Archive for September, 2004

couple o’ things

Wednesday, September 29th, 2004

Here is an interesting interview with the author of a new book about Peter Jackson. (I’m not just saying that because I know the interviewer 🙂
Just read a thing about The Royal Tenenbaums, which reminded me of something I thought about it when I saw it–did it remind anybody else of J.D. Salinger’s Glass family (yet another link to amazon)? For the longest time I kept thinking the movie must be based on them somehow, although the story wound up having little to do with any of the Glass stories. (Update: Google. Is there anything it can’t do?)
anyway…that’s all I really have to say today…

my birthday present (insert your own Gollum joke)

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2004

My birthday occurred a few weeks ago, and for it I got a new computer–a Macintosh! I haven’t used a Macintosh since 1995, when I used to borrow my neighbor’s old boxy type one to check my email and read X-Files fanfic (my senior year in college was notably lacking in riotousness). Before that, I used one for my high school newspaper, when it would frequently make whatever story I was writing disappear just before it was due.
The Mac and I are getting along much better these days though. I still had Windows 95 on my old computer, which was getting to be a nightmare–none of the newer versions of the applications would run on it, many things just weren’t working any more, and it crashed more than I would have liked. So pretty much any computer would have been an improvement, but I’m really enjoying the Mac. I’m getting used to the commands and am having fun exploring some of the new programs. It’s so nice having a new version of Word to work with for school–my old one was getting very quirky.
So it is a pretty terrific present, and makes school work much more efficient and fun. It also makes web surfing more efficient and fun, though, so school work still has some competition.

movie review: Unforgiven

Monday, September 20th, 2004

Andy and I watched the movie Unforgiven yesterday. I remember it being super popular when it came out. One time when I was at the video rental store returning a movie, some guy approached me to ask if it was Unforgiven, because you just couldn’t get ahold of it for a long time after it was released on video (yes, children, this took place long long ago before Blockbuster had that “guaranteed in stock” thing). However, I really didn’t know anything about the movie and it probably never would have occurred to me to watch it if Andy hadn’t suggested it. I’m glad I did though.


a little knowledge is a dangerous thing

Friday, September 17th, 2004

but sometimes having no idea whatsoever what you are doing works out fine. I managed to successfully change the template (per Movable Style) despite having no clue what it is I was doing. It kind of reminds me of pre-calculus. Score one for ignorance!
Now I just have to wait until Andy can help me spruce it up some more…

one heck of a labor-dabor

Wednesday, September 8th, 2004

The urge to quote Homestar Runner cartoons has finally proved overwhelming. I’m a song from the sixties!
The Labor Day weekend was good. Monday we went to Saugatuck and looked at some boats and wandered around town. We saw the movie Hero which was quite good, if rather heavy on the propaganda as I had been warned.
Other highlights of the weekend involved food, as all good highlights do. On Friday we braved the rain to have a cookout with some intrepid friends at scenic Dwight Lydell park (everything has a web page these days), and Friday we went to an Indian restaurant with friends.
In conclusion, I would like to note that I’m a fiercely independent woman, and I’m fiercely independent about the soy products that I choose.

what’s the matter with Christians?

Friday, September 3rd, 2004

The other night at Schuler I picked up (and by that I mean picked up, not bought) a book called What’s the Matter with Kansas? I have no immediate plans to read the book, but don’t see why that should stop me talking about it, at least in passing. Its main argument is that Kansans consistently vote for the party which is least likely to protect their own (agricultural, blue-collar) interests, because that party purports to uphold conservative moral values on abortion, gay marriage, or what-have-you. I have, with difficulty, restrained myself from posting a critique of this premise without having read the book; but the reason it drew my attention is that I have recently been wondering why certain sets of political/moral/social beliefs seem to come as an indissoluble package in this country. Are the beliefs of conservatives or liberals, or the platforms of the political parties related functionally? Are they derived from underlying core value systems? Or are they merely cobbled together for political expediency? Is the Kansas factory worker voting for values which ultimately undermine his/her own material position, or have these values been artificially joined with a set of economic policies which bear no necessary relationship to these values? If the latter, what are those of us who are Kansans at heart to do–sacrifice our values in order to (allegedly) improve our material situation? Is it indeed the case that we must choose between our moral values and our own self-interest, and if so what is the alternative?
Growing up, I was given to believe that Republicans were more successful at winning the presidency and such than Democrats because they were more unified. Republicans shared fairly conservative social values, were in basic agreement on laissez-faire economic policies, and believed in a strong national defense as the main (or some might say only) function of the federal government. Democrats, on the other hand, seemed to represent widely varying groups of people with an array of conflicting beliefs and interests, united only in favoring a more interventionist government. Blue collar union workers, civil rights activists, Dixiecrats, feminists, pro-choice activists, various religious groups with rigidly tradional moral values but favoring expanded welfare systems–all were Democrats but one could hardly expect them to agree on much, or even manage to be in the same room together for more than five minutes without fireworks.
I think things have changed, and I see two emblems of this change: Bill Clinton and the rise of the religious right. I think that Clinton unified Democrats, liberals, and moderates as never before. He belonged to a conservative religious denomination, yet consistently favored what one might call secular morality on issues like abortion. He and Gore talked like liberals when it came to the environment, health care, welfare, etc.; but their actual policies appeared to me to be very moderate. Most importantly, Clinton was just the kind of guy everyone liked. When most of us try fence-sitting in an attempt to please both sides, we end up making both sides hate us; but Clinton pulled it off. A lot of people could find at least some common ground with him, and rather than just putting up with the rest of it for political expediency, they heartily forgave him for it. I think Reagan was the same way. There’s no way anyone could get elected, or at least re-elected, with Reagan’s policies today. Maybe that had something to do with the Cold War or a different economic and political landscape, but I think it mostly had to do with his personality. He was way more conservative than, say, our current president; yet he was hugely popular while Bush draws forty kinds of ire from all sides, despite his moderate social policies and the fact that most of this ire is based upon allegations of lying and manipulation which have been proved untrue.
Then there’s the Religious Right. This represents a package of social, moral, and economic beliefs and policies which has, ostensibly, conservative Christianity as a basis; but which includes items which don’t seem to have any logical or necessary relationship to Christianity. Issues such as abortion and gay marriage have clear links to Biblical morality. However, why is opposition to gun control linked to Christianity? Nothing in the Bible or Christian tradition seems to either prescribe or condemn gun control. An individual person might subscribe to both traditional Christian morals and to conservative political beliefs, but there is no logical link between the two, and it seems strange that a political movement based on Christian morals would package them together as though they did.
It seems to me that the effect of the Religious Right has made conservatism more specifically religious rather than secular. I think this has caused alienation of some semi-conservatives and moderates who aren’t Christian or particularly religious; and has led to liberal suspicions that conservatives hope to institute some kind of theocracy. It has also packaged together sets of beliefs that aren’t necessarily indissoluble. To me, conservativism (by which I mean belief in a minimal government) isn’t inconsistent with Christianity–there is plenty of precedent in the Bible for opposition or indifference to government. On the other hand, what most people think of as liberal beliefs, such has helping the poor and defenseless, is mandated by the Bible. In spite of the rhetoric, I’m certain that the latter belief is held by both liberals and conservatives, they just believe in different solutions–governmental vs. private charity.
I have to stick up for beleaguered conservatives on this point by saying that the most conservative people I know are also among the most giving of their time and money to the needy. If everyone was like them, government programs would die off for lack of use! Of course, everyone isn’t, so the problem remains.
To hop back over the fence for a moment in my own inimitable way, I also don’t think the liberal worldview is inconsistent with Christianity, at least pertaining to relief for the poor (whether other aspects of liberalism are inconsistent is a debate for another time and somebody else). In fact, one question I have wondered about lately is why conservative Christians consider legislative solutions to issues such as abortion or gay marriage appropriate, but inappropriate for fulfilling the Biblical mandate to care for the poor. Or perhaps that’s not an accurate characterization…it sometimes seems to me that liberals and conservatives have exactly the same philosophy about the proper role of government, and only wrangle about how this philosophy should be carried out.
The way that issues have been carved up between the Republican and Democrat platforms leads to a quandary for conservative Christians. Those who vote Democrat because of their social policies for the poor might have to compromise on issues such as abortion. This isn’t always the case, of course, but both Kerry and Lieberman, both of whose religious traditions condemn abortion as murder, had to categorize this position as a personal belief that they would not attempt to pursue legislatively if elected, since as a personal belief it should be a matter of individual conscience and not public policy. Now, this position is plausible on some issues, but if you genuinely believe abortion is murder it is much less so (assuming you believe a fetus is a human being, insert any other group of human beings into this line of reasoning–doesn’t sound too good).
On the other hand, however, voting for Republicans based their stance on issues such as these is, in most cases, a vote for limiting government, including programs for the poor (leaving it at that for the moment, without getting into whether or not conservatism favors the rich at the expense of the poor in other ways). It’s tempting to start presenting some argument as to which political philosophy is more consistent with Christian belief and why, but that’s venturing even farther into territory that I’m not qualified to comment on. Let’s just say that I think that neither liberalism nor conservatism is prescribed by Christianity. I think that Christianity is prescriptive of some things that tie into politics, such as justice, freedom of worship, care for the poor and defenseless. It is possible to hold different philosophies about how these should be carried out; but I think that it is unfortunate that the different manifestations of these in the two parties tend to be divisive between Christians. The lines tend to be drawn between social justice vs. personal morality–as Christians there should be no division between the two, and it is too bad that the party structure seems to exacerbate this artificial division and lead to animosity between Christians who, rightly or wrongly, accuse the other group of inappropriately emphasizing one over the other.