Archive for July, 2005

Hotel Rwanda

Friday, July 22nd, 2005

Since we’re on the theme of movies, I watched Hotel Rwanda a few week back and was very moved by it. I’m not so sure the movie itself was great, but it was definitely good. The story on the other hand merits a lot of introspection.

So what are we to do with the problems of the world, even problems as big as genocide? What is our obligation to the world both in a secular sense and in a religious sense? In the end, that’s what this movie challenges us about. The movie obviously comes down on the side of the need for intervention and it makes a good case for it. How can we turn our backs on a million people who are being killed because of their race (or for any reason for that matter)? To watch this genocide through the movie’s perspective takes a great toll on one’s conscience.

However, this type of injustice has happened for all of human history. It continues to happen with such frequency in the modern world that for a nation or set of nations to militarily try to prevent all of them would be a MASSIVE strain, if not unbearable one, on those countries.

So what are we to do? Turn our back? Only provide humanitarian aid? Selectively pick the ones we care enough about to take military action based on our sympathies and personal interests? (This seems to be the current strategy.) Set a threshold above which we will intervene in any conflict? Get involved in every conflict in which civilians are being slaughtered? Get involved in any conflict with significant loss of live (military or otherwise)?After watching this movie I didn’t have an answer (although there are options I’ve listed that are not acceptable to me). I don’t know if I ever will have an answer.

What I do know is that I took away from the movie is that there is a great need for a sense of honesty in what we’re willing to do. We often hear the UN issue strong condemnations and embargos and the such that aren’t actually backed up. The movie pointed very strongly to the disasters that can result from having the UN there under the impression that they’re going to keep the peace but unwilling to actually get involved when all hell breaks loose. Many people’s lives were put in jepordy because a false set of expectations surrounded the UN’s role and their willingness to get involved.

This is not to say that it’s an all or nothing proposition. What I am saying is that if the UN’s role is just to monitor the situation, then that better be all it does and it better make it clear that is what it is there for. Or said more generally, when it enters a situation it needs to make clear what it’s role is and be willing to actually follow through on that role.

I think the big reason the UN (and the US as well) doesn’t make clear it’s role is because it itself can not determine what it wants its role to be. Until we go through the process of deciding what we want our role to be (and make the decision decisively) we are guaranteed to put others in jeopordy, those who are counting on us to follow through on our commitments or our principles and are let down.

Hopefully movies like Hotel Rwanda will help us have the discussion necessary to make those decisions at least at the federal level if not at the UN level.

In Good Company

Wednesday, July 20th, 2005

I recently watched the movie In Good Company and was very impressed. Impressed enough to give it 5 stars on Netflix (which I rarely do). What amazed me is how little press and excitement this movie had. It only made $45 million.

The setup is that a magazine company gets bought by company that is known for its “sexy” business strategy and using words like synergy constantly. The head of the sales department is a man in his early 50’s (played by Dennis Quiad) and he is demoted so that a young 26 year old executive can take over the department and revamp things. This includes increasing revenue by 20% and reducing costs dramatically.

The resulting story, that follows the lives of both the old and new department heads is a great one. It’s not bitter, it’s not sappy, it’s just real and it speaks to one of the greatest failures of our modern society: our companies objectifying employees to be “assets” to be bought and sold.

Watch it! Anyone who’s been stuck in coorporate American will both identify with the story and either learn something or have their beliefs reinforced. (For me it was a little bit of both.)

The Bones of St. Peter

Wednesday, July 20th, 2005

I recently got a copy of the book The Bones of St. Peter that has been out of print for a long time. For the longest time the cheapest version of the book I could find was about $75. From my best research it seems that not a lot were printed but the book remains in high demand. I finally found a copy for $25 and was elated that it was also in “Like New” condition (note to seller: being as yellow as a book could be after 20 years of sitting on a shelf is NOT “Like New” despite the fact that the binding and pages are in good shape). Once I got it I was severely disappointed to find out how small of a book it is. I was expecting some 500 page technical manuscript of the escavation that was the size and weight of a textbook. So when this 200 page novel sized book showed up, I was a little disheartened (but not as disheartened to see that right now at there are 3 copies available under $40. Where were these books over the last year!?!)

As such, it was with a little hesititation that I started reading it earlier this week. I’m only a few chapters in but this book is GRIPPINGLY GREAT. I’m loving every page and learning lots of REALLY interesting stuff. Stuff that is even MORE interesting when you know just enough Church history to be dangerous.

For those who don’t know (and I expect both my readers do not), in the 1960’s Pope Paul VI pronounced that an excavation underneath St. Peter’s bascilica had found the actual tomb and bones of St. Peter (yes, that St. Peter). It was a long held tradition that he was buried underneath the bascilica (underneath the high altar to be exact), but over the centuries the proof that he was down there had become obscure enough to warrant some doubt even amongst those sympathetic to the Church. Of course a papal announcement is about as believeable as The DaVinci Code in certain circles, so this book was written to make the case that they had indeed found St. Peter’s body.

It is written in a narrative fashion explaining why the excavation was started and how that led to further excavations. I’m still just getting started, but some interesting things have come out that I didn’t know:

1. The current St. Peter’s bascilica was built in the 16th century (I knew that) on top of the previous St. Peter’s bascilica (I didn’t know that there was a previous one). It is interesting to note that (assuming I’ve got my dates right) Martin Luther went to Rome on his pilgrimage that convinced him that the Catholic Church was inherently corrupt during the period that the old St. Peter’s was being torn down to build a new one right on top of the old. Particularly if you didn’t have much reverence for St. Peter (which was the cause for not just building a new one right next door, since his tomb was supposedly under the high altar of the old bascilica) I could see why he could see the Church as wasteful and obsessed with money and power. I’m sure, at least in Luther’s mind, the old one was perfectly fine. Why build a new one other than to impress and gain power? (In actuality, I guess the old one was having major structural problems).

2. The first bascilica was built ON TOP of a PAGAN graveyard. (It was built in the 4th century by Constantine).

3. The first bascilica was itself built in an exceedingly difficult location to build a church because it was a hillside that had to be leveled to accomodate a church (and even the old one was one humongous church).

4. The new bascilica’s floor is about 8 feet higher than the old bascilica’s floor. The old bascilicas floor is now the floor of what is called “The Grottos” and it is where Catholic people of prominence (including Pope John Paul II) have been buried since the new bascilica’s completion.

5. What started this whole escavation was a desire to make an effective basement out of the center of “The Grottos” (the graves are around the outside). When they first started digging they encountered a pagan tomb. Construction was stopped and the escavation began.

6. There were numerous “folklore” stories about what was underneath the bascilica with lots of stories (with too many vague details to be believeable) about discoveries during previous construction stories. During the escavation of the pagan graveyard they found that a number of these “folklores” were in fact mostly based in truth.

7. The high altar, the location of St. Peter’s tomb, has been so revered over the centuries that no one dared tear it down to make a new altar (which was done every few hundred years for asthetic purposes). The result is that in their attempt to get to St. Peter’s tomb they had to carefully tear into layers upon layers of walls that all were from previous altars. And oh yeah, nobody has plans or pictures that show what the majority of these altars looked like before they built on top of them or even exactly how many altars have been built. And just to make it “interesting” the Pope was very explicit that destroying or significantly damaging these ancient altars was unacceptable.

8. And that’s about it… so far… fascinating stuff. I recommend picking up the book if you can find a copy at a reasonable price.

Personal ban of Carls Jr.

Monday, July 18th, 2005

I decided on this a couple of weeks ago. It was a long time coming and surprisingly didn’t come because of the Paris Hilton ad that people were upset about (although it is syptomatic of what bothers me). What did it for me was that they started re-airing a TV ad with a somewhat overweight groggy looking young man who is “on his own” for the first time and can’t even open a bag of cereal (and ends up spilling it all over the place). The ad has the tagline “Without us, some guys would starve.” (It’s part of a series.)

What I realized after seeing this ad is that I’m sick and tired of Carls Jr. treating us (the people viewing the ads) like stupid cattle. Every ad they do is demeaning to all people treating us like we’re oogling, naive, hormonally driven apes. It’s just disgusting. Just to list a few:

– “If it doesn’t get all over the place, it doesn’t belong in your face” series
– “Without us, some guys would starve” series
– “GET OFF” (the freeway) billboards
– Sexy women riding bulls and cars (washing anyway) eating oversized burgers they can barely get in their mouth

And I really do mean EVERY ad. I challenged my brother last weekend to come up with an ad that they’ve done in the last five years that wasn’t demeaning. He was unable to name one.

So here’s the challenge: if you can tell me about an ad that they’ve done in the last 5 years that wasn’t demeaning, I’ll end my ban. I’m pretty sure I won’t be eating their anytime soon. And if you can’t think of an ad that isn’t demeaning, you should personally ban them too.

Formatting of blog still to come

Monday, July 18th, 2005

This is going to be a busy week so I doubt I’ll have time to change the look and feel of the blog to match the old one. But never fear! I’m going to be getting to it soon.

A good article about aborting handicapped babies

Monday, July 18th, 2005

About a year ago I realized that probably the best avenue to win over the public regarding abortion was the number of “disability abortions”. The reality is that the vast majority of all abortions are done for one of two reasons (in order of volume):

1. Post conception birth control (said more politically correctly: ending an “unwanted pregnancy”)
2. Ending pregnancies of disabled children

Sadly, the task of convincing American’s of the evils of #1 has proven a difficult task mostly, in my opinion, because of the explicit acceptance of contraception breeds (excuse the pun) implicit acceptance of post conception contraception. In contrast, because of Hitler, eugenics are roundly condemned by Americans.

Thankfully, Americans are very simpathetic to the rights of disabled people and as such realize the evils of eugenics. As such I believe we can convince Americans that a ban on abortion for fetuses that have a disability is a very important ban to have. When they realize the extent both in numbers and in percentages of babies with disabilities that are aborted solely because their life will be “less meaningful” than most children, they’re see an evil that needs to be prevented. The best example to point to is Down Syndrome because people with Down Syndrome live long, happy lives (unlike some disabilities that can be painful and cut life short). There is no reason to abort a Down Syndrome baby other than eugenic reasons.

In this vein, this article is a very important one to pass along to your friends.

Just getting online

Tuesday, July 12th, 2005

OK, I’ve been meaning to upgrade this blog for a while to some more sophisticated software. I’m in the process of doing that now.

If you want to see the old blog goto:

Hello world!

Tuesday, July 12th, 2005

Welcome to WordPress. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start blogging!