Archive for February, 2004

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The Passion of the Christ

February 29, 2004

First let me say that I haven’t seen it. If to you that means my thoughts on Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ are worthless, then read no further. Not only have I not seen it, I can’t imagine that I ever will. I have no religious motivation to see the movie, but more than that I have developed a disliking of graphic movie violence. I can tolerate a certain amount, but beyond that it starts to become offensive. Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill was seriously flawed by it, and I found Hannibal to be the most disgusting and disturbing movie I have ever suffered through. So when film critic Roger Ebert calls The Passion “…the most violent movie I’ve ever seen…” and “…the most violent movie you have ever seen,” I’m inclined to stay away on those grounds alone.

But is Gibson anti-Semitic? Does he have something against Jews? Some people who have seen the movie are saying so, others who have also seen it say this is ridiculous. As far as I can tell from the reviews and discussions on the subject, the controversy centers around the roles of Pontius Pilate and the Jewish priesthood. As the story goes, Pilate has the authority to execute the rabble-rouser Jesus. Instead of making the decision himself, however, he leaves it to the Jews who, of course, decide that Jesus should die.

I studied the New Testament in college, and while I’m no bibilical scholar, some of what I learned sticks with me. Like the fact that this bit of the story is almost certainly not true. The authors were trying to suck up to the Roman empire at the time the story was written. In fact they wanted to convert them. They figured it wouldn’t do to say “you killed God,” so instead these early Christians did this bit of editing which placed the blame squarely on the shoulders of a common enemy: the Jews.

This, however, isn’t Mel Gibson’s fault, nor is he under any obligation to “correct” this bit of biblical innacuracy. In fact, I think it fair to say that he would feel quite a bit of pressure to tell the story exactly how it is written. One might fault the gospel authors themselves, but not Gibson. This was my position a week ago: the fault is in the New Testament itself, not in Mel Gibson.

But the more I read about this movie the more I think maybe it’s not that simple. Because Gibson not only remains faithful to this questionable part of the bible story, goes out of his way to embellish it in totally unnecessary ways. Does the bible tell, for example, how Pilate’s wife seeks out Jesus’ mother to comfort her and wipe up Jesus’ blood? Gibson’s film does. In fact, some reviewers have been appalled at the way Pilate was presented. Historians regard him as a bloodthirsty mass-murderer. In this film he is portrayed quite sympathetically. The Jewish authorities, on the other hand, are described as “jeering” at the unbelievably graphic torture of Jesus. Why does Gibson choose to embellish this unfortunate – and probably untrue – aspect of the story? You can’t retreat into “but the bible says it!” on this one. He’s clearly filling in the cinematic blank spaces in the story with content that make Jews look even more culpable than the bible already does.

Well perhaps it’s just for the sake of drama or something. Is it really enough to go around accusing the man of hating a whole group of people? Disturbing as it is, maybe not. But there are other issues. Have you heard that Gibson’s father is a bona fide holocaust denyer? “Mostly fiction,” is what he calls it. He and his son Mel belong to an ultra-orthodox branch of Catholocism which rejects the reforms of Vatican II – the most relevant of which is the formal admission by the Pope that the Jewish people aren’t responsible for the death of Jesus. To make matters worse, Gibson has appeared on television lately ranting about some big conspiracy to silence him and his film. “People were sent,” and such. Who, I wonder, does Gibson think is out to get him? I’m speculating here, but could we imagine that it is the same Jewish conspiracy to control the world that we’ve heard about from anti-Semites throughout the ages?

When you put all this together, I am left with sincere doubts as to whether Gibson’s motives for making this film weren’t tinged with hatred for the Jewish people. I don’t think it’s an open and shut case against him and his movie, but it certainly is reasonable to raise the issue. And even if – given all that I have stated above – Mel Gibson isn’t an anti-Semite, it is certain that anti-Semites at large will love this movie. It will fuel their hate and reinforce their beliefs.

I wonder when it will happen. I wonder how long it will be before we’re reading the headline about how some bigoted Christian murdered some Jew after being “inspired” by this film.

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Protecting Marriage

February 26, 2004

Some people want lawmakers to take a pledge to “protect marriage” by making sure gay people can’t get married. Other people retort that conservative lawmakers “who feel it’s appropriate to restrict the private rights of individuals in the name of protecting the institution of marriage [should] lead by example” by taking public pledges of martial fidelity. Finally, one political cartoonist takes a swipe at the president over his call for a Constitutional Amendment on the issue.

This is going to be one ugly presidential race.

Meanwhile, I myself would like suggest a few ideas for lawmakers who want to protect marriage. First, make sure there are enough jobs to go around. Families like jobs. I understand that spouses argue over money when they can’t make ends meet. And then maybe you could give them a break on health care, by making sure everyone who is part of a family can get good medical coverage. Then do some subsidizing of childcare so parents who need to can go to work. Maybe you could also expand the Family Leave Act. Oh, and make sure our men and women in the military get the benefits back that the president took away. Their families deserve that.

That’s just off the top of my head. A list to help you get started. Note: making sure “Adam and Steve” can’t get married doesn’t actually, you know, do anything for my family.

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Sturgeon Bay Pictures Up

February 22, 2004

We’re back! And, lucky you, I have some pictures up already. Some of these were shot with the newly repaired Powershot G2 and others were shot with a Powershot A20. A few of them are “good” pictures. Most of them are just snapshots of our trip. Enjoy them while they last. Most of them will be taken down in a few days. So go see them now!

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Postcard

February 21, 2004

IMG_3812.jpgHello from Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin! We won’t be home until tomorrow evening, but we stopped by a cafe with internet services, so we thought we’d post a couple of pictures. See you tomorrow! There’s three pictures in shot recently.

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Why Is This Man Smiling?

February 19, 2004

mesmall.jpgWhy makes him so happy today? Let me enumerate. First, 8 days ago I sent my broken-ass Canon Powershot G2 back to the factory for repair. That slick twist-out LCD screen had stopped working. But – and this is the happy part – I got it back yesterday, fully repaired, no charge. Go Canon! Best part of all is that I hadn’t expected to get it back so soon, and now that I have I can I can take it with me this weekend. More on that in a minute.

Second, I have the day off. Tomorrow too. That’ll make anyone smile.

Third, I just bought the Indigo Girls’ new album All That We Let In. They really are amazing artists. A music critic once said that they had been making excellent music for so long that it wasn’t news anymore. I’ve also heard it said that they seem to collect fans from among people who wouldn’t otherwise dream of listening to anything in the folk/rock genre. I’m certainly one of those because I can’t think of another folk artist I give a damn about. Will this album be as wonderful as their last record, Become You? That release was so terrific that it seems unlikely. But Indigo Girls records are, as the expression goes, like pizza; even their bad albums are still pretty damned good! I’ll have a better idea of how good it is after I’ve heard it a few more times. But any record that contains the lyric “I heard that you were drunk and mean/Down at the Dairy Queen” has to be pretty good.

Fourth reason. I have new tires on the Pathfinder. This was a classic case of making lemonade when life gives you lemons; I’d gotten a flat at a very inopportune time, but ended up siezing the moment and getting the four new tires I needed anyway. Not only that, but I took her through the full service car wash the other day, had it vacuumed out and the windows cleaned inside and out. It’s like a different vehicle now!

Fifth reason to be happy. In a few hours I’ll be on the road in that shiny SUV heading out of town. Angela and I are heading up to Sturgeon Bay for the weekend. Logan is coming, too! We’ll hike the state parks, window shop, drive up and down the peninsula, take pictures of lighthouses, and enjoy one another’s company. We like to take this trip periodically. The kids and cats and the house are being looked after by friends and family. (Thanks guys!)

So what’s the special occasion? That brings me to the sixth and most important reason for being happy today. Angela and I are celebrating twelve years of marriage. Life sometimes doesn’t seem fair, I’ll be the first to admit. But when I consider how well I married, how I got so much more than anyone deserves, I have to concede that I’m one lucky guy. Hence the smile. So now you know.

Happy anniversary, Angela. I love you. In a couple of hours we’ll be driving out of town in the like-new Pathfinder, camera packed, Logan in the back, Indigo Girls playing on the stereo. I hope you’re ready! I know I am.

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Wisconsin Primary

February 17, 2004

I have mentioned before that I had high hopes for Wes Clark in the Democratic presidential primaries. For me he represented an ideal candidate for our situation: fairly liberal, genuine leadership skills without the baggage of a political career, untouchable on issues of national defense, exceedingly smart for debates with Bush Karl Rove, self-made rather than privileged, and finally, as if that weren’t enough, Southern. Alas, his candidacy never took off. I believe the reason is because he’s not a professinonal politician and could not learn the craft quickly enough. For all our collective whining about wanting to elect political “outsiders,” we want nothing to do with people who haven’t mastered the art of political rhetoric and media manipulation. It’s a shame, too. He had a damned fine tax plan.

But Wes fell flat and subsequently left the race. Other significant developments included the emergence of John Kerry as the Clear Frontrunner ™, and the unexpected implosion of the Dean campaign. All of this left me in a state of wondering who to vote for in the Wisconsin primary today.

First I thought what I needed was a strategy. With a clear strategy for my vote, the proper candiate would present himself naturally. Would my strategy be electability? I could cast my vote for John Kerry, for I believe that he, moderate professional politician though he is, is the candidate most likely to win against George Bush in the general election in November. But since he is already the Clear Frontrunner perhaps my strategy should be to use my vote in the primary to Send a Message to the Democratic party. Voting for Kucinich, for example, would at least register some of my more liberal ideals with party officials. And what about Dean, who for me falls in the middle of both strategies? I don’t think he’s totally unelectable, and he does mesh with my take on the issues somewhat better than Kerry…

To make things even more complicated, the idea of voting to Send a Message ™ brings back nasty memories from my Nader vote in 2000. A voice in my head keeps saying “forget ideals, vote for what’s achievable!” Then again, voting for electability seems cynical and, as some in the media have pointed out, only amounts to voting for who I think everyone else likes rather than who I like.

Believe it or not, I actually spent the last two or three days trying desperately to come to resolve this conundrum. Me, the guy who acts like he knows everything at all times, who could speak impromptu for a half an hour on just about any salient issue of the day, who knows each candidates history and positions like nobody’s business, can’t figure out who to vote for in the primary.

Friends naturally offered their own opinions. Angela has her own take on the whole thing. None of this seemed to resonate with me, however, and my dilemma remained. Then this afternoon I had a simple breakthrough. I remembered that the ballot is asking me only one thing: who I want to become the Democratic nominee. It doesn’t ask what my ideals are. It doesn’t ask which candidate I like the best, or who’s the cutest, or who has the most honest face. It asks me who I want to be the nominee. And the answer to that is very clear. Of all the remaining candidates, I choose John Kerry to be the Democratic nominee. The reason is simple: the thing I want the most from the Democratic nominee is victory, and I believe that Mr. Kerry is the most likely candiadate to provide it.

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First Names

February 14, 2004

Hapy Valentine’s Day. And now, here’s something we hope you’ll really like. (Apologies to Rocky the flying squirrel.)

I discovered a really cool web site called Behind the Name that gives the etymology and history of first names. You can look up your name, the names of your family members, friends names, whatever. You could be surprised! Check it out:

Scott m   English, Scottish
Pronounced: SKAWT
From a surname which meant “Scotsman” in Old English. The original meaning of the word Scot is debated, but it may mean “tattoo”, so given because Scotsmen often had tattoos.

Is this a sign? I think several of you know I’ve been shopping tattoos for a while now.

Angela   f   English, Italian, German, Romanian, Slovene
Pronounced: AN-jel-a (English), awn-JEL-aw (Italian)
Feminine form of Angelus (see ANGEL).
From the medieval Latin masculine name Angelus which was derived from the name of the heavenly creature (itself derived from the Greek word angelos meaning “messenger”).

Heavenly creature. Clear enough.

Paige   f   English
Pronounced: PAYJ
Variant of PAGE
From an Old French surname which originally denoted a person who was a page to a lord.

Paige studies French!

Daniel   m   English, Jewish, French, German, Scandinavian, Polish, Czech, Spanish, Portuguese, Romanian, Biblical
Pronounced: DAN-yul (English), dan-YEL (French)
From the Hebrew name Daniyel meaning “God is my judge”. Daniel was a Hebrew prophet whose story is told in the Book of Daniel in the Old Testament. He lived during the Jewish captivity in Babylon, where he served in the court of the king, rising to prominence by interpreting the king’s dreams. The book also presents Daniel’s four visions of the end of the world. Famous bearers of this name include English author Daniel Defoe, Swiss mathematician Daniel Bernoulli, and American frontiersman Daniel Boone.

Now there’s a name with some history! Clever enough to interpret dreams, famous mathematicians… How appropriate.

Logan    m,f   Scottish, English
Pronounced: LO-gan
From a surname which was originally derived from a Scottish place name meaning “little hollow” in Scottish Gaelic.

Scottish, English. Me too!

Rufus   m   Ancient Roman, English, Biblical
Pronounced: ROO-fus
Roman cognomen which meant “red-haired” in Latin. Several early saints had this name, including one mentioned in one of Paul’s epistles in the New Testament. As a nickname it was used by William II Rufus, a king of England, because of his red hair.

Well he does have an orangish nose.

Ella   f   English
Pronounced: EL-a
Short form of Germanic names containing the element ali meaning “other“. This name is also used as a short form of ELLEN.

This cat is notorious for the fact that her purposes do not often match up with the aims of human beings. “Other,” indeed.