Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Oscar Picks!

Hey, kids! It's time for the 2006 Academy Awards, otherwise known as "Suck On This, Red State America!" And if it's Oscar time, that means it's also time for the Second Annual Athletic Reporter Oscar preview (if you missed the First Annual Athletic Reporter Oscar preview then shame on you, but you can get it here).

As with last year... well, why don't I just cut and paste what I said back then, huh?
Please note: these are my Average Mulder Oscar predictions, not to be confused with my all-important picks in Athletic Reporter co-creator and Photoshop guru Jameson Simmons' Onebee.com Oscar pool (aka "The Only Reason At All I Still Pay Any Attention to the Oscars"). I reserve the right to refine my choices for Jameson's until late Sunday afternoon.

This is who will win, not who I want to win. I don't want any movies except Sideways and The Incredibles to win anything.

For the major categories, I'll give you my analysis; for the others, I'll just tell you who Entertainment Weekly says is going to win (that's what everybody does anyway. Like you've
got any clue about Best Documentary Short).
Still holds true a year later, I'd say. Even the part about only thinking that Sideways and The Incredibles deserve to win anything. Although, to be fair, I've seen... (hold on while I count...) zero of the Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor or Best Actress nominees. The line about the Onbee.com pool being the only reason to watch the Oscars goes double this year.

So why should you read this? Why listen to what I have to say about the Oscars? Well, because although I don't care about the Oscars much anymore, and I don't care about any of the major nominees at all, I do care deeply about winning any and all Oscar pools I'm involved in, be they only for honor (Onebee) or merely for profit (my office picks contest).

Okay. Onward.

BEST PICTURE (or, as I've renamed it, Best Picture That Is Not an American Studio Comedy. We all know The 40-Year-Old Virgin kicks any of these movies' asses; all the people Entertainment Weekly asked said so too. This year's Best Picture Oscar will be about as legitimate as Tom Glavine's 1998 Cy Young Award)

Winner: Brokeback Mountain

Other Nominees:

Capote
Crash
Good Night, and Good Luck
Munich

ANOTHER PERSON: "Hey, do you want to check this movie out? It's over two hours long, and it's about two people falling in love in Wyoming in 1963."

ME: "Um, no thanks."

PERSON: "Are you sure? Did I mention they were both dudes?"

ME: "(see above)."

I haven't seen Brokeback Mountain, so I can't comment on the film itself. What I can comment on is how tired I am of hearing how "brave" Ang Lee, Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal et al were in bringing this movie to the screen. We're living in an age in which everyone has been bored stiff by "Will & Grace" for at least four years now, and we're supposed to salute these guys for their "courage?" If they'd made this movie ten years ago, maybe. If Heath Ledger didn't feel compelled to go out and play the lead in Casanova in an obvious attempt to wash away the gay stink of Brokeback, maybe. If he and Gyllenhaal didn't get all squishy and weird whenever they had to talk about their love scenes together, maybe (how about this: "Well, I'm not gay and I'm not sexually attracted to men, but as a professional actor it was my job to make it look like there was nothing in the world my character would rather have been doing at that particular time than having sex with Jake's character. Conveying that passion successfully was my main concern." What's wrong with that?).

Maybe it's just that this is a pet issue of mine, this "why hell can't gay people just go ahead and be gay?" question. I've written about it in sports, but I hold Hollywood even more responsible because they're supposed to be all "liberal" and they're supposed to "know better." Why in the world shouldn't Tom Cruise be able to be gay if he's gay (and I'm not saying he is gay, Tom's lawyers)? Why shouldn't an openly gay guy be able to play the smarmy, funny, sexist horndog on the latest hot sitcom if he's really, really good at it?

One of two factors are at play here, as I see it. Either:

1) Hollywood isn't any more comfortable with gay guys than anybody else is. Making movies about it is fine, but in real life they want their gay guys to mince around and let everybody know that they're that way...

or

2) Hollywood is fine with it, but studios they don't think that the public will pay to watch openly gay guys playing straight guys. So, they implicitly but enthusiastically support a climate in which you do your best to stay in that closet if you really want to be a huge, multi-Oscar-winning star. "Sure, we could cast an openly gay guy as our straight action hero, but the movie wouldn't make as much money."

So, either the entertainment industry is lecturing us about how to behave while refusing to behave that way themselves (in which case, they're hypocrites), or it is making coldly corporate decisions based solely on profit, morals and ethics and all that be damned (in which case, they're Republicans) (ha! Burn...).

I just remember what I thought when I read something about a Rupert Everett project in which he was going to play a "gay James Bond type" or something. What I thought was, "why can't Rupert Everett just play James Bond?"

Apparently we're not there yet, but, I'll say it again: can't gay people just be gay?

Anyway, since "being about gay people" is the new "good," expect Brokeback Mountain to win a lot of awards. Also, it's got the most nominations, and the most nominated movie usually wins Best Picture. Also, I do hear from people that it actually is good.

I've heard a lot about people being downright mad at Crash, for whatever reason. And it's tough to win Best Picture if a lot of people are mad at you, as a movie, for even existing. Although it has happened before.

Capote and Munich I actually came somewhat close to seeing at one point or another, and Good Night and Good Luck is nominated because not enough people saw Mrs. Henderson Presents for it to qualify for the "Wildly Undeserving Small Britishy Movie That People Talk About For the Two-and-a-Half Months of Oscar Season and Then Completely Forget About" slot.

BEST DIRECTOR

Winner:

Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain

Other Nominees:

George Clooney, Good Night, and Good Luck
Paul Haggis, Crash
Bennett Miller, Capote
Steve Spielberg, Munich

Is there anyone in entertainment as hard to pin down as Ang Lee? Here's what he's done since I first heard of him: Sense and Sensibility, The Ice Storm, Ride With the Devil, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Hulk, and Brokeback Mountain. It's like he's got a team of scientists working around the clock trying to determine what he can do next that's a) completely different from his last movie, and b) completely different from anything he's ever put before a Western audience. Lee's probably kicking himself right now that Mel Gibson thought of the idea for Apocalypto before he did. I don't have any inside information or anything, but, my prediction for Ang Lee's next directorial effort? National Lampoon's Boob University.

Clooney, Haggis and Miller will probably split up the rest of the votes.

Dennis Weaver, who starred in Steven Spielberg's made-for-TV thriller "Duel," passed away this week.

I once saw Spielberg and his wife in the Puzzle Zoo hobby store in Santa Monica. He was very polite and accommodating to fans who recognized him on the Third Street Promenade shortly afterward.

Munich
is the first Spielberg-helmed film since 1997's Amistad that I didn't get around to seeing.

I've taken to listing random Spielberg facts because if I were to analyze his chances of actually winning Best Director this year, it might depress Athletic Reporter co-creator and Photoshop guru Jameson Simmons to the point where it would be a good idea to confiscate his belt and shoelaces and not leave him by himself for the next few days. Nobody wants that.

BEST ACTOR

Winner:

Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote

Other Nominees:

Terrence Howard, Hustle & Flow
Heath Ledger, Brokeback Mountain
Joaquin Phoenix, Walk the Line
David Strathairn, Good Night, and Good Luck

Joaquin Phoenix must just be sitting there saying, "Um, I played a recently deceased music legend in a critically acclaimed film, and I did my own singing. Hel-lo!" Sorry, Joaquin. You should have had the foresight to have been on "In Living Color."

Everyone loves and respects Philip Seymour Hoffman's talent. I swear to you on my daughter's upcoming life: he actually made me laugh during Along Came Polly. I'm serious. From what I hear, he'll edge out Heath Ledger.

Terrence Howard took Russell Crowe's spot, and David Strathairn is lucky nobody in 2005 played a retard.

BEST ACTRESS

Winner:

Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line

Other Nominees:

Judi Dench, Mrs. Henderson Presents
Felicity Huffman, Transamerica
Keira Knightly, Pride & Prejudice
Charlize Theron, North Country

This is a toughie; I think there's a lot of people who want to vote for Felicity Huffman just because of how pissed off it would make Teri Hatcher and Eva Longoria.

But Hollywood's got bigger fish to fry; they have to make sure Reese Witherspoon keeps being a big, huge movie star and they need this Oscar to help that along. Sandra Bullock and Julia Roberts are, if not quite 40 in every case, at least old enough that they can't play late-20s anymore. Just Like Heaven? What Just Like Heaven? Sorry, don't know what you're talking about; Reese Witherspoon is a giant, bankable movie star. See? Best Actress! Look!

I mean, they need't worry; we've got Rachel McAdams all ready to go. But anyway. I'm picking Reese Witherspoon over Felicity Huffman, but I don't have to feel completely secure about it.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Winner:

George Clooney, Syriana

Other Nominees:

Matt Dillon, Crash
Paul Giamatti, Cinderella Man
Jake Gyllenhaal, Brokeback Mountain
William Hurt, A History of Violence

A History of Violence is one of the only nominated films I saw all year, and I really, really liked it. I liked it a lot. And, I liked William Hurt's performance more than I liked the movie itself, which is saying something. I'll be rooting for him and his ten minutes of screen time, because he was memorably great and because Viggo Mortensen, Maria Bello, David Cronenberg and the rest of them were snubbed (the screenplay is nominated, at least). To be honest with you, I never understood why people didn't make a bigger deal out of Maria Bello. I mean, come on. Anyway, Hurt's was an out-of-left-field nomination, so I'll be pulling for an out-of-left-field win.

Realistically, though, he doesn't have much of a chance. George Clooney is a Big Giant Movie Star and a charismatic, sexy man; even conservatives such as yours truly just love his charming hippie ass. He's never been nominated before (I heard somewhere that he's never even been to the Oscars), and this is His Year, so they've got to give him an Oscar for something.

Interestingly, your Big Giant Movie Stars, the ones who are really huge and popular and universally well-liked (for some amount of time or another; you'll understand the qualifier once I list the people), tend to shoot right past being Actors, to the point where you can't give them Oscars for that. They tend to win Best Director statues. Think of it: Robert Redford, Clint Eastwood, Mel Gibson and Kevin Costner (see). I'd put Clooney in that stratum right now, but his Good Night, and Good Luck looked, from what admittedly little I've seen of it, like a school project. You don't win a Best Director award if no one in your movie ever goes outside. He could have a chance with Original Screenplay, but he might win Best Supporting Actor just by process of elimination.

Paul Giamatti was finally nominated, but I something tells me Cinderella Man was such an obvious Oscar-bait movie that, with a couple of edits and different music cues here or there, it could have played like a Zucker Brothers parody of an Oscar-bait movie. Again, I didn't see it, but, that's what I'm getting from people.

I haven't heard anything from anybody about Jake Gyllenhall vis a vis Brokeback Mountain, other than the fact that he was in it.

And you can't give Matt Dillon an Oscar. You just can't.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Winner:

Amy Adams, Junebug

Other Nominees:

Catherine Keener, Capote
Frances McDormand, North Country
Rachel Weisz, The Constant Gardener
Michelle Williams, Brokeback Mountain

In this spot last year, I fake-picked Natalie Portman to win for Closer. I say "fake-picked" because when it came right down to it, when Oscar Sunday rolled around, I ended up going with eventual winner Cate Blanchett in The Aviator. But the reason I gave for fake-picking Natalie Portman last year is still valid:
Best Supporting Actress is the surprise category. Let's say, although it's not true at all, that for the last ten years I had been not only attempting to predict the winners in every major Oscar category, but also attempting to rank every nominee in terms of likelihood of winning, from most likely (1) to least likely (5). Only twice during that time would any of my 5s have ended up winning, and both would have been in this category (Juliette Binoche for The English Patient and Marcia Gay Harden for Pollock).
If someone pulls off an upset, it's usually here.

So there's that, plus the fact that Athletic Reporter co-creator and Photoshop guru Jameson Simmons seems to have developed a deep and abiding love for Amy Adams in Junebug that is rivaled only by his deep and abiding hatred for Rachel Weisz in The Constant Gardener. While I can't pretend to explain the yearnings at work within the heart of Athletic Reporter co-creator and Photoshop guru Jameson Simmons, what I can do is take them into consideration while making my Oscar picks.

And, as long as I'm doing that, I can rule out Michelle Williams, whom Athletic Reporter co-creator and Photoshop guru Jameson Simmons -- whether he remembers it or not -- once called a "duck-faced whore."

Catherine Keener will get her Oscar someday and Frances McDormand already has hers, so we don't have to worry about them.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Winner:

Paul Haggis and Bobby Moresco, Crash

Other Nominees:

George Clooney and Grant Heslov, Good Night, and Good Luck
Woody Allen, Woody Allen
Noah Baumbach, The Squid and the Whale
Stephen Gaghan, Syriana

I've taken to thinking of the screenplay categories as the consolation prize for Best Picture. These are generally movies that everybody actually liked better than the actual Best Picture winner. But, because Oscar voters are weird and don't nominate or vote for the movies even they think are the best (The 40-Year-Old Virgin), they have to settle for screenplay awards. Last year I listed several screenplay winners that are regarded by many as superior to their year's Best Picture, but, here again: Sideways, Lost in Translation, Talk to Her, The Pianist, Almost Famous, Good Will Hunting, L.A. Confidential, Fargo, Sling Blade and The Usual Suspects, to name but ten.

As such, since Crash seems to be the second-most buzzed-about movie this year, and since everyone who isn't mad at it for existing will vote for it, and since Paul Haggis didn't win for Million Dollar Baby last year even though everybody else connected with the movie did, Crash is the Best Original Screenplay pick.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Winner:

Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana, Brokeback Mountain

Other Nominees:

Dan Futterman, Capote
Jeffrey Caine, The Constant Gardener
Josh Olson, A History of Violence
Tony Kushner and Eric Roth, Munich

Brokeback Mountain evidently started out as a short story in a magazine, so fleshing it out into a screenplay was probably quite an undertaking. As I said before, I'll be pulling for A History of Violence, but I certainly won't be expecting it to win.

As is my custom for the other categories, I'll just be going with what Entertainment Weekly says, unless my Spidey sense is tingling in some other direction (in which case I'll let you know that I'm steering you in a different direction than they are). So, here's what they say; if I decide to pick different, I'll let you know.

BEST ART DIRECTION: Memoirs of a Geisha. People worked really hard on Memoirs of a Geisha, you know. They brought together the finest Chinese and Malaysian actors in the world to tell this Japanese story. Just because no one saw or cared about the movie doesn't mean they don't deserve an Oscar or two.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY (aka, Most Pretty Shots of People Being Outdoors): Brokeback Mountain. You usually won't go wrong if you pick the movie with the most sweeping vistas. The last ten winners: The Aviator, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, Road to Perdition, Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, American Beauty, Saving Private Ryan, Titanic, The English Patient, Braveheart. And, just in case you still don't believe me, the year before Braveheart: Legends of the Fall.

BEST FILM EDITING: Crash. This category tends to match up with Best Picture a good amount of the time, but since Brokeback isn't nominated, I'll go with the magazine. I don't know any more than they do as far as Best Editing goes.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: Memoirs of a Geisha. Do you think John Williams has come to regard the Oscars in the way that guys like Karl Malone or Mike Piazza eventually come to regard the All-Star Game? Where at first it's an honor and a thrill, but it gets to the point that, after about a decade-and-a-half, you really just wish you could plan something for that time of the year, but you can't, because you always end up having to go to the stinkin' All-Star Game/Oscars? And you can't really complain about it, because most people would give their eye teeth just to be invited to one?

Probably not.

BEST ORIGINAL SONG: Kathleen "Bird" York and Michael Becker, "In the Deep" from Crash.

I'm pretty sure that if they could have gone ahead and not had this category this year, they would have gone ahead and done that.

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS: King Kong. Again, they worked so darn hard. People didn't really care, to the extent that it was suspected they would, about seeing King Kong for a third time, but, they worked so darn hard.

BEST SOUND EDITING: King Kong.

Best Cinematography:Most Pretty Shots of People Being Outdoors::
Best Sound Editing:Most Money Grossed/Most Crap Destroyed Onscreen

BEST SOUND MIXING: King Kong. EW picks Walk the Line, but only because Ray won last year. By that rationale, they should pick Joaquin Phoenix to win Best Actor. But they don't. No one does.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN: Memoirs of a Geisha. Look, I don't care about this category any more than you do. But it's in these grab-a-beer, squeeze-in-a-bathroom-trip, see-which-"Family Guy"-they're-rerunning categories that Oscar pools can be won or lost. So don't try and be a hero, just go with the obvious, EW-endorsed choices.

BEST MAKEUP: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. It's got to win something, all that money it made.

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: Paradise Now. EW says Tsotsi, but Paradise Now is, as I understand it, about Palestinian suicide bombers and Why They Might Actually Be Right, or At Least Sympathetic, or Whatever. That'll really piss off the Red Staters, won't it? That's my pick.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE: Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Probably one of the safest picks of the entire night.

BEST ANIMATED SHORT: One Man Band. I always go with Pixar, even though EW picked 9 and, perhaps more portentously, Athletic Reporter co-creator and Photoshop guru Jameson Simmons linked to it.

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: March of the Penguins. Yes, yes; people wear tuxedos at the Oscars, and penguins look like they're wearing tuxedos. Congratulations: you're the first person in the history of the world who's ever made that joke.

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT: The Death of Kevin Carter. Sure, why not.

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT: Ausreisser (The Runaway). You know, shouldn't Oscar pools just start automatically giving people EW's picks in the pee break categories, just to save everyone the trouble? Sort of like how "Wheel of Fortune" just started automatically giving everyone R-S-T-L-N and E at the beginning of every puzzle? Things would just be easier.

Well, that's it. It'll hardly be an Oscar party with Athletic Reporter co-creator and Photoshop guru Jameson Simmons all the way out there on the East Coast (but hey, at least he'll be able to see the awards live and not on tape delay), but, we'll make do the best we can.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Remiss

I've been remiss about new posts, I know, but, stay tuned, because coming soon: the 2nd Annual Athletic Reporter Oscar Preview!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

A Reason to Care About the Winter Olympics!

Normally, I don't care much about most of the events in the Winter Olympics, for reasons you can read about here and, to a lesser extent, here. The hockey is always good, as any hockey is. The problem is that most of the "sports" aren't sports, but contests; sports have objective outcomes, contests have judges deciding who wins. The winner of the men's half pipe is no more objectively the best men's half pipe snowboarder in the world that the winner of the Best Actor Oscar is objectively the world's best actor. Plus, most of those sports are just horrible to watch; Salon.com's King Kaufman made the excellent point that moguls skiing "makes luge look like naked supermodel flamethrower fighting."

Even the sports that are actual sports, and are somewhat exciting to watch, are less so because of the fact that nobody actually does them. That's the problem with your speedskating and your luge; the Summer Olympics are still interesting in the sense that the guy who wins the 100 meters? In all likelihood, he's the fastest man on the planet. I mean, we've all run in races as kids; if you're the fastest kid in your school, you're obviously going to run on the track team (conscientious objectors like Jerry Seinfeld notwithstanding), win some races, move up in your level of competition, and if you're still beating everybody you run against, the national team will eventually notice you. There's not a great deal of undiscovered running talent, is what I'm saying. But the winner of the luge could easily be the 312,469th best luger in the world; it's just that the 312,468 top guys never even had the opportunity to get on a sled.

So anyway. The Winter Olympics aren't that big of a deal to people.

But now, at least, we've got Bode Miller to root against. I think every time that blowhard misses out on an Olympic medal he was favored to win, an angel gets his wings. I love all the "fame is a poison" stuff; do you know how doggedly you need to self-promote to get noticed in this country if you're a fringe sport athlete? Miller's done pretty much everything short of getting testicular cancer and leaving his wife and kids for Sheryl Crow.

"I lived better when I was a nobody," Miller is quoted as saying.

Bode, we can't miss you if you won't go away!

Monday, February 13, 2006

Another Cartoon!

Check it out: I made another political cartoon!


Friday, February 10, 2006

The Best Show On TV

One of my favorite pages on the entire internet (for reasons better left unexplored) is the WWE title histories page. For some reason I could stare at these lists all day (I would imagine a distant cousin of the reason why I was fully capable of staring at a map for three hours at a time when I was a kid. Or even now).

In the spirit of the WWE title histories page, I introduce The Best Show On TV, to be updated on the occasion that the torch is passed, willingly or forcibly, from one show to another. Some title reigns may be extremely short-lived, like those of Kane or Mankind. Some could be downright Hulk Hogan-esque.

Now, there have been The Best Show On TVs before, but there was never a record kept, never an official title declared. So, to all of those former The Best Show On TVs, -- to all you "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"s, all you "Cheers"es, even all you "Dukes of Hazzard"s (it's my list) -- we can only apologize that this list is so long in coming. Such is the nature of life.

And so, without further ado:

The Best Show On TV

"The Office" (NBC) -- 2/9/2006 - present

The title is inaugurated with NBC's adaptation of the BBC's "The Office," considered by some to be the greatest television show of all time. Does NBC's "The Office" get extra credit because it accomplished the once-unthinkable task of adapting such a great sitcom?

Nope.

It's become a great show in its own right, finding its own characters in some cases where attempting to duplicate the British version would have been an exercise in Quixotic futility, but importing the heart of the show intact without changing a thing.

Does the show occasionally (but only occasionally) suffer from that post-modern, winking, trying-too-hard brand of humor? A little, but less and less. For example, Steve Carrell's boss Michael Scott may be a bit of a social retard, but he's not an idiot; it's hard to believe that he would sincerely call New York, New York "the town so nice, they named it twice," then declare, without irony, that "'Manhattan' is the other name."

But Michael is the toughest character to do, especially given the giant shadow cast by Ricky Gervais's unforgettable performance as boss David Brent, so we'll have some leeway there. Especially since for every "Manhattan," there are five or six touches like Michael's wildly off-the-mark but earnestly (and ably) put-together "The Faces of Scranton" documentary, shown as he is supposed to be reporting on the Scranton branch's performance for the new CFO, that concludes with a homemade "Great Scott Productions" production company logo featuring pictures of Steve Martin and Robin Williams and accompanied by a recording of Michael shouting "Great Scott!" in a bad Scottish accent.

As with the British version, NBC's "The Office" uses its socially needy and inept boss as comic misdirection, making you laugh as it feeds you one of the best unrequited (well, semi-but-therefore-much-more-painfully-requited) love stories in the history of television just a little at a time. The BBC version's brief twelve-episode run (followed by a feature-length special) allowed the Dawn and Tim arc to play out at the perfect pace; the American version, with 20-odd episodes a year, might have more trouble with Pam and Jim as the years go on, but so far they been pitch perfect. A brief reference to Pam's interest in illustration and graphic design in a previous episode hints that the NBC folks may just keep right on going in the same direction as the BBC version; here's hoping they can pull it off. I imagine they can; after doubting the wisdom of remaking the show in the first place, and doubting that it could ever be anything but a pale imitation of the British version, I'm through doubting "The Office."

Still, as great as it is, it's not The Best Show On TV by a particularly large margin. "Boston Legal," "Veronica Mars," "The Amazing Race," "My Name Is Earl"... the title is there for the taking. Let the games begin.


Thursday, February 09, 2006

I'm Gonna Need To See Some "I.D."

I've written about evolution/Intelligent Design in other places before, and it becomes clear that I was not really "wrong," per se, but that I misunderstood the question. Most of my science information comes from Gregg Easterbrook's "Tuesday Morning Quarterback" column on NFL.com (really), and this week's Super Bowl wrap-up pretty much cleared up what I'd been suspecting for a while now. Easterbrook:

[T]he mainstream media are systematically avoiding a substantial question mark in evolutionary theory: it does not explain the origin of life. That organisms evolve in response to changes in their environment is well-established -- anyone who doubts this doesn't know what he or she is talking about. But why are there living things in the first place? Darwin said he had no idea, and to this day science has little beyond wild guesses about the origin of life. Maybe life had a natural origin that one day will be discovered. Until such time, higher powers or the divine cannot be ruled out.

Also, this book, which I read last year, helped clear things up.

I had considered the lack of an explanation of the origins of intelligent life on Earth to be some sort of a strike against the theory of evolution and against Darwin when, it turns out, evolution and natural selection and Darwin and all that has somewhere between very little and nothing to do with the origins of intelligent life on Earth.

So I guess I.D. tries to explain it by positing that evidence suggests the presence of a designer. It seems to me (and maybe I'm again misunderstanding) that this isn't necessarily science, since it starts at the idea that there was a Creator and then picks evidence that supports this idea. Science, it seems to me (ideally, at least), starts with, "hey, why is this like this?", and then investigates without prejudice or agenda to find out why (obviously that's utopian; if, say, Phillip Morris or Greenpeace or somebody like that is funding your research, it might not go exactly like that).

Even as I misunderstood the question, I still advocated teaching the prevailing scientific view in science class and saving the rest of it for philosophy class or, more appropriately, church. That hasn't changed.

I think that my only remaining confusion in regard to the evolution/I.D. debate is that I don't really understand what Intelligent Design actually is, and why it could possibly have any conflict with science. Here's my dilemma:

1) I'm not much of a churchgoer but I do believe in a deity, and I do consider myself to be a person who has religious faith. I do believe in a Creator.

2) I understand "Intelligent Design" to be the idea that the nature of the universe points to the existence of an intelligent Creator.

I must be missing something, because why would anyone other than a biblical literalist -- somebody who believes that, based on calculations from the book of Genesis, the Earth is somewhere between 6,000 and 7,000 years old -- or an anti-religious bigot find any sort of conflict between science and Intelligent Design? Wouldn't any conversation between any two people (other than the literalist and the bigot) have to go just like this?:

Person 1: And that, in short, is what science currently believes about the origins of the universe and life on Earth.

Person 2: Well, then that's how the Intelligent Creator accomplished the creation of the universe and intelligent life on Earth.

Person 1: I don't believe in an Intelligent Creator, but as it is a matter of personal faith I can't possibly disprove His existence.

Person 2: That's true. Want to get a beer?

Person 1: Sure!

So, I guess what I'm saying is that I believe wholeheartedly in science and in I.D., and I don't see why a reasonable person could see a conflict between the two.

Let me just say that if what's really going on here is the biblical literalists trying to chip away until their view is taught alongside actual science in public schools, then that is indeed frightening. Not "people who want to slaughter you because you drew a cartoon they didn't like" frightening (let's not forget where the immediate, deadly threats are coming from), but frightening nonetheless.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

"Brokeback to the Future"

Funny.

Thoughts About Race

Okay, first of all, there are still racist people, racism is bad, this country has a shameful history, blah blah blah.

For a few years now, I've been saying that, for me, racial progress in this country can be measured by the fact that although my fellow Generation Xers may hold onto some preconceptions and stereotypes about race (which I think is unfortunate even if I think it may be unavoidable), those preconceptions and stereotypes are almost immediately dismissed by 99% of us upon actually meeting someone of a different race (provided they don't fulfill those preconceptions and stereotypes, obviously).

To me that's progress; I mean, if you treat people of a different race exactly as you treat people of your own race, your stereotypes and preconceptions don't really matter anymore. So who cares about them?

Well, Tyrone Forman, an associate professor of African-American studies and sociology at the University of Illinois-Chicago, for one. In a USA Today article about how young Americans don't tend to care so much about race these days, this paragraph appears:

Even though young people report having friends of other races, Forman says, those friendships don't necessarily lead to a reduction in negative attitudes toward a racial group, because people view their own friends as an exception to whatever stereotype may exist.


Here's your 21st century leftism for you, in all its thought-policing glory. It doesn't matter if you have friends of different races and threat them the same as you treat friends of your own race. What really matters is what you think about other races, your actions notwithstanding. Believing the right thing seems to be held in a higher regard than doing the right thing. Personally, I'd rather have a boss who claims to hate white people but treats me fabulously than one who claims to love white people but treats me like crap.

Once you've reached the point that your preconceptions and stereotypes have absolutely no effect on how you relate to people of a different race, those preconceptions and stereotypes become like a miniscule, benign growth on your colon that causes you no pain or discomfort whatsoever until you die peacefully in your sleep at the age of 106. Professor Tyrone Forman, however, isn't content to let that growth alone; he wants to perform invasive, relatively dangerous surgery on you, because, well, other growths in other colons have turned ugly.

A man once dreamt of a nation in which his children would be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. Again:

[P]eople view their own friends as an exception to whatever stereotype may exist.


That seems to me to be the dictionary definition of judging a person not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. Preconceptions and stereotypes might be an unfortunate fact of life, but, by and large, it looks as though we have overcome.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Cartoon

Hey, check it out: I made a political cartoon!


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