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Rants for a new millennium




What will I do when I grow up?

To tell the truth I have no idea what I will do when I grow up and become mature. Time is running out on me - years pass, centuries pass, even millennia pass. Perhaps when I am on my death bed my last words will be "Now I know what I'm going to do when I grow up." I have this theory that reincarnation was invented by procrastinators who figured that they needed more than one life to get every thing done.

It doesn't work of course. What happens is each lifetime adds its own list of things not done. This is known as Karma. When enough unfinished chores accumulate through the endless cycle of repeated lives you reincarnate as a cockroach and somebody steps on you. This clears the books and you can start all over again.

Affaire Brin

1999 was the year the Star Wars saga started up again. I doted on the movie and helped make George Lucas even richer. As I understand things episode II features Anakin Skywalker as a young man; the movie ends with Anakin marrying Queen Amidala. No doubt we will see the maneuvers of Senator Palpatine as he worms his way towards being Emperor. Episode III is the one that I am really looking forward to - that's the one where the Jedi will get wiped out and Anakin Skywalker becomes Darth Vader. Dark, dark, dark.

As someone noted, Anakin does bring balance to the force. The Jedi have had everything their way for ever so long; balance means that the dark side gets its turn.

As another note Natalie Portman was on the Letterman show the evening that I write this. The contrast between the actress (and she is a good actress and film star) and the giggling college student was disconcerting.

Be all that as it may, David Brin (for my non SF readers, Brin is an SF author - he did the novel from which the movie, The Postman, was made - the novel may have had more readers than the movie did viewers) wrote a rant about the movie in the ezine Salon. The rant was not terribly coherent; the substance was that Joseph Campbell's "Hero with a thousand faces", Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, and Lucas's Star Wars epic were all anti-democratic, authoritarian, and a desecration of the common man. He also took strong exception to the notion of the redemption of Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader.

Brin's rant was extensively discussed in the usenet newsgroup, rec.arts.sf.written. At some point I made some observations in the discussion. As I recall they weren't particularly profound. In due course some officious dweeb bundled some of the juicier bits up and sent them off to Brin. Mine was among them and Brin, for reasons not explicable to me, concluded that I was one of the more intelligent of the contributors and sent me an email explaining to me the errors of my ways. For some reason he assumed that I was not an American.

I wrote in reply, perhaps salting my reply with my usual dash of cynicism and correcting a few of his more egregious errors of assumption. Then an odd thing happened. He wrote a very angry and somewhat absurd (to be kind) email back. There is nothing odd in that. What is odd that he stopped in mid letter, sent it, and then blocked his mail box so that mail from me to him bounced.

Brin is a decent author - not first rank, but decent - but he does seem to be an odd duck. Usually I arouse the ire of rigid conservatives; however it appears that liberal rage knows no bounds. Speaking of which:

Affaire Elian

As I write young Elian Gonzalez has been reunited with his loving father courtesy of a Gestapo style raid in the middle of a Saturday night. This entire business has all of the substance of a really tacky soap opera.

The amusing thing, to me, is the gyrations of the liberal mind in response. Elian's Miami relatives (no great shakes by all accounts) are guilty of "kidnapping" and "holding Elian hostage" and "child abuse". I was particularly charmed by the notion that taking Elian to Disneyworld was child abuse - yes, one columnist did say that. Now that is a proposition that I am prepared to defend but I suspect that Elian would disagree.

As part of the routine, the various propositions advanced include "Cuba is a wonderful place" and "The boy belongs with his father". The former is a dubious proposition: One notes that there is an abundance of people escaping from Cuba and a distinct shortage of people escaping to Cuba. The latter proposition is one that is odd to hear from the mouths of an administration distinctly not notable for its attachment to father's rights.

The actual events do not support a noble interpretation. Elian, we learn, was conceived out of wedlock after his parents divorced. His mother was not engaged in a dramatic flight to freedom; she was going to the US with her current boyfriend. The Cuban-American community is persona non grata to the liberals because they vote Republican and, conversely, the darlings of the conservatives for the same reason.

The INS (one of our more obnoxious bureaucracies, second only to the DEA) apparently made the reasonable assumption that Elian was to be treated as a refugee and granted asylum. (If that were not the case he would never have been paroled to his Miami relatives.) The administration, however, had or has other fish to fry. We will learn in due course what deals, if any, Clinton and Castro cut. It is not yet clear whether the game is a deal with Cuba or simply a maneuver to reduce the influence of the Cuban exile community on American policy.

In any event the spin doctors have emerged in full force and we are treated with the most egregious twaddle from both the left and the right. One would be more impressed with the expressions of concern on all sides for the welfare of this engaging gamin if it were not for the fact that many other children, also potential refugees, are turned away or booted out with no publicity or ceremony whatsoever.

In short, Affaire Elian is news which is to say that it is the latest soap opera to occupy the attention of the media.

Mutants Redux

My web site gets attention from odd places. For example, my roast camel recipe page was mentioned once in the National Review web zine - I presume they did not check my other pages. The oddest may be the X-men movie site. The X-Men are a popular comic book and animated cartoon series. As with all successful effusions of popular culture there is going to be an X-Men movie. As with all movies these days there is a web site devoted to the movie. As part of the promotion they have concocted a hoax web site called mutantwatch.com in which a fictitious Senator Kelly leads a crusade for genetic purity in America.

One of pages in this hoax site is a page of links entitled something like "Scientists studying the mutant problem". The site is a hoax; the links are to real pages. The very first link is to a page by yours truly entitled Are Mutations harmful?", a serious page which explains at a popular level the kinds of mutations and what their consequences are for evolution.

Hapless X-men fans regularly stumble into my site, notice the email link, and fire off indignant letters protesting the despicable Senator Kelly. I get some very strange email. See my mutant letters page for the amusing details.

Darwin Awards

Yes folks, I will update the Darwin Awards for 1999. There are so many promising candidates - one of these days.


This page was last updated April 29, 2000.
It was reformatted and moved May 11, 2006.

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