Lies, Damn Lies and Internet Cheese

Victoria has taken the daredevil plunge and gone ahead with an Internet Cheese order. Sure, we’ve all dreamed of it, but she was the only one with the guts to actually do it.

Stilton. From Amazon.

Verdict?

Not so hot.

Meanwhile, it’s been close to 100 degrees here (at the highest) for the past four days. Weather.com is pitching the following lies:


Weather.com

Wunderground.com

Weatherbug.com

Actual

Mon

79

95

96

93

Tue

73

85

86

79

Wed

71

79

79

80

Thur

66

74

74

70

Fri

65

76

76

59

Sat

59

40-60ish


72

62

So, I’m supposed to believe that the high is going to drop 20 degrees tomorrow and 40 degrees by Saturday? Weatherbug seems the most reasonable, and Wunderground is pretty close except they’re angling for a potentially even colder Saturday.

I’m going to update this daily with the actual high, just for giggles.

Plus, I’m going to install freakin’ central air. Global coldening ain’t comin’ fast enough.

UPDATE #1: Interesting. I was going to rag on Weather.com for being wildly inaccurate. And they were for the first day. Note all the guesses–er, scientific predictions–are off. Today was markedly cooler (hallelujah!) and right in the middle of the predictions. Intriguingly enough, while Weather.com was closer for today, they actually changed their predictions yesterday to match those on Weatherbug and Wunderground, so if you went looking Monday for the temps on Tuesday, they would have been farther off than the Sunday predictions!

UPDATE #2: It was warmer today than all three predicted, but not by much. And it got warmer. This makes the 60-degree target for Saturday seem unlikely.

UPDATE #3: Well, this wasn’t particularly enlightening. It’s interesting, I guess, that weather.com had the cold starting a day early than it did and peaking a day later than it did. The other two sort of played it conservative, which worked all right until the sudden drop on the weekend.

CONCLUSION: I guess I’ll probably stick with poking my head out the window and guessing.

America: Heck Yeah! (Updated and bumped!)

I have often maintained that America needs immigrants because, well, that’s where Americans come from: some place else.

Living in L.A. my whole life, I have no doubt that the vast majority of Hispanics who come here embody the American spirit–the willingness and drive to improve their lives for their future generations–in many ways better than we do. Most of us born here are too busy enjoying the lives our ancestors made for us to really have the same hunger, certainly not with the desperation someone from an impoverished or war-torn country does. And when they get here, it’s not uncommon for them to express an admiration and defensiveness of the country we don’t, or are reluctant to.

But the cinema is well-informed with anti-American propaganda, so much so that the occasional potshot (the obese, obnoxious tourists in In Bruges) hardly goes noticed.

But a pro-America attitude, or even friendly expression, does get noticed, at least by me, and it makes me feel good when it does happen.

But as I’m writing this I can only think of a few recent examples.

The World’s Fastest Indian – The Anthony Hopkins movie about the kiwi who comes to America to race has him encountering all kinds of generous Americans who help him get to his destination.

Tracy Ullman: Live and Exposed – I like Tracy’s act more sometimes than others, but her performance chops get better and better over time, which is really apparent in this show. When she ended it with a salute to America, I found myself surprised and surprisingly warmed.

Schultze Gets the Blues – I love this deliberate (slow moving) picture of a retired German salt miner who becomes obsessed with zydeco and journeys to America to experience it first-hand. But what makes it especially wonderful is the warm welcome Schultze gets when he journeys through the bayous.

The Visitor – I haven’t seen it, but I’m hoping that a movie that is so transparently about the harshness of the immigration and naturalization services has to acknowledge the fact that America must be well worth coming to. I’ll review it in a few days.

Sad that I can’t think of any more off-hand, especially with all the foreign movies I’ve seen. But maybe I’m missing some?

Victoria offers these suggestions:

Three films on this topic come two mind:

I Remember Mama

Similar theme, Sweet Land

About Indians, The Namesake

Along with the Eddie Murphy classic Coming to America, which she rightly pegs as Eddie Murphy’s last great movie.

Hector says:

Maybe I need to watch Stroszek again. That was cheerful, wasn’t it? An accordion, a dancing chicken… A whole lot of Wisconsin… it’s been a while.

Y’know, Fritz Lang didn’t make a lot of happy-happy joy-joy movies.

Trooper offers up this from Scarface:

Immigration Officer #2: So where’s your old man now?
Tony Montana: He dead. He die. Sometime. Somewhere.
Immigration Officer #2: Mother?
Tony Montana: She dead too.
Immigration Officer #1: What kind of work you do in Cuba, Tony?
Tony Montana: Ah, you know, things. I was, uh – This, that. Construction business. I work a lot with my hands. I was in the army.
Immigration Officer #1: Any family in the States, Tony? Any cousins, brother-in-law, anybody?
Tony Montana: Nobody. Everybody’s dead.
Immigration Officer #1: You ever been to jail, Tony?
Tony Montana: Me? Jail? No way. No.
Immigration Officer #1: Been in a mental hospital?
Tony Montana: Oh, yeah. On the boat coming over.

True confession time: Though I am a long-time De Palma fan, I have never seen Scarface. And I’m kinda off him since that abomination that was Redacted, so I may never see it!

Just a slob like one of us…

A few days ago on Althouse, the topic of God sprang from a post about whether Einstein was an atheist or not. I’m doubtless flattering myself here, but when I read Einstein on God, I’m usually seeing in what he writes a reflection of how I feel on the topic.

When someone asks me, “Do you believe in God?” I generally have to reply with “What do you mean by God”. Althouse regular cum gadfly Revenant calls me to task by saying:

The most accurate definition of “God” is the one most widely accepted by people.

My problem with that is that I don’t think people sit down and agree on said definition widely. Er, widely sit down and agree. What I mean is, have you ever asked someone what that is? The definition of “God” is rather incomplete and mismatched person-to-person, which is probably where 90% of the arguments come from.

As a contrast, we could talk about god-with-a-small-g. We could define “god” pretty easily as a being with an innate and significantly greater power over natural events. Greek, Nordic and Egyptian mythologies, for example, are populated by gods that, as terrible as they are, are also very limited in scope. Human, even. With frailties and mortality. These gods directly impacted people and performed specific duties.

Now we can argue very precisely about “gods” in general, or any specific “god”, such as Thor. Or, say, Helios by noting that no one has seen his chariot pulling the sun.

I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that “gods”, if they ever existed, are hiding pretty well now.

Now, there is a dictionary definition for “God”, of course:

A being conceived as the perfect, omnipotent, omniscient originator and ruler of the universe, the principal object of faith and worship in monotheistic religions.

But, oh, what arguments you can find in that simple definition. Omnipotent? What about free will? A lot of religions argue that he can’t mess with free will. (And, by the way, can’t and won’t are the same for the purposes of this discussion.)

Ruler of the universe? Yes, there are some who believe that God rules the universe like a king rules his kingdom, but last I checked he’s issued no taxation decrees. No bans against trans-fats. No suspensions of gravity on holidays. Yes, there are commandments and prophets and all that, but really, in a lot of the big theologies, this universe is a virtual sandbox, and God doesn’t get to the ruling part till after we leave it.

“God”, “angels” or “ghosts” are used to explain many things people don’t understand. (And who’s to say that those explanations aren’t correct? If I were God, an angel or a ghost, I probably wouldn’t take kindly to microscopes.) There’s nothing to rule out the possibility of a “god”, either, coming out of hiding to paint a face on a tortilla or make a statue weep blood. (Are the supernatural beings all just practical jokers? Maybe. Gotta be boring being dead.)

Anyway, if you take that ruling part out, and you’re left with some guy (heh) who knows everything. And some would say he doesn’t know everything–since with free will, that might be problematic–but that he watches everything.

This is probably the biggest bone of contention I have with discussing the matter. A God who is but does not do–you know, what are we talking about? And when the question arises, it’s usually not someone who, like Einstein, was looking out at the universe and wondering, but someone who’s really asking “Do you agree with my dogma?” No, I don’t, but please don’t kill me.

Well, okay, let’s forget about what He does or doesn’t do, but focus on origination. God is the Creator. That works pretty well. We could say He created the universe and all of us as well . That would be a pretty good definition of God.

We could, of course, totally complicate the topic and say God created neither us nor the universe, but that we create the universe with our shared perception of it, and we have no clue about what’s going on in reality, an idea that hearkens to Plato and the Hindu concept of maya, but let’s assume that, even there, if we’re all playing some massive game of D&D, there’s a meta-Dungeon Master, and He created the basement we’re playing in, and the Doritos we’re eating. But we won’t.

The problem with that, to my mind, is that, well, we’re here. The universe is here. Something created the universe (or so it seems) and something created us (unless we were always here).

Would the being that did that be a being that we could, in any sense, understand? Maybe. Maybe he’s just a slob like one of us, only super-powered. But maybe the awareness and power comes from a different sort of consciousness altogether. Even the people who are fond of envisioning God as a giant old white-bearded man in flowing robes maintain that we can’t fathom the mind or the workings of God.

There’s another issue, regarding the word “exist”. Years ago I read a website by an atheist who had a FAQ that read “How do you know God doesn’t exist?” and his answer was “God told me that he doesn’t exist.” He had an explanation of how he had come to talk to God, but there was a certain sense there.

God, if he created the universe, isn’t really of the universe. He doesn’t exist as you and I exist. Or he might, in the form of an avatar, but He, Himself, doesn’t occupy a space or time within the universe. In that sense, he doesn’t exist. (How about them apples? If God created the universe, he doesn’t exist. Heh.)

On the other hand, what if God is the universe? He doesn’t exist; he is existence. We see him in f=ma and E=MC2. Or at least part of him. In that sense, every scientist is studying God.

And that I believe in.

Alternatives, Pt 2.

Just as a lot of people are suggesting we should elect a black man for President. some say it’s more important that we elect a woman. I say we should elect someone who’s genuine and doesn’t pander, but I’ve been roundly voted down.

Anyway, I agree that the sooner we vote someone other than a white Christian male into office, the sooner we can, you know, focus on who would be the best leader.

But is Hil(l)ary the best choice? (Oh, I have this weird quirk of putting the second “l” in Hil(l)ary’s name in parentheses. It started when she claimed to have been named after Sir Edmund Hilary, who has just one “l” in his name. So I can never remember if she has two “l"s or one.)

Well, of course, there’s only one woman (apart from Lisa Simpson, who’s just a cartoon character, so let’s not get silly) who has the experience we need in the White House.

That’s right, Geena Davis.

Besides a short term as Commander-in-Chief, Ms. Davis has extensive other experiences that might be of use. Early on, for example, she used to have an abusive boss, she dated one of the greatest scientific minds of our lifetimes–and stood by him as he turned into a freak. She’s good with aliens and has a strong constituency among the Dead-American demographic that votes so heavily in places like Chicago.

She’s no stranger to alternative families. Very alternative families.

And, as this picture shows, she rocks in an evening gown.

But wait!

I have another alternative.

She’s only been the Vice President, but the confirmation process she went through was absolutely grueling. So she’s been thoroughly vetted. She also has executive experience in the CIA, handling the very tricky Operation Treadstone. To boot, she’s been the First Lady and, IMO, is one of those women who gets better looking as they get older.

Can you guess who?

That’s right.

Joan Allen.

Davis/Allen 2012, anyone?

New Blog Link: Sundries

I’ve linked to long-time Althouse commenter Victoria (vbspurs) and her “sweatshop of moxie”.

Victoria is a British immigrant who’s not only legal but naturalized, if I’m not mistaken.

Anyway, she’s a great writer and an unrepentant America-lover, and on top of that has all that classy/charming Brit stuff going for her.

Check her out. Right now, she copied a fabulous comment made on the Althouse blog. It’s from a black woman explaining why she doesn’t support Obama (in response to the observation that 10% of blacks don’t support him).

Marriage, A Gay Old Time

Actually, I’m on the verge of turning the Bit Maelstrom into a full-on breast blog (possibly with a dissertation about the ‘80s Afghan revolt against the Russian Invaders) since that’s what everyone comes here to see.

So, yeah, I’m pro-breasts (pointy or otherwise). And no, Charlie Wilson’s War wasn’t historically accurate, though parts were true. Also, all those peak oil guys who say that the world is coming to an end but it’s not just a crazy prophecy of some mad cult? They’re the crazy prophets of a mad cult.

Anyway, with that aside, the issue of who can marry whom has come up again in this fine state of California. In this case, the California Supreme Court has (once again) overridden the wishes of the people to say that, in fact, same-sex marriage is not only a right, it’s always been a right according to the state constitution.

Now, it seems to me that if that were the case, same-sex marriage would have been established by two people of the same sex getting married, the state refusing to acknowledge it, and then the court saying the state has no right to refuse to acknowledge it. But I certainly might have that wrong.

Let me say, first of all, that I have no personal interest in who marries whom. As I understand it, one can arrange almost any sort of domestic situation one wants (hetero, homo or poly) except a bestial or pedophilia relationship (and maybe incestuous) and set up almost any sort of legal arrangement one wants.

Also, as I understand it, domestic partners have all the same rights as married couples, and certainly since palimony it hasn’t mattered so much whether a couple is actually married. (California doesn’t recognize common law marriage.) These days, it would probably make sense for married couples to create a nuptial contract and revisit it every year. (This might sound horribly clinical, but it actually could be quite romantic.)

If that’s true, and it’s really just about the word “marriage”, well, you know what I call a couple of guys in a permanent committed relationship? “Married.” Really. What else you gonna call it?

My preference? Marriage either gets a strict definition by the state that benefits the state, or the state gets its nose out of the union business. The latter being preferable.

So, having established my relative lack of concern over how people bond and what they call it, I’m going to expound a little on my understanding of marriage, and why I’m not entirely unsympathetic to cultural conservatives on the issue.

Despite everything I learned from the ’70s, personal happiness actually ranks very low down on the list of societal concerns. No, really! It’s true: Society doesn’t care if you’re happy. Society cares about its own survival and as long as you do your part to continue it, you can be as happy or as miserable as you like. So, the social importance of marriage is that you stick with one person, create the next generation, and raise them in such a way that they go on to continue society.

When you think about it, the idea that billions (or thousands, if you prefer) of years of struggle and hardship is going to come to its end because, you know, some gal wants to pursue a career, or some guy just doesn’t care for female company–it’s the ultimate in self-centered-ness.

Society’s historical answer to the question of personal fulfillment–assuming it entertained the notion at all–was to simply not allow women to do anything but create the next generation, and to force gays to marry and produce offspring.

The other part of the equation was to discourage or disallow divorce, adultery, polygamy and fornication–to say nothing of onanism and homosexual activity. Basically, society figured out the best way to secure its own survival was to get people married pretty quickly, reproducing ASAP, and bonded forever, while outlawing sexual activity that didn’t produce offspring.

These are the rules of a highly fragile society, one deeply concerned about its own survival. And it may be a coincidence, but every society that moves away from these principles dies. Will Durant wrote that every society enters stoic and exits epicurean. The Western world has been in full epicurean mode for decades.

Anyway, in the historical context, the definition of marriage is very clear, and very clearly not inclusive of homosexuality. One argument I’ve heard as an attempt to defend homosexual marriage “What about childless couples?” Well, until recently, the pressure for couples to have children was tremendous, and an inability to have children has historically been grounds for annulment.

It was really the ’70s that turned divorce into a casual event, degraded “women’s work” and made childlessness into a respectable option. And, also, at that point, made marriage into a word that applies (or should apply) equally to any people seeking to find happiness and fulfillment in long-term committed sexual relationships.

I don’t know if anyone will read this, and find it less likely that anyone will care, but it’s something I had to learn over many years. And the funky-funny thing is that there is tremendous happiness possible the old way, while allowing people to pursue personal pleasure has probably not resulted in any net gain in happiness for people over all.

So, why would I not personally fight to preserve the definition of marriage? For one thing, because it’s long gone, and it’s unlikely that heteros are going to be lining up to give marriage back to its original gravity. Secondly, since that is what has to happen–groups of people have to agree to restore the society-serving definition of marriage–it’s not something the government can do. It’s a social and religious thing, and requires people to look beyond themselves–not something they’re generally encouraged to do.

The pendulum may swing back: a lot of victims of the “Do Your Own Thing” ’70s (and beyond) are now grown and may take child-rearing and marriage more seriously than their parents did.

As I’ve said before, a society can be judged on its kindness to outliers, and I don’t think it’s likely we’ll ever go back to the days when assaulting gays was acceptable and women had to put up with abuse because society’s prohibitions against divorce were so strong. But it is possible to elevate individual fulfillment above society’s survival needs, and this usually results in a barbaric culture where outliers must hide or be destroyed.

As a footnote: Some maintain that the California supreme court just overrode the will of the people in the service of a liberal agenda. Not surprisingly, this pisses off some and pleases others. For me, it just seems like business-as-usual in the Golden State.

Pointy-breasted challenger: Gloria Grahame

Hector from Rain In The Doorway pointed me to a shot of Bad and the Beautiful which highlighted this challenger to Janet Leigh’s title.

The Bad the Beautiful is a marvelous, underappreciated film although I wonder if Gloria Grahame was really all that good-looking. Or maybe it’s just that the mannequin styles of the ‘50s didn’t really work with her looks.

Nonetheless, this sweatered shot from her ’50s turn in Fritz Lang’s Human Desire earns her a place in the pointy-breast hall of fame.

Parting Ways

When I die, it’d be nice to have someone miss me in that way Pajama Momma writes about.

I come from rather mobile nuclear families for generations. People moving out west, or having small families or both. Most of the people I went to school with actually moved away, though I keep in touch with a few old friends.

A friend’s father died recently, and I was over at her place doing whatever it is you do in that situation. They were of a different culture than the one I grew up in, one that grieves openly and loudly. And it was touching, like PJM’s post, because it was heartfelt.

I’ve seen a lot of deaths where it seemed as though people had worn out their welcome. It’s an awful thing to confront that old age doesn’t bring wisdom, necessarily. I remember when I realized that what old people have in common is only one thing: that they survived.

Between the tragedy of those who die too young, and the more muted tragedy of those who die too old, is some sort of existentialist sweet spot where people miss you without mourning you too much.

Is BlogRush just a vehicle for advertising?

Am I crazy or does this post (on something called the “digital TV dojo”) really not tell you anything very useful?

Take some rah-rah stuff about mini-satellite dishes and liberally mix in a bunch of links to sales sites (not marked as such) and…that’s what you have. It’s basically a list of features. Maybe not complete or accurate.

This came off the BlogRush widget on the right. Since my numbers have dropped since I added that, I’m seriously considering taking it off. I think I’ve gotten one hit from them.