Monday, July 31, 2006

It's Official: I'm Disgusted With Talk Radio

I know, I know. Stop the presses. Like anyone cares. Still, this is MY blog, so I'm gonna talk about it.

In the last few days, with the escalation of hostilities between Israel and Hizbollah, a clamor seems to have arisen among some of the more despicable denizens of the talk radio scene, particularly in the wake of the numerous civilian deaths that have resulted from the IDF's bombing campaign in southern Lebanon. The rhetoric goes as follows: "hey--people die in wartime. It's inevitable. Let's not be so squeamish about it. In fact, let's go for it! (In this case, the 'let's' is referring to Israel, which most talk radio hosts and listeners now seem unable to distinguish from the United States; hence the 'us' in 'let's') Let's really take the fight to those miserable ragheads. Men, women, children, babies-- f*ck 'em! Make 'em taste our power! If we don't blast 'em good (the " 'em" being the said civilans-- civilians being unarmed men, women, children, and babies), they'll only think we're weak, and they'll feel emboldened to strike at us (yes, 'us') again!"

Of course, there are always hot-blooded chicken-hawks who like to rant in this manner. We shouldn't necessarily take it seriously. Not everyone who talks about bombing areas of the world off the map is inclined actually to do it, just like not everyone who favors legalized abortion would actually feel comfortable cutting a living child to pieces in his or her mother's womb. But one of the terrifying things about modern warfare is that it is largely impersonal. A fighter pilot doesn't see the lives he is snuffing out by dropping his bombs from high in the sky. Thus, the line between being naively sympathetic to an evil act and actually being complicit in the act becomes blurred.

In a way, the same can be said for many of the voices we now hear on the AM dial, both hosts and callers, who proclaim a disgust with the outcry against civilian deaths in some circles, and an eagerness to declare total war, not just against known terrorists, but also among the civilian populations of countries where terrorists are sheltered.

God help those who are egging on this murderous mindset. In an indirect but nevertheless real way, they may already have blood on their hands.

More later.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Eternal Nothingness: That Bad?

If you are Christian, your faith teaches that after death, you will proceed to Final Judgment, through which process you will hopefully wind up in Heaven. To a materialist, any talk of an afterlife is a sham.

As a Christian and a Catholic, who is nevertheless extremely mindful of his sins, I do have a hope one day to dwell in Paradise, after perhaps a good century or so getting my ass kicked in Purgatory. (I have hope, but not foolish hope, and the doctrine of Purgatory makes a lot of sense to me, as it allows for our ultimate salvation but does not deny that sin has consequences-- lasting ones, even if they are not eternal ones.)

Yet as I haven't died yet, I can't know for sure what happens when I enter that "undiscovered country." Neither does anyone else who hasn't already died, which goes for most of us.

Most of the time, I find the notion of Eternal Nothingness to be depressing. But sometimes I reconsider, especially when I become aware of how many true sh*theads there are out there with whom I may have to share Heaven one day. People who claim an alliegance to the teachings of the Church of Christ, yet whose behavior with others is characterized by nothing resembling Christian charity, much less common decency. Sad to say, I seem to have come into contact with many such people in recent months. Now I don't claim to be perfect-- far from it; I'm not demanding that everyone who claims to be Christian has to be Mother f#ckin' Theresa or else he/she's a total sham. I couldn't hold such high standards without being a rank hypocrite. But there's imperfect and then there's pretty damn imperfect. There's flawed and then there's utterly insufferable. I know the difference.

Would Eternal Nothingness be so bad if it means not having to dwell in Paradise with the likes of... well, I'm not going to name names. It wouldn't be dignified. Fill in the blank yourself with your own names, ponder the question as it applies to you, and see what conclusions you draw.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Is Political Correctness Dead?

Of course not, silly. It's just getting started. It will, it will, rock us. Hate speech laws are all the rage in Europe and Canada, and we'd be daft to think that they won't eventually breach our borders as well. The current state of liberalism is such that it will brook no dissent from its own smelly little orthodoxies, all the while extolling itself as the essence of dissent. You can read all about it, and more, in my famous 2002 publication, THE PSYCHOLOGY OF LIBERALISM: CHARACTER STUDY OF A POLITICAL MOVEMENT, still available on amazon.com.

Still, it's notable that the anti-p.c. movement seems to be in high gear, and gaining momentum all the time. Even among many blue-state folks, one senses, it's now hugely hip to flout the smelly little orthodoxies that are being forced down our throats, whether directly at the barrel of a gun through the decrees of the state, or through the more subtle, though no less diabolical, schemes of powerful opinion shapers in key posts, both public and private.

Many people, it seems--even many who may self-identify as liberals-- have had enough. They're tired of getting yelled at, shamed, or otherwise regarded as less than human if they accidentally offend someone in some protected caste, and so earn the wrath of the enforcers of proper discourse. This sense of fed-uppedness is on display in much of the popular comedy of the last decade. Beginning, perhaps, with SOUTH PARK in the mid-90s, un-p.c. humor is just about everywhere in the movies and TV now. It can be observed with astounding regularity. To just take a couple of examples from recent memory: In YOU, ME, AND DUPREE, a recent comedy flick, one character jokingly calls another a "homo," and remains a sympathetic character. In the hugely popular PIRATES OF THE CARRIBEAN, Jack Sparrow is kept prisoner by a fiercely barbaric native cannibal tribe-- a far cry from the politically correct vision of noble savages a la DANCES WITH WOLVES or POCOHONTAS. Is it just me, or would we never have seen such material ten or fifteen years ago?

Likewise, there are a bunch of comedians today, the essence of whose comedy seems to be to make shocking, insensitive comments about race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation. The latest, or one of the latest, is Sarah Silverman, whose onstage persona is the embodiment of a cute Jewish American Princess, who happens to have an inexplicable tendency to mock blacks (even the sainted "Reverend Doctor" King isn't spared-- she calls him Martin Loser King), Asians, Hispanics, the handicapped, homosexuals, and so forth. Her delivery is extremely deadpan, her voice somewhat abrasively nasal, yet innocent-sounding, and she speaks in the tone of a uptown gal who's just been on a killer shopping spree, making the actual content of her material all the more jarring. She'll rattle off lines like "I was raped by a doctor, which is so bittersweet for a Jewish girl," and "Actually, the best time to get pregnant is when you're a black teenager"casually, as she might talk about finding a great pair of shoes at the mall.

Then there are the songs, featured in her concert movie JESUS IS MAGIC, directed by Liam Lynch, whom some of us may know as Olly on the criminally underrated and underwatched SIFL AND OLLY show from the late 90s. Miss Silverman serenades a group of old folks with a tune whose chorous goes, "You're gonna die soon, you're gonna die soon, you're dying!" Later, in a love song filled with felicitious metaphors, she croons, "I love you more than bears love honey/ I love you more than Jews love money... I love you more than Gary Busey/ I love you more than dykes love pyussy."

Granted, this sort of material isn't everyone's cup of tea. If you don't like it, that doesn't make you a humorless p.c. thug/would-be censor. Still, even those who prefer cleaner material have to take notice that the growing phenomenon of reactionary humor signals something significant for our age. I would even venture to say that it signals something healthy about the human spirit. I'm not saying that Sarah Silverman, or any of her ilk, are societal heroes; rather, they're canny entertainers, who know that some people are tired of hearing the same old tired lines about "celebrating diversity" from the same powers-that-be who push for utter ideological uniformity and severly punish dissent.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

It's official: the critics have turned on M. Night Shamalyan

I hadn't expected to see Shamalyan's new flick THE LADY IN THE WATER get so thoroughly scholacked, drubbed, pummelled, smothered, and bitch-slapped by critics, as has turned out to be the case. I thought reaction would at least be around 40-50 percent positive, seeing as how these same critics pretty much universally jizzed in their jeans over THE SIXTH SENSE a mere seven years ago. Has that much changed since then? Has this guy realy worn out its welcome to such an extent? Apparently so; according to rottentomatoes.com, Shama-lama's approval numbers are currently much lower than the President's.

I liked THE SIXTH SENSE myself, but my favorite M. Night joint is by far THE VILLAGE, which you may have noticed is one of the movies listed in "favorite movie" section of my profile. I thought, and still think, that it is absolutely one of the more daring, provocative films of our day, both artistically and politcally/philosophically. Think about it: has anyone else bothered to make a group of white separartists seem sympathetic and compelling? I doubt a white writer/director would have gotten away with it...
See www.thornwalker.com/ditch/nowicki_village.htm (written in August 2004) for details.

LADY IN THE WATER is probably MNS's weakest effort yet, but it's still a pretty good movie. As with THE VILLAGE, LADY is part fantasy, part implicit social critique. Both movies make an issue out of how we as a culture seem to have lost our way. I enjoy Shammy's open hostility to post-modern smirking reductionism, whereby everything supernatural or miraculous that is claimed to have happened is viewed with bland forebearance by sophisticates, as a mere "story" with no ultimate value as truth. In an aside, one minor character in the movie expresses vehement opposition to the idea that a miracle has any value if it is "just a story" and not factual.

Shammo's got some balls too, as can be seen in a couple of details of his latest film. He actually appears as a character who has written a book about how our cultural problems can be fixed, one that, it is prophesied, will eventually help spur great change for the better in the near future. Since MNS is already apparently regarded by many as something of an egomaniac, making himself the genius whose ideas will save mankind is...well, ballsy. I like it. I also like that he has one of his characters be a cynical and ornery film critic, who thinks he's seen it all and who expresses great contempt for the supposed significance of unfolding events... all before dying a horrible death onscreen. It's as if the Sham Man is looking at his enemies (the film critics) and declaring, "guess what guys, I'm the Messiah, and you... well, you're nothing but a scrunt snack!"

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

I Dump on Sean Hannity

I'm not a Rush Limbaugh enthusiast, but I understand the guy's appeal. He's smart, he's funny, he can be satirically incisive. Of course, he can be unpleasant, unfair, and annoying, and it's safe to say that he's much more a hack for Republicans than a true conservative. Still, as long as his message is taken with a grain or two or three of salt, Rush is-- I admit-- an entertaining and engaging radio personality.

Now somebody please tell me: how in the world has Sean Hannity become the second most popular radio talk show host in America? What, precisely, does Sean bring to the proverbial table? The dude's got no talent. He's not funny. He's not insightful. He's got no amusing schtick or comedic bits in his arsenal, like Rush does. He's got nothing in his arsenal, in fact. He has nothing original or imaginative to offer. He's not even a good interviewer.

Now I know it's possible for some no-talent host types to be endearing, in their own sweet, friendly, unthreatening way: Regis Philbin comes to mind, as well as perhaps Ed Sullivan. But Hannity isn't even likable. From his whiny voice to his unctuous tone with his frequent guests, the Hann-man fairly well radiates smarm. When talking to a Republican or Likud Party member, he is worshipful and sycophantic to the point of inducing nausea; when talking to someone who is critical of Bush or the military in any way, he immediately assumes a petulantly hostile air and can only splutter out lame, question-begging ad-hominem potshots like, "Tell me sir, why,why do you hate your country so much? Answer the question sir... sir, answer the question!!"

Interestingly, it's hard to find Sean totally odious, because one gets the impression than somewhere deep down he knows he's in over his head, that he's completely aware of his incompetency, and that the bravado he summons is little more than a defense mechanism, masking deep-seated insecurity. Still, thousands if not millions of Americans worship Hannity, and don't seem in the least aware that he's a total boob. I hope somebody out there gets it, 'cuz I sure don't.

Three Definitions of Nice-- A Mormon Odyssey

I don't believe I have a cruel or mean bone in my body, but I am not, most of the time, what you would call a "nice" person. I do have my "nice" moments; I can be polite, gracious, respectful, and sympathetic, if I feel like it. Often, I think I come across as fairly aloof, and occasionally a little ornery, albeit in a quiet, unassuming sort of way.

There is a kind of "niceness" that can also be called "aggressive friendliness." This type of guy (it is usually a guy) will walk right up to you with a hearty greeting and will hold out his hand for you to shake. You didn't ask to meet him, but he wants to introduce himself to you. This sort of "nice" person is usually being nice as a means to some kind of end. He wants to sell you something, or perhaps tell you about Jesus. He may mean well, he may not be evil or cruel or mean, but nevertheless, I'll confess I really can't abide this sort. I generally like to be left alone. If you want to ask me something, that's fine, but don't come on too strong, please. Don't act all familiar, like we're good friends or something. Don't take this personally, but I'm not interested in shaking your hand, and whatever you're selling, I'm not buying. Now go away. Please. Before I call the cops.

The second kind of "niceness" can be defined as "prone to bland agreeability." This is the definition of "nice" that we most commonly hear about. This sort of guy or girl (it can be male or female) will let you borrow his can opener or her makeup, in a pinch, and won't hold it against you if you forget to give said item back to him/her for a few days. They wave to you and make conversation, but aren't pushy or controlling, like the first type of "nice" person discussed here. "Nice" people of this second category don't behave as they do out of great generosity of spirit, but because it's the path of least resistance. They are pleasant out of sheer custom. Which isn't to say they can't really like you or aren't capable of great acts of heroism when the chips are down. It's just to say that if they show their heroic true colors during a time of crisis, if they run into a burning house to save a litter of puppies or leap into the road to save an old lady from being hit by a bus, this behavior is in no way an outgrowth of their general demeanor of niceness, which does not incline them to face danger head on in a selfless spirit. It's not that theyr'e crassly self-interested either, of course. It's just a habit. It doesn't make waves. Generally speaking, it's the best way of dealing with others.

The third type of "niceness" is the rarest type. The quality that it almost seems incongruous to call "nice," since it borders on the something more profound. The type of nice person I speak of here is someone who is not only pleasant, but possessed of a serenity of spirit that is practically seductive. Something about this type of person makes you WANT to share yourself with them. You don't just find them passively aimiable, as with the second type; you don't just enjoy their company; you crave it. You feel that being around them will help you to become more like them, which in turn will bring you greater happiness. It is as though you sense something savoring of the sweet delights of Heaven in their midst.

What does it mean that the type of people who most often have this quality about them today are Latter-Day Saints, i.e. Mormons? Is this serenity of spirit a by-product of having been raised in a culture so different from that of mainstream America? A practically "theocratic," certainly "theocentric" culture, that is, in which there is greater faith in the divine, where doubt does not so often protrude its ugly head, where people feel assured of a blessed hereafter, where wholesome values are reinforced, not just by one's parents, but by one's friends, one's neighbors, one's teachers, one's elected officials? Must one be immersed in such a blessedly heterodox culture before one can obtain such peace of mind and soul?

In case anyone is reading, and in case you are reading closely enough to wonder-- no, I'm not interested in becoming a Mormon. I find their ideas absurd, their theology a mess. Joseph Smith was without a doubt a brilliant con man, and Brigham Young a dour tyrant. The history of the Mormon church is riddled with unsavory incidents, and the church leaders' attitudes towards these events is highly disengenous, to say the least. Traditional, orthodoxy Christianity has it all over Mormonism in every way-- theologically, intellectually, and logically. Still... why do today's Mormons seem to have so many spiritual gifts that we Christians lack? Where is there such joy emanating from their midst, such robust hope, such fervant charity? Such profound and thoroughgoing... niceness?

Monday, July 17, 2006

To indulge in useless cultural commentary for a moment...

I don't like politics. I especially don't like contemporary American politics. I tire exceedingly of the "culture war." Not that I entertain any silly conviction that "deep down we're all the same," and that the red-state/blue-state paradigm is just a mirage, or anything like that. I know that "red state" people and "blue state" people are fundamentally different, and I much prefer the company and the convictions of the former, although I'm also willing to admit that when it comes to appreciation of the arts, the blues have generally got it all over the reds. A perfect state for me would combine the morals of the reds with the aesthetics of the blues. But a perfect state, being Utopia, does not exist-- the very definition of Utopia being "nowhere."

I don't like the culture war because it gives me a headache. It's useless trying to argue or debate with people who don't share your underlying convictions. I have no interest in debates on issues like abortion, for example. Either you believe that innocent human life should be protected, or you don't. If you don't, then I think what you need is an awakening of conscience, not an argument. Don't even bother trying to tell me that you think abortion doesn't mean killing a human life. If an unborn child isn't human, what is it? If it isn't a life, what is it? If you believe it's permissible to kill a human life at some point after it is conceived, then why does permissiblity to kill stop once the life exits the birth canal? If you believe in abortion, then you believe the strong have free reign to kill the weak if it suits them to do so. There is only a difference in degree, not in kind, between you and an apologist for genocide. That said, I'm not calling you a genocidalist monster. I only think you've been brainwashed by the Zeitgeist. That doesn't make you a bad person, necessarily. Again, what you need (I think) is to have your mind opened, your conscience quickened, and your heart softened. But I don't know how to do any of those things. And I'm really not interested in trying. You'll come around, or you won't. It's got nothing to do with me. If you're "pro-choice," I don't want to argue with you. I don't want to talk about it with you. I should pray for you, but to be honest, I don't especially feel like doing that either. If God wants to make you see the light, he'll make you see the light. If for his own inscrutable reasons he doesn't want you to see the light, then believe me, you won't. In my experience and observation, people don't change their underlying convictions, even if presented with overwhelming evidence contradicting their convictions. It's easier to assimilate than to accomodate, as my high school Psychology teacher once said.

The main reason I hope the Republicans stay in control is because I want to see Roe V Wade overturned. It's all about judges, judges, judges. Not that I am terribly optimistic about the GOP coming through on this matter. I don't think they care terribly much about abortion; they just want it as an issue on which to run. It's really not in their interest to see that Roe V Wade gets overturned, because it that happens, the abortion issue effectively gets taken away from them. You think they want that? Hell no. Still, the Repugs are better than the Dumpocrats, the latter being almost totally in the service of Planned Parenthood and NARAL and other advocates of baby slaughter. The Repugs at least have to PRETEND to care about ending legalized abortion, and this means they'll sometimes take a half- or quarter-step in the right direction by appointing a solid, constitutionalist-oriented, anti-activist judge to some high court somewhere. The Dumpos can only be counted on to take us further down the slippery slope of the Culture of Death, and frankly we're far enough down that slope already that they can hardly do any more damage than has already been done. Like the old lady in that old commercial, we've fallen, and we can't get up; like her, our body politic is in a corrupted, decayed state and will probably soon die.

So I am still a proponent of the GOP as the lesser of two evils. But sometimes, every once in a while, I become so cross with the neocon/"nuke the towelheads"/"invade the world to save it (and Israel)" faction of the Repugs-- the faction all but running the current White House-- that I wonder if a Dumpocrat victory might not also have its advantages. Never do I feel more this way than when I hear some pipsqueak talk radio blatherer agitating for a new Middle Eastern war (as if our hands weren't already full with the current one)-- a war in which neither he nor anyone he is close to will have to kill or die, so far as I can tell. I really don't understand how a conservative with eyes wide open to the ravages of our culture (the sexual revolution, the celebration of perversion, the destruction of innocence, etc.) can want to take steps to ensure that culture's dominance over traditionalist cultures (like those of the Middle East) who actually believe in things like chastity, the family, and God. With the "godless" (TM Ann Coulter) Democrats in charge, at least the mask would be torn off, and maybe some conservatives would see that the modern-day American empire they support for what it is, a modern day Gomorrah with expansive tendencies, lurching towards world domination.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A MIDDLE-AGED MAN

I've recently completed my third book, and I feel close to no sense of accomplishment. The reason being: I write that I might be read, and I have a strong impression that my third book, like my first (unpublished) and second (self-published), will go largely unread by anyone. Why should that bum me out to such an extent? Is not one's art an end in itself for the true artist? Does art not exist of its own accord, regardless of whether or not it is recognized as such? In answer to the last two questions, yes and yes. Still, as I grow older I find that I am more interested than ever in not just EXPRESSING, but also in COMMUNICATING my ideas. And I find it increasingly difficult to set out to work on anything without some indication that it will actually have an audience.
Recently, I published an article in NEW OXFORD REVIEW on the subject of the abortion holocaust in America. I felt somewhat gratified, but not elated. Ten years ago-- hell, five years ago, I would have felt thrilled to see my name in print of a (somewhat) major Catholic news/opinion magazine; I would have been bouncing off the walls to know that my stuff was being printed (even if in edited form), on something other than my own computer paper. Likewise, when Nick Strakon, editor of the online publication THE LAST DITCH, let me on board as a regular contributor in late 2003, my gratification was heartfelt, but relatively mild compared to how I would have reacted had this occured when I was still in my twenties. Unlike when I was a younger man, today I find myself seeing these accomplishments are relatviely minor. Yes, people now read my stuff (people other the small group of friends who read my stuff before, mostly out of a sense of obligation), but what does it all amount to? I find myself tiring of writing about social/cultural/political issues. Polemical columnists, like my personal favorites, Joe Sobran, and (of course, as I am a red-blooded American male who likes leggy blondes and enjoys seeing smug, insufferable leftists get rhetorically stomped and body-slammed) the now ubiquitious Ann Coulter, can be extremely astute and insightful in their commentary, and well worth reading, to a certain degree. Most of what I have written, at least in my first two books and in my articles in THE LAST DITCH, has been along the same lines: concerning hot-button issues: the culture war and all that. But frankly I'm growing weary of this type of writing. Today, I find I want to write something that is both more accessible and more profound than my typical fare. The only thing is, I have no clue at the moment what this new kind of writing really is.
As a result, I find myself in a huge creative funk. I simply can't get excited about writing anything, and as I result I can't write anything. I'm not the sort of person, or writer, who does things very well when he's not excited about doing them. I've NEVER been that sort of person. At the same time, I am close to positive that the reason I was put here was to write. If I'm not writing, I feel like I'm just wasting my life. (Of course I know that there are other important aspects to life besides fulfilling one's calling, particularly when one is a husband and a father, as I am; I don't mean the previous statement to come across too categorical or grandiose.)
Anyhow, as a result of this current state, I have decided to start keeping a blog. I don't know if every entry I make will be as starkly autobiographical as this one-- for my sake, and for the sake of any of my hypothetical readers, I hope not. A blog is not exactly a diary, and I could never keep a diary because I never saw the point of writing stuff that no one else but yourself is meant to read. To be sure, what I write here will be filtered to some extent-- no exposing the depths of my soul or anything tiresome like that. I have my sense of dignity, thank you very much.
Well, we'll see where this goes. To anyone reading, welcome aboard. I don't think you can respond unless you have your own blog, but if you are interested in getting your own blog, it seems quite easy to do. (I found it easy, and I am totally computer-illiterate.) Just go to www.blogspot.com and follow the directions. It's free! I heartily welcome both the responders (if there prove to be any) and the lurkers.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

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