July 25, 2006
A Plea for Consistency
So . . . Proving once again that he is either a hypocrite or an idiot, Dubya finally vetoed his first bill the other day, essentially halting any hopes of embryonic stem cell research in the United States for the near future. The veto prompted one of the more inspired segments I've seen from The Daily Show, which I've long enjoyed. Check it out.
The president's decision in conjunction with the Jon Stewart clip has brought a line of thought to the front of my mind that has been slowly building for quite some time. However, before I get to that, here is (in a nutshell) why I (still) think our president is a total moron.
In-vitro fertilization (IVF) as practiced in fertility clinics is a way for couples to have children who would not otherwise be able to. The process produces around 16 surplus embryos which are then frozen in storage. As of a few years ago there were an estimated 400,000 of these frozen embryos in existence. The vast majority of them will eventually be discarded unless they are used for research which has the potential to save lives.
The embryos already exist. The embryos are going to be destroyed. All . . . all . . . Bush has done is to make it impossible for them to be used for any constructive purpose whatsoever. Not only that, but he and his people are throwing around terms like "murder" (which has sense been downgraded to mere "taking of human life"), implying that his veto has basically put a stop to the destruction of the embryos. Right.
Incidentally, the only argument against embryonic stem cell research that I have heard thus far which doesn't simply disintegrate under its own weight is some variation on a lack of scientific proof or lack of results in the field. Well, gee, could that possibly be because people like our Special Olympics president keep blocking the research? Results don't just appear like magic if you wait long enough, y'know.
Additionally, Tony Snow, speaking for the president, said "The president is not going to get on the slippery slope of taking something living and making it dead . . ." Look, if a frozen amalgamation of 4-10 cells counts as something living, then I'm pretty sure the president has violated his own morality if he's ever used a condom. A full load of sperm certainly has more potential to become "life" than any those embryos do right now. (If you're the visual type, pardon the mental image.)
Actually, the question of whether Bush has violated his own moral system is answered regardless. He has, does, and is . . . every single day for the past three years and four months. And this brings me to my real point. The stem cell debate is completely tangential, it was just bothering me. I have not yet fully made up my mind about when I think life begins, but I am very much pro-life. It's one of the few issues I really care about, politically, because it's the only one that really seems to matter on an eternal scale.
What's really bugging me is this: Being pro-life, the way I see pro-life, alienates me from both major political parties. Democrats are largely "pro-choice," so that's not acceptable. (I always thought it was really cute the way they had to call themselves "pro-choice" in opposition of "pro-life" cuz they couldn't very well call themselves "anti-life" or "pro-death.") But Republicans, conservatives, and most of the Christians I know who are supposedly so very "pro-life" when it comes to abortion seem to be very "anti-life" in almost every other way. They strongly support capital punishment. They're positively religious (often literally) about going to war.
Does being pro-life have any meaning whatsoever if you're only pro some life? "That is the issue before us," the president says of stem cell research, "and that is whether or not we use tax payer's money to destroy life." In this case, he has decided no. In the case of Iraq, yes. So, he only holds his staunchly pro-life views with regards to frozen cell clumps, not actual living, breathing people. Why?
To see the president stand up and say, "I think it's important to promote a culture of life. I think a hospitable society is a society where every being counts and every person matters." And then to hear him casually toss off an estimate of 30,000 Iraqi citizens killed in a war he started like he's calculating the number of jelly beans in a jar . . . I just have to stand up and shriek "Hypocrite!"
Even if Bush were right about stem cell research, he's still wrong. But he doesn't even have that right. He's just all wrong. As of this moment, "pro-life" has no significant meaning as an expression of actual human values. And I don't think that's the way it ought to be.
July 23, 2006
You know you've been buying the right things when Amazon.com notifies you via e-mail of the availability of Slavery, Family, and Gentry Capitalism in the British Atlantic: The World of the Lascelles, 1648-1834 (Cambridge Studies in Economic History - Second Series)
That is all.
July 21, 2006
The Joy of Four Plays
(This title the product of a snicker-filled brainstorming session with Randy.)
Rachel and I, along with the Scholls, Randy, and Barbour . . . and our good friend Wilson (who drove up from Austin especially for the occasion) did the Texas Shakespeare Festival last weekend. A play Friday evening, two plays on Saturday, and a play on Sunday afternoon . . . a veritable stage marathon of epic proportions. The breakdown:
Friday evening: Coriolanus
This is one of two little-read, little-performed Shakespeare plays put on by the TSF this year. He took his plot from Plutarch's Lives. The "hero" of the story (one of the least sympathetic I've encountered in Shakespeare) is a Roman general of unmatched skill on the battlefield, and unmatched disgust for the common man.
The first wins him great renown and a chance to be made consul. The second not only loses him his shot at being consul, but gets him banished from Rome, whereupon he goes straight to his worst enemy, Aufidius, the leader of the barbaric Volscians, and offers to lead his armies against Rome.
This he also fails to do when his mother comes to beg that he turn back, and for his failure, he is slain by the Volscians. The end. Coriolanus is such a moron that I found him difficult to sympathize with, but the performances were largely quite good, and the play certainly had its moments.
Saturday afternoon: The School for Husbands
One of two non-Shakespeare plays performed at the TSF, this one was written by Moliere. It was probably the most enjoyable of the four, and the best in terms of both material and execution. It was translated from the original French (obviously) and the translator largely preserved the characters' speech in rhyming couplets . . . amusing or painful, take your pick. I enjoyed it despite bad Alexander Pope flashbacks.
It is a farcical piece about two brothers who are the guardians of two sisters. Each brother raises one of the sisters as he sees fit with the intention of one day marrying them. The elder indulges his ward, allowing her to stay out late, attend balls, and shop for fashionable clothing, hoping to win her love through trust and respect. The younger keeps his ward under lock and key, never allowing her out of his sight, hoping to preserve her (loving or otherwise) by ensuring that she has no opportunity to cuckold him.
Of course, the younger brother's ward cleverly schemes and connives to trick him into letting her marry the young man across the street. There was much prancing, posing, witty banter, and slapstick for the enjoyment of all before the final curtain.
Perhaps the funniest moment of the weekend, though, was entirely unplanned. Near the end, the younger brother's mustache began to peel off, and when (in a moment of great distress) he reached up to stroke it while speaking, it came away in his hand. Staying in character, he stared at it for a moment, wide-eyed, then agitatedly plucked off his goatee as well, stared at it, then shoved it at a silent character whose only purpose was to hold a lantern saying, "Oh, take this!" and went right on. When he came out to take a bow (still sans facial hair) he smiled slightly and stroked his bare upper lip, much to our amusement.
Saturday night: Pericles, Prince of Tyre
The second Shakespeare play . . . and what a sprawling, fractured, out-of-control Arabian Nights piece it is. It begins promisingly, with Pericles arriving in a foreign land to answer a riddle posed by the king. If he gets the answer right, he gets the king's daughter (who is in an incestuous relationship with his daughter), but if he gets it wrong, he must be put to death.
The answer to the riddle happens to be the fact that the father and daughter are committing incest, and when Pericles figures it out, he naturally wants nothing to do with her. The king, enraged that his secret has been discovered, wants Pericles dead (turns out it was a lose-lose situation) and he must flee across the Mediterranean, hopping from port to port, pursued by assassins.
All sorts of wild things start happening at this point . . . there are multiple shipwrecks, the wicked king and his daughter are struck by lightning, Pericles gets married and fathers a daughter, but loses both wife and child. The wife is presumed dead, but is "resurrected" by a wise doctor (only mostly dead) and becomes a priestess in the temple of Diana. The daughter, left in the care of the king and queen of Tarsus, is nearly killed, but is suddenly rescued by pirates . . . who sell her to a brothel. But she isn't violated because every man who comes to see her is completely charmed by her virtue and goes away to follow the straight and narrow.
Time passes in great and illogical leaps, and the hapless Pericles is eventually reunited with his daughter. Then, just when it seems like the play might go on forever without resolution, Diana appears to Pericles in a dream and directs him to his wife.
Not the best of plays, for sure, but it also had its moments. Most of these moments came when the actors stopped playing the material straight and began to ham it up a bit . . . but such moments were far too few and far between, and the performance suffered for it.
Sunday afternoon: Harvey
I've always been partial to this play . . . well, particularly to the movie version starring Jimmy Stewart, and so I think my expectations caused my experience with this performance to suffer. Nevertheless, it is a charming play, and I still enjoyed myself thoroughly. The way they played some of the parts revealed a few things within the text that I'd never noticed before in the more strait-laced black and white movie . . . that was fun. Harvey was just generally a nice way to end our TSF experience and enjoy a lazy Sunday afternoon.
I greatly enjoyed the theater-going experience of last weekend, and I shall certainly look forward to the productions next summer . . . Hopefully they'll choose some better Shakespeare while keeping up the quality of the non-Shakespeare selections. In any case, that's all for now. I'm off.
July 20, 2006
(Borrowed/Hijacked/Stolen from Wilson . . . but I don't feel bad, he snagged it from someone else, too . . . Someone with my name. So, really, I have a more legitimate claim than he does. Also, Wilson tried to take all the good ones, daghorm it. I agree with a number of his picks, but will avoid them where possible.)
1. A movie that made you cry
Finding Neverland, Big Fish, Night and Fog.
2. A movie that scared you
As a kid, Lady in White. I saw most of it quite by mistake when I was four or five, and it was pretty much the first thing I can remember being a cause for fear. I had trouble sleeping in a room alone for years afterward. The Bad Seed, a movie made when moviemakers knew that what we can't see is always scarier than what we can. The Sixth Sense. The occurrence is a rare one, partially because I don't watch horror movies (I find them largely inferior) and partially because I don't scare easy unless I'm, say, alone in a big house at night while I'm watching (which almost never happens). I watched The Sixth Sense late at night with Brett when I was in high school. Not a movie, but the original Thief computer game was really scary . . .
3. A movie that made you laugh
Dr. Strangelove, Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?, Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
4. A movie that disgusted you
Hannibal. I mean, seriously.
5. A movie you loved in elementary school
6. A movie you loved in middle school
7. A movie you loved in high school
Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi.
8. A movie you loved in college
Fiddler on the Roof, Schindler's List, The Godfather . . . and any of the movies that made me laugh.
9. A movie that challenged your identity or your faith
I'm a bit unsure about how to answer this one. If I'm interpreting it correctly, I'd say that what it wants is more the province of books and really good college courses. I guess I'll just go out on a limb and say Pleasantville and Dogville.
10. A series that you love
I just love any series, pretty much. The Godfather parts I and II, of course, Back to the Future. Oh, and lets not forget Planet of the Apes (any series).
11. Your favorite horror
The Exorcism of Emily Rose, or Psycho, if that counts. Horror films as a genre lack depth and variety, they come and go. There will always be a popular new one floating around, but there's not much rewatchability.
12. Your favorite science-fiction
The Empire Strikes Back . . . no matter what Wilson thinks he knows about the line between sci-fi and fantasy.
13. Your favorite fantasy
The Fellowship of the Rings . . . but I don't think it's a fair question. All fantasy until just a few years ago just flat-out sucked because of the technology (and a few other reasons). Now that LOTR has opened the door, just wait another decade. Harry Potter has started a revolution in published fantasy, and its movie series will wrap up in the next few years . . . the Narnia movies will take off . . . and then, who knows?
14. Your favorite mystery
I wonder how far I can stretch this category . . . A Passage to India, Rear Window, Se7en, Rashomon, Anatomy of a Murder, Gattaca, Clue.
15. Your favorite biography
16. Your favorite coming-of-age
This is really more my thing when in book form, but . . . The Graduate, The Last Emperor.
17. Your favorite not on this list
Ha! Road to Perdition, The Seventh Seal, To Kill a Mockingbird, Judgment at Nuremberg, The Red Violin, Lolita, A Streetcar Named Desire . . .
July 13, 2006
Jared, Circulation Assistant
The blog is not abandoned yet . . . really. I hope to have a longer entry up soon, but meanwhile, amuse yourselves with this:
Visit it soon, cuz it'll change next month and I sha'n't be in it anymore.