be a college kid again. Question life. Find meaning in the mundane. You won't regret it.
"It's okay to be afraid, David. Because this part won't be like a comic book."
(Unbreakable is rated PG-13 for tense and scary moments, a crude sexual reference, and a very disturbing scene of twisted violence. Definitely not recommended for the kiddies. They'd get bored with it anyway.)
fawnthefactotum at 7:24 PM
Tuesday, November 11, 2003
The Editor-in-Chief Speaks...
Movie Review: A.I. Artificial Intelligence
I picked up this movie at the library the other day with the impression of "This is going to be dumb." But I watched it anyway. What I found was a pretty artistic vision that didn't live up to the expectations of the viewer, which is why the critics panned it.
The first half is GREAT. Great, because the topic of discussion (and that's what the movie does, it discusses the possibility of having A.I. and whether or not it would be beneficial to mankind). As you watch it, THINK about that, it deals with a really realistic issue for the future.
Plot: Population control is in strict effect. Government permits are required in order to have a child, and when family's only son is in a coma, it is selected to be the test market for a new Mecha (Mechanical, as opposed to "Orga" for Organism) called "David". David is the first mecha to appear in the form of a child, and he is the first mecha cabable of loving. Once programmed to love someone, he can't undo his love for them. It's an eternal love, and a really interesting portrayal of it. When the family's real son comes out of his coma, David is no longer valued as he once was, and eventually gets sent away. I don't want to ruin more of it for you, so I won't.
There are a couple of scenes in it that I fast forwarded. At one point he and his friend Gigolo Joe end up at "Rouge City" searching for Dr. Know (voiced by Robin Williams). The city is basically a really scary depiction of sin, in the future. If you see it as being something that Spielberg views as possible, it will chill you.
There are some things I wish had been done differently...such as the ending. When you watch it you'll be surprised because it doesn't go at all where you'd expect, but don't judge the movie because of that. Remember that you didn't write and this was Spielberg's vision for the movie (he was the screenwriter) and take it for what it is, not how YOU would have done it; otherwise you'll hate the movie altogether.
Matt's Rating: 2 1/2 Stars
bowpack at 9:24 AM