The New Bond Girls: Pointy and Rounded

We’re #1! The Maelstrom is now #1 in Google if you search for “pointy breasts”! And they said I’d never amount to anything.

Eva Green (left, and below depending on how you’ve got your browser scaled) played Vesper in Casino Royale, with the retro breast shape that made this blog famous!

Still, Olga Kurylenko (right) is all kinds of cute in Quantum of Solace.

Bond actually manages a sort-of platonic relationship with Olga in Solace.

Taylon Doon and the Impending Deadline

Hoo-boy, I’m way behind. Waaay behind. May not even be possible for me to finish.

Well, that’s not true. I certainly can. But is it worth it?

It’s funny. For a guy who never did much rewriting when I was making a serious go at it, I’m finding myself rewriting like crazy.

Anyway, as it turns out WordPress doesn’t screw up the format, so here’s the start. Comment away.

Manic Monday Apocalypso: Time Machines

Yes, I’ve said that H.G. Wells Time Machine isn’t really apocalyptic or even post-apocalyptic, as it’s so far into the future that it’s simply a new reality. But I’m only mentioning it as a segue into the real subject.

First of all, I didn’t really care for the book. Or for War of the Worlds. I read H.G. Wells in Junior High and I was probably out of my depth, but I found him dull. So imagine my surprise when I saw the George Pal movie a few years ago and found it was great.

Rod Taylor is handsome and heroic and Yvette Mimieux worthy of rescuing, and the whole thing is a lot more engaging than I would have suspected with the rather thin plot of the book. (War of the Worlds is also thin on plot, but the George Pal movie is also better.)

But what we fear about apocalypse is written on the smaller “ends” that we experience throughout our life. Deaths. Growing up. Sexual awakening. All the various acquaintances we make with the universe where the universe goes out of its way to educate us on who the winner is to be most of the time.

We’re all in a one-way time machine, with little apocalypses in the form of cell death and senescence.

Cheery thought for a Monday, eh? Yet, the cell death is really just a form of reminding us of what has passed–or is it that we long for what has passed because we were younger then?

Spider Robinson had an early sci-fi story called “The Time Traveller” that took place at Callahan’s Saloon. It concerned someone who had been locked up for about 20 years, from about 1960 to 1980, I think. And the world was so different, he’s a modern Rip Van Winkle.

And yet, you could draw a line from, say, 1988 to 2008 and again not recognize the world. And while I’d argue that the world is a much better place now then it was then (overall and with plenty of caveats), I wonder about the next 20 years.

Are You There God? It’s Me, That Guy Who Doesn’t Believe In You

Hector and I were talking in the Smoke thread about the phenomenon of atheists in Church. I think it’s not uncommon. I wrote:

Religion serves a purpose that isn’t diminished by disbelief. I go to the Jews again here, because they adhere to the roots of religion which are “to bind”. Many of the great atheists were Jewish because, of course, Jewish-ness transcends what one believes. Every Jew knows, I think, that when the next round of pogroms start, whether or not they’re practicing will not change their fate.

So the outside world binds them as well.

I think the need for the religious binding remains even when we can’t see God.

Hector responded with some interesting questions.

1) does Pascal’s wager imply some contempt for God’s intelligence? Isn’t it just a transparent ruse?

Pascal’s wager, of course, says (roughly) that there’s no penalty for believing in God and a tremendous penalty for not (believing in the Christian God), therefore belief is the safest choice. You can read the various rebuttals and apologetics, but I think the key to Hector’s question comes from a subtler view of the wager.

That is, Pascal is not advising anyone to pretend to believe in God; nor do I think that he came up with this wager to win converts. No, I think Pascal’s wager is meant to be a comfort to Christians who, like Pascal, lead logic-driven lives and then have to confront the challenges of faith.

2) is there a way that does not involve belief in God (or deities of some sort) to get the sort of social networks that churches promote, in which people care for, and actually help, people outside the group of their blood or marriage relations? Is this commitment of people to care for one another what you mean by “the religious binding?” If so, is belief in a God or Gods required to make it work?

I think people are bound by necessity. I think that’s why, for example, bonds are generally less powerful today in the developed world: Lower necessity means a weaker bond. (You can see this writ small on marriage: Women need men less, and men are more likely to see women as an unnecessary enemy.) So I think you do see a binding in, say, frontier towns that isn’t necessarily driven by religion. But it’s tied to the frontier. It wouldn’t survive a diaspora.

Does it need a God? Not exactly, I don’t think. If we look at the other things people could bind over (blood ties, geography, philosophy, God, ritual, occupation, military service athleticism, TV shows, etc.), it’s clear that some things work better than others. And if we look at the many forms of statism (including communism, socialism, fascism, etc.), you see that it doesn’t work at all, and in fact undermines other bonds.

I think that’s a clue. Statism places the authority of the state above all. Spiritualism tells Man that he is, in portion, greater than any temporal organization. That there are fates worse than death. And that he has responsibilities that go beyond his own body. (I believe this is what underlies the antagonism between Church and State.)

So, I think you need a powerful abstraction to unite people. People sign on to collectivist ideas because it’s fundamentally true that we are interdependent. But the State quickly–like, immediately–reduces to a self-aggrandizing monster, and so fails to bind people. (Except in the same way a natural disaster binds people.)

Modern libertarianism–probably the most logical approach to governance–also fails to unite people very strongly, because it describes a negative. Compare “the virtues of selfishness” to “All Men are created equal…[and]…are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. Both describe the same thing, essentially, yet Jefferson’s argument posits a noble Man.

Sidebar: I think this is the reason for Jefferson’s ascendance over Adams. Adams was probably a better President, a nobler man, maybe even a better human being than Jefferson, but Jefferson set the gold standard in appealing to our better nature. Adams was wary of us, Jefferson told us we were better than anyone had let on before.

God, in His various forms, unites people in much the way Santa Claus unites children: There’s a guy out there watching and judging your every move. This works because it’s true, because minimally you–your Inner Jefferson, if you like–are watching and judging your every move.

In summary, God isn’t necessary, but you need something huge–and there has to be some truth. Consider Selma and the Civil Rights Movement: Something huge has to be behind you if you’re going to stand up to the awesome power of the State. (See? The State knew the Church was trouble!)

3) do the Unitarian Universalists have the answer to #2? If so, why aren’t they more successful? In terms of membership numbers, or any other objective measurement.

Oh, I think the other major part of binding that’s necessary is missing with UUs: Sacrifice. Religions require sacrifice. Time. Money. Food. Sex. Public approval. It costs something to be Jewish. If you’re born Jewish, you carry that potential sacrifice with you all the time, even if you renounce the faith. If you practice the faith seriously, there are all kinds of things you can do, you can’t do, etc.

The modern attitude is “Why do I need all this? Does God really care if I keep my foreskin and eat ham sandwiches?” Thus completely missing the point. If you want to believe that a particular faith is right, you can without any other fuss. But you’re not a member of a religion till you make the necessary sacrifices.

Most religions deal with severe persecution. Christians with their lions. Jews with, well, practically everyone. The Druze are so secret, even they don’t know what they believe. What do UUs sacrifice? Not only have they no Big Idea, they have no shared sacrifice.

Look at evangelicals: At some level, they’re responsible for the soul of every living human. What are Unitarians responsible for? (You can translate this to the marriage debate pretty easily.)

This also explains why disbelief doesn’t diminish religion. Even if you’re an atheist, you can appreciate religion and what it does. Religious people are usually happy to share their experiences and welcome you in. You can fight alongside them in righteous causes. And the question of whether you are a True Believer is entirely separate from the actual practice of religion. (Consider me the anti-Bill Maher.)

4) Would you like to keep the tone of The Bit Maelstrom a little lighter than this? If so, feel free to delete this comment, I won’t mind a bit. (Won’t mind a bit! Hah! And I say things about Larry Niven’s prose style being telegraphic, when I do it myself all the time.)

You know, I tend to ramble, and I can go on for days about this stuff, which is why I tend to avoid it. I find it fascinating, but pointless without an interested listener.

Lizabeth Scott: Vampire Killer

I haven’t done the pointy breast thing in a while–I doubt very much I’ll ever pass the more serious results in the Google cache. I mean, come on, “WomensAnswers.Org” and “answers.yahoo.com”. I really shouldn’t be at the top of the list. People are apparently concerned about the shape of breasts and it’s bad to offer them snark and titillation rather when they’re in need of real information.

Nooooooooow, having said that, Hector “Rain In The Doorway” linked to an actress who has to be included, even if our only goal is to be taken as third-grade snark.

Film noir actress Lizabeth Scott!

I’ve never seen any of her pictures, sad to say, though some look pretty good, and a few others look interesting, if not exactly good. (She co-starred with Heston in Dark City and with Martin and Lewis in Scared Stiff.)

But come on. She looks like she could kill two vampires at once if she angled herself properly.

That blouse, by the way, is exactly the sort of thing I was talking about when I first broached this subject. Ms. Scott is covered from the next to the wrists and all the way down, yet for all the dress leaves to the imagination, she might as well be naked.

Something about that combination of repression and naughtiness that’s quintessentially ‘50s.

So, all hail Lizabeth Scott, who celebrated her 86th birthday back in September.

Once I Built A Railroad

So, this guy argues that the economy is worse off than we know, and shows how the various stats have been fudged over the years.

I think there’s a lot of truth to that, but isn’t the economy what we think it is, ultimately? I mean, there’s a little bit of black magic there that what we think about it determines how we act which has actual effect which tends to reinforce what we think.

Some theorize that, for example, the constant negative drumbeat of the press during a Republican administration results in actual economic suppression. (The good thing about a Dem winning the election is that all our economic news will have a positive spin and all our wars will become just.)

But, for example, removing food and energy from the inflation index is something I have mixed feelings about. At some point it matters but, for example, we didn’t have 100% inflation because fuel prices doubled, and we didn’t have 50% deflation because they’ve now dropped. I realize it’s only one factor, but I can see why it would skew things unreasonably.

Actually, if you were really going to measure inflation in an important way, you’d measure based on how it actually affected people. You know, take a person’s actual daily/weekly/monthly costs and compare those items, put them in a sample that reflected the composition of the country, and that people could drill down to see what it is for their particular bracket.

Then when yacht prices went through the roof, we could see that rampant inflation was affecting only the very wealthy.

Then there’s this allergy to deflation. I realize deflation is bad if you’re in debt, but it seems to me that deflation ought to be part of financial cycles just as much as inflation. I mean, a roughly stable currency seems like a good thing to me, but I could be wrong. Certainly, that’s not popular thought.

I dunno. It’s a lot nicer thinking that we have record unemployment lows than the numbers are just being fudged–but they do that in all the socialist states as well, to avoid the awful truth, so maybe we should try to keep our noses clean.