Monday, July 30, 2007

Death Penalty For Women Who Get Abortions?

A man does a documentary at a Libertyville, Ill Pro-Life rally in July 2005. He asks the demonstrators whether women who have illegal abortions should go to jail. The people are dumbfounded, as if they had never thought about that before!

This video is hard to find. I found it here by searching for "Libertyville Abortion Demonstration".

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A Children's Book?

I have read that the Harry Potter books should only be judged according to the standards of its young audience. Aside from the obvious corollary to this - that adults should be prohibited from reading the books - there are further flaws in the argument.

First, assuming that a twelve year old does not care about poor plotting, absent character development and self-contradictory settings is patronizing and, I believe, a complete dodge. Megan McArdle expresses it better than I do:

"But the best children's fantasy does something else: it gives one the illusion that
the magical world is as consistent and real as one's own world - that it exists,
just barely out of reach."

More important is the question of what our children should be reading. There comes a point where you have to get over the stunning fact that your child is actually reading a book and think about what he or she is actually reading. Twelve year olds love professional wrestling and Bart Siimpson, too, but if you are thrilled that Billy is at least watching TV, you should have your parenting license revoked (yes - I use the v-chip and don't have cable) . A good book exposes a child to systematic thinking, consequences, clear expression of ideas and rhetorical skills. A poor one discourages critical thinking or the awareness of the motivations of others. J K Rowling does not fail utterly in these regard but to say that young adult literature is best judged by young adults is short-sighted in a way that highlights many of the problems in parenting of the last few decades.

*** Harry Potter Spoiled ***

She did it. J K Rowling flubbed the ending. I think part of the problem stems from the fact that after writing a book filled with thrilling adventures and near escapes, it is nearly impossible for the ending to be anything but an anti-climax.

In the case of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, she pulls a couple of fast ones. She inserts two - count 'em, two! - scenes to try and cleanup difficult situations. One addresses the Harry-Voldemort connection by bringing the narrator... I mean Dumbledore... in a dream-sequence/near-death-experience complete with white fluffy clouds. Then she throws in a suffering, injured baby whom we are instructed to ignore. Maybe I am just dense and don't "get" the universal symbolism here.

The second plot device involves Harry's viewing of the late Severus Snape's memories. Ah, Snape! Would you believe the character pivotal to the cliffhanger at the end of the previous book hardly appears in the finale at all? Yes. Instead the reader is force fed some twaddle about how Snape had been protecting Harry all these years because of his life-long love for Harry's mother and the piece of her that lives on in Harry. What?! Where was the ambiguity of Snape's view of Harry in the previous several thousand pages? Snape's distaste for Harry and the traits that Snape believed Harry shared with his father were completely untainted in the rest of the books by Harry's supposedly sharing of "Lily's eyes." There may have been a tidbit thrown in somewhere that I don't remember but the gross arc of Snape's character development made this sudden twist seem arbitrary. It is like introducing an evil twin in the final scene. If you are writing a book driven by discovery of clues, the reader must reach the last page saying, "Of Course! Why didn't I see it all along."

Rowling's failure (along with that of Philip Pullman) has pretty much soured me on writing anything myself. The danger of becoming that which I despise is just too great.

P.S.: Among the many failed Harry Potter predictions posted on the internet these past weeks was mine, predicting that I would not read the damn book. I bought it the first day at 9 am and stayed up 'til 1:30 am last night to finish it. At least the curse is now lifted!

Killing the Messenger?

"Most Americans see President Bush as intransigent on Iraq and prefer that the Democratic-controlled Congress make decisions about a possible withdrawal of U.S. forces, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll."

By Jon Cohen and Dan Balz
Washington Post
Tuesday, July 24, 2007; Page A01 (link)

Does this mean that Americans would accept similar decisions about Iraq if they had been suggested by Russ Feingold? I think they have demonstrated that they can accept some level of casualties higher than what they experienced in Mogadishu. What if Reid and Pelosi announced that they were authorizing funding for a permanent base Iraqi Kurdistan and enough troops to secure the borders and train the Iraqi army for two years. Would they buy it? Wouldthey at least retain I higher confidence level on the matter than Bush is currently managing?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Inevitable Harry Potter Post

*** Warning - Multiple Possible Spoilers ***

I planned not to read Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. After a few months, I relented and checked out one of the six copies on the library shelf. Not a great book. Just like the others nothing much happens until the last 20 pages. Liked the girl friend bits. Was really annoyed about Snape!!!

Will I read the Deathly Hallows? I don't plan to (see above). If I find out the ending, which seems inevitable, will I even bother to read this one? I have been avoiding most of the hype because I am working on a writing project of my own and don't want to "contaminate" it. That said, Rowling has a lot to pull off here. She has to explain Snape's actions plus Dumbledore's confidence in him. Snape is the most interesting character in the whole book and she could easily screw that up. Let's face it, she is no literary goddess. I draw your attention to the Goblet of Fire. I know she apologized but she is under extreme pressure here, too.

Why am I dwelling on the potential for this to end with a thud? Three words: The Golden Compass. This series started out quite good. I cried when God died (I was mourning my own father's death but still ...) The spectres scared the bejesus out of me - much eerier than the dementers, which weren't too bad themselves. Then in the last book, we learn what the temptation is - teen sex! What? That is it? And then the spectres turn out to be created whenever the s0-called subtle knife is used to cut an opening between dimensions. Give me a freakin' break. It was so lame I simply could not believe it.

So, since Rowling's first six efforts have produced many ups and downs (maybe she should take out the bad stuff and just write shorter books - heehee) I approach the seventh, pivotal work with much trepidation.

Just so you know

Comedy is hard

Now that Army War Games have determined that a likely outcome of America's withdrawal from Iraq will be Iran being sucked into the Iraqi quagmire, I have to draw attention to my previous attempt at humor. Damn it! How can you be witty and funny when reality comes along and steals your idea? Sincerest form of flattery my a**!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Where Dwells Evil?

If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago