Archive for January, 2006

Inherit the Wind

I light of the current debate on teaching Intelligent Design in science class, I thought I’d recommend a movie that was made in 1960 entitled Inherit the Wind. It is actually a re-telling of the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial, only more poetic. Familiar names include Spencer Tracy, Claude Akins, Harry Morgan, Gene Kelly, and Dick York. In the real world, among the good guys in my humble view were the ACLU (hey, it was 1925). In the movie, it is the Baltimore Sun. While religious fundamentalists are not rendered kindly in this film, I would remind you that in 1960 Hollywood was hardly hostile to religion.
One interesting tidbit about the real trial is that William Jennings Bryan, who was on the pro-creationist prosecution side and a fundamentalist Christian himself, was a significantly far left progressive liberal politically. That seems impossible today.
It is filled with great quotes, including Bertram Cate’s lament that if he were to apologize for teaching Darwinism to free his body from jail, then his mind would forever be imprisoned. Good stuff.

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Catholic Schools Week

A quick tip of the hat to the Sisters of the Divine Compassion and the Augustinian Fathers for all they did for me in high school and college.

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On Vatican Copyrighting

I dislike the notion of the Vatican’s new copyright policy. Perhaps I am being an unpragmatic idealist, but isn’t the realm of religion where one is expected to be so? I certainly want the Church to be able to pay the Vatican electric bill, but copyrighting papal writings? Look, I know that my years in Catholic school required tuition, and that they aren’t giving bibles out on street corners. But did they charge admission to the Sermon on the Mount? Do they really want to treat encyclicals as intellectual property and not something that should be public domain and easy to access? All this will do is make some short term money and give anti-Catholics a huge opportunity to bring up the selling of indulgences and funding sexual abuse settlements.
Now I know that the little guy may not be "billed." But if they charge publishers for this, costs get will get passed on. If this is so important, let God invoice us. 
Update: Looks like this may be much ado about nothing, but will they report it? From the Catholic World News:

Some English-language reports on the dispute in Italy have suggested– inaccurately– that the Vatican would forbid quotations from the encyclical, or charge fees to journals that reproduced passages from the work.

Vatican officials explain that their goal is not to limit access to the Pope’s words, but to prevent "premature" publication of leaked documents, and to guard against exploitation of the Pope’s name.

We’ll see how this plays out. I remain skeptical.

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Ebay’s Problems

Ebay, that giant garage sale in cyberspace, is experiencing problems with fraud and counterfeit merchandise. I used Ebay rather often, buying everything from a laptop to Tupperware. However, I honestly can’t recall the last time I bought anything there because I got tired of the horrendous lack of recourse for deadbeat sellers. The first time it was half of an electronics order, where a $15 item was never shipped, and I couldn’t get anywhere with the seller. The second time, a $75 wooden children’s table never arrived. The best I could do was leave a negative feedback rating.
Even though both were purchased through Ebay subsidiary Paypal, I couldn’t get anywhere through "Safe harbor" or any other means, including contacting the sellers directly. It would seem to me that if Ebay owns Paypal, then they could penalize the deadbeat seller and refund my money. However, it was plainly obvious they couldn’t, or wouldn’t help me out, and I was caught up in the catch-22 of not being able to lodge a complaint until 30 days past the purchase, at which time I would be informed that pertinent things necessary for recourse expired after 30 days.
So to hell with them.
More thoughts at Dave Friedman’s Soul of Wit.

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Harlequin, publisher of romance novels, has been doing some field research.

The survey, conducted in 16 countries by Canadian romance publisher Harlequin Enterprises, asked men and women on six continents about traits they liked or disliked and how they went about trying to meet Mr. or Ms. Right.

The poll revealed differences between countries in the way people tried to impress the opposite sex.

Australians and British men frequently admitted drinking too much, while about half of German and Italian men said they had lied about their finances. Spaniards were the most likely to use sex to catch someone’s attention.

Eighty percent of Brazilian and Mexican men said they had lied about their marital or relationship status, as did 70 percent of German women, the survey said.

I’m not surprised by most of this, but 70 percent of German women lie about their marital status? Why? Are German chicks that promiscuous? Where have I been?

They unfortunately do not give a link to the findings, so I had to be content with their summary, which juggled intelligence, looks, money and a sense of humor throughout the many cultures. I have to say that people must lie on these things to a large degree or they give narrow choices. Men were apparently not given the option of a mute nymphomaniac, nor were women offered tall, wealthy, robotically romantic mind readers. That is certainly how things looked when I was single in the 90’s.

Here’s my take from my own "field work." Look at who you are with and you’ll see the best you could do. Those more cynical than I would tell you that whomever you are with is the least you were willing to settle for. It might be compatible neuroses. Perhaps it is  varying ratios of all of those things. A business associate of mine put it a similar way when we were both discussing personal standards. "Look a a guy’s wife," he said "and that will tell you his minimum standard." I am a lucky guy, because, by his measure, I appear to have some pretty lofty standards.  I know this much; she’s not with me for my height or my money.

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Hamas Wants War

According to their leader, they want to die. That is the only conclusion one can draw from his words.
The exiled political head of the radical Islamic group Hamas said Saturday in Damascus, Syria, that the group would adopt "a very realistic approach" toward governing the Palestinian Authority and would work with the Fatah president, Mahmoud Abbas, on an acceptable political program.

But the leader, Khaled Meshal, also said Hamas would not "submit to pressure to recognize Israel, because the occupation is illegitimate and we will not abandon our rights," nor would it disarm, but would work to create a unified Palestinian army.

If so, Israel will utterly crush them, and the only negotiated settlement will be with the widows, maimed survivors, and orphans. How sad that Meshal wants to engage in an unwinnable fight rather than draw upon the political leverage the election bestowed upon his group.

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Suburban Prostitutes

Law enforcement authorities a few towns north of me have broken up a prostitution ring. According to the local rag, the Journal News, police became suspicious and set up a sting that nabbed a couple of the working girls, some clientele, and the 33 year old entrepreneur pimp ringleader. There is an element of hypocrisy to this small suburban tale, and it has nothing to do with how you might feel about the legality of selling sex or the wisdom of police devoting so many resources to chasing hookers when they should be giving you a ticket for failing to signal a left turn. One sentence from the article made me laugh:
The investigation began this month when police became suspicious of ads in periodicals and newspapers that offered the exotic body massages.
The newspaper that the guy advertised in, and the publication that still runs ads for prostitutes, is none other than our local paper which is reporting the whole thing, the Journal News. Interesting that they left that out, no?

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