September means back down to earth

September 1, 2015

Welcome to September, everyone!

If you’ve kept up reading this blog for more than a few years, you know what September means: it’s time for my 12th annual Science Fiction Free September. Back in September 2004, I decided that I spent too much of my reading time with science fiction, so I declared a month-long moratorium on the genre, and instead used the time for something I might not read otherwise: classic literature, nonfiction, maybe just even a bunch of books I had started but never got around to finishing. (This year to date I’ve read three SF novels—about half what I’ve read in nonfiction. As the years go by the SFFS has either outlived or fulfilled its purpose, but I keep it up anyway, just for fun!)

This year, my big September reading project will be themed around the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. My primary objective is to complete a very long book that I have had for a number of years, but never gotten farther in than, perhaps, one-tenth. This book is the blockbuster history of Nazi Germany, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, by CBS war correspondent William L. Shirer. This is a popular history rather than an academic one. Shirer was present in Berlin from the Nazis’ coming to power to the first year of WWII, when he left after he heard that the Gestapo was trumping up espionage charges against him.

I actually started two days ago, since my last book finished up conveniently on Saturday night (Dolores Claiborne, the latest in my read-all-the-way-through-Stephen-King project). By page count, I am now 2% of the way in, and if I can figure out how to HTML-ize a progress bar, I’ll add it to the sidebar.

At ths time I have no secondary objectives, but there’s no shortage of unread books in my collection, so I’m sure I’ll work something out.

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Nothing to see here

August 5, 2015

Today on the Crusty Curmudgeon, we juxtapose, courtesy of Mollie Hemingway:

President Barack Obama told a group of young African leaders on Monday that harvesting organs from humans that are killed as part of an African ritual was “craziness” and a “cruel” tradition that needed to stop. He warned of dehumanizing marginal groups of humans and of the problems that arise when “you are not able to see someone else as a human being.”

Meanwhile, back in the States . . .

On the topic of human organ harvesting, President Obama’s spokesman Josh Earnest has said that President Obama has chosen not to watch the video footage of Planned Parenthood officials dissecting human fetuses for parts. Nevertheless, President Obama has vehemently defended the abortion group.

[Full Story]

Some humans are more human than others.


Victimocracy

July 20, 2015

The idea that the entire society is supposed to frontally lobotomize itself with regard to basic facts, like what constitutes sex, it’s demonstrative of the fact that a victim-run society is unworkable. A society in which we suggest that people who are victims get to redefine reality for everyone, that’s not workable. Now notice what I’m saying—I’m not saying that you can’t make social changes having nothing to do with the nature of reality, all I’m saying is that you can’t redefine reality itself. You can’t redefine man-man as as valuable as man-woman in terms of sexual relationships producing children, you can’t redefine man as woman, there are certain things in life that you just can’t paper over, you can’t just gloss over. And the attempts to do so are bound to fail.

Ben Shapiro, The Ben Shapiro Show, podcast audio, July 17, 2015, http://audio.kiroradio.com/seattle/kiro/2015/07/benshapiro071715_2_802.mp3.


This week in moral panic

July 3, 2015

Ever since Dylann Storm Roof allegedly killed nine people in a black church in Charleston on June 17, the United States has been in the grip of mass hysteria. Somehow, the court of public opinion has tried and convicted not merely Roof, but also the Confederate flag, as morally culpable for the shootings, and ever since, everyone has been piling on the bandwagon.

First came the calls to remove Confederate flags from the flagpoles of Southern state capitols. Then, retailers such as Amazon and the Apple App Store banned paraphernalia displaying the flag—the latter going so far as to (temporarily) ban even Civil war-themed computer games. Then, the retro-themed TV Land network halted all broadcasts of The Dukes of Hazzard. Of course, Bo and Luke never did or said anything slightly racist in seven years on the air, though I’m sure the Flag of Evil on their car must have tried more than once to tempt them into a lynching, or something.

And now, golfer Bubba Watson is getting on the bandwagon. He owns LEE 1, one of the original three General Lee cars used for shooting Dukes. He paid $110,000 for it in 2012. Yesterday, he announced on Twitter:

Congratulations, Mr. Watson. I haven’t awarded one of these in quite a while, but for a) ignoring the context of the way the Confederate flag is used, and b) converting a valuable and sought-after collectible vehicle into a cheap used car, you are hereby awarded the DIM BULB du jour. Wear it with pride.

In light of racially motivated crimes like the massacre in Charleston, of course it is completely appropriate to start a conversation about the meaning of symbols and their power, for good or ill, to convey a message. However, arbitrarily banning all Confederate flags from public view is not that conversation. Instead, it is emotionalism. Corporations and celebrities are climbing on the bandwagon because they want to be seen as someone who Cares. In their moral panic, they stampede over even the context of the flag and ignore that a Civil War re-enactment (of which a Civil War video game is the electronic equivalent) is precisely the appropriate place for a Confederate flag, or that the General Lee without it is just another old Dodge Charger. They fail to see that with or without the Confederate flag, Dylann Roof would still have committed his crimes. Flag-banning is an empty gesture that saves people from examining the true root of his atrocity: the evil that runs through every person’s heart.

Instead, we get an emotional response instead of a rational one. Robert E. Lee’s body lies a-mouldering in the grave, but hysteria is marching on.


Dear church: Get your deep and sincerely held beliefs in line

June 29, 2015

From U.S. President Obama’s speech in the Rose Garden on the occasion of the Supreme Court legalizing same-sex “marriage” in all 50 states:

I know change for many of our LGBT brothers and sisters must have seemed so slow for so long. But compared to so many issues, America’s shift has been so quick. I know that Americans of good will continue to hold a wide range of views on this issue. Opposition in some cases has been based on sincere and deeply held beliefs. All of us who welcome today’s news should be mindful of that fact, recognize different viewpoints, revere our deep commitment to religious freedom. But today should also give us hope that on the many issues with which we grapple, often painfully, real change is possible. Shifts in hearts and minds is possible. And those who have come so far on their journey to equality have a responsibility to reach back and help others join them. Because for all our differences, we are one people, stronger together than we could ever be alone.

Talk about speaking out of both sides of your mouth. For all the talk about “separation of church and state” that you hear from the illiberal Left, it’s actually a one-way street. On the one hand, those of religious conviction have no business trying to “impose” their values on society.

On the other hand, it’s apparently quite fine for the President to call for those same religious people to amend their “sincere and deeply held beliefs” if they conflict with the values of the current Zeitgeist, and for those same secular Leftists to make a call “to abolish, or greatly diminish, [churches’] tax-exempt statuses” if they won’t pile on the gay-rights bandwagon.

These people want a comfortable, inoffensive church that won’t rock the boat or tell them that what they are doing might be wrong. The majority opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges says, “The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths.” But the First Amendment doesn’t ensure the right merely to “teach” one’s religious principles; it ensures the right to exercise them. A conviction held is nothing, if it is not a conviction lived out. That means that all those beleaguered Christian bakers, photographers and florists actually have a constitutional right to act on their convictions and to opt out of taking business that would require them to participate in a ceremony they believe is wrong.

Charles Colson once wrote, “[The church] does not settle into a comfortable niche, taking its place alongside the Rotary, the Elks, and the country club. Rather, the church is to make society uncomfortable.”[1] The present animus toward the Christian faith is evidence that, however halfheartedly, we are making society uncomfortable. And the principalities and powers don’t like that, one bit.


1. Charles Colson, Loving God (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 176.


And isn’t it high time Wonder Woman was a man?

June 27, 2015

Another day, another attempt to tamper with established characters to make them more PC:

Peter Parker is Caucasian and heterosexual. That isn’t a description: it’s a contractual obligation, one glittering clause in the solid-gold expanse of a licensing agreement between Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios. . . . Certain facets of the man’s character are inflexible. He must not be black. And he must not be gay.

[Why It’s Time for a Black or Gay Spider Man]

The author does raise the obvious retort: if you want a black or gay superhero, why not just create a new one from scratch? But he never really answers it. There is a perfectly clear answer, though: the Left creates affirmative-action, token characters like this as vehicles for dropping a Message on audiences’ heads like a cartoon anvil. Heavy-handed ideology does not make for good art, and audiences know it. Since they know they can’t succeed on their own merits, the Left needs to hijack someone else’s already profitable property and repurpose it.

Imagine the howls of outrage if Fat Albert or Charlie Chan were remade as Caucasians.


On SCOTUS and same-sex “marriage”

June 26, 2015

I was contemplating what I could say in response to today’s travesty of a ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States, which legalizes same-sex “marriage” in all 50 states. I decided two things: there’s nothing 1) I can add to the conversation that hasn’t already been said by better commentators, and 2) given that I’m sitting comfortably in a country that has had legal same-sex “marriage” for the past decade, I’m really not in a position to be offering critiques to the U.S.

So, instead, I’ll just refer back to a post I made almost two years ago on the topic. God himself established the institution of marriage along with its attendant social and theological significance. Five judges, or even nine, have no authority to alter its parameters.