Rape vs. Cuckoldry

In what seems to me to be a shining example of “us vs. them” syndrome, a debate is going on about which is worse being raped, or being cuckolded (in the biological sense of raising another man’s child). Via Instapundit. Arguments are being made based on financial costs, emotional damage, etc.

But the only point in having this debate is to try to score a point against the opposite sex. Just as men and women are different, they have different ways of hurting each other. Even if one is “worse” than the other by some standard, it doesn’t really say anything by itself about the conflicts between men and women.

Just as I think collectivism makes for bad government, I think it also makes for a bad way to try to resolve interpersonal issues. One should worry materially less about what “men” do and what “women” do than what the particular men and women in one’s life do.

The kids have been on a real “King of the Hill” kick lately. That show, if you’ve never seen it, features a character, Dale, whose son Joseph is clearly not his. Dale is a comical character, cowardly and stupid, and his cuckolding by his wife played for laughs in both his and others’ inability to see the obvious. (Joseph is around 14 through most of the series, and Dale’s wife’s affair is still going on when the series starts.)

But from the start, Dale’s devotion to his son (such as it is) is the bedrock of the family. And as the series progresses and his wife rededicates herself to him, it turns out to be Joseph’s real father who ends up lonely and isolated, watching his son grow up to admire and emulate another man.

It’s a very funny show, but I don’t think I’ve seen the topic handled more thoroughly and sensitively anywhere else. And I think it’s more interesting than trying to figure out who hurts who more, men or women. Because I think we all do a pretty good job of that—and keeping score is probably just going to make us all look bad.

Penn and Teller on The Vatican

Wow, this was awful. Line up a bunch of anti-Catholics to talk about the evils of the Vatican? Sorry, guys, but that’s bullshit. I say that as a never-been-Catholic, who has had more than a few historical beefs with The Church.

This was an awful, hacky one-sided hit-piece.

It started, as all these things do, with a long-winded list of the horrors committed over 2,000 years—well, it should be 1,600 years—which sure seem horrible. But then you realize it’s over 2,000 years. Name an organization that’s been around for that long that hasn’t committed far worse.

Tough to think of many who’ve been around even a fraction as long. And, golly, the ones that have been around for any length of time? Most of them have done something awful, within the limits of their power.

Then, of course, there’s child molestation. There are few crimes that are as devastating, and The Church has handled it badly, but part of their objection was that the current Pope (back in ‘60s) was part of the policy of covering up the crimes.

Well, duh. Was the Church supposed to adopt a policy of shouting this from the rooftops? The real sin, of course, was not taking the crimes seriously enough to remove the real risks. School systems across the country do the same thing, of course, but nobody seems to notice this.

Now, one could argue that the Church should be held to a higher standard, but this comes very close to Alinsky’s Rule #4: “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.” To blame the Chruch, I think, you should make a case that it was policy to approve of abuse.

Most of the rest is about hatin’ on the Church for believing what it believes. For example, the idea that being gay is not a sin, while acting gay is, and using the defense “You’re saying they can’t act in their nature.” Well, yeah.

See, that’s what religions do. (Western religions, anyway.) They say, “Yes, it’s in your nature to kill those who stand in your way, covet like mad, and put your reproductive apparatus wherever you think it might feel good, and we’re telling you not to, because you’re better than that, it pisses God off, and all that short-term stuff pales next to an eternity of bliss.”

I never get this argument of “It’s our nature.” Is it not a serial killer’s “nature” to kill? Does anyone accept the pedophile’s argument that it’s in his “nature” to molest? Obviously, what two consenting adults do isn’t in the same league as rape and murder but, let’s not forget that coveting women is also on the no-no list, and few would argue that that isn’t part of male nature.

It’s not difficult, people: The Church says non-reproductive sex is a forbidden. There’s no way gay sex is going to be okay under this dogma. If you are gay, your particular cross to bear is not having the sex you want to have. And, actually, that’s probably your cross to bear even if you’re not gay, if fantasy is part of your sex life, or you might want to have sex with anyone other than your spouse, ever.

Then they get around to blaming the Church for AIDS in Africa. See, the Church forbids condoms. Therefore people are having unsafe sex and passing on AIDS to each other. Well, guys, the Church forbids having the sorts of sex that make sex unsafe in the first place. You’ll have to explain to me why you think that a bunch of promiscuous dry-sex fans are going to ignore the Church on sex but follow religiously (heh) on condoms.

No sale, guys.

The constant refrain of “Times have changed! Get with the program!” is really just a cover for “You try to make me feel bad about something I want to do.” Or “You make others I want to do something with feel bad about it.” As judgmental as P&T are, you’d think they’d get less fired up about others who are quite possibly less judgmental than they are.

They even screw up what should have been a pretty good point when they bring on the blaspheming comic. An Italian satirist suggested the Pope was going to go to hell and be sodomized by vigorous gay devils. According to P&T, the Vatican threatened the woman with a liable lawsuit which carries a potential penalty of five years in jail. Bill Donahue says this is an outright lie. (He also froths over the language, which is kind of dopey.)

First, they laud this women like she’s really doing something brave. I don’t buy that: Italy is rife with anti-Catholic, anti-Vatican types, not all of whom are Communists. But I think when porn star Cicciolina got involved in government 30 years ago, it was safe to say that The Vatican had lost a lot of its supposed clout.

Next, they applaud her for saying that the Church is wrong for meddling with peoples’ lives. For merely having opinions on things and getting them into the media, they are just like Islam. (I bullshit you not: This comparison is made.)

Libertarian much? I guess not: P&T champion free speech, but seem to object to it when it comes from religion.

Sadly, while they’re usually pretty pro-human, they look at all these Catholic people in the world and say, “Except for you guys. You guys are stupid.” Er, no, the Church is “pulling the wool over their eyes.”

Penn and Teller always approach their subject with a bias—the kind of glib smugness that comes from knowing the dogma and apocrypha of the era—but this is typically tempered with an allowance for the bias and humor. Even the tax show, which was supposedly rather personal to them, had plenty of humor in it.

This one? Nary a laugh. It was scold from the first minute to the last. Having decided up front that the Church is responsible for the sins of the world (that they could prevent if only they changed everything they believed in), they close by saying maybe you shouldn’t believe in a God whose representative on Earth would do all these horrible things (i.e., disagreeing with P&T).

A sad, hacky ending to an otherwise decent season.

I Build A DVR

I get into things. I don’t mean I get into things, but I get into things. Like, I hate the Department of Water and Power. They provide plenty of service, but I always feel like I’m being overcharged, and it bugs the crap out of me that I can’t go anywhere else. (If I could go somewhere else, I’d switch and then start hating my new provider.)

My things usually involve feeling coerced into something, like having to buy something from one source when there’s no good technological reason for it.

Like DVRs.

We all made it through the ‘80s and ’90s with VCRs. It wasn’t such a big deal: You selected your device—made by any one of dozens of manufacturers, with the features you wanted, from your desired price range—and you hooked it up to your TV. Voila! You could record whatever you wanted.

Of course, the content creators hated that, and challenged the entire concept. The Supreme Court decided otherwise in the Betamax case. As result of losing that case, entertainment moguls made billions of dollars by selling videos in the new market.

They’ve never forgiven the world that injustice.

In the case of the DVR, whose function is identical to the VCR, they’ve colluded with the distribution companies (cable, satellite, etc.) to make sure that that doesn’t happen again. The battle was never really quit, of course. As soon as the TV makers sought to spare the consumer the presence of that big, ugly cable box by adding upper channels capacity to their TV, the cable companies moved the channels further up out of their range.

Then they just started scrambling everything, paid or free.

That wasn’t enough, though. You had to have the box, pretty much, but on top of that, they wanted to make sure that you couldn’t do anything with it. Congress even passed a law saying that cable companies had to provide a functional firewire port on their boxes for control and capture; but cable companies put the port on there—but in defiance of the law, they don’t bother to make it work.

I don’t want to pay the cable company an extra $15 a month. Or $10. Or even $5.

You can tell this is a thing with me, right?

Instead I bought some hardware and built myself a MythTV machine. The first thing that should be apparent from that is that money was not the issue. Even at 20 bucks a month, it takes a long time to make up the cost of a machine that has the oomph you want.

That’s not counting the trouble. Although some installations are very smooth, especially with things like KnoppMyth and MythBuntu, there are a lot of issues.

Most of the issues, not surprisingly, revolve the aforementioned content guys—creators (like movie studios) and providers (like cable companies)—working overtime to make sure that you can’t do any of the cool stuff you want. For example, it can be difficult to play—just play!—a DVD.

I’ve noticed kids’ DVDs have the most vicious security, and you can see the hard work these guys put into making sure you can’t play the DVD you just paid for by things like Vista downgrading your Blu-Ray discs. Remember that? And the Sony rootkit fiasco? I may be crazy, but I think when an industry’s priority is stopping copyright infringement over providing paying customers with the experience they paid for, I think there’s trouble.

The dumb thing being that, if you’re inclined to cheat, you could just download all this stuff from the Internet. I find it to be bothersome to get an identical copy of what I’ve purchased off the ‘net, but I’d hardly feel guilty for downloading something I already own. It’s a lot of work that messes up paying customers.

They’re not smart enough to look at the music industry and realize music’s not going away because everything is digital. All it will take is an MP3 format for video—i.e., something that’s easily exchanged and sufficient quality—and the party’s over.

Anyway, I make perfectly legal personal-use copies to protect my original discs (most of which are actually badly damaged, but that’s another story). And my DVR lets me store those and play those, which is something I can’t do with a store bought machine. And given how fragile DVDs are (Nearly indestructible! the hype claimed), having all the kids’ movies ripped and on a hard-drive is the only sensible thing to do.

There are a lot of cool things MythTV can do that your cable company’s DVR can’t. I won’t bore you with the details now (I like to spread my boring stuff out), but one of the coolest things is that, if you run out of space, you can just add a cheap USB drive. I have 2.25TB on my drive.

The most interesting thing—and if you’ve had a DVR for years, you may have encountered this—is that everyone watches less TV. We record everything, but we watch very selectively. Also, there’s none of that “Oh, we’re waiting to watch…”

Also, with the forty of us living here and sharing one TV, it’s much easier to apportion out the time.

Maybe There’s A Downside To The Constant Drumbeat of Apocalyptic Defeatism

If you’re not watching “The Goode Family”, you’re missing some very funny stuff. The above line is spoken by Helen Goode in response to her kids’ despondency over the doom of the earth. (Said despondency I personally recall from my school days. If global thermonuclear war didn’t get us, the ice caps were going to melt and send us spinning off into space. I’m not sure how the ice age was going to bring that on, but there it was.)

It still makes me laugh, a lot. The Goodes themselves are, of course, very good. Well, Gerald is very good. Much like Hang Hill, his straightforwardness in life not only prevents him from getting very far ahead, but actually prevents him from seeing how venal people really are.

Like Hank, he’ll act to stop something he perceives as immoral, but he usually has to come the long way around to realize that people operate immorally–no matter how many times he sees it happening. Gerald’s at a slight disadvantage (versus Hank), because he’s not entirely sure what a man is supposed to do, though this is not too far removed from Hank’s politeness and diffidence (which allows others to take advantage of him).

Interestingly enough, the message of both shows is pretty much the same: For every principle, philosophy or ideal (worthy or not, good or bad, right or wrong), there’s someone willing to exploit those who believe it for personal advantage.

So far in the series, we’ve seen an ALF-style group exploit Ubuntu (the son), prisoners and bureaucrats exploit the entire family after they adopt-a-highway, a graffiti-cleaning program in an area with no graffiti, NPR as a front for people not talented enough to make it in the real market, meatless chili (with and without chicken), and acres of hypocrisy.

I enjoy “King of the Hill,” but for me, Arlen is as far away as Oz. But whatever small town the Goodes live in is right next door. I’ve seen the “Good/Bad” tote board at Whole Foods. I’ve spent some time hashing out–for nutrition reasons, not really moral ones–which of the six different varieties of apple is “best”.

But I’m sort of reminded why I didn’t follow that road: It’s freaking insane. But it’s hard not to empathize with them, which is really what makes the show watchable.

Penn and Teller on Organics

We’re watching the Penn and Teller on organics. They’ve woven in a typically slightly blasphemous Jesus sketch (which I’m enjoying) and they’re taking organic farming to the woodshed, predictably.

We’ve never done all organic. Even at our richest, it didn’t seem worth it. Sometimes the stuff tastes better–but you can’t really know whether that’s due to some factor in the farming, or just greater care overall. I mean, if you have the money, it’s actually cheaper to go to the tony grocers in the good neighborhood, and it’ll definitely taste better. (And if you don’t like it for any reason, the tony store will take it back, half eaten.)

They do some good stuff: It should be known that organic farming is brutal, environmentally speaking. It’s a luxury. But their taste test is bogus, in the sense that organics might taste better generally, but that doesn’t mean that any given piece of organically grown fruit or vegetable is going to taste better than a non-organically grown counterpart. (I mean, I guess some people–the ones who did their taste test, for example–believed that, but that’s completely insane.)

The real problem with “organic”, of course, is that “organic” means nothing. It is, as they point out, religiously enshrined Luddism. It might be that pesticides are bad. (Or more importantly, that they’re worse than the pests they’re meant to handle.) It might be that genetically modified foods are bad. Or it might be that they’re not, or some of them are and some of them aren’t.

Interestingly enough, my two favorite forms of snake oil don’t have much to say about organics. The current plan I’m on laments the lack of minerals in our foods–but organics don’t have much to say about that. Of course, I’m sure P&T could find people who will assure them that there’s no problem with mineral deficiencies.

Anyway, what I’ve found is that you can’t ever take a blanket label and turn off your brain. Whether it’s “organic” or “green” or whatever. Some organics are going to taste better–even if it’s not because of organic farming methods–and I suspect some are going to be better for you, too. Some “green” things really are going to be better for the ecology.

But some aren’t. Just like you can’t go into a Wal-Mart or a Costco and be confident you’re getting the best deal, either. You have to pay attention.

Also, what do Penn and Teller have against natural breasts? I don’t object to gratuitous nudity, but almost every girl they have strip on that show has implants.

Some things are definitely better organic.

Pointy Breasts From Beyond The Outer Limits!

It’s been a long time since I had a genuine pointy-breast post–something I think we can all agree this blog is the lesser for–and I found a pair where I least expected them. I never watched the original “Outer Limits” series, but with the new digital signals, we get the THIStv channel which shows an assortment of old movies and TV shows–including “The Outer Limits”.

So I set the ol’ MythTV to record them and finally got around to watching an episode called “ZZZZZ”, which is the story of a queen bee who takes human form. This, naturally being a draining transformation, causes her to swoon on the lawn of a bee scientist.

And behold:
And behold again. Rebehold? Er, behold twice?

It was a strange episode. Or, I don’t know, maybe it was completely characteristic of the show. Having only seen one episode, I cannot say. (I did watch the ‘90s series, though, on Showtime, and liked it.)

It was also kind of cool that the actress, Joanna Frank, was someone I had seen before, in the much later series “L.A. Law”. As it turns out, she’s TV mogul Steven Bochco’s sister, and was actually married to Alan Rachins, whose wife (then, ex-wife, I believe) she played on that show!

She did a good job as the weird bug-person, and also had a slightly unusual beauty that suited the role.

Here’s a picture of her about to enjoy some pollen. (I’m not good at screen-caps yet, but these turned out pretty well!)

I shall view more “Outer Limits” in the hopes of finding more specimens of mammaris conniculus. Note that the above are from ’64 or ’65, and so are the latest of that era we’ve yet found!

Link For All Out There In TV Land

Via James Urbaniak, the voice of Dr. Venture, on Twitter: TV Legends’ Archive of American Television, with interviews of some greats (and not just of TV).

Scrolling down I see makeup artist Rick Baker, SFX wiz Dick Smith, iconic announcer Don Pardo, composer Alexander Courage, Stiller & Meara, writer Richard Matheson, producers James Brooks, James Burrows, Dick Wolf, and tons of TV stars like Barabara Eden, Don Knotts, Ron Howard, Angela Lansbury, etc. etc. etc.

A treasure trove!

Conversations From The Living Room, Part 17: Come To Think Of It, They Are Pretty Close

“Prosecution? What’s prosecution?”
“That’s when the district attorney–the head lawyer for the government–takes you to court and tries to prove that you’re guilty of something.”
“You’ve seen enough of these TV shows to know what prosecution is!”
“I thought it was when you got your head cut off.”
“No, that’s decapitation.”

The Goode Family

Mike Judge has come a long way since his seminal Beavis and Butthead cartoon “Frog Baseball”. (Heheheheh–I said “seminal”.) At least financially. Those early shorts, along with the lesser known “Inbred Jed” cartoons, revealed a lot of his sensibility and grasp of human character.

“King of the Hill”–possibly the only primetime show with a genuinely conservative lead (excluding cartoonish parodies done by far-left liberals like Seth MacFarlane’s “American Dad”)–is something of a phenomenon, having run for thirteen seasons (and possibly being picked up for more by ABC) distinguishes itself by being consistently funny and also essentially kind. Kind sitcoms are only slightly rarer than funny ones, but kindness seems to be one of Judge’s hallmarks. Even the biting satire of Idiocracy and Office Space had an essential benign optimism.

So, it’s not surprising that “The Goode Family”, Judge’s new show is both funny and kind. In fact, it’s “King of the Hill”, only instead of the well-meaning, stalwart Hank Hill, we have the well-meaning, and less stalwart Gerald Goode. (Mr. Goode is surely in touch with his feminine side, a proposition that would appall Mr. Hill.) Judge uses a voice closer to his Office Space character’s (the passive aggressive Chotchki’s manager) but the cadences are still very similar to Hank’s.

It’s also a bit more exaggerated, I think, than KotH. At one point, Helen Goode (the wife, played by Nancy Carrell) is at the Whole Foods-clone and looking at a big board which lists things that are Good on one side, and things that are Bad on the other. As she watches, “farm raised catfish” toggles between good and bad several times.

There is a religious aspect to all of this, as well as a social-religious aspect. Where people used to go to church for guidance and also to one-up each other, the Goodes go shopping. And you sort of have to admire Helen for handling the paper-or-plastic dilemma in a way that makes every other woman shopping–who had all been trying to make her feel bad a second ago–feel ecologically inadequate.

There are a lot of good dynamics here already: The Goodes’ neighbor is a black man who doesn’t eat vegetables. Gerald’s boss at the university is more interested in the bottom line while paying lip service to diversity. Helen’s father brings rib take out over to the (naturally, vegan) Goodes house.

And then there are the two kids: Ubuntu (Judge regular, David Herman) , the child that the Goodes adopted from Africa, without realizing he was a blond-haired South African; and Bliss (Linda Cardellini) who rebels in the first episode by eschewing frank talk about sex with her mom for an abstinence group.

Christians make an appearance in the form of purity pushers. David Herman also plays Trayvor (Trevor?) who Bliss likes and who is an aspiring Michael Moore-type “documentary” maker who is planning to ridicule them. The show doesn’t dance around the fact that these open-minded, tolerant people–represented most squarely by Helen–really aren’t particularly interested in–or comfortable with–people who disagree with them.

So, a lot like “King of the Hill”.

I was laughing out loud through a lot of the episode. Here are some lines I liked:

Gerald, trying to distract his wife from Bliss’ interest in abstinence: “The View is on. The pretty one is saying crazy stuff again.”

Helen, who doesn’t approve of Gerald’s support of Bliss, and also doesn’t want their newly 16-year-old son to drive: “You’re teaching our son to drive and our daughter to not have sex: Where have I gone wrong?”

Gerald, in response to Helen’s objections that a man is wearing a flag pin: “Since the election we can all wear flag pins!”

If you missed it on ABC Wednesday, you can view it at ABC.com and IMDB.com.

You Don’t Understand: I Need The Attention

The late unlamented USSR had a practice of locking people up in labor camps for what we in the West called political reasons. The USSR didn’t, of course, refer to it that way. They locked up people who were mentally unsound. I don’t know whether they learned this from the Nazis–who labeled the Jews as mentally unhygenic–but there are always members of the mental health community willing to label bothersome people “mentally unsound”.

It has happened here before, too. And still happens. Shock treatment and lobotomies have also been used regularly for managing political problems. Really, governments should never, ever have any association with mental institutions, just because the temptation for abuse will always be irresistable–at least until some truly scientific criteria for insanity exists.

I was thinking about this because, well, I used to like Janeane Garofalo. I’m not proud of it. But back in the ‘90s, she was mildly funny and sort of cute in an angsty college chick way, and she had a pleasing acting persona. She delivered one of the great lines in TV history on “Law and Order”, where it turns out she betrayed her celebrity employer for something like $10K:

You don’t understand: I needed the money.

That phrase takes on special meaning now that Garofalo took a paying gig on “24”.

Anyway, Garofalo has taken to promoting the notion that conservatives, right-wingers (i.e., people who disagree with her) suffer from an actual brain problem. Oversized limbic regions or somesuch scientific-sounding thing.

Most people, of course, won’t take the suggestion seriously. But a big enough percentage of the population agrees with it, at least to the extent that they keep giving her avenues to say this. And it’s not just her. There were a spate of “scientific studies” last year purporting to show conservatism as a mental disorder.

But, really, it’s not an approach to tolerate, because it amounts to “socialists lobbying for the right to institutionalize dissenters”. That hasn’t worked out well in the past. Well, except for the State, I suppose.

Given the fact that the insane basically have no rights, someone seriously advocating that an entire demographic is insane is not someone who should be broadcast.