Same Sex Parenting on 30 Days

Morgan Spurlock’s 30 Days usually has a happy ending.  Not so with last week’s.

Episodes often take people with strong feelings about a topic and put them in the other side’s shoes for 30 days.  In this episode (available in full on Hulu) a woman opposed to gay adoption lives with a two-dads family for a month.

Usually the fish-out-of-water ends the 30 days changed.  This woman, the mother of two adopted children herself, still holds by the end of her 30 days that gays should not be allowed to adopt children in spite of all the positive things she admits to seeing.  She holds her ground in spite of facts and other perspectives because of her religious beliefs.  She still wants laws passed against gay adoption, laws that would break up the happy family she just visited.

The lesson here was for the gay parents; no amount of evidence will sway True Believers from trying to legislate their morality on others.  They thought that bringing a person into a happy home and caring community would change her mind, and they were wrong.  You can’t argue with these people, so don’t.  Don’t lose sleep over trying to see their points of view; they won’t return the courtesy.  Be prepared to fight fire with fire.

The Political Mind:  Why You Can’t Understand 21st-Century Politics with an 18th-Century Mind

A recent FLP Author Event podcast featuring George Lakoff ties into this perfectly.  He’s a cognitive science pioneer who describes in his latest book (and podcast) how social and political behavior is a product of how our brains work.  Lakoff identifies the same fundamental flaw in Progressive politics and those gay parents, this idea that presenting the facts can change anybody’s mind.

I hate to even bring Lakoff up on the eve of Independence Day since his central assertion is that American political thought as a product of the Age of Enlightenment is based on faulty premises like informed self interest, reason, and the common good.  He argues that emotion is more important than reason in politics, that it’s rooted in physiology, and that Progressives have to cast off the ideals of Reason to effectively compete with the Conservatives.

It’s a sad thing to spend the nation’s birthday in the Cradle of Liberty knowing how many will really be celebrating their independence from Reason.

Blogged with the Flock Browser

Wright Down The Drain

What happened to Jeremiah Wright between his interview with PBS and appearance before the NAACP?  In Essay on Jeremiah Wright, Bill Moyers has a few ideas worth considering.

During his performance last Monday, Wright elaborated on his government conspiracy theory regarding HIV: He said, “Based on the Tuskegee experiment and based on what has happened to Africans in this country, I believe our government is capable of doing anything.”  [emphasis and link added]

What people like Wright, Robertson, or Hagee will believe as literal truth doesn’t surprise me: An omnipotent father figure, a talking snake, a man living for days inside the belly of a whale, a zombie savior, Heaven and Hell, etc.  Wright’s conspiracy theory about a government with a real history of secretly experimenting on it citizens seems like a small leap compared to such fantastical things.

I might suspect something like that if I didn’t prefer sheer ignorance, indifference, and incompetence as better explanations a la Occam’s Razor.  Unfortunately we’re no longer a nation of thinkers ready to wield such tools.  This latest national elevation of Belief over Reason started with Reagan selling out the Republican Party by pandering to fundamentalist Christians, but the political swing of the pendulum isn’t pushing us back towards Reason.  The Democrats are adopting the same strategy, not refuting it.

The “Faith in Public Life” debate wasn’t more of the same Republican religious pandering; this was the Democrats trotting out their candidates in what feels like another chip out of the Establishment Clause, like a candidate’s Christian pedigree is a de facto requirement of holding the office.  How many will vote based more on who is a better Christian than who has better policy?  Consider that all-important code word in Obama’s campaign slogan:  “Change You Can Believe In”.  It raises my hackles every time I see it.

It’s safer as a candidate to say what you believe than what you think:  There aren’t as many inconvenient arguments or facts to trip you up in the age of always-on media, and your base is inoculated against those same inconveniences, especially on their favorite “values” issues.  How do you refute a more-plausible myth like trickle-down economics or McCain’s superiority on foreign policy issues to people who still believe in a 6,000 year old Earth?

Wright and Wrong

One certain outcome of Obama getting the Democratic nomination is seeing those clips of his former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, again and again–until November.  While I have my problems with Obama, this isn’t one of them.  Let’s just hope for equal air time regarding McCain’s pandering to John Hagee and his organization, Christians United for Israel (CUFI).

Wright was just on Bill Moyers Journal and got the chance to put his comments in perspective, both by words and by showing longer segments to give context to the snippets getting so much air play.  He successfully makes the “God damn America” and “Home to Roost” comments more of a non-issue for me.

The segment didn’t address his comments on HIV as a government conspiracy, an idea that also has traction with some in the HIV activism community.  I don’t buy it, but I do hold the Reagan Administration directly responsible for allowing the epidemic to grow unchecked during those critical early days.  If that’s what Wright means, then we’re once again closer on a larger truth glossed over in sound bites.

The punditry agrees that Wright’s public appearances can only hurt Obama, saying it’s an excuse for the media to trot out the sound bites.  If it’s not full coverage like the Moyers program, they might be right.   Let’s just hope that (the Democrats make sure that) McCain’s link to Hagee gets equal time.  These scandals are not created equal.

Hagee is the founder of CUFI, an organization that supports Israel for the sole purpose of fulfilling Biblical prophecy.  Israel is merely a means to an end, to be discarded when all of CUFI’s good little Christians ascend to heaven in the Rapture.  This is an Apocalyptic cult with some values in common with suicide bombers who throw away their lives for the promise of 72 virgins in paradise.  It’s just too easy to justify horrible acts in this life if you believe in a distorted view of the afterlife, a consequence of any kind of religious fundamentalism.

Hagee himself is virulently anti-gay and anti-Catholic.  He’s cut from the same cloth as Robertson and Falwell, claiming that Katrina was God’s punishment for gay Mardi Gras.  It mystifies me that we haven’t seen more clips of Hagee spewing his vitriol; maybe there’s just too much for the media to choose from.  Howard Dean should give them a hand and send around a top five.

McCain’s active pandering to fundamentalist Christians like Hagee and Robertson since his Jekyll-to-Hyde transformation two years ago is a continuation of the selling-out of the Republican Party.  It’s foolish to think he can shrug these people off once in office; promises are being made, and they will be kept.  These aren’t people who sound bad in out-of-context sound bites.  These are bad people, hateful xenophobes who pervert religion for their own gain.  By seeking their endorsement, McCain is assuring their continuing influence in American politics and culture.  

Obama isn’t pandering to Wright and there’s no expectation of influence once he’s in the White House.  IMHO, Obama’s failure was going “didn’t inhale” on the comments.  He should have stuck to his guns from the Philadelphia speech, talked more about the context of the statements, and hammered home that he supports Wright as family but rejects his comments.  Obama doesn’t do well with controversy when he has to improvise, and that worries me going into November.  The litmus test will be how his campaign handles the dust kicked up by Wright’s latest appearances.  Super-delegates, please pay attention!

On Bill Moyers Journal:  Rev. Jeremiah WrightChristians United for Israel (CUFI)

PFF17 Film Festival Wrap-Up

PFF 17The 17th Annual Philadelphia Film Festival is over. I had the unexpected pleasure of attending all of it thanks to the slow job market. This is still one of the best events in Philadelphia, although they better keep an eye on Philly Beer Week.

Things started off with a few technical hitches. The Ritz showed my first film in hissy black and white due to a format glitch. They also had crowd control issues that delayed the over-attended first showing of “The Deal” until extra patrons could be coaxed back out of the theater. Maybe the Ritz Theaters changing hands played a part, but I think it’s mostly the increase in ticket sales causing some growing pains. Things quickly settled into a trouble-free routine after the first few days.

The Film Society switched from B-Side to a home-grown website. Some of the features I’ve evangelized in previous years were still on the new site’s drawing board, like sharing movie reviews among friends; it was the most-missed feature among my circle of fest fanatics. Hopefully that and better things are in the works and should be available in time for PIGLFF in July.

One small improvement this year was the badge holder; it was a sleeve this year instead of the press-together laminate of years gone by. Ballots, stubs, and other things finally have a place to go when I’m shuffling in and out of theaters. Sometimes it’s the little things that count.

There were big issues around soon-to-be-released films and paranoia about bootlegging, like the “check mobile phones” policy at “Forbidden Kingdom”. Three things really irked me: First, it wasn’t announced for the first showing. Second, the extra nonsense of reclaiming my phone after the film would have made me miss my next film. Third, who exactly would be responsible if my phone and all the data on it were stolen or lost? So I decided to leave, not a big deal since I had an all-access badge. I heard later that even some ticket holders did the same thing–those that didn’t just sneak their phones in.

The film festivals attract a civilized movie-going crowd–except at The Bridge. I’ve had enough bad experiences with mobile phones and text messaging there that it’s off my list of venues. If adding movies like FK mean the PFS will treat us like movie-going riff-raff–or worse, actually attract movie-going riff-raff–then I’d rather they didn’t include them at all. The festivals aren’t just about the movies; they’re about the whole experience. Let’s hope increasing popularity doesn’t change that.

Lacking B-Side this year, I decided to do micro-reviews on Twitter.com rather than go back to full blog posts per movie or day. Below are stats and 140-character-or-less reviews of the films I saw:

16 films: 1 excellent, 1 very good, 9 good, 4 fair, 1 poor

Median Rating: Good

Mean Rating: 2.8 (1-5)

Excellent

“Visitor” takes no missteps and has nuance beyond the obvious message and heartstring tugging. NYC locale wins points.

“Hirsute” (short) is a great take on time travel paradoxes and self love.

Very Good

“The Deal” is a kinder-gentler movie within a movie. Too K-G for an excellent.

Good

“Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer” gets a nostalgic rating bump from Fair for its Buffy-like tongue-in-cheek and cheesy monsters.

“Lucky Miles” billed as a comedy but is more a cross-cultural illegal-immigrant survival drama with some good laughs.

“TimeCrimes” is flawed low budget Spanish scifi that makes up for its shortcomings with humor. Fun but obvious.

“Wackness” is a surprisingly tender running-with-weed that entertains. Too heavy on the drug-play for my taste though.

“The End” is interview-style doc where Sopranos meets East Enders. Shot digital but shown B/W with old-film distressed look.

“Sandman” is oddly unaffecting Spanish psycho Shawshank romance. Looks good. Lacks za-za-zoo. Points for hot naked lead.

“Sun Also Rises” opens with brilliant, pretty nonsense but loses steams through the end. Maybe cultural context issues?

“IOUSA” informs about deficits but suffers from being an incomplete truth–still in post for Aug release.

“Heavy Metal/Baghdad” a rougher, more Indie doc looking at mess-o-potamisa from a unique angle.

“Pistoleros” is a quirky, multi-ethnic crime romp. Fun but lost points due to its western overtones and inconsistency.

“Arms of Enemy” overcomes myriad tech issues with good story.

Fair

“Me” slow in the middle but great acting by German lead.

“Vexille” has moments exciting and gorgeous but is too derivative and formulaic. Edit it, mute it, and blare the techno.

“Mongol” was visually breathtaking but stifling long. Edit out a half hour and enjoy.

“American Teen” was a longish MTVish docu. I’d rather have brunched at Cuba Libre.

Poor

“Dangerous Parking” is “All That Jazz” with a druggie Indie director. A few quality moments don’t justify the whole squirmer.

17th Annual Philadelphia Film Festival

It’s day 5 of the 17th annual Philadelphia Film Festival. Still being Between, I decided to get an all-access pass and have seen 8 films so far. The projected total by end of festival is 19. I’ve been reviewing films via my Twitter account instead of blogging; look for tweets beginning with “PFF17” for reviews and festival news. Also check out my calendar on the festival website. The Team at PFS/TLA just added this feature and would love some feedback.

In Character

I recently subscribed to a new NPR podcast, In Character, about famous fictional characters.  Below are some of my favorite episodes.  Enjoy.

Pretty, Plastic Barbie: Forever What We Make Her

Gordon Gekko, Preaching the Gospel of Greed

Eve Harrington: The Bad Girl, Hollywood Style

Bugs Bunny: The Trickster, American Style

‘Salesman’ Willy Loman: A Towering Little Man