Uncommon Sense

June 7, 2021

Duh . . .

Filed under: Culture,Entertainment — Steve Ruis @ 9:59 am
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Bob Odenkirk recently lamented that: “Soon people won’t remember Breaking Bad.” Odenkirk played slimeball lawyer Saul in that TV series, which was a smash hit, certainly amongst working and retired chemistry teachers (the main protagonist was a high school chemistry teacher facing a fatal disease and looking for a way to care for his family after he dies and finds it in making crystal meth).

I am a bit surprised at Odenkirk’s lament however in that television shows have as a primary objective to make you forget the previous show you just watched. They want your full attention focused on what you are watching now and not mulling over things you watched in the previous show. Then it is “lather, rinse, repeat” and soon all is forgotten.

This is why I argued that TV was a poor medium to base school lessons upon. All teachers are taught that after a “film” (remember films?) or video is played that there be a discussion of various topics associated with what was viewed. Many providers of such “educational materials” supplied guidelines for such discussions, even in accompanying pamphlets/books. Do you remember ever having one of those Q&A sessions after such a “showing”? What I remember coming after those movies was a bell signally it was time to move to the next class.

And, yes, I am somewhat of a curmudgeon when it comes to education but this is not a “we shouldn’t be using these new fangled technologies” lament. It is, rather, we should be using them correctly. Video should only be used for educational purposes when viewing what is going on is very important and, yes, discussion is needed. Just as a reading assignment given to students that is not mentioned again or discussed in class will rapidly be forgotten as being “unimportant.”

June 3, 2021

W.C. Fields, a Great Comedian/Philosopher

Filed under: Culture,Entertainment,Philosophy,Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 9:20 am
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I was reading a blurb for a book featuring some of W.C. Fields great lines. Fields created a persona of being a lush, which would not fly now (but did in my youth, thank you Foster Brooks). The blurb writer did not include my favorite Fields quote, which was his take on “spirituality.” I believe it went “Everybody ought to believe something. I believe I’ll have another drink.”

I think comedians are modern day court jesters, and since we govern ourselves, they send their barbs toward all of us. I miss George Carlin. There was none better at that role.

April 25, 2021

Netflix, Please Give the Atmospheric Scores a Day Off

I tuned in to watch a new Netflix movie, Without Remorse, with Michael B Jordan, an actor I like to watch. I had to turn it off several minutes later because of one of Netflix’s bad habits. It funds many movies and most of them have very “atmospheric” soundtracks, that is the music is almost continuous and mood setting. It also makes the movies hard on those of us who are a bit hard of hearing.

After struggling to hear and then make sense of the dialogue, I get frustrated and just turn the show off. And it is not that I haven’t tried other things. I watch a fair number of foreign generated shows, which use subtitles for those who don’t speak Korean, or Japanese, or Spanish. I do not mind this but it has certain limitations. When an English language show is on, I can go to the bathroom or the kitchen and still follow what is happening. If I am dependent upon subtitles, if I lose sight of them all I hear is words I do not understand. I either have to pause the show or rewind it when I get back (sometimes the bathroom calls strongly).

I do understand what a good movie soundtrack does, but I am learning what a bad movie soundtrack does now. Are any of you experiencing the same issue?

February 19, 2021

Ding Dong the Rush is Dead

Filed under: Culture,Entertainment,Politics,Race — Steve Ruis @ 9:49 am
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The not so sad news came yesterday that Rush Limbaugh had died. Many people were asking today whether it is appropriate to celebrate that event.

I was actually a fan of his radio show quite some time ago, until a particular story came up. It involved a mountain lion attack on a hiker in the California wilderness. Mr. Limbaugh couched this story as another liberal tree hugger getting her just desserts. I then read a story in the newspaper that the forest ranger who found the body stated that Mr. Limbaugh got the story quite wrong. The ranger even called the show and spoke to a Limbaugh flunky to explain how wrong he had got the story. Mr. Limbaugh continued to spin the story his way for many days thereafter, after learning from someone who was there that he had got it wrong. He never “corrected” his story.

At that point I concluded that anyone having such a disregard for the truth could not be trusted and so stopped listening. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Limbaugh became a full-time shill for the Republican Party. (Remember the “America Held Hostage, Day XYZ” campaign?)

At that point it was clear that Mr. Limbaugh was not taking an ideological stance, but a financial stance. In politics, one must follow the money, but also the access. Mr. Limbaugh sucked up to the rich and the powerful conservatives and got paid really well and he got to sleep in the Lincoln bedroom. GOP pols sucked up to him obsequiously.

The financial haul lasted a long time, until the Dump Rush campaign cut into his sponsorships a great deal. All in all, he was an embarrassment in American Radio broadcasting history.

So, “Ding, dong, the dick is dead, the wicked old dick, the dick is dead . . .” Celebrate away!

January 25, 2021

Bemoaning/Lauding the Obvious

Filed under: Culture,Entertainment — Steve Ruis @ 9:06 am
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I was reading an opinion piece in which the core point was “Social media has shaped contemporary fiction, even in novels that make scant mention of it.”

Imagine, wondering why novels (and by extension, movies, videos, etc.) don’t show people engaging with social media when that activity drives much of our lives now.

Hello? Really?

Did you ever see a James Bond movie in which he laundered his clothes or even took any to a dry cleaner? How about using a credit card or buying anything not work related? Gosh do you think that was because nothing was happening during those “scenes” that would further the plot?

When people engage in social media, or as the author of this piece put it “mindless scrolling through social media,” nothing is happening . . . absolutely nothing. Sometimes you will see a text message in a scene in a movie, which is just an inaudible form of telephone speech. Otherwise, you are not going to hear or read about social media exchanges in novels and movies because they are steps removed from the actors and the actions.

This is for the same reason why you would rather speak to a loved one face-to-face rather than by phone, or by text, or by email. A person’s words are only a small percentage of the content of a message. Even video chatting or teleconferencing diminishes the quality of communication by filtering out some of the affect employed by the speakers. (Remember My Cousin Vinny and “I killed her . . .” being quoted from a transcript by a bored stenographer, containing none of the sarcasm, outrage, and incredulity that was originally employed?)

So, social media will have an impact on novels and movies, mainly by reducing the length of time people will be willing to engage with such a thing. Then their fingers will be wiping the page of the book, or screen of their TV, wanting something different to engage with. They will not suffer any lulls because if they encounter one, they will be gone.

Yeah, social media will affect novels and movies, but only by turning social media addicts to ADD-addled, instant gratification zombies.

December 23, 2020

Conjunction Submunction, Part 2

In Part 1 of Conjunction Submunction I wrote: “I think the majority of the interest (in the conjunction) comes from people who still dabble in astrology. “OMG, Jupiter is in the house of Saturn? OMG!” (I know nothing about astrology, so that is clearly made up and if I offend any astrology people with my ignorance, well, you deserve it.)”

As things usually go, I received shortly thereafter what a “real” astrologer thinks it means, to wit:

“At 12:21 p.m. CT the Great Conjunction forms between Jupiter and Saturn in Aquarius, showing us where innovation, community, and opportunity intersect. This is a rare occurrence as Jupiter and Saturn meet every 20 years and are doing so in air signs after over 200 years of being in earth signs. This conjunction is all about doing the work it takes to be free — individually, and collectively.

“Saturn is a harsh taskmaster, especially in a fixed sign like Aquarius. Aquarius energy can be full of peace, friendship, and humanity, but do not mistake the other end of the spectrum. Aquarius likes to connect, but exclusion is the flipside of inclusion and as our world begins to meld in ways that many don’t like, we may find many rebelling against the process of creating a humane, global community. This is where we learn the tough lessons of being human. Do what you say you will or stay silent. Rewards will not be given to lazy thinkers under these skies. If you’re dedicated to being silly, you’ll get goofy results. Edit and enhance your network with a discerning eye. Build friendships genuinely yet intelligently.”

So, now you know. (I always wanted to know where innovation, community, and opportunity intersected. I thought it was in Silicon Valley, but now I understand it is up in the sky . . . wtf?)

November 19, 2020

Kinda Sorta Worth Watching

Like many of you, during the pandemic I have watched more movies and documentaries than I ever have before . . . at least the first five minutes of that many, any way. I ran across a documentary on the Amazon Prime streaming service, if you have that, which may be worth your time to view. It is called “Christian Dilemmas” and subtitled “The Secret History of the Bible.” I tend to hate anything with the word “Secret” in the title because they never talk about secrets so much as ignorance. Just because a great many people are ignorant of a topic, doesn’t mean that there is some nefarious force keeping it secret.

In any case, the presentation of this documentary can be off-putting. Often the screen is showing cheesy religious movies made in the silent movie era, or even cheesier animations, and there were heading mis-spellings: the god Horus was spelled Horace, Resurrection was spelled with a missing “r,” and so on. (Once an editor, always an editor.) And they also seemed to confuse apostles with disciples. But if you can get past these there are some interesting tidbits.

One discussion I found interesting was a discussion of what “the Kingdom” meant to Jesus and his crew. It is very clear what “the kingdom” meant to Jews of that period (and earlier). It referred to a resurrected kingdom of Israel, a theocracy of the highest order with Yahweh at the peak of the org chart. This kingdom would be re-established if only the Israelites, Jews, Hebrews, etc. would just follow Yahweh’s orders. (Repent!). The new, improved Israel would be out from under Rome’s heel, and in fact would dominate the region. (Each of Jesus’s disciples was promised a country to rule over as a king.) It was substantially later that “the Kingdom” was elevated to a reward in Heaven and as some mystical, magical heavenly construct on Earth by those shaping and reshaping the new religion.

Another tidbit I found interesting, partly because of another book I have read that Ill be reporting upon later, involved the Eucharist. This Last Supper ritual was performed at a Passover supper but had nothing whatsoever to do with Passover. In it, Jesus, a practicing Jew, offers wine to his acolytes, who are also practicing Jews, and tells them to drink the wine as it symbolizes his blood. Any self-respecting Jew at this point would barf up his dinner in revulsion. He would rather eat roast baby than drink blood. Jewish dietary laws are very, very clear and very, very strict about not eating or drinking any animal blood and certainly not human blood.

So what is this ritual about then? It has nothing to do with Passover, so what? It is a common trope in mystery religions, which had identical rituals involving eating gods as part of their repertoire of empowerments. In fact, Christianity, under the influence of the Romans, incorporated many, many elements of the other religions (aka pagan religions) then prevalent in the empire. The empire wanted a single state religion that would function across the breadth of the empire, reinforcing Roman state power. And the Romans were quite accomplished at folding other religions into theirs. (The Mother of God, the saints, the angels, etc. are nothing if not demigods, some of which left over from Hebrew polytheism.)

As a consequence, all of the hard work the Jews had made to eliminate sun worship and Great Mother-type worship (Sophia, Isis, Asherah, etc.) was made null and void as Christianity put them back in.

A smaller point is that both Jewish and Christian scriptures do not speak against suicide, but apparently it was a problem. The documentary claimed that the downtrodden amongst the Christians were committing suicide at a great rate. They had been told that Heaven was such a great place and their life was intolerable, so. . . . Around 400 CE Augustine declared that suicide was “mortal sin” which will keep you out of heaven. Since there was no scriptural support for this position, just possibly suicide was a problem as indicated. Interestingly, suicide is considered illegal in most US states, assuming Biblical support for that position, an assumption which has no basis in fact. And, even though suicide was declared anathema, it was not so by that era’s “suicide by cop,” martyrdom. Martyrs were lauded to the skies. So, you can’t off yourself, but if you can get someone else to do it for you, that was just peachy.

Other tidbits were that abortion was acceptable, under conditions, in the Catholic Church until 1917 and Catholic priests were allowed to marry until 1139 CE. There is little to no support for celibacy in scripture. (Being pro-celibacy yet anti-birth control and abortion seems to require a great deal of cognitive dissonance control, but then they are experts at this from long practice.)

They pointed out that the gospel depictions of Jesus on the cross all have Jesus saying something different, something that turns out to be a quotation from Psalms or another place in the OT, which kind of undermines the argument that the gospels are based upon eyewitness testimony. If they were, why did the eyewitnesses hear something different in each case and why were those utterances borrowings from the OT? Almost sounds like they were made up, no?

And the capper for me was Moses, coming down from the mountain, with the stone tablets, only to find his people worshiping idols. In his rage, Moses breaks the tablets and orders his soldiers to kill 3000 of their brethren. I guess he had to break the tablets first because one of those commandments, engraved by his god mind you, was “Thou shalt not commit murder.” I can completely understand Yahweh’s attitude toward the Hebrews.

Try watching this documentary and see if you are as desperate as I was in finding some amusement.

Addendum I got a real education trying to find this movie the next day. I searched the entire site for the keyword “Bible.” I found what I was looking for, by holy moly, what else is available on that site is, well … disturbing. Many of the “documentaries” are of the Ancient Aliens type (It’s all true!) There is four parter on how the Great Flood actually happened. Numerous docs on all of the evidence for their god’s existence. But the shocking part is the vast number of animated cartoon Bible-based movies. Can you spell in-doc-tri-na-tion, boys and girls. <shudder>

May 21, 2020

How I Know UFOs Aren’t of Alien Origin

Filed under: Culture,Entertainment,Science — Steve Ruis @ 10:31 am
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I was watching a program available on Amazon Prime called Hanger 1 which refers to a storage facility in which the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) keeps its files. An episode I watched last night referred to “crashes and cover-ups,” which “exposes” governments covering up the recoveries of crashed UFOs to harvest their technology out of public scrutiny. (That hypothesis is not hard to accept.)

In any case, at one point they showed a map of the eastern hemisphere with dots indicating all of the UFO crash sites they have identified in just the 1990s and 2000s. There were over a dozen of these crash sites indicated.

At that point I sought another program to watch. (Why was I watching in the first place? Because pandemic, that’s why.)

The reason these claims defy all reason is that the claims of alien origins for UFOs is based upon the hypothesis that aliens have technology far superior to ours (anti-gravity, tractor beams, flight without inertia, etc.) which as enabled them to traverse vast distances through space to come here, to visit our planet and “do things.”

Superior technology, my ass. If it is superior, how come so many of the dammed things crash into the planet. Dozens and dozens have crashed they claim … recently!

Oh, I know, aliens are bad drivers! They are fine when the have vast amounts of empty space around them, but when they get close to a planet, they hit it, repeatedly. No, wait, it is only juvenile aliens who come here to test out their hotrodded spacecraft and, as teenagers here do too, they push those craft a little too hard and Wham! No, wait . . .

March 6, 2020

False Dichotomies

The corporate news world has a secret weapon . . . that being fairness. Even Fox (sic) News labeled itself as being “Fair and Balanced” for many years (but have stopped using that tag line, which means . . .).

Here is how it goes: a “news” program brings on a guest who decries man-made climate change. Then out of “fairness,” they bring out a guest who thinks man-made climate change is hooey. That’s fair, right? Both sides of the “debate” get their argument heard.

But if one were to have scientists as guests in this scenario, roughly 97% of climate scientists, the ones who have actually studied the scientific problem, have one view (It’s real, bitches.) and only 3% think that it is not man-made or not primarily man-made. To be “fair” you would put 97 white balls in a fish bowl and three black balls and pull one ball at random each time you had a climate change scientist as a guest. If you got a white ball, you selected a scientist of the 97% cohort and if a black ball a scientist of the 3% cohort.

If one were to use the global population as a guide, roughly (Pew polling numbers) 68% believe climate change is a major threat, 20% believe it is a minor threat, and 9% believe it is not a threat.

But this is not enough of an advantage to the advocates for the status quo, that is the people who are making money hand over fist doing business the way things are now. So, the dichotomy became a dichotomy of view points. Guest A representing one view, and Guest B representing the opposite view, no matter whether those views are representative of the population of experts.

But, wait, there is more!

Often the view favored by the plutocrats is presented by a doctor of something or other: medical doctors, dentists, engineers, etc. Medical doctors are preferred because they are given the honorific title of “Doctor” even though their doctorate is not at all germane to the discussion under way. Consider as an example Doctor Ben Carson. But the use of the title “doctor” lends credence to the position of the person speaking, even though it is not applicable. Professors are called “Professor” even when what they profess isn’t the subject at hand.

This is yet another reason why I do not watch televised/computerized news programs. Their objective isn’t getting at the truth of a matter, their object is . . . just what is their objective, do you think?

January 3, 2020

The Netflix Messiah

Filed under: Culture,Entertainment — Steve Ruis @ 12:57 pm

I just finished watching the new Netflix series Messiah. This is not a review of that series, although I enjoyed it greatly. It was mostly a comment on how we would respond if Jesus came back and seemed more than a little realistic. But what I am writing on now is that Netflix has decided (because they pay for it) that everything they put out now will have atmospheric music running continuously in the background. Actually if it just ran in the background, that might be okay but often it almost dominates the dialogue, making it hard to hear. When people are speaking in foreign languages, in this case a lot of them, and in accented English, sometimes it is hard to follow. It is especially hard to follow when the damned music rises and falls along with the dialogue . . . and the tension in the scene.

They even have leitmotifs! When a phone rings, for example, there is a little chime riff in the music. Sheesh.

I admit I am a little hard of hearing but I am using over the ear headphones to maximize my ability to hear.

Don’t let my kvetching stop you from viewing the series. It was very enjoyable.

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