Saturday, January 09, 2010
Rahul Goswami, Energy Bulletin
The veneration of the automobile is a custom that is gradually, steadily becoming more commonplace in urban India. The global auto industry's major manufacturers are betting on it, India's central government is betting on it, and tens of thousands of new customers in India are delivering that bet.
Shane Mulligan, The Oil Drum
There is a train crash about to happen from an energy point of view. But politicians everywhere seem to have entirely missed the scale of the problem… [G]overnments and multilateral agencies have failed to recognize the imminence and scale of the global oil supply crunch, and most of them remain completely unprepared for its consequences.
I'm not going to talk about the religion/worldview of the movie, whether it is pantheistic or something else. I don't have anything against the moral of the tale, or the exaltation of those who live in community and in harmony with nature over the industrialists who seek only to consume natural resources and nature without limit, destroying creation in the process. What really irritated me about the movie was the other aspects of PC multiculturalism. The accents of the Na'vi? At least one Native American (West Studi); I don't know about the accents of the chief's wife and the suitor. (African and Caribbean?) Were the Navi all speaking one language?
The mercs and the representatives of the evil side of the corporation? With the noticeable exception of one black colonial marine/mercenary, everyone else was a white male. Sure, on the good side there is Sigourney Weaver, who is white, but also female. Michelle Rodriguez is Latina. The other Avatar driver and the lab tech are white, and so is Sam Worthington's character, the protagonist who ultimately switches sides to defend the natives of Pandora. Jake Sully is a cripple. The other two white guys are rather beta; Sam Worthington is a former alpha who becomes an alpha by inhabitating another body. He is no longer handicapped with respect to his body and mind, but is freed by being Na'vi.
Let us think about this -- the story takes place in the future, and we are to think that the Colonial Marines are dominated by white people? Unlikely, given present demographic trends. But could James Cameron and the others involved in making the film go after Asians or Africans, or representatives of America's current minorities? No. It's safest to pick on white males, for the sake of not alienating anyone else and losing their movie money.
Can we justify this by saying that if the hero is white, then the villains must also be white? Then why include any non-white characters at all?
What is even more laughable is the setting up of an egalitarian "tree-hugging" tribe which has no real parallel in human history. In Na'vi society, the women are warriors, and in charge of religion as well. If Cameron was going to justify this, he should at least depict the women as being equal in size to the men; but no, the females are smaller in size and build than the males, as is the case with human beings. Tribes on Earth had clearly defined sex roles, and many, by considering women as absolute inferiors, did sanction the mistreatment and exploitation of women.
As for Eywa intervening to defend the planet and repulse the human attackers... that seemed rather fantastic, even if it makes sense within the context of the film. Up to that point, was the battle plausible? I'm not sure.
The movie would have been more enjoyable if the story hadn't been so overwrought and predictable; that Cameron is another enforcer of the cultural Marxist orthodoxy is disappointing.
He spent all that time and effort to make this? I was expecting more.
Over at The American Scene: Avatar Offers Us a Unique World Where We Can Reflect on the Inescapable Conflicts Man Always Has And Always Will Face
Friday, January 08, 2010
Will this make up for Avatar? (More on that movie later.)
USDA Data Dispels Myths About Westlands Farmers
The "Astroturf" campaign by corporate agribusiness to build a peripheral canal and more dams to increase Delta water exports has relentlessly promoted the myth that crops grown on drainage-impaired land on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley "feed the nation" or "feed the world."
The corporate media and even some "alternative" media outlets have bought into this myth in their coverage of the California water wars, portraying the conflict as one between hard-working farmers like those portrayed in the classic Grant Wood painting who only want "feed America" versus "radical environmentalists" who want to protect a "minnow" like the Delta smelt.
Is the amount of food produced easily correlated with the amount of gross income it generates?
I listened on the radio this morning, mouth agape, as the journalist assigned to intelligence by her newspaper opined that President Obama sounded "too harsh" as he erupted about the rampant incompetence in what the apologists love to call the "intelligence community." Of course, it has proven itself over the years as neither particularly intelligent nor a community. Mostly, it has proven itself -- or rather its leadership -- expendable.
That horde of bureaucratic self-groomers (i.e., the intelligence community leadership) has been screwing up for decades. The consistency in giving its seniors in the White House what they want, rather than what they need, is truly remarkable. It ranges from the persistently wrong, grotesquely overstated estimates of the military capabilities of the old Soviet Union to completely missing that imperial bureaucracy's collapse to the habitual screw ups in modern (terrorist) times, the latest of which has been dissected endlessly since Christmas Day.
The only other thing the "intelligence community" seems to be good at (other than consistently missing trends of huge importance) is bureaucratic infighting. It does this, quite well, at two levels. The disparate elements have successfully kept themselves at each others' throats inside the US Government, refusing to interact even well enough to share computerized data -- a stunning accomplishment in itself. Effortlessly, it also warded off the feckless attempts of the famous 9/11 Commission to encourage it learn how to "connect the dots." Good work, boys.
So let us hear no more criticism of the fraud, waste, and mismanagement of US foreign aid. People like Doug Bandow and myself have been fools to complain that too much of the assistance ends up in the hands of military dictators and warlords who oppress their people. As Madame Clinton now reveals, that is the whole point. Buy off the dirty buggers with food parcels and old-tech weaponry that dazzle them into temporary subservience. Who cares how many people they kill or how much opium they produce. They’re working for us, damn it, they’re working for us.
What sort of clothing do we consider as formal wear, or clothing that is suitably dignified? How much of this is determined by our associations of such clothing with the leisured classes or the wealthy, or from associations made by those who have come before us and have been passed down as tradition or custom? Do the tastes of the elites set the standard for everyone else? (Have they been replaced in modern times by fashion designers?)
Certain societies (for example, imperial China) have sumptuary laws that prevent other classes from imitating the elites in what they wear and so on. Much of this is based on the value of the material used or the value of what was produced (which was related to how much work was required in making the article of clothing, along with the cost of the materials and so on).
What is the difference between business casual and business formal? Just the absence of a tie and the coat or jacket? Casual business wear is often not tailored (with the exception of the slacks, perhaps). A rumpled suit or one that is off-the-rack and ill-fitting or poorly-tailored give the same impression, that the wearer is showing a lack of respect to others by not taking care of his appearance, or that his authority is not to be taken seriously. What if he doesn't know how to dress properly, or he can't afford a tailored suit?
Tailors were well-employed by those with money, but their services were not limited only to the wealthy. The traditional elites gradually lost their property and status, though they may have some sort of nominal rank that has no bearing on their function within society. Their influence on fashion has been replaced mostly by the more affluent of the bourgeoisie. (And the designers they patronize.) It may be that very few of the modest home economies produced their own formal and semi-formal wear. But by producing everything else, money could be saved to purchase clothing? How skewed is our present view of clothing and fashion standards, when the costs of the political economy are hidden to us?
If just the shirt and pants were tailored would we still think that the outfit is "casual"? Do we need extra layers of clothing in order to convey importance? Is there an intrinsic connection between the number of layers and the ability to "radiate power and prestige"? What makes for human male plumage? Do we instead rely upon quality of the fabric and the extras as a marker of social status and wealth? What if we live in a hotter climate?
In my opinion, if business formal is reduced to a shirt and tie (a relic of the cravat) because it is too hot, one should probably not be wearing a tie either -- clothing customs should not be transplanted from colder climates to warmer climates. More climate-appropriate clothing should be developed. (Some traditionalists believe priests should wear a cassock everywhere, even in missionary territories in Africa or some other tropical region.) The modern Western suit is derived from court fashion in Northern Europe and elsewhere; it was worn regardless of the temperature outside. This was not a source of discomfort during colder times, but to wear a jacket when it is hot and humid? This does not seem to be very rational--a case of duty and appearance over comfort? Or it may be that we prefer what is familiar to us; we may try to replicate in a new environment what we have left behind. But why can't one have noble appearance and comfort? Is the "tyranny of unthinking custom" holding us back? Rather than wear something more sensible, we instead consume a lot of electricity for air conditioning.
Our received forms of clothing may be a custom unto itself. But what prevents innovation? Does it have to be gradual in order to be legitimate? What of the transformation of the jacket, which might be characterized as a gradual reduction in length and elimination of other parts (an excessive number of buttons, for example)? The waistcoat/vest has fallen into disuse, for the most part. (Except as a part of formal wear.) Who should be introducing change? Our so-called fashion designers? And why should one bourgeois standard apply to all? Americans like to think of themselves as egalitarians -- perhaps that is the biggest obstacle preventing different trades and classes from having their specific standards for clothing.
Now, it may be that the elites nonetheless continue wearing a tie and expect this from those who are subordinate to them. Should they have this much power over a society? Wage slaves may not have a choice; if they wish to have a job they will have to adhere to the company dress code.
I'm starting to enjoy wearing dress shirts more, but the ones that are off-the-rack are, as one might expect, ill-fitting.
Edit. (1/28/10) See this post at The Spearhead: Outside Observations
Edit. (2/13/02) Rod Dreher on piercings and other forms of body mutilation.
Thursday, January 07, 2010
Currency manipulation creates a 25% subsidy on China's exports, creating an effective barrier to the genuine free trade that would benefit the United States. Until the US has a president prepared to stand up to China on this issue, it will be impossible for the country to create the 9 million jobs needed to bring unemployment down. - Peter Morici
(Is the fate of the newspaper tied to that of the Legionaries?)
I'll have to look at the curriculum again --
Pointing out a neo-Benedictine revival of lectio divina (prayerful reading of the Bible) and Scripture studies in Benedict’s other speeches, Fahey said the college’s new sequence for theology is scriptural and Benedictine.
Another plus: All students learn to sing the Divine Office and pray lauds and vespers together. In the yearlong “Way of Beauty” tutorial, freshmen learn not only about sacred art, but also hands-on icon “writing.”
There is also a significant change in the required eight semesters of humanities. Zmirak points out the new curriculum is carefully designed to teach the history of the West chronologically, starting with the epic of Gilgamesh and going through Vatican II and Spe Salvi (Saved in Hope).
Fahey likened the previous approach to a merry-go-round. “A freshman got on wherever the college was at that point,” he said. “He might start in the Renaissance and end in the Middle Ages. A student had to grapple with Luther when he hadn’t yet read Augustine or St. Paul.”
Jonathan Reyes, president of Catholic Charities in Denver and founding president of the Augustine Institute there, is familiar with Thomas More’s readjusted and revised curriculum and considers it “superb.” He says the college is ready to rebuild Catholic culture through education and formation.
“It’s exactly what we need at this moment to recover Western civilization, fully understanding the debt of the Catholic tradition,” Reyes said. “Precisely in our cultural crisis we need to recover that tradition. In a strange way, it’s cutting-edge tradition.”
The part about the internship program is interesting -- perhaps there is a growing awareness that liberal arts colleges need to be able to justify the expense of the education and their own existence by helping their students to secure appropriate jobs after graduation. The internships are usually with Catholic organizations. I wonder if this doesn't run the risk of "ghettoization" for the students, though. Some would say that the students need to be prepared to deal with people who do not share their faith, or to participate in the new evangelization. I just think that it will not be possible for all of the graduates of the decent Catholic colleges in this country to get employment with a Catholic organization, and they must be willing to consider other sources of employment. Given the state of the economy and the reliance of many Catholic organizations on donations, the number of jobs may even decrease.
1. Television writers and scripts have probably gotten worse over the years, not better--this is even true of the BBC. Some claim RTD is good at writing dialogue for the characters, when they are having special personal moments. (See, for example, the comments over at Gallifrey Base.) But how is this different from saying that he is good at writing melodrama? All these personal moments, are they more likely to appeal to men or to women? At any rate, it seems incontestable among Doctor Who fans that RTD is bad at writing sci-fi. He also doesn't know how to write a plot.
Steven Moffat may have written a few good episodes; we'll see how he does as show-runner and writer. I still think the decision to cast Matt Smith was a poor one -- why does the Doctor need to be young in order to appeal to children? He doesn't -- but he may need to be young in order to appeal to teenagers and young adults? Or to a certain demographic with which RTD identifies?
2. Doctor Who was originally a children's show -- if it was to remain as such, then it must be age-approropriate, catering to today's children, not children of the '60s and '70s. Is this what the producers thought? Maybe, maybe not. But the product does seem to be made for children with an attention deficit and can't really follow a difficult story. This is not true of all of the stories -- some episodes are better than others. But it seems particularly true of those written by RTD. Would the producers be interested in bringing old Who back, with its slow stories? Does the show mirror the general decline of society? There is more action and silly humor with a faster pace of story-telling, making Doctor Who to be more a cartoon than like the old BBC sci-fi series of the past.
(Was RTD really influenced by Joss Whedon, Scooby-Doo, and who knows what else?)
The new 1 hour-episode format is perfect for that sort of urgency and may even require it, but the quality suffers as a result. I prefer the previous format, stories divided into 25 minute parts. Sometimes the stories dragged a bit as a result, but that could have been fixed with better pacing and writing.
The same sort of comparison holds between classic Star Trek and JJ Abrams's version. (The old Star Trek episodes were about 50 minutes long -- were their stories as complicated as the those of the new Who episodes?)
I might be accused of selective memory, forgetting the bad episodes of the old Doctor Who. I don't deny there were episodes that were really stupid. But the old Who could be a show for both children to adults, without requiring the adults to have the intelligence of children. In contrast, the new Who panders to the worse sort of immaturity. It's more likely to lower IQ than raise it.
"Whoever Serves and Helps Is at the Same Time Helped and Served" [2010-01-07]
Could Sant'Egidio be described as a lay movement dedicated to the corporal works of mercy? How are their liturgies/paraliturgies? Does the community have an official book of prayer? Does this supplant the liturgy of the hours?
The movement is noted for its stance against the death penalty. Is it too globalist? The Church is made up of those who have been baptized, regardless of their nation, but She cannot be identified simply with all of the believers qua members of certain political communities (or nations or political communities taken as a whole). The Church may not have borders, but political communities do, and must have borders for the sake of order and the common good, in so far as communities are separate from one another. Political communities cannot but be separate, even if their hearts have been renewed by the Holy Spirit, if they are to rightly meet the aspirations of their members as citizens.
Community of Sant'Egidio HOME
Community of Sant'Egidio USA
Zenit profile archived at EWTN
A decent exposition of faction politics, and how those with money and economic power have a louder voice than those who don't.
So as the Dark Ages gave way to less chaotic times, legal codes in England and elsewhere replaced wergild with punishments that were a good deal less easy to shrug off. This is why natural persons who are convicted of felonies, by and large, can’t get away with just paying a fine; they go to jail, or if the crime is heinous enough and it happens in a jurisdiction with capital punishment, they die. While it has its failings, this approach to antisocial behavior generally works a good deal more effectively than the wergild principle.
I don't know if this is accurate -- the supplementing of "civil" cases with "criminal" cases could mean that the governing authority recognied that not only was an individual or his family harmed in such crimes, but society as well.
Gene Logsdon, The Contrary Farmer
When visitors ask what our main crop is on our little farm, they look a bit startled when I reply “wood.” They look even more startled when I say the reason wood is important to us is that it brings tranquility to our lives.
Wednesday, January 06, 2010
Tuesday, January 05, 2010
Shepherd Bliss, Energy Bulletin
Leaves are one of nature’s most miraculous creations. They tie it all together. They rise from the ground, reach to the sky, and bring life to the Earth. Leaves do many good things—manufacture food for trees and other plants, use the sun’s energy to transform carbon dioxide into carbohydrates, and decompose water (H2O) into oxygen and hydrogen.
American economist Paul Krugman's claims that China is following a predatory mercantilist policy to keep its trade surplus artificially high errs in several ways, not least that only the United States, these days, is placed to pursue mercantilism. - Henry C K Liu
Gene Logsdon, The Contrary Farmer
Relax, fellow farmers and gardeners. From now on everything is going to come up roses and sunshine. A magical and mysterious soil has been discovered deep in the Amazon (roll of drums, please) that will double and triple your yields and grow tomatoes as big as basketballs.
Dennis Meadows, The Oil Drum
Much of the way that we conduct ourselves is based on habit. For example, we get into the habit of crossing our arms with our right hand (or left hand) on top. It is not that putting the right hand or left hand on top is better or worse. We have just developed a habit of crossing our arms in a particular way.
Monday, January 04, 2010
SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO Goes Live Action!