August 29th, 2011


Moral Blinkers On High Beams

Across The Lake Over The Weekend

We had to go to Milwaukee for a wedding over the weekend. The weather was incredibly gorgeous with highs in the upper 70s and low 80s, breezes and blue skies. Meanwhile, when we were at the hotel, we watched a lot of The Weather Channel and MSNBC going All Hurricane Irene All The Time -- several times I thought about the injustice of the contrasts in the weather, but no one at the wedding seemed inclined to talk about Irene.

The discussions on TV got silly when they debated whether it mattered if Irene was still a Category 1 hurricane or just a tropical storm when it hit New York City -- silly in the sense that (a) some people can't stand not being hit by a non-hurricane, while (b) mere TS Irene managed to dump a flood on Vermont alone without the h-word.

Words. People use them and abuse them and sometimes argue about the wrong thing.

Which brings me to today's topic:

Four Postings

This was in our Sunday 28 August 2011 GRPress: King fought for the poor and labor unions — today many Americans scorn both... columnist Leonard Pitts, Jr. talking about the (now delayed by Irene) dedication of the Martin Luther King memorial in Washington DC. If you haven't seen a picture yet, it is an awesome work and I for one of proud of its addition to America's lawn. Will have to see it in person the next time I'm on DC.

But for me the money quote in this piece was...
Even if you put morality aside, there is still the question of enlightened self interest. If you are white, you may scorn black people and be reasonably certain you will never become one. If you are straight, you may scorn gay people and be reasonably certain you will never become one.

But any of us can become poor. Ann Coulter could become poor. How do you scorn what you might someday be?
Then friend Jim C. Hines wrote today on The Luxury of “Reasonable”, which I see more and more of -- the call of Do Not Call Me Names Because We Disagree Because I Am Being Reasonable Here About Our Disagreements.
In other words, be reasonable. Be calm. Be understanding and patient with those you disagree with. It’s a demand I’ve seen repeated elsewhere many times.

But there’s a reason Sanderson can be so reasonable. He’s not the one being spat on and beaten and burned (In front of a church, no less) and killed because of who he loves. He’s not being told he can’t bring his boyfriend to his own prom. Agents/editors aren’t rejecting his work because he wrote about LGBT characters. He’s not being denied basic rights, like the ability to visit his partner at the hospital. He’s not being told he can’t adopt a child he loves, a child who instead gets returned to an abusive home because the court feels that’s better than letting the child grow up with gay or lesbian parents.


But it’s easy to demand calm, “safe” discussion when you’re the one who’s safe and comfortable … it doesn’t strike me as a terribly reasonable demand.
In the comments thread was a link to a piece on being mean to "nice" people after they've posted something bigoted. Uh, right,
This "lovely person" just said they shouldn't get to worship as they please. This "generous, wonderful" human being just compared their relationships with other consenting adults to bestiality. This "great guy, really, when you know him" just said that they really wanted to be raped because look how they dress, or they deserve to go without medical coverage because they can't get a job.


And you think that me saying "boy howdy, that guy's a dick" is *me* being mean, or unnecessarily vitriolic, or whatever? I mean, I *am* mean, and I am vitriolic, and I wear those badges with a certain amount of pride,'re comparing "Hey, you're being a dipshit" with "Those people aren't fully human."
Finally in this political climate, friend Jim wright's Stonekettle Station trio of posts on America continue to go viral -- he's over a million hits. If you haven't read Jim before, have a stiff drink first -- but never have any food or beverage in your mouth while you're reading him. Because either humor or rage will decorate your screen and keyboard.

I Am Not A Perfect Human Being

But even I know that beating on people over who or what they are, and couching it in moral terms and God's love -- is neither moral nor very loving. Somehow wishing people of color or gayity or poverty would just disappear isn't going to happen. And politically, trying to paint 300 million Americans into your little corner of your choosing goes against the Declaration Of Independence and Constitution these people claim to love -- and cannot see that these were documents of compromise.

Meanwhile, soldiers of the Old Guard kept vigil at the Tomb of the Unknown throughout the storm of Irene, forsaking the nearby shelter as they always do. See, there are some people who still understand what honor and duty mean.

Somehow that means more to me than some asshat's ginned up attempt to use religion to justify their hatred and condone mistreatment based on race, language, sexual orientation, economic status, gender, country of origin, religion or any other flavor bigotry.

Dr. Phil

Another World

Oh, Really?

Friday and Sunday were travel days for us, to and from Milwaukee. Mrs. Dr. Phil had some accrued vacation days, so she took off today as well -- and we took the Sunday paper and our bagels downstairs to the kitty room, flew open the windows and had our Sunday morning on a Monday this week. (grin)

The paper had an Office Max 20% Off bag -- we need some paper and some HP 60 cartridges. And a review article on an SF film I'd never heard of. Oh yeah? And it's only playing at ONE theatre in town? That means it's not going to last long. So it's off to movies! And order a Joe Chicago's stuffed pizza when we get out and shop at Office Max while it bakes.

Another Earth [PG-13]
Celebration Rivertown Theatre #5, 4:50pm

This isn't your usual SF fare. There are two tales here. The SF part has to do with another Earth, a twin of our planet approaching us and the efforts to communicate with them. The mundane involves Rhoda, who celebrates getting into MIT at age 17 -- and on her way home smashes into another car killing the wife and the son and leaving the husband in a coma. And then it gets complicated.

You want a comparison? It's gonna be obscure. Start with the Doppelgänger movie Journey to the Far Side of the Sun, throw in some of the New Zealand indieness of The Quiet Earth and some scenes reminiscent of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Another Earth is beautifully filmed. There's a couple of scenes where floating dust motes are swirling in the light. Wow. This second Earth starts out as a blue dot in the night. But as the movie progresses, it gets closer and closer, usually seen near the Moon in the sky, with phases. Neat looking, though I have issues as discussed below. And despite the poster and pic below, there's plenty of dark and night in the film -- and better done than most.

This is a movie about choices -- binary choices -- one or the other. Some of the choices are infuriating, but tough. Parts of the movie are disturbing, even creepy, but in the end it works. I don't drink and I certainly don't drink-and-drive. But seeing how it messes a life up, might scare you straight.

Okay, I hear you scream, what about the science? Well, it's bogus. As in, either these guys knew their script was wrong and they didn't care, or they don't know all that much science and it doesn't matter because it's the metaphor of another Earth and not the literal that's important here. I mean, if an Earth-sized planet got inside the Moon's orbit, there'd be real consequences in orbital mechanics for all three bodies. And if it really is another Earth -- where's its Moon? And trust me, in four years we'd have repurposed a probe and gotten better data that these people had. The second Earth is big in the sky and you're relying on SETI?

Where it does a good job is (a) discuss the philosophical implications of the Copenhagen many-worlds quantum theory and (b) illustrates a nice background nattering of conspiracy types and nuts - - sometimes slyly done in the background.

And among those binary choices? There's a series of it could go one of two ways at the end all the way to the last scene -- which raises many more questions than it answers. Well played.

If you have a chance to see this on a big screen, please do.

Highly Recommended

Trailers: Since Another Earth was a Fox Searchlight film, we got a number of their trailers, including The Descendants with George Clooney. Also, Lucasfilms is doing Red Tails about the Tuskegee Airmen. Yay! We Will See That One.

Dr. Phil

PS -- Great pizza, as always!