"Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door." The Statue of Liberty (P.S. Please be so kind as to enter through the proper channels and in an orderly fashion)

Location: Arlington, Virginia, United States

Saturday, March 22, 2008


The Foxnews website reports today:

Britney Spears' ex-husband on Friday celebrated his 30th birthday at Pure Nightclub in Las Vegas, saying he felt "great" about entering his third decade, reported.

Okay, "entering his third decade" is outside the quote "great," so I can't say from whom the "third decade" part came from, whether uttered by established knucklehead K-Fed, news for knuckleheads, or the knuckleheaded reporter--and all the editors who missed it-- at Foxnews. Whomever it was (and keep in mind that the further back it goes, the more people are implicated in the knuckleheadedness by their passing of it along uncorrected), the originator must've pompously thought that saying "entering the third decade" provided more import than "entering the thirties" would have, but the dramatizing fool failed to realize that the age of thirty enters the fourth decade, not the third (something that should have been learned by the fourth grade, at the latest).

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Deep Drink, or Shallow Draughts?

Senator Obama gave a damage-controlling speech on Sunday in response to the escalated airings of his Reverend Jeremiah Wright's jeremiads against (White) America.

In all fairness, some of the Reverend's worse remarks-- broadcast as they are in isolated soundbites-- are not so bad when placed in their ministering and biblical contexts.

For example, his "God damn America" tirade should be understood in not only the context of a preacher's penchant for fiery "righteous" rhetoric and his summoning of fire & brimstone on an errant nation, but also--as influencing the former-- biblical language, especially as resounding in the warnings and condemnations against ancient Israel by sundry Old Testament prophets (who were then stoned or sawn in half for their unpleasant prognoses by the unruly rulers).

Wright indeed sounds as if inspired by Old Testament passages where God--the biblical Fountainhead of Justice--brings Blessings or Curses upon nations (Israel and others equally), Salvation or Damnation should they follow the Lord or serially and unrepentantly transgress against Him, as informed through the prophets.

And it is often the cries for Divine Justice by the disenfranchized and downtrodden that moves the Lord to redemptive action on their behalf, as explained by the prophets.

"I'm still in Bible country," the Reverend assures the caucasians in the pews.

In that context, then, the Reverend Wright is the prophet warning Israel (i.e. America).

The problem is the words in the wider context of the nation's state of grace, particularly vis-a-vis race relations.

The Reverend Wright's race-based rhetoric against America can be fitting for, say, late 18th Century to mid-19th Century evangelical activists in the Abolitionist Movement (all of whom were caucasian, incidentally) denouncing the existential evil of slavery (and one could perhaps see the wrath of God at work in places like Gettysburg and Antietam), and perhaps apropos for ministers preaching out against segregation and oppression during the Civil Rights Movement a century later, but when the nation has progressed to a point almost a half century after that where an African-American candidate for POTUS is enjoying vigorous support across the racial spectrum, and in part because he has been able to trancend race with his soaring rhetoric?

"God Bless America" is called for.

Senator Obama correctly identified his minister's outlook as "static"--presumably meaning stuck in the 1960s-- and he likewise tried to put the inflammatory words in context so that we understand, perhaps even sympathize with, his minister's bitterness and cries for Justice, however anachronous and eccentric (the suggestive plea to forgive the crazy but well-meaning uncle), but it's more than that.

Along the same biblical lines--but beginning to diverge into racial separatism-- the Reverend's calling of the Jewish Jesus a "black man" is not to say that he believes Jesus of Nazareth was genetically African (as some Afrocentrists actually assert based on an erroneus, literalistic reading of the only physical description of Jesus as presented in Revelations 1:14-15--which is an amalgam of metaphors-- and as the isolated soundbites might suggest he believes), but that the ancient Jews--including Jesus-- under imperial Roman occupation are now analogous to...

...African-Americans living under the "White/European Mold" today?

The implications are awful.

Senator Obama can rationalize away the remarks with all sorts of pleas for contextual understanding and assurances of being in vehement disagreement with what are the clearly racist views of his minister. He can engage in moral relativity in the process and celebrate diversity in America, accepting both the good and the bad; but the "bad" that he implicitly acknowledges--his minister's racism--is not only a "bad" that he magnanimously forgives (as everyone else is expected to), but a "bad" that is embodied in the man who has been his "spiritual guide" and mentor for decades, and one wonders how deeply Senator Obama has drank from that Pierian Spring--or if he's saved by shallowness.

A little learning is a dangerous thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring;
For shallow draughts intoxicate the brain
And drinking largely sobers us again.

Alexander Pope, "Essay on Criticism"

Arthur C. Clarke & Sci Fi

Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008) died. RIP.

As a pioneer in Science Fiction, Clarke left a huge cultural footprint (though buried now beneath layers of sediment). You could argue that without his 2001: A Space Odyssey, there would be no Star Trek, Star Wars, and their myriad offspring.

He's considered one the "Big Three" pioneers of sci-fi, with Robert Heinlein (1907-1988) and Isaac Asimov (1920?-1992). One is tempted to include Ray Bradbury (b. 1920) in that sci-fi pantheon, but in his own words:
First of all, I don't write science fiction. I've only done one science fiction book and that's Fahrenheit 451, based on reality. Science fiction is a depiction of the real. Fantasy is a depiction of the unreal. So Martian Chronicles is not science fiction, it's fantasy. It couldn't happen, you see? That's the reason it's going to be around a long time—because it's a Greek myth, and myths have staying power.
That distinction is what puts the Big Three in their own modern-day--or perhaps Postmodern-- category, but the distinction is a fine one, and you can argue that categorical "Sci-fi"--of "the real"-- itself has been around for a long time.

In the 19th century, we had Jules Verne's (1828-1905) uncannily prescient From The Earth To The Moon (which had three astronauts blasting off from the Florida peninsula) and Paris in the 20th Century(which included depictions of air conditioning, automobiles, television, and the internet), and of course Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea, which featured an electrically-powered submarine.

What separates Verne's "unreal" depictions from Bradbury's more modern "depictions of the real" as pioneered by "The Big Three" is that the science of Verne's day and even the speculative science he uses could not possibly live up to the accomplishments in his novels and were more imaginary, however rationally-based.

Nevertheless, that should in no way diminish his vision for what the pursuit of science could someday accomplish.

The English H.G. Wells (1866 –1946) also wrote Science Fantasy novels that included titles like The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds, The Invisible Man, The First Men in the Moon and The Island of Dr Moreau.

Another visionary. The Island of Dr Moreau, for example, is brought to mind with some of the experiments we see today happening in the biotech field (like the mixing and matching of human genetic codes with that of animals), but Wells often uses the futuristically and/or scientifically fantastic settings and situations as crucibles for his contemporary social commentary.

The Time Machine (1895), for example, deals with the future consequences of class divisions between the leisure class and working class, as allegorized by the effete Eloi and the subterranean working class of Morlocks.

Parts of the 1917 Bolshevic Revolution and its driving class struggle between aristocracy and proletariat can be read into that allegory-- as can, perhaps, or own present-day society with its illegal immigrants doing much of the hard labor, but it would require stretching.

Nevertheless, whether "Science Fictionalists" or "Science Fantasists," Verne and Wells--preceding "The Big Three" by entire eras-- have each been referred to as "The Father of Science Fiction."

That may be unfair to Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1797-1851), whose Gothic Horror novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (first published in 1818)--though certainly fantasist--has been identified as the first "Science Fiction" novel.

The monster was not assembled by disparate parts of corpses and resurrected by some eldritch sorcery, but by a "scientific" physician and the use of electricity-- though the latter was delivered by lightning which had some eldritch, life-engendering quality to it. That itself is not so fantasist, however, when considering that, even today, natural lightning is a candidate for the catalytical creation of life on earth (in lieu of supernatural Divine Intervention).

Shelley would not be surprised that she's short shrifted as "The Mother of Science Fiction" in favor of "Fathers" who came after her: She's the Mother of Modern Feminism, and so would understand patriarchal primacy.

Well before all of them, however, from the 2nd Century, there was Lucian of Samosata (c. A.D. 125 – after A.D. 180), one of the first novelists in Western Civilization.

In A True Story, a narrative of prose fiction, he wrote about voyages to the moon and Venus, E.T.s, and interplanetary wars.

He was making fun, however, of the fantastic tales spun by Homer in the Odyssey--still taken literally by many-- and popular fancies making their rounds in his day.

Yet he, too, has been called "The Father of Science Fiction."

But that would be unfair to the Biblical Ezekial (c. 6th Century BC), and his "Wheels in the Sky" vision, which UFO enthusiasts claim is an early eyewitness account of a UFO, which brings us back to Arthur C. Clarke...

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Why Is This Woman Laughing?

It's come out that her opponent Barack Obama's godfather says stuff like this:

And POP goes the bubble.