Category Archives: Miscellany

Missing the Point

Via Jim Treacher, what they’re saying about the 8/28 rally.  Read to the end.

Fun with Polls

Specifically, polls that make conservatives look foolish.

"A new poll showed that nearly one in five people, or 18 percent, believe Obama is Muslim. That was up from 11 percent who said so in March 2009. The survey also showed that just 34 percent said Obama is Christian, down from 48 percent who said so last year. The largest share of people, 43 percent, said they don't know his religion."  (Quotes from Yahoo! News.)

Now, this isn't a poll of just conservatives.  This is a poll of everybody.  But we all know who disseminates these kinds of foundless rumors, don't we?

But here is the part that's particularly fun.

"The Pew poll found that about three in 10 of Obama's fiercest political rivals, Republicans and conservatives, say he is a Muslim. That is up significantly from last year and far higher than the share of Democrats and liberals who say so."

IOW, nearly twice as many conservatives are plain wrong on this point compared to the entire population.


Of course, this is all just a distraction from the bigger question: why does it matter?  Is it so terrible, the thought of having a Muslim president? 

It's funny that conservatives are wrong.  It's scary that they care in the first place.

links for 2010-07-23

  • In recent years, scientists have shown that they can reprogram human skin cells to an immature state that allows the cells to become any type of cell. …However, the techniques now used to transform cells pose some serious safety hazards. …Now, for the first time, MIT researchers have shown that they can deliver those same reprogramming genes using RNA, the genetic material that normally ferries instructions from DNA to the cell's protein-making machinery.

“Beyond the Lighted Stage”

Russell's favorite moments in this Rush documentary:

  1. Home movie of Alex Lifeson as a high-schooler telling his parents he wants to be a musician; he doesn't need school.
  2. Gene Simmons wondering why, when Kiss toured with Rush, he gets all the girls, and the Canadians never did.
  3. Neil Peart talking about how he just does not want to talk to fans; it's just creepy.
  4. Geddy Lee still referring to Neil as "the new guy".

Russell’s Week with Glenn, Day 2

The theme of the episode is that GB has a problem with faith based initiatives that are designed around advancing green technology. (He uses the phrase "the EPA merging with churches" about twenty times, making it sound like some sort of Borg assimilation.) He has no problem using religious language to impart his own message, so I assume he's either simply against green technology, or believes it to not be consistent with Christian ideals. He does not make clear which of these is his stance, though either one is a hard sell to me.

GB claims that this program will be the final nail in the coffin of our churches, though he offers no indication of how or why that would happen.  More baseless fear-mongering.  (This concept may become a theme of these posts.  How about I just call it BFM from now on?)

16:00 – GB talks about how much more of his income he's given to charity than either Obama or Biden.  I humbly offer the following:

Proverbs 26:12
2 Philippians 2:3
Matthew 23:12

31:00 — "They're already indoctrinating our children. 'There is no God.'" Really?  Alot of classes in atheism in our primary schools nowadays? Not talking about God <> talking about God's nonexistence.

42:00 — GB's guest likens taxation to stealing, which is contrary to one of the commandments. I offer him this:

Matthew 22:21

GB also (I didn't get the time marker on this one) said that Net Neutrailty is Marxism.  Really?  How exactly does the ability to have non-discriminatory access to the internet going to elevate the proletariat?

As for things I agreed with, I suppose I can't fault him for criticizing the left for being silent on Obama's faith-based initiatives, when W was loudly castigated for the same thing.  Of course, Obama hasn't (that I've heard) indicated that he's President because it's God's will, so perhaps there's little need to fear he'll become some kind of theocratic oligarch.

Lost Finale Questions

Here, in roughly chronological order, are the questions I would like for the finale of Lost to answer.  I fully expect that none of them will be:

Why was the Island still getting Dharma Initiative shipments of food long after the purge?
Why did that psychic feel the need to put Claire on a doomed plane?
What was Walt's power?
Why did Charlie have religious visions that drove him to baptize Aaron?
Why did Kate (and Sawyer) see that horse?
Why didn't the Others purge Kelvin and Radzinsky?  (Alternately, why didn't they help Kelvin, if they knew his button-pushing was important?)
Why did the destruction of the Swan station not kill Desmond, Eko and Locke?
Why do pregnant women die on the Island?  Why now and not before?
Why can Hurley/Miles talk/listen to ghosts?
Why did Widmore hire all those Island-connected people for his freighter team?
Why did Ben think it was necessary to bring Locke's body back to the Island?
Why did Richard (and the rest of the Others) not skip through time along with the Lostaways?
Why did Sun not go back in time with Jack, Kate, Hurley and Sayid?

Please note that I didn't even bother to mention the questions that this season has raised, but I suspect might actually be answered.  (Why are there two timelines?  Will the MIB finally be killed or contained?)

Oh, Lost, it has been a fun ride.

“Daybreakers” and “The Book of Eli”

It may not make complete sense to review these two films simultaneously, but I'm going to give it a shot anyway, partly because they are both new takes on old tropes… and partly because I'm really lazy.

I saw "Daybreakers" first, and went in with only a one sentence description from some magazine.  I hadn't even seen the trailer, but I was intrigued nonetheless.  In the film, it's ten years since an unexplained plague began transforming people into vampires.  The vampires promptly took over the world, gave everyone the chance to change, and those that didn't were rounded up and put into uber-creepy blood banks.  Ethan Hawke plays a vampire hematologist working on a blood substitute, since the supplies of the real article are running low.  Worse still, if you don't have a consistent supply of human blood, you basically turn into a feral bat-creature.  So, the vampires are nearing their own catastrophe.

Enter Willem Dafoe as a human who managed (through a bizarre coincidence) to become a vampire for about three seconds, and then be cured.  He and Hawke work together to come up with a way to replicate the process, to reverse vampirism completely.

I liked the stylized look of the film, and the little details that tell us about vampire life: the houses with retractable windows, the subwalk system under the city, the stand selling coffee "still with 20% blood!"  The mechanics of the ending are important, but I won't give them away.  Coming up with a satisfying ending when the world is so ridiculously screwed up wasn't easy to do.  It's neither easy nor sure-fire, but it's modestly hopeful, while at the same time being about as bloody as any film I've ever seen.

"The Book of Eli" is another film with a very familiar premise: the world was destroyed in some cataclysmic (probably nuclear) war, and Denzel Washington is a mysterious "walker" with a precious book.  Gary Oldman is the town boss (somewhere in the extra-blasted southwest) who really, really wants that book.

The ads were somewhat cagey about what the book was, but the film doesn't take long to make it clear that the book in question is The Bible.  Washington wants to get it into the hands of someone who will use the book for good.  Oldman wants to use it to take over… well, pretty much everything.  It's an interesting tightrope the film walks between the positive use of faith, and the horrifying power of religion as a tool of mass control.  I suspect that balance is the only reason a film about religion could get made.  (Outside the "Christian" media, I mean.)

I enjoyed the film, partly because the story had very few real holes in it.  (Could people really have destroyed almost all the Bibles in the world?)  Most important, the film looked amazing.  The scenes of past destruction were affecting without being maudlin or overdone.  And the performances were good.  Denzel has rarely been so selflessly heroic.  Or so scruffy.