Friday, August 26

Million Dollar Baby

I first saw Million Dollar Baby when I accidentally ended up on first class on my flight from France to the United States. I was so excited to have a choice of what to watch that I flipped through all of the programming options for the entire flight, so I ended up only seeing parts of the film. So I guess this ruined the mid-plot twist for me, but someone had accidentally slipped this to me earlier, so it wasn’t

Anyway, my friends gave me the movie for my birthday, and I watched the whole thing a few days ago. To put it simply, I hated it, but, like everything, it’s complicated, here I am writing about it. So, here we go. First of all, I need to say that I thought the execution was wonderful. The acting was top flight, as were the costumes and settings, though the heavy shading did weird me out a little. Just a little rant on Morgan Freeman here. I like the man and think he’s a fine actor, but he always plays the same character, a kind, trusting man with dignity, no matter his circumstances. It also respected the audience enough to make its many messages and plot lines subtle and not beat us over the head with them.

My problem with this film lies in its theme. Sorry if you haven’t seen this movie, but I’m going to ruin it for you here, so stop reading if you want to be surprised. Maggie had the Blue Bear cold in the title fight. I think it was clear enough that our hero would have had it not been for the cheating. Maggie reached the pinnacle of boxing in that fight. Then she breaks her neck and loses control of her body. The woman knows indignity, having to take unfinished steak, from her job at the cafĂ©, but she can’t deal with this. When Frankie tells her he’s going to get her “one of those wheelchairs you can operate with a straw” she asks him to kill her. He gives her the chance to start a new life, and she asks for death in return. She accomplished so much, growing beyond her white trash family and becoming the greatest welterweight woman boxer in the world, but is done at 33. She’s believes that there is nothing else she can do, and that disgusted me. So there. That’s my opinion. Go ahead and disagree.

Turning vice into virtue

One of the dominant themes in C. S. Lewis’ works is the tendency of humans to turn vices into virtues and visa versa. In The Great Divorce, the human allows her love for her deceased son to become an excuse for terrible actions. In The Screwtape Letters, Screwtape tells his nephew that the demons have been able to turn all vices into virtues except for cowardice. Finally, in Out of the Silent Planet, the Oyarsa of Malacandra reflects how the bent Oyarsa of our planet turned the virtue of loyalty to one’s species into a vice in the case of Weston.

It doesn’t take long to find overwhelming evidence of this on the Internet. In particular, I find the webzine Slate to be a particularly strong source of this. Now, before I really get into this, I would like to point out that I do enjoy reading most of Slate’s articles. They are generally of a very high quality, though I am put off by how their contributors seem to search for a chance to antagonize others and delight in controversy. First of all, Slate keeps an ad critic on its staff. It is this person’s job to tell us how effective various advertising schemes are, from Quizno’s talking baby to Geiko’s bait and switch to that cosmetic company’s real women/ curves. It’s pathetic that we need a professional to tell us how good these ads are in convincing us to more fully engage in consumerism. Here, the vice of gluttony has become the virtue of art.

Second, this isn’t Slate’s story so much as the New York Times’ but Slate devoted a lot of time to it. Originally the Times published an editorial or something by the author of a book on how television shows like 24 and The Sopranos and video games improve their viewers and players. I believe the title of his book was something like Everything that is bad for you is good for you. This guy was giving people an excuse for wasting more of their time on the couch. Anyway, a Slate writer took exception to some of his claims and wrote about them in an essay of his own. Eventually, the two ended up debating the issues that had been raised in another Slate article. This was great to see, and, in their debate, Slate’s writer raised some good points like that watching television only made you better at watching television and that no matter how much benefit there is to watching these shows. They’re still interrupted by commercials which would disrupt any improvement that was going on. One thing that really got me though was that no ever mentioned watching the news and trying to piece together everything that was going on there. I don’t care how complex and intelligent you can make a TV show, but it’ll never compare to real life. Besides, how many watchers of 24 can name the leaders of three other countries or even the secretary-general of the United Nations. My disgust with Slate here stems from giving this man and his book so much attention and for not mentioning these points.

My nature

When I was younger, my nature was simple. Starting around kindergarten, I identified a group as the “cool kids” and sought to emulate them. They bought Pogs and so did I. Then, for whatever reason, perhaps as a rebellion, in the third grade, I stopped acting like them. Of course I took it too far and became their opposites. I despised the sports they played and their attitudes. I actually maintained this personality for a long time, and it grew beyond being the opposite of the “cool kids.” In the 1996 election, I wanted Ross Perot to win solely because he was the third party candidate, and again in 2000, I wanted Ralph Nader to be elected for the same reason. I guess this was fostered by my German heritage. When you’re young, all any American knows about Germany is the Nazis. Well my grandfather emigrated from Cadolzburg, Germany and was proud of his nationality. Thus I took people’s insults about being a Nazi as a compliment, even though that certainly wasn’t what my grandfather intended.

Anyway, a few years ago, I was arguing with my friend about the virtues of communism, and he accused me of always taking the contrary side, no matter the issue. I took this to heart, examined my actions, and found it to be true. So, I changed. I still tend to take the more “out there” opinions, but now it’s for a better reason than simply because no one else believes in it.

The moral of this little story, if there is one, is the value of honesty. My friend was honest with me, and I was honest with myself. Had one of us not been honest, I may still be annoying and unnecessarily contrary.

Tuesday, August 16

Creation vs. Destruction

Has anyone else ever considered how much easier it is to destroy than it is to create? It's an idea I've been kicking around for a while now but only recently began to develop to any length.

Take a human creation for example. Let's say a vase because it's cliche. Without even meaning too, a person can walk into the pedestal it's sitting on and watch it shatter on the floor. Or any building. It takes an architect hours to draw up the blueprints, the contractors months to build it, and some moron with a can of lighter fluid and a match can seriously damage it if not completely destroy it.

Life is the same way. The human gestation period is roughly nine months. Before you even see light, your mother's been devoting nine months of energy into your existence. Then, take one wrong step or eat some bad meat and you're dead.

You don't even have to do anything if you want to destroy something. Entropy and time will eventually take care of.

Weapons though are an interesting phenomenon though. Creation with the intent of aiding destruction.

So, what does this all mean? Are there are practical uses of this tiny bit of philosophy? I don't know. Maybe as evidence supporting divine creation or intelligent design against random chance. Thoughts? Ideas?

Saturday, August 13

Why I don't write

Here I am, breaking another streak of silence and general lack of writing. What better way to end it, I figure than to reflect on why I don't write as often as I would like.

The problem certainly isn't time. I work roughly 40 hours a week, and my fairly decent Dance Dance Revolution skills attest to my copious amounts of otherwise inactive time. Neither is my block a lack of ideas. At first, it might have been, but now I'm devoting a lot more time to thinking about topics to write about. I can hardly keep track of them. In fact, I keep forgetting them and need to come up with new ideas. I don't care if anyone else is reading this either. I write for myself. So, embarassment at revealing whatever doesn't bother me.

Rather, I think my problem is laziness. Whenever the mood hits me, I think about the small amount of work and effort I'd have to put into writing, and I just turn on the Playstation and dance. That's pretty pathetic. Hopefully I've shamed myself into not doing that anymore and will write on a more regular schedule now.