Despite those titles, power, and pelf, The wretch, concentred all in self, Living, shall forfeit fair renown, And, doubly dying, shall go down To the vile dust from whence he sprung, Unwept, unhonoured and unsung.
- Walter Scott, Scottish Novelist and Poet (1771-1832)
Books and Movies
Last night, the wife and I went to seetheinterview.com and for $6 we got to see what the most infamous movie of the 21st century was all about.
After my initial excitement earlier in the month, I saw one commercial with a couple lame clips and heard a few murmurs (including a leaked email from a Sony exec calling the movie “desperately unfunny“) which started lowering my expectations, but we began watching the movie with an open mind. From the beginning, it was typical Seth Rogen fare – drug addled, kind of juvenile, lots of jokes about dudes being gay – but Pineapple Express and This Is the End had me laughing pretty hard, so I had no problem going along with it.
For the first half-hour, my running evaluation had it as “worth watching”, though not much more, but as the movie progressed, it really did get better and better. What had me surprised was how much my wife began cracking up once the movie really got into gear with Kim Jung-il, she’s pretty conservative and anything gratuitous (drugs, sex, swearing, whatever) usually has her flustered a bit, but the movie was making her laugh hard enough to overcome all but a few objections.
I won’t give away any spoilers, but I will say that the movie pulls no punches in telling just how evil that fat little tyrant really is. It’s a pretty silly romp for the most part, no surprise that critics are split at 49% positive, and while a 70% positive rating from the regular fans isn’t stellar, you can definitely count me in with the 70%. I give it rating of 4.5 / 5.
We went fully thematic that night and made it a North Korean trilogy, following The Interview with Team America: World Police and National Geographic’s incredible documentary Inside North Korea. Crazy fare for a Christmas Eve, but then again what could be more Christ-like than to take a few hours and turn our attention to some of the most brutalized and destitute people on the face of the Earth.
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Ah, the small screen. The boob tube. That little red-headed stepchild of the Hollywood blockbuster. Sure there have been quite a few classic TV shows through the years and at its best it could be masterful, but for all of its decades, most of what the television was offering up was something that made you feel like your IQ had just dropped a point or two by the end of the show. They don’t call it the idiot box for nothing.
So we’re looking for something to watch on Netflix, trying to find something rated a good four stars out of five, but I’m leaning towards a movie because I’m not sure I’m ready for the long-term commitment of an entire TV series and I keep noticing, almost all the new movies are rated three stars or less and most of the new television shows are rated four stars or five.
I started musing on it and I’m thinking of just how many outrageously good TV shows we’ve enjoyed in recent years, binge-watching through season after season from the beginning to the end, enjoying every aspect of these shows, the writing, the acting, the production and then I think about how many recent movies I’ve seen that just seem to fall flat. Suddenly, it hits me and I wonder, have we reached a strange new age where the best of the best in television is even better than the best of the best at the movies?
Now that’s something I never thought I might one day wonder.
What do you think?
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I think there is a special place in hell reserved for people who build their entire careers profiting on peddling grievances to different ethnic groups, pushing people into adopting a victimhood mentality and serving to widen the racial divide all the while.
Thankfully, a book like Thomas Sowell’s collection of six essays entitled, Black Rednecks and White Liberals does a wonderful job in bringing balance to the skewed perspectives and in obliterating the lies the race hucksters have managed to push into popular circulation.
Allow me to share just a few small samples from the preface and the first essay in the book. I hope it inspires you to read and learn from what Mr. Sowell has to teach.
First, from the preface: . . .
Race and rhetoric have gone together for so long that it is easy to forget that facts also matter – and these facts often contradict many widely held beliefs… The purpose of this book is to expose some of the more blatant misconceptions poisoning race relations in our time. The reasons for these misconceptions range from simple, innocent ignorance to reasons that are far from simple and far from innocent.
From the opening lines of the very first essay, I was completely drawn in:
‘These people are creating a terrible problem in our cities. They can’t or won’t hold a job, they flout the law constantly and neglect their children, they drink too much and their moral standards would shame an alley cat. For some reason or other, they absolutely refuse to accommodate themselves to any kind of decent, civilized life.’ This was said in 1956 in Indianapolis, not about blacks or other minorities, but about poor whites from the South. Nor was Indianapolis unique in this respect. A 1951 survey in Detroit found that white Southerners living there were considered “undesirable” by 21 percent of those surveyed, compared to 13 percent who ranked blacks the same way.
You hope that every person gets a chance to be judged on their own merits as an individual, but in the common practice of judging groups of people, it is interesting to note from these examples that most people are far more concerned with the reputation a group earns by its behaviors than by any difference that might exist in skin color.
Sowell shares this, however, as a flash forward before beginning an exposition on the origins of common white American southerners:
Most of the common white people of the South came from the northern borderlands of England — for centuries a no-man’s land between Scotland and England — as well as from the Scottish highlands and from Ulster County, Ireland. All these fringe areas were turbulent, if not lawless, regions, where none of the contending forces was able to establish full control and create a stable order. Whether called a “Celtic fringe” or “north Britons,” these were people from outside the cultural heartland of England, as their behavior on both sides of the Atlantic showed. Before the era of modern transportation and communication, sharp regional differences were both common and persistent.
Now had Sowell been a white man describing blacks in the following passage, the charges of racism would be unending. Thank goodness that as a black man, Sowell has the freedom to paint an honest picture here:
The cultural values and social patterns prevalent among Southern whites included an aversion to work, proneness to violence, neglect of education, sexual promiscuity, improvidence, drunkenness, lack of entrepreneurship, reckless searches for excitement, lively music and dance, and a style of religious oratory marked by strident rhetoric, unbridled emotions, and flamboyant imagery.
My favorite part in that passage is that when you see it written in print or in the ebook, you’ll see that every single descriptive phrase is cross referenced to historical sources for a total of ten footnotes in just this one sentence alone. The book is meticulously researched and you can rest assured that Mr. Sowell is not just pulling these characterizations from thin air.
Centuries before “black pride” became a fashionable phrase, there was cracker pride — and it was very much the same kind of pride. It was not pride in any particular achievement or set of behavioral standards or moral principles adhered to. It was instead a touchiness about anything that might be even remotely construed as a personal slight, much less an insult, combined with a willingness to erupt into violence over it. New Englanders were baffled about this kind of pride among crackers. Observing such people, the Yankees “could not understand what they had to feel proud about.”
Can’t you just imagine northerners encountering these southerners all puffed up with pride and the Yankees just shaking their heads trying to figure out what the heck these crackers have to feel so proud about in the first place? (Note: if you’ve ever read William Faulkner, his stories abound with vivid portraits of just these kinds of redneck southerners.)
As in the previous passage, Sowell proceeds to back up his characterizations with many recorded observations from then and now. It’s amazing to me though, imagining that all that false bravado and boasting you hear in the typical rap song could really have come from the influence white southern rednecks, a centuries old rehash of braggarts trying to compensate for feelings of inferiority stretching back to their origins as the downtrodden fleeing England.
Cue the white liberals:
Those who provide black rednecks with alibis do no favor to them, to other blacks, or to the larger society in which we all live. In American society, achievement is what ultimately brings respect, including self-respect. Only for those who have written off blacks’ potential for achievement will alibis be an acceptable substitute. The liberal vision of blacks’ fate as being almost wholly in the hands of whites is a debilitating message for those blacks who take it seriously, however convenient it may be for those who are receptive to an alibi.
We’re just scratching the surface here, that’s just half-a-dozen quotes from the very first essay and as you get to know him, you’ll find that Sowell’s real genius is how he elaborates and expounds upon his assertations. After the essay, Black Rednecks and White Liberals from which the book is named, the book continues with five more essays on race and history:
- Are Jews Generic?
- The Real History of Slavery
- Germans and History
- Black Education: Achievements, Myths, and Tragedies
- History Versus Visions
I can’t even do the rest of the essays justice with a quick one or two line summary (the Wikipedia page does an admirable job at that) so I’ll suffice it to say that not a single essay among them isn’t thought provoking and most of them will challenge what you thought you knew about race relations and history. I can’t recommend this book highly enough.
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It’s my 400th post here at the blog, and what better way to celebrate it than by giving a plug to the best thing on television in years.
The History Channel’s five episode, ten-hour epic production of “The Bible” has been absolutely fantastic through the first three episodes. It’s hard to imagine trying to distill the Old Testament and the New Testament into a mere ten-hours of move making, but the husband and wife team of producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey (who also plays Mother Mary) do an unbelievable job with it and it’s well worth watching.
Episode four is premiering this coming Palm Sunday, March 24. If you missed any of the previous three episodes, take heart because you can set your DVR rolling and catch all four episodes to watch at your own convenience or if you’re really hardcore, you can make it a true marathon and try to sit through all eight hours. The Palm Sunday airings are in bold.
Premiere Date: March 03, 2013 – 08:00-10:00PM
Noah endures God’s wrath; Abraham reaches the Promised Land but still must prove his faith in God; Moses leads the Israelites out of Egypt, and his faith in God is rewarded when the Red Sea parts to allow the Israelites to escape Pharaoh’s chariots; Moses delivers his final message from God–the Ten Commandments.
March 24, 2013 – 02:00-04:00PM
March 31, 2013 – 12:00-02:00PM
Premiere Date: March 10, 2013 – 08:00-10:00PM
Joshua conquers Jericho; Delilah betrays Samson as the Israelites battle the Philistines; Samuel anoints David king, a move that could throw the nation into civil war; Saul is consumed with jealousy when David defeats Goliath; King David ushers in a golden age for Israel, but is soon seduced by power and lust for Bathsheba; God forgives David, and his son, Solomon, builds God’s temple in Jerusalem.
March 24, 2013 – 04:00-06:00PM
March 31, 2013 – 02:00-04:00PM
Premiere Date: March 17, 2013 – 08:00-10:00PM
The Jews are enslaved in Babylon; Daniel is thrown into the lions’ den, but when his faith endures and God spares him, the Jews are allowed to return to Jerusalem; the Angel Gabriel tells Mary she will bear a child; Joseph takes Mary to Bethlehem for the census, where Jesus is born; the Holy family escapes Herod’s order to kill Bethlehem’s male babies; Judea comes under the ruthless rule of Pilate; John baptizes Jesus, who is now ready to take on his mission–and his revolution.
March 21, 2013 – 01:01-03:03AM
March 24, 2013 – 06:00-08:00PM
March 30, 2013 – 08:00-10:00PM
March 31, 2013 – 12:01-02:01AM
March 31, 2013 – 04:00-06:00PM
Premiere Date: March 24, 2013 – 08:00-10:00PM
Jesus feeds the crowds in Galilee and brings a dead man, Lazarus, back to life; Jesus enters Jerusalem riding on a donkey–a declaration that he is the Messiah; Jesus turns on the money-changers in the Temple; Caiphas coaxes Judas into betraying Jesus; Jesus throws the disciples into turmoil at the Last Supper; Jesus is arrested and condemned to death as the disciples scatter.
March 25, 2013 – 12:01-02:01AM
March 27, 2013 – 09:00-11:02PM
March 28, 2013 – 01:01-03:03AM
March 30, 2013 – 10:00-12:02AM
March 31, 2013 – 02:01-04:03AM
March 31, 2013 – 06:00-08:00PM
Premiere Date: March 31, 2013 – 08:00-10:00PM
Peter denies Jesus and Judas hangs himself; the crowd clamors for Jesus’s death; Jesus is crucified, but when Mary Magdalene goes to his tomb, a figure walks towards her–he is back; Jesus commissions the disciples to “go and preach to all creation,” but their godly mission meets with hatred and even death; Paul has a vision and experiences a miraculous change of faith on a journey to Damascus; John receives a revelation–Jesus is coming back, and all who keep the faith will be rewarded.
rebroadcasts to be announced
Important note: these times are for the standard-definition version of the History Channel across all time zones. If you want to record from the high-def History Channel (at least for me on Cox Cable out on the West Coast) all start times are three hours earlier, so my high-def History Channel version of “Episode One: Beginnings”, actually starts at 11am PST instead of 2pm. You’ll have to check your listings to see if all your high-def airings are rooted to a 2pm EST broadcast plan according to your respective time zones.
More good reads on the series: The Bible Beat American Idol in ratings? Yes indeed, an epic miniseries airing on a cable channel pulled in a higher rating than all programs in it’s Sunday time slot and even managed to beat the former kind of ratings, American Idol in it’s Wednesday broadcast later that week.
Episode three caused a firestorm of controversy when Satan made his first appearance in trying to tempt Christ at the end of his forty days wondering the desert. For the very first moment you saw him, the resemblence was so uncanny, you would have thought it was Obama himself cast in the role. Of course, the producers say they believe Obama is a good Christian and that any resemblance is purely coincidental, but take a look at the split screen and tell me if you think Satan and Obama are dead ringers.
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There is no way this is a coincidence. Move the mole from the chin up to the nose and they are dead ringers:
Now don’t blame me for reporting this or making the comparison, because judging by the twitter hashtag #TheBible while the show was airing on History Channel last night, at the end of Christ’s forty days in the desert, I was only one among millions who had the exact same thought the moment Satan first appeared – OMG, they cast Barack Obama as Satan!
Now before my liberal friends get to hysterical about any mentions of Satan and Obama, it would be well to remember that there were far more people calling Bush the Antichrist during his presidency than there have been people claiming that Obama’s the Antichrist (despite the fact that Obama’s opposition has a much deeper evangelical base.) Regardless, both comparisons are equally loony.
While Obama may have more of the charisma The Bible describes in the Antichrist, neither president comes anywhere near to being the supremely intelligent and diabolical genius that Satan is in The Bible. The media may have been successful in convincing many Americans that Obama would be the great intellectual president of our times, but reality is, there’s a reason Obama’s kept his college transcripts under lock and key and when you take the man away from his teleprompter and all the softball questions lobbed at him by his adoring media, I would argue Obama’s not even as smart as Bush. You could see this during the debates, both in the Democrat primaries and in the presidential debates, any time Obama was forced away from his scripted answers, he was completely outclassed by his debate opponents in both parties.
So no, while I won’t subscribe to any theory of Obama being the Antichrist, I can tell you this – the Devil does exist, he tries to tempt each and every one of us every day in our lives, and in working through his minions in the American media, the Devil was able to get his candidate into the White House.