Monday, April 21, 2014

Alpha Beta in Film

I watched the movie Rush, Ron Howard’s mostly true account of the 1976 Formula One season and its principal antagonists, McLaren’s English racer James Hunt and Ferrari’s Austrian driver Niki Lauda.

Ron Howard deftly executes a stunning movie turnabout.  When the film opens, we the audience are led to believe we are watching a movie that back in the 80s would have starred Tom Cruise playing the dashing by-the-seat-of-his-pants racecar driver / fighter pilot facing a generic ice-in-his-veins opponent. And in the hands of Chris Hemsworth, Hunt is exactly that. But slowly, the movie reveals itself to be every bit the story of Hunt's careful, calculating, rat-faced opponent (Daniel Bruhl).

This is no mere good-guy-bad-guy story; rather, it is a remarkable demonstration of the upsides and downsides of alpha and beta personalities. Hunt was handsome and charming, here and in real life. He also drank heavily, abused drugs, drove away his wife (into the arms of Richard Burton) with his verbal abuse and shameless philandering. In other words, all alpha, zero beta. This stands in contrast to Lauda, a man who wasn't much to look at even before the accident that left his face a mass of scar tissue. He was also singularly lacking in social grace, telling even his friends and colleagues without restraint what he thought of them (apparently, not much). He obsessed over the minutiae of automotive engineering, to his racing success. A nerd, in other words. But in the movie, he and his wife are loyal and protective of each other. (In real life, this is more mixed: his fifteen-year marriage had to survive at least one affair that produced an illegitimate son.)

Howard's account of Lauda's initial courtship (if you can call it that) is one of the most compelling demonstrations of "nerd game" I have seen in a movie. Niki hitches a ride with Marlene after a party and promptly starts telling her everything wrong with her car's engine based on the sound. Marlene, who doesn't follow Formula One, is clearly put out at the presumption of this little man, and doesn't give him any credit when the car duly breaks down. But the ice starts to melt when they are picked up by a couple of racing fans who recognize him and prevail upon him to drive their car the rest of the way; she warms up once his fame and driving skills have been demonstrated.

This film is relatively unusual for Ron Howard in the level of profanity, nudity and explicit sex. But here we see the turnabout: initially enticing, Howard shows it to be empty and destructive.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Double Standards (again)

I watched the 2011 movie Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, based on the John le Carré novel written before he became quite so consumed with his own Left-wing politics.  As a young man, I had tried to watch the Alec Guinness miniseries, but didn’t have the attention span.  Happily, this movie moves at a better clip.  The movie and book is a fictional retelling of hunt for the Cambridge Five.

One of the more bracing moments of the movie is when the staff of “The Circus” (MI-6)’s Russian Section breaks into a spirited rendition of the Soviet National Anthem, led by a Santa Claus wearing a Lenin mask:

from “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”

I laughed out loud at the sheer give-a-sh!t ballsiness of ironically singing the national anthem of your mortal enemies for entertainment at your annual Christmas Party.  But . . . I can’t help notice that while Soviet era art is treated as harmless kitsch, it would be hard to find any portrayal of, say, WWII analysts singing Deutschlandlied, let alone the Horst Wessel Song, to similarly humorous effect.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Define "Intolerance"

Ross writes

Christians had plenty of opportunities — thousands of years’ worth — to treat gay people with real charity, and far too often chose intolerance. (And still do, in many instances and places.)


Let's count the problems:

  • First, "gayness" as the cultural expression of homosexuality is probably a could deal less than a century old. Indeed, homosexuality itself, understood as a full-time condition, isn't much older than that. So this "thousands of years' worth" business is at best an order-of-magnitude exaggeration with respect to "gay people".

  • To homosexuality's modern cheerleaders, of course, the notion of "gay people" is indivisible from the specific homosexual acts enjoined in the Bible. Social conservatives in my lifetime have resisted this indivisibility, either from an effort to "hate the sin, love the sinner" or, in the more fundamentalist case, from denial of such a full-time condition. (This second has never been especially plausible to me. While I can appreciate the difficulty that the "natural" existence of particular predispositions -- homosexuality, pedophilia, kleptomania, etc. -- to commit evil acts poses for the Christian understanding of sin, I also know from my own felt experience that something is organically different about people with such predispositions.) I assume that Ross, as a Christian so-con, would at some level align himself with the first of these motivations were he not obligated by his standing with the New York Times to play the ball where they've placed it.

    But in light of scripture, what accommodations to homosexuals, if indeed that is what he means by "charity", does Ross believe Christians, as Christians, should have made but didn't?

  • But let us concede that Sodomites, where their activities have become known, have occasionally been treated roughly. This rough treatment has not been confined to Christian cultures, nor is it unique to homosexuality. All cultures attempt to discourage behavior seen as anti-social. I fear Ross is falling into the liberal trap wherein every folk wisdom or cultural antibody not precisely aligned with the priorities of present-day Leftism is by default laid at the feet of Christianity. Now for those for whom "Gay Rights" is a vehicle for their war on normal Americans, this default is a feature, not a bug. But for everyone else, I invite you to find an anti-gay hate crime -- and good luck finding one -- that was motivated by Christianity.

  • And it's not just hate crimes. In point of fact, if Western Christendom has routinely enforced the Biblically-required penalty for homosexual sex, I am not aware of it. I assume that Douthat is acknowledging Uganda here, but at least two objections come to mind: (1) it is strictly the anti-Christian opportunism of the Leftist media (but I repeat myself) to blame "Christianity" rather than "Africa"; and (2) I would not assume that the practice of homosexual sex in Africa maps all that well onto American-style "gayness" (and indeed I'm not even sure that what goes on in America is exactly the way "gayness" is marketed by the Leftist media -- dang, there I go again!) So while I leave to Uganda how best to deal with the challenges that beset it, I would not recommend their policies for the U.S. But then, what mainstream so-con has?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Incongruities

Am I the only one that sees a disconnect between this story:

CO Fired After Raising Funds From Strip Clubs

Stars and Stripes | Feb 19, 2014 | by Audrea Huff

The commanding officer and master chief of a Florida-based Navy missile unit have been relieved of their duties after an investigation found that adult-entertainment businesses were solicited in a fundraising effort for a Navy Submarine Ball, the Navy said Tuesday.

In a news release, the Navy said that [Naval Ordnance Test Unit at Cape Canaveral, Fla commander Capt. John P.] Heatherington affiliated the service with "businesses that are not representative" of the Navy or the Department of Defense's standards. He was relieved "due to loss of confidence in his ability to command and for promoting an unprofessional command climate," the release said.

and this one?

Gay, Lesbian Troops Perform in Drag at Fundraiser

Stars and Stripes | Mar 03, 2014 | by Travis J. Tritten

KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa -- Since the repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, U.S. military bases have hosted a gay marriage ceremonies and a potluck gatherings. But on Saturday, servicemembers here may have been the first to take to the stage and perform as drag queens on a military installation in support of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender troops.

Drag queens and drag kings, to be precise.

Six servicemembers -- gay, lesbian and straight -- donned heavy makeup to dance and lip sync songs such as "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" for a raucous capacity crowd at the Rocker NCO Club at Kadena Air Base. The event was a fundraiser for the recently formed Okinawa chapter of OutServe-SLDN, which is the largest nonprofit advocate for the military's LGBT community.

Monday, April 07, 2014

A True Flag

Steve passes on speculation:

Almost every Ukrainian I spoke with speculated that Moscow is secretly supporting Right Sector in an attempt to both destabilize the weak government in Kiev and provide a pretext for further meddling – the tried and true tactic of provokatsiya, or provocation, which Moscow has been using since the early Bolshevik period to deceive its adversaries and earn sympathy among credulous Westerners.

Maybe. But I see couple of problems:

First, the evidence he presents amounts to so much grassy knollism. The official history of origins of Right Sector is that it is a coalition of groups with long-standing nationalist pedigree. And without commenting on Steve's recent efforts to rehabilitate conspiracy theories in general, it's difficult to believe that with as much skullduggery as the State Department and CIA put into Ukraine, up to and possibly including the overthrow of its elected government, nobody discovered out its "real" patrons, if real they be. (Alternatively, if the CIA knows it's a false flag operation, it would be in the administrations interest to tell the world.)

But more to the point, if Right Sector really were Russian agents provocteur, wouldn't they be more . . . obviously bad? On the contrary, their propaganda videos are far more inspiring to me personally than either the Russian or EU oligarchs vying for control of Ukraine's economy. Yes, I get that their aesthetic is as garlic to our globalized vampiric elites -- hell, the Tea Party is garlic to our vampiric elites -- but wouldn't they want to be more openly anti-semitic or anti-Russian rather than disavowing racism?

I suppose you could argue that this is all part of the plan: dog whistles to New York banksters paralyze more substantial support to Ukraine while making Obama look weak and vacillating to everybody else. But if Russia was that smart, they wouldn't have lost Ukraine to begin with.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Asians and AA

Via Steve, Asian state senators in California beat back affirmative action:

To get on the ballot, the amendment needed the support of the Legislature. Among those voting yes in January were Sens. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), Carol Liu (D-La Cañada Flintridge) and Leland Yee (D-San Francisco). But after complaints from "thousands of people," those senators sent a letter to Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles) this month asking him to postpone action. "As lifelong advocates for the Asian American and other communities, we would never support a policy that we believed would negatively impact our children," they wrote.

Obviously, I am opposed to affirmative action. Without endorsing any specific set of "meritocratic" criteria, racial affirmative action is almost certainly inefficient, lacks transparency in its implementation, and its costs have heretofore been borne predominantly by white gentiles. But as the UC admissions data make clear, there aren't enough of those left in the UC system to be displaced by the desired number of underperforming Hispanics. Asian numbers will have to fall.

But while I should be grateful for their opposition to affirmative action, the straightforward ethnic self-interest on which California's Asian politicians grounded that opposition reinforces the point I made about Asian immigration: how is increasing the numbers of ethnocentric minorities in America in the interest of my children and their future?